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1.  “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” – Ecclesiastes 3:1

2.  “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”  Isaiah 43:18-19

3.  “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”  Psalm 90:12

4.  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

5.  “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”  Proverbs 16:9

6.  “Brothers and sisters, I don't consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:13-14




Jeremiah 31:3

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; 

Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.






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2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years,
3 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.
4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection.
6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
7 And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison - Revelation 20:2-7


Compassionate Loyalty

“And many women were there looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him” (Matthew 27:55).

The women who supported Jesus’ ministry all the way to the cross are fine examples of compassionate loyalty.

Caring, consistent loyalty is a wonderful characteristic of godly women. This trait is probably more evident in them than it is in godly men. The women by the cross were the main group of believing eyewitnesses to Jesus’ crucifixion. They also showed incredible loyalty in the face of ridicule and danger. This courage contrasted with the disciples who, except for John, had fled in fear the night before Jesus was crucified.

We saw in a lesson earlier this month that some of the women, including our Lord’s mother, had been watching the crucifixion from the foot of the cross (John 19:25-27). But in today’s verse the women are described as “looking on from a distance.” They had not suddenly become afraid of the Roman soldiers or the Jewish leaders. Neither had they become ashamed of being known as Jesus’ followers. They withdrew because their grief was deep and their hope shattered at the impending death of their Master. The women’s endurance, however, was undaunted.

Throughout His ministry, devoted women such as those at the cross ministered generously to Jesus and the disciples. Luke 8:2-3 says, “Mary who was called Magdalene . . . Joanna the wife of Chuza . . . Susanna, and many others . . . were contributing to their support out of their private means.” It is probable that most of the meals Jesus and the Twelve ate were prepared by faithful women.

The women who followed Jesus set the standard for faithful service and compassionate loyalty that Paul later outlined for godly women: “a reputation for good works . . . washed the saints’ feet . . . assisted those in distress, and . . . devoted herself to every good work” (1 Tim. 5:10). Such self-giving acts of practical service are marks of excellence and spiritual maturity that ought to be evident in the lives of all believers.

Suggestions for Prayer

Is there a Christian friend to whom you can affirm your loyalty? Pray for an opportunity to serve that person in a practical way.

For Further Study

Read John 13:3-17.

How did Jesus demonstrate the theme of today’s study?
What impact did Jesus’ example have on Peter?



"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8).

You have a part to play in becoming pure in heart.

Purifying a heart is the gracious and miraculous work of the Holy Spirit, but there are some things we must do in response to His prompting. First, we must admit we can't purify our own hearts. Proverbs 20:9 says, "Who can say, 'I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin?'" The implied answer: no one!

Next, we must put our faith in Jesus Christ, whose sacrifice on the cross is the basis for our cleansing. Acts 15:9 says that God cleanses hearts on the basis of faith. Of course our faith must be placed in the right object. First John 1:7 says, "If we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin."

Finally, we must study the Bible and pray. The psalmist said we keep our way pure by keeping it according to God's Word, which we must treasure in our hearts (Ps. 119:9, 11). As we pray and submit to the Word, the Spirit purifies our lives.

That's how you acquire and maintain a pure heart. As a result you "shall see God" (Matt. 5:8). That doesn't mean you'll see Him with physical eyes, but with spiritual ones. You begin to live in His presence and become increasingly aware of His working in your life. You recognize His power and handiwork in the beauty and intricacy of creation (Ps. 19). You discern His grace and purposes amid trials and learn to praise Him in all things. You sense His ministry through other Christians and see His sovereignty in every event of your life. Life takes on a profound and eternal meaning as you share Christ with unbelievers and see Him transform lives.

There's no greater joy than knowing you are pure before God and that your life is honoring to Him. May that joy be yours today and may God use you in a powerful way for His glory!

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord for continued grace to live a pure life so others will see Christ in you.

For Further Study

Read Isaiah 6:1-8.

Describe Isaiah's vision of God.
How did Isaiah respond to God's presence?



April 20 - Desire, the Root Sin of Adultery

“‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery”; but I say to you that everyonewho looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart’” (Matthew 5:27–28).

The seventh commandment protects the sanctity of marriage, and anyone who relies on external righteousness to keep it is prone to break it. Just as anger equals murder, lustful desire equals adultery.

In Jesus’ admonition, “looks” indicates intentional and repeated gazing. Therefore He means purposeful looking that arouses lust. In contemporary terms, it condemns a man who sees an X-rated movie, watches a salacious television show, or visits pornographic websites. It encompasses any thought or action done to arouse sexual desire.

Jesus is not referring to accidental exposure to sexual temptation. It is no sin if a man looks away from a provocative scene. It is the continued look that Christ condemns, because that demonstrates an adulterous heart. And by inference this prohibition would apply to women also, who must not gaze at men or dress in seductive ways to elicit stares.

In earliest redemptive history, Job understood these principles: “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin? . . . If my step has turned from the way, or my heart followed my eyes, or if any spot has stuck to my hands, let me sow and another eat, and let my crops be uprooted” (Job 31:1, 7–8).

If the adulterous heart gives in to temptation, the godly heart will protect itself, praying, “Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, and revive me in Your ways. Establish Your word to Your servant, as that which produces reverence for You” (Ps. 119:37–38; cf. 2 Tim. 2:22).

Ask Yourself

What could replace your next lustful thought or glance? Instead of focusing on what God has graciously restricted, what blessings, privileges, and freedoms can capture your attention instead?


April 20

Reading for Today:

Judges 5:1–6:40
Psalm 49:1-9
Proverbs 14:20-21
Luke 15:1-10

Judges 6:8 the LORD sent a prophet. He used prophets in isolated cases before Samuel, the band of prophets Samuel probably founded (1 Sam. 10:5), and later such prophets as Elijah, Elisha, and the writing prophets—major and minor. Here the prophet is sent to bring the divine curse because of their infidelity (v. 10).

Psalm 49:6 Those who trust in their wealth. Mankind’s propensity to trust in his own material goods is well attested in Scripture (e.g., Ps. 52:7; Jer. 17:5). Biblically this is exposed as the epitome of stupidity (see Prov. 23:4, 5; Luke 12:16ff.).

Proverbs 14:20 This sad-but-true picture of human nature is not given approvingly, but only as a fact.

Luke 15:7 joy in heaven. A reference to the joy of God Himself. There was complaining on earth, among the Pharisees (v. 2); but there was great joy with God and among the angels (v. 10). persons who need no repentance. I.e., those who think themselves righteous (see 5:32; 16:15; 18:9).

DAY 20: Was it right for Gideon to ask God for signs?

In Judges 6:11, Gideon received a visitation from the “Angel of the LORD.” This is identified as “the LORD” Himself (vv. 14, 16, 23, 25, 27). See Genesis 16:7–14; 18:1; 32:24–30 for other appearances. Conditions in the land were grim due to the Midianites, which led Gideon to express his frustration that the Lord had forsaken them utterly.

Like Moses (Ex. 33), Gideon desired a sign when the Lord directed him to rise up and lead a deliverance (v. 17). In both incidents, revelation was so rare and wickedness so prevalent that they desired full assurance. God graciously gave it. In vv. 18–23, the fire from God brought the realization of the presence of God to Gideon, filling him with awe and even the fear of death. When he saw the Lord, he knew the Lord had also seen him in his fallenness. Thus he feared the death that sinners should die before Holy God. But God graciously promised life (v. 23).

In vv. 36–40, Gideon’s two requests for signs in the fleece should be viewed as weak faith. Even Gideon recognized this when he said, “Do not be angry with me” (v. 39), since God had already specifically promised His presence and victory (vv. 12, 14, 16). But they were also legitimate requests for confirmation of victory against seemingly impossible odds (6:5; 7:2, 12). God nowhere reprimanded Gideon, but was very compassionate in giving what his inadequacy requested. In 7:10–15, God volunteered a sign to boost Gideon’s faith.




God's Sovereign Departure

“My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46).

God always must turn His back on sin, even if that meant for a short time severing fellowship with His Son.

The Reformer Martin Luther is said to have gained no insight at all when he secluded himself and tried to understand Jesus’ temporary alienation from the Father at Calvary. But in the secrets of divine sovereignty, the God-man was separated from God at Calvary as the Father’s wrath was poured out on the innocent Son, who had become sin for all those who believe in Him.

Forsaken means that a person is abandoned, cast off, deserted; he feels alone and desolate. Jesus must have had all those feelings and more. His cry from the cross could be restated this way: “My God, My God, with whom I have had eternal, unbroken fellowship, why have You deserted Me?” Against that backdrop of uninterrupted intimacy, Jesus’ being forsaken by God becomes an even more crushing experience for Him. Sin did what nothing else had done or could do—it caused Christ’s separation from His Heavenly Father.

Jesus’ separation does not in any sense mean He stopped being God or the Son. It does mean that for a while Jesus ceased to know intimate fellowship with the Father, similar to how a child might for a time cease to have fellowship with his human father.

God had to turn His back on Jesus while the Son was on the cross because God could not look upon sin (Hab. 1:13), even in His own Son. Christ, in going to the cross, took upon Himself “our transgressions . . . our iniquities” (Isa. 53:5) and became “a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13) and “the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

Our fallen minds, like Luther’s, are unable to grasp all the significance of today’s verse. But as our Lord experienced anguish over the separation sin caused, we ought to grieve over how our sins break off the fellowship God wants to have with us.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that God would give you the discernment to see the seriousness of sin and the motivation to repent of and shun any besetting sin in your life.

For Further Study

Read John 3:18-20, 36.

What do these verses say about the basic seriousness of sin?
What is the only remedy for sin’s evil effects?


Entering The Kingdom 

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8).

There are basically only two kinds of religion in the world: those based on human achievement and those based on divine accomplishment.

Religion comes in many forms. Almost every conceivable belief or behavior has been incorporated into some religious system at some point in time. But really there are only two kinds of religion: one says you can earn your way to heaven; the other says you must trust in Jesus Christ alone. One is the religion of human achievement; the other is the religion of divine accomplishment.

Those who rely on their achievements tend to compare themselves to others. But that's a relative, self- justifying standard because you can always find someone worse than yourself to base the comparison on.

Jesus eliminated all human standards when He said, "You are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt. 5:48). Even the Jewish religious leaders, who were generally thought to be the epitome of righteousness, didn't qualify according to that standard. In fact, Jesus told the people that their righteousness had to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees if they wanted to enter heaven (Matt. 5:20). That must have shocked them, but Jesus wasn't speaking of conformity to external religious ceremonies. He was calling for pure hearts.

God doesn't compare you to liars, thieves, cheaters, child abusers, or murderers. He compares you to Himself. His absolute holy character is the standard by which He measures your suitability for heaven. Apart from Christ, everyone fails that standard because "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). But the glorious truth of salvation is that Jesus Christ came to earth to purify our hearts. He took our sin upon Himself, paid its penalty, then bestowed His own righteousness upon us (Rom. 4:24). He keeps us pure by continually cleansing our sin and empowering us to do His will.

Your faith in Christ—not your personal achievements—is what makes you pure. Let that truth bring joy to your heart and praise to your lips!

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord for accomplishing salvation on your behalf and for granting you saving faith.
Pray that your thoughts and actions today will evidence a pure heart.
For Further Study

Read Psalm 24:1-5 and Ezekiel 36:25-29.

Who is acceptable to God?
How does God purify the hearts of His people?


April 18 - Bridging the Gap to True Worship

“‘Leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering’” (Matthew 5:24).

No matter who is responsible for a severed relationship—and often both sides bear some guilt—it’s essential to reconcile before going to God in worship. Even if you have nothing against the other person and the fault lies entirely with them, you should do everything possible to settle things. You can’t change another’s heart attitude, but you should desire to close the gap between yourself and the other person and hold no grudge against him or her—then you can enter freely and fully into divine worship.

Better music, more eloquent prayers, or more classic architecture—none of these will enhance true worship. Even better or more biblical preaching will not of itself improve our worship experience. However, a contrite and righteous attitude toward God and our brothers and sisters will enhance genuine worship. Sometimes the drastic measure of staying away from church for a time until a broken or strained relationship is right is the only action that will make our worship God-honoring.

Long before Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, Samuel said, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22). After that the psalmist said, “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear” (Ps. 66:18). If sin remains unconfessed and relationships broken, there will be no integrity in our worship.

Ask Yourself

Again, you are responsible only for the condition of your own heart, not another’s. But can you honestly say today that you have made peace in your heart with those who have been at odds with you? Have you forgiven? Have you sought renewed relationship?


Reading for Today:

Judges 1:1–2:23
Psalm 48:1-8
Proverbs 14:15-17
Luke 14:1-24

Judges 1:19 they could not drive out. “They” of Judah could not. They had been promised by Joshua that they could conquer the lowland (Josh. 17:16, 18) and should have remembered Joshua 11:4–9. This is a recurring failure among the tribes to rise to full trust and obedience for victory by God’s power. Compromising for less than what God was able to give (Josh. 1:6–9) began even in Joshua’s day (Judg. 2:2–6) and earlier (Num.13; 14). In another sense, God permitted enemies to hold out as a test to display whether His people would obey Him (2:20–23; 3:1, 4). Another factor involved keeping the wild animal count from rising too fast (Deut. 7:22).

Judges 2:1 the Angel of the LORD. One of 3 preincarnate theophanies by the Lord Jesus Christ in Judges (see 6:11–18; 13:3–23). This same Divine Messenger had earlier led Israel out of Egypt (see Ex. 14:19). I will never break My covenant with you. God would be faithful until the end, but the people would forfeit blessing for trouble, due to their disobedience (see v. 3).

Psalm 48:2 The joy of the whole earth. See the judgment context of Lamentations 2:15. the sides of the north. “North” is an interpretive translation of a word that occurs as a Semitic place name, i.e., “Zaphon.” In Canaanite mythology Zaphon was an ancient Near Eastern equivalent to Mt. Olympus, the dwelling place of pagan gods. If this was the psalmist’s intention in Psalm 48:2, the reference becomes a polemical description of the Lord. He is not only King of Kings but also is God of all so-called gods. The city of the great King. See Psalm 47:2 and Matthew 5:34, 35. God Himself has always been the King of Kings.

Luke 14:21 the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind. I.e., people the Pharisees tended to regard as unclean or unworthy. The religious leaders condemned Jesus for His associations with prostitutes and tax collectors (see 5:29, 30; 15:1; Matt. 9:10, 11; 11:19; 21:31, 32; Mark 2:15, 16).

Luke 14:23 into the highways and hedges. This evidently represents the Gentile regions. compel them to come in. I.e., not by force or violence, but by earnest persuasion.

DAY 18: Why was there a need for the judges?

“Another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done” (Judg. 2:10). The first people in the land had vivid recollections of all the miracles and judgments and were devoted to faith, duty, and purity. The new generation were ignorant of the experiences of their parents and yielded more easily to corruption. To a marked degree the people of this new generation were not true believers.

The new generation “followed other gods” (v. 12). Idol worship, such as the golden calf in the wilderness (Ex. 32), flared up again. Spurious gods of Canaan were plentiful. El was the supreme Canaanite deity, a god of uncontrolled lust and a bloody tyrant, as shown in writings found at Ras Shamra in northern Syria. His name means “strong, powerful.” Baal, son and successor of El, was “lord of heaven,” a farm god of rain and storm, his name meaning “lord, possessor.” His cult at Phoenicia included animal sacrifices, ritual meals, and licentious dances. Chambers catered to sacred prostitution by men and women (see 1 Kin. 14:23, 24; 2 Kin. 23:7). Anath, sister-wife of Baal, also called Ashtoreth (Astarte), patroness of sex and war, was called “virgin” and “holy,” but was actually a “sacred prostitute.” Many other gods besides these also attracted worship.

“The anger of the LORD was hot” against them (v. 14), which was followed by plunderers and calamities designed as chastisement to lead the people to repentance. During these times, “the LORD raised up judges” (v. 16). A “judge” or deliverer guided military expeditions against foes and arbitrated judicial matters (see 4:5). There was no succession or national rule. They were local deliverers, lifted up to leadership by God when the deplorable condition of Israel in the region around them prompted God to rescue the people.




Supernatural Darkness

“Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour” (Matthew 27:45).

The darkness over the land while Jesus bore our sin was an indicator that the cross was a place of divine judgment.

The biblical phenomenon of light was not associated with Christ’s death. Instead, as today’s verse says, “Darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour [3:00 P.M.].”

Scripture says little about that darkness. Ancient historical reports mention an unusual, worldwide darkness that seemed to coincide with the date of Christ’s death. Astronomical records indicate that the sun and moon were too far apart that day for a normal solar eclipse. Therefore, the darkness had to be caused by God’s intervention.

But you may still ask, “Why did God intervene like this when Jesus died?” Again, sources outside Scripture provide a reasonable clue. For many years the Jewish rabbis taught that a darkening of the sun meant judgment from God for an especially heinous sin. Many passages in Scripture make the link between darkness and God’s judgment. Jesus spoke several times of divine judgment in terms of “outer darkness,” where “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:12; 22:13; 25:30).

In sending darkness over the whole earth for three hours, God presents us with an object lesson concerning His attitude on the day Jesus died. The darkness was God’s sign of judgment against mankind for the gross sin of rejecting and murdering His beloved Son. It is also a sign of God’s reaction to sin as a whole. Darkness is a graphic portrayal of the cross as the focal point of God’s wrath, a place of His immense judgment, where sin was poured out on His Son Jesus, our Savior. This twofold object lesson ought to be a constant,fresh reminder to us of how seriously God views sin and how vital it was that the Lord Jesus die on our behalf.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God that He can use aspects of nature to illustrate spiritual truth for our finite minds.
Pray that the Lord will never let you take for granted the awesome seriousness of the events at Calvary.
For Further Study

Read Exodus 10:12-29.

How did the plague of darkness differ from the plague of locusts?
What was Pharaoh’s ultimate response to these two plagues?
How does this preview the onlookers’ reaction to seeing darkness at the cross?


Breaking the Bondage of Legalism

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8).

Legalism can’t produce a pure heart.

By the time Jesus arrived, Israel was in a desperate condition spiritually. The Jewish people were in bondage to the oppressive legalism of the Pharisees, who had developed a system of laws that were impossible to keep. Consequently, the people lacked security and were longing for a savior to free them from guilt and frustration. They knew God had promised a redeemer who would forgive their sins and cleanse their hearts (Ezek. 36:25-27), but they weren't sure when He was coming or how to identify Him when He arrived.

The enormous response to John the Baptist's ministry illustrates the level of expectancy among the people. Matthew 3:5-6 says, "Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea, and all the district around the Jordan; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins." The uppermost question in everyone's mind seemed to be, "How can I enter the kingdom of heaven?"

Jesus Himself was asked that question by many people in different ways. In Luke 10:25 a lawyer asks, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" In Luke 18:18 a rich young ruler asks exactly the same thing. In John 6:28 a multitude asks, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" Nicodemus, a prominent Jewish religious leader, came to Jesus at night with the same question, but before he could ask it, Jesus read his thoughts and said, "Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).

As devoutly religious as those people might have been, they would remain spiritually lost unless they placed their faith in Christ. That's the only way to enter the kingdom.

Still today many people look for relief from sin and guilt. God can use you to share Christ with some of them. Ask Him for that privilege and be prepared when it comes.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for those enslaved to legalistic religious systems.
Be sure there is no sin in your life to hinder God's work through you.
For Further Study

Read Galatians 3.

Why did Paul rebuke the Galatians?
What was the purpose of the Old Testament law?


April 17 - Hatred Blocks Real Worship

“‘Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you . . .’” (Matthew 5:23).

Outward acts of worship are unacceptable to God as long as we harbor internal sin. They are particularly offensive if we retain a hateful attitude toward a brother and yet attempt to come before God.

Worship is important for most religious people today. They can spend much time in places of worship, offering prayers, giving tithes, and doing all sorts of religious activities. But, as with the scribes and Pharisees, none of it is meaningful if carried out with the wrong attitude.

Presenting an offering at the altar was a familiar scene for Jesus’ listeners. On the Day of Atonement, for example, worshipers would bring animal sacrifices and give them to the priest as sin offerings. But that process must halt if the worshiper were to remember some hatred between himself and a brother. Unresolved conflict has priority over external ceremony and must be settled.

Sin between us and other brethren must be resolved before we can bridge the gap of sin between us and God. The Lord told Israel, “What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me? . . . I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle; and I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats. . . . Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, learn to do good” (Isa. 1:11, 16–17a).

Not to be at peace with someone else and yet to attempt worship of God is a hindrance to genuine fellowship.

Ask Yourself

This is a call for worship to matter, and for relationship with God to be taken seriously. More than a Sunday morning verse, it’s a principle demanding conciliatory action in the days prior to the Lord’s day. Is there such a matter occurring in your life situation right now?


Reading for Today:

Joshua 23:1–24:33
Psalm 47:1-9
Proverbs 14:14
Luke 13:23-35

Joshua 24:15 choose...this day whom you will serve. Joshua’s fatherly model (reminiscent of Abraham’s, Gen. 18:19) was for himself and his family to serve the Lord, not false gods. He called others in Israel to this, and they committed themselves to serve the Lord also (vv. 21, 24).

Proverbs 14:14 backslider in heart. This term, so often used by the prophets (Is. 57:17; Jer. 3:6, 8, 11, 12, 14, 22; 8:5; 31:22; 49:4; Hos. 11:7; 14:4), is here used in such a way as to clarify who is a backslider. He belongs in the category of the fool, the wicked, and the disobedient, and he is contrasted with the godly wise. It is a word that the prophets used of apostate unbelievers.

Luke 13:23 are there few who are saved? That question may have been prompted by a number of factors. The great multitudes that had once followed Christ were subsiding to a faithful few (see John 6:66). Great crowds still came to hear (14:25), but committed followers were increasingly scarce. Moreover, Christ’s messages often seemed designed to discourage the halfhearted. And He Himself had stated that the way is so narrow that few find it (Matt. 7:14). This contradicted the Jewish belief that all Jews, except for tax collectors and other notorious sinners, would be saved. Christ’s reply once again underscored the difficulty of entering at the narrow gate. After the resurrection, only 120 disciples gathered in the upper room in Jerusalem (Acts 1:15) and only about 500 in Galilee (1 Cor. 15:6).

Luke 13:29 They will come. By including people from the 4 corners of the earth, Jesus made it clear that even Gentiles would be invited to the heavenly banquet table. This was contrary to prevailing rabbinical thought, but perfectly consistent with the Old Testament Scriptures (Ps. 107:3; Is. 66:18, 19; Mal. 1:11).

DAY 17: Why would Jesus call Herod a “fox” in Luke 13:32?

Some have suggested that Jesus’ use of this expression is hard to reconcile with Exodus 22:28; Ecclesiastes 10:20; and Acts 23:5. However, those verses apply to everyday discourse. Prophets, speaking as mouthpieces of God and with divine authority, were often commissioned to rebuke leaders publicly (see Is. 1:23; Ezek. 22:27; Hos. 7:3–7; Zeph. 3:3). Since Jesus spoke with perfect divine authority, He had every right to speak of Herod in such terms. Rabbinical writings often used “the fox” to signify someone who was both crafty and worthless. The Pharisees, who trembled at Herod’s power, must have been astonished at Christ’s boldness.

Jesus’ message to Herod was: “Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected” (v. 32). This expression signified only that Christ was on His own divine timetable; it was not meant to lay out a literal 3-day schedule. Expressions like this were common in Semitic usage and seldom were employed in a literal sense to specify precise intervals of time. To “be perfected,” i.e., by death, in the finishing of His work. (See Heb. 2:10; John 17:4, 5; 19:30.) Herod was threatening to kill Him, but no one could kill Christ before His time (John 10:17, 18).

Jesus adds that “it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem” (v. 33). Not all prophets who were martyred died in Jerusalem, of course. This saying was probably a familiar proverb. The statement is full of irony, noting that most of the Old Testament prophets were martyred at the hands of the Jewish people, not by foreign enemies. Luke’s inclusion of this saying underscores his theme in this section of his Gospel—Jesus’ relentless journey to Jerusalem for the purpose of dying.




Being Considerate of Others' Needs

“When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’” (John 19:26).

No matter what trials we have, it is still possible to be concerned for others’ needs.

As the time for Jesus’ death grew closer, His mother’s well-being was on His heart and mind. His concern is consistent with what we have already seen in our brief study of some of Jesus’ last words on the cross—our Lord was faithful in ministry no matter what the cost.

Here the object of Jesus’ focus shifted to a small group of five friends at the foot of His cross. And out of this sympathetic band, which included the disciple John, Salome (John’s mother), Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene, Christ’s attention drew especially toward His mother.

Mary, the mother of our Lord, was perhaps the neediest person of any in that cluster that stood beneath the cross. She was most likely a widow by this time; otherwise, Jesus would not have shown so much special concern for her future welfare. Mary was also seeing and feeling the fulfillment of Simeon’s prophecy that her soul would be pierced because of Jesus (Luke 2:34-35). Drawn to the place of her son’s execution by loving concern and sorrow, Mary stood with the others but undoubtedly felt very alone as she suffered quietly.

At that moment Jesus graciously intervened and reminded Mary that she needed to regard Him not primarily as her son but as her Savior. When Jesus called Mary “Woman,” He was using a title of respect. His intent was simply to commit Mary into John’s care.

At Calvary, Christ experienced the agony of the cross, the weight of the world’s sin, and the wrath of God the Father. Yet through all His ordeal, which is beyond our comprehension, Jesus took some moments to show compassion to others who were hurting. That’s a pattern we are to follow. We should never be so overwhelmed with our own pain and trials—and certainly not life’s routine, daily cares, and burdens—that we lose sight of others’ needs.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for Jesus’ incredible example of compassion in the midst of the most adverse circumstances.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 27:46; John 19:28; John 19:30; and Luke 23:46.

What additional traits do these reveal about Jesus?
Look for at least one example you can apply to your life.


Commended or Condemned?

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy" (Matt. 5:7).

God commends merciful people but condemns the merciless.

Scripture shows that those whom God blessed most abundantly were abundantly merciful to others. Abraham, for example, helped rescue his nephew Lot even after Lot had wronged him. Joseph was merciful to his brothers after they sold him into slavery. Twice David spared Saul's life after Saul tried to kill him.

But just as sure as God's commendation is upon those who show mercy, His condemnation is upon those who are merciless. Psalm 109:14-16 says, "Let the iniquity of [the merciless person's] fathers be remembered before the Lord, and do not let the sin of his mother be blotted out . . . because he did not remember to show [mercy]."

When judgment comes, the Lord will tell such people, "Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me" (Matt. 25:41-43). They will respond, "Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?" (v. 44). He will reply that when they withheld mercy from those who represented Him, they were withholding it from Him (v. 45).

Our society encourages us to grab everything we can for ourselves, but God wants us to reach out and give everything we can to others. If someone wrongs you, fails to repay a debt, or doesn't return something he has borrowed from you, be merciful to him. That doesn't mean you excuse sin, but you respond to people with a heart of compassion. That's what Christ did for you—can you do any less for others?

Suggestions for Prayer

If there is someone who has wronged you, pray for that person, asking God to give you a heart of compassion for him or her. Make every effort to reconcile as soon as possible.

For Further Study

Read Romans 1:29-31. How did Paul characterize the ungodly?


April 16 - The Evil of Saying, “You Fool”

“‘Whoever says, “You fool,” shall be guilty enough to go into fiery hell’” (Matthew 5:22).

No one wants to be called a fool, and on the other side of the coin, no one should fix that label on someone else. That’s especially true when we realize that the word in this verse translated “fool” is from the Greek word from which we get moron. The word also denotes one who is stupid or dull. Greek literature sometimes used it to refer to a godless or obstinate person. And it was perhaps parallel to a Hebrew word that means “to rebel against.”

Twice the psalmist tells us “the fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Ps. 14:1; 53:1; cf. 10:4). The book of Proverbs contains many negative references and warnings to fools (1:7; 10:8, 10; 14:9). Jesus used a related but less severe term when He reprimanded the two disciples on the road to Emmaus: “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25).

Because of these and other testimonies in God’s Word, we know people engage in foolish thoughts and actions. Therefore it is not wrong for us to warn or rebuke someone who is acting or speaking foolishly and clearly opposing God’s will. In fact, we are supposed to take this action! The Lord is warning us here, however, that it is sin to slanderously call someone a fool out of personal anger or hatred. Maliciously calling another a fool is again equivalent to murder and worthy of eternal punishment in hell if not repented of.

Ask Yourself

Most of our slanderous remarks are not made to others’ faces but rather behind their backs. What guiding principles can you set in place to guard yourself from being ugly and unkind to others, even when speaking about them in private conversation?


Reading for Today:

Joshua 21:1–22:34
Psalm 46:7-11
Proverbs 14:12-13
Luke 13:1-22

Joshua 21:43–45 So the LORD gave to Israel all the land. This sums up God’s fulfillment of His covenant promise to give Abraham’s people the land (Gen. 12:7; Josh. 1:2, 5–9). God also kept His Word in giving the people rest (Deut. 12:9, 10). In a valid sense, the Canaanites were in check, under military conquest as God had pledged (Josh. 1:5), not posing an immediate threat. Not every enemy had been driven out, however, leaving some to stir up trouble later. But God’s people failed to exercise their responsibility and possess their land to the full degree in various areas.

Psalm 46:7 The LORD of hosts is with us. The precious personal presence (see “God with us” in Is. 7:14; 8:8, 10) of the Divine Warrior (see “LORD of hosts” or “armies,” e.g., Pss. 24:10; 48:8; 59:5) secures the safety of His people.

Psalm 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God. This twin command to not panic and to recognize His sovereignty is probably directed to both His nation for comfort and all other nations for warning.

Luke 13:11 had a spirit of infirmity. This suggests that her physical ailment, which left her unable to stand erect, was caused by an evil spirit. However, Christ did not have to confront and drive out a demon, but simply declared her loosed (v. 12), so her case appears somewhat different from other cases of demonic possession He often encountered.

Luke 13:12 He called her to Him. The healing was unsolicited; He took the initiative (see 7:12–14). Furthermore, no special faith was required on her part or anyone else’s. Jesus sometimes called for faith, but not always (see 8:48; Mark 5:34).

DAY 16: Are catastrophes a sign of God’s judgment?

Upon hearing about an incident where Galileans were sought out and killed in the temple by Roman authorities while in the process of offering a sacrifice, perhaps because they were seditious zealots, Jesus asked His listeners, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners…because they suffered such things?” (Luke 13:2). It was the belief of many that disaster and sudden death always signified divine displeasure over particular sins (see Job 4:7). Those who suffered in uncommon ways were therefore assumed to be guilty of some more severe immorality (see John 9:2).

Jesus did not deny the connection between catastrophe and human evil, for all such afflictions ultimately stem from the curse of humanity’s fallenness (Gen. 3:17–19). Furthermore, specific calamities may indeed be the fruit of certain iniquities (Prov. 24:16). But Christ challenged the people’s notion that they were morally superior to those who suffered in such catastrophes. He called all to repent (v. 3), for all were in danger of sudden destruction. No one is guaranteed time to prepare for death, so now is the time for repentance for all (see 2 Cor. 6:2).

Jesus also mentions another disaster in Siloam, where evidently one of the towers guarding an aqueduct collapsed, perhaps while under construction, killing some people (v. 4). Again, the question in the minds of people was regarding the connection between calamity and iniquity (“worse sinners”). Jesus responded by saying that such a calamity was not God’s way to single out an especially evil group for death, but a means of warning to all sinners.




Reaching Out to Others

“‘Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise’” (Luke 23:43).

The circumstances are never too adverse, nor the hour too late, to offer the gospel of Christ to someone.

Jesus was crucified between two criminals (thieves)—one on each side of His cross. At first the two men both joined the onlookers in hurling unbelieving rhetoric at the Lord (Mark 15:32). But one of the thieves obviously had a change of heart as the hours elapsed. He rebuked the other thief by pointing out Jesus’ sinlessness (Luke 23:40-41) and then expressed his need of salvation: “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” (v. 42). And Jesus graciously answered the thief’s request.

The dying thief’s conversion is an extraordinary story. At Calvary there was nothing convincing or favorable about Jesus. From man’s vantage point He was dying because He had been completely rejected; even the disciples had deserted Him. Jesus appeared weak, disgraced, and ashamed. When the thief uttered his plea for help, no one was pointing to Jesus and saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

Given the circumstances, it is difficult to comprehend how Christ could be concerned with the immediate salvation of a wretched thief who was justly being executed for his crimes. But our Lord cared very much about the destiny of that man’s soul. Jesus’ desire to see sinners saved was constant, because He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). His concern for the unsaved is the supreme example and motivation to us in reaching out to others.

The thief’s salvation is also a clear illustration of the sovereignty of God in redemption. So often the church wants to attribute someone’s salvation to human cleverness in presenting a well-crafted message at just the right time and in the most appropriate place. But salvation is always the direct result of God’s intervening grace. The sovereign work of God’s Spirit, not circumstances, gave the thief a saving understanding about who Jesus was and what His death was accomplishing.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God for the courage to reach out with the good news of salvation no matter what the circumstances.

For Further Study

Read John 4:1-42.

What excuses could Jesus have used for not talking to the woman?
How did He keep His focus during His conversation with her?




"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy" (Matt. 5:7).

There are many ways to show mercy.

God delights in mercy, and as a believer you have the privilege of showing mercy in many ways. In the physical realm you can give money to the poor, food to the hungry, or a bed to the homeless. God has always wanted His people to be that way. Deuteronomy 15 says, "If there is a poor man with you . . . you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from [him]; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks" (vv. 7-8). Verses 12-14 instruct Israelites who release a slave to provide for the slave's needs. That was the merciful thing to do.

In the spiritual realm you can show mercy by pitying the lost. St. Augustine said, "If I weep for that body from which the soul is departed, how should I weep for that soul from which God is departed?" (cited by Thomas Watson in The Beatitudes, p. 144). We mourn over the dead but do we mourn as much for lost souls? When Stephen was being stoned, he pitied his wretched murderers, asking God to forgive them (Acts 7:60). Jesus did the same (Luke 23:34). That should be our attitude as well.

Another way of showing mercy is to rebuke sin. Second Timothy 2:24-25 says, "The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all . . . with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth." It is merciful and loving to rebuke sinners because it gives them a chance to repent and be forgiven.

Prayer is also an act of mercy, as is preaching the gospel. In fact, sharing Christ with someone is the most merciful thing you can do!

There are many more ways to be merciful, but I hope these will stimulate your thinking and encourage you to discover as many ways as possible to pass on the abundant mercy God has shown to you.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the mercies you have received from others.
Take advantage of every opportunity to minister to others.
For Further Study

Determine who receives mercy according to the following verses: Matthew 6:14; Titus 3:5-6; Hebrews 4:14-16; James 2:13; and 1 Peter 2:9-10.


April 15 - Slander Equals Murder

“‘Whoever says to his brother, “You good-for-nothing,” shall be guilty before the supreme court’” (Matthew 5:22).

The word (raca) translated by the New American Standard Bible “good-for-nothing” has been variously rendered elsewhere as “brainless idiot,” “worthless fellow,” “blockhead,” and the like. It was a term of malicious abuse and slander that really has no precise modern translation. David graphically described persons who used such slander as those who “sharpen their tongues as a serpent; poison of a viper is under their lips” (Ps. 140:3). The Roman soldiers who tortured and crucified Jesus could well have used the term to mock and disrespect Him (cf. Matt. 27:29–31).

According to Jewish legend, a young rabbi had just come from a session with his famous teacher. He felt especially proud of how he had handled himself before the teacher. As he basked in those feelings of superiority, he passed an especially unattractive man who greeted him. The young rabbi responded, “You Raca! How ugly you are. Are all men of your town as ugly as you?”

“That I do not know,” the man replied, “but go and tell the Maker who created me how ugly is the creature He has made.”

To slander someone made in God’s image is to slander God Himself and is the same as murdering that person. Jesus called such harsh contempt murder of the heart. The contemptuous person was as much as “guilty before the supreme court” (the Jewish Sanhedrin, which tried the most serious cases and pronounced the ultimate penalty—death). We dare not trifle with any kind of contemptuous language toward others.

Ask Yourself

Remember, this is not just an injunction against speaking unkind, judgmental words, but also of thinking them in our minds. When God has led you to seasons of victory in your thought life, how has He accomplished it? What stopped evil thoughts from ever coming up?


Reading for Today:

Joshua 19:1–20:9
Psalm 46:1-6
Proverbs 14:7-11
Luke 12:32-59

Joshua 20:1–9 cities of refuge. Moses had spoken God’s word to name 6 cities in Israel as refuge centers. A person who inadvertently killed another could flee to the nearest of these for protection (see Num.35:9–34). Three lay west of the Jordan, and 3 lay to the east, each reachable in a day for those in its area. The slayer could flee there to escape pursuit by a family member seeking to exact private justice. Authorities at the refuge protected him and escorted him to a trial. If found innocent, he was guarded at the refuge until the death of the current high priest, a kind of statute of limitations (Josh. 20:6). He could then return home. If found guilty of murder, he suffered due punishment.

Proverbs 14:10 At its depth, suffering and rejoicing are personal and private. No one is able to communicate them fully (1 Sam 1:10; 1 Kin. 8:38; Matt 2:18; 26:39–42, 75).

Luke 12:33 Sell what you have and give alms. Those who amassed earthly possessions, falsely thinking their security lay in material resources (vv. 16–20), needed to lay up treasure in heaven instead. Believers in the early church did sell their goods to meet the basic needs of poorer brethren (Acts 2:44, 45; 4:32–37). But this commandment is not to be twisted into an absolute prohibition of all earthly possessions. In fact, Peter’s words to Ananias in Acts 5:4 make it clear that the selling of one’s possessions was optional. money bags which do not grow old. These purses that do not wear out (so as to lose the money) are defined as “treasure in the heavens that does not fail.” The surest place to put one’s money is in such a purse—in heaven, where it is safe from thieves and decay, as well.

Luke 12:34 your heart will be also. Where one puts his money reveals the priorities of his heart. See 16:1–13; Matthew 6:21.

DAY 15: Where can we find stability in troubled times?

Psalm 46 was the scriptural catalyst for Martin Luther’s great hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” This psalm extols the adequacy of God in facing threats from nature and the nations. God indeed protects (see vv. 1, 7, 11) His people upon the earth (see vv. 2, 6, 8, 9, 10). The major burden of Psalm 46 is that God provides stability for His people who live in two exceedingly unstable environments.

Specifically, “Even though the earth be removed” (v. 2). I.e., “When earth changes and when mountains move or shake or totter or slip” (see the language of Is. 24:19, 20; 54:10; Hag. 2:6). These are poetic allusions to earthquakes. Since “the earth” and “mountains” are regarded by men as symbols of stability, when they “dance,” great terror normally ensues. But when the most stable becomes unstable, there should be “no fear” because of the transcendent stability of God. And “though its waters roar” (v. 3). This is an illustration of powerfully surging and potentially destructive floods of waters. These will not erode God’s protective fortifications.

“There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God” (v. 4). Refreshing waters contrast with those threatening torrents of v. 3. See the garden of paradise concept often mentioned in ancient Near Eastern literature, but most importantly, see the biblical revelation, noting especially the “bookends” of Genesis 2:10 and Revelation 22:1, 2. “She shall not be moved” (vv. 5, 6). These verses pick up some of the key terms about moving, slipping, tottering, sliding, and roaring from vv. 1–3. However, here, because of the presence of God, the forces of nature and the nations are no longer a threat to the people of God who dwell with Him.




Forgiving Others

“‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing’” (Luke 23:34).

As Jesus forgave others (including us), we should extend forgiveness to those who wrong us.

Jesus had a forgiving heart right up to the end, even after He had experienced a lifetime of mankind’s worst treatment. He came down to a world He had created, but that world rebuffed Him. Its inhabitants’ eyes were blinded by sin, and they could not see any beauty in Jesus. Almost immediately after His humble birth in a stable, King Herod sought to have Him killed (Matt. 2:13, 16-18). And the Jewish leaders on various occasions contested Christ’s teachings and looked for opportunities to seize Him and kill Him. The cross was just the culmination of a lifetime of persecution against Jesus.

Jesus’ death by crucifixion was one of the most humiliating, painful forms of execution the world has ever known. From a human perspective, we would have expected Him to plead with God the Father for mercy or to be enraged at God and denounce Him for allowing Him to be crucified. If we had written the original script for Jesus’ crucifixion scene, we probably would have had Him screaming threats of retaliation at His killers. But our Savior did none of those things. Instead, He asked His Father to forgive His enemies.

The Lord Jesus prayed for the most important need His executioners would ever have. They would never be able to enter the presence of a holy God if their sins were not forgiven. Christ was concerned that His opponents, who were ignorantly putting Him to death, have an opportunity to be forgiven rather than endure God’s vengeance.

Such an attitude of love and mercy should also be ours. We, unlike Jesus, are sinners ourselves who need constant forgiveness. Therefore, when we are wronged, our primary concern ought to be that God would forgive the one who has sinned against us. An excellent model of this attitude is Stephen, who prayed as he was being stoned to death, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” (Acts 7:60). He followed Christ’s own example of love and forgiveness, and so should we.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that you may have a more consistently forgiving attitude toward others who wrong or offend you.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 18:21-35.

What is implied in Jesus’ figurative expression “seventy times seven” (v. 22) regarding forgiving others?
Ultimately, how much does it matter that we maintain a forgiving attitude (vv. 32-35)?


Following Christ's Example

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy" (Matt. 5:7).

Mercy is compassion in action.

Mercy is not a human attribute. It is God's gift to those who seek Him. Psalm 103:11 says, "As the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him" (KJV).

The verb form of "merciful" appears many times in Scripture and means "to have mercy on," "aid the afflicted," "give help to the wretched," or "rescue the miserable." In general it refers to anything you do to benefit someone in need. The noun form is used only twice: here in Matthew 5:7 and in Hebrews 2:17, which reads, "[Christ] had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest." Christ Himself is both the source and illustration of mercy.

Christ modeled mercy throughout His earthly ministry. He healed the sick and enabled the crippled to walk. He gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and speech to the mute. His redeeming love embraced sinners of all kinds. He wept with those in sorrow and comforted the lonely. He embraced little children and the elderly alike. His mercy was compassion in action!

Despite His abundant mercy, Jesus received no mercy from His enemies. They hated Him without cause, accused Him falsely, beat Him, nailed Him to a cross, spat upon Him, and cursed Him. Even then He sought mercy for them, praying, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).

Some have paraphrased Matthew 5:7 to say that if you show mercy to others, they will show mercy to you. Now that might happen in some isolated incidences, but in this jaded world that's not often the case—as Jesus' life clearly demonstrates. Many Christians have incurred slander, rebuke, lawsuits, and even death for their noble efforts. Jesus didn't guarantee merciful treatment from others. His emphasis was that God shows mercy toward those who show mercy to others.

Don't ever be reluctant to show mercy to others—even when they misunderstand or mistreat you. God will use your kindness for His glory and reward you accordingly.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise Jesus for being willing to suffer death that you might receive mercy.
Is there someone you might show mercy to today in some tangible way?
For Further Study

Read John 5:1-18.

How did Christ demonstrate mercy to the sick man?
How did the Jewish religious leaders react?


April 14 - Selfish Anger Equals Murder

“‘Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court’” (Matthew 5:22).

From Jesus’ own life we know He does not forbid every form of anger. In righteous indignation He twice cleansed the temple of its defiling, profaning influences (Matt. 21:12–13; John 2:14–15). The apostle Paul instructs Christians to “be angry, and yet do not sin” (Eph. 4:26). Faithfulness to Christ sometimes demands that we exercise a righteous anger. Many of the current cultural trends, the surges of violence and grossly dishonest and immoral practices, and the unbiblical ideas promoted even within supposedly evangelical circles need to be opposed with righteous anger. That’s because such things undermine the kingdom and glory of God. The psalmist wrote, “God is a righteous judge, and a God who has indignation every day” (Ps. 7:11).

In His sermon, Jesus did not speak against legitimate, righteous indignation, but against a selfish anger toward someone for doing something against us, someone who’s just rubbed us the wrong way. The word the Lord used for “angry” indicates a simmering anger that a person nurtures and refuses to let die. Examples of such anger are the long-standing grudge or the smoldering bitterness that refuses to forgive someone. This kind of anger does not want reconciliation and can become so profound as to be a “root of bitterness springing up” (Heb. 12:15).

Jesus says anyone who harbors such severe anger against another person is the same as guilty before the civil court of murder and deserving of the death penalty in God’s eyes.

Ask Yourself

So are there names and faces that come to mind when confronted with this stark reminder from Scripture? Is there personal anger that needs instant removal from your heart?



April 14

Reading for Today:

Joshua 17:1–18:28
Psalm 45:6-17
Proverbs 14:6
Luke 12:1-31

Joshua 17:12–18 children of Manasseh. Tribesmen of Manasseh complained that Joshua did not allot them land sufficient to their numbers and that the Canaanites were too tough for them to drive out altogether. He permitted them extra land in forested hills that they could clear. Joshua told them that they could drive out the Canaanites for God had promised to be with them in victory against chariots (Deut. 20:1).

Psalm 45:6, 7 Your throne, O God. Since this king-groom was likely a member of the Davidic dynasty (e.g., 2 Sam. 7), there was a near and immediate application (see 1 Chr. 28:5; 29:23). Through progressive revelation (i.e., Heb. 1:8, 9), we learn of the ultimate application to “a greater than Solomon” who is God—the Lord Jesus Christ.

Luke 12:11 do not worry. I.e., do not be anxious. This does not suggest that ministers and teachers should forego preparation in their normal spiritual duties. To cite this passage and others like it (21:12–15; Matt. 10:19) to justify the neglect of study and meditation is to twist the meaning of Scripture. This verse is meant as a comfort for those under life-threatening persecution, not as an excuse for laziness in ministry. The exact same expression is used in v. 22, speaking of concern for one’s material necessities. In neither context was Jesus condemning legitimate toil and preparation. He was promising the Holy Spirit’s aid for times of persecution when there can be no preparation.

DAY 14: What passages in Luke are unique to his Gospel?

Luke included 12 events or major passages not found in the other Gospels:

1. Events preceding the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus (1:5–80).

2. Scenes from Jesus’ childhood (2:1–52).

3. Herod imprisons John the Baptist (3:19, 20).

4. The people of Nazareth reject Jesus (4:16–30).

5. The first disciples are called (5:1–11).

6. A widow’s son is raised (7:11–17).

7. A woman anoints Jesus’ feet (7:36–50).

8. Certain women minister to Christ (8:1–3).

9. Events, teaching, and miracles during the months leading up to Christ’s death (10:1–18:14).

10. Christ abides with Zacchaeus (19:1–27).

11. Herod tries Christ (23:6–12).

12. Some of Jesus’ final words before His ascension (24:44–49).




Peter's Repentance

“Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, ‘Before a cock crows, you will deny Me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly” (Matthew 26:75).

Even when a believer sins greatly, God is there to forgive and restore.

Peter’s denial of the Lord Jesus was a great tragedy. But Peter had already taken a number of steps toward denial before uttering a single word that repudiated Christ. First, he presumptuously boasted that he would never fall away (Matt. 26:33). Second, Peter was insubordinate to Jesus and blatantly refused to accept the Lord’s prediction of his disloyalty (v. 35). Third, he was prayerless in the Garden of Gethsemane (vv. 40-41). Fourth, he foolishly and unnecessarily wielded the sword to defend Jesus (vv. 51-52). Finally, Peter compromised himself and willfully went to a place (the high priest’s courtyard) of spiritual danger (v. 69), where his faith could be tested beyond its endurance.

As Peter tried to wait inconspicuously in the high priest’s courtyard, on three occasions he was confronted by other bystanders and accused of being one of Jesus’ followers. Peter’s reaction showed he had lost all sense of reality and awareness of God. Each accusation was a bit more incriminating and provoked a more vehement denial by Peter. After the third denial, according to the Lord’s providence, Peter’s slide was halted. A penetrating look from Jesus Himself (Luke 22:61) and his remembering of Jesus’ prediction that he would deny Him three times were enough to bring Peter to his senses. As our verse explains it, “he went out and wept bitterly.”

Peter’s tears were not merely tears of remorse—they indicated a true sorrow and turning from sin. It was not until he saw Christ’s face and remembered His words that Peter grasped the seriousness of his sin and repented. This is a profound lesson for you and me. Peter’s sin itself did not cause him to repent; his forgiveness and restoration came only when he turned from sin to God. After His resurrection, Jesus affirmed Peter’s restored love three times (John 21:15-17). This gift of restored fellowship through God’s gracious forgiveness is available to all believers (1 John 1:7, 9).

Suggestions for Prayer

Commit your thoughts and plans to God throughout the day so that you may avoid the kind of compromising situation Peter was in.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 51.

How does David’s dealing with sin parallel what we saw about Peter’s coming to his senses?
What verses from this psalm are especially helpful in seeing this parallel?


"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy" (Matt. 5:7).

Mercy is a characteristic of true believers.

Like the other beatitudes, Matthew 5:7 contains a twofold message: to enter the kingdom you must seek mercy. Once there, you must show mercy to others.

The thought of showing mercy probably surprised Christ's audience because both the Jews and the Romans tended to be merciless. The Romans exalted justice, courage, discipline, and power. To them mercy was a sign of weakness. For example, if a Roman father wanted his newborn child to live, he simply held his thumb up; if he wanted it to die, he held his thumb down.

Jesus repeatedly rebuked the Jewish religious leaders for their egotistical, self-righteous, and condemning attitudes. They were intolerant of anyone who failed to live by their traditions. They even withheld financial support from their own needy parents (Matt. 15:3-9).

Like the people of Jesus' time, many people today also lack mercy. Some are outright cruel and unkind, but most are so consumed with their quest for self-gratification that they simply neglect others.

Christians, on the other hand, should be characterized by mercy. In fact, James used mercy to illustrate true faith: "What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,' and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself" (James 2:14- 17). He also said mercy is characteristic of godly wisdom: "The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy" (3:17).

As one who has received mercy from God, let mercy be the hallmark of your life.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for His great mercy.
Ask Him to give you opportunities to show mercy to others today.
For Further Study

Read Luke 10:25-37.

Who questioned Jesus and what was his motive?
What characteristics of mercy were demonstrated by the Samaritan traveler?
What challenge did Jesus give His hearer? Are you willing to meet that challenge?


April 13 - Jesus on Murder: Contrast to the Rabbis

“‘You have heard that the ancients were told, “You shall not commit murder” and “Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.” But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court’” (Matthew 5:21­­–22).

With just two sentences Jesus shatters the rabbinic view of murder, which was so complacently self-righteous. Because of their externalism and legalism, the Jews had an inflated view of themselves. But Jesus destroyed that thinking with the declaration that a person guilty of anger, hatred, cursing, or defamation against another is guilty of murder and worthy of a murderer’s punishment.

All anger, hatred, etc., is incipient murder, as the apostle John writes, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15a). By that biblical standard, we are all guilty of murder—after all, who has not hated someone at one time or another?

Not only does Jesus here sweep away the rubbish of the rabbinic, traditional view of murder, His total indictment blasts away any notion of self-justification so common to everyone. The way the Jews thought in Jesus’ time is identical to people’s prevalent thinking today. Even believers can feel proud that they are “not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers” (Luke 18:11)—and we could add “murderers.” Jesus in that parable and in this passage says we are all potentially capable of the worst sins, even murder, because of the sometimes evil attitudes of our hearts.

Not to consider the state of your heart and confess thoughts of anger and hatred, which can lead to taking someone’s life, is not to consider that the Lord can hold you guilty of murder.

Ask Yourself

What benefit is found in knowing that you and I are capable of the most heinous crimes imaginable? Does recognizing this startling piece of information have an effect on your relationship with God and your resultant manner of living?


Reading for Today:

Joshua 15:1–16:10
Psalm 45:1-5
Proverbs 14:4-5
Luke 11:29-54

Joshua 16:10 Ephraim did not drive the Canaanites from their area. This is the first mention of the fatal policy of neglecting to exterminate the idolaters (see Deut. 20:16).

Psalm 45:1 My heart is overflowing...my tongue. The psalmist is overwhelmed with emotion upon the occasion of the king’s marriage. Consequently, he puts his stirred-up mind and feelings into words. In v. 2ff. his tongue is the brush that he uses to paint vivid word pictures.

Luke 11:34 The lamp of the body. This is a different metaphor from the one in v. 33. There the lamp speaks of the word of God. Here the eye is the “lamp”—i.e., the source of light—for the body. when your eye is bad. The problem was their perception, not a lack of light. They did not need a sign. They needed hearts to believe the great display of divine power they had already seen.

Luke 11:38 He had not first washed. The Pharisee was concerned with ceremony, not hygiene. The Greek word for “washed” refers to a ceremonial ablution. Nothing in the law commanded such washings, but the Pharisees practiced them, believing the ritual cleansed them of any accidental ceremonial defilement.

DAY 13: How does God’s guarantee of success to Joshua relate to us?

The Book of Joshua begins with God’s commissioning of Israel’s new leader. God described Joshua’s mission—to go in and possess the Land (1:2–6). God hinged Joshua’s success on three key factors: 1) God’s own presence (v. 5); 2) Joshua’s personal strength and courage (vv. 7, 9); and 3) Joshua’s attention to and application of God’s word (vv. 7, 8).

God spelled out this third factor with some detail for it was to be the basis for all of Joshua’s actions. God’s word was to be Joshua’s constant conversation, continual meditation, and unswerving application. The phrase “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth” (v. 8) deserves added attention. While a first impression might lead to the conclusion that Joshua was not supposed to talk about the Book of the Law, the direct opposite is the case: he was not supposed to stop talking about it.

Biblical meditation begins with the thoughtful, lingering reading of God’s Word. It progresses to familiarity and memorization. In order to “meditate in it day and night” (v. 8), the Book of the Law would have been in Joshua. The purpose has been achieved when meditation leads us to “observe to do according to all that is written in it” (v. 8).

“Then,” God told Joshua, “you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (v. 8). Joshua found the ultimate measure of prosperity and success—knowing how God wants His people to live and then living that way. God repeatedly assured Joshua of His own presence “wherever you go.” What greater measurement of success could there be than to honor the ever-present God with our obedience?




The Unjust Condemnation

“‘Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; what do you think?’ They answered and said, ‘He is deserving of death!’” (Matthew 26:65-66).

Like many through the centuries, members of the Sanhedrin rejected Jesus Christ without fairly judging all the evidence.

Lynching is an activity we don’t hear much about today. But during earlier generations, the heinous crime occurred quite regularly. Innocent people, or those merely presumed guilty (prior to any trial), were tortured and killed, usually by angry, hateful mobs. Often the person lynched was a victim of racial or political prejudice or some other irrational fear held by the perpetrators.

The members of the Sanhedrin certainly held blind prejudices against Jesus. No amount of evidence would open their eyes to the truth of who He was. Those unbelieving leaders of Israel discounted Jesus’ claims to deity long before they placed Him on trial. He had even pleaded with them, “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father” (John 10:37-38).

In today’s passage the high priest Caiaphas reacts forcefully to Jesus’ agreement that He is God’s Son and the Messiah (see Matt. 26:64). Caiaphas’s mind was made up; he was convinced that Jesus had blasphemed, and he was determined to rush forward with this “evidence” to condemn Jesus to death. Caiaphas and the Council could barely wait to render a verdict. The high priest asked for their opinion on Jesus’ guilt, and immediately the Council members asserted, “He is deserving of death!”

The irony of the Jewish leaders’ condemnation of Jesus was their blind insistence that He was a blasphemer when in reality they were the blasphemers for their rejection of the Lord and His message. Even more sobering is that every person who has ever finally rejected Christ is also guilty of blasphemy and will suffer the same fate as the chief priests and elders: “He who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for someone you know who has been closed to the gospel. Ask God to open his or her heart and grant him or her repentance.

For Further Study

Read Hebrews 3—4. What spiritual attitude do these chapters warn of? What Old Testament parallel does the writer make?


Evaluating Your Righteousness

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" (Matt. 5:6).

Your relationship with God is the measure of your righteousness.

Righteousness means "to be right with God." When you hunger and thirst for righteousness, you passionately desire an ongoing and ever-maturing relationship with God Himself.

Righteousness begins with salvation and continues in sanctification. Only after you abandon all self- righteousness and hunger for salvation, will you be cleansed from sin and made righteous in Christ. Then you embark on a lifelong process of becoming as righteous as Christ—a process that will culminate when you are in His presence fully glorified (Rom. 8:29-30; 1 John 3:2). There's always need for improvement in this life (Phil. 3:12-14), but satisfaction comes in communing with Christ and growing in His grace.

You can know if you're hungering and thirsting for righteousness by asking yourself some simple questions. First, are you dissatisfied with your sin? Self- satisfaction is impossible if you are aware of your sin and grieve when you fall short of God's holy standard.

Second, do external things satisfy your longings? A hungry man isn't satisfied until he eats. A thirsty man isn't satisfied until he drinks. When you hunger and thirst after righteousness, only God's righteousness can satisfy you.

Third, do you have an appetite for God's Word? Hungry people don't need to be told to eat. It's instinctive! Spiritual hunger will drive you to feed on the Word to learn what God says about increasing in righteousness.

Fourth, are you content amid difficulties? A hungry soul is content despite the pain it goes through because it sees every trial as a means by which God is teaching greater righteousness. If you react with anger or resentment when things go wrong, you're seeking superficial happiness.

Finally, are your hunger and thirst unconditional? The rich young ruler in Matthew 19 knew there was a void in his life but was unwilling to give up his possessions. His hunger was conditional.

Christ will fully satisfy every longing of your heart, yet you will also constantly desire more of His righteousness. That's the blessed paradox of hungering and thirsting after righteousness.

Suggestions for Prayer

Read Psalm 112 as a hymn of praise to God.

For Further Study

Read the following verses, noting how God satisfies those who trust in Him: Psalm 34:10; 107:9; Isaiah 55:1-3; John 4:14; 6:35.


April 12 - Jesus Clarifies Murder’s Definition

“‘You have heard that the ancients were told, “You shall not commit murder” and “Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.” But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, “You good-for-nothing,” shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, “You fool,” shall be guilty enough to go into fiery hell’” (Matthew 5:21–22).

Throughout history, most decent people rest assured that at least one sin they have not committed is murder. The conventional wisdom limits murder to physically taking another person’s life. But Jesus’ teaching on murder shatters the self-righteous complacency of so many good people.

God’s original command “you shall not commit murder” was of course scriptural (Ex. 20:13). But the Jewish practice of taking murder cases to civil court fell well short of the biblical standard in three ways: it did not prescribe the death penalty (Gen. 9:6), it did not take God’s holy character into consideration (His role in meting out judgment, the sinfulness of taking a life made in His image, or the general disobedience to the law), and it said nothing about the heart offense of the murderer. These omissions ignored David’s statement in Psalm 51:6, “You [God] desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.”

With the transitional words, “But I say to you,” Jesus begins to point us to a scriptural understanding of murder and its implications. Murder goes much deeper than physically taking someone’s life. It originates with evil thoughts in the heart, and is still a serious sin, whether or not it culminates in violent action against another person.

Ask Yourself

If Jesus is making this harder than before, then what’s so freeing about being free from the law? Why is this more helpful than a black-and-white statute?


April 12

Reading for Today:

Joshua 13:1–14:15
Psalm 44:20-26
Proverbs 14:3
Luke 11:1-28

Joshua 13:22 Israel also killed...Balaam. This Israelite slaying of the infamous false prophet occurred at an unidentified point during the conquest (see Num. 31:16; Josh. 24:9, 10; 2 Pet. 2:15, 16; Jude 11; Rev. 2:14).

Psalm 44:22 Yet for Your sake. They had no specific answers—only this inescapable conclusion that, by God’s sovereign will, they were allowed to be destroyed by their enemies. See Paul’s quote of this verse in Romans 8:36 and its general principle in Matthew 5:10–12; 1 Peter 3:13–17; 4:12–16.

Luke 11:1 Lord, teach us to pray. Rabbis often composed prayers for their disciples to recite. Having seen Jesus pray many times, Jesus’ disciples knew of His love for prayer, and they knew prayer was not just the reciting of words.

Luke 11:28 More than that. This has the sense of, “Yes, but rather….” While not denying the blessedness of Mary, Christ did not countenance any tendency to elevate Mary as an object of veneration. Mary’s relationship to Him as His physical mother did not confer on her any greater honor than the blessedness of those who hear and obey the word of God.

DAY 12: How far would some go to explain away Jesus’ power?

Having just watched Jesus cast a demon out of a person, some people said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of demons” (Luke 11:15). Originally this referred to Baal-Zebul (“Baal, the prince”), chief god of the Philistine city of Ekron. The Israelites disdainfully referred to him as Baal-Zebub (“Lord of Flies”).

Jesus reminded them that “every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation” (v. 17). This may have been a subtle jab at the Jewish nation, a kingdom divided in the time of Jeroboam, and still marked by various kinds of bitter internal strife and factionalism, right up to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. He also questioned them: “By whom do your sons cast them out?” (v. 19). There were Jewish exorcists who claimed power to cast out demons (Acts 19:13–15). Jesus’ point was that if such exorcisms could be done via satanic power, the Pharisaical exorcists must be suspect, as well. And in fact, the evidence in Acts 19 suggests that the sons of Sceva were charlatans who employed fraud and trickery to fabricate phony exorcisms. “They will be your judges” (v. 19), i.e., witnesses against you. This seems to suggest that the fraudulent exorcisms (which had their approval) stood as a testimony against the Pharisees themselves, who disapproved of Christ’s genuine exorcisms.

“But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you” (v. 20). In Exodus 8:19, the phony magicians of Egypt were forced to confess that Moses’ miracles were genuine works of God, not mere trickery such as they had performed. Here Jesus made a similar comparison between His exorcisms and the work of the Jewish exorcists.




How's Your Spiritual Appetite?

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" (Matt. 5:6).

Your appetite for righteousness should equal your appetite for food and water.

David was a man after God's own heart. In Psalm 63:1 he writes, "O God, Thou art my God; I shall seek Thee earnestly; my soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh yearns for Thee, in a dry and weary land where there is no water." He communed with God and knew the blessings of His sufficiency: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. . . . He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness. . . . Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me" (Ps. 23:1-4). He endured unjust persecution for the Lord's sake: "Zeal for Thy house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach Thee have fallen on me" (Ps. 69:9).

David's zeal for God illustrates what Jesus meant when He said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness" (Matt. 5:6). The words translated "hunger" and "thirst" speak of intense desire. They are present participles, which imply continuous action. The idea is paradoxical: the believer's continuous and intense desire for righteousness is continually satisfied by Christ.

J.N. Darby, an early leader of the Plymouth Brethren movement, said, "To be hungry is not enough; I must be really starving to know what is in [God's] heart towards me. When the prodigal son was hungry he went to feed upon husks, but when he was starving, he turned to his father" (quoted in Martyn Lloyd-Jones's Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, vol. 1, p. 81). When you have that kind of desperation, only God can satisfy it!

Does your desire for righteousness drive you to Christ for satisfaction? I pray that the words of the psalmist will be yours as well: "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness" (Ps. 17:15, KJV).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to use the events of today to increase your hunger and thirst for righteousness. Look to Him in all things, knowing that He alone can satisfy.

For Further Study

Read Philippians 3:1-14.

What does it mean to place confidence in the flesh?
How did Paul define true righteousness?


The Unjust Conspiracy

“The chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, in order that they might put Him to death” (Matthew 26:59).

The only evidence of guilt against Jesus was man-made and contrived.

The essence of the Jews’ ancient legal system is found in the Lord’s words to Moses and Israel: “You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial” (Deut. 16:19). Therefore, it is truly amazing to consider what twisted measures the Jewish leaders resorted to in their trial of Jesus.

The Council, or Sanhedrin, was authorized to judge only those cases in which charges already had been brought. But in Jesus’ case, with no formal charges yet made and with the Jews’ rush to judgment, the Council had to act illegally as a prosecuting body to keep the chief priests’ murder plot moving forward.

As the sinless Son of God, Jesus was innocent of any wrongdoing. Therefore, the only way for the Jews to convict Him was to obtain false testimony against Him. And to do that, the leaders had to pervert the very heart of their judicial system and endorse the words of liars.

But the Jews quickly found it was not easy even to manipulate and assemble false charges. As is so often the case with liars, what they testified to was not only false but inconsistent. Mark’s Gospel notes that even the two witnesses’ more usable charges about Jesus and the destruction of the temple were not consistent (14:57-59).

It is one of the strongest affirmations in the Bible to Christ’s moral and spiritual perfection that not a single human witness could make an accusation that would convict Him of a crime. After all the desperate maneuvering by the Jews to come up with even the flimsiest testimony against the Lord, He stood innocent of any violation of God’s moral or spiritual law. Instead, it is the unjust, hateful group of men that will one day stand before God condemned for their sinful actions in falsely accusing the Savior.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for wisdom and integrity in the judges who make decisions in today’s courtrooms.

For Further Study

Read Deuteronomy 16:18-20 and 19:15-20. How do these passages show that Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin was based on wrong principles (list several factors)?


April 11 - Beware of Redefined, Self-centered Righteousness

“‘For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 5:20).

Many people today—and sadly, more and more within the church—have redefined biblical concepts to fit their own human perspectives. Like the scribes and Pharisees, religionists know they can’t match God’s righteousness, so they simply change the definition of holiness. A prime example from Old Testament times is how the Jews reinterpreted God’s command, “Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 11:44). They turned this from a call for inner holiness into a requirement to perform certain rituals.

The godly person will never rely on self-centered, redefined righteousness. Instead, he will focus on the kind of holiness Jesus taught. He will be broken about sin and mourn over the evil propensity of his heart. Such people long only for the righteousness God can give through His Spirit. They will never rely on their own strength or wisdom for what they can do spiritually.

God has always been focused on inner righteousness. When Samuel was ready to anoint David’s oldest brother, Eliab, to succeed King Saul, God told him, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). And that inner righteousness must be perfect: “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). To be truly qualified for entrance into Christ’s kingdom we must be as holy as God Himself.

Ask Yourself

Being broken over sin is certainly a crucial part of dealing with its incessant appeal and presence in our lives. But be sure you’re not choosing to remain in perpetual inactivity and introspection. How well is your grieving over sin being translated into renewed obedience?


Reading for Today:

Joshua 11:1–12:24
Psalm 44:4-19
Proverbs 14:1-2
Luke 10:25-42

Joshua 11:18 war a long time. The conquest took approximately 7 years. Only Gibeon submitted without a fight (v. 19).

Joshua 11:20 it was of the LORD to harden their hearts. God turned the Canaanites’ hearts to fight in order that Israel might be His judging instrument to destroy them. They were willfully guilty of rejecting the true God with consequent great wickedness and were as unfit to remain in the land as vomit spewed out of the mouth (Lev. 18:24, 25).

Joshua 11:21 Anakim. Enemies who dwelt in the southern area which Joshua had defeated. They descended from Anak (“long-necked”) and were related to the giants who made Israel’s spies feel small as grasshoppers by comparison (Num. 13:28–33). Their territory was later given to Caleb as a reward for his loyalty (14:6–15).

Luke 10:42 one thing...good part. Jesus was not speaking of the number of dishes to be served. The one thing necessary was exemplified by Mary, i.e., an attitude of worship and meditation, listening with an open mind and heart to Jesus’ words.

DAY 11: If we are to love our neighbor, who is our neighbor?

The lawyer who asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life in Luke 10:25 knew the commandments well enough. But when he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” we are told that he was “wanting to justify himself” (v. 29). It revealed the man’s self-righteous character, as well as his desire to test Christ.

The prevailing opinion among scribes and Pharisees was that one’s neighbors were the righteous alone. According to them, the wicked—including rank sinners (such as tax collectors and prostitutes), Gentiles, and especially Samaritans—were to be hated because they were the enemies of God. They cited Psalm 139:21, 22 to justify their position. As that passage suggests, hatred of evil is the natural corollary of loving righteousness. But the truly righteous person’s “hatred” for sinners is not a malevolent enmity. It is a righteous abhorrence of all that is base and corrupt—not a spiteful, personal loathing of individuals. Godly hatred is marked by a brokenhearted grieving over the condition of the sinner. And as Jesus taught here and elsewhere (6:27–36; Matt. 5:44–48), it is also tempered by a genuine love. The Pharisees had elevated hostility toward the wicked to the status of a virtue, in effect nullifying the second Great Commandment. Jesus’ answer to this lawyer demolished the Pharisaical excuse for hating one’s enemies.

Contrasting the Levite, a religious person who assisted the priests in the work of the temple, with a despised Samaritan, who rescued the wounded person, Jesus reversed the lawyer’s original question (v. 29). The lawyer assumed it was up to others to prove themselves neighbor to him. Jesus’ reply makes it clear that each has a responsibility to be a neighbor—especially to those who are in need.




Disappointing the Lord

“Then all the disciples left Him and fled” (Matthew 26:56).

In defecting from Christ in an hour of crisis, the eleven disciples displayed certain marks of faithlessness.

Sometimes no amount of truth and logic will ever persuade someone to change their mind. We all know that is true from times we have debated another person on a particular topic. Nothing we say will convince them that their plans may be wrong or their opinions unsound. Jesus knew that far better than us as he continued to face the hostile crowd in Gethsemane.

As the Son of God, Jesus could confidently tell the crowd that “All this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled” (Matt. 26:56). The Son knew that, completely apart from the armed mob’s evil motives and intentions, the Father was sovereignly using the situation to accomplish His righteous and gracious purposes.

But Jesus’ words to the crowd obviously gave little comfort or reassurance to His own disciples. They finally realized Christ was going to be seized. Fear and panic gripped them when they further realized they might have to risk suffering and death with Him. Therefore, each of the eleven “left Him and fled.”

The disciples’ faithless desertion reveals several common characteristics of weak commitment. First, any believer who neglects God’s Word and prayer will be unprepared and unfaithful when testing comes. Second, a weak disciple is likely to be impulsive, like Peter, and respond to a crisis with faulty human discernment. Third, a defective disciple tends to be impatient, like Jesus’ men, refusing to listen to His promises and unwilling to wait for His deliverance.

It’s easy to criticize Jesus’ disciples for their faithless lack of resolve in letting Him down and running away when things became difficult. But if you are an honest follower of Christ, you know that you have sometimes compromised or run away when your faith was tested. As a result, you need to confess your failings and lean more than ever on God’s Word, prayer, and the strength of the Holy Spirit to help you stay the course (Eph. 5:15-21).

Suggestions for Prayer

Commit yourself today to be faithful to Christ, no matter what circumstance confronts you, and pray for strength.

For Further Study

John 14 comes from a section of the Gospels called the Upper Room Discourse. Read this chapter, and identify the verses in which Jesus promises peace.
What additional Helper does He promise to send believers?
What is the key to obedience (vv. 23-24)?



"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" (Matt. 5:6).

Only Christ can satisfy your deepest needs.

Within every man and woman is a hunger and thirst only God can satisfy. That's why 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" (John 6:35).

Sadly, most people search for happiness in the wrong places. The prodigal son in Luke 15 is one example. He turned from God to pursue sinful pleasures, but soon discovered that sin cannot satisfy a hungering soul. That's when he returned to his father's house, where he was given a great feast—a picture of salvation.

The rich fool in Luke 12 thought that amassing possessions was the key to happiness, saying to himself, "What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops? . . . This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.' But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?' So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God" (vv. 17- 21). Unlike the prodigal son, the rich fool never turned to God in repentance. Consequently he lost everything.

The rich fool is typical of many people today: they ignore Christ and attempt to fill the void with worldly pleasures. Most are oblivious to the eternal peril that awaits them if they don't repent.

Those who love God shun worldliness, pursue righteousness, and know the satisfaction that comes from pleasing Him. That's the essence of the Sermon on the Mount: "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all [you need] will be added to you" (Matt. 6:33). Keep that goal uppermost in your mind as you face the challenge of each new day.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God that He satisfies the deepest desires of your heart.

For Further Study

Read Daniel 4:28-37.

What was Nebuchadnezzar's sin?
How did God punish Him?
How did Nebuchadnezzar respond after being punished?


April 10 - Warning against Partial Righteousness

“‘For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 5:20).

The righteousness practiced by the religious leaders further displeased God because it was partial, falling way short of His perfect standard. Again in Matthew 23, Jesus illustrates this phony righteousness: “You tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others” (v. 23).

The Jewish leaders were conscientious about making nonessential tithes of the smallest plants and seeds, yet they totally neglected showing justice and mercy to others or having heartfelt faithfulness to God.

To a large degree this sin of partial righteousness flows directly from externalism. Unregenerate people disregard justice, mercy, and faithfulness because those traits basically reflect a divinely transformed heart. Without a new heart no one can accomplish “the weightier provisions of the law.”

In a separate encounter, the Lord quoted Isaiah and further warned the Phari-sees of their empty and misdirected religion: “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men” (Mark 7:6–7). Like the religious leaders and many of the people of Jesus’ day, professing believers today can be constantly exposed to Scripture but only superficially responsive to it. Their watered-down, partial obedience to God’s commands demonstrates their failure to grasp the profound spiritual intent of God’s law and their probable unsaved condition.

Ask Yourself

Realize afresh today that the only obedience which interests God is total obedience—the kind that can only be accomplished through Christ’s righteousness, imputed to His redeemed children. What instances of partial obedience need to be converted to full obedience in your life?


Reading for Today:

Joshua 9:1–10:43
Psalm 44:1-3
Proverbs 13:24-25
Luke 10:1-24

Joshua 10:11 The hailstones were miraculous. Note their: 1) source, God; 2) size, large; 3) slaughter, more by stones than by sword; 4) selectivity, only on the enemy; 5) swath, “as far as Azekah”; 6) situation, during a trek down a slope and while God caused the sun to stand still; and 7) similarity to miraculous stones God will fling down during the future wrath (Rev. 16:21).

Joshua 10:12–14 sun stood still, and the moon stopped. Some say an eclipse hid the sun, keeping its heat from Joshua’s worn soldiers and allowing coolness for battle. Others suppose a local (not universal) refraction of the sun’s rays such as the local darkness in Egypt (Ex. 10:21–23). Another view has it as only language of observation; i.e., it only seemed to Joshua’s men that the sun and moon stopped as God helped them do in one literal 24-hour day what would normally take longer. Others view it as lavish poetic description, not literal fact. However, such ideas fail to do justice to 10:12–14 and needlessly question God’s power as Creator. This is best accepted as an outright, monumental miracle. Joshua, moved by the Lord’s will, commanded the sun to delay (Hebrew, “be still, silent, leave off”). The earth actually stopped revolving or, more likely, the sun moved in the same way to keep perfect pace with the battlefield. The moon also ceased its orbiting. This permitted Joshua’s troops time to finish the battle with complete victory (v. 11).

Proverbs 13:24 rod...disciplines...promptly. Early childhood teaching requires both parental discipline, including corporal punishment (see 10:13; 19:18; 22:15; 29:15, 17) and balanced kindness and love. There is great hope that the use of the “divine ordinance” of the rod will produce godly virtue (see 23:13, 14) and parental joy (see 10:1; 15:20; 17:21; 23:15, 16, 24, 25; 28:7; 29:1, 15, 17). Such discipline must have the right motivation (Heb. 12:5–11) and appropriate severity (Eph. 6:4). One who has genuine affection for his child but withholds corporal punishment will produce the same kind of child as a parent who hates his offspring.

DAY 10: What authority are Christians given over demonic power?

The commissioning of the 70 disciples is recorded only in Luke 10:1. Moses also appointed 70 elders as his representatives (Num. 11:16, 24–26). The 12 disciples had been sent into Galilee (9:1–6); the 70 were sent into every city and place where Jesus was about to go—i.e., into Judea, and possibly Perea. They were to go out 2 by 2, as the 12 had been sent (Mark 6:7; see Eccl. 4:9, 11; Acts 13:2; 15:27, 39, 40; 19:22; Rev. 11:3). Jesus warned them in Luke 10:3 that they would face hostility (see Ezek. 2:3–6; John 15:20) and spiritual danger (see Matt. 7:15; John 10:12). Yet we are told they “returned with joy” (v. 17). How long the mission lasted is not recorded. It may have been several weeks.

Regarding their experience, Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (v. 18). In this context, it appears Jesus’ meaning was, “Don’t be so surprised that the demons are subject to you. I saw their commander cast out of heaven, so it is no wonder if his minions are cast out on earth. After all, I am the source of the authority that makes them subject to you” (v. 19). He may also have intended a subtle reminder and warning against pride—the reason for Satan’s fall (see 1 Tim. 3:6). Jesus gave them “authority to trample on serpents and scorpions.” These appear to be figurative terms for demonic powers (see Rom. 16:20).

Nevertheless, Jesus says, “Do not rejoice in this” (v.20). Rather than being so enthralled with extraordinary manifestations such as power over demons and the ability to work miracles, they should have realized that the greatest wonder of all is the reality of salvation—the whole point of the gospel message and the central issue to which all the miracles pointed—“because your names are written in heaven.”




Taking up the Sword in Vain

“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword’” (Matthew 26:52).

It is wrong to violently take justice into our own hands, even to defend or promote the name of Christ.

The Body of Christ does not grow and strengthen itself by physical warfare. Every time it has endeavored to do so, the name and cause of Jesus Christ have been harmed. Such wars as the Crusades in the Holy Land or later religious wars between Catholics and Protestants in Europe served no scriptural purpose. As Jesus taught many times, and as Paul reiterated to the Corinthians, “The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses” (2 Cor. 10:4).

Peter, in his usual headstrong fashion, had not yet understood this principle the night of Jesus’ arrest. That’s when Peter used his sword and cut off the ear of one of the high priest’s prominent slaves. But the impulsive disciple’s reaction was all wrong. Peter no doubt took Christ’s earlier statement, “Let him who has no sword sell his robe and buy one” (Luke 22:36) much too literally. Our Lord was actually speaking of preparedness for spiritual, not physical, warfare.

Jesus therefore had to instruct Peter to put away his weapon. In effect, He was saying, “Peter, no matter how unjust My arrest is, you must not respond with vigilante action. If you do that and kill someone else, your own life will justly be forfeited as punishment.”

Christ’s power has been demonstrated many times—in person to Peter and through Scripture to us. It is incredible that any of us should think He needs the puny help of a sword, a gun, or any other human device. Christ’s battles are won in the strength of His sovereign power alone, as He pointed out to Peter: “Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions [72,000] of angels?” (Matt. 26:53).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God’s forgiveness for times when you’ve been too quick to seek your own justice during arguments or conflicts.

For Further Study

Read 2 Kings 19:14-37.

How did King Hezekiah respond when God’s people and land were threatened?
How did the prophet Isaiah support Hezekiah’s actions?
How did God finally respond to the Assyrians’ threat?



"Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth" (Matt. 5:5).

Someday God will reverse the curse and return the earth to His people.

God said to Adam and Eve, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth" (Gen. 1:28). But their sin cost them their sovereignty and brought a curse upon the earth (Gen. 3:17-18).

The apostle Paul said, "The anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God . . . in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption" (Rom. 8:19-21). Someday that curse will be reversed and God's people will once again inherit the earth.

The Greek word translated "inherit" (Matt. 5:5) means "to receive an allotted portion." The earth is the allotted portion of believers, who will reign with the Lord when He comes in His kingdom (Rev. 20:6). That's an emphatic promise in Matthew 5:5, which literally reads, "Blessed are the gentle, for only they shall inherit the earth."

Many Jewish people of Christ's day thought the kingdom belonged to the strong, proud, and defiant. But Jesus said the earth will belong to the gentle, meek, and humble. Proud, self-righteous people don't qualify (cf. Luke 1:46- 53). Jesus said, "Unless you are converted and become [humble and submissive] like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:3).

As a recipient of God's promises, you should be thrilled knowing that you will inherit the earth and reign with Christ in His earthly kingdom. Be encouraged to know that even when evil people and godless nations seem to prosper, God is in complete control and will someday establish His righteous kingdom on earth.

Rejoice in that assurance, and seek to be all He wants you to be until that great day.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God that all of creation will someday be freed from sin's corrupting influences.
Praise Him for His mighty power, which will bring it all to pass.
For Further Study

Read 1 Corinthians 6:1-8.

What issue did Paul address?
How does the future reign of Christians apply to that issue?


April 9 - Warning against External Righteousness

“‘For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 5:20).

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were entirely concerned with a mere external observance of God’s law, giving almost no consideration to motives or attitude. In Matthew 23:25, Jesus gives a descriptive view of such useless religion: “You are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” Because of that terrible condition, our Lord labeled the scribes and Pharisees as “hypocrites.” They thought God would judge them only for what they did, not for what they thought.

But Jesus considers this sort of righteousness to be of the worst kind. Anybody who practices such “religion” is guilty of a large array of vile sins (Matt. 23:25–31). At another time Jesus warned the Pharisees, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).

Christ’s next teachings in this sermon would declare that God’s first concern is with people’s hearts. He condemns attitudes of anger, hatred, and lust, not merely their outward manifestations in murder and adultery (Matt. 5:22, 27–28). Similarly, anyone’s deeds of righteousness, such as prayer, giving, or fasting—if not done with a humble, loving attitude—are worthless (cf. 6:5–18). Hypocrisy and externalism cannot substitute for genuine righteousness.

Ask Yourself

Where has hypocrisy slipped into your life? Confess every example of it today—not the temptation itself, but rather every time you have gone on to mask pride and impurity with self-righteous appearances. Deal directly with these and repent, experiencing again the freedom of living whole, genuine lives of faith.


Reading for Today:

Joshua 7:1–8:35
Psalm 43:1-5
Proverbs 13:22-23
Luke 9:37-62

Joshua 7:9 what will You do for Your great name? The main issue is the glory and honor of God (see Daniel’s prayer in Dan. 9:16–19).

Psalm 43:3 Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me; let them bring me. These are bold personifications for divine guidance. The psalmist desired that these “messenger-attributes” divinely direct (see such “leading” and “guiding” in Gen. 24:48; Pss. 78:14, 53, 72; 107:30; Is. 57:18) so as to bring him successfully to his destination, i.e., Israel’s designated place for worship.

Luke 9:51 steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem. This begins a major section of Luke’s Gospel. From here to 19:27, Christ’s face was set toward Jerusalem, and Luke’s narrative is a travelogue of that long journey to the Cross. This was a dramatic turning point in Christ’s ministry. After this, Galilee was no longer His base of operation. Although 17:11–37 describes a return visit to Galilee, Luke included everything between this point and that short Galilean sojourn as part of the journey to Jerusalem. We know from a comparison of the Gospels that, during this period of Christ’s ministry, He made short visits to Jerusalem to celebrate feasts. Nonetheless, those brief visits were only interludes in this period of ministry that would culminate in a final journey to Jerusalem for the purpose of dying there. Thus Luke underscored this turning point in Christ’s ministry more dramatically than any of the other Gospels, by showing Christ’s determination to complete His mission of going to the Cross.

DAY 9: How should we respond to all forms of religious persecution?

Luke 9:51–56 show us Jesus’ response to persecution. The Samaritans were descendants of Jewish mixed marriages from the days of captivity. They were rivals of the Jewish nation and had devised their own worship, a hybrid of Judaism and paganism, with a temple of their own on Mt. Gerizim. They were considered unclean by the Jews and were so hated that most Jewish travelers from Galilee to Judah took the longer route east of the Jordan to avoid traveling through Samaria.

The fact that Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem for worship implied rejection of the temple on Mt. Gerizim and a contempt for Samaritan worship. This was a strong point of contention between Jews and Samaritans (see John 4:20–22), and the Samaritan village would not take Him in (v. 53). James and John, whom Jesus nicknamed the “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17), then suggested they call down fire from heaven as Elijah once did (v. 54). To which Christ “rebuked them” (v. 55).

Christ’s response to the Samaritans exemplifies the attitude the church ought to have with regard to all forms of religious persecution. The Samaritans’ worship was pagan at heart, plainly wrong. Compounding that was their intolerance. Yet, the Lord would not retaliate with force against them. Nor did He even revile them verbally. He had come to save, not to destroy, and so His response was grace rather than destructive fury (v. 56). Nonetheless, Christ’s words of disapproval here must not be taken as condemnation of Elijah’s actions in 1 Kings 18:38–40 or 2 Kings 1:10–12. Elijah was commissioned to a special ministry as prophet in a theocracy, and it was his God-ordained task to confront an evil monarch (Ahab) who was attempting to usurp God’s authority. Elijah acted with an authority comparable to that of modern civil authorities (see Rom. 13:4)—not in a capacity that parallels that of ministers of the gospel.

April 9 - Warning against External Righteousness

“‘For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 5:20).

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were entirely concerned with a mere external observance of God’s law, giving almost no consideration to motives or attitude. In Matthew 23:25, Jesus gives a descriptive view of such useless religion: “You are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” Because of that terrible condition, our Lord labeled the scribes and Pharisees as “hypocrites.” They thought God would judge them only for what they did, not for what they thought.

But Jesus considers this sort of righteousness to be of the worst kind. Anybody who practices such “religion” is guilty of a large array of vile sins (Matt. 23:25–31). At another time Jesus warned the Pharisees, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).

Christ’s next teachings in this sermon would declare that God’s first concern is with people’s hearts. He condemns attitudes of anger, hatred, and lust, not merely their outward manifestations in murder and adultery (Matt. 5:22, 27–28). Similarly, anyone’s deeds of righteousness, such as prayer, giving, or fasting—if not done with a humble, loving attitude—are worthless (cf. 6:5–18). Hypocrisy and externalism cannot substitute for genuine righteousness.

Ask Yourself

Where has hypocrisy slipped into your life? Confess every example of it today—not the temptation itself, but rather every time you have gone on to mask pride and impurity with self-righteous appearances. Deal directly with these and repent, experiencing again the freedom of living whole, genuine lives of faith.




Judas the Traitor

“He who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, ‘Whomever I shall kiss, He is the one; seize Him.’ And immediately he came to Jesus and said, ‘Hail, Rabbi!’ and kissed Him. And Jesus said to him, ‘Friend, do what you have come for’” (Matthew 26:48-50).

Judas Iscariot, in his attitudes and actions, is a classic example of the false believer.

As one of the Twelve, Judas was extremely disappointed at the kind of Messiah Jesus turned out to be. Instead of teaching the disciples how to conquer and control, Jesus taught them how to submit and serve. Any ambitions Judas might have had for gaining wealth, power, or prestige by being a close follower of Jesus were frustrated.

Judas’ compulsive unbelief, combined with his relentless greed and ambition, found a perverse, temporal fulfillment when Satan entered him, and he struck a deal with the Jewish leaders to betray Jesus for money (Luke 22:36). As one possessed by the Devil, Judas’s evil actions were no longer his own, though he was still responsible for them.

Judas could have chosen any of several ways to identify Jesus to the mob, but under Satan’s direction he selected a kiss. This kiss was normally given as a sign of affection between close friends or between pupil and teacher. In the context of Judas’ scheme, however, the kiss could hardly have been more despicable because he twisted its meaning so cynically. It is hard to imagine what grief Jesus must have felt when the one who had been treasurer for the Twelve brashly came forward, said “Hail, Rabbi!” and kissed his Master.

Judas’ situation was unique, but his basic attitude is typical of all false believers. The church has always had those who hypocritically profess allegiance to Christ but at heart are really His enemies. Whether it is to advance their business or profession, gain social acceptance, or salve a guilty conscience, hypocrites identify with the church for various reasons. But like Judas, their basic motivation is sinful self-interest.

May God give us the courage to examine our hearts and repent of such traits, and the discernment to deal biblically with false believers in the church.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to graciously protect the integrity and purity of your local church.

For Further Study

Read the Epistle of Jude, and list the key traits of false teachers.
What should you know and do regarding such people (vv. 17-23)?


"Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth" (Matt. 5:5).

Gentleness is power under control.

The Greek word translated "gentle" in Matthew 5:5 speaks of humility, meekness, and non-retaliation—traits that in our proud society are often equated with weakness or cowardice. But in reality they are virtues that identify kingdom citizens.

The same word was used by the Greeks to describe a gentle breeze, a soothing medicine, or a domesticated colt. Those are examples of power under control: a gentle breeze brings pleasure, but a hurricane brings destruction; a soothing medicine brings healing, but an overdose can kill; a domesticated colt is useful, but a wild horse is dangerous.

Christ Himself is the epitome of gentleness. Even when officially announcing His messiahship to Jerusalem, He humbly entered the city astride a donkey (Matt. 21:5). His behavior amid persecution was exemplary: "Christ . . . suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats" (1 Pet. 2:21-23).

Despite His humility and restraint, Jesus wasn't weak or cowardly. He never defended Himself, but when His Father's house was being desecrated, He made a whip and beat those who were defiling it (John 2:13-16; Matt. 21:12-13). He never shirked from pronouncing judgment on unrepentant sinners, and never compromised His integrity or disobeyed His Father's will.

The hypocritical Jewish religious leaders expected that when Israel's Messiah came He would commend them for their wonderful spirituality. Instead, Jesus condemned them and called them children of the devil (John 8:44). In retaliation they had Him murdered. His power was always under control; theirs wasn't.

Our society has little use for gentleness. The macho, do-your-own-thing mentality characterizes most of our heroes. But you are called to a higher standard. When you pattern your life after Jesus, you will have a significant impact on society and will know true happiness.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the virtue of gentleness, which He is producing in you by the power of His Spirit. Follow Christ's example today so that gentleness will mark your character.


April 8 - Our Responsibility Clarified

“‘Whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 5:19).

The New Testament presents a paradox concerning God’s law. On one hand, it is abolished; on the other, responsibilities to it remain. Regarding Jews and Gentiles, Paul writes that Christ “is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace” (Eph. 2:14–15). With the church’s emergence, the “dividing wall” of civil ordinances disappeared.

The ceremonial law also has terminated. While Christ was on the cross, “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Mark 15:38). With Jesus’ death the Old Testament sacrifices became invalid and unnecessary.

In a certain sense God’s moral law seems no longer binding on His children (Rom. 10:4; 6:12–15; Gal. 5:17–18). Paul harmonizes this notion when he speaks of being “without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ” (1 Cor. 9:21). In Christ, believers are anything but without the law. Whereas His law is totally different from the Old Testament moral law with its penalties for disobedience, it is not different at all from the righteous standards which that law taught.

Whenever we look at the moral law with humility and a sincere desire to obey, the law will invariably point us to Jesus Christ—as was always its ultimate intention.

Ask Yourself

What benefits do the teachings of the law continue to deposit in the life of the believer? If not for its guidance and its setting of boundaries, where would our human nature choose to live and operate?


Reading for Today:

Joshua 5:1–6:27
Psalm 42:6-11
Proverbs 13:19-21
Luke 9:18-36

Joshua 5:2 circumcise. God commanded Joshua to see that this was done to all males under 40. These were sons of the generation who died in the wilderness, survivors (see vv. 6, 7) from the new generation God spared in Numbers 13 and 14. This surgical sign of a faith commitment to the Abrahamic Covenant (see Gen. 17:9-14) had been ignored during the wilderness trek. Now God wanted it reinstated, so the Israelites would start out right in the land they were possessing.

Psalm 42:8 The LORD will command His lovingkindness. This statement of confidence interrupts the psalmist’s laments (see their continuance in vv. 9, 10), providing a few gracious gulps of divine “air” under the cascading inundations of his trials and tormentors.

Proverbs 13:20 walks...companion. This speaks of the power of association to shape character. See 1:10, 18; 2:12; 4:14; 16:29; 22:24, 25; 23:20; 28:7, 19; Psalm 1.

Luke 9:23 cross. Self-denial was a common thread in Christ’s teaching to His disciples (see 14:26, 27; Matt. 10:38; 16:24; Mark 8:34; John 12:24–26). The kind of self-denial He sought was not a reclusive asceticism, but a willingness to obey His commandments, serve one another, and suffer—perhaps even die—for His sake.

Luke 9:29 As He prayed. As at Jesus’ baptism, while He was praying, the Father’s voice came from heaven. glistening. Literally, “emitting light.” This word is used only here in the New Testament. It suggests a brilliant flashing light, similar to lightning.

DAY 8: Why did God bless Rahab the prostitute?

Rahab’s life was not spared because of her lie. It was spared because she put her faith in God. Rahab was given a gracious opportunity to side with God by protecting the two Israelite spies, and she acted within her circumstances. She lied daringly and elaborately. Perhaps her initial response was simply a habit of her profession. From the perspective of the king of Jericho, Rahab would have been guilty of treason, not just lying. She had a new allegiance, and she didn’t yet know that the God she now wanted to trust had a rule about lying.

While those around her feared what the God of Israel might do, Rahab feared enough to boldly trust Him as the one true God, “for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (2:11b). She understood that God wasn’t a local or a national god. She knew enough to act. The spies were impressed and indebted. When Rahab asked them for protection, they recognized their obligation. They were exact in promising to preserve the lives of those in her house, indicated by the scarlet cord from the window.

The radical change that came into Rahab’s life when those spies knocked on her door can be seen in several ways. She risked her life to trust God. The Book of Ruth, along with Matthew 1:5, also reveals that Rahab married and became the great-great-grandmother of King David and one of the ancestors of Jesus. Centuries later, Rahab was one of the women listed in Hebrews 11 because of her faith.




The Sinful Captors

“. . . A great multitude with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and elders of the people” (Matthew 26:47).

The crowd that captured Jesus at Gethsemane illustrates the world’s sinful, hateful rejection of Jesus Christ.

A crowd can have a positive, uplifting influence, as when a large group of neighbors bands together to help someone in need. But crowds can also have a negative impact, such as when they incite riots or heckle someone who is trying to give a speech.

The multitude that came to the Garden of Gethsemane to capture Jesus is a prime example of a crowd that formed for an evil purpose. That throng was not at all like the spontaneous groups of admirers that often sought the Lord. Instead, it was a carefully selected group whose only purpose was to arrest Jesus and ensure that He was executed.

Judas most likely rushed away from the upper room and informed the Jewish leaders that now was the time they had long waited for—an opportunity to seize Jesus, convict Him of rebellion against Rome, and force the Romans to put Him to death. By now the conspiracy against Jesus had grown very large and involved the Sadducees, the Pharisees, and the entire Sanhedrin. In their desire to guarantee Jesus’ capture, the leaders gathered perhaps a thousand men that night.

This evil group was a prophetic portrait of the world’s opposition to Christ through the ages. The crowd illustrated sinful disobedience by falsely accusing Him of crimes, by mindlessly and selfishly participating in His arrest (even without an informed opinion about Him), and by cowardly using the cover of darkness and the safety of an obscure location to implement the leaders’ plot.

The unbelieving world has always disdained God’s kingdom and the mission of His Son. Instead of coming in repentance and faith and reverently embracing Christ’s work on the cross, the world wants to find any excuse to do away with the Savior. In contrast, believers are called to stand apart from any unbelieving crowd and defend the name of Jesus Christ.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for the discernment and courage not to follow the mind-set of the world’s crowd, but to rather be obedient to the Lord Jesus.

For Further Study

The large crowds that followed Jesus earlier in His ministry were not always sincere. Read John 6, and note the various ways the people misunderstood Jesus’ message.
How did He answer their objections and grumblings?



"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Matt. 5:4).

Sin is a serious issue with God. He never winks at it or takes it lightly.

Satan desires to desensitize Christians to the heinousness of sin. He wants you to stop mourning over sin and start enjoying it. Impossible? Many who once thought so have fallen prey to its power. It usually doesn't happen all at once. In fact, the process can be slow and subtle— almost imperceptible. But the results are always tragic.

How can you remain alert to the dangers of sin and protect yourself from compromise? First, be aware of your sin. David said, "My sin is ever before me" (Ps. 51:3). Isaiah cried out, "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips" (Isa. 6:5). Peter said to Jesus, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!" (Luke 5:8). Paul called himself the chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). Those men shared a common awareness of their own sinfulness and it drove them to God for forgiveness and cleansing.

Second, remember the significance of the cross. If you allow a pattern of sin to develop in your life, you've forgotten the enormous price Christ paid to free you from its bondage.

Third, realize the effect sin has on others. The psalmist said, "My eyes shed streams of water, because they do not keep Thy law" (Ps. 119:136). Jesus mourned over Jerusalem, saying, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling" (Matt. 23:37). Your heart should ache for those enslaved to sin.

Finally, eliminate anything that hinders your sensitivity to sin, such as deliberately sinning, rejecting God's forgiveness, being proud, presuming on God's grace, or taking sin lightly. Such things will quickly dull your spiritual senses and give Satan the opportunity to lead you into greater sin.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God that He brings comfort and happiness to those who mourn over their sin.
Ask Him to guard your heart from anything that will diminish your sensitivity to the awfulness of sin.
For Further Study

Read 1 Samuel 15.

What was Saul's sin?
Did he mourn over his sin? Explain.


April 7 - Positive Response to God’s Law

“‘Whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 5:19).

Those saints who uphold every part of God’s Word in their lives and in what they teach exhibit a most positive response to His law and receive from Him the commendation “great.” They see Paul as their pattern, when he told the Thessalonians, “You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory” (1 Thess. 2:10–12; cf. 1 Tim. 4:11–12; 6:11–12).

The apostle kept and taught the entire purpose of God (Acts 20:27) and therefore ranks among the greatest in God’s kingdom. If we do the same, we too will be among the greatest in heaven.

One key to our positive response to God’s moral law is knowing that it’s changeless and eternal. In heaven, the traits it requires will not need to be commanded, for they will simply be manifested as part of God’s own character. But we do not naturally reflect those characteristics while still on earth. Thus His moral standards must continue to be taught and heeded so that we might bear Spirit-produced fruit while we wait for its ultimate fulfillment (cf. Rom. 8:2–4).

Greatness does not come by gifts, success, or popularity but by our reverence for, respect of, and obedience to the Word in daily life and how we encourage those attitudes in others.

Ask Yourself

What specific, noticeable things are “great” about a person who deliberately pursues obedience to the Word? How do they distinguish themselves from others in expression, attitude, and outlook?


Reading for Today:

Joshua 3:1–4:24
Psalm 42:1-5
Proverbs 13:17-18
Luke 9:1-17

Joshua 3:10 Canaanite people to be killed or defeated were sinful to the point of extreme (see Gen. 15:16; Lev. 18:24, 25). God, as moral judge, has the right to deal with all people, as at the end (Rev. 20:11–15) or any other time when He deems it appropriate for His purposes. The question is not why God chose to destroy these sinners, but why He had let them live so long and why all sinners are not destroyed far sooner than they are. It is grace that allows any sinner to draw the breath of life (see Gen. 2:17; Ezek. 18:20; Rom. 6:23).

Joshua 3:16 rose in a heap. The God of all power, who created heaven, earth, and all else according to Genesis 1, worked miracles here. The waters were dammed up at Adam, a city 15 miles north of the crossing, and also in tributary creeks. Once the miracle was completed, God permitted the waters to flow again (4:18) after all the people had walked to the other side on dry ground (3:17). As the Exodus had begun (see Ex. 14), so it ended.

Psalm 42:4 When I remember these things, I pour out my soul. Such language also characterizes Jeremiah’s Lamentations, indicating a heavy dirge. On “pouring out one’s soul” or “heart,” see 1 Samuel 1:15; Psalm 62:8; Lamentations 2:19. These are attempts at trying to unburden oneself from intolerable pain, grief, and agony.

Luke 9:3 Take nothing. Slight differences between Matthew, Mark, and Luke have troubled some. Matthew 10:9, 10 and this text say the disciples were not to take staffs, but Mark 6:8 prohibited everything “except a staff.” Mark 6:9 also instructed them to “wear sandals,” but in Matthew 10:10 sandals were included in the things they were not to carry. Actually, however, what Matthew 10:10 and this verse prohibited was the packing of extra staffs and sandals. The disciples were not to be carrying baggage for the journey, but merely to go with the clothes on their backs.

DAY 7: How do the Proverbs apply to specific life decisions and experiences?

Proverbs are divine guidelines and wise observations that teach underlying principles of life (24:3, 4). They are not inflexible laws or absolute promises. This is because they are applied in life situations that are rarely clear-cut or uncomplicated by other conditions. The consequences of a fool’s behavior as described in Proverbs apply to the complete fool. Most people are only occasionally foolish and therefore experience the occasional consequences of foolish behavior. It becomes apparent that the proverbs usually do have exceptions due to the uncertainty of life and the unpredictable behavior of fallen people.

The marvelous challenge and principle expressed in 3:5, 6 puts a heavy emphasis on trusting the Lord with “all your heart” and “in all your ways [acknowledging] Him.” Even partly practicing the conditions of those phrases represents a major challenge. Because of God’s grace, we don’t have to perfectly carry out the conditions in order to experience the truth that “He shall direct your paths.”

God does not guarantee uniform outcome or application for each proverb. By studying them and applying them, a believer is allowed to contemplate God’s mind, character, attributes, works, and blessings. In Jesus Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge which are only partly expressed in Proverbs (Col. 2:3).




Jesus' Admonition in Gethsemane

“He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, ‘So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak’” (Matthew 26:40-41).

The need for spiritual vigilance by Christians is constant, but it can’t be achieved in the power of the flesh.

Jesus must have been terribly disappointed in the Garden of Gethsemane when He found the three disciples sleeping. As He labored diligently in prayer before the Father, Peter, James, and John began their desertion of Jesus. They could not even stay awake and offer Him support during His time of greatest need.

Given all that was happening, the Lord’s question, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour?” was not a harsh rebuke. In the spirit of a mentor, Jesus exhorted the three about their need for divine help: “Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation.”

The phrase “keep watching and praying” indicates that all believers must have vigilance. Jesus wants all of us to anticipate temptation and seek God’s help to resist the adversary, just as He did during His vigilant prayer in the Garden.

Our own best efforts to overcome Satan will certainly fail. The only way to deal with the Devil is to flee immediately from him into God’s presence and prayerfully leave matters with Him.

But even when we know and seek to practice what Jesus told the disciples, it is often difficult to do what is right. Jesus saw His three dearest friends’ reaction and was in the midst of His own spiritual struggle, so He acknowledged, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” The apostle Paul also knew the spiritual battle was real and very difficult (Rom. 7:15-23). But Paul was confident, too, that the only source of victory in our most intimidating spiritual challenges is obedience to the power of Jesus Christ: “Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (vv. 24-25).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord’s forgiveness for any recent times when you have failed to be alert and diligent when praying.

For Further Study

Read 1 Peter 5:6-11.

What is the first key to spiritual success?
Why must we be alert for Satan?
What makes faithfulness in suffering worthwhile?



"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Matt. 5:4).

When your sins are forgiven, you are a happy person!

Human sorrow is mourning over some tragic or disappointing turn of events. At such times believers are assured of God's sustaining and comforting grace (2 Cor. 1:3-4). But when Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Matt. 5:4), He was referring to godly sorrow, which is mourning over your sin.

"Mourn" in Matthew 5:4 translates the strongest Greek word used in the New Testament to express grief. It is often used of the passionate lament expressed over the loss of a loved one (e.g., Mark 16:10). David was expressing that kind of sorrow over his sin when he wrote, "When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer" (Ps. 32:3-4). His grief and despair made him physically ill.

At that point David wasn't a happy person, but the blessing godly sorrow brings isn't found in the sorrow itself, but in God's response to it. As Paul said to the Corinthians, "I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God. . . . For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death" (2 Cor. 7:9-10, emphasis added). Godly sorrow is the path to repentance and forgiveness.

After David confessed his sin he proclaimed with great joy, "How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit!" (vv. 1-2). When you understand that your sins are forgiven, you are a happy person!

How do you deal with your sins? Do you deny and try to hide them, or do you mourn over them and confess them (cf. Prov. 28:13)?

Suggestions for Prayer

If you have allowed some sin to rob you of your happiness, don't let it continue a moment longer. Like David, confess your sin and know the joy of forgiveness.

For Further Study

Read Luke 15:11-24. How did the prodigal son deal with his sin?


April 6 - How to Be Least in Christ’s Kingdom

“‘Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 5:19).

The result of a believer’s practicing or teaching disobedience of any part of Scripture is to “be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” “Called” does not refer merely to what people say about us, but what God says about us. Others usually know nothing of or don’t care about our disobedience, but God always knows and cares.

It is completely God’s prerogative to determine rank in His kingdom (cf. Matt. 20:23). Therefore He has a perfect right to hold those in lowest esteem who have a low esteem for the Word. This does not mean the Lord will take away the offender’s salvation; they are still “in the kingdom of heaven.” But it does mean they will forfeit certain blessing and reward to whatever extent they are disobedient and disrespectful. The apostle John warned his readers, “Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward” (2 John 8).

If we ignore or reject even the most minor aspect of God’s law, we devalue all of it (James 2:10) and join the ranks of God’s least. It should be the highest concern of us who profess to love our Savior and Lord never to prompt Him to call us the least.

Ask Yourself

Few of us would admit to devaluing the Word of God, but perhaps that’s because we limit to one or two the number of ways this is done. How might a person show disrespect for the Scripture’s authority and teaching beyond the most obvious offenses?


April 6

Reading for Today:

Joshua 1:1–2:24
Psalm 41:1-13
Proverbs 13:15-16
Luke 8:26-56

Joshua 1:8 This Book of the Law. A reference to Scripture, specifically Genesis through Deuteronomy, written by Moses (see Ex. 17:14; Deut. 31:9–11, 24). meditate in it. To read with thoughtfulness, to linger over God’s Word. The parts of Scripture they possessed have always been the main spiritual food of those who served Him, e.g., Job (Job 23:12); the psalmist (Ps. 1:1–3); Jeremiah (Jer. 15:16); and Jesus (John 4:34). prosperous,...good success. The promise of God’s blessing on the great responsibility God has given Joshua. The principle here is central to all spiritual effort and enterprise, namely the deep understanding and application of Scripture at all times.

Joshua 1:9 LORD...is with you. This assurance has always been the staying sufficiency for God’s servants such as Abraham (Gen. 15:1), Moses and his people (Ex. 14:13), Isaiah (Is. 41:10), Jeremiah (Jer. 1:7, 8), and Christians through the centuries (Matt. 28:20; Heb. 13:5).

Joshua 2:1 two men...to spy. These scouts would inform Joshua on various features of the topography, food, drinking water, and defenses to be overcome in the invasion. house of a harlot. Their purpose was not impure; rather, the spies sought a place where they would not be conspicuous. Resorting to such a house would be a good cover, from where they might learn something of Jericho. Also, a house on the city wall (v. 15) would allow a quick getaway. In spite of this precaution, their presence became known (vv. 2, 3). God, in His sovereign providence, wanted them there for the salvation of the harlot. She would provide an example of His saving by faith a woman at the bottom of social strata, as He saved Abraham at the top (see James 2:18–25). Most importantly, by God’s grace she was in the messianic line (Matt. 1:5).

Psalm 41:13 Blessed be. The essence of the Hebrew root of “amen” is “it is true,” i.e., reliable, confirmed, verified. Note that Book I of the Psalms (Pss. 1–41) closes with a doxology; see the endings of the other 4 books (Pss. 72:18, 19; 89:52; 106:48; 150:6).

DAY 6: What prepared Joshua for leading the nation of Israel?

1. Exodus 17:9, 10, 13, 14—Joshua led the victorious battle against the Amalekites.

2. Exodus 24:13—Joshua, the servant of Moses, accompanied the Jewish leader to the mountain of God (see 32:17).

3. Numbers 11:28—Joshua was the attendant of Moses from his youth.

4. Numbers 13:16—Moses changed his name from Hosea (“salvation”) to Joshua (“the Lord saves”).

5. Numbers 14:6–10, 30, 38—Joshua, along with Caleb, spied out the land of Canaan with 10 others. Only Joshua and Caleb urged the nation to possess the land and, thus, only they of the 12 actually entered Canaan.

6. Numbers 27:18—Joshua was indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

7. Numbers 27:18–23—Joshua was commissioned for spiritual service the first time, to assist Moses.

8. Numbers 32:12—Joshua followed the Lord fully.

9. Deuteronomy 31:23—Joshua was commissioned a second time, to replace Moses.

10. Deuteronomy 34:9—Joshua was filled with the spirit of wisdom.




Supplication Before the Father

“He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt’” (Matthew 26:39).

Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane is a perfect model of perseverance in seeking God’s will.

By humbly and submissively raising the option, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me,” Jesus was not questioning the validity of God’s plan of redemption or the Son’s responsibility in it. The thought of His becoming sin for us was weighing heavier and heavier on Jesus, and He simply wondered aloud to God if there could be a way other than the cross to deliver men from sin. But as always, Jesus made it clear that the deciding factor in what was done would be the Father’s will, not the Son’s.

In contrast, while Jesus was wrestling earnestly in prayer before the Father, Peter, James, and John were oblivious to the struggle because they slept. The need for sleep was natural at such a late hour (after midnight), and their emotions—confused, frustrated, depressed—concerning Jesus’ death may have induced sleep as an escape (Luke 22:45 says they were “sleeping from 

But even those “legitimate reasons” are inadequate to excuse the disciples’ lack of vigilance in prayer. As is often true of us, the disciples did not accept Jesus’ instructions and warnings at face value. His repeated predictions of His suffering and death, His forecast of the disciples’ desertion, and His anticipation of the anguish in Gethsemane should have been more than enough incentive for the three men to stay alert and support Christ. But the disciples failed to heed Jesus’ words or follow His prayerful example at a time of crisis.

For us today, the record of Scripture is the great motivation to follow the Lord’s example. We can meditate on the written narrative of Gethsemane and rejoice in something the disciples didn’t yet have before Jesus’ death— the presence of the Holy Spirit, who continually helps us pray as we ought (Rom. 8:26-27).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to grant you both sensitivity and perseverance as you seek His will during times of prayer.

For Further Study

Read Luke 11:5-10 and 18:1-8.

What is the common theme of these two parables?
What does Jesus’ teaching suggest about the challenging nature of prayer?



"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Matt. 5:4).

Human sorrow is a natural and healthy emotion, but beware of mourning over unfulfilled sinful desires.

Most people in our society have an amusement-park mentality. They spend much of their time and money on entertainment, wanting to enjoy life and avoid problems whenever possible. To them, Matthew 5:4 is a paradox. How can someone who mourns be happy? The answer lies in the difference between godly sorrow and human sorrow. Godly sorrow is sorrow over sin; human sorrow is sorrow over some tragic or disappointing turn of events (2 Cor. 7:8-11).

In Matthew 5:4 Jesus is referring to godly sorrow, which is our topic for tomorrow. But we all face human sorrow, so I want to discuss it briefly today.

Human sorrow is a natural emotion. Our Lord Himself was "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" (Isa. 53:3). Many things can cause it: we might mourn out of love, disappointment, loneliness, or physical illness. There is nothing wrong with that kind of mourning. It is a God- given relief valve for the pain and sorrow in this fallen world, and promotes the healing process.

Scripture gives many examples of human sorrow. Abraham wept when his wife, Sarah, died (Gen. 23:2). Through tears Jeremiah preached God's message of judgment (Jer. 9:1). Paul expressed his concern for the church with his tears (Acts 20:31). Those are natural, healthy expressions of human sorrow.

However, sorrow can also be caused by evil desires or a lack of trust in God. King Ahab mourned to the point of sulking and not eating when he couldn't have another man's property (1 Kings 21:4). Some Christians mourn excessively when they lose a loved one. Forsaking the comfort of the Spirit, they focus only on their own grief. Extreme or prolonged manifestations of sorrow are sinful and must be confessed rather than comforted.

God is gracious to His children amid times of human sorrow. Ultimately He will do away with mourning and pain forever (Rev. 21:4). Rejoice in that promise and be comforted by His wonderful grace!

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the ministry of the Spirit, who is the great Comforter or Helper (John 14:16-17). When sorrow occurs, lean on the Spirit, feed your soul on God's Word, and commune with Him in prayer.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 55. How did David express his desire to escape his difficult situation? What was his final resolve?


April 5 - God's Law Not up for Annulment

“‘Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 5:19).

People resent prohibitions and demands on their behavior. Even believers, out of ignorance, misunderstanding, or blatant disregard, sometimes want to water down God’s standards. But when anyone “annuls” (breaks, sets loose) any part of God’s Word, he or she is not following Christ’s example.

Jesus did acknowledge that not all of God’s commands are of equal importance. He told a pharisaical lawyer that one divine commandment is above all others and that another is second (Matt. 22:37–39). Thus all the other commandments fall somewhere below those two and vary in significance.

Our Lord’s point here in the sermon, however, is that we must not annul—by ignoring, modifying, or disobeying—even the smallest aspect of God’s law. Some commands might be greater than others, but none should be disregarded. Paul did not pick and choose what he would teach. He did emphasize some issues more than others, but he omitted nothing (Acts 20:27). And we certainly must not teach others to disregard or disobey any portion of the law. To do so shows that our disobedience is conscious and intentional.

Jesus does not restrict His warning to formal teachers. By example, every Christian teaches those around him to be more obedient or more disobedient. Our words of respect for God’s Word present a guide for others. To speak disparagingly of the Word or to ignore its requirements presents testimony to others of the law’s unimportance to us. This ought to be the furthest thing from our agenda.

Ask Yourself

On what subject matters do you find yourself most tempted to comment, “I know what the Bible says, but . . .”?


Reading for Today:

Deuteronomy 33:1–34:12
Psalm 40:13-17
Proverbs 13:13-14
Luke 8:1-25

Deuteronomy 33:5 King in Jeshurun. Since Moses is nowhere else in Scripture referred to as king, most interpret this as a reference to the Lord as King over Israel. However, Moses is the closest antecedent of the pronoun “he” in this clause, and the most natural understanding is that Moses is being referred to as a king. Moses certainly exercised kingly authority over Israel and could be viewed as a prototype of the coming King. Thus, united in the figure of Moses, the coming Prophet like unto Moses (18:15) would be the Prophet-King.

Luke 8:2 certain women. Rabbis normally did not have women as disciples. Mary called Magdalene. Her name probably derives from the Galilean town of Magdala. Some believe she is the woman described in 7:37–50, but it seems highly unlikely that Luke would introduce her here by name for the first time if she were the main figure in the account he just completed. Also, while it is clear that she had suffered at the hands of “demons,” there is no reason whatsoever to think that she had ever been a prostitute.

Luke 8:3 Joanna. This woman is also mentioned in 24:10, but nowhere else in Scripture. It is possible that she was a source for some of the details Luke recounts about Herod (see 23:8, 12). Susanna. Aside from this reference, she is nowhere mentioned in Scripture. She is probably someone Luke knew personally. from their substance. It was a Jewish custom for disciples to support rabbis in this way. (See 10:7; 1 Cor. 9:4–11; Gal. 6:6; 1 Tim. 5:17, 18.)

DAY 5: How is Moses described at the end of his life?

He is called “the man of God” in Deuteronomy 33:1. This is the first use of this phrase in Scripture. Subsequently, some 70 times in the Old Testament, messengers of God (especially prophets) are called “a man of God “ (1 Sam. 2:27; 9:6; 1 Kin. 13:1; 17:18; 2 Kin. 4:7). The New Testament uses this title for Timothy (1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 3:17). Moses was viewed among such prophets in this conclusion to the book (see 34:10).

In Deuteronomy 34:1–4, he went to the top of Pisgah where “the LORD showed him” the panorama of the land the Lord had promised to give (the land of Canaan) to the patriarchs and their seed in Genesis 12:7; 13:15; 15:18–21; 26:4; 28:13, 14. Remarkably, it adds that “He buried him” (v. 6).The context indicates that the Lord is the One who buried Moses, and man did not have a part in it. See Jude 9, which recounts Michael’s and Satan’s dispute over Moses’ body.

At the end, Moses’ physical vision and physical health were “not dim...diminished” (v. 7). It was not death by natural causes that kept Moses from leading Israel into the Promised Land. It was his unfaithfulness to the Lord at Meribah (see Num. 20:12). Before he passed on, Moses “laid his hands” on Joshua (v. 9), which was a confirmation of the military and administrative ability necessary to the task the Lord had given Joshua. It also confirmed that Joshua had the spiritual wisdom to rely on and to be committed to the Lord.

Moses was the greatest of all the Old Testament prophets (v. 10), one whom the Lord knew intimately. Not until John the Baptist was there another prophet greater than Moses (see Matt. 11:11). After John, the Prophet came of whom Moses wrote (see John 1:21, 25; 6:14 with Deut. 18:15, 18; Acts 3:22; 7:37). Moses next appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration together with Elijah and Jesus Christ (Matt. 17:3; Mark 9:4; Luke 9:30, 31).




Struggle in Gethsemane

“Then He said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me’” (Matthew 26:38).

In His time of greatest distress, Jesus realized His human weakness and His need to depend on the Father.

As Jesus entered the Garden of Gethsemane with Peter, James, and John, He experienced a more profound anguish over sin and death than ever before. His deep and desolate distress was made more severe when He considered the many personal disappointments that confronted Him. First, there was the betrayal by Judas, one of His own disciples. Then there would be the desertion by the Eleven and Peter’s threefold denial of his Master. Jesus would also be rejected by His own people, Israel, whose leaders would subject Him to all kinds of injustices before His death.

It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that Christ tells His three trusted disciples, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death.” A person can die from such heavy sorrow, which in God’s providence did not happen to Jesus. However, the magnitude of Jesus’ sorrow apparently caused the blood capillaries right under His skin to burst. As more and more capillaries burst from the extreme emotional pressures Jesus endured, blood escaped through His pores, “and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground” (Luke 22:44). Such sweating was just one outward result of what our Lord felt at the excruciating prospect of His having to become sin for us. His holiness was completely repulsed by such a thought.

It was because Jesus did keep watch and look to His Father in prayer that He endured and passed this test in the Garden. Right up to the end, Christ lived His earthly life in total, sinless submission to the Father. As a believer, you also will face times of severe testing and trial when only direct communion with God will give you the strength to prevail. And you also have the added encouragement of Jesus’ example in Gethsemane, the climax of His experiences through which He became a High Priest who can fully “sympathize with our weaknesses” (Heb. 4:15).

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God today that Jesus was divinely enabled to withstand the trials and temptations that assaulted Him at Gethsemane.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 4:1-11.

Write down several key differences between Jesus’ encounter in the wilderness and His experience in Gethsemane.
What similarities do you see in Christ’s response to the two situations?



"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:3).

If you are poor in spirit, certain characteristics will mark your life.

The Puritan writer Thomas Watson listed seven ways to determine if you are poor in spirit (The Beatitudes [Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1971], pp. 45-48):

You will be weaned from self—Psalm 131:2 says, "Like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me." When you are poor in spirit you will focus not on yourself but on glorifying God and ministering to others.
You will focus on Christ—Second Corinthians 3:18 says that believers are "beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, [and] are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit." When you are poor in spirit, the wonder of Christ captivates you. To be like Him is your highest goal.
You will never complain—If you are poor in spirit you accept God's sovereign control over your circumstances, knowing you deserve nothing anyway. Yet the greater your needs, the more abundantly He provides.
You will see good in others—A person who is poor in spirit recognizes his own weaknesses and appreciates the strengths of others.
You will spend time in prayer—It is characteristic of beggars to beg. Therefore you will constantly be in God's presence seeking His strength and blessing.
You will take Christ on His terms—Those who are poor in spirit will give up anything to please Christ, whereas the proud sinner wants simply to add Christ to his sinful lifestyle.
You will praise and thank God—When you are poor in spirit, you will be filled with praise and thanks for the wonder of God's grace, which He lavishes on you through Christ (Eph. 1:6).
Do those principles characterize your life? If so, you are poor in spirit and the kingdom of heaven is yours (Matt. 5:3). If not, you must seek God's forgiveness and begin to live as His humble child.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart, revealing any attitudes or motives that displease Him. Seek His grace in changing them.

For Further Study

Read 3 John. Would you characterize Gaius as poor in spirit? Diotrephes? Explain.


April 4 - We Must Defend and Proclaim the Word

“‘For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished’” (Matthew 5:18).

In considering our obligations to the divine Scripture, two other major obligations are crucial for the Christian. First, he or she must defend the Word of God. We should strive for the integrity, authority, and purity of the Bible. As Jude exhorts us, we must “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3). Charles Spurgeon wrote this about defending the Word:

The everlasting gospel is worth preaching even if one stood on a burning fagot and addressed the crowds from a pulpit of flames. The truths revealed in Scripture are worth living for and they are worth dying for. I count myself thrice happy, to bear reproach for the sake of the faith.

Lastly, those who love the Lord live to proclaim God’s Word. Spurgeon is again relevant:

I would stir you all up to be instant in season and out of season in telling out the gospel message, especially to repeat such a word as this: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Whisper it in the ear of the sick, shout it in the corner of the streets, write it on your tablet, send it forth from the press, but everywhere let this be your great motive and warrant.

Ask Yourself

If you’re not a preacher, you may feel somewhat excluded from this biblical mandate. But in what ways can proclamation be a part of your life? What opportunities are available for you to inject God’s truth into discourse or conversation?


Reading for Today:

Deuteronomy 31:1–32:52
Psalm 40:6-12
Proverbs 13:11-12
Luke 7:31-50

Deuteronomy 31:6–8 Be strong and of good courage. The strength and courage of the warriors of Israel would come from their confidence that their God was with them and would not forsake them. In vv. 7,8, Moses repeated the substance of his exhortation, this time addressing it specifically to Joshua in the presence of the people to encourage him and to remind the people that Joshua’s leadership was being assumed with the full approval of God. This principle for faith and confidence is repeated in 31:23; Josh. 1:5–7; 2 Sam. 10:12; 2 Kin. 2:2; 1 Chr. 22:11–13; 2 Chr. 32:1–8; Ps. 27:14. The writer of Hebrews quotes vv. 6, 8 in 13:5.

Deuteronomy 32:43 Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people. As a result of the execution of God’s vengeance, all nations will be called upon to praise with Israel the Lord who will have provided redemptively for them in Christ and also provided a new beginning in the land. This atonement for the land is the satisfaction of God’s wrath by the sacrifice of His enemies in judgment. The atonement for the people is by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross (see Ps. 79:9). Paul quotes this passage in Romans 15:10, as does the writer of Hebrews (1:6).

Psalm 40:6 Sacrifice and offering You did not desire. David is not negating the commandment to offer sacrifices, but is emphasizing their being offered with the right attitude of heart (contra. Saul, 1 Sam. 15:22, 23; note the emphases on proper spiritual prerequisites for sacrifices in Pss. 19:14; 50:7–15; 51:15–17; 69:30–31; Is.1:10–15; Jer.7:21–26; Hos.6:6; Amos 5:21–24; Mic. 6:6–8; Matt. 23:23). My ears You have opened. Literally, “ears” or “two ears You have dug for me.” This pictures obedience and dedication.

Luke 7:32 like children. Christ used strong derision to rebuke the Pharisees. He suggested they were behaving childishly, determined not to be pleased, whether invited to “dance” (a reference to Christ’s joyous style of ministry, “eating and drinking” with sinners—v. 34) or urged to “weep”(a reference to John the Baptist’s call to repentance and John’s more austere manner of ministry—v. 33).

DAY 4: How is God characterized in the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32?

The Song of Moses is a call to Israel to always “ascribe greatness to our God” (v. 3). This command refers to the greatness of God revealed in His acts of omnipotence. Read through the song and note the descriptions of God.

“The Rock” (v. 4). This word, representing the stability and permanence of God, was placed at the beginning of the verse for emphasis and was followed by a series of phrases which elaborated the attributes of God as the Rock of Israel. It is one of the principle themes in this song (see vv. 15, 18, 30, 31), stressing the unchanging nature of God in contrast with the fickle nature of the people. “Your Father” (v. 6). The foolishness and stupidity of Israel would be seen in the fact that they would rebel against God who as a Father had brought them forth and formed them into a nation. As Father, He was the progenitor and originator of the nation and the One who had matured and sustained it. This idea of God as Father of the nation is emphasized in the Old Testament (see 1 Chr. 29:10; Is. 63:16; 64:8; Mal. 2:10) while the idea of God as Father of individual believers is developed in the New Testament (see Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6).

“The Most High” (vv. 8, 9). This title for God emphasized His sovereignty and authority over all the nations (see Gen. 11:9; 10:32; 14:18; Num. 24:16) with the amazing revelation that, in the whole plan for the world, God had as His goal the salvation of His chosen people. God ordained a plan where the number of nations (70, according to Gen. 10) corresponded to the number of the children of Israel (70, according to Gen. 46:27). Further, as God gave the nations their lands, He established their boundaries, leaving Israel enough land to sustain their expected population.

“Hovers over its young” (v. 11). The Lord exercised His loving care for Israel like an eagle caring for its young, especially as they were taught to fly. As they began to fly and had little strength, they would start to fall. At that point, an eagle would stop their fall by spreading its wings so they could land on them. So the Lord has carried Israel and not let the nation fall. He has been training Israel to fly on His wings of love and omnipotence.




The Start of Jesus' Final Challenge

“Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane” (Matthew 26:36).

The agony of Jesus’ death, beginning with His ordeal in the Garden of Gethsemane, is something finite believers will never fully comprehend.

C.H. Spurgeon, in an 1880s sermon, said this to his congregation: “It will not be enough for you to hear, or read [about Christ]; you must do your own thinking and consider your Lord for yourselves. . . . Shut yourself up with Jesus, if you would know him.” However, even those who most conscientiously follow Spurgeon’s admonition to meditate on Jesus’ Person and ministry find the effort reveals much about Him that is beyond human understanding.

As we continue our study of the events leading up to the Lord’s sacrificial death, we also realize that it’s difficult to grasp the full meaning of many of them. Even with the aid of the Spirit’s illumination, we find the weight of Jesus’ agony and suffering more than our minds can completely fathom. As the sinless God-man, He could perceive the full scope of sin’s horror in a way we never can.

Like every other aspect of Jesus’ life, though, His agony in Gethsemane was part of God’s foreordained plan of redemption. Christ’s intense sorrow and mental wrestling in the face of His mission to take away the sin of the world fit perfectly with Scripture’s portrait of Him. The prophet Isaiah predicted that He would be “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3). In John 11:35 “Jesus wept” at Lazarus’ grave. Luke 19:41 tells us that at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, “He saw the city and wept over it.”

The Lord Jesus’ experience in Gethsemane was the final accumulation of all the hardships, sorrows, and griefs He had to deal with in His earthly ministry. And our Lord, through His dark struggle in the Garden, is the best role model we will ever have of a godly response to trials and temptations. In view of His sacrificial death for us, His response to adversity should cause us to stand in awe of our great Savior and desire to follow His example.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that the Lord would strengthen your resolve to follow His example in dealing with trials.

For Further Study

Read John 11:1-46, and list some parallels you see in verses 30-44 between Jesus’ reactions to Lazarus’s death and how He would respond to His own suffering and death.


Relying on God's Grace

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:3).

Poverty of spirit is a prerequisite to salvation and to victorious Christian living.

In Luke 18:9-14 Jesus tells of two men who went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee boasted to God about his self- righteous efforts; the tax collector humbly acknowledged his sin. The Pharisee was proud and went away still in sin; the tax collector was poor in spirit and went away forgiven.

The Greek word translated "poor" in Matthew 5:3 was used in classical Greek to refer to those reduced to cowering in dark corners of the city streets begging for handouts. Because they had no personal resources, they were totally dependent on the gifts of others. That same word is used in Luke 16:20 to describe Lazarus the poor man.

The spiritual parallel pictures those who know they are spiritually helpless and utterly destitute of any human resources that will commend them to God. They rely totally on God's grace for salvation, and they also rely on His grace for daily living. Jesus called them happy people because they are true believers and the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

The word translated "theirs" in Matthew 5:3 is emphatic in the Greek text: the kingdom of heaven definitely belongs to those who are poor in spirit. They have its grace now and will fully enjoy its glory later (1 John 3:1-2). That's cause for great joy!

Isaiah 57:15 says, "Thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy, 'I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.'" David added, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise" (Ps. 51:17).

Like the humble tax collector, recognize your weaknesses and rely totally on God's resources. Then He will hear your prayers and minister to your needs. That's where happiness begins!

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God that when you come to Him in humility and contrition, He hears you and responds.
Prayerfully guard your heart from the subtle influences of pride.
For Further Study

Read the following verses, noting God's perspective on pride: Proverbs 6:16-17; 8:13; 11:2; 16:5; 18-19.


April 3 - We Must Receive, Honor, and Obey the Word

“‘For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished’” (Matthew 5:18).

To be a follower of Jesus Christ is to accept what He says about Scripture and to wholeheartedly echo Peter’s sentiment: “You have words of eternal life” (John 6:68). The privilege of knowing Christ and His Word also carries with it certain essential obligations.

First, we must receive God’s Word exactly for what it is, “the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). We should be completely receptive because the Word is the highest standard of truth, joy, and blessing, and it tells us of the way to salvation.

Second, we are obliged to honor the Scripture. The psalmist wrote, “How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Ps. 119:103; cf. Jer. 15:16). The great Reformer Martin Luther did not fear his human opponents. However, when he stood in the pulpit to expound Scripture, his knees often knocked under a sense of awe and duty to honor the Word.

Third, we must obey God’s Word. The apostle Paul commanded Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). A key to genuine obedience in the Christian walk is to “let the word of Christ richly dwell within” (Col. 3:16).

Ask Yourself

In what ways is the Scripture honored in your home? If this is an area in your family life that has been allowed to slip, what could you begin doing right away to restore the Bible to a place of regular reflection, instruction, and prominence?


Reading for Today:

Deuteronomy 29:1–30:20
Psalm 40:1-5
Proverbs 13:9-10
Luke 7:1-30

Deuteronomy 29:4 the LORD has not given you...eyes to see. In spite of all they had experienced (vv. 2, 3), Israel was spiritually blind to the significance of what the Lord had done for them, lacking spiritual understanding, even as Moses was speaking. This spiritual blindness of Israel continues to the present day (Rom. 11:8), and it will not be reversed until Israel’s future day of salvation (see Rom. 11:25–27). The Lord had not given them an understanding heart, simply because the people had not penitently sought it (see 2 Chr. 7:14).

Deuteronomy 29:29 The secret things…those things which are revealed. That which is revealed included the law with its promises and threats. Consequently, that which is hidden only can refer to the specific way in which God will carry out His will in the future, which is revealed in His Word and completed in His great work of salvation, in spite of the apostasy of His people.

Deuteronomy 30:4, 5 The gathering of Jews out of all the countries of the earth will follow Israel’s final redemption. Restoration to the land will be in fulfillment of the promise of the covenant given to Abraham (see Gen. 12:7; 13:15; 15:18–21; 17:8) and so often reiterated by Moses and the prophets.

Deuteronomy 30:6 the LORD...will circumcise your heart. This work of God in the innermost being of the individual is the true salvation that grants a new will to obey Him in place of the former spiritual insensitivity and stubbornness (see Jer. 4:4; 9:25; Rom. 2:28, 29). This new heart will allow the Israelite to love the Lord wholeheartedly and is the essential feature of the New Covenant (see 29:4, 18; 30:10, 17; Jer. 31:31–34; 32:37–42; Ezek. 11:19; 36:26).

Luke 7:14 touched the open coffin. A ceremonially defiling act, normally. Jesus graphically illustrated how impervious He was to such defilements. When He touched the coffin, its defilement did not taint Him; rather, His power immediately dispelled the presence of all death and defilement. This was the first of 3 times Jesus raised people from the dead (see 8:49–56; John 11). Verse 22 implies that Christ also raised others who are not specifically mentioned.

DAY 3: Why are our choices in life so important?

In Deuteronomy 30:11–14, after remembering the failures of the past and the prospects for the future, Moses earnestly admonished the people to make the right choice. The issue facing them was to enjoy salvation and blessing by loving God so wholeheartedly that they would willingly live in obedience to His word. The choice was simple, yet profound. It was stated in simple terms so that they could understand and grasp what God expected of them (v. 11). Although God had spoken from heaven, He had spoken through Moses in words every person could understand (v. 12). Neither did they have to search at some point beyond the sea (v. 13). The truth was there, through Moses, now in their hearts and minds (v. 14). All the truth necessary for choosing to love and obey God and thus avoid disobedience and cursing, they had heard and known (v. 15).

In v. 15, Moses pinpoints the choice—to love and obey God is life and good; to reject God is death and evil. If they chose to love God and obey His word, they would enjoy all God’s blessings (v. 16). If they refused to love and obey Him, they would be severely and immediately punished (vv. 17, 18). Paul, in speaking about salvation in the New Testament, makes use of this appeal made by Moses (Rom. 10:1–13). Like Moses, Paul is saying that the message of salvation is plain and understandable.

So “choose life” (v. 19). Moses forces the decision, exhorting Israel on the plains of Moab before God (heaven) and man (earth) to choose, by believing in and loving God, the life available through the New Covenant (see v. 6). Sadly, Israel failed to respond to this call to the right choice (see 31:16–18, 27–29). Choosing life or death was also emphasized by Jesus. The one who believed in Him had the promise of eternal life, while the one who refused to believe faced eternal death (see John 3:1–36). Every person faces this same choice.




Peter's Impulsive Self-Confidence

“Peter answered and said to Him, ‘Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away’” (Matthew 26:33).

Prior to Jesus’ death, Peter’s trust in himself rather than God distorted his judgment concerning loyalty to Jesus.

Like a self-willed child, Peter often heard and believed only what he wanted to. He failed to grasp the Lord’s warning that his faith would be severely tested. At the Last Supper Jesus told Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat” (Luke 22:31). But Peter was unfazed by these words. Instead, he boasted, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!” (v. 33).

Christ in His divine wisdom knew that Peter’s claim would not hold true. Therefore, He went further and soberly predicted during the Supper that Peter would soon not only desert His Lord but also deny Him three times. Now in Matthew 26, following Peter’s latest outburst of overconfidence, Jesus is constrained to repeat His prediction. Amazingly, Peter did not believe the thrust of Jesus’ words. He would rather fool himself and believe that Jesus was mistaken about his faithfulness and loyalty.

In reality, Peter’s pride deceptively told him it was impossible for him to deny the Lord. It also deceived him by filling him with a sense of superiority over others and a supreme confidence in his own strength.

Like Peter, we often display our pride and ignorance when we brashly claim great self-confidence about something that turns out just the opposite a short time later. For example, we might presumptuously assert to Christian friends that we always maintain our testimony, no matter what the situation. Then, to our shame, the very next week we lie, cheat, or shade the truth to get ourselves out of a difficult circumstance.

But what a reassurance to know that Jesus was willing to die for proud, thoughtless disciples such as Peter and careless followers such as us. Furthermore, our Lord is constantly in the business of forgiving and restoring those who stumble: “He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that today and every day God would make you more confident in His grace and power and less reliant on your own wisdom.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 16:13-28. What important principle in verses 24-26 can help you avoid Peter’s impulsive mistakes?



"Blessed are the poor in spirit . . . those who mourn . . .the gentle . . . those who hunger and thirst for righteousness . . . the merciful . . . the pure in heart . . . the peacemakers . . . [and] those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness" (Matt. 5:3-10).

By the world’s standards, Christ’s definition of happiness is shocking and contradictory!

A quiz in a popular magazine characterized happy people as those who enjoy other people but aren't self-sacrificing, who refuse to participate in negative feelings or emotions, and who have a sense of accomplishment based on their own self-sufficiency.

But Jesus described happy people quite differently. In fact, He characterized them as spiritual beggars who realize they have no resources in themselves. He said they are meek rather than proud, mournful over their sin, self- sacrificing, and willing to endure persecution to reconcile men to God.

By the world's standards, that sounds more like misery than happiness! But the people of the world don't understand that what is often thought of as misery is actually the key to happiness.

Follow the Lord's progression of thought: true happiness begins with being poor in spirit (v. 3). That means you have a right attitude toward sin, and that leads you to mourn over it (v. 4). Mourning over sin produces a meekness that leads to hungering and thirsting for righteousness (vv. 5-6), which results in mercy, purity of heart, and a peaceable spirit (vv. 7-9)—attitudes that bring true happiness.

When you display those attitudes you can expect to be insulted, persecuted, and unjustly accused (vv. 10-11) because your life will be an irritating rebuke to worldly people. But despite the persecution, you can "rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great" (v. 12).

You are one of God's lights in a sin-darkened world (v. 14), and while most people will reject Christ, others will be drawn to Him by the testimony of your life. Be faithful to Him today so He can use you that way.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the grace enabling you to have Beatitude attitudes.
Ask Him to make you a bright light in someone's life today.
For Further Study

Read 1 Peter 2:19-23.

How did Jesus respond to persecution?
How should you respond?


April 2 - Jesus’ Reliance on Scripture

“‘For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished’” (Matthew 5:18).

Repeatedly during His earthly ministry, Jesus referred to the Old Testament as authoritative truth (e.g., Matt. 19:4; 24:38–39; Mark 12:26; Luke 11:51; 17:29; John 3:14; 8:56), always confirming its accuracy and authenticity. On one occasion, in defending His messiahship before the unbelieving Jewish leaders, He declared, “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).

For Jesus, it was clear that God gave His Word to lead people to salvation. In His parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Abraham tells the rich man that if his brothers, whom he did not want to follow him to hell, “do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31). Scripture is more than sufficient to bring sinners to salvation.

More than once, Christ used Scripture’s authority to establish His own. At a Sabbath service in the Nazareth synagogue, He appealed to the book of Isaiah: “‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.’… And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’” (Luke 4:18–19, 21; cf. Isa. 61:1; Matt. 11:3–5; Mark 11:17).

Scripture’s authority is Jesus’ authority, and to obey Him is to obey His Word (John 6:68; 8:47).

Ask Yourself

What argues against our confidence in the convicting, converting power of the Word of God? What could we do to ensure that our hearts aren’t blinded to this truth, to put ourselves in positions where we can see God at work through the Scriptures?


Reading for Today:

Deuteronomy 27:1–28:68
Psalm 39:12-13
Proverbs 13:7-8
Luke 6:27-49

Deuteronomy 28:1, 2 diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God. “Diligently obey” stressed the need for complete obedience on the part of Israel. The people could not legally or personally merit God’s goodness and blessing; but their constant desire to obey, worship, and maintain a right relation to Him was evidence of their true faith in and love for Him (see 6:5). It was also evidence of God’s gracious work in their hearts.

Deuteronomy 28:1 high above all nations. If Israel obeyed the Lord, ultimate blessing would be given in the form of preeminence above all the nations of the world (see 26:19).The indispensable condition for obtaining this blessing was salvation, resulting in obedience to the Lord in the form of keeping His commandments. This blessing will ultimately come to pass in the millennial kingdom, particularly designed to exalt Israel’s King, the Messiah, and His nation (see Zech. 13:1–14:21; Rom. 11:25–27).

Proverbs 13:8 ransom...riches,...poor...rebuke. Riches deliver some from punishment, while others suffer, because they will not heed the rebuke of laziness, which keeps them poor.

Luke 6:41 speck...plank. The humor of the imagery was no doubt intentional. Christ often employed hyperbole to paint comical images (see 18:25; Matt. 23:24).

Luke 6:46 you call Me ‘Lord, Lord.’ It is not sufficient to give lip service to Christ’s lordship. Genuine faith produces obedience. A tree is known by its fruits (v. 44). See Matthew 7:21–23.

DAY 2: What did God promise would happen to Israel if they disobeyed the law?

Their obedience centers around “this glorious and awesome name, THE LORD YOUR GOD,” as described in Deuteronomy 28:58 and would lead to fearing the Lord, whose “name” represents His presence and character. The title “LORD (Yahweh)” revealed the glory and greatness of God (see Ex. 3:15). Significantly, the phrase “the LORD your God” is used approximately 280 times in the Book of Deuteronomy. The full measure of the divine curse would come on Israel when its disobedience had been hardened into disregard for the glorious and awesome character of God. In vv. 15, 45, Moses described curses for disobedience; hence, the worst of the curses come when disobedience is hardened into failure to fear God. Only God’s grace would save a small remnant (v. 62), thus keeping Israel from being annihilated (see Mal. 2:2). In contrast to the promise made to Abraham in Genesis 15:5, the physical seed of Abraham under God’s curse would be reduced. As God had multiplied the seed of the patriarchs in Egypt (see Ex. 1:7), He would decimate their numbers to make them as nothing until His restoration of the nation in a future day (see 30:5).

In v. 64, it warns that “the LORD will scatter you.” The Jews remaining after the curses fall would be dispersed by the Lord ultimately to serve false gods, restlessly and fearfully throughout all the nations of the earth (see Neh. 1:8, 9; Jer. 30:11; Ezek. 11:16). This dispersion began with the captivity of the northern kingdom, Israel (722 B.C.), then the southern kingdom, Judah (586 B.C.), and is still a reality today. In the future earthly kingdom of Messiah, Israel will experience its regathering in faith, salvation, and righteousness. (See Is. 59:19–21; Jer. 31:31–34; Ezek. 36:8–37:14; Zech. 12:10–14:21.)

In fact, Israel would be so abandoned by God that she would not even be able to sell herself into slavery (v. 68). The curse of God would bring Israel into a seemingly hopeless condition (see Hos. 8:13; 9:3). The specific mention of Egypt could be symbolic for any lands where the Jews have been taken into bondage or sold as slaves. But it is true that after the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, which was a judgment on the apostasy of Israel and their rejection and execution of the Messiah, this prophecy was actually fulfilled. The Roman general Titus, who conquered Jerusalem and Israel, sent 17,000 adult Jews to Egypt to perform hard labor there and had those who were under 17 years old publicly sold. Under the Roman emperor Hadrian, countless Jews were sold and suffered such bondage and cruelty.




Anticipating Jesus' Death

“‘After two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be delivered up for crucifixion’” (Matthew 26:2).

Jesus adhered perfectly to God’s timetable for His death, which was part of the Father’s larger plan of redemption.

The history of redemption most definitely centers on the cross of Jesus Christ. Hymn writer John Bowring expressed this fact well:

In the cross of Christ I glory,
Tow’ring o’er the wrecks of time.
All the light of sacred story
Gathers round its head sublime.

The apostle Paul was so convinced of the central importance of Christ’s death on the cross that he told the Corinthians, “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Paul knew that without the cross of Christ there is no salvation and no true Christianity.

Jesus Himself knew the length of His earthly life was determined by God’s sovereign timetable and that the time of His death could not be altered or thwarted. Concerning control over His life, He declared, “I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:18). As the Son of God, Jesus was able to look forward to His death and even predict that it would be in Jerusalem and that He would rise on the third day (Matt. 16:21).

During Jesus’ ministry, people such as the Jewish leaders unknowingly threatened God’s timetable when they sought to kill Him. But all premature attempts to murder Christ failed because they did not fit into God’s sovereign plan for how, when, and why Jesus should die on the cross (John 1:29; Acts 2:23-24).

But Jesus’ reference to the Passover in Matthew 26:2 did fit into God’s plan; our Lord’s suffering and death was perfectly timed to coincide with that celebration. Passover was known by the Jews as the festival in which sacrificial lambs were slain, but now the death of the Lamb of God would forever replace Passover’s importance. We can take great comfort in all this, knowing “Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed” (1 Cor. 5:7) and that Jesus the Lamb was “foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of [us]” (1 Peter 1:19-20).

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord that His sovereign plan for Christ’s sacrificial death could not be changed by man’s will.

For Further Study

Read John 10:1-18, and select several verses for meditation and memorization. What does the passage say about the nature of salvation?


Cultivating Beatitude Attitudes

"When [Jesus] saw the multitudes, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him.  And opening His mouth He began to teach them" (Matt. 5:1-2).

Only Christians know true happiness because they know Christ, who is its source.

Jesus' earthly ministry included teaching, preaching, and healing. Wherever He went He generated great excitement and controversy. Usually great multitudes of people followed Him as He moved throughout the regions of Judea and Galilee. Thousands came for healing, many came to mock and scorn, and some came in search of truth.

On one such occasion Jesus delivered His first recorded message: the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7). In it He proclaimed a standard of living diametrically opposed to the standards of His day—and ours. Boldly denouncing the ritualistic, hypocritical practices of the Jewish religious leaders, He taught that true religion is a matter of the heart or mind. People will behave as their hearts dictate (Luke 6:45), so the key to transformed behavior is transformed thinking.

At the beginning of His sermon Jesus presented the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-12): a list of the godly attitudes that mark a true believer and insure true happiness. The Greek word translated "blessed" in those verses speaks of happiness and contentment. The rest of the sermon discusses the lifestyle that produces it.

Jesus taught that happiness is much more than favorable circumstances and pleasant emotions. In fact, it doesn't necessarily depend on circumstances at all. It is built on the indwelling character of God Himself. As your life manifests the virtues of humility, sorrow over sin, gentleness, righteousness, mercy, purity of heart, and peace, you will experience happiness that even severe persecution can't destroy.

As we study the Beatitudes, I pray you will be more and more conformed to the attitudes they portray and that you will experience true happiness in Christ.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Holy Spirit to minister to you through our daily studies. Be prepared to make any attitude changes that He might prompt.

For Further Study

Read the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7).

What issues did Christ address?
How did His hearers react to His teaching? How do you?


April 1 - Jesus and the Permanence of Scripture

“‘For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished’” (Matthew 5:18).

Jesus’ teachings are not only unqualifiedly authoritative (“truly I say to you”), they are permanent. He implicitly equated His words of instruction with God’s eternal Word: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Matt. 24:35). As such, Jesus’ words are on a par with the Old Testament and are timeless.

In view of that reality, how foolish of us ever to wonder about the relevancy of God’s Word for us. The Bible is God’s eternal Word, and even though completed nearly two millennia ago, it has much to say to us today. Scripture is and always has been “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

Jesus reveals that the permanence of God’s Word extends to the smallest letters and the smallest parts of printed letters—neither will be erased or modified.

No other statement by the Lord more clearly states His absolute confidence in the enduring nature and inerrant quality of the Bible. It is God’s own Spirit-inspired Word, down to every single word, letter, and part of letter.

Ask Yourself

Not necessarily by time percentages, to what extent does the Word factor into your usual day? When and why do you turn to its wisdom and instruction? What have you found to be the best ways to keep the Scriptures alive and active within you?


Reading for Today:

Deuteronomy 25:1–26:19
Psalm 39:7-11
Proverbs 13:4-6
Luke 6:1-26

Deuteronomy 26:13, 14 you shall say before the LORD your God. The confession to be made in connection with the offering of this first tithe consisted of a statement of obedience (vv. 13, 14) and a prayer for God’s blessing (v. 15). In this manner, the Israelite confessed his continual dependence on God and lived in obedient expectance of God’s continued gracious blessing.

Deuteronomy 26:15 Look down from…heaven. This was the first reference to God’s dwelling place being in heaven. From His abode in heaven, God had given the Israelites the land flowing with milk and honey as He had promised to the patriarchs. His continued blessing on both the people and the land was requested.

Psalm 39:11 like a moth. The moth normally represented one of the most destructive creatures, but here the delicacy of the moth is intended (see Job 13:28; Is. 50:9; 51:8; Matt. 6:19ff.).

Luke 6:11 filled with rage. A curious response in the face of so glorious a miracle. Such irrational hatred was the scribes’ and Pharisees’ response to having been publicly humiliated—something they hated worse than anything (see Matt. 23:6, 7). They were unable to answer His reasoning (vv. 9, 10). And furthermore, by healing the man only with a command, He had performed no actual “work” that they could charge Him with. Desperately seeking a reason to accuse Him (v. 7), they could find none. Their response was blind fury.

Luke 6:12 continued all night in prayer. Luke frequently shows Jesus praying—and particularly before major events in His ministry. See 3:21; 5:16; 9:18, 28, 29; 11:1; 22:32, 40–46.

DAY 1: How similar is the sermon in Luke 6:17–49 to the Sermon on the Mount?

The similarity of the Sermon on the Plateau in Luke to the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:1–7:29) is remarkable. It is possible, of course, that Jesus simply preached the same sermon on more than one occasion. (It is evident that He often used the same material more than once—e.g., 12:58, 59; see Matt. 5:25, 26.) It appears more likely, however, that these are variant accounts of the same event. Luke’s version is abbreviated somewhat, because he omitted sections from the sermon that are uniquely Jewish (particularly Christ’s exposition of the law). Aside from that, the two sermons follow exactly the same flow of thought, beginning with the Beatitudes and ending with the parable about building on the rock. Differences in wording between the two accounts are undoubtedly owing to the fact that the sermon was originally delivered in Aramaic. Luke and Matthew translate into Greek with slight variances. Of course, both translations are equally inspired and authoritative.

Luke tells us the sermon was given on “a level place”(v. 17), after coming down from a mountain. In Matthew 5:1, it says “on a mountain.” These harmonize easily if Luke is referring to either a plateau or a level place on the mountainside. Indeed, there is such a place at the site near Capernaum where tradition says this sermon was delivered.

Luke’s account of the Beatitudes (vv. 20–23) is abbreviated (see Matt. 5:3–12). He lists only 4, and balances them with 4 parallel woes (vv. 24–26). One example of the difference in wording is in v. 20, “Blessed are you poor.” Christ’s concern for the poor and outcasts is one of Luke’s favorite themes. Luke used a personal pronoun (“you”) where Matthew 5:3 employed a definite article (“the”). Luke was underscoring the tender, personal sense of Christ’s words. A comparison of the two passages reveals that Christ was dealing with something more significant than mere material poverty and wealth, however. The poverty spoken of here refers primarily to a sense of one’s own spiritual impoverishment.




The Summation of Humility

“Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8).

If believers fulfill their constant debt of love, they will have a continual attitude of sacrificial humility.

Origen, the early church father, wisely said, “The debt of love remains with us permanently and never leaves us. This is a debt which we pay every day and forever owe.” The primary reason you and I can pay that debt is that “the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5). God’s own love to us and every other believer is the bottomless well from which we can draw and then share with others.

If we have this wonderful, supernatural resource of love through the Holy Spirit, it only follows that we must submit to the Spirit. When we do so, all the enemies and impediments to humility—pride, unjustified power-grabbing, selfish ambition, partisanship, hatred—will melt away. What an overwhelming thought to consider that such humility can be ours because God Himself, through His Spirit, is teaching us to love as we yield to Him (1 Thess. 4:9).

At every turn we see humility going hand in hand with godly love. Genuine love never turns its “freedom into an opportunity for the flesh” (Gal. 5:13). It will not do anything to cause another Christian to fall into sin or even be offended in his conscience (Rom. 14:21). Love that is from God will “be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven [us]” (Eph. 4:32).

The greatest test of love and humility is the willingness to sacrifice for the good of others. As we have already seen in our study of humility, Jesus was the ultimate example of this (Phil. 2:5-8). Our supreme demonstration of humility is when we imitate Him: “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for an occasion today to show some facet of biblical love to another person.
If nothing develops today, keep praying that the Lord would make you alert for future opportunities.
For Further Study

First John 4 is a wonderful chapter on God’s love and its meaning for believers. According to the apostle, how can we know truth from error?
What benefits derive from God’s love?


Applying the Disciples' Prayer

"Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen" (Matt. 6:13).

The Disciples’ Prayer is a pattern to follow for life.

The implications of the Disciples' Prayer are profound and far-reaching. An unknown author put it this way:

I cannot say "our" if I live only for myself in a spiritual, watertight compartment. I cannot say "Father" if I do not endeavor each day to act like His child. I cannot say "who art in heaven" if I am laying up no treasure there.
I cannot say "hallowed be Thy name" if I am not striving for holiness. I cannot say "Thy kingdom come" if I am not doing all in my power to hasten that wonderful day. I cannot say "Thy will be done" if I am disobedient to His Word. I cannot say "in earth as it is in heaven" if I will not serve Him here and now.

I cannot say "give us . . . our daily bread" if I am dishonest or an "under the counter" shopper. I cannot say "forgive us our debts" if I harbor a grudge against anyone. I cannot say "lead us not into temptation" if I deliberately place myself in its path. I cannot say "deliver us from evil" if I do not put on the whole armor of God.

I cannot say "thine is the kingdom" if I do not give to the King the loyalty due Him as a faithful subject. I cannot attribute to Him "the power" if I fear what men may do. I cannot ascribe to Him "the glory" if I am seeking honor only for myself. I cannot say "forever" if the horizon of my life is bounded completely by the things of time.

As you learn to apply to your own life the principles in this marvelous prayer, I pray that God's kingdom will be your focus, His glory your goal, and His power your strength. Only then will our Lord's doxology be the continual song of your heart: "Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen" (v. 13).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to use what you've learned from the Disciples' Prayer to transform your prayers.

For Further Study

Read John 17, noting the priorities Jesus stressed in prayer.


March 31 - Jesus Christ Is Superior to the Ceremonial Law

“‘Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill’” (Matthew 5:17).

The ceremonial law governed the form of Israel’s worship. When Jesus died on the cross, He fulfilled that law as well as the judicial. Sacrifice was the heart of all Old Testament worship, and as the perfect sacrifice, Jesus brought all the other sacrifices to an end. While He was on the cross, “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matt. 27:51). Christ Himself became the new and perfect way into the Holy of Holies, into which any man could come by faith.

In this way, the Levitical, priestly, sacrificial system ended. Though the temple was not destroyed until A.D. 70, every offering made on its altar after Jesus died was needless. Symbolically, they had no more significance. Of course, the Tabernacle and Temple sacrifices that were offered even before Christ’s death never had power to cleanse from sin. They were only pictures of the Messiah-Savior’s work of cleansing, pictures that pointed to that supreme manifestation of God’s mercy and grace.

The ceremonial law ended because it was fulfilled. Since the reality had come, the pictures and symbols had no more place or purpose. From Genesis 1:1 through Malachi 4:6, the Old Testament is Jesus Christ. It was inspired by Christ, it points to Christ, and it is fulfilled by Christ.

Ask Yourself

What does the magnificence of God’s story stir in you as you consider it again—the signs and fulfillments created by God’s design before the foundation of the world and forged through long centuries of human history? Sit at His feet again today in awe-filled worship.


March 31

Reading for Today:

Deuteronomy 23:1–24:22
Psalm 39:1-6
Proverbs 13:1-3
Luke 5:17-39

Psalm 39:5 handbreadths. He measures the length of his life with the smallest popular measuring unit of ancient times (1 Kin. 7:26); see “four fingers” (i.e., about 2.9in.) in Jeremiah 52:21. and my age is as nothing before You. On “measuring” God’s age, see Psalm 90:2. vapor. For the same Hebrew word, see Ecclesiastes 1:2ff., “vanity” (a total of 31 occurrences of this term are in Eccl.); Psalm 144:4. On the concept in the New Testament, see James 4:14.

Luke 5:26 strange things. The response is curiously noncommittal—not void of wonder and amazement, but utterly void of true faith.

Luke 5:30 eat and drink. Consorting with outcasts on any level—even merely speaking to them—was bad enough. Eating and drinking with them implied a level of friendship that was abhorrent to the Pharisees (7:34; 15:2; 19:7).

Luke 5:33 fast often. Jesus did fast on at least one occasion (Mat. 4:2)—but privately, in accordance with His own teaching (Matt. 6:16-18). The law also prescribed a fast on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29-31; 23:27)—but all other fasts were supposed to be voluntary, for specific reasons such as penitence and earnest prayer. The fact that these Pharisees raised this question shows that they thought of fasting as a public exercise to display one’s own spirituality. Yet, the Old Testament also rebuked hypocritical fasting (Is. 58:3-6).

DAY 31: What does Deuteronomy 24:1–4 say about divorce and remarriage?

This passage does not command, commend, condone, or even suggest divorce. Rather, it recognizes that divorce occurs and permits it only on restricted grounds. The case presented here is designed to convey the fact that divorcing produced defilement. Notice the following sequence:

if a man finds an uncleanness (some impurity or something vile, see 23:14) in his wife, other than adultery, which was punished by execution (see 22:22);

if he legally divorces her (although God hates divorce, as Mal. 2:16 says; He has designed marriage for life, as Gen. 2:24 declares; and He allowed divorce because of hard hearts, as Matt. 19:8 reveals);

if she then marries another man;
if the new husband then dies or divorces her, then that woman could not return to her first husband (v. 4). 

This is so because she was “defiled” with such a defilement that is an abomination to the Lord and a sinful pollution of the Promised Land.

What constitutes that defilement? Only one thing is possible—she was defiled in the remarriage because there was no ground for the divorce. So when she remarried, she became an adulteress (Matt. 5:31, 32) and is thus defiled so that her former husband can’t take her back. Illegitimate divorce proliferates adultery.




God-Centered Teamwork

“He who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow-workers” (1 Corinthians 3:8-9).

Humble teamwork in ministry gives God all the glory and promotes humility.

Paul’s agricultural illustration of planting and watering makes it clear that the ministry works best in a team concept and that all credit for results must go to God. Paul (the one planting) and Apollos (the one watering) had done their God-appointed work faithfully and well, but they had to wait on the Lord for whatever was accomplished.

Paul mentions just two kinds of ministry in today’s passage: planting the seed of the gospel by evangelism and watering it by further teaching. However, the apostle’s point applies to every kind of ministry you might engage in. You might be tempted to think that your ministry is glamorous or significant and that everything revolves around your efforts. Or you could be envious of another believer who has a more public ministry than you. But all God’s work is important, and Paul is reminding us that whatever work He has called us to is the most important ministry we can have.

First Corinthians 3 also reminds us that all believers who minister are one in the Body of Christ. If you recognize and accept this fact, it is a sure guarantee that humility will be present as you serve God. Humility simply leaves no place for fleshly competitiveness or selfish jealousy toward other Christians.

God will be certain to recognize your individual, faithful work—“according to [your] own labor”—in His day of rewards. But Jesus also taught His disciples and us the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matt. 20:1-16) to keep our perspectives balanced regarding the corporate nature of ministry in God’s kingdom. None of us should look with pride at our own service and see ourselves as deserving more reward than someone who worked less time or in a less prominent position. It is not our ministry, any more than it was Paul’s or Apollos’s. It is God’s, and all the glory goes to Him, not us.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that God would give you a greater sense of humble gratitude for whatever type of ministry opportunity you have.

For Further Study

Compare Matthew 19:27-30 with 20:1-16.

Why could the disciples have been tempted to feel superior?
What does the landowner’s behavior in the parable suggest about the character of God?



"Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil" (Matt. 6:13).

Don’t let your trials turn into temptations.

When we hear the English word temptation, we usually think of a solicitation to evil. But "temptation" in Matthew 6:13 translates a Greek word that can refer either to a trial that God permits to refine your spiritual character (James 1:2-4), or a temptation that Satan or your flesh brings to incite you to sin (Matt. 4:1; James 1:13- 15). Both are valid translations.

I believe "temptation" in Matthew 6:13 refers to trials. Even though we know God uses trials for our good, it's still good to pray that He won't allow us to be caught in a trial that becomes an irresistible temptation. That can happen if we're spiritually weak or ill-prepared to deal with a situation.

God will never test you beyond what you're able to endure (1 Cor. 10:13), but resisting temptation requires spiritual discipline and divine resources. Praying for God to deliver you from trials that might overcome you is a safeguard against leaning on your own strength and neglecting His power.

God tested Joseph by allowing him to be sold into slavery by his brothers, falsely accused by an adulterous woman, and unjustly imprisoned by a jealous husband. But Joseph knew that God's hand was on his life. That's why he could say to his brothers, "You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to . . . preserve many people" (Gen. 50:20). Joseph was ready for the test and passed it beautifully!

Jesus Himself was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Matt. 4:1). God wanted to test Him to prove His virtue, but Satan wanted to tempt Him to destroy His virtue. Jesus, too, was victorious.

When you experience trials, don't let them turn into temptations. Recognize God's purposes and seek His strength. Learn from the example of those who have successfully endured the same trials. Be assured that God is in control and is using each trial to mold your character and teach you greater dependence on Him.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the trials He brings your way.
Ask Him to help you see your trials as means by which He strengthens you and glorifies Himself.
For Further Study


March 30 - How Jesus Fulfilled the Law—Moral and Judicial

“‘Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill’” (Matthew 5:17).

The moral law was God’s foundational code. Jesus fulfilled that law by His perfect righteousness. He obeyed every commandment, met every requirement, and lived up to every standard.

But most important, Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament by being its fulfillment. He did not simply teach it fully and exemplify it fully—He was it fully. He did not come simply to teach righteousness and to model righteousness; He came as divine righteousness. What He said and what He did reflected who He is.

God’s judicial law was given to provide unique identity for Israel as a nation that belonged to Jehovah. The laws relating to agriculture, settlement of disputes, diet, cleanliness, dress, and such things were special standards by which His chosen people were to live before the Lord and apart from the world. This judicial law Jesus fulfilled on the cross.

Jesus’ crucifixion marked Israel’s ultimate apostasy in the final rejection of her Messiah and the interruption of God’s dealing with that people as a nation. With that, the judicial law passed away because Israel no longer served as His chosen nation.

Praise God, He will someday redeem and restore Israel (Rom. 9–11), but in the meanwhile the church is His chosen body of people on earth (1 Peter 2:9–10). All the redeemed—those who receive the work of the cross—are His chosen ones.

Ask Yourself

There is no way, of course, for us to duplicate the perfect performance of Jesus, but by surrendering in daily, ongoing ways to His Holy Spirit, we can see Christ’s character exuding from us in steady practice. Have your own failures and experiences caused you to deny this truth? Submit to Him afresh today.


Reading for Today:

Deuteronomy 21:1–22:30
Psalm 38:9-22
Proverbs 12:26-28
Luke 5:1-16

Deuteronomy 22:5 anything that pertains to a man…woman’s garment. Found only here in the Pentateuch, this statute prohibited a man from wearing any item of feminine clothing or ornamentation or a woman from wearing any item of masculine clothing or ornamentation. The same word translated “abomination” was used to describe God’s view of homosexuality (Lev. 18:22; 20:13). This instance specifically outlawed transvestism. The creation order distinctions between male and female were to be maintained without exception (Gen. 1:27).

Deuteronomy 22:22–29 Adultery was punished by death for the two found in the act. If the adulterous persons were a man with a woman who was pledged to be married to someone else, this consensual act led to the death of both parties (vv. 23, 24). However, if the man forced (i.e., raped) the woman, then only the man’s life was required (vv. 25–27). If the woman was a virgin not pledged in marriage, then the man had to pay a fine, marry the girl, and keep her as his wife as long as he lived (vv. 28, 29).

Luke 5:4 let down your nets. Normally, the fish that were netted in shallow water at night would migrate during the daylight hours to waters too deep to reach easily with nets, which is why Peter fished at night. Peter may have thought Jesus’ directive made no sense, but he obeyed and was rewarded for his obedience (v. 6).

DAY 30: What specific crimes were listed in the Old Testament as deserving the death penalty?



1. Premeditated Murder

Genesis 9:6Exodus 21:12–142223

2. Kidnapping

Exodus 21:16Deuteronomy 24:7

3. Striking or Cursing Parents

Exodus 21:15Leviticus 20:9Proverbs 20:20Matthew 15:4Mark 7:10

4. Magic and Divination

Exodus 22:18

5. Bestiality

Exodus 22:19Leviticus 20:1516

6. Sacrificing to False Gods

Exodus 22:20

7. Profaning the Sabbath

Exodus 35:2Numbers 15:32–36

8. Offering Human Sacrifice

Leviticus 20:2

9. Adultery

Leviticus 20:10–21Deuteronomy 22:22

10. Incest

Leviticus 20:111214

11. Homosexuality

Leviticus 20:13

12. Blasphemy

Leviticus 24:11–141623

13. False Prophecy

Deuteronomy 13:1–10

14. Incorrigible Rebelliousness

Deuteronomy 17:1221:18–21

15. Fornication

Deuteronomy 22:2021

16. Rape of Betrothed Virgin

Deuteronomy 22:23–27




Servanthood: Humility in Action

“‘Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave’” (Matthew 20:26-27).

In God’s sight, greatness is marked by a humble, servant’s heart.

Bible commentator R.C.H. Lenski once wrote that God’s “great men are not sitting on top of lesser men, but bearing lesser men on their backs.” Jesus would have agreed with Lenski’s observation, but He did not see it as wrong to desire greater usefulness to God. Those standards of usefulness, however, are much more demanding than any worldly ideals for self-serving, domineering leadership. For example, Paul lists for us the high standards God has for church overseers (1 Tim. 3:1-7). God considers men great who are among those willing to be servants.

In Matthew 20:26-27, Jesus was speaking of genuine servanthood, not the “public servant” who merely uses his position to gain power and personal prestige. The original Greek word for “servant” referred to a person who did menial labor and was the lowest level of hired help. Jesus could have used a more noble word to denote obedient discipleship, but He picked this one (from which we get deacon) because it best described the selfless humility of one who served.

But in verse 27, Jesus intensifies His description of God’s way to greatness. He tells us if we want to be great in His kingdom, we must be willing to be slaves. Whereas servants had some personal freedom, slaves were owned by their masters and could go only where their masters allowed and do only what their masters wanted. The application for us as believers is that “whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14:8).

If you desire real spiritual greatness, you will be willing to work in the hard place, the lonely place, the place where you’re not appreciated. You’ll be willing to strive for excellence without becoming proud, and to endure suffering without getting into self-pity. It is to these godly attitudes and more that Christ will say, “Well done, good and faithful slave . . . enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:21).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to help you cultivate a servant’s heart.

For Further Study

Read 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and make a list of the qualifications for an overseer (elder).
Meditate on the implications of each trait, and write down ways in which humility relates to these leadership qualities.


Seeking God's Protection

"Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil" (Matt. 6:13).

Have a healthy sense of self-distrust.

At the moment of your salvation, judicial forgiveness covered all of your sins—past, present, and future. Parental forgiveness restores the joy and sweet fellowship broken by any subsequent sins. But concurrent with the joy of being forgiven is the desire to be protected from any future sins. That's the desire expressed in Matthew 6:13: "Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

That petition seems simple enough at first glance, but it raises some important questions. According to James 1:13, God doesn't tempt anyone to commit sin, so why ask Him to protect us from something He apparently wouldn't lead us into in the first place?

Some say the word "temptation" in Matthew 6:13 means "trials." But trials strengthen us and prove the genuineness of our faith. We are to rejoice in them, not avoid them (James 1:2-4).

The solution to this paradox has to do with the nature of the petition. It is not so much a technical theological statement as it is an emotional plea from one who hates sin and wants to be protected from it. Chrysostom, the early church father, said it is a natural appeal of human weakness as it faces danger (Homily 19.10).

I don't know about you, but I have a healthy sense of self-distrust. That's why I carefully guard what I think, say, watch, read, and listen to. If I sense spiritual danger I run into the presence of God and say, "Lord, I will be overwhelmed by this situation unless You come to my aid." That's the spirit of Matthew 6:13.

We live in a fallen world that throws temptation after temptation our way. Therefore it's only natural and proper for us as Christians to continually confess our sins, receive the Father's forgiveness, and plead with Him to deliver us from the possibility of sinning against Him in the future.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord that He loves you and ministers through you despite your human weaknesses.
Ask Him to protect you today from any situation that might cause you to sin.
For Further Study

Read 1 Corinthians 10:13 and James 1:13-16.

To what degree will God allow you to be tempted?
What is a common source of temptation?


March 29 - How Jesus Understood the Law and the Prophets

“‘Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill’” (Matthew 5:17).

Is there an absolute basis for truth, for law, for morals, for real right and wrong? The absolute, Jesus says, is the law of the eternally sovereign God. God laid down His absolute, eternal, abiding law and made it known to humanity. And as God’s own Son, Jesus declared unequivocally that He did not come to teach or practice anything contrary to that law even in the slightest way, but to uphold it entirely.

Jesus obviously had a high regard for the law, but at the same time He taught things completely contrary to the traditions. His teachings did not lower scriptural standards but upheld them in every way. He not only elevated God’s standard to the height it belonged, but also lived at that humanly impossible level.

The law and the prophets represent what we call the Old Testament, the only written Scripture at the time Jesus preached. Because Matthew does not qualify his use of law, we are safe to say that it was God’s whole law—the commandments, statutes, and judgments; the moral, judicial, and ceremonial—that Jesus came not to abolish but fulfill. It was also the other Old Testament teachings based on the law, and all their types, patterns, symbols, and pictures that He came to fulfill. Jesus Christ came to accomplish every aspect and every dimension of the divinely authored Word.

Ask Yourself

Knowing how hard it is for us to maintain holy attitudes and behaviors for more than a few hours at a time, marvel again at the extreme power of Jesus Christ, who endured every temptation to maintain His perfect purity on earth. And marvel anew that such supernatural righteousness has been imputed to us!


March 29

Reading for Today:

Deuteronomy 19:1–20:20
Psalm 38:1-8
Proverbs 12:23-25
Luke 4:31-44

Deuteronomy 20:1 do not be afraid. When Israelites went into battle, they were never to fear an enemy’s horses or chariots because the outcome of a battle would never be determined by mere military strength. The command not to be afraid was based on God’s power and faithfulness, which had already been proved to Israel in their deliverance from Egypt.

Deuteronomy 20:5–8 Let him go and return to his house. Four exemptions from service in Israel’s volunteer army were cited to illustrate the principle that anyone whose heart was not in the fight should not be there. Those who had other matters on their minds or were afraid were allowed to leave the army and return to their homes, since they would be useless in battle and even influence others to lose courage (v. 8).

Proverbs 12:23 conceals. Unlike the fool who makes all hear his folly, the wise person is a model of restraint and humility, speaking what he knows at an appropriate time (see 29:11).

Luke 4:38 Simon’s wife’s mother. Peter was married (1 Cor. 9:5), though no details about his wife are given anywhere in Scripture. a high fever. Matthew 8:14, 15 and Mark 1:30, 31 also report this miracle. But only Luke, the physician, remarks that the fever was “high” and makes note of the means Jesus used to heal her (v. 39).

DAY 29: What did the law warn about bringing false witness against another person?

In Deuteronomy 19:15, the law required that “by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.” More than one witness was necessary to convict a man of a crime. This principle was to act as a safeguard against the false witness who might bring an untruthful charge against a fellow Israelite. By requiring more than one witness, greater accuracy and objectivity was gained (Deut. 17:6;Matt. 18:15–17; 2 Cor. 13:1).

However, it was possible that “a false witness [might rise] against any man to testify against him of wrongdoing” (v. 16). In some cases, there would only be one witness who brought a charge against someone. When such a case was taken to the central tribunal of priests and judges for trial, and upon investigation the testimony of the witness was found to be false, the accuser received the punishment appropriate for the alleged crime (v. 19). Others looking on would be taught to “hear and fear, and hereafter they shall not again commit such evil among you” (v. 20). When the fate of the false witness became known in Israel, it would serve as a deterrent against giving false testimony in Israel’s courts.

In Israel, the principle of legal justice (called lex talionis, “law of retaliation”) or “eye for eye” (v. 21) was given to encourage appropriate punishment of a criminal in cases where there might be a tendency to be either too lenient or too strict (Ex. 21:23–25; Lev. 24:17–22). Jesus confronted the Jews of His day for taking this law out of the courts and using it for purposes of personal vengeance (Matt. 5:38–42).




Enemies of Humility: Partisanship

“. . . That no one of you might become arrogant in behalf of one against the other” (1 Corinthians 4:6).

Genuine humility among Christians will leave no room for arrogant partisanship.

The Corinthian church was a notorious illustration of the sin of partisanship among believers. Its partisanship—some members claimed allegiance to Paul, some to Apollos, and some to Cephas (Peter)—was essentially caused by pride. Paul, as author of 1 Corinthians, vigorously opposed such pride of divisions, as Apollos and Peter would have.

The Corinthian believers did have reason to be thankful to God for sending them such quality leaders. And it was right for those in Corinth to respect and honor their spiritual elders. Scripture says, “Appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction” (1 Thess. 5:12). However, the Corinthians went far beyond God’s Word and exalted the leaders for the prideful sake of themselves, the followers, thus creating partisan sects.

Such partisan spirit, even on behalf of godly leaders, always leads to hostility toward other faithful servants of God. And the motivation behind all this is pride, which is essentially having an inflated (arrogant) view of yourself, one that says “I’m for me.” When pride rules the operations of any church, humility is forgotten, and fellowship and harmony are inevitably torn apart.

You can help prevent or counteract partisanship simply by considering that all the daily benefits you take for granted—food, housing, clothing, job, family— are yours because of God’s kind providence. And if you’re a Christian, you have eternal life, God’s Word, spiritual gifts, and many other blessings that are all of grace. The apostle James reminds us, “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17).

So again we see that God gives us every reason to be humble and leaves no place for pride and partisanship. If you have a good pastor and good elders or deacons, humbly thank God for them. You and your leaders are all stewards of God, entrusted for a short while to serve Him with His resources.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that the Lord would help you be a positive influence for humility and harmony, rather than for pride and partisanship.

For Further Study

Read Acts 14:8-18.

How did the people of Lystra react to Paul and Barnabas?
How difficult was it for Paul and Barnabas to correct the people’s errors?



"Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. . . . For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions" (Matt. 6:12, 14-15).

An unforgiving Christian is a contradiction in terms.

It's possible to confess your sins and still not know the joy of forgiveness. How? Failure to forgive others! Christian educator J. Oswald Sanders observed that Jesus measures us by the yardstick we use on others. He didn't say, "Forgive us because we forgive others," but "Forgive us even as we have forgiven others."

An unforgiving Christian is a contradiction in terms because we are the forgiven ones! Ephesians 4:32 says, "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." God forgave us an immeasurable debt, saving us from the horrors of eternal hell. That should be motivation enough to forgive any offense against us, yet some Christians still hold grudges.

Here are three practical steps to dealing with the sin of unforgiveness. First, confess it and ask the Lord to help you mend the relationship in question. Second, go to the person, ask for forgiveness, and seek reconciliation. You might discover that he or she wasn't even aware of the offense. Third, give the person something you highly value. This is a very practical approach based on our Lord's teaching that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matt. 6:21). Whenever I've given a book or other gift to someone who has wronged me, I've felt a great sense of liberty in my spirit. In addition, my joy is compounded because I feel the joy of giving as well as the joy of forgiving.

Don't ever let a grudge stand between you and another person. It will rob you of the full joy of God's forgiveness.

Suggestions for Prayer

Before praying, examine your heart. If you harbor bitterness toward another person, follow the procedure given above. Then pray, thanking the Lord for the joy of reconciliation.

For Further Study

Read the parable of the servant in Matthew 18:21-35.

What question prompted the parable?
How did the king respond to his servant's pleading?
What did the servant do later on? Why was that wrong?


March 28 - Shining the Light

“‘Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven’” (Matthew 5:16).

Letting our “light shine before men” allows them to see our “good works,” the beauty the Lord has worked in us. To see good works by us is to see Christ in us. That’s why Jesus says, “Let your light shine.” It is not something we create or make up, but something we allow the Lord to do through us. It is God’s light; our choice is whether to hide it or let it shine.

We allow God’s light to shine through us so God will receive the praise. Our intent should be that in what we are and what we do, others may see God and “glorify [our] Father who is in heaven.”

Our good works should magnify God’s grace and power. That is the supreme calling of life: glorifying God. Everything we do is to cause others to give praise to God, the source of all that is good. The way we live ought to lead those around us to glorify our heavenly Father.

However, when what we do causes people to be attracted to us rather than to God, to see our human character rather than His divine character, we can be sure that what they see is not His light. Make sure your deeds point people to God, the author of those deeds.

Ask Yourself

As we’ve seen before, some will respond to your good deeds with derision and persecution, but others will shower praise on you for your acts of Christian character. How do you respond to those who give you credit for your servant’s heart and faithful obedience? How do you deflect that praise to God so it doesn’t nestle down in your own heart?


Reading for Today:

Deuteronomy 17:1–18:22
Psalm 37:37-40
Proverbs 12:20-22
Luke 4:1-30

Deuteronomy 17:16, 17 multiply…multiply…multiply. Restrictions were placed on the king: 1) he must not acquire many horses; 2) he must not take multiple wives; and 3) he must not accumulate much silver and gold. The king was not to rely on military strength, political alliances, or wealth for his position and authority, but he was to look to the Lord. Solomon violated all of those prohibitions, while his father, David, violated the last two. Solomon’s wives brought idolatry into Jerusalem, which resulted in the kingdom being divided (1 Kin. 11:1–43).

Luke 4:21 this Scripture is fulfilled. This was an unambiguous claim that Jesus was the Messiah who fulfilled the prophecy. His hearers correctly understood His meaning but could not accept such lofty claims from One whom they knew so well as the carpenter’s son (v. 22; Matt. 13:55).

Luke 4:28 filled with wrath. This is Luke’s first mention of hostile opposition to Christ’s ministry. What seems to have sparked the Nazarenes’ fury was Christ’s suggestion that divine grace might be withheld from them yet extended to Gentiles.

Luke 4:30 passing through the midst of them. The implication is that this was a miraculous escape—the first of several similar incidents in which Jesus escaped a premature death at the hands of a mob (John 7:30; 8:59; 10:39).

DAY 28: Who is the Prophet that Moses refers to in Deuteronomy 18:15–19?

Read through 18:15–19 again where Moses promises that “the LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst.” The singular pronoun emphasizes the ultimate Prophet who was to come. Both the Old Testament (34:10) and the New Testament (Acts 3:22, 23; 7:37) interpret this passage as a reference to the coming Messiah, who, like Moses, would receive and preach divine revelation and lead His people (John 1:21, 25,43–45; 6:14; 7:40). In fact, Jesus was like Moses in several other ways: 1) He was spared death as a baby (Ex. 2;Matt. 2:13–23); 2) He renounced a royal court (Phil. 2:5–8; Heb. 11:24–27); 3) He had compassion on His people (Num. 27:17; Matt. 9:36); 4) He made intercession for the people (Deut. 9:18; Heb. 7:25); 5) He spoke with God face-to-face (Ex. 34:29, 30; 2 Cor. 3:7); and 6) He was the mediator of a covenant (Deut. 29:1; Heb. 8:6, 7).

In contrast to the true Prophet, Moses predicted there would be false prophets who would come to Israel, speaking not in the name of the Lord, but in the name of false gods (vv. 20–22). How could the people tell if a prophet was authentically speaking for God? Moses said, “If the thing does not happen,” it was not from God. The characteristic of false prophets is the failure of their predictions to always come true. Sometimes false prophets speak and it happens as they said, but they are representing false gods and trying to turn people from the true God—they must be rejected and executed (13:1–5). Other times, false prophets are more subtle and identify with the true God but speak lies. If ever a prophecy of such a prophet fails, he is shown to be false (Jer. 28:15–17; 29:30–32).




Enemies of Humility: Selfish Ambition

“But Jesus answered and said, ‘You do not know what you are asking for. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?’ They said to Him, ‘We are able’” (Matthew 20:22).

Selfish ambition in spiritual things shows that we are ignorant of the real path to God’s glory.

Yesterday we saw that James and John, with their mother, posed a bold power-play question to the Lord Jesus. Now, as He answers them, they display another attitude at odds with the humble spirit: selfish ambition.

If the brothers’ power-play request was brazen, it was also very foolish. They did not have a clue about what was involved if Jesus granted their request. “The cup that I am about to drink” was His way of referring to His suffering and death. When He asked James and John if they were prepared to drink that cup, Christ was saying that if you are His disciple, you must be prepared for suffering and hardship.

In fact, Jesus’ words “to drink the cup” indicate that something very difficult lay ahead. Not only do those words refer to the Savior’s own painful suffering and death (Matt. 26:39), but they mean we must stay the course to the end, enduring whatever is necessary. James, John, and the other disciples initially did not have such staying power.

James and John, thinking they would always persevere, overconfidently declared, “We are able.” Peter brashly promised never to forsake the Lord, and all the other disciples echoed that pledge. But Peter denied Jesus three times, and the ambitious brothers, along with the rest of the disciples, fled after Jesus’ arrest.

The disciples eventually did finish well and shared in the “fellowship of His sufferings” (Phil. 3:10). James became the first martyred apostle, and John was exiled to the island of Patmos. But such faithfulness was not attained in their own strength, nor by their ambitious maneuvering, but by the Spirit’s power. This is a strong reminder to us that no position in God’s kingdom is rewarded because of selfish human ambition, but only by His sovereign choice of “those for whom it has been prepared” (Matt. 20:23).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that God would give you a view of service in His kingdom that is unclouded by your own ambitions.

For Further Study

Read and compare Psalms 15 and 75.

What do they say about pride and humility?
Meditate on several verses that relate to that theme.



"Forgive us our debts" (Matt. 6:12).

Forgiveness removes the guilt and penalty of sin and restores intimacy with God.

Man's greatest problem is sin. It renders him spiritually dead, alienates him from God and his fellow man, plagues him with guilt and fear, and can eventually damn him to eternal hell. The only solution is forgiveness—and the only source of forgiveness is Jesus Christ.

All sin is punishable by death (Rom. 6:23) but Christ bore the sins of the world, thereby making it possible to be forgiven and have eternal life through faith in Him (John 3:16). What a glorious reality!

Scripture speaks of two kinds of forgiveness: judicial and parental. Judicial forgiveness comes from God the righteous judge, who wiped your sin off the record and set you free from its punishment and guilt. At the moment of your salvation He forgave all your sins—past, present, and future—and pronounced you righteous for all eternity. That's why nothing can ever separate you from Christ's love (Rom. 8:38-39).

Parental forgiveness is granted to believers by their loving heavenly Father as they confess their sin and seek His cleansing. That's the kind of forgiveness Jesus speaks of in Matthew 6:12.

When a child disobeys his father, the father/child relationship isn't severed. The child is still a member of the family and there's a sense in which he is already forgiven because he's under the umbrella of his father's parental love. But some of the intimacy of their relationship is lost until the child seeks forgiveness.

That's the idea in Matthew 6:12. The sins you commit as a believer don't rob you of your salvation, but they do affect your relationship with God. He still loves you and will always be your Father, but the intimacy and sweet communion you once knew is jeopardized until you seek reconciliation by confessing your sins.

As a Christian, you are judicially forgiven and will never come into condemnation. But never presume on that grace. Make confession part of your daily prayers so sin will never erode your relationship with your Heavenly Father.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for His judicial forgiveness of all your sins.
Ask Him to help you maintain the joy of your relationship with Him by quickly dealing with any sin that comes up in your life.
For Further Study

Read Psalm 32:1-7.

How did David feel about forgiveness?
What happened to David before he confessed his sin?


March 27 - True Salt and Light Are Pure

“‘You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house’” (Matthew 5:13–15).

With great responsibility, there is often great danger. We can’t be an influence for purity in the world if we have compromised our own purity. We can’t sting the world’s conscience if we continually go against our own. We can’t be used of God to retard the corruption of sin in the world if our lives become corrupted by sin. To lose our saltiness is not to lose our salvation, but we will lose our effectiveness.

Light, too, is in danger of becoming useless. Like salt, it can’t lose its essential nature. A hidden light is still light, but it is useless light. That’s why people do not “light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.” A light that is hidden under a basket can’t even be used to read by; it helps neither the person who hides it nor anyone else.

Don’t hide your light for fear of offending others, whether out of indifference or lovelessness or any other reason. If you do, you demonstrate unfaithfulness to the Lord.

Ask Yourself

The demands of purity call for more than merely the eradication of sin and shameful habits, but also for replacing impurity with active, living, breathing righteousness. What are some specific acts of obedience and service to which God is calling you at this hour, in this generation?


Reading for Today:

Deuteronomy 15:1–16:22
Psalm 37:30-36
Proverbs 12:17-19
Luke 3:1-38

Deuteronomy 16:21, 22 wooden image…sacred pillar. A reference to the wooden poles, images, or trees that represented the Canaanite goddess Asherah. A stone pillar symbolic of male fertility was also prevalent in the Canaanite religion. These were forbidden by the first two commandments (Ex. 20:3–6; Deut. 5:7–10).

Proverbs 12:18 speaks…piercings. The contrast here is between cutting words that are blurted out (Ps. 106:33) and thoughtful words that bring health (Eph. 4:29, 30).

Luke 3:2 Annas and Caiaphas were high priests. According to Josephus, Annas served as high priest A.D. 6–15, when he was deposed by Roman officials. He nonetheless retained de facto power, as seen in the fact that his successors included 5 of his sons and Caiaphas, a son-in-law (Matt. 26:3).Caiaphas was the actual high priest during the time Luke describes, but Annas still controlled the office. This is seen clearly in the fact that Christ was taken to Annas first after His arrest, then to Caiaphas (Matt. 26:57).

Luke 3:4 Make His paths straight. Quoted from Isaiah 40:3–5.A monarch traveling in wilderness regions would have a crew of workmen go ahead to make sure the road was clear of debris, obstructions, potholes, and other hazards that made the journey difficult. In a spiritual sense, John was calling the people of Israel to prepare their hearts for the coming of their Messiah.

DAY 27: How were God’s people to treat the poor?

As the Israelites prepared to enter the Promised Land, Deuteronomy 15:4 has an interesting statement “except when there may be no poor.” Idealistically, there was the possibility that poverty would be eradicated in the land “for the LORD will greatly bless you in the land.” The fullness of that blessing, however, would be contingent on the completeness of Israel’s obedience. Thus, vv. 4–6 were an encouragement to strive for a reduction of poverty while at the same time they stressed the abundance of the provision God would make in the Promised Land.

God specifically warns them about hardening their hearts against the poor, but to “open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need” (v. 8). The attitude of the Israelites toward the poor in their community was to be one of warmth and generosity. The poor were given whatever was necessary to meet their needs, even with the realization that such “loans” would never need to be paid back.

“For the poor will never cease from the land,” Moses adds (v. 11). Realistically (in contrast to v. 4), the disobedience toward the Lord on Israel’s part meant that there would always be poor people in the land of Israel. Jesus repeated this truism in Matthew 26:11. Even if a Hebrew was sold into a period of servitude for his debts, his master “shall not let him go away empty-handed” (Deut. 15:13). When a slave had completed his time of service, his former owner was to make ample provision for him so that he would not begin his state of new freedom in destitution.




Enemies of Humility: The Power Play

“Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Him with her sons, bowing down, and making a request of Him. And He said to her, ‘What do you wish?’ She said to Him, ‘Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left’” (Matthew 20:2-21).

Use of the power play in our personal dealings is incompatible with scriptural humility.

One of the most common tactics people use to get ahead is to draw upon the influence of family and friends. Even professing believers have not hesitated to “play politics” to get what they want. I know of a pastor some years ago who said that for his denomination’s annual meeting he always booked a hotel room near the top leaders’ rooms. He wanted to cultivate their friendships in hopes of receiving consideration for pastorates in larger churches.

Incredibly, today’s passage has two of Jesus’ closest disciples, James and John, coming with their mother to Jesus to ask a huge, unprecedented favor— that each brother be seated next to Him in His kingdom. It was even more amazing that this brazen, self-serving request came right after Christ predicted His imminent persecution and death. It’s as though James and John each let Jesus’ sobering words go in one ear and out the other. That’s because they were so preoccupied with their own interests and plans.

The three probably were trying to exploit their family relationship with Jesus. By comparing John 19:25 with parallel passages, we know that the disciples’ mother (Salome) was a sister of Mary, Jesus’ mother. That would make James and John His first cousins and their mother His aunt.

So the three undoubtedly were relying on their kinship to Jesus as they made their selfish request for greater power and prestige within His kingdom. Obviously, they still had not grasped Christ’s earlier promise from the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the gentle [meek, humble], for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5). But such sublime teaching ought to be enough to convince us that the truly humble don’t need power plays to achieve greatness. They already have it in Christ.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord for the many privileges you already enjoy as His child.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 23.

What was Jesus’ general attitude toward the Pharisees’ motives and actions?
List some specific characteristics you ought to avoid.



"Forgive us our debts" (Matt. 6:12).

Believers confess their sins; unbelievers deny theirs.

Christians struggle with sin. That surely comes as no surprise to you. As you mature in Christ, the frequency of your sinning decreases, but your sensitivity to it increases. That doesn't mean you are more easily tempted, but that you are more aware of the subtleties of sin and how it dishonors God.

Some people think you should never confess your sins or seek forgiveness, but the Lord instructed us to do so when He said for us to pray, "Forgive us our debts" (Matt. 6:12). That's the believer's prayer for the Father's forgiveness.

John said, "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us" (1 John 1:8-10). That passage doesn't tell us how to get saved, as many have taught. It tells us how to distinguish believers from unbelievers: believers confess their sins; unbelievers don't.

The phrase "forgive us" in Matthew 6:12 implies the need for forgiveness. "Debts" translates a Greek word that was used to speak of a moral or monetary debt. In Matthew 6:12 it refers to sins. When you sin, you owe to God a consequence or a debt because you have violated His holiness.

When you sin as a believer, you don't lose your salvation but you will face God's chastening if you don't repent. Hebrews 12 says, "Those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives . . . . He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness" (vv. 6, 10).

If you are harboring sin, confess it now and allow God to cleanse you and use you today for His glory.

Suggestions for Prayer

Write down why God's forgiveness is important to you, then express those thoughts to Him in praise.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 38.

What physical and emotional ailments did David experience as a result of his sin?
What was his attitude toward God as he confessed his sin?


March 26 - The Positive Nature of Light
“‘You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house’” (Matthew 5:14–15).
In its fullest sense, God’s light is the full revelation of His Word—the written Word of Scripture and the living Word of Jesus Christ. As the light of the world, Jesus is telling us to proclaim God’s light in a world engulfed in darkness, just as our Lord came “to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death” (Luke 1:79). Christ is the true light and we are His reflections.
By its nature, light must be visible to illuminate. Both in the daytime and at night, “a city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” By day its houses and buildings stand out on the landscape, and at night the many lights shining out of its windows make it impossible to miss. A secret Christian is as incongruous as a hidden light. Lights are meant to illuminate, not to be hidden; to be displayed, not to be covered.
God did not give the gospel of His Son to be the secret, hidden treasure of a few, but to enlighten every person (John 1:9). Just as God offers His light to the whole world, so must His church. It is not our gospel but God’s, and He gives it to us not only for our own sakes but also the entire world’s.
As a true believer, you are salt and light, and you must fulfill that identity.
Ask Yourself
How does this command of Christ operate in a culture that’s as sensitive to religious tolerance as ours is today? How does one hold high the true light of the gospel when the prevailing belief declares that all ways to God are equally illuminating?


Reading for Today:

Deuteronomy 13:1–14:29
Psalm 37:23-29
Proverbs 12:15-16
Luke 2:25-52

Deuteronomy 13:2 the sign or the wonder comes to pass. Miraculous signs alone were never meant to be a test of truth (see Pharaoh’s magicians in Ex. 7–10). A prophet or a dreamer’s prediction might come true; but if his message contradicted God’s commands, the people were to trust God and His word rather than such experience. Let us go after other gods. The explicit temptation was to renounce allegiance to the Lord and go after other gods. The result of this apostasy would be the serving of these false gods by worshiping them, which would be in direct contradiction to the first commandment (5:7).

Deuteronomy 13:5 put away the evil from your midst. The object of the severe penalty was not only the punishment of the evildoer, but also the preservation of the community. Paul must have had this text in mind when he gave a similar command to the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 5:13; also Deut. 17:7; 19:19; 21:21; 22:21; 24:7).

Luke 2:26 it had been revealed to him. It is significant that, with messianic expectations running so high (see 3:15) and with the many Old Testament prophecies that spoke of His coming, still only a handful of people realized the significance of Christ’s birth. Most of them, including Simeon, received some angelic message or other special revelation to make the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies clear.

Luke 2:36 a prophetess. This refers to a woman who spoke God’s word. She was a teacher of the Old Testament, not a source of revelation. The Old Testament mentions only 3 women who prophesied: Miriam (Ex. 15:20); Deborah (Judg. 4:4); Huldah (2 Kin. 22:14; 2 Chr. 34:22). One other, the “prophetess” Noadiah, was evidently a false prophet, grouped by Nehemiah with his enemies. Isaiah 8:3 refers to the prophet’s wife as a “prophetess,” but there is no evidence Isaiah’s wife prophesied. Perhaps she is so-called because the child she bore was given a name that was prophetic (Is. 8:3, 4). This use of the title for Isaiah’s wife also shows that the title does not necessarily indicate an ongoing revelatory prophetic ministry. Rabbinical tradition also regarded Sarah, Hannah, Abigail, and Esther as prophetesses (apparently to make an even 7 with Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah). In the New Testament, the daughters of Philip prophesied (Acts 21:9).

DAY 26: What does Luke 2:41–52 tell us about the Boy Jesus?

When Jesus was 12 years old, He celebrated His first Feast of the Passover in preparation for that rite of passage into adulthood (Bar mitzvah). After the celebration, it says that “Jesus lingered” (v. 43). In stark contrast to the apocryphal gospels’ spurious tales of youthful miracles and supernatural exploits, this lone biblical insight into the youth of Jesus portrays Him as a typical boy in a typical family. His lingering was neither mischievous nor disobedient—it was owing to a simple mistaken presumption on His parents’ part (v. 44) that He was left behind.

Obviously Joseph and Mary were traveling with a large caravan of friends and relatives from Nazareth. Men and women in such a group might have been separated by some distance, and it appears each parent thought He was with the other. The reference to “three days” (v. 46) probably means they realized He was missing at the end of a full day’s travel. That required another full day’s journey back to Jerusalem, and the better part of another day was spent seeking Him. They found Jesus among the teachers in the temple, “listening to them and asking them questions.” He was utterly respectful; but even at that young age, His questions showed a wisdom that put the teachers to shame (v. 47).

In the exchange of words that follow, Mary’s words convey a tone of exasperation normal for any mother under such circumstances, but misplaced in this case. He was not hiding from them or defying their authority. In fact, He had done precisely what any child should do under such circumstances (being left by His parents)—He went to a safe, public place, in the presence of trusted adults, where His parents could be expected to come looking for Him (v. 49). Jesus’ reference to “My Father’s business” reveals a genuine amazement that they did not know where to look for Him. This also reveals that, even at so young an age, He had a clear consciousness of His identity and mission. However, He “was subject to them” (v. 51). His relationship with His heavenly Father did not override or nullify His duty to His earthly parents. His obedience to the fifth commandment was an essential part of the perfect legal obedience He rendered on our behalf (Heb. 4:4; 5:8, 9).




Practical Humility

“Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men” (Philippians 4:5).

Real humility will have a forbearance that is gracious toward others and content with its own circumstances.

Some Greek words have various meanings that are hard to translate into just one English word. This is true of “forbearing” in today’s verse. It can refer to contentment, gentleness, generosity, or goodwill toward others. Some commentators say it means having leniency toward the faults and failures of others. Other scholars say it denotes someone who is patient and submissive toward injustice and mistreatment—one who doesn’t lash back in angry bitterness. It reminds us very much of what we have been considering for the past week—humility.

The humble believer trusts God and does not hold a grudge even though others have unfairly treated him, harmed him, or ruined his reputation. Such a person does not demand his rights. Instead, he will pattern his behavior after his Lord Jesus, who in supreme humility manifested God’s grace to us (Rom. 5:10).

If you are conscientiously following Christ, your behavior will go against the existentialism of modern society. Existentialism claims the right to do or say anything that makes one feel good. Today’s existentialist unbeliever has a twisted logic that says, “If something makes you feel good but hurts me, you can’t do it. But if something makes me feel good but hurts you, I can do it.”

Unhappily, many believers have been caught up in that kind of thinking. They don’t call it existentialism—self-esteem or positive thinking are the preferred terms—but the results are much the same. Such Christians do what satisfies their desires, often at the expense of other people. At its core, this kind of attitude is simply sinful self-love.

In contrast to such self-love, Philippians 4:5 exhorts us to exhibit humble forbearance and graciousness to others. Other Scriptures command us to love our enemies and show mercy to those who sin (Matt. 5:44; 1 Peter 4:8). Such qualities allowed the apostle Paul to say, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Phil. 4:11). God wants us to be just as humble and content with our circumstances.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to help you remain content in the midst of all that happens to you today.

For Further Study

Read Jesus’ parable about mercy and compassion in Matthew 18:21-35.

What parallels do you find between the parable and our study of forbearance?
What kind of priority does Jesus give these issues?



"Give us this day our daily bread" (Matt. 6:11).

God is the source of every good gift.

God has given us everything good to enjoy, including rain to make things grow, minerals to make the soil fertile, animals for food and clothing, and energy for industry and transportation. Everything we have is from Him, and we are to be thankful for it all.

Jesus said, "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!" (Matt. 7:11). James 1:17 says, "Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow." Paul added, "Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer" (1 Tim. 4:4-5).

Sadly, unbelievers don't acknowledge God's goodness, though they benefit from it every day. They attribute His providential care to luck or fate and His gracious provisions to nature or false gods. They do not honor Him as God or give Him thanks (Rom. 1:21).

The great Puritan writer Thomas Watson wrote, "If all be a gift, see the odious ingratitude of men who sin against their giver! God feeds them, and they fight against him; he gives them bread, and they give him affronts. How unworthy is this! Should we not cry shame of him who had a friend always feeding him with money, and yet he should betray and injure him? Thus ungratefully do sinners deal with God; they not only forget his mercies, but abuse them. 'When I had fed them to the full, they then committed adultery [Jer. 5:7].' Oh, how horrid is it to sin against a bountiful God!—to strike the hands that relieve us!" (The Lord's Prayer [London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1972], p. 197).

How sad to see such ingratitude, yet how thrilling to know that the infinite God cares for us and supplies our every need. Don't ever take His provisions for granted! Look to Him daily and receive His gifts with a thankful heart.

Suggestions for Prayer

Be generous with your praise for God's abundant blessings.

For Further Study

Read Genesis 1:29-31, noting the variety of foods God created for your enjoyment.


March 25 - The Function of Salt

“‘You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men’” (Matthew 5:13).

Salt has always been valuable in human society, often much more so than it is today. But the particular characteristics of salt that Jesus was referring to in this passage have resulted in various suggestions.

Some interpreters point out that salt is white and therefore represents purity. As the “pure in heart” (v. 8), Jesus’ disciples are to be pure before the world and are to be God’s means of helping purify the rest of the world.

Others emphasize the characteristic of flavor. Just as many foods are tasteless without salt, the world is drab and tasteless without the presence of Christians.

Because salt stings when placed on a wound, some interpreters believe Jesus meant to illustrate that Christians are to sting the world, prick its conscience, and thus make it uncomfortable in the presence of God’s gospel.

Salt also creates thirst. So others believe God intends for His people to live before the world in such a way that others will be made aware of their spiritual dehydration.

While all of these interpretations are reasonable, it’s likely Jesus was primarily referring to salt as a preservative. Christians are a preserving influence in the world; they retard moral and spiritual spoilage. As God’s children and as temples of His Holy Spirit, we represent God’s presence in the earth. We are the salt that prevents the entire earth from degenerating even faster than it already is.

Ask Yourself

In what ways are you and your church personifying the various properties of salt, whether by words, actions, or outreaches? Think very specifically. Which of these examples are proving to be the most effective at this, and why?


Reading for Today:

Deuteronomy 11:1–12:32
Psalm 37:18-22
Proverbs 12:12-14
Luke 2:1-24

Deuteronomy 11:24 Every place…your foot treads. In response to the obedience of Israel (vv. 22, 23), the Lord promised to give to Israel all of the land they personally traversed to the extent of the boundaries that He had given. This same promise was repeated in Joshua 1:3–5. Had Israel obeyed God faithfully, her boundaries would have been enlarged to fulfill the promise made to Abraham (Gen. 15:18). But because of Israel’s disobedience, the complete promise of the whole land still remains, to be fulfilled in the future kingdom of the Messiah (Ezek. 36:8–38).

Proverbs 12:14 fruit of his mouth. This deals with the power of words; the reward of wise words is like the reward for physical labor (10:11; 15:4; 18:4).

Luke 2:11 city of David. I.e., Bethlehem, the town where David was born—not the City of David, which was on the southern slope of Mt. Zion (2 Sam. 5:7–9). a Savior. This is one of only two places in the Gospels where Christ is referred to as “Savior”—the other being John 4:42, where the men of Sychar confessed Him as “Savior of the world.” Christ. ”Christ” is the Greek equivalent of “Messiah”. Lord. The Greek word can mean “master”—but it is also the word used to translate the covenant name of God. Here (and in most of its New Testament occurrences), it is used in the latter sense, as a title of Deity.

DAY 25: Why was there an emphasis on prescribed places of worship in the Old Testament?

In Deuteronomy 12:1–32, Moses begins by repeating his instructions concerning what to do with the false worship centers after Israel had taken possession of the land of the Canaanites (see 7:1–6). They were to destroy them completely. In v. 2, he speaks about “the high mountains…hills…every green tree.” The Canaanite sanctuaries to be destroyed were located in places believed to have particular religious significance. The mountain or hill was thought to be the home of a god; and by ascending the mountain, the worshiper was in some symbolic sense closer to the deity. Certain trees were considered to be sacred and symbolized fertility, a dominant theme in Canaanite religion. And in v. 3, Moses addresses “their altars,…pillars,…wooden images…carved images.” These were elements of Canaanite worship, which included human sacrifice (v. 31). If they remained, the people might mix the worship of God with those places (v. 4).

In contrast to false worship centers, the Israelites are told “you shall seek the place where the LORD your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place” (v. 5). Various places of worship were chosen after the people settled in Canaan, such as Mt. Ebal (27:1–8; Josh. 8:30–35), Shechem (Josh. 24:1–28), and Shiloh (Josh. 18:1), which was the center of worship through the period of Judges (Judg. 21:19). The tabernacle, the Lord’s dwelling place, was located in Canaan, where the Lord chose to dwell. The central importance of the tabernacle was in direct contrast to the multiple places (see v. 2) where the Canaanites practiced their worship of idols. Eventually, the tabernacle was brought to Jerusalem by David (2 Sam. 6:12–19).




Jesus' Humility in Death

“He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).

In His suffering and death, Jesus is our supreme example of humility.

We naturally react to injustice with deep hurt and an assertion of our rights. But Jesus’ response to His accusers did not include one word of angry defensiveness. Matthew 27:12-14 tells us: “And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He made no answer. Then Pilate said to Him, ‘Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?’ And He did not answer him with regard to even a single charge, so that the governor was quite amazed.”

Later on, during His sham trial, Jesus continued to humble Himself. He accepted sinful men’s abuse when they whipped Him, stripped off His robe, planted a crown of thorns on His head, mocked Him, spat on Him, and beat on Him with a reed. Christ did not even demand His rights when He was condemned to death and forced to walk to Calvary half-naked with a cross on His back.

Today’s verse underscores the most shocking aspect of Christ’s humiliation: the kind of death He died. He endured crucifixion, the cruelest form of death ever devised. The Romans used it to execute rebellious slaves and the worst criminals. Because He was King of the Jews, Jesus’ death on the cross was seen as especially horrible by His people. The Jews had long known what the Law of Moses said: “He who is hanged [on a tree] is accursed of God” (Deut. 21:23). From everyone’s standpoint, the Son of God suffered the ultimate in human degradation.

But in spite of the detestable treatment He suffered, Christ graciously and lovingly died for sinners like you and me. Such an example of selfless humility ought to motivate us, His followers, as we minister to others, “since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21).

Suggestions for Prayer

Give thanks that Jesus’ example of humility extended all the way to His willingness to redeem you.

For Further Study

Read one of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ suffering and death (Matt. 26—27; Mark 14—15; Luke 22—23; John 18—19). Record some observations about His general attitude during the ordeal.
In what situations and ways does He show humility?
If you have time, compare and contrast two of the accounts.


Receiving God's Provisions

"Give us this day our daily bread" (Matt. 6:11).

God is glorified when He meets your needs.

In America, praying for our daily bread hardly seems necessary. Most people need to pray for self-control to avoid overeating! But Matthew 6:11 isn't talking about food only. It is a statement of dependency on God and an acknowledgment that He alone provides all of life's basic necessities.

Sad to say, however, many people today have reduced prayer to a means of self-fulfillment. Recently a woman sent me a booklet and wrote, "I don't think you understand the true resource we have in prayer. You should read this booklet." The booklet repeatedly emphasized our right as Christians to demand things of God. But that misses the point of prayer altogether, which is to glorify God (John 14:13). We are to give God the privilege of revealing His glory by meeting our needs in whatever way He chooses. If we demand things of Him, we are likely to become frustrated or to question Him when we don't get what we want. That's a serious sin!

David G. Myers, in his book The Human Puzzle (N.Y.: Harper and Row, 1978) said, "Some petitionary prayers seem not only to lack faith in the inherent goodness of God but also to elevate humankind to a position of control over God. God, the Scriptures remind us, is omniscient and omnipotent, the sovereign ruler of the universe. For Christians to pray as if God were a puppet whose strings they yank with their prayers seems not only potentially superstitious but blasphemous as well.

"When prayer is sold as a device for eliciting health, success, and other favors from a celestial vending machine, we may wonder what is really being merchandised. Is this faith or is it faith's counterfeit, a glib caricature of true Christianity?"

Guard your prayers! Always be aware of the enormous privilege you have to approach the infinite God and receive His gracious provisions. Yet always do so with His glory as your highest goal.

Suggestions for Prayer

Read Proverbs 30:8-9. What attitude toward God do those verses convey? Is that your attitude in prayer?

For Further Study

Read Matthew 6:19-34 and James 4:3. How might you respond to someone who says Christians have the right to demand favors from God?


March 24 - Salt and Light—the Nature of Believers

“‘You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven’” (Matthew 5:13–16).

In these four verses the Lord summarizes the function of believers in the world—influence. This is a mandate for Christians to influence the world. The Beatitudes are not to be lived in isolation or only among fellow believers, but everywhere we go.

In verses 13 and 14, the pronoun “you” is emphatic. The idea is, “You are the only salt the earth knows and the only light the world sees.” The world’s corruption won’t be retarded and its darkness won’t be illumined unless God’s people are its salt and light. “You” in both verses is plural; that means the whole body, the church, is called to be the world’s salt and light.

By definition, an influence must be different from that which it influences, and Christians must be different from the world they are called to influence. We cannot influence the world for God if we are worldly ourselves, nor can we give light to it if we retreat to places and ways of darkness ourselves.

Ask Yourself

Is there anything that’s currently taking the bite out of your saltiness, or dimming the brightness of your light? Deal openly with the Lord about these things, asking Him to rid you of their influence so that you can be used of God to influence others.


March 24

Reading for Today:

Deuteronomy 9:1–10:22
Psalm 37:12-17
Proverbs 12:11
Luke 1:57-80

Deuteronomy 9:3 a consuming fire. The Lord was pictured as a fire which burned everything in its path. So the Lord would go over into Canaan and exterminate Canaanites. destroy them quickly. Israel was to be the human agent of the Lord’s destruction of the Canaanites. The military strength of the Canaanites would be destroyed quickly (Josh. 6:1–11:23), though the complete subjugation of the land would take time (7:22; Josh. 13:1).

Deuteronomy 9:4 Because of my righteousness. Three times in vv. 4–6, Moses emphasized that the victory was not because of Israel’s goodness, but was entirely the work of God. It was the wickedness of the Canaanites that led to their expulsion from the land (see Rom. 10:6).

Deuteronomy 10:16 Therefore circumcise…your heart. Moses called the Israelites to cut away all the sin in their hearts, as the circumcision surgery cut away the skin. This would leave them with a clean relationship to God (see 30:6; Lev. 26:40, 41; Jer. 4:4; 9:25; Rom. 2:29).

Luke 1:80 was in the deserts. Several groups of ascetics inhabited the wilderness regions east of Jerusalem. One was the famous Qumran community, source of the Dead Sea Scrolls. John’s parents, already old when he was born, might have given him over to the care of someone with ties to such a community. In a similar way, Hannah consecrated Samuel to the Lord by entrusting him to Eli (1 Sam. 1:22–28). However, there is nothing concrete in Scripture to suggest that John was part of any such group. On the contrary, he is painted as a solitary figure, in the spirit of Elijah.

DAY 24: For whom did Luke write?

Luke, like Mark, and in contrast to Matthew, appears to target a Gentile readership. He identified locations that would have been familiar to all Jews (4:31; 23:51; 24:13), suggesting that his audience went beyond those who already had knowledge of Palestinian geography. He usually preferred Greek terminology over Hebraisms (e.g., “Calvary” instead of “Golgotha” in 23:33). The other Gospels all use occasional Semitic terms such as “Abba” (Mark 14:36), “rabbi” (Matt. 23:7, 8; John 1:38, 49), and “hosanna” (Matt. 21:9; Mark 11:9, 10; John 12:13)—but Luke either omitted them or used Greek equivalents.

Luke quoted the Old Testament more sparingly than Matthew; and when citing Old Testament passages, he nearly always employed the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. Furthermore, most of Luke’s Old Testament citations are allusions rather than direct quotations, and many of them appear in Jesus’ words rather than Luke’s narration (2:23, 24; 3:4–6; 4:4, 8, 10–12, 18, 19; 7:27; 10:27; 18:20; 19:46; 20:17, 18, 37, 42, 43; 22:37).

Luke, more than any of the other Gospel writers, highlighted the universal scope of the gospel invitation. He portrayed Jesus as the Son of Man, rejected by Israel, and then offered to the world. He repeatedly related accounts of Gentiles, Samaritans, and other outcasts who found grace in Jesus’ eyes. This emphasis is precisely what we would expect from a close companion of the “apostle to the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:13).




Jesus' Humble Identification with Sinners

“. . . Emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8).

Except for sin, Jesus experienced the everyday things of a normal man; but He was often not appreciated as the God-man.

Jesus could understand what people around Him were dealing with because He lived under the same conditions. He can also identify with us today. It is true that He never married, never went to college, and never used a computer or a VCR. But He still has perfect knowledge about such things, and more. The point is, Christ knows firsthand about our basic physical and emotional needs because He actually lived and worked in a world affected by the Fall.

But there was one element of our world Jesus did not partake in: sin. The conclusion of Hebrews 4:15 says He was “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” Even though Jesus never sinned, He knows the struggles and temptations we face daily. Otherwise, He could not be the sympathetic High Priest that the first part of verse 15 mentions.

Although Jesus was a man who identified profoundly with those He came to serve, people around Him did not naturally see the most important thing about Him. Philippians 2:8 views Jesus from the perspective of those people. It says His human appearance was so authentic that most of them didn’t know that He was also God. Many of them simply could not accept that a man like Jesus could also be higher than them: “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” (John 6:42).

Christ’s close identification with mankind elicited a tragic response for people such as those in John 6. But for us, His humility is a great model and a heart-felt reassurance that He was perfectly man and perfectly God.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God that you can freely approach Him in prayer through Jesus, who can identify so closely with all our struggles as human beings.

For Further Study

Read John 11:1-45, which describes the death and resurrection of Lazarus. How did Jesus demonstrate His humanity and deity to the disciples and other eyewitnesses?


Praying Aggressively

"Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10).

Praying for God’s will to be done on earth is an aggressive prayer.

Many people assume that somehow everything that happens is God's will. But that's not true. Lives destroyed by murderous aggressors and families broken by adultery aren't God's will. Children and adults ravaged by abuse or crippled by disease aren't God's will. He uses sin and illness to accomplish His own purposes (Rom. 8:28), but they aren't His desire.

Eventually God will destroy all evil and fulfill His will perfectly (Rev. 20:10-14), but that hasn't happened yet. That's why we must pray for His will to be done on earth. We can't afford to be passive or indifferent in prayer. We must pray aggressively and not lose heart (Luke 18:1).

That's how David prayed. His passion for God's will compelled him to pray, "Make me understand the way of Thy precepts, so I will meditate on Thy wonders. . . . I shall run the way of Thy commandments, for Thou wilt enlarge my heart. Teach me, O Lord, the way of Thy statutes, and I shall observe it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may observe Thy law, and keep it with all my heart. Make me walk in the path of Thy commandments, for I delight in it" (Ps. 119:27, 32-35).

But David also prayed, "Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered; and let those who hate Him flee before him. As smoke is driven away, so drive them away; as wax melts before the fire, so let the wicked perish before God. But let the righteous be glad; let them exult before God; yes, let them rejoice with gladness" (Ps. 68:1-3). He loved God's will, but he also hated everything that opposed it.

When you truly pray for God's will to be done, you are aggressively pursuing His will for your own life and rebelling against Satan, his evil world system, and everything else that is at odds with God's will.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for David's example and for others who demonstrate a passion for God's will.
Ask for wisdom to see beyond your circumstances to what God wants to accomplish through them.
For Further Study

Read Psalm 119.

How can God's Word help you to know and obey God's will?
What was the psalmist's attitude toward the Word?


March 23 - Reasons for Gladness

“‘Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you’” (Matthew 5:12).

Jesus provides us with two reasons for our rejoicing and being glad when we are persecuted for His sake.

First, He says, “Your reward in heaven is great.” Whatever we do for the Lord now, including suffering for Him—especially suffering for Him—reaps eternal divi-dends.

But God’s dividends aren’t ordinary dividends. They are not only “eternal” but also “great.” We often hear, and perhaps are tempted to think, that it is unspiritual and crass to serve God for the sake of rewards. But that is one of the motives God Himself gives for serving Him. We first of all serve and obey Christ because we love Him, just as on earth He obeyed the Father because He loved Him. But it was also because of “the joy set before Him” that Christ Himself “endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb. 12:2). It is neither selfish nor unspiritual to do the Lord’s work for a motive that He Himself gives and has followed.

Second, we are to rejoice because the world “persecuted the prophets who were before” us in the same way that it persecutes us. Persecution is a mark of our faithfulness just as it was a mark of the prophets’ faithfulness. When we suffer for Christ’s sake, we know beyond a doubt that we belong to God because we are experiencing the same reaction from the world that the prophets experienced. So realize that if you are persecuted, you belong in the line of that great company of righteous servants.

Ask Yourself

What’s your immediate reaction to the idea that we labor for the “reward” of God’s blessing? God knows our hearts. He has given us desires to register our growth and progress in the faith. As long as the reward we seek is more of Jesus and to see Him glorified, should we be averse to wanting return on our faithful investment?


Reading for Today:

Deuteronomy 7:1–8:20
Psalm 37:5-11
Proverbs 12:9-10
Luke 1:39-56

Deuteronomy 7:2 utterly destroy them. All the men, women, and children were to be put to death. Even though this action seems extreme, the following needs to be kept in mind: 1) the Canaanites deserved to die for their sin (9:4, 5; see Gen. 15:16); 2) the Canaanites persisted in their hatred of God (7:10); and 3) the Canaanites constituted a moral cancer that had the potential of introducing idolatry and immorality which would spread rapidly among the Israelites (20:17, 18).

Deuteronomy 7:6 a holy people to the LORD your God. The basis for the command to destroy the Canaanites is found in God’s election of Israel. God had set apart Israel for His own special use, and they were His treasured possession. As God’s people, Israel needed to be separated from the moral pollution of the Canaanites.

Deuteronomy 8:11 do not forget the LORD your God. Sufficient food would lead to the satisfaction of Israel in the land (vv. 10, 12). This satisfaction and security could lead to Israel forgetting God. Forgetting God means no longer having Him in the daily thoughts of one’s life. This forgetfulness would lead to a disobedience of His commandments. Whereas, in the wilderness, Israel had to depend on God for the necessities of life, in the rich land there would be a tempting sense of self-sufficiency.

Luke 1:47 my Savior. Mary referred to God as “Savior,” indicating both that she recognized her own need of a Savior, and that she knew the true God as her Savior. Nothing here or anywhere else in Scripture indicates Mary thought of herself as “immaculate” (free from the taint of original sin). Quite the opposite is true—she employed language typical of someone whose only hope for salvation is divine grace. Nothing in this passage lends support to the notion that Mary herself ought to be an object of adoration.

DAY 23: Is Deuteronomy simply Moses’ version of the secular covenants and treaties of his day, or does it represent a unique revelation from God?

The format that Moses used in recording not only the material in Deuteronomy but also the rest of the Pentateuch bears some resemblance to other official documents from a particular time in history. This fact can be used by historians in trying to establish a date for the book. This fact can also be used by those who question God’s unique revelation when they claim that Moses must have merely been copying the style of other nations of his time.

The people whom God enlisted to record His revelation did not shed their personalities, education, or style as they wrote for God. Moses had the equivalent of advanced degrees in the best training Egypt had to offer young princes (Acts 7:22). If we think of the Pentateuch as Moses’ God guided journaling during the wilderness wanderings, it will not seem unusual that his writing style bears similarities to the official and political writings of his day. What sets Moses’ writings, along with the rest of Scripture, apart is not so much the style but their authoritative and God-inspired content.




The Humility of Jesus' Servanthood

“Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2:6-7).

Jesus is the role model of the suffering servant.

Jesus not only gave up His divine privileges when He emptied Himself, but He also became a servant. For us, this is the next phase in His supreme example of humility. Paul’s phrase “the form of a bond-servant” can also be translated “the essence of a slave.” Christ’s servanthood was not just external—it extended to the essential, down-to-earth role of a bond-slave doing the will of His Father.

We would expect Jesus, the God-man, to be a servant only in the truest fashion. His servitude was not performed like a stage player putting on and taking off the costume of a servant. Jesus truly became a servant. He perfectly fulfilled everything Isaiah predicted about Him (52:13-14). Jesus was the Messiah who was a suffering servant.

Christ’s entire earthly ministry is the yardstick by which we can measure servanthood. As God, He owned everything; as the servant, He had to borrow everything: a place to be born, a boat in which to cross the Sea of Galilee and preach from, a donkey (itself a symbol of humility and servitude) to ride into Jerusalem for His triumphal entry, a room to celebrate His final Passover in, and a grave to be buried in.

Our Savior acknowledged His role as a servant very simply: “I am among you as the one who serves” (Luke 22:27). And it was all done with love, with consistency, with humility, without the pretense of outward form.

As we continue to look to our Lord Jesus as the role model of humility, the challenge for us is to follow His attitude and practice. Paul instructs those who would be servants of Christ, “Let love be without hypocrisy. . . . Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” (Rom. 12:9-11).

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank and praise the Lord that Jesus was such a humble but willing servant on your behalf.

For Further Study

Isaiah 52:13—53:12 is known as the Suffering Servant passage. As you read it, write down the various ways it describes Jesus’ suffering.
How is His humility in evidence?


Praying with Commitment

"Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10).

Your prayers make a difference!

Matthew 6:10 literally says, "Whatever you wish to have happen, let it happen immediately. As your will is done in heaven, so let it be done on earth." That's a prayer of active commitment to God's will.

Many people don't pray like that because they don't understand God's character. They think their prayers don't matter and that God will impose His will on them no matter what they do. They tend to pray with passive resignation, indifference, or resentment.

I remember praying such a prayer. After my freshman year in college, I was in a serious auto accident. The driver lost control of the car at about seventy-five miles per hour and it rolled several times before coming to a stop. I was thrown clear of the vehicle and ended up sliding down the highway on my backside for about 100 yards. I lost a lot of skin and had some third-degree burns and other injuries, but fortunately I didn't break any bones.

I was conscious during the entire ordeal and vividly remember thinking, All right God. If you're going to fight this way, I give up! I can't handle this! I knew God was calling me into the ministry, but I was focusing my life in another direction.

I think God used that experience to get my attention, and my prayer of passive resignation soon turned to active commitment as He refined my heart and drew me to Himself.

Perhaps God has dealt severely with you, too. If so, it's only because He loves you and wants to produce the fruit of righteousness in you (Heb. 12:11). Don't despise His chastening, and don't be fatalistic or resentful in your prayers. Godly prayers make a difference (James 5:16), so commit yourself to praying expectantly, knowing that God is gracious and wise and always responds for His glory and your highest good (Rom. 8:28).

Suggestions for Prayer

If you tend to pray with indifference, passive resignation, or resentment, ask God's forgiveness. Study His character and cultivate deep communion with Him through disciplined, trusting prayer.

For Further Study

Read Luke 18:1-8.

Why did Jesus tell this parable?
What principles do you see that apply to your life?


March 22 - Posture for Gladness

“‘Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you’” (Matthew 5:12).

The Christian’s response to persecution and affliction should not be to retreat and hide. Jesus told us we are the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (Matt. 5:13–14). For our salt to flavor the earth and our light to lighten the world, we must be active in the world. The gospel is not given to be hidden but to enlighten. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (v. 16).

When we become Christ’s salt and light, our salt will sting the world’s open wounds of sin, and our light will irritate its eyes that are accustomed to darkness. But even when our salt and light are resented, rejected, and thrown back into our face, we should “rejoice, and be glad.”

The meaning of “be glad” is to exult, to rejoice greatly, to be overjoyed. Jesus used the imperative mood, thus commanding us to be glad. Not to be glad when we suffer for Christ’s sake is to be untrusting and disobedient.

The world can take away a great deal from God’s people, but it cannot take away their joy and their happiness. When people attack us for Christ’s sake, they are really attacking Him (cf. Gal. 6:17; Col. 1:24). And their attacks can do us no more permanent damage than they can do to Him.

So rejoice in the privilege we have been given to be salt and light, no matter the reaction.

Ask Yourself

Gladness joins many of the other qualities that make up the beatitudes, character traits that are unnatural enough to be impossible without the Holy Spirit’s empowerment. So, what does it tell you when gladness bubbles up from within you? How can fear of persecution rival the joy of knowing that Christ is living and active in your heart?


Reading for Today:

Deuteronomy 5:1–6:25
Psalm 37:1-4
Proverbs 12:8
Luke 1:21-38

Deuteronomy 5:22 and He added no more. These Ten Commandments alone were identified as direct quotations by God. The rest of the stipulations of the covenant were given to Moses, who in turn gave them to the Israelites. These basic rules, which reflect God’s character, continue to be a means by which God reveals the sinful deeds of the flesh (see Rom. 7:7–14; Gal. 3:19–24; 5:13–26). They are also a holy standard for conduct that the saved live by through the Spirit’s power, with the exception of keeping the Sabbath (see Col. 2:16, 17).

Luke 1:27 a virgin. The importance of the virgin birth cannot be overstated. A right view of the incarnation hinges on the truth that Jesus was born of a virgin. Both Luke and Matthew expressly state that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived (Matt. 1:23). The Holy Spirit wrought the conception through supernatural means (v. 35; Matt. 1:18). The nature of Christ’s conception testifies of both His deity and His sinlessness.

Luke 1:34 I do not know a man. I.e., conjugally. Mary understood that the angel was speaking of an immediate conception, and she and Joseph were still in the midst of the long betrothal or engagement period (Matt. 1:18), before the actual marriage and consummation. Her question was born out of wonder, not doubt, nor disbelief, so the angel did not rebuke her as he had Zacharias (v. 20).

Luke 1:38 Let it be to me according to your word. Mary was in an extremely embarrassing and difficult position. Betrothed to Joseph, she faced the stigma of unwed motherhood. Joseph would obviously have known that the child was not his. She knew she would be accused of adultery—an offense punishable by stoning (Deut. 22:13–21; see John 8:3–5). Yet she willingly and graciously submitted to the will of God.

DAY 22: What was the greatest of God’s commandments?

Deuteronomy 6:4–9, known as the Shema (Hebrew for “hear”), has become the Jewish confession of faith, recited twice daily by the devout, along with 11:13–21 and Numbers 15:37–41. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD…LORD is one!” (v. 4). The intent of these words was to give a clear statement of the truth of monotheism, that there is only one God. Thus, it has also been translated “The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.” The word used for “one” in this passage does not mean “singleness,” but “unity.” The same word is used in Genesis 2:24, where the husband and wife were said to be “one flesh.” Thus, while this verse was intended as a clear and concise statement of monotheism, it does not exclude the concept of the Trinity.

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (v. 5). First in the list of all that was essential for the Jew was an unreserved, wholehearted commitment expressed in love to God. Since this relationship of love for God could not be represented in any material way as with idols, it had to be demonstrated in obedience to God’s law in daily life. See 11:16–21; Matthew 22:37; Luke 10:27.

“These words…in your heart”(v. 6).The people were to think about these commandments and meditate on them so that obedience would not be a matter of formal legalism, but a response based upon understanding. The law written upon the heart would be an essential characteristic of the later New Covenant (Jer. 31:33). And “teach them diligently to your children” (v. 7). The commandments were to be the subject of conversation, both inside and outside the home, from the beginning of the day to its end.




The Humility of Jesus' Self-Emptying

“But emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7).

As part of His humble descent from Heaven to earth, Jesus set aside the exercise of His divine privileges.

The next step in Jesus’ pattern of humility as He came to earth and lived among mankind was His emptying of Himself. But Scripture is clear that while on earth our Lord claimed to be God: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). At no time did He stop being God.

The Greek word for “emptied” gives us the theological term kenosis, the doctrine of Christ’s self-emptying. The kenosis basically reminds us of what we saw in yesterday’s lesson: Jesus’ humble refusal to cling to His advantages and privileges in Heaven. The Son of God, who has a right to everything and is fully satisfied within Himself, voluntarily emptied Himself.

We have already noted that Jesus did not empty Himself of His deity, but He did lay aside certain prerogatives. For one thing, He gave up His heavenly glory. That’s why, in anticipation of His return to the Father, Christ prayed, “Glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I ever had with Thee before the world was” (John 17:5).

Jesus also relinquished His independent authority and completely submitted Himself to the Father’s will: “Not as I will, but as Thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39).

During His time on earth, Christ also voluntarily limited the use and display of His divine attributes. One good illustration of this concerned His omniscience, His knowledge of all things. In teaching about the end-times and His second coming, Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matt. 24:36).

Jesus’ self-emptying demonstrates a wonderful aspect of the gospel. Unlike man-centered, works-oriented religions, the biblical gospel has God’s Son willingly yielding His privileges to sacrifice Himself for sinners like us.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that you would become more appreciative of the sacrificial humility Jesus Christ exercised on your behalf.

For Further Study

Scripture does not record a lot about Jesus’ boyhood. But the account we do have verifies His emptying. Read Luke 2:39-52. What does verse 47 imply about Jesus’ nature?
How do verses 51-52 exemplify His emptying?


Responding to Christ's Invitation

"Thy kingdom come" (Matt. 6:10).

The only acceptable response to Christ’s offer of the Kingdom is to receive it, value it, and pursue it!

Many people who think they're kingdom citizens will someday be shocked to discover they aren't. In Matthew 7:21 Jesus says, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven." Some people think highly of the kingdom but never receive the King. They call Jesus "Lord" but don't do His will. Lip service won't do. You must receive the King and His kingdom (John 1:12).

You must also value the kingdom. In Matthew 13:44 Jesus says, "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure." In verses 45-46 He compares it to a pearl that was so valuable, a merchant sold all he had to purchase it. That's the value of the kingdom. It's worth any sacrifice you have to make.

Finally, you must continually pursue the kingdom. In Matthew 6:33 Jesus says, "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you." In context He was discussing the basic necessities of life such as food and clothing, reminding His disciples that their Heavenly Father knew their needs and would supply them if they simply maintained the proper priorities. Unbelievers characteristically worry about meeting their own needs (v. 32), but believers are to be characterized by trusting in God and pursuing His kingdom.

Christ offers His kingdom to everyone (Matt. 28:19). The only acceptable response is to receive it, value it, and pursue it. Is that your response? Have you received the kingdom? Is it precious to you? I trust it is. If so, rejoice and serve your King well today. Make His kingdom your top priority. If not, turn from your sin and submit your life to Christ, who loves you and longs to receive you into His eternal kingdom.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the heavenly citizenship you hold (Phil. 3:20-21).
Ask Him to help you keep His priorities uppermost in your life.
For Further Study

Read Revelation 21 and 22. As you do, think of what eternity with Christ will be like. What aspects of eternity do you especially look forward to?

March 21 - Promise for the Persecuted

“‘Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. . . . Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you’” (Matthew 5:10, 12).

Jesus pronounces a double blessing on those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, which is for His own sake. The specific blessing promised is that “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29–30).

First, Jesus promises us blessings here and now. Not every believer is rewarded in this life with the things of this life. But every believer is rewarded in this life with the comfort, strength, and joy of His indwelling Lord. He is also blessed with the assurance that no service or sacrifice for the Lord will be in vain.

Next, there is also a millennial aspect to the kingdom blessing. When Christ establishes His thousand-year reign on earth, we will be co-regents with Him over that wonderful, renewed earth (Rev. 20:4).

Finally, there is the reward of the eternal kingdom, the blessing of all blessings of living forever in our Lord’s presence and enjoying it to the utmost. The ultimate fruit of kingdom life is eternal life.

Ask Yourself

How do we keep these blessings and promises before us when the fire of persecution really heats up? How have you experienced the favor and reward of God even in the midst of situations in which you felt unjustly abused and ridiculed?

Reading for Today:

Deuteronomy 3:1–4:49
Psalm 36:7-12
Proverbs 12:7
Luke 1:1-20

Deuteronomy 3:11 an iron bedstead. The bedstead may actually have been a coffin, which would have been large enough to also hold tomb objects. The size of the “bedstead,” 13.5 by 6 feet, emphasized the largeness of Og, who was a giant (the last of the Rephaim, a race of giants). As God had given Israel victory over the giant Og, so He would give them victory over the giants in the land.

Deuteronomy 4:2 You shall not add…nor take from. The word that God had given to Israel through Moses was complete and sufficient to direct the people. Thus, this Law, the gift of God at Horeb, could not be supplemented or reduced. Anything that adulterated or contradicted God’s law would not be tolerated (see 12:32; Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:18, 19).

Luke 1:1 many. Although Luke wrote direct divine revelation inspired by the Holy Spirit, he acknowledged the works of others who had set down in writing events from Christ’s life. All those sources have been long lost, except for the inspired Gospels. Since Matthew and Mark were most likely written before Luke, it has been suggested that either one or both of those may have been among Luke’s sources when he did his research. It is also known that he was personally acquainted with many firsthand witnesses to the events of Christ’s life. And it is possible that some of his sources were word-of-mouth reports. About 60 percent of the material in Mark is repeated in Luke, and Luke seems to follow Mark’s order of events closely. to set in order. Luke proposed to narrate the ministry of Christ in an authoritative, logical, and factual order. those things which have been fulfilled. I.e., the Old Testament messianic promises fulfilled in Christ. among us. I.e., in our generation. This phrase does not mean Luke was personally an eyewitness to the life of Christ.

Luke 1:19 Gabriel. Literally, “strong man of God.” Gabriel also appears in Daniel 8:16; 9:21. He is one of only two holy angels whose names are given in Scripture, the other being Michael (Dan. 10:13, 21; Jude 9; Rev. 12:7).

Day 21: Who was the writer Luke?

According to tradition, Luke was a Gentile. The apostle Paul seems to confirm this, distinguishing Luke from those who were “of the circumcision” (Col. 4:11, 14). That would make Luke the only Gentile to pen any books of Scripture. He is responsible for a significant portion of the New Testament, having written both this Gospel and the Book of Acts.

Very little is known about Luke. He almost never included personal details about himself, and nothing definite is known about his background or his conversion. Both Eusebius and Jerome identified him as a native of Antioch (which may explain why so much of the Book of Acts centers on Antioch—see Acts 11:19–27; 13:1–3; 14:26; 15:22, 23, 30–35; 18:22, 23). Luke was a frequent companion of the apostle Paul, at least from the time of Paul’s Macedonian vision (Acts 16:9, 10) right up to the time of Paul’s martyrdom (2 Tim. 4:11).

The apostle Paul referred to Luke as a physician (Col. 4:14). Luke’s interest in medical phenomena is evident in the high profile he gave to Jesus’ healing ministry (e.g., 4:38–40; 5:15–25; 6:17–19; 7:11–15; 8:43–47, 49–56; 9:2, 6, 11; 13:11–13; 14:2–4; 17:12–14; 22:50, 51). In Luke’s day, physicians did not have a unique vocabulary of technical terminology; so when Luke discusses healings and other medical issues, his language is not markedly different from that of the other Gospel writers.




No Pride of Position

“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Philippians 2:5-6).

Christ’s coming to earth is the supreme example to us of humility.

We can usually identify with what someone else has experienced when we have gone through the same thing. Even if we haven’t been through what the other person has, we can perhaps relate because we might someday have a similar experience.

However, it is much harder to comprehend what Christ experienced when He stooped from His lofty position at the right hand of God to come to earth as a man. We’ll never understand the magnitude of that descent because we never were and never will be God. Nevertheless, today’s passage presents, as a pattern for us, Jesus’ attitude in coming to this world.

As a Spirit-filled believer (Eph. 1:3-5, 13), the Lord has lifted you out of your sin and given you the privilege of being His adopted child. He thereby allows you to recognize and appreciate a little more what humility is all about. Like Jesus, you will have to descend from an exalted level when you reach out in humility to those who don’t know Him.

Jesus further set the standard for us when He did not view His high position “a thing to be grasped.” Loftiness of calling should never be something we clench as a prized personal possession to exploit for our own benefit. That is the attitude we would expect to see in worldly people of influence. But it should not characterize those who claim to follow Jesus’ standard.

In contrast, if you are Christ’s disciple you will see more and more of His humility in your life. That will occur as you continually exercise a selfless attitude toward the privileges and possessions He has given you. By not clinging to these benefits, you will truly exemplify Jesus’ attitude and more effectively serve others: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor” (Rom. 12:10).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that, starting today, God would grant you more and more of a Philippians 2:5-6 attitude.

For Further Study

As Ephesians 1 spells out, you have much to be thankful for as a child of God. Read the entire chapter, and list the many spiritual benefits Paul describes. Try memorizing several verses that are particularly striking to you.

Building God's Kingdom

"Thy kingdom come" (Matt. 6:10).

Conversion to Christ involves three elements: invitation, repentance, and commitment.

Someday Christ will return to earth to reign in His kingdom. In the meantime He rules in the hearts of those who love Him.

Before He ascended into heaven, Jesus gave us a mandate to evangelize the lost and teach them His Word (Matt. 28:19- 20). When we do, sinners are converted and transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of Christ (Col. 1:13). That's how His kingdom grows.

Conversion is a work of the Spirit in the heart of unbelievers. He uses a myriad of people and circumstances to accomplish that work, but common to every true conversion are three key elements: invitation, repentance, and commitment.

In Matthew 22:1-14 Jesus, by way of a parable, invites people to come into His kingdom. As an evangelist, you too should not only present the gospel, but also invite others to respond to what they've heard.

In Mark 1:14-15 we read, "Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.'" Repentance is feeling sorrow over your sin and turning from it (2 Cor. 7:9-11).

True repentance results in a commitment to respond to the righteous demands of the gospel. In Mark 12:34 Jesus says to a wise scribe, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." The scribe had all the information necessary for entering the kingdom. What he lacked was a commitment to act on what he knew. Luke 9:62 says, "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." You might know everything about the kingdom, but Christ's rule is not established in your heart until you've made a complete commitment to it.

When you pray for Christ's kingdom to come, you are praying an evangelistic prayer that you take part in answering. Be faithful to proclaim the gospel and make intercession for unbelievers a regular part of your prayers.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for unbelieving family and friends.
Ask the Lord for the opportunity to share Christ with an unbeliever today.
For Further Study

Read John 4.

How did Jesus broach the subject of salvation with the Samaritan woman?
Did He extend an invitation to her? Explain.
How did the townspeople react to her report about Jesus?

Foreseeing False Accusations

“‘Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me’” (Matthew 5:11).

Faithfulness to Christ will bring enemies of the gospel who will “falsely say all kinds of evil against” us. Whereas “insults” are abusive words said to our faces, these “evil” things are primarily abusive words said behind our backs.

Jesus’ critics said of Him, “Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” (Matt. 11:19). If the world said that of the sinless Christ, what things can His followers expect to be called and accused of?

Slander behind our backs is harder to take, partly because it is harder to defend against than direct accusations. It has opportunity to spread and be believed before we have a chance to correct it. Those who slander us can do much harm to our repu-tations before we’re even aware that we’ve been slandered.

We can’t help regret being slandered, but we shouldn’t grieve about it. Instead, we should count ourselves blessed, as our Lord assures us we will be, when the slander is “because of Me.” We have no surer evidence of the Lord’s blessing than to be cursed for His sake. It should not seriously bother us when men’s curses fall on the head that Christ has eternally blessed.

Are you prepared to accept the slander you might receive because you are a Christian?

Ask Yourself

We can sometimes invite persecution by being unduly abrasive and difficult, so that others do not persecute us as much for our faith as for the tacky way we express it. How can we tell the difference? Are people being offended by Christ or just by us? There is certainly no blessing in being obnoxious.

Reading for Today:

Deuteronomy 1:1–2:37
Psalm 36:1-6
Proverbs 12:4-6
Mark 16:1-20

Deuteronomy 1:7, 8 the land. The land which the Lord set before Israel to go in and possess was clearly described here. The mountains of the Amorites referred to the hill country to the west of the Dead Sea. The plain (Arabah) was the land in the rift valley from the Sea of Galilee in the north to the Dead Sea in the south. The mountains were the hills that run through the center of the land north and south. These hills are to the west of the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River. The lowland referred to the low rolling hills that sloped toward the Mediterranean coast (Shephelah). The south (Negev) described the dry wasteland stretching southward from Beersheba to the wilderness. The seacoast referred to the land along the Mediterranean Sea. The boundaries of the land of the Canaanites were given in Numbers 34:1–15. Lebanon to the north marked the northwestern boundary on the coast. The northeast boundary of the land was the Euphrates River. See Numbers 34:1–12.

Deuteronomy 1:10 the stars of heaven. The Lord had promised Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky (Gen. 15:5; 22:17).The nation’s growth proved both God’s intention and ability to fulfill His original promises to Abraham.

Mark 16:3 Who will roll away the stone…? Only Mark records this discussion on the way to the tomb. The women realized they had no men with them to move the heavy stone (v. 4) away from the entrance to the tomb. Since they had last visited the tomb on Friday evening, they did not know it had been sealed and a guard posted, which took place on Saturday (Matt. 27:62–66).

Mark 16:4 the stone had been rolled away. This was not to let Jesus out, but to let the witnesses in. When the angel rolled away the stone (Matt. 28:2), the earthquake may have affected only the area around the tomb, since the women apparently did not feel it.

Were the last 12 verses of Mark 16 originally in the Gospel?

The external evidence strongly suggests these verses were not originally part of Mark’s Gospel. While the majority of Greek manuscripts contain these verses, the earliest and most reliable do not. A shorter ending also existed, but it is not included in the text. Further, some that include the passage note that it was missing from older Greek manuscripts, while others have scribal marks indicating the passage was considered spurious. The fourth-century church fathers Eusebius and Jerome noted that almost all of the Greek manuscripts available to them lacked vv. 9–20.

The internal evidence from this passage also weighs heavily against Mark’s authorship. The grammatical transition between vv. 8 and 9 is abrupt and awkward. The vocabulary in these verses does not match the rest of Mark. Even the events and people mentioned in these verses appear in awkward fashion. For example, Mary Magdalene is introduced as if she were a new person on the scene rather than someone Mark had mentioned three times (v. 1; 15:40, 47). Clearly, Mark16:9–20 represents an early attempt to complete Mark’s Gospel.

While for the most part summarizing truths taught elsewhere in Scripture, these verses should always be compared with the rest of Scripture, and no doctrines should be formulated based solely on them. Further, in spite of all these considerations of the likely unreliability of this section, it is possible to be wrong on the issue. It is good to consider the meaning of this passage and leave it in the text, just as with John 7:53–8:11.




Looking Out for Others' Interests First

"Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).

The Lord wants us to have a general but sincere concern for the ministry interests of fellow Christians.

We live in a world that is preoccupied with special interests. On the national and international levels, interest groups push for public acceptance of their particular agendas. Likewise, on the local level most people care only about their own personal interests. They’re concerned about their jobs, their families, their hobbies, and perhaps their favorite sports team. In addition to those, if you’re a Christian, you will be concerned about your local church. But even there you can become focused only on your area of ministry.

In today’s verse, the apostle Paul cautions us, “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests.” He is warning first of all that we shouldn’t see our personal activities and ministries as our only goals in life. When we become narrowly preoccupied with our own things, it can cause conflicts and other problems with people we know. Instead, God wants us to have a serious, caring involvement in some of the goals others are concerned about. And one way that will happen is if we take our eyes off ourselves and our often excessive concern for self-esteem in everything we do.

You may wonder exactly what Paul meant by the broad term “interests.” It is a nonspecific word that has several meanings and implications. It includes legitimate goals and responsibilities you have as a Christian, but it also extends to the same kinds of concerns others in your church and family will have. Their needs, tasks, gifts, character qualities, and ministries should be considered equal in importance to yours.

Paul, by the Holy Spirit, is calling us to pursue a high standard of Christian living, but the standard is worth pursuing. The more we understand the importance of fellow believers and that they need our prayer and concern, the less our fellowships will be plagued by unscriptural competitiveness and pride of personal interest.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to help you order your priorities today, so that you’ll have time for involvement in the concerns of a Christian friend or relative.

For Further Study

Read Luke 10:38-42.

What was Martha’s attitude regarding the interests of her sister?
What do Jesus’ words to Martha say about where our ultimate interest should lie?

Forsaking Self-Centered Prayer

"Thy kingdom come" (Matt. 6:10).

Relinquish your will to Christ’s sovereign rule.

Attempting to explain all that is involved in the phrase "Thy kingdom come" is like a child standing on a beach attempting to scoop the entire ocean into a little pail. Only in eternity will we grasp all that it encompasses, but the poem "His Coming to Glory" by the nineteenth-century hymnwriter Frances Havergal captures its essence:

Oh the joy to see Thee reigning,
Thee, my own beloved Lord!
Every tongue Thy name confessing,
Worship, honor, glory, blessing
Brought to Thee with glad accord;
Thee, my Master and my Friend,
Vindicated and enthroned;
Unto earth's remotest end
Glorified, adored, and owned.
Psalm 2:6-8 reflects the Father's joy on that great day: "I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain. I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord; He said to Me, 'Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee. Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Thine inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Thy possession." God will give the kingdoms of the world to His Son, who will reign as King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16).

With that promise in mind, beware seeing prayer primarily as an opportunity to inform God of your own plans and to seek His help in fulfilling them. Instead, pray "Thy kingdom come," which is a request for Christ to reign. In its fullest sense it is an affirmation that you are willing to relinquish the rule of your own life so the Holy Spirit can use you to promote the kingdom in whatever way He chooses.

That kind of prayer can be difficult because we tend to be preoccupied with ourselves. But concentrate on conforming your prayers to God's purposes. Then you will be assured that you are praying according to His will.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for the hope of Christ's future reign on earth.
Ask Him to use you today as a representative of His kingdom.
For Further Study

According to Ephesians 4:17-5:5, how should citizens of Christ's kingdom behave?

Expecting Verbal Insults

“‘Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me’” (Matthew 5:11).

Beyond physical persecution, Jesus encouraged believers with blessing for having insults cast against them. The Greek word for “insult” carries the idea of reviling, upbraiding, or serious insulting. To insult someone is to throw abusive words in the face of an opponent, to mock viciously.

To be an obedient citizen of the kingdom is to court verbal abuse and reviling. As He stood before the Sanhedrin after His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was spat upon, beaten, and taunted with the words, “Prophesy to us, You Christ; who is the one who hit You?” (Matt. 26:68). As He was being sentenced to crucifixion by Pilate, Jesus was again beaten, spit upon, and mocked, this time by the Roman soldiers (Mark 15:19–20).

Faithfulness to Christ may even cause friends and loved ones to say things that cut and hurt deeply. But remember, it is clear that the hallmark of a blessed person is righteousness. Holy living is what provokes persecution of God’s people. Such persecution because of a righteous life is joyous.

Make sure you are doing all you can to live faithfully for Christ.

Ask Yourself

How would you define the joys and blessings that flow from being misunderstood and mistreated? What do we unwittingly choose to miss by responding to the words, actions, and demeaning looks of persecution with anger, bitterness, hate, retaliation, or any other less-than-godly reaction?




Placing Others Above Yourself

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself” (Philippians 2:3).

One important way to prevent factionalism in the church is to regard other members as more important than yourself.

“Humility of mind” is a distinctive New Testament expression. There were similar terms in secular writings, but none that exactly fit the purposes of the New Testament writers. One form of the Greek word was used to describe the mentality of a slave. It was a term of derision, signifying anyone who was considered base, common, shabby, or low. Among pagans before Christ’s time, humility was never a trait to be sought or admired. Thus the New Testament introduced a radically new concept.

In Philippians 2:3 Paul defines “humility of mind” simply as seeing others as more important than yourself. But how often do we really consider others that way? Frequently, even within the church, we think just the opposite of what Paul commands. For example, we are sometimes prone to criticize those with whom we minister. It is naturally easier for us to speak of their faults and failures than it is to refer to our own.

But Paul’s attitude was different. He knew his own heart well enough to call himself the worst of sinners: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (1 Tim. 1:15). The apostle was also humble enough to realize that in his own strength he was not worthy of the ministry to which he had been called: “I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle” (1 Cor. 15:9).

Your knowledge of others’ sins and graces is based on their outward words and actions, not on what you can read from their hearts. But you, like Paul, do know your own heart and its sinful shortcomings (cf. Rom. 7). That ought to make it much easier to respect and honor others before yourself. And when you do that, you are helping prevent factionalism in your church and contributing to the edification of fellow believers.

Suggestions for Prayer

Examine your life and ask God to help you turn from anything that would be keeping you from “humility of mind.”

For Further Study

Read Genesis 13, and notice what happened between Abraham and his nephew Lot. How did God reassure Abraham after his graciousness toward Lot?

Praying for Christ's Rule

"Thy kingdom come" (Matt. 6:10).

When you pray, “Thy kingdom come,” you are praying for Christ to reign on earth as He already does in Heaven.

When we hear the word kingdom we tend to think of medieval castles, kings, knights, and the like. But "kingdom" in Matthew 6:10 translates a Greek word that means "rule" or "reign." We could translate the phrase, "Thy reign come." That gives a clearer sense of what Christ meant. He prayed that God's rule would be as apparent on earth as it is in heaven.

God's kingdom was the central issue in Christ's ministry. He proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 4:23) and instructed His followers to make the kingdom a priority in their own lives (Matt. 6:33). He told parables about its character and value (Matt. 13) and indicted the scribes and Pharisees for hindering those who sought to enter it (Matt. 23:13). After His death and resurrection, He appeared for forty days giving the disciples further instruction about the kingdom (Acts 1:2-3).

When we pray "Thy kingdom come," we are praying for Christ's sovereign rule to be as established on earth as it is in heaven. In one sense the kingdom is already here—in the hearts of believers. It consists of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17). But in another sense the kingdom is yet future. In Luke 17:21 Jesus says, "Behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst" (cf. John 18:36). Their King was present but they rejected Him. Someday He will return again to establish His kingdom on earth and personally reign over it. That's the aspect of the kingdom we pray for in Matthew 6:10.

Sin and rebellion are now rampant, but when Christ's kingdom comes, they will be done away with (Rev. 20:7-9). In the meantime, the work of the kingdom continues and you have the privilege of promoting it through your prayers and faithful ministry. Take every opportunity to do so today and rejoice in the assurance that Christ will someday reign in victory and will be glorified for all eternity.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for the glorious future that awaits you and all believers.
Pray with anticipation for the coming of Christ's eternal kingdom.
For Further Study

Read Matthew 13:1-52. What parables did Jesus use to instruct His disciples about the kingdom of heaven?

Anticipating Physical Persecution

“‘Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 5:10).

The Greek word that is translated “persecuted” and “persecute” in Matthew 5:10–12 has the basic meaning of chasing, driving away, or pursuing. From that meaning developed the connotations of physical persecution, harassment, abuse, and other unjust treatment.

The believer who possesses the qualities described in the first seven beatitudes will be willing to face persecution “for the sake of righteousness.” He will have an attitude of self-sacrifice for the sake of Christ. He is exemplified by a lack of fear and shame and the presence of courage and boldness. The tense of the Greek verb indicates that the believer has a continuous willingness to endure persecution if it is the price of godly living.

Under the demands of this beatitude many Christians break down in their obedience to the Lord; here is where the genuineness of their response to the other beatitudes is most strongly tested. It is where we are most tempted to compromise the righteousness we have hungered and thirsted for. It is here where we find it convenient to lower God’s standards to accommodate the world and thereby avoid conflicts and problems we know obedience will bring.

But God does not want His gospel altered under pretense of its being less demanding, less righteous, or less truthful than it is. He does not want witnesses who lead the unsaved into thinking that the Christian life costs nothing.

Do a spiritual inventory and make sure you are willing to pay the cost for the sake of righteousness.

Ask Yourself

What causes us to wish that Christian faith weren’t so costly? When our hearts lead us to compromise in order to avoid detection and possible derision, what lies are we really telling ourselves? And why doesn’t the secretive safety provided by these actions leave us feeling satisfied?

Reading for Today:

Numbers 33:1–34:29
Psalm 35:9-16
Proverbs 12:2
Mark 15:1-24


Numbers 33:56 I will do to you as I thought to do to them. If Israel failed to obey God, she would be the object of God’s punishment in exactly the same way as the Canaanites were.

Psalm 35:10 LORD, who is like You…? This had become a canonized expression of awe at the uniqueness of Israel’s great God (see Ex. 15:11; Mic. 7:18).

Mark 15:7 Barabbas. A robber (John 18:40) and murderer (Luke 23:18,19) in some way involved as an anti-Roman insurrectionist. Whether his involvement was motivated by political conviction or personal greed is not known. It is impossible to identify the specific insurrection in question, but such uprisings were common in Jesus’ day and were precursors of the wholesale revolt of A.D. 66–70.

Mark 15:17 clothed Him with purple;…crown of thorns. “Purple” was the color traditionally worn by royalty. The “crown of thorns” was in mockery of a royal crown. The callous soldiers decided to hold a mock coronation of Jesus as king of the Jews.

Mark 15:21 Condemned prisoners were required to carry the heavy crossbeam of their cross to the execution site. Exhausted from a sleepless night and severely wounded and weakened by His scourging, Jesus was unable to continue. The Roman guards conscripted Simon, apparently at random, to carry Jesus’ crossbeam the rest of the way. Simon, from the North African city of Cyrene, was on his way into Jerusalem. The identification of him as “the father of Alexander and Rufus” (Rom. 16:13) is evidence of Mark’s connection with the church at Rome.

What are some general, time-tested principles that will help rightly interpret Proverbs?

One of the most common characteristics of Proverbs is the use of parallelism—placing truths side by side so that the second statement expands, completes, defines, and emphasizes the first. Sometimes a logical conclusion is reached; at other times, a logical contrast is demonstrated.

The following tools will assist a student in gaining greater confidence as he or she interprets these Proverbs: 1) determine what facts, principles, or circumstances make up the parallel ideas in that proverb—what two central concepts or persons are being compared or contrasted; 2) identify the figures of speech and rephrase the thought without those figures—for example, restate the idea behind “put a knife to your throat”(23:1–3); 3) summarize the lesson or principle of the proverb in a few words; 4) describe the behavior that is being taught or encouraged; and 5) think of examples from elsewhere in Scripture that illustrate the truth of that proverb.




The Danger of Selfishness and Conceit

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself”
(Philippians 2:3).

Selfishness and conceit can prevent us from doing God’s will.

Selfishness and conceit are all too common among people today. It seems there is hardly a prominent entertainer or sports figure who doesn’t portray those characteristics to excess. Yet those traits are the very opposite of what should characterize the humble follower of Christ.

“Selfishness” in today’s passage refers to pursuing an enterprise in a factional way. It involves an egotistical, personal desire to push your own agenda in a destructive and disruptive way. “Empty conceit” describes the force behind such overbearing behavior—personal glory. A person driven by such motivation thinks he is always right.

Paul’s opening phrase in Philippians 2:3 has the force of a negative command: believers are never to act out of selfish ambition with the goal of heaping praise upon themselves. To do so inevitably leads to one of the common sin problems in our churches: factionalism, accompanied by jealousy, strife, disharmony, and partisanship. Paul knew what harm factionalism could do within a church. It was the primary problem he addressed in his letter of 1 Corinthians. The apostle summarized the Corinthian church’s condition this way: “For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” (1 Cor. 3:3). It is spiritually immature to be jealous of and to cause strife among fellow Christians, and it reveals a fleshly perspective.

Because our flesh (sinfulness) produces selfishness and conceit, it is vitally important to keep it under control (Gal. 5:16). Plans and agendas by themselves are valid, and they are not necessarily incompatible with humility in the Christian life. But if our goals and objectives are driven by selfishness, they become competitive and harmful. One key of dealing with selfishness is realizing that others also have goals and desires. Such a realization will help you go a long way toward killing the monster of selfishness in your life.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that God’s Spirit would rid your heart and mind of any attitudes of selfishness and conceit.

For Further Study

The beginning of 1 Corinthians deals with the subject of factionalism. Read chapter 1. What perspective does Paul have regarding church divisions?
What does the second half of the chapter offer as a prime reason for divisions within the church?

Displaying God's Holiness

"Hallowed be Thy name" (Matt. 6:9).

Sound theology that results in holy living hallows God’s name.

We have learned that hallowing God's name requires setting it apart from everything common, and giving Him first place in our lives. That starts with believing He exists. Hebrews 11:6 says, "He who comes to God must believe that He is."

Beyond mere belief, you must also know the kind of God He is. Many people who claim to believe in God aren't hallowing His name because they have erroneous concepts of who He is. The Israelites thought they were worshiping the true God when they bowed down to the golden calf (Ex. 32:4). The Jewish leaders of Jesus' day thought they worshiped the true God, but Jesus called them children of the devil because they rejected God's Word (John 8:44, 47). Sound biblical doctrine about God is essential to revering God properly.

Hallowing God's name also involves constantly being aware of His presence. That helps you focus on His priorities and see every aspect of your life from His perspective. That's what David meant when he said, "I have set the Lord continually before me" (Ps. 16:8).

Obedience is another way to hallow God's name. Your theology might be flawless and you may be constantly aware of His presence, but if you disobey Him, you dishonor Him. Jesus said, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16).

You are an instrument through whom God displays His holiness in the world. If His name is to be hallowed on earth as it is in heaven, it must first be hallowed in your life. That occurs when you believe in Him, understand who He really is, maintain an awareness of His presence, and obey His Word.

That high calling sets you apart from every unbeliever (1 Pet. 2:9-10). Live today in light of that glorious calling!

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to help you be aware of His presence in every circumstance you face today.
Pray that your life will manifest His holiness.
For Further Study

Read Exodus 32.

Why did the Israelites build the golden calf?
What was Moses' response when God threatened to destroy His people?

The Cost of Discipleship

“‘Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 5:10).

Our Lord made it clear from His earliest teaching that following Him was costly. Those who entered His kingdom would suffer for Him before they would reign with Him.

The cost of discipleship is billed to our account in many different ways. A believer today might be expected to hedge on the quality of his work to increase company profits. To follow one’s conscience in obedience to the Lord might cost him his job or at least a promotion. A Christian housewife who refuses to listen to gossip or to laugh at the crude jokes of her neighbors may find herself ostracized. Some costs will be great and some will be slight. But by the Lord’s and the apostles’ repeated promises, faithfulness always has a cost, which true Christians are willing to pay.

In the early days of the church, the price paid was often the ultimate. To choose Christ might mean choosing death by stoning. To choose Christ could mean torture by any number of excessively cruel and painful methods. That was the very thing Christ had in mind when He identified His followers as those willing to bear their crosses. That is His call to be ready to die, if need be, for the cause of the Lord (Matt. 10:35–39; 16:24–25).

Are you willing to pay that cost?

Ask Yourself

What are our usual reasons for not being willing to pay the cost of discipleship? Fear? Reputation? A stronger desire to be liked than to be lumped together with Christ’s followers? Ask yourself, “What makes me more strongly attached to these excuses than to bearing the name of my Lord?”

Reading for Today:

Numbers 31:1–32:42
Psalm 35:1-8
Proverbs 12:1
Mark 14:55-72


Numbers 32:8 Thus your fathers did. Moses feared that if these two tribes were comfortably settled, they would not join with the other 10 tribes in conquering Canaan, and that could be the beginning of a general revolt against entering the land. As the 10 spies had dissuaded the people at Kadesh nearly 40 years earlier from conquering the land (vv. 9–13; 13:26–14:4), the refusal of these two tribes could cause the people to fail again (v. 15).

Numbers 32:23 your sin will find you out. The two tribes committed themselves to provide their warriors for the conquest of the land. This agreement satisfied Moses, although he added that nonparticipation would be sin and God would certainly find and judge the tribes for their sin.

Mark 14:56 Because Jesus was innocent, the Jewish leaders could not convict Him except by relying on perjured testimony and perverted justice. The Jews were intent on doing whatever was necessary, even if they had to violate every biblical and rabbinical rule. many bore false witness against Him. There was no lack of people to come forward at the Sanhedrin’s invitation to consciously present false, lying testimony. did not agree. The testimonies were grossly inconsistent. The law, however, required exact agreement between two witnesses (Deut. 17:6; 19:15).

Mark 14:65 spit on Him…beat Him. For the Jews, to “spit” in another’s face was the grossest, most hateful form of personal insult (see Num. 12:14; Deut. 25:9). Their brutal cruelty reached a climax and revealed the great depravity of their hearts when they “beat Him,” or hit Him with clenched fists. “Prophesy!” They jeeringly and disrespectfully ordered Jesus to use the prophetic powers He claimed to have—even in the frivolous manner of telling them who struck Him (Matt. 26:68).

Did Jesus claim to be God during His trial?

In Mark 14:61, when Caiaphas, the high priest, asked Jesus if He was the “Christ,” the term refers to Jesus’ claim to be the promised Messiah. The “Son of the Blessed” clearly refers to Jesus’ claim to Deity. This is the only New Testament use of the expression, and it is an example of Jewish wording that avoided using God’s name. Jesus’ acceptance of messiahship and Deity (see Luke 4:18–21; John 4:25, 26; 5:17, 18; 8:58) had always brought vigorous opposition from the Jewish leaders (John 5:19–47; 8:16–19; 10:29–39). Clearly, the high priest was asking this question in hopes that Jesus would affirm it and open Himself to the formal charge of blasphemy.

Jesus‘ response that “I am” (v. 62) was an explicit, unambiguous declaration that He was and is both the Messiah and “the Son of Man”—Jesus used this commonly acknowledged messianic title of Himself more than 80 times in the Gospels, here in a reference to Psalm 110:1 and Daniel 7:13 (see Rev. 1:13; 14:14). He added that His glorified position is next to the throne of God, “the right hand of the Power.” Jesus’ “Power” is another reference to God.

That Jesus’ declaration was understood is seen when the high priest “tore his clothes” (v. 63), a ceremonial, and in this case contrived, display of grief and indignation over the presumed dishonoring of God’s name by Jesus (see Gen. 37:29; Lev. 10:6; Job 1:20; Acts 14:13, 19). Strictly speaking, Jesus’ words were not “blasphemy” (v. 64) or defiant irreverence of God (Lev. 24:10–23), but Caiaphas regarded them as such because Jesus claimed for Himself equal power and prerogative with God.




Threats to Humility: Doctrine and Hypocrisy

“Walk . . . with all humility” (Ephesians 4:1-2).

Avoid pride in your position, intelligence, or spirituality.

Years ago, when my children were young, my son Mark told my youngest child, Melinda, to take something out of the room. She said, “You’re not my boss.” Mark replied, “Dad is the boss of Mom, Mom is the boss of Matt, Matt is the boss of Marcy, Marcy is the boss of me, and I am the boss of you.” So Melinda obeyed. After that, Melinda decided she was the boss of the dog, and the dog was boss of nobody. No one wants to be on the bottom rung of the ladder!

Everyone holds a certain position in life, and everyone is tempted to take advantage of it. Look at Herod in Acts 12:21-22: “Herod, having put on his royal apparel . . . began delivering an address to them. And the people kept crying out, ‘The voice of a god and not of a man!’” He loved the attention. What happened? “Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died” (v. 23).

Intellectual pride can also be a stumbling block. It’s easy for Christians to think their theology is perfect and they have all the answers. But the more I study the Bible, the more I realize how little I know. I feel like a child who fills a pail in the ocean. My learning is only a small bucket of water compared to the vast sea of knowledge. I know very little, and I’m still learning.

The worst type of pride is external spirituality without internal holiness. Jesus reserved His greatest condemnations for those who had such pride: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matt. 23:27-28). You may look spiritual on the outside, going to church and acting “Christianly,” but your heart may be full of sin.

Suggestions for Prayer

Examine your heart, and confess any pride in your position, intelligence, or spirituality.

For Further Study

Read in Daniel 5 about what happened to a king who took pride in his position. Notice how God humbled him. Such sin wasn’t trivial to God; it shouldn’t be to us either.

Hallowing God's Name

"Hallowed be Thy name" (Matt. 6:9).

God is holy and deserves your highest respect and your humble obedience.

To most people the word hallowed elicits thoughts of Halloween, ivy-covered walls, or starchy religious traditions. But those are all far from its biblical meaning. "Hallowed" in Matthew 6:9 translates a Greek word that means "holy." When Christ said, "Hallowed be Thy name," He was saying in effect, "May Your name be regarded as holy." When you hallow God's name, you set it apart from everything common and give Him the place He deserves in your life.

Throughout Scripture, holiness is attributed to persons or things that are consecrated to God's service. The Sabbath day, for example, was to be kept holy—set apart from the other days (Ex. 20:8). The Israelite priests were to be considered holy because they rendered special service to the Lord (Lev. 21:8). As believers in Christ we are to be holy because we belong to God (1 Pet. 1:15).

Holiness also speaks of moral excellence and purity. God is called the "Holy One" (1 Pet. 1:15) not only because He is set apart from His creation, but also because He is pure and sinless in His character. That's why Isaiah pronounced a curse on himself when he saw the Lord and heard the angels crying out, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory" (Isa. 6:3- 5). He was overcome with a sense of his own human sinfulness in the presence of a holy God.

Such a God deserves your highest respect and reverence. He is your gracious and loving Father, but He is also the sovereign, majestic God of the universe. Consequently, you must guard against thinking of Him as a buddy or addressing Him flippantly.

Additionally, He deserves your humble obedience. You hallow His name only when your life is marked by righteousness and moral excellence.

May that be true of you today, and may you seek to honor Him in all that you do!

Suggestions for Prayer

Always approach God with a sense of respect and reverence.
Think of specific ways that you can hallow His name today. Ask Him for the grace to do so.
For Further Study

Read each of these verses, noting the specific ways you can glorify God: Joshua 7:19; Psalm 50:23; John 15:8; Romans 15:5-6; 1 Corinthians 6:20; Philippians 2:9-11; and 2 Thessalonians 3:1.

The Nature of Persecution

“‘Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you’” (Matthew 5:10–12).

Our Lord’s teaching on the beatitudes climaxes with this great and sobering truth: those who faithfully live according to the first seven beatitudes are guaranteed at some point to experience the eighth. Godliness generates hostility and antagonism from the world. Holy people are singularly blessed, but they pay a price for it.

However, persecution is one of the surest and most tangible evidences of salvation. If we never experience ridicule, criticism, or rejection because of our faith, we have reason to examine the genuineness of it. “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me” (Phil. 1:29–30).

To live a redeemed life to its fullest is to invite and expect resentment and reaction from the world. When Christians are not persecuted in some way by society, it generally means they are reflecting rather than confronting that society. And when we please the world, we can be sure that we grieve the Lord (cf. James 4:4; 1 John 2:15–17). Make sure you are living apart from the world and its allurements.

Ask Yourself

How do you experience persecution in your life, perhaps at work, within your family (including parents and in-laws), or among the various people you routinely associate with? How do you typically respond to it—if not directly, at least in the thoughts you entertain?

Reading for Today:

Numbers 29:1–30:16
Psalm 34:15-22
Proverbs 11:30-31
Mark 14:27-54


Psalm 34:18 broken heart,…contrite spirit. These are graphic idioms that describe dependent disciples (see Pss. 51:17; 147:3; Is. 57:15; 61:1; 66:2; Matt. 5:3).

Proverbs 11:30 wins souls. Literally, “to take lives,” in the sense of doing them good or influencing them with wisdom’s ways (see Luke 5:10). The word is also used for capturing people for evil purposes as in 6:25; Psalm 31:13; Ezekiel 13:18.

Proverbs 11:31 recompensed. God’s final blessing and reward to the “righteous” and His judgment and punishment of the “ungodly and the sinner” come after life on this earth has ended. But there are foretastes of both during life on the earth, as the righteous experience God’s personal care and goodness, while the wicked are void of it.

Mark 14:32 Gethsemane. The name means “oil press” and referred to a garden filled with olive trees on a slope of the Mt. of Olives. Jesus frequented this spot with the disciples when He wanted to get away from the crowds to pray (John 18:12; Matt. 26:36).

Mark 14:36 Abba. An endearing, intimate Aramaic term that is essentially equivalent to the English word “Daddy” (see Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). all things are possible. Jesus knew that it was in the scope of God’s power and omniscience to provide an alternate plan of salvation, if He desired. cup. This was the cup of divine wrath referred to in the Old Testament (Ps. 75:8; Is. 51:17; Jer. 49:12). Christ was to endure the fury of God over sin, Satan, the power of death, and the guilt of iniquity. not what I will, but what You will. This reveals Jesus’ total resolution and resignation to do the will of God. He came into the world to do God’s will, and that remained His commitment while here (Matt. 26:39; John 6:38–40).

Who was involved in the arrest of Jesus?

“Judas, one of the twelve,” was the betrayer (Mark 14:43). All the Gospel writers refer to him this way (vv. 10, 20; Matt. 26:14, 47; Luke 22:47; John 6:71); and in so doing, they display remarkable restraint in describing and evaluating Judas. Especially in this context, such a simple description actually heightens the evil of his crime more than any series of derogatory epithets or negative criticisms could do. It also points out the precise fulfillment of Jesus’ announcement in vv. 18–20.

“A great multitude with swords and clubs” also was there. This “multitude” was a carefully selected group whose sole purpose was arresting Jesus so He could be put to death. A cohort (600 men at full strength) of Roman soldiers (John 18:3, 12) was in this crowd because the Jewish leaders (see Luke 22:52) who organized the throng needed permission from Rome to carry out the death penalty and feared the crowds. The “swords” were the regular small hand weapons of the Romans, and the wood “clubs” were ordinary weapons carried by the Jewish temple police.

Then there were the “chief priests…scribes…elders.” Although 3 distinct sections of the Sanhedrin, they were acting in unity. These Jewish leaders had evidently for some time hoped to accuse Jesus of rebellion against Rome. Then, His execution could be blamed on the Romans and the leaders could escape potential reprisals from those Jews who admired Jesus. The Sanhedrin likely had hurried to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, to ask immediate use of his soldiers, or perhaps acted on a prearranged agreement for troop use on short notice. Whatever the case, the leaders procured the assistance of the Roman military from Fort Antonia in Jerusalem.




“Walk . . . with all humility” (Ephesians 4-1-2).
Our possessions and positions in life are from God; we can’t take credit for them.

Many today take pride in their economic status. They boast about their riches and trust their money, thinking they must be great for acquiring all they have. But remember what Moses said to the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land: “You may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth” (Deut. 8:1718). Everything you have, God gave to you. Don’t parade your possessions as if you obtained them through your self-created abilities.

A related area is pride in one’s class, which involves looking down on those in “lower” levels of society. Such people don’t want lower-class people in their neighborhoods and certainly wouldn’t invite them to dinner. If you are guilty of this sort of pride, keep in mind that God loves poor people. Jesus Himself was poor in this world and spent most of His time ministering to the poor.

Sometimes in moving up the social ladder, people may demand a certain kind of treatment. They expect the best of everything and get offended when they don’t receive it. One of the things Jesus criticized the scribes and Pharisees for was this: “They love the place of honor at banquets, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called by men, Rabbi” (Matt. 23:6-7). Resist the temptation to seek worldly honor, glamour, and privileges.

Advertisers today continually entice us to draw attention to ourselves by what we wear. But undue attention to appearance can make people haughty, boastful, and indulgent, trying to show themselves as better than others. God hates that sin (Isa. 3:16-26).

John said, “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. . . . The world is passing away, and also its lusts” (1 John 2:15, 17). Don’t let the world tell you what you should seek or value. Remember instead that “the one who does the will of God abides forever” (v. 17).

Suggestions for Prayer
Ask the Lord to give you contentment with your present status and to help you reach out to those not so blessed.

For Further Study
Read Luke 14:8-10; 1 Timothy 2:9-10; and James 2:2-8 and see if you are guilty of materialism or social pride.

"Hallowed be Thy name" (Matt. 6:9).

Prayer should always exalt God.
The Disciples' Prayer illustrates the priority that God should hold in our prayers. Jesus began by exalting the Father: "Hallowed be Thy name" (v. 9), then requested that the Father's kingdom come and His will be done (v. 10). He concluded with an anthem of praise: "For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen" (v. 13). His prayer literally begins and ends with God.

"Hallowed be Thy name" exalts the name of the Lord and sets a tone of worship and submission that is sustained throughout the prayer. Where God's name is hallowed, He will be loved and revered, His kingdom eagerly anticipated, and His will obeyed.

"Thy name" speaks of more than a title such as "God," "Lord," or "Jehovah." It speaks of God Himself and is the composite of all His attributes. The Hebrews considered God's name so sacred they wouldn't even speak it, but they missed the point. While meticulously guarding the letters of His name, they slandered His character and disobeyed His Word. Because of them the name of God was blasphemed among the Gentiles (Rom. 2:24).

Psalm 102:15 says, "The nations will fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth Thy glory." It's not the letters of God's name that the nations fear; it's the embodiment of all He is. As Jesus prayed, "I manifested Thy name to the men whom Thou gavest Me" (John 17:6). He did that by revealing who God is. John 1:14 says, "The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." Jesus told Philip, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). Jesus is the manifestation of all who God is.
Manifesting the priority of God in your prayers involves acknowledging who He is and approaching Him with a reverent, humble spirit that is yielded to His will. As you do that, He will hallow His name through you.

Suggestions for Prayer
* Praise God for His holiness.
* Ask Him to use you today to demonstrate His holiness to others.

For Further Study
Read Numbers 20. How did Moses show irreverence for God's name?

“‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God’” (Matthew 5:9).

The result of peacemaking is eternal blessing as God’s children in God’s kingdom. Peacemakers “shall be called sons of God.”

Most of you are thankful for your heritage, your ancestors, your parents, and your family name. It is especially gratifying to have been influenced by godly grandparents, parents, or both. But even the greatest human heritage cannot match our heritage in Christ (Rom. 8:17). After all, what could compare to being a child of God?

Peacemaking is a hallmark of God’s children. Only God determines who His children are, and He has determined that we are to be humble, penitent over sin, gentle, seekers of righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, and ultimately peacemakers.

As the next beatitude makes abundantly clear, we often don’t have peace in the world; we have persecution instead. In Christ we have forsaken the false peace of the world, and consequently we won’t find much peace with it. But as God’s children we can always have peace within, even while we are in the world—the peace of God, which the world can’t give and the world can’t take away.
Today begin to live as a peacemaking child of God—it is your calling.

Ask Yourself
Review the beatitude summaries mentioned in today’s reading—those qualities of life that distinguish the sons and daughters of God from others. Is anything worth keeping you from exemplifying these characteristics? Can anything rival being known as a child of God?

Reading for Today:
* Numbers 27:1–28:31
* Psalm 34:8-14
* Proverbs 11:29
* Mark 14:1-26


Numbers 27:18 lay your hand on him. Joshua already had the inner endowment for leadership. He was empowered by the Holy Spirit. This inner endowment was to be recognized by an external ceremony. Moses publicly laid his hands upon Joshua. This act signified the transfer of Moses’ leadership to Joshua. The laying on of hands can accompany a dedication to an office (see Num. 8:10).

Numbers 27:21 Eleazar…shall inquire before the LORD for him. Moses had been able to communicate directly with God (12:8), but Joshua would receive the word from the Lord through the high priest. Urim. See Exodus 28:30 for this part of the high priest’s breastplate (Ex. 39:8–21) as a means of determining God’s will (see Deut. 33:8; 1 Sam. 28:6).

Proverbs 11:29 inherit the wind. The one who mismanages his house will see all he has blown away, and he will have nothing left in the end. He will serve the one who manages well (15:27).

Mark 14:12 Unleavened Bread. Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were so closely associated that both terms were used interchangeably to refer to the 8-day celebration that began with the Passover. Although Unleavened Bread is used here, Mark’s clear intention is the preparation for Passover. killed the Passover lamb. The lambs were killed on 14 Nisan at twilight (Ex. 12:6), a Hebrew term meaning, “between the two evenings,” or between 3:00 and 5:00 p.m. 

After the lamb was slaughtered and some of its blood sprinkled on the altar, the lamb was taken home, roasted whole, and eaten in the evening meal with unleavened bread, bitter herbs, charoseth (a paste made of crushed apples, dates, pomegranates, and nuts, into which they dipped bread), and wine.

Why did Mary’s anointing of Jesus spark a controversy?

In Mark 14:3, Jesus was in the home of Simon the leper at Bethany. “A woman,” who is identified in John 12:3 as Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, brought an alabaster flask—a long-necked bottle made out of a special variety of marble, a material which proved to be the best container for preserving expensive perfumes and oils. 

The flask contained “spikenard,” which represents two words in the Greek that could be translated “pure nard.” The oil was derived from the nard plant, which was native to India. That it was pure meant it was genuine and unadulterated, which is what made it so costly. She may have simply broken the neck of the bottle so that she could pour out the contents more quickly, an expression of her sincere and total devotion to the Lord.

Some who were there became indignant (v. 4). John 12:4, 5 says that Judas was the instigator, and Matthew 26:8 indicates that all the disciples, following Judas’s lead, were angry with Mary’s waste of a very valuable commodity. It was valued at three hundred denarii (v. 5). Since a denarius was a day’s wage for a common laborer, it represented almost a year’s work for such a person. This money could have been “given to the poor.” While 11 of the disciples would have agreed to this use of the money, the fact is the poor may never have seen it. 

Since Judas was in reality a thief masquerading as the treasurer of the 12, he could have embezzled all of it (John 12:6).

In any case, Jesus‘ answer was that “you have the poor with you always” (v. 7).Opportunities to minister to the poor are “always” available, but Jesus would be in their presence for only a limited time. This was not a time for meeting the needs of the poor and the sick—it was a time for sacrificial worship of the One who would soon suffer and be crucified.




Threats to Humility: Strength and Boasting

“Walk . . . with all humility” (Ephesians 4:1-2).

Satan will tempt us to be proud of our abilities and accomplishments, but we must remember that every good thing we have is from God.

We’ve just studied three steps to humility. Let’s look at the issue from another angle: What kinds of pride threaten to destroy our humility? Where will we struggle to be humble? There are several areas in which Satan will attack us.

The first area I call ability pride. We’re often tempted to be proud of our strong points, not our weak ones. I’ve never been tempted to boast of my fantastic mathematical ability because I have none. But I am tempted to be proud of my preaching because it is my spiritual gift. Thankfully, the Lord helps me deal with such thoughts. It might come in the form of a letter saying, “I was in your church Sunday, and I violently disagree with everything you said.” Or someone might tell me, “We came to hear you for the first time, but we like our pastor better.” Times like those help me keep the proper perspective.

The key to overcoming ability pride is remembering that every gift you have is from God. All the credit belongs to Him. As Paul said to the Corinthians, “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7).

Another temptation is verbal pride, or bragging. There is a tendency in human nature to tell people what good we have done or plan to do. People get into a conversation, and soon they’re trying to top each other with their accomplishments. In contrast, Hannah asserts, “Boast no more so very proudly, do not let arrogance come out of your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge; and with Him actions are weighed” (1 Sam. 2:3). God knows the truth about what you have done. Proverbs 27:2 instructs, “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth.”

As a test, try to get through an entire week without talking about what you’ve done. Perhaps for a starter, try to last an afternoon. When people don’t talk about themselves, the absence of boasting tells volumes about their character.

Suggestions for Prayer

Repent of any pride in your own abilities or accomplishments.

For Further Study

The apostle Paul had tremendous advantages and abilities but refused to boast about them. Read Philippians 3:4-11. What were Paul’s accomplishments?
How did he consider them?
What was most important to him?

Looking Beyond the Temporal

"Our Father who art in heaven" (Matt. 6:9).

With God as your Father, your life has eternal significance.

Author H.G. Wells wrote of a man who had been overcome by the pressure and stress of modern life. His doctor told him that his only hope was to find fellowship with God. The man responded, "What? That—up there—having fellowship with me? I would as soon think of cooling my throat with the Milky Way or shaking hands with the stars." Poet Thomas Hardy said that prayer is useless because there's no one to pray to except "that dreaming, dark, dumb thing that turns the handle of this idle show." Voltaire described life as a bad joke. He added, "Bring down the curtain; the farce is done." Such is the blasphemy and despair of all who insist that God is uninvolved in human affairs.

The Greek and Roman philosophers of Jesus' day rejected the fatherhood of God because it contradicted their philosophical systems. The Stoic philosophers taught that all of the gods were apathetic and experienced no emotions at all. The Epicurean philosophers taught that the supreme quality of the gods was complete calm or perfect peace. To maintain their serenity, they needed to remain totally isolated from the human condition.

Scripture refutes all such heresies by declaring that God is an intimate, caring Father. The significance of that truth is staggering. He conquers your fears and comforts you in times of distress. He forgives your sins and gives you eternal hope. He showers you with limitless resources and makes you recipients of an imperishable inheritance. He grants you wisdom and direction through His Spirit and His Word. He will never leave or forsake you.

When you humbly approach God as your Father, you assume the role of a child who is eager to obey his Father's will and receive all the benefits of His grace. Let that take you beyond your present circumstances and motivate you to dwell on what's eternal.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the joy and purpose He gives you each day.
Commit yourself to pursuing His will today.
For Further Study

Read Exodus 3:1-5 and Isaiah 6:1-5. What attitude should you have when you pray to God?
What does Hebrews 4:16 say you can receive when you approach God in prayer?

Characteristics of Peacemakers, Part 2

“‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God’” (Matthew 5:9).

Continuing from yesterday, let’s look at two more characteristics of peacemakers.

First, a peacemaker helps others make peace with others. Once you see your duty as a peacemaker in the world, you’ll be looking for ways to build bridges between people and God and then to build them between persons.

By definition, a bridge can’t be one-sided. It must extend between two sides or it can never function. And once built, it continues to need support on both sides or it will collapse. In any relationship our first responsibility is to see that our own side has a solid base. But we also have the responsibility to help the one on the other side build his base. Both must be built on righteousness and truth or the bridge will not stand.

Often the first step in the process is to confront others about their sin, which is the supreme barrier to peace (Matt. 18:15–17). Such confrontation usually causes turmoil, yet the way of righteousness is the only way to peace. Sin that is not dealt with is sin that will disrupt and destroy peace.

Finally, a peacemaker finds a point of agreement. God’s truth and righteousness must never be compromised or weakened. But we are to contend without being contentious, to disagree without being disagreeable, and to confront without being abusive. The peacemaker should speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).

When you hunger and thirst for holiness in your own life, you’ll have a passionate desire to see those virtues in the lives of others. That’s a true peacemaker.

Ask Yourself

If the desire for peacemaking is missing from your heart, it points to a deeper problem—that your love for others is not what it should be. Would you say this might be true of you? What are the usual symptoms of a heart that’s grown at least somewhat cold toward others?

Reading for Today:

Numbers 25:1–26:65
Psalm 34:1-7
Proverbs 11:28
Mark 13:21-37


Numbers 25:3 joined to Baal of Peor. Israel engaged in acts of sexual immorality with the women of Moab. Since this was part of the pagan cult that was worshiped by the Moabites, the Israelites joined in these idolatrous practices. The Israelites yoked themselves to the false god of the Moabites and the Midianites, referred to as Baal of Peor. This was a violation of the first commandment.

Numbers 25:10–13 Because of Phinehas’s zeal for God’s holiness, the Lord made “a covenant of an everlasting priesthood” with him so that through his family line would come all future legitimate high priests (see Ps. 106:30, 31). This promise will extend even into the millennial kingdom (see Ezek. 40:46; 44:10, 15; 48:11).

Psalm 34:7 The angel of the LORD. A special manifestation of Yahweh Himself at strategic historical junctures (see Gen. 16:7ff,18, 19; 31:11ff.; Josh. 5; Judg. 6; 13). A strong case can be made that these were preincarnate appearances of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Mark 13:26 Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. Jesus will return to earth in the same manner in which He left it (see Acts 1:9–11; Dan. 7:13, 14; Rev. 1:7). The psalmist said that God uses “clouds” as His chariot (Ps. 104:3), and Isaiah 19:1 pictures the Lord riding on a cloud. Although these “clouds” could be natural, they more likely describe the supernatural “glory cloud” that represented God’s presence in Old Testament Israel (Rev. 1:7). While Christ possesses “great power and glory,” His return will be accompanied with visible manifestations of that power and glory (see Rev. 6:15–17; 11:15–19; 16:17–21; 19:11–16)—He will redeem the elect, restore the devastated earth, and establish His rule on earth.

Can anyone know the exact time and day of Christ’s return?

Jesus’ own words could not be clearer: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32). The exact day and time of Christ’s return will not be revealed in advance to any man. At this time, it was known only to God the Father. While all the angelic beings enjoy intimacy with God, hover around His throne to do His bidding (Is. 26:2–7), and continually behold Him (Matt. 18:10), they have no knowledge of the time of Christ’s return.

When Jesus spoke these words to the disciples, even He had no knowledge of the date and time of His return. Although Jesus was fully God (John 1:1, 14), when He became a man, He voluntarily restricted the use of certain divine attributes (Phil. 2:6–8). He did not manifest them unless directed by the Father (John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38). He demonstrated His omniscience on several occasions (see John 2:25; 3:13), but He voluntarily restricted that omniscience to only those things God wanted Him to know during the days of His humanity (John 15:15). Such was the case regarding the knowledge of the date and time of His return. After He was resurrected, Jesus resumed His full divine knowledge (see Matt. 28:18; Acts 1:7).

Based upon that, a Christian’s role is to “watch and pray” (Mark 13:33). Christ sounded a warning for believers to be on guard in two practical ways: 1) “watch” is a call to stay awake and be alert, looking for approaching danger; and 2) “pray” emphasizes the believer’s constant need for divine assistance in this endeavor. Even believers do not have in themselves sufficient resources to be alert to spiritual dangers that can so easily surprise them.




Understanding Who God Is

“Walk . . . with all humility” (Ephesians 4:1-2).

The more we comprehend the greatness of God, the more humble we will become.

God is not given proper respect today. He is often flippantly referred to as “the man upstairs”—more of a buddy than the eternal God. Many see Him as nothing more than a cosmic Santa Claus or an absent-minded grandfather who winks at sin.

Unfortunately, even Christians can be affected by these views. Such sin dishonors God and undermines the next step to humility: God-awareness. Instead of getting our ideas of God from the world, let’s look at what the biblical writers say about Him.

David said, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Thy name in all the earth, who hast displayed Thy splendor above the heavens!” (Ps. 8:1). As he contemplated the exalted position of God, it was only natural for him to say, “What is man, that Thou dost take thought of him? And the son of man, that Thou dost care for him?” (v. 4). We are so minuscule by comparison, it’s a wonder He cares for us at all. But “though the Lord is exalted, yet He regards the lowly” (Ps. 138:6).

Isaiah 2:10 says, “Enter the rock and hide in the dust from the terror of the Lord and from the splendor of His majesty.” When you compare yourself with God, you’ll want to hide under a rock. Verse 11 gives the crux of the issue: “The proud look of man will be abased, and the loftiness of man will be humbled, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.” Pride is the sin of competing with God. It lifts self up and attempts to steal glory from Him. But God says, “My glory I will not give to another” (Isa. 48:11). God will judge those who exalt themselves. God alone is worthy of exaltation.

As you seek humility, remember that you won’t obtain it by sitting in a corner wishing for it. Rather, you’ll gain humility by sitting in that same corner and reciting before God your sins, failures, and inadequacies, then opening the Scriptures and seeing God in all His majesty.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that you would see God for who He really is, not how the world sees Him.

For Further Study

Read Job 38—41. What aspects of His greatness does God emphasize to Job? Make a list of the most prominent ones.

Recognizing God's Fatherhood

"Our Father who art in heaven" (Matt. 6:9).

Prayer begins with the recognition that God is your Father and has the resources to meet your needs.

The term Father is one of the most commonly used terms in our prayers, and rightly so because that's how Jesus taught us to pray. But as common as that term is to us, it was very uncommon to the people of Christ's day.

Then, most of the people who worshiped false gods thought of them as distant, capricious, and immoral beings that were to be feared. Even the Jewish people, who should have understood the fatherhood of God, had removed themselves from His Fatherly care through their sin and apostasy. Consequently He seemed remote to them. Even some who did claim God as their Father were rebuked by Christ, who called them children of the devil because they rejected the Son (John 8:44).

Against that backdrop, Christ's teaching was revolutionary. He proclaimed God as a caring and gracious Father who desires intimate fellowship with His children. That fellowship can come only through faith in the Son.

Beyond that, Jesus revealed the Father's character in everything He said and did. When Philip asked Jesus to show him the Father, Jesus replied, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9).

Jesus also proclaimed God as a Father who has all the treasures of heaven at His disposal and who makes them available to His children so they might glorify Him: "Your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him. . . . Do not be anxious then . . . but seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all [you need] will be added to you" (Matt. 6:8, 31, 33).

Your faith in Christ is what makes God your Heavenly Father. He loves you, listens to your prayers, and supplies your needs according to His abundant resources. Look to Him today and live as a thankful, obedient child.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God that He is your gracious and loving Father.
Praise Him for the abundant blessings He gives to you.
For Further Study

Read Proverbs 3:5-6 and Matthew 7:7-11.

What are you exhorted to do?
What specifically will God do for you?
How should those passages affect your relationship with God?

Characteristics of Peacemakers, Part 1

“‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God’” (Matthew 5:9).

The apostle tells us that “God has called us to peace” (1 Cor. 7:15), that He “reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18). The ministry of reconciliation is peacemaking. Those whom God has called to peace He also calls to make peace.

Today and tomorrow we’re going to look at four things that characterize a peacemaker. First, he is one who has made peace with God. Before we came to Christ, God was at war with us. Whatever we may have thought consciously about God, our hearts were against Him. But “while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Rom. 5:10). God reconciled us to Himself through the work of Christ on the cross. Our battle with God ended and our peace with Him began. And because we have been given God’s peace, we are called to share God’s peace with others (Eph. 6:15).

Second, a peacemaker leads others to make peace with God. Christians are a body of sinners cleansed by Jesus Christ and commissioned to carry His gospel to the rest of the world. Once freed from the shackles of sin, a Christian doesn’t look down on his fellow sinners; he or she realizes they are beggars who have been fed and are now called to help feed others. Our purpose is to preach “peace through Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:36). To lead a sinner to saving knowledge of Jesus Christ is the most peacemaking act a believer can perform. That’s your ministry as an ambassador of Christ.

Ask Yourself

Have you ever thought about this before—that you are “called” to the ministry of peacemaking? How does that change your responsibilities as you go through the day? How does it affect the obligation you feel when others continue in stirring up discord and disharmony?
Reading for Today:

Numbers 23:1–24:25
Psalm 33:18-22
Proverbs 11:27
Mark 13:1-20


Numbers 23:5 the LORD put a word in Balaam’s mouth. Even though Balak and Balaam offered sacrifices on pagan altars, it was the Lord who gave Balaam his oracle.

Numbers 24:2 the Spirit of God came upon him. This terminology was regularly used in the Old Testament for those whom God uniquely prepared to do His work (Judg. 3:10). Unlike the previous two oracles, Balaam does not involve himself in divination before giving this third oracle. He is empowered with the Holy Spirit to utter God’s word accurately.

Mark 13:2 Jesus answered. In response to the disciples’ admiration, Jesus again predicted that the temple would be destroyed. About 40 years later, in A.D. 70, the Romans ransacked Jerusalem, killed a million Jews, and demolished the temple. Not one stone. The only stones left undisturbed were huge foundation stones that were not actually a part of the temple edifice but formed footings for the retaining wall under the entire temple mount. These can be viewed today in the “Rabbi’s Tunnel” which runs north and south along the western wall. It is a portion of the western side of the retaining wall that today is called the Wailing Wall. More of that retaining wall, including the steps used to ascend and descend from the temple mount, has also been uncovered on the southern side.

Mark 13:8 the beginnings of sorrows. The Greek word for “sorrows” means “birth pangs.” The Lord was referring to the pain a woman experiences in childbirth. Birth pains signal the end of pregnancy—they are infrequent at first and gradually increase just before the child is born. Likewise, the signs of vv. 6–8 will be infrequent, relatively speaking, in the beginning and will escalate to massive and tragic proportions just prior to Christ’s Second Coming (see 1 Thess. 5:3; Matt. 24:8).

How does one makes sense of Balaam and his talking donkey?

Balaam, whose story is recorded in Numbers 22:2–24:25, does seem to receive special treatment in the biblical story. Even though Balaam claimed to know the Lord (Num. 22:18), Scripture consistently refers to him as a false prophet (2 Pet. 2:15,16; Jude 11). Apparently God placed such a priority on the message that the character of the messenger became a secondary consideration. The Lord used Balaam as His mouthpiece to speak the true words He put in his mouth. God had a purpose for Balaam despite the pagan prophet’s own plans.

When it comes to the talking donkey, several observations come to mind. First, this incident was not recorded as a commonplace occurrence but as something unusual and noteworthy. Second, one can just as easily wonder why God didn’t (or doesn’t) use talking animals more often—we’d all probably be better off. Third, why not recognize God’s sense of humor in this account? Fourth, God’s display of patience and persistence in these events ought to provoke in us a sense of humble worship. And, fifth, the incident, as unusual as it may be, should be accepted at face value.




Understanding Who Christ Is

“Walk . . . with all humility” (Ephesians 4:1-2).

We are to walk as Christ walked. Our lack of conformity to His standard ought to make us humble.

What was your most humiliating experience? Life is full of embarrassing moments, but the most truly humbling experience I ever had was preaching through the Gospel of John. For two years—eighty-eight sermons, about one hundred hours of preaching, between two and three thousand hours of study—I was constantly faced with the deity of Jesus Christ. Living with the deity of Christ day after day and comparing yourself continually to Him is one of the healthiest—and most humbling—things you can ever do.

That brings us to another step toward humility: Christ-awareness. When we compare ourselves with ourselves, we get proud. But “the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6). When you can say, “I’m happy to announce that I now walk as Jesus walked,” then you’ll have a right to be proud. But no one will believe you.

Jesus was the perfect man. He was without sin. He gave all the right answers and had the perfect attitude for every situation. He knew exactly how to help everyone who needed help. Reading the Gospels, we see time after time how Christ handled everything perfectly.

Even seeing His humanness, we realize how small we are. But when we look at His deity, we feel still smaller. He created everything (Col. 1:16). He turned water into wine, calmed storms, cast out demons, healed countless people, and brought the dead to life. After His crucifixion, He rose from the dead and sat at the Father’s right hand (Eph. 1:19-20). Someday He will come back, take His people home, and finally destroy all evil.

Despite Jesus’ perfect deity and perfect humanity, He came to serve (Mark 10:45). How can we be proud if Jesus Christ humbled Himself? What righteous thing have we done that compares to His perfect life?

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that you might know Christ better and increasingly be more like Him.

For Further Study

Peter got a glimpse of Jesus’ power in Luke 5:1-7. How did Peter’s sudden awareness of who Christ is affect him (v. 8)?
What did he do next (vv. 9-11)?

Praying As Jesus Prayed

"Pray, then, in this way: 'Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen'" (Matt. 6:9-15).

Jesus gave six elements that constitute true prayer.

Many people have memorized the Disciples' Prayer so they can recite it often, but as beautiful as it is, it wasn't given for that purpose. In fact, after Jesus gave it, no one in the New Testament recited it—not even Jesus Himself (cf. John 17)!

The disciples didn't ask Jesus to teach them a prayer, but to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1). There is a significant difference. Jesus preceded His prayer by saying, "Pray, then, in this way" (v. 9), which literally means, "Pray along these lines." His prayer was a general pattern for all prayer, and although it wasn't recited, its principles are evident in all New Testament prayers.

Christ's model prayer teaches us to ask God for six things: (1) that His name be honored, (2) that He brings His kingdom to earth, (3) that He does His will, (4) that He provides our daily needs, (5) that He pardons our sins, and (6) that He protects us from temptation. Each one contributes to the ultimate goal of all prayer, which is to bring glory to God. The last three are the means by which the first three are achieved. As God provides our daily bread, pardons our sins, and protects us when we are tempted, He is exalted in His name, kingdom, and will.

If you understand and follow Christ's pattern for prayer, you can be assured that you are praying as He instructed, and that whatever you ask in His name, He will do, "that the Father may be glorified in the Son" (John 14:13).

Suggestions for Prayer

Do your prayers reflect the six elements outlined in the Disciples' Prayer? If not, work on making them a regular part of your prayers.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 6:1-8, where Jesus discusses some of the practices of the Jewish religious leaders.

Peace: Its Ultimate Source and Manifestation

“‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God’” (Matthew 5:9).

The apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace” (2:13-14). He also told the Colossians, “It was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross” (1:19–20).

How did the cross bring peace? At the cross all of man’s hatred and anger was vented against God. On the cross the Son of God was mocked, cursed, spit on, pierced, reviled, and killed. Jesus’ disciples fled in fear, the sky flashed lightning, the earth shook violently, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. Yet through that vio-lence God brought peace. God’s greatest righteousness confronted man’s greatest wickedness, and righteousness won.

The one who does not belong to God through Jesus Christ can neither have peace nor be a peacemaker. God can work peace through us only if He has worked peace in us.

As a Christian, you might be enduring great turmoil and strife. But in your deepest being you have peace that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:8). Many live in favorable circumstances, but without God they will never find peace, while those who cling to God in the worst of circumstances need never lack peace.

Ask Yourself

This peace that “passes all understanding”—when have you experienced that before? Recall a time when God’s peace was every bit as real as the circumstance was dire. The next time you find yourself over your head in strife and conflict, call out for His incomprehensible peace, and expect to receive it.

Reading for Today:

Numbers 21:1–22:41
Psalm 33:10-17
Proverbs 11:25-26
Mark 12:28-44


Numbers 22:5 Balaam. Balaam was from Pethor, a city on the Euphrates River, perhaps near Mari, where the existence of a cult of prophets whose activities resembled those of Balaam have been found. Balaam practiced magic and divination (24:1) and eventually led Israel into apostasy (31:16). Later Scripture identifies Balaam as a false prophet (Deut. 23:3–6; Josh. 13:22; 24:9, 10; Neh. 13:1–3; Mic. 6:5; 2 Pet. 2:15, 16; Jude 11; Rev. 2:14).

Mark 12:28 Which is the first commandment...? The rabbis had determined that there were 613 commandments contained in the Pentateuch, one for each letter of the Ten Commandments. Of the 613 commandments, 248 were seen as affirmative and 365 as negative. Those laws were also divided into heavy and light categories, with the heavy laws being more binding than the light ones. The scribes and rabbis, however, had been unable to agree on which were heavy and which were light. This orientation to the law led the Pharisees to think Jesus had devised His own theory. So the Pharisees asked this particular question to get Jesus to incriminate Himself by revealing His unorthodox and unilateral beliefs.

Mark 12:40 devour widows’ houses. Jesus exposed the greedy, unscrupulous practice of the scribes. Scribes often served as estate planners for widows, which gave them the opportunity to convince distraught widows that they would be serving God by supporting the temple or the scribe’s own holy work. In either case, the scribe benefited monetarily and effectively robbed the widow of her husband’s legacy to her. long prayers. The Pharisees attempted to flaunt their piety by praying for long periods. Their motive was not devotion to God, but a desire to be revered by the people.

Wasn’t it idol worship for the Israelites to look at the bronze serpent in Numbers 21:4–9?

The circumstances leading up to the casting of the bronze serpent were all too familiar. The people were tired and discouraged. They were angry with God and complained to Moses. They were convinced that things couldn’t get any worse, but God showed them otherwise. He sent “fiery serpents” among the people and some of the Israelites died. Others suffered excruciating bites.

Realizing their mistake, the people came in repentance to Moses and begged for help. They were not worshiping the bronze serpent but were acting in faith, in obedience to God’s and Moses’ directions.

In John 3:14, Jesus said, “So must the Son of Man be lifted up.” This is a veiled prediction of His death on the cross. It is in reference to the story of where the Israelite people who looked at the serpent lifted up by Moses were healed. The point of this illustration or analogy is in the “lifted up.” Just as Moses lifted up the snake on the pole so that all who looked upon it might live physically, those who look to Christ, who was “lifted up” on the cross for the sins of the world, will live spiritually and eternally.




Understanding Who We Are

“Walk . . . with all humility” (Ephesians 4:1-2).

The first step to humility is understanding our sinfulness.

I’ll never forget a meeting I had at my house with some seminary students. One student asked me, very seriously, “John, how did you finally overcome pride?” I said jokingly, “Well, it was two years ago when I finally licked it, and it’s never been a problem since then. It’s so wonderful to be constantly humble.” Of course, I have not completely overcome pride; it’s a battle I face every day. Satan makes sure we always struggle with it.

Overcoming pride in even one area is difficult, but Ephesians 4:2 requires “all humility.” Having some humility isn’t enough. We must have total, complete humility in every relationship, every attitude, and every act.

So we all have a lot of work to do. But where do we start? How can we become humble?

Humility begins with self-awareness. We need to look at ourselves honestly. We can mask who we really are and convince ourselves that we’re something wonderful. But we are sinners and need to confess our sins daily before God (cf. 1 John 1:9). Even Paul called himself the foremost of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15) and realized he had not yet reached the goal of Christlikeness (Phil. 3:12-14). Whenever you’re tempted to be proud, remember you haven’t arrived yet spiritually.

And don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. Paul said, “We are not bold to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding” (2 Cor. 10:12). If we’re to be honest with ourselves and with God, we need to evaluate ourselves by an outside standard—God’s standard. Humility starts when we take off the rose-colored glasses of self-love so we can see ourselves as unworthy sinners. We must recognize our faults and confess our sins daily.

Suggestions for Prayer

Confess any known sins to God, and ask for help in overcoming them.
Ask God to keep you from comparing yourself to others instead of to His perfect standard.
For Further Study

Many consider Paul to be the greatest Christian who ever lived, but he viewed himself very differently. Read 1 Timothy 1:12-17. How did he see himself?
As he saw his sinfulness, what was his response to God?

Praying for God's Glory

"O Lord, in accordance with all Thy righteous acts, let now Thine anger and Thy wrath turn away from Thy city Jerusalem, Thy holy mountain; for because of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Thy people have become a reproach to all those around us. So now, our God, listen to the prayer of Thy servant and to his supplications, and for Thy sake, O Lord, let Thy face shine on Thy desolate sanctuary.

"O my God, incline Thine ear and hear! Open Thine eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Thy name; for we are not presenting our supplications before Thee on account of any merits of our own but on account of Thy great compassion. O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Thine own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Thy city and Thy people are called by Thy name" (Dan. 9:16-19).

God’s glory must be the ultimate goal of every prayer request we make.

Someone once said, "Show me your redeemed life and I might believe in your Redeemer." That's a fair request! As Christians, we are Christ's ambassadors to a dying world. With His Spirit in our hearts and His Word in our hands, we are to speak His truth in love and live a life that lends credibility to what we say.

When we fail to do that, we dishonor God and provide ammunition for those who seek to discredit His work. That was certainly true of Israel. They were God's chosen people yet His name was blasphemed among the Gentiles because of their unbelief and disobedience (Rom. 2:24).

Daniel knew Israel didn't deserve mercy, but he asked God to forgive and restore them to their homeland for His own name's sake. Therein would He be glorified.

When you pray according to God's will, fervently confessing your sins and interceding for others, you're following in the godly tradition of Daniel and every other saint who sought God's glory above all else. May it be so today!

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for the nation of Israel, that God might redeem many Jewish people for His name's sake (cf. Rom. 10:1).

For Further Study

Read Ezekiel 36:16-38.

Why did God scatter Israel? Why will He regather her?
How will the Gentile nations react to her regathering?

The Great Enemy of Peace

“‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God’” (Matthew 5:9).

The great enemy of peace is sin. Sin separates people from God and causes disharmony and enmity with Him. To talk of peace without establishing the need for repentance from sin is foolish. The corrupt religious leaders of ancient Israel proclaimed, “Peace, peace,” but there was no peace, because they and the rest of the people were not “ashamed because of the abomination they had done” (Jer. 8:11–12).

To be an effective peacemaker, you must recognize that any conflict is the result of sin. If you separate conflicting parties from each other but don’t confront their sin, at best you will create only a temporary truce. You can’t circumvent sin; it is the source of every conflict.

In what appears on the surface to be the antithesis of the seventh beatitude, Jesus says, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34). His meaning is clear: the peace He brings is not peace at any price. The sword Christ uses is His Word—the sword of truth and righteousness. Like the surgeon’s scalpel, it must cut before it heals, because peace cannot exist where sin remains.

To be a peacemaker you must live a holy life and call others to embrace the gospel of holiness.

Ask Yourself

How have you seen sin decimate and destroy relationships? How has your own sin contributed to whatever strain exists between you and another person? If you have not yet repented of a sin that has caused distance between you and someone else, choose repentance today. If others need correction, ask for the Lord’s grace and supply in seeking it.

Reading for Today:

Numbers 19:1–20:29
Psalm 33:1-9
Proverbs 11:22-24
Mark 12:1-27


Numbers 20:8 Speak to the rock. Though God told Moses to take his rod with which He had performed many wonders in the past (Ex. 4:1–5; 7:19–21; 14:16; 17:5, 6), he was only to speak to the rock for it to yield water.

Numbers 20:10 you rebels. Instead of speaking to the rock, Moses spoke to the people, accusing them of being rebels against God. By his actions, Moses joined the people in rebellion against God (see 27:14).

Psalm 33:3 a new song. I.e., a new occasion and impulse for expressing fresh praise to God (see Pss. 96:1; 98:1; 149:1).

Psalm 33:6 host. This designation refers to stellar and planetary bodies (see Is. 40:26; 45:12) and/or heaven’s complement of angels (see Ps. 103:20–22). The former emphasis is more prominent in the immediate context.

Mark 12:24 the power of God. The Sadducees’ ignorance of the Scriptures extended to their lack of understanding regarding the miracles God performed throughout the Old Testament. Such knowledge would have enabled them to believe in God’s power to raise the dead.

What is the Christian response to taxes?

In Mark 12:13, the Pharisees and the Herodians came together to try to catch Jesus off guard by a seemingly sincere question: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?” The Herodians were a political party of Jews who backed Herod Antipas, who in turn was but a puppet of Rome. The Greek word for “taxes” was borrowed from the Latin word that gives us the English word “census.” The Romans counted all the citizens and made each one pay an annual poll tax of one denarius.

Jesus was fully aware of their hypocrisy, using a feigned interest in His teaching to hide their true intention to trap Him. “Why do you test Me?” (v. 15), He asked, and His response was to ask for a denarius. This small silver coin, minted by the Roman emperor, was the equivalent of a day’s wage for a common laborer or soldier. On one side of the denarius was likely the image of the current emperor, Tiberius. If the coin was minted by Tiberius, it would have read, “Tiberius Caesar Augustus, the son of the Divine Augustus” on one side and “Chief Priest” on the other.

Based on the image on the denarius, Jesus answered, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” The Greek word for “render” means “to pay or give back,” which implies a debt. All who lived within the realm of Caesar were obligated to return to him the tax that was owed him. It was not optional. Thus Jesus declared that all citizens are under divine obligation to pay taxes to whatever government is over them (see Rom. 13:1–7; 1 Pet. 2:13–17).




Humility on Display

“Walk . . . with all humility” (Ephesians 4:1-2).

Christ showed us humility by becoming a man and living as a servant.

Humility is not a very popular concept in our society, is it? We are taught to pursue honor and recognition from a young age. When my children were young, they stacked up trophies to the point of absurdity. Award shows are commonplace on television. We seem to have prizes for everything.

Humility is an elusive quality. The moment you think you are humble is the moment you forfeit it. But humility is the heart of the worthy walk; that’s why Paul listed it here first. No matter how elusive it is, we must keep striving for it.

The Greek word for humility is a compound word. The first part means “low.” In a metaphorical sense it was used to mean “poor” or “unimportant.” The second part of the word means “to think” or “to judge.” The combined meaning is to think of yourself as lowly or unimportant.

Did you know this word never appears in classical Greek? It had to be coined by Christians. The Greeks and Romans had no word for humility because they despised that attitude. They mocked and looked down on anyone who thought of himself as lowly.

In contrast, Christ taught the importance of humility and was our greatest example of that virtue. The exalted Lord Jesus was born in a stable. During His ministry He never had a place to lay His head. He owned only the garments on His body. He washed His disciples’ feet, doing the job of a slave (John 13:3-11). When He died, He was buried in a borrowed tomb.

When the evangelical Moravian Brethren of Germany heard about slavery in the West Indies, they were told it was impossible to reach the slave population there because the slaves were separated from the ruling classes. In 1732 two Moravians offered to go and be slaves on the plantations and teach other slaves about Christ. They toiled at the sides of their fellow slaves, and the slaves listened because the two Moravians had humbled themselves. In a small way, that illustrates what Christ did for us: He humbled Himself by becoming a man so we could be saved.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to help you walk in Christlike humility.

For Further Study

Read about Christ’s example of humility in Philippians 2:5-11. What was His attitude toward Himself, and how can you emulate His humility?

Relying on God's Character

"Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments. . . . righteousness belongs to Thee. . . . To the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness" (Dan. 9:4, 7, 9).

God’s attributes authenticate your prayers.

Prior to the Babylonian Captivity God had warned His people not to adopt the idolatrous ways of their captors. Their gods were idols that could neither hear nor deliver them from distress (Isa. 46:6-7).

In marked contrast, our God loves us and delivers us from evil. When we confess our sins and intercede for others, He hears and responds. In Isaiah 45:21-22 He says, "There is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none except Me. Turn to Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other."

In his prayer Daniel mentions several attributes of God that have a direct bearing on answered prayer. In verse 4 he calls Him "the great and awesome God." That speaks of His power and majesty. You can pray with confidence because God is powerful enough to change your circumstances when it serves His purposes.

God's faithfulness is reflected in the phrase "who keeps His covenant" (v. 4). He always keeps His promises. He made a covenant with Israel that if they repented He would forgive them (Deut. 30:1-3). He promised never to forsake them (Deut. 31:6; cf. Heb. 13:5).

God's love is seen in His acts of mercy toward those who love Him (v. 4). His justice and holiness are inherent in the phrase "righteousness belongs to Thee" (v. 7). God's actions are always loving and righteous. He never makes a mistake (Gen. 18:25).

Verse 9 mentions two final attributes: compassion and forgiveness. Compassion is a synonym for mercy. Forgiveness means He pardons your wrongdoings by canceling the penalty sin has charged to your account. He reconciles you to Himself in sweet communion.

What a gracious God we serve! Rejoice in His love and lean on His promises. He will never fail you.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for His attributes of power, majesty, faithfulness, love, holiness, compassion, and forgiveness.

For Further Study

Read Isaiah 44 which contains a stern warning for Israel to avoid the idolatry of Babylon during the Babylonian Captivity.

What promises did God make to Israel?
How did God characterize idolaters?

Jesus’ Definition of Peace

“‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God’” (Matthew 5:9).

One of the most obvious facts of world history is that peace does not characterize man’s earthly existence. Yet two thousand years ago Jesus instructed God’s people to be peacemakers. He gave us a special mission to help restore the peace lost at the Fall.

The peace of which Christ speaks is unlike anything the world knows or strives for. His peace is not concerned with resolving conflict between governments and nations, with righting the wrongs of human oppression. His peace is the inner, personal peace that only He can give to the soul of man, a peace that only His children can emulate.

What makes Jesus’ kind of peace different? Instead of focusing on the absence of conflict and strife, Jesus’ peace produces righteousness, for only righteousness can bring two antagonistic parties together. It is what brings the unsaved person to God. It is God who reconciles a person to Himself, imputes Christ’s righteousness to him, and makes peace with him or her.

Only righteousness can usher in harmony and true well-being. James confirms the nature of God’s peace when he writes, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable” (James 3:17). Peace cannot be divorced from holiness. “Righteousness and peace have kissed each other” is the beautiful expression of Psalm 85:10. Where there is true peace, there is righteousness, holiness, and purity. May those things characterize you as you strive to be a peacemaker.

Ask Yourself

What situations in your own life are in desperate need of peace and restoration? How do you think God wants to use you as a peacemaker in the midst of it? You’ve surely tried. You’ve wanted to see righteousness and justice returned. Pray that the Lord would show you how to exhibit His brand of peace in fresh, new ways.

Reading for Today:

Numbers 17:1–18:32
Psalm 32:6-11
Proverbs 11:19-21
Mark 11:20-33


Numbers 17:8 the rod of Aaron. God had stated that the stick of the man He had chosen would blossom (17:5). The stick of Aaron had not only blossomed, but had yielded ripe almonds. Thus God had exceeded the demands of the test, so there would be no uncertainty of the fact that Aaron had been chosen as high priest.

Numbers 18:19 a covenant of salt forever. Salt, which does not burn, was a metaphor to speak of durability. As salt keeps its flavor, so the Lord’s covenant with the priesthood was durable. The Lord would provide through the offerings of His people for His priests forever.

Mark 11:20 abomination. Defined throughout Scripture as attitudes, this involves words and behaviors which God hates.

Mark 11:25 stand praying. The traditional Jewish prayer posture (see 1 Sam. 1:26; 1 Kin. 8:14, 22; Neh. 9:4; Matt. 6:5; Luke 18:11, 13). Kneeling or lying with one’s face on the ground were used during extraordinary circumstances or for extremely urgent requests (see 1 Kin. 8:54; Ezra 9:5; Dan. 6:10; Matt. 26:39; Acts 7:60). anything against anyone. An all-inclusive statement that includes both sins and simple dislikes, which cause the believer to hold something against another person. “Anyone” incorporates believers and unbelievers. forgive. Jesus states the believer’s ongoing duty to have a forgiving attitude. Successful prayer requires forgiveness as well as faith.

How does one’s faith move mountains?

When an amazed Peter noted to Jesus that the fig tree had withered, Jesus’ response was simply that they should “have faith in God” (Mark 11:22). This was a gentle rebuke for the disciples’ lack of faith in the power of His word. Such faith believes in God’s revealed truth, His power, and seeks to do His will (see 1 John 5:14; Matt. 21:21).

The expression Jesus used, “this mountain…into the sea” (v. 23), was related to a common metaphor of that day, “rooter up of mountains,” which was used in Jewish literature of great rabbis and spiritual leaders who could solve difficult problems and seemingly do the impossible. Obviously, Jesus did not literally uproot mountains. In fact, He refused to do such spectacular miracles for the unbelieving Jewish leaders (Matt. 12:38). Jesus’ point is that, if believers sincerely trust in God and truly realize the unlimited power that is available through such faith in Him, they will see His mighty powers at work (see John 14:13, 14).

“Whatever thing you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (v. 24). This places no limits on a believer’s prayers, as long as they are according to God’s will and purpose. This therefore means that man’s faith and prayer are not inconsistent with God’s sovereignty. And it is not the believer’s responsibility to figure out how that can be true, but simply to be faithful and obedient to the clear teaching on prayer, as Jesus gives it in this passage. God’s will is being unfolded through all of redemptive history by means of the prayers of His people—as His saving purpose is coming to pass through the faith of those who hear the gospel and repent. See James 5:16.




Honor for the Humble

“Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you” (James 4:10).

God graciously bestows every spiritual blessing on the humble.

Those who are scripturally humble will recognize their unworthiness when they come before God. They will be like the prophet Isaiah who, in seeing God, cursed himself: “Woe is me, for I am ruined [damned]! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isa. 6:5). Whenever you see who God really is—infinitely holy, sovereign, mighty, majestic, and glorious—all you can see about yourself is your own sin.

Every time Isaiah or any other person in the Old Testament came face to face with the reality of God’s holy presence, he was overwhelmed with fear. A sinner in the presence of a holy God is overpowered by his sense of exposed sinfulness and has every reason to fear. It was the same in the New Testament, such as when the disciples were afraid after Jesus stilled the storm on the Sea of Galilee: “And they became very much afraid and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?’” (Mark 4:41). If we are humble before the true God, we’ll have the same response.

But God does not leave us bowed down in awe or cowering in fear. James promises us that the Lord will exalt the humble. And if we are humble in spirit and saved by grace, we will be sanctified and ultimately glorified. The apostle Paul summarizes this so well in Ephesians 2:4-7, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God today for His holiness and His sovereign control over all things, especially how He is leading you to spiritual maturity.

For Further Study

Read Isaiah 6.

What is the focal point of God’s nature in this chapter?
What could help you to be as willing as Isaiah was to serve God (v. 8)?

Praying for Others

"We have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly, and rebelled, even turning aside from Thy commandments and ordinances. . . . We have not listened to Thy servants the prophets. . . . Open shame belongs to us, O Lord . . . because we have sinned against Thee. . . . Indeed all Israel has transgressed Thy law and turned aside, not obeying Thy voice. . . . Thy people have become a reproach to all those around us" (Dan. 9:5-16).

Others should be the primary focus of your prayers.

In verses 5-16 Daniel identifies with his people and intercedes on their behalf. That's a common practice in Scripture. For example, Moses interceded for the Israelites after they sinned by worshiping the golden calf (Ex. 32:11- 13).

All Paul's recorded prayers are intercessions. In Ephesians 6:18 he instructs us to "be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints." In 1 Timothy 2:1-4 he says, "I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."

Similarly, the Lord's prayers are replete with intercessions. Even when hanging in agony on the cross, He prayed for His persecutors: "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).

When God placed us into the Body of Christ, He made us dependent on one another. When one member suffers, all suffer with it. When one is honored, all rejoice with it (1 Cor. 12:26). That's why Jesus instructed us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts. . . . And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil" (Matt. 6:11-13, emphasis added).

Let your prayers reflect a corporate and selfless mentality that embraces the needs of others.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the people who have prayed for you over the years. Be aware of those for whom you should be praying.
Sometimes the demands of prayer can seem overwhelming because there's so much to pray for, but be faithful, knowing that your prayers are a delight to the Lord (Prov. 15:8).
For Further Study

Read John 17, noting how Jesus interceded for His disciples.

Results of Obtaining Holiness

“‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’” (Matthew 5:8).

The great blessing of those who are pure in heart is “they shall see God.” Notice that it is only “they”—the pure in heart—who shall see God. Intimate knowledge of and fellowship with God is reserved for the pure.

When our hearts are purified at salvation, we begin to live in the presence of God. We begin to see and comprehend Him with our new spiritual eyes. Like Moses, who saw God’s glory and asked to see more (Ex. 33:18), the one who is purified by Jesus Christ sees again and again the glory of God.

To see God was the greatest hope of the Old Testament saints. Like Moses, David wanted to see more of God: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?” (Ps. 42:1–2).

Purity of heart cleanses the eyes of the soul so that God becomes visible. One sign of an impure heart is ignorance, because sin obscures the truth (John 3:19–20). Other signs of an impure heart are self-centeredness (Rev. 3:17), pleasure in sin (2 Tim. 3:4), unbelief (Heb. 3:12), and hatred for purity (Mic. 3:2). But if you belong to God, you will exchange all of those things for integrity and purity.

Ask Yourself

How have you “seen” God during long stretches of faithful, obedient living? If this is not your current experience, don’t you long to return to this kind of lifestyle—to the daily joys of animated, refreshing, ongoing interaction with your Lord and Savior? Take steps toward a fresh start with Him today.

Reading for Today:

Numbers 15:1–16:50
Psalm 32:1-5
Proverbs 11:16-18
Mark 11:1-19


Numbers 16:22 the God of the spirits of all flesh. This phrase appears only here and in 27:16. Moses called on omniscient God, who knows the heart of everyone, to judge those who had sinned, and those only.

Numbers 16:30 a new thing. This supernatural opening of the earth to swallow the rebels was a sign of God’s wrath and the vindication of Moses and Aaron.

Mark 11:10 the kingdom of our father David. This tribute, recorded only by Mark, acknowledges Jesus as bringing in the messianic kingdom promised to David’s Son. The crowd paraphrased the quote from Psalm 118:26 (v. 9) in anticipation that Jesus was fulfilling prophecy by bringing in the kingdom.

Why did Jesus curse the fig tree in Mark 11:12–14?

Fig trees were common as a source of food. Three years were required from planting until fruit bearing. After that, a tree could be harvested twice a year, usually yielding much fruit. The figs normally grew with the leaves. This tree had leaves but, strangely, no fruit. That this tree was along the side of the road (see Matt. 21:19) implies it was public property. It was also apparently in good soil because its foliage was ahead of season and ahead of the surrounding fig trees. The abundance of leaves held out promise that the tree might also be ahead of schedule with its fruit. That it was “not the season for figs” (v. 13) recognizes that the next normal fig season was in June, more than a month away. This phrase, unique to Mark, emphasizes the unusual nature of this fig tree.

Jesus’ direct address to the tree personified it and condemned it for not providing what its appearance promised. “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again” (v. 14). This incident was not the acting out of the parable of the fig tree (Luke 13:6–9), which was a warning against spiritual fruitlessness. 

Here, Jesus cursed the tree for its misleading appearance that suggested great productivity without providing it. It should have been full of fruit, but was barren. The fig tree was frequently an Old Testament type of the Jewish nation (Hos. 9:10; Nah. 3:12; Zech. 3:10)—and the barren fig tree often symbolizes divine judgment on Israel because of her spiritual fruitlessness despite an abundance of spiritual advantages (Jer. 8:13; Joel 1:12). In this instance Jesus used the tree by the road as a purposeful divine object lesson concerning Israel’s spiritual hypocrisy and fruitlessness, exemplified in the rejection of their Messiah. It was not an impetuous act of frustration as some have stated.




Realizing the Need for Seriousness

“Let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy to gloom” (James 4:9b).

The humble individual will come to see that sin is not a laughing matter.

Humor has always had a place in popular culture. But in recent decades a more worldly side to humor has emerged. Situation comedies dominate the list of top-rated TV shows, but many are far from what’s really best for people to view. The shows’ contents so often pander to the immoral and tend to put down scriptural values. Meanwhile, the world also runs headlong after activities that stress fun and self-indulgence. Most people just want to enjoy life and not take anything too seriously.

God’s Word acknowledges that there is a proper time and place for joy and laughter: “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Eccles. 3:4). The psalmist tells of one appropriate time for laughter and happiness: “When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with joyful shouting” (Ps. 126:1-2).

But the Lord requires that anyone who would have a relationship with Him must begin on a sober, serious, humble note. In today’s Scripture, James urges sinners to exchange worldly laughter and frivolity for godly mourning and gloom over their sin. The laughter spoken of here is the kind that indicates a leisurely indulging in human desires and pleasures. It pictures people who give no serious thought to God, to life, death, sin, judgment, or God’s demands for holiness. Without mincing words, it is the laughter of fools who reject God, not that of the humble who pursue Him.

James’s message is that saving faith and proper humility consist of a serious, heartfelt separation from the folly of worldliness as well as a genuine sorrow over sin. If these characteristics are present in your life, it is fairly safe evidence that you are one of the humble (see 1 John 2:15-17).

Suggestions for Prayer

Seek forgiveness for any thoughts and actions that have kept you from a serious attitude in your walk with God.

For Further Study

Read 1 John 2:15-17.

Think of several examples under each of the categories of worldliness in verse 16. Which of these are problems for you?
What steps can you take, with God’s help, to overcome them?

Confessing Your Sins

"I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed" (Dan. 9:4).

Confession brings forgiveness and guards God’s character.

Confessing your sins means you agree with God that you have offended His holy character, are worthy of punishment, and in need of forgiveness. That's exactly what we see Daniel doing in verses 5-16. Verse 20 summarizes his prayer: "I was speaking and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God."

Unlike some who suffer God's chastening, Daniel didn't shift the blame for Israel's calamity. Instead he admitted that his people had willfully disobeyed God's Word and ignored His prophets, thereby bringing judgment upon themselves. Once they were a nation blessed by God; now they were aliens and captives in a foreign land. God had kept His promise to curse them if they disobeyed Him (Deut. 28:15).

In verses 12-15 Daniel analyzes the consequences of Israel's sin, which included her captivity and the guilt she bore for her arrogance and reluctance to repent.

Verse 14 reflects perhaps the most important aspect of confession: Daniel's affirmation that "the Lord our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done." The Gentile nations knew that the Israelites were God's chosen people. Surely the fall of Jerusalem raised questions about God's character: What kind of God would stand idly by while His people are ravaged and His Temple plundered? What is the benefit of having a God like that? This, in effect, is Daniel's response: "God is righteous in everything He does. We deserve this punishment, so don't accuse Him of acting unjustly."

Confession therefore serves a dual purpose: it brings forgiveness and frees God to chasten us without bringing accusations of inequity or injustice upon Himself.

Daniel's prayer came at a special time in Israel's history, but undoubtedly confession was a regular part of his life. That should be your pattern as well. Don't wait until disaster strikes before you confess your sin. Make it a daily practice.

Suggestions for Prayer

If you have not developed a systematic approach to prayer, the "ACTS" format is a good way to start.

Adoration—praising God
Confession—confessing sin
Thanksgiving—thanking God
Supplication—praying for others
For Further Study

Read about David's sin in 2 Samuel 11:1—12:25 and his confession in Psalm 51. What are the similarities and differences between David's confession and Daniel's?

The Way to Holiness

“‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’” (Matthew 5:8).

Throughout the history of the church, many have thought the best way to achieve spiritual purity and holiness is by living apart from the normal cares and distractions of the world and devoting oneself entirely to meditation and prayer. The problem with sin, however, is not primarily the world around us but the worldliness within us, which we cannot escape by living in isolation from other people.

But God always provides for what He demands, and He has provided ways for us to live purely. First, we must realize that we are unable to live a single holy moment without the Lord’s guidance and power. “Who can say, ‘I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin’?” (Prov. 20:9). The obvious answer is, “No one.” Cleansing begins with recognition of weakness, which in turn reaches out for the strength of God.

Second, we must stay in God’s Word. It is impossible to stay in God’s will apart from His Word. Jesus said, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you” (John 15:3).

Third, it is essential to be controlled by and walking in the will and way of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:16 says, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”

Fourth, we must pray. We cannot stay in God’s will or understand and obey His Word unless we stay near Him. With David we cry, “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Ps. 51:10).

Begin to pursue the right ways to develop holiness in your life.

Ask Yourself

How is impurity showing itself most visibly in your heart—or perhaps disguising itself most subtly? Realize afresh that holy living is impossible outside of a living, active relationship with Christ and the ongoing enablement of the Holy Spirit. Commit yourself to surrendering all to follow Him in righteousness.

Reading for Today:

Numbers 13:1–14:45
Psalm 31:19-24
Proverbs 11:15
Mark 10:32-52


Numbers 13:1 the LORD spoke to Moses. According to Deuteronomy 1:22, 23, the people had first requested the spies be sent out after Moses challenged them to take the land. Here, the Lord affirmed the peoples’ desire and commanded Moses to send them.

Psalm 31:23 love the LORD. Biblical love includes an attitudinal response and demonstrated obedience (see Deut.6:4, 5;10:12; John 14:15, 21;15:10; 2 John 6).The assurance of both reward and retribution is a biblical maxim (e.g., Deut. 7:9, 10).

Mark 10:45 Son of Man did not come to be served. Jesus was the supreme example of servant leadership (see John 13:13–15). The King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rev. 19:16) relinquished His privileges (Phil. 2:5–8) and gave His life as a selfless sacrifice in serving others. ransom for many. “Ransom” refers to the price paid to free a slave or a prisoner; “for” means “in place of.” Christ’s substitutionary death on behalf of those who would put their faith in Him is the most glorious, blessed truth in all of Scripture (see Rom. 8:1–3; 1 Cor. 6:20; Gal. 3:13; 4:5; Eph. 1:7; Titus 2:14; 1 Pet. 1:18, 19). The ransom was not paid to Satan, as some erroneous theories of the atonement teach. Satan is presented in Scripture as a foe to be defeated, not a ruler to be placated. The ransom price was paid to God to satisfy His justice and holy wrath against sin. In paying it, Christ “bore our sins in His own body on the [cross]” (1 Pet. 2:24).

If the report of the spies was true, why was it a “bad report”?

The spies were specifically called to explore the land that God had promised to Israel. This exploration gave valuable information to Moses for the conquest ahead. And while it was true that the land was flowing with milk and honey, it was also true that “the descendants of Anak” were in the fortified city of Hebron (Num. 13:22). Anak was probably the ancestor of Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai. They were noted for their height and strength (Deut. 2:21; 9:2). And “the people…are strong” (v. 28), as in too strong to be conquered (v. 31). “Giants” were in the land (v. 33). This term was used in Genesis 6:4 for a group of strong men who lived on the earth before the Flood. The descendants of Anak were, in exaggeration, compared to these giants, which led the spies to view themselves as grasshoppers before them.

In v. 30, Caleb concurred with the report of the other spies, but called the people to go up and take the land, knowing that with God’s help they were able to overcome the strong people. The report of the 10 spies was evil because it exaggerated the dangers of the people in the land, sought to stir up and instill fear in the people of Israel, and, most importantly, it expressed their faithless attitude toward God and His promises (v. 32). The result was that “all the congregation…wept” over the circumstances (14:1) and “complained” to the point that they wished they had died in Egypt or the wilderness (v. 2). It was such a “bad report” that they were prepared to “select a leader and return to Egypt” (v. 4).




Having True Sorrow for Sin

“Be miserable and mourn and weep” (James 4:9a).

Spiritual humility will be marked by a true sorrow over sin.

Modern culture does everything possible to avoid pain, to put off thinking about unpleasant subjects, to maximize comfort, and to feel good about circumstances.

That philosophy is the reflection of a proud and self-centered attitude, not the humble and God-centered attitude we have been examining during the past week. Today we continue our look at humility in the Epistle of James. The apostle urges people to “be miserable” concerning their sin. The demands of the gospel begin at this point. James is not denying the joy that will come when the gospel is sincerely received. He is simply saying that sinners have to feel bad before they can feel good. The word misery in this sense refers to the inner feelings of shame over sin, the deep sorrow it causes, and the spirit of penitence the humbled sinner will have as a result.

The humble person will also mourn over his sin. This reminds us of what the Lord Jesus says in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4). Mourning is a brokenness of spirit that will cause the humble person’s heart to ache when he realizes his total spiritual bankruptcy because of sin.

The word James uses for “mourn” is closely related to the concept of sorrow. But this sorrow is not just any ordinary sorrow or sadness that all people feel during the course of life. James uses a strong word that usually referred to the grieving over a loved one’s death. James thus urges the humble sinner to have a funeral mourner’s lament or grief regarding his sinfulness.

Weeping is often the physical response that the sincerely humble mourner will have to his circumstances. Tears are God’s gift to us that allow release for our aching hearts, as Peter discovered after he betrayed the Lord (Mark 14:72).

Misery, mourning, and weeping all point to a genuine sorrow over sin, what Paul calls “godly sorrow” (2 Cor. 7:10-11). If you are among the humble, this attitude will be yours as you enter God’s kingdom (James 4:9) and as you live the Christian life (Matt. 5:3-4).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that God would give you the proper sense of sorrow over all sin in your life—even over that which seems insignificant.


"I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed" (Dan. 9:4).

God will not respond to self-righteous prayers.

In Luke 18 Jesus told a parable to people who were trusting in their own self-righteousness. He said, "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, and the other a tax-gatherer. The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, 'God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.'

"But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!'

"I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted" (vv. 10-14).

Apart from God's mercy we cannot enter into God's presence. The tax-gatherer knew that and pled for forgiveness. The Pharisee missed the point and went away without forgiveness.

Like the tax-gatherer, Daniel approached God with an attitude of confession and self-denial. He could have reminded God of his years of faithful service while in Babylon, but that didn't enter his mind. He knew that in himself there was nothing to commend him to God. His only thought was for mercy for himself and his people, that God's purposes could be realized through them.

As a Christian, you have the wonderful privilege of boldly entering into God's presence "with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith" (Heb. 10:22). That privilege is rooted in God's grace through Christ's sacrifice and leaves no room for presumption or self-righteousness. Always guard your attitude in prayer so that you don't unwittingly slip into a Pharisaic mentality.

Suggestions for Prayer

Memorize Psalm 117:1-118:1 and recite it often as a hymn of praise to the Lord.

For Further Study

Jesus had much to say about the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees of His day. Read Matthew 23, noting His scathing denunciations of their hypocritical attitudes and practices.

Purity Is More than Sincerity

“‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’” (Matthew 5:8).

Purity of heart is much more than sincerity. A motive can be sincere yet can easily lead to worthless and sinful things. The pagan priests who opposed Elijah demonstrated great sincerity when they lacerated their bodies to induce Baal to send fire down to consume their sacrifices (1 Kings 18:28). But their sincerity did not produce the desired results, and it did not enable them to see the error of their paganism because their sincere trust was in that very paganism.

Even genuinely good deeds that do not come from a genuinely good heart are of no spiritual value. A person may be extremely religious and constantly engaged in doing good things, yet he or she cannot please God unless their heart is right with Him.

The ultimate standard for purity of heart is perfection of heart. Later in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). One hundred percent purity is God’s standard for the heart, which makes God Himself the standard.

You can’t be pleasing to God until you are pure as He is pure—until you are holy as He is holy and perfect as He is perfect. Only purity of heart through Jesus Christ will reconcile people to God. What standard of purity are you following?

Ask Yourself

To what extent is your measure of purity defined by culture or others’ opinions or anything other than the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ? Check yourself in this, for if staying a few shades cleaner than current society makes you feel pure by comparison, your standards will do nothing but slip over time.

Reading for Today:

Numbers 11:1–12:16
Psalm 31:15-18
Proverbs 11:12-14
Mark 10:1-31


Numbers 11:17 the Spirit. This refers to the Spirit of God. It was by means of the Holy Spirit that Moses was able to lead Israel. In v. 25, the Lord gave the Spirit to the 70 men in fulfillment of the word He gave to Moses.

Numbers 11:29 that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them! Moses desired and anticipated the day when all of God’s people would have His Spirit within them. By this, he looked forward to the New Covenant. (See Ezek. 36:22–27; Jer. 31:31ff.; Joel 2:28.)

Mark 10:21 Jesus…loved him. Jesus felt great compassion for this sincere truth-seeker who was so hopelessly lost. And out of that great love He told the rich young man to sell whatever you have. Jesus was not making either philanthropy or poverty a requirement for salvation, but He was exposing the young man’s heart. He was not blameless, as he maintained (v. 20), since he loved his possessions more than his neighbors (see Lev. 19:18). More importantly, he refused to obey Christ’s direct command, choosing to serve riches instead of God (Matt. 6:24). The issue was to determine whether he would submit to the lordship of Christ no matter what He asked of him. So, as he would not acknowledge his sin and repent, neither would he submit to the Sovereign Savior. Such unwillingness on both counts kept him from the eternal life he sought. treasure in heaven. Salvation and all its benefits, given by the Father who dwells there, both in this life and the life to come (see Matt. 13:44–46).

Is salvation harder for those who have riches?

Watching the rich young ruler walk away sorrowful in Mark 7:23, Jesus said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” “Hard” in this context means impossible (see v. 25). “Riches” tend to breed self-sufficiency and a false sense of security, leading those who have them to imagine they do not need divine resources (see Luke 16:13; contra. Luke 19:2; see 1 Tim. 6:9, 17, 18).

Jesus adds that it is “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle” (v. 25). The Persians expressed impossibility by saying it would be easier to put an elephant through the eye of a needle. This was a Jewish colloquial adaptation of that expression denoting impossibility (the largest animal in Palestine was a camel). Many improbable interpretations have arisen that attempt to soften this phrase, but Jesus’ use of this illustration was to explicitly say that salvation by human effort is impossible—it is wholly by God’s grace.

The Jews believed that with alms a man purchased salvation (as recorded in the Talmud), so the more wealth one had, the more alms he could give, the more sacrifices and offerings he could offer, thus purchasing redemption. The disciples’ question, “Who then can be saved?” (v. 26), makes it clear that they understood what Jesus meant—that not even the rich could buy salvation. Jesus’ emphatic teaching that even the rich could not be saved by their own efforts left the bewildered disciples wondering what chance the poor stood. “With men it is impossible, but not with God,” Jesus added (v. 27). It is impossible for anyone to be saved by his own efforts, since salvation is entirely a gracious, sovereign work of God.




Cleansing Our Hands and Hearts

“Cleanse your hands . . . and purify your hearts” (James 4:8).

Clean hands and a pure heart will always characterize the humble.

Hands represent our behavior, the pattern of our outward actions. Scripture uses that symbol when it encourages people to abandon their sinful behavior: “So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you, yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of bloodshed” (Isa. 1:15).

Today’s verse uses “hands” in reference to the Jewish ceremonial requirements. The priests were required to wash their hands before they entered the presence of God in the tabernacle and temple (Ex. 30:19-21). Therefore, a call to have clean hands was not just a strange figure of speech for James’s audience. As Jews, they would know that a person needed to go through a cleansing process and have a clean life if he wanted to be close to the Lord.

This cleansing process, however, includes more than correcting the outward behavior and lifestyle represented by the hands. The inward dimension of the heart must also be involved, which is why James 4:8 says, “Purify your hearts.” The heart is what’s inside a person—his thoughts, motives, and desires—the essence of his being. The apostle James is telling anyone who would be genuinely humble and want to be right with God that he must deal with his real self, the heart that is so corrupted and deceived by sin. The humble sinner will hear and obey words such as Ezekiel’s: “Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!” (Ezek. 18:31).

Clean hands and a pure heart are essential traits for anyone who would be counted among the humble. If you have not submitted yourself to God, you won’t have these traits, and you need to heed James’s commands. If you are one of the humble, you will want to maintain a close relationship with the Lord. For you, therefore, it is crucial to remember what the apostle John promises in 1 John 1:9—“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that all your thoughts and actions today would be pure and pleasing to the Lord.

For Further Study

Read Isaiah 55.

What does it say about the transformed heart and life?
Commit verses 6-7 to memory.

Praying with Fervency

"I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes" (Dan. 9:3).

The more you understand God’s holiness, the more you’ll recognize your own sinfulness.

People view prayer differently. For some it is a last resort after all human options have been exhausted: "All I can do now is pray for you!" Others liken it to a spiritual spare tire—something used only in the event of an emergency. Many who should thrive on prayer have been lulled into complacency by an affluent and godless society.

Daniel, however, saw prayer as an opportunity to express the passion and fervency of his heart to the God he loved and served. In Daniel 9:3 he says, "I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him." That implies he set apart a specific time to devote to thoughtful, earnest, and fervent prayer. That is further supported by the way he prepared himself through fasting and donning sackcloth and ashes—symbols of humility and deep contrition over sin.

It might seem unusual for a man of Daniel's spiritual stature to be overwhelmed by his sense of sin, but the closer one draws to God, the more aware he is of his sinfulness. We see that in Paul, who called himself the foremost of all sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). That might seem like a ridiculous statement to us but Paul saw sin for what it was. So did Daniel.

The title "Lord God" in verse 3 emphasizes God's sovereign rule over all things. Daniel knew that God had permitted the Babylonian Captivity and that He alone could deliver His people from it. Consequently, Daniel gave the Lord his undivided attention as he prayed and sought mercy for himself and his people.

Daniel's fervency is a rebuke to much of the flippancy we hear in prayer today. It was profound because it was generated by God's Word and grounded in His will.

James 5:16 says, "The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (KJV). Be like Daniel—a righteous person who prays fervently with great effect.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to give you a greater sense of fervency in prayer.
Be sensitive to any sin that might be hindering your prayers.
For Further Study

Read Luke 11:5-13.

What parable did Jesus tell to illustrate the benefits of humble, persistent prayer?
How did Jesus contrast earthly fathers with their heavenly Father?

Significance of the Heart

“‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’” (Matthew 5:8).

Throughout Scripture the heart is used metaphorically to represent the inner person, the seat of motives and attitudes, the center of personality. But in Scripture it also includes the thinking process, particularly the will. Proverbs 23:7 says, “As [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he” (kjv). The heart is the control center of the mind and will, as well as emotion.

Jesus said that it is in the inner person, in the core of our very being, that God requires purity. This was not a new truth but an old one long forgotten in ceremony and tradition. “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life,” counseled the writer of Proverbs 4:23.

God has always been concerned above all else with the condition of a person’s heart. When the Lord called Saul to be Israel’s first king, “God changed his heart” (1 Sam. 10:9). Until then Saul had been handsome and athletic, but not much more. Soon the new king began to revert to his old heart patterns. He refused to live by the new heart God had given him.

Consequently, the Lord took the kingdom from Saul and gave it to David because David was “a man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14). David’s deepest desire was, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer” (Ps. 19:14). May that be your desire as well.

Ask Yourself

What are some things you’ve learned about your heart over the years? What motivates it to action? How trustworthy is it? Where does it usually like to lead you? When do its passions most vividly fire into flame? How inclined is it to purity?

Reading for Today:

Numbers 9:1–10:36
Psalm 31:6-14
Proverbs 11:7-11
Mark 9:30-50


Numbers 9:15 tabernacle…raised up. The presence of the Lord arrived when the tabernacle was completed and erected on the first day of the first month of the second year after they had come out of Egypt.

Numbers 9:16 cloud…fire. The presence of the Lord which was seen in the cloud by day became a fire that was seen at night (see Lev. 16:2).

Psalm 31:6 I have hated. See Psalm 26:5 on the proper basis for such hatred (see Ps. 139:21). useless idols. This is a common designation for false gods (see Deut. 32:21; 1 Kin. 16:13; Jer. 10:15; 14:22; 16:19; 18:15; Jon. 2:8). On the “idiocy” of idolatry, see Habakkuk 2:18–20.

Mark 9:43 cut it off. Jesus’ words are to be taken figuratively. No amount of self-mutilation can deal with sin, which is an issue of the heart. The Lord is emphasizing the seriousness of sin and the need to do whatever is necessary to deal with it. life. The contrast of “life” with “hell” indicates that Jesus was referring to eternal life. hell. The Greek word refers to the Valley of Hinnom near Jerusalem, a garbage dump where fires constantly burned, furnishing a graphic symbol of eternal torment. the fire that shall never be quenched. That the punishment of hell lasts for eternity is the unmistakable teaching of Scripture (see Dan. 12:2; Matt. 25:41; 2 Thess. 1:9; Rev. 14:10, 11; 20:10).

Mark 9:50 Salt is good. Salt was an essential item in first-century Palestine. In a hot climate, without refrigeration, salt was the practical means of preserving food. Have salt in yourselves. The work of the “word of Christ” (Col. 3:16) and the Spirit (Gal. 5:22, 23) produce godly character, enabling a person to act as a preservative in society.

What essential element is Christ looking for in our character?

To be directly confronted by Christ with sin in your heart, as the disciples were in Mark 9:33, must have been powerfully convicting and embarrassing. We are told that “they kept silent”—they were speechless at His inquiry. They were caught in a dispute over “who would be the greatest” (v. 34), possibly triggered by the privilege granted Peter, James, and John to witness the Transfiguration. The disciples’ quarrel highlights their failure to apply Jesus’ explicit teaching on humility (Matt. 5:3) and the example of His own suffering and death (vv. 31, 32; 8:30–33). It also prompted them to ask Jesus to settle the issue, which He did—though not as they had expected.

Jesus “sat down” (v. 35)—rabbis usually sat down to teach—and said that “if anyone desires to be first,” as the disciples undeniably did (v. 34; see 10:35–37), “he shall be last of all and servant of all.” The disciples’ concept of greatness and leadership, drawn from their culture, needed to be completely reversed. Not those who lord their position over others are great in God’s kingdom, but those who humbly serve others (see 10:31, 43–45; Matt. 19:30–20:16; 23:11, 12; Luke 13:30; 14:8–11; 18:14; 22:24–27).

Then Jesus took “a little child”—the Greek word indicates an infant or toddler. If the house they were in was Peter’s, this may have been one of his children. The child became in Jesus’ masterful teaching an example of believers who have humbled themselves and become like trusting children.




The Nearness of God

“He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).

God will come near to the truly humble, who have by faith sought to be close to Him.

One of the greatest promises in the Bible is that God responds to the humble and draws near to them. Such people will yearn for a closeness to God by which they can know Him, love Him, learn His Word, praise Him, pray to Him, and fellowship with Him. In summary, the humble will be true worshipers, those who “worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:23).

John 4:23 concludes with the statement, “for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.” This strongly implies that God wants to have a relationship with the humble, which means He will respond to us. This idea of the Lord reaching out to us and responding to our humble obedience is also found in the Old Testament, when David instructed Solomon: “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever” (1 Chron. 28:9).

The principle of God’s drawing near to the humble is illustrated by Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). First, the prodigal son manifests humility and repentance: “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son” (vv. 18-19). Next, his behavior pictures a longing to draw near to God: “he got up and came to his father” (v. 20). Finally, there is the picture of God drawing near to us: “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him, and kissed him” (v. 20).

You might not find yourself in the same predicament as the prodigal son did, but you will experience the same response from God if you have humbly drawn near to Him in faith and worshiped Him in spirit and in truth.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that God would help you be a true worshiper of Him.

For Further Study

Read and meditate on Psalm 40. What things did David find true about God’s nearness?

Praying According to God's Will

"The word of the Lord [came] to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem" (Dan. 9:2).

Effective prayer is always consistent with God’s will.

It is characteristic of God's people to identify with God's purposes and conform their will to His. Learning to pray according to His will is a major step in that process because it drives you to the Word and demonstrates a humble, submissive heart.

Jesus emphasized the priority of God's will when He said, "I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me" (John 6:38). He accomplished that goal, saying to the Father, "I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do" (John 17:4). Even when facing the horror of the cross, Jesus didn't waver. Instead He prayed, "Father, if Thou art willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Thine be done" (Luke 22:42).

Jesus taught His disciples the same priority, instructing them to pray, "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:9-10).

Daniel knew what it meant to pray according to God's will. After reading the prophecy of a seventy-year Babylonian Captivity, he immediately accepted it as God's will and began to pray for its fulfillment. His prayer wasn't passive resignation to some act of fate beyond his control. It was active participation in God's plan as revealed in Scripture. He wasn't trying to change God's will but was doing everything he could to see it come to pass. That's the essence of praying according to God's will.

When you pray according to God's will, you can be confident that He hears you and will grant your requests (1 John 5:14-15). Live in that confidence today!

Suggestions for Prayer

Be a diligent student of the Word so you will know God's will.
Ask God to reveal areas in which your will is not conformed to His. As He does, take immediate steps to deal with them.
For Further Study

Read Revelation 22:6-21, noting God's will for Christ's return, and how we're to respond to it.

What Results from Mercy?

“‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy’” (Matthew 5:7).

When we are merciful and we receive mercy, we experience God’s cycle of mercy. God is merciful to us by saving us through Christ; in obedience we are merciful to others; and God in faithfulness gives us even more mercy, pouring out blessing for our needs and withholding severe chastening for our sin.

But only those who are merciful qualify to receive mercy. David said of the Lord, “With the kind You show Yourself kind” (2 Sam. 22:26). Yet James says, “For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy” (James 2:13). The emphatic truth is that God will respond with chastening for an unforgiving disciple.

Jesus is not speaking, however, of our mercy gaining us salvation. We cannot earn salvation by being merciful. We must be saved by God’s mercy before we can truly be merciful. We cannot work our way into heaven even by a lifetime of merciful deeds, any more than by good works of any sort. God does not give mercy for merit; He gives mercy in grace. He gives mercy because it is needed, not because it is earned.

If we have received from a holy God unlimited mercy that cancels our unpayable debt of sin, it surely follows that we should be merciful to others.

Ask Yourself

At several points along the way, we’ve paused to celebrate the immensity of our salvation. Here at the end of our look at mercy, let’s drop to our knees again in awe and thanksgiving, realizing the depths He has pulled us from and imagining the glories that await us—all because of His grace and love through Christ.

Reading for Today:

Numbers 7:1–8:26
Psalm 31:1-5
Proverbs 11:4-6
Mark 9:1-29


Numbers 7:89 He spoke to him. With the completion of the tabernacle, the Lord communicated His word to Moses from the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies (see Lev. 1:1, Num. 1:1).

Psalm 31:5 Into Your hand. This is applied to both the lesser David and the Greater David (Luke 23:46). Here it involves the common denominator of trust. This is a metaphor depicting God’s power and control (see v. 15a; contra. vv. 8, 15b).

Proverbs 11:4 day of wrath. Money buys no escape from death in the day of final accounting to God, the divine Judge (see Is. 10:3; Ezek. 7:19; Zeph. 1:18; Luke 12:16–21).

Mark 9:22 to destroy him. This demon was an especially violent and dangerous one. Open fires and unfenced bodies of water were common in first-century Palestine, providing ample opportunity for the demon’s attempts to destroy the child. The father’s statement added to the pathos of the situation. The boy himself was probably disfigured from burn scars, and possibly further ostracized because of them. His situation also created a hardship for his family, who would have had to watch the boy constantly to protect him from harm.

What was the purpose of Jesus’ Transfiguration?

Matthew and Mark place the Transfiguration “six days” after Jesus’ promise that some disciples would “see the kingdom of God present with power”(Mark 9:1). Peter, James, and John, as the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples, were allowed to witness this great event on “a high mountain” (Mark 9:2), most likely Mt. Hermon, the highest mountain in the vicinity of Caesarea Philippi (see 8:27). Jesus was “transfigured,” meaning “to change in form” or “to be transformed,” in front of them. In some inexplicable way, Jesus manifested some of His divine glory to the 3 disciples (see 2 Pet. 1:16). The divine glory emanating from Jesus made even His clothing radiate brilliant white light (Mark 9:3). Light is often associated with God’s visible presence (see Ps. 104:2; Dan. 7:9; 1 Tim. 6:16; Rev. 1:14; 21:23).

Also appearing with Jesus were “Elijah…with Moses” (Mark 9:4). They were symbolic of the Prophets and the Law, the two great divisions of the Old Testament. They “were talking with Jesus,” and the subject was His coming death (Luke 9:31). Then “a cloud…overshadowed them” (v. 7). This is the glory cloud, Shekinah, which throughout the Old Testament was symbolic of God’s presence (Ex. 13:21; 33:18–23; 40:34, 35; Num. 9:15; 14:14; Deut. 9:33). And “a voice came out of the cloud,” which was the Father’s voice, saying, “This is My beloved Son”—repeating the affirmation of His love for the Son first given at Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:11). “Hear Him!” says the Father. Jesus, the One to whom the Law and Prophets pointed (see Deut. 18:15), is the One whom the disciples are to listen to and obey (see Heb. 1:1, 2).




Seeking a Closeness to God

“Draw near to God” (James 4:8).

The sincerely humble will want a closer relationship with God.

The expression “draw near” was originally associated with the priesthood in Israel. Under the regulations of the Old Covenant, the priests represented the people before God. Prior to coming near God’s presence, the priest had to be washed physically and be ceremonially clean. That meant he had to bathe, wear the proper garments, and offer sacrifices that made his own heart right with God. Then he could draw near to God on the people’s behalf.

Eventually the Hebrew word for drawing near meant anyone who approached the presence of God in worship and prayer. The term became synonymous even of those whose hearts were far from God when they “worshiped” Him. For example, Isaiah 29:13 says, “This people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote.”

But the sincere believer, one who has truly humbled himself before God, knows that God wants worshipers to draw near with true and pure hearts: “Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:22). This applies the language of the Old Testament ceremonial system to us and says that as the priests prepared themselves to be near God, we also should prepare ourselves spiritually to worship Him.

So far this month we have seen that the humble person will come to God for salvation, submit to Him as Lord, and take a stand against the Devil. But the truly humble person will see that his relationship to God is inherently more than those actions. If you claim to be one of the humble, one who has a saving relationship to the Father through the Son, be sure you can also agree with the psalmist Asaph: “But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Thy works” (Ps. 73:28).

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for His grace and mercy in salvation that make it possible for us to have a close relationship with Him.

For Further Study

Read Hebrews 4.

What sort of rest is the writer referring to?
How does it compare to the rest that the people of Israel sought during Joshua’s time?

Praying According to God's Word

"I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications" (Dan. 9:2-3).

God’s sovereignty doesn’t eliminate the need for prayer.

Have you ever wondered if it's biblical to pray for things that God has already promised in His Word to do? Is it proper to pray, say, for the salvation of sinners, knowing that God will redeem all the elect anyway, or for Christ's return, knowing that it is a sure thing? Daniel gives us a clear answer.

God prophesied through Jeremiah that the Babylonian Captivity would last seventy years (Jer. 25:11-12). When Daniel read that prophecy, he realized that the time was near for his people to return to their homeland. That inspired him to pray fervently.

In Daniel 9:19 he cries out, "O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Thine own sake, O my God, do not delay." He was in tune with God's Word and understood that somehow his prayers were part of God's plan.

The exact relationship between God's sovereignty and our prayers is a mystery, but it is clear that somehow God's Word and our prayers are co-laborers in achieving God's will.

Like Daniel, you and I live in a time when many of God's promises seem near to fulfillment. Never before have world events pointed so dramatically to the nearness of the return of our Lord. Consequently, this is not the time for complacency or over-enthusiastic speculation. It is the time for careful Bible study and fervent prayer.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for His faithfulness and the sure promises of His Word.
Ask Him for spiritual wisdom and insight to discern His will and then live accordingly.
For Further Study

Jeremiah 24:1—25:13 gives some background to Judah's captivity in Babylon. After reading those verses, answer these questions:

To what kind of fruit did God liken Judah?
What did God say would happen to King Zedekiah?
What warning did the prophets give to Judah?
What was Judah's response?
How would God deal with Babylon?


Practicing Mercy

“‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy’” (Matthew 5:7).

The most obvious way we can show mercy is through physical acts. Jesus specifically commands us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned, and offer any other practical help to those who need it. When we serve others in need, we demonstrate a heart of mercy.

The way of mercy did not begin in the New Testament. The Old Testament law taught, “You shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks” (Deut. 15:7–8).

Mercy is also to be shown in our attitudes. Mercy does not hold a grudge, harbor resentment, capitalize on another’s failure or weakness, or publicize another’s sin.

Mercy is also to be shown spiritually. First, it is shown through pity. The sensitive Christian will grieve more for lost souls than for lost bodies. Second, we are to show spiritual mercy by confrontation. Paul says that, as Christ’s servants, we should gently correct “those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:25). Third, we are to show spiritual mercy by praying. The sacrifice of prayer for those without God is an act of mercy. Finally, we are to show mercy by proclaiming the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. That is the most merciful thing we can do.

Ask Yourself

How has your life been transformed by being the blessed recipient of these various acts and expressions of mercy? What might occur in the lives of your children, your spouse, your parents, your friends—anyone to whom you begin to show consistent compassion?

Reading for Today:

Numbers 5:1–6:27
Psalm 30:8-12
Proverbs 11:1-3
Mark 8:22-38


Numbers 6:2 the vow of a Nazirite. The word “vow” here is related to the word “wonder,” which signifies something out of the ordinary. “Nazirite” transliterates a Hebrew term meaning “dedication by separation.” The Nazirite separated himself to the Lord by separating himself from 1) grape products (6:3, 4), 2) the cutting of one’s hair (6:5), and 3) contact with a dead body (6:6, 7). The high priest was also forbidden 1) to drink wine while serving in the tabernacle (Lev. 10:9) and 2) to touch dead bodies (Lev. 21:11). Further, both the high priest’s crown (Ex. 29:6; 39:30; Lev. 8:9) and the Nazirite’s head (6:9, 18) are referred to by the same Hebrew word. The Nazirite’s hair was like the high priest’s crown. Like the high priest, the Nazirite was holy to the Lord (6:8; Ex. 28:36) all the days (6:4, 5, 6, 8) of his vow.

Proverbs 11:2 pride. From a root meaning “to boil,” or “to run over,” indicating an overwhelmingly arrogant attitude or behavior. It is used of ordinary men (Deut. 17:12, 13); kings (Neh. 9:10); Israel (Neh. 9:16, 29); false prophets (Deut. 18:20); and murderers (Ex. 21:14). the humble. A rare word, which appears in Micah 6:8: “walk humbly with your God.” This humble and teachable spirit is first of all directed toward God (see 15:33; 16:18, 19; 18:12; 22:4).

Mark 8:23 spit on his eyes. This action and Jesus’ touching his eyes with His hands (v. 25) were apparently meant to reassure the blind man (who would naturally depend on his other senses, such as touch) that Jesus would heal his eyes (see 7:33; John 9:6).

Mark 8:30 tell no one. Jesus’ messianic mission cannot be understood apart from the Cross, which the disciples did not yet understand (see vv. 31–33; 9:30–32). For them to have proclaimed Jesus as Messiah at this point would have only furthered the misunderstanding that the Messiah was to be a political-military deliverer. The fallout was that the Jewish people, desperate to be rid of the yoke of Rome, would seek to make Jesus king by force (John 6:15; see 12:12–19).

What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?

In Mark 8:34, Jesus Christ makes it clear that no one who is unwilling to “deny himself” can legitimately claim to be a disciple. When He adds that one must “take up his cross,” He reveals the extent of self-denial—to the point of death, if necessary. The extent of desperation on the part of the penitent sinner who is aware he can’t save himself reaches the place where nothing is held back as He follows Jesus Christ (see Matt. 19:21, 22).

Jesus says that whoever “loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it” (v. 35). This paradoxical saying reveals an important spiritual truth: those who pursue a life of ease, comfort, and acceptance by the world will not find eternal life. On the other hand, those who give up their lives for the sake of Christ and the gospel will find it.

To have all that the world has to offer yet not have Christ is to be eternally bankrupt. All the world’s goods will not compensate for losing one’s soul eternally (v. 36). It is the “soul,” the real person, who will live forever in heaven or hell. Those who reject the demands of discipleship prove themselves to be ashamed of Jesus Christ and the truth He taught.




Standing Against the Devil

“Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7b).

Anyone who possesses scriptural humility will take an uncompromising stand against Satan.

The successful diplomat or politician is quite adept at the art of compromise and finding the middle ground on various issues. But such skill is a hindrance when it comes to determining your position before God. If you humbly, by faith and repentance, submit yourself to God’s authority, you will immediately find yourself the enemy of Satan. You are either in God’s kingdom and under His lordship, or you are in Satan’s kingdom and under his lordship. It is impossible to have one foot in each kingdom and to be serving both kingdoms’ rulers.

To “resist the devil” gives us insight into what it means to be an enemy of Satan. “Resist” means “to take a stand against” the person of Satan and his entire system, which includes everything he does and represents. Such resistance is the complete opposite of the position you had before you submitted to God. Ephesians 2:1-2 reminds us of what that position was: “You were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air [Satan].” At that time, you had no power to resist the Devil and no desire to serve God, because you were slaves to Satan and his system (Heb. 2:14-15).

But all of that can and will change if you humbly switch your allegiance from Satan’s kingdom to God’s kingdom. In today’s verse the apostle James is promising you that as a part of that changed loyalty, you will automatically be in a position to take a stand against Satan. The minute you forsake Satan’s mastery he will flee from you.

Many Christians wrongly assume that Satan is much more powerful than he really is. But if you understand James’s promise you will know you have abundant spiritual resources to handle Satan’s empty threats. Being humble before God doesn’t mean being weak before Satan. God enables you to stand firm and resist.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the wealth of spiritual resources He provides for you to stand against the Devil.

For Further Study

Read Ephesians 6:10-18.

Make a list of the spiritual weapons God has given us.
Pick one of these, and do some additional reading and study to improve your application of it.

Uncompromising Prayer

“In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus . . . I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer” (Dan. 9:1-3).

Uncompromising prayer brings glory to God.

Daniel’s prayer in Daniel 9:1-19 illustrates the key elements of effective intercessory prayer. Those elements will serve as the focus of our studies for several days, but first some background to Daniel’s prayer will be helpful.

Verse 1 says that Daniel prayed in the first year of the reign of King Darius, the first great king of the Medo-Persian Empire. About sixty-five years earlier, God had punished the sinful kingdom of Judah by allowing King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to conquer Jerusalem and take Israelite captives back to Babylon.

Subsequently the Babylonian Empire fell to the Medo-Persian Empire. Darius conquered Babylon on the night King Belshazzar threw a drunken festival at which God wrote the doom of his kingdom on the wall (Dan. 5:24-28). 

Daniel was among the captives originally transported to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. Throughout the lengthy captivity period, he never forgot he was God’s child and always represented God properly despite his difficult circumstances. He was a man of uncommon wisdom and courage. His trust in God was unwavering and his commitment to prayer uncompromising—even when his prayers could have cost him his life (Dan. 6:4-11).

As a result, God protected him, exalted him, and was glorified through him—as evidenced by King Darius’ decree that everyone in the kingdom was to fear and tremble before Daniel’s great God (Dan. 6:26).

Since Daniel understood the priority of prayer, he refused to be intimidated or distracted from it. His commitment is worthy of imitation. Can that be said of you? If everyone followed your pattern of prayer, would God’s Kingdom be strengthened?

Suggestions for Prayer

Consistency is important in prayer. You might try praying for different requests on specific days. For example, on Mondays you could pray for your governmental leaders, on Tuesdays for your pastor and the ministries of your church, etc.

For Further Study

Read Daniel 6.

What rank did Daniel hold?
Why did King Darius want to promote Daniel?
What was the reaction of the commissioners and satraps to Daniel’s popularity?
How did they deceive the king?
How did God protect Daniel?

God the Source of Mercy

“‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy’” (Matthew 5:7).

Pure mercy is a gift of God that comes with the new birth. People can be merciful only when they have experienced God’s mercy.

God has both absolute and relative attributes. His absolute attributes—such as love, truth, and holiness—have characterized Him from all eternity. But His relative attributes—like mercy, justice, and grace—were not manifested until man, whom He created in His own image, sinned and became separated from his Creator. Apart from sin and evil, mercy, justice, and grace have no meaning.

When man fell, God extended His love to His fallen creatures in mercy. Only when they receive His mercy can they reflect His mercy. Thus God is the source of mercy. “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness [mercy] toward those who fear Him” (Psalm 103:11). It is because we have the resource of God’s mercy that Jesus commanded, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).

We cannot have the blessing apart from the Blesser. We cannot even meet the condition apart from the One who set the condition. We are blessed by God when we are merciful to others, and we are able to be merciful to others because we have already received salvation’s mercy. Furthermore, when we share the mercy we have received, we will receive even more mercy.

Ask Yourself

When we talk about Christ’s character being formed in us, we understand the concept in theory. But what are some of the telltale signs that He is actually working His will through us in our interactions with others? How do you know when it’s Him, not you—when it’s the Spirit of God bearing fruit in your life?

Reading for Today:

Numbers 3:1–4:49
Psalm 30:1-7
Proverbs 10:30-32
Mark 8:1-21

Numbers 3:1 Aaron and Moses. Because Aaron and his sons are emphasized in this chapter, Aaron is named first. Mount Sinai. The Lord had first communicated to Moses His choice of Aaron and his sons as priests in Exodus 28:1–29:46, while he was in the midst of the cloud on Mt. Sinai (Ex. 24:18).

Numbers 3:4 Eleazar and Ithamar. All of the future priests of Israel under the Mosaic Covenant were descendants of these two sons of Aaron. Eleazar and his descendants would later be singled out for great blessing (see Num. 25:10–13).

Psalm 30:2, 3 You healed me. God alone is the unique healer (see Ex. 15:26; Deut. 32:39; Ps. 107:20). David is extolling God for bringing him back from a near-death experience.

Psalm 30:5 This stark contrast constitutes one of the most worshipful testimonies from the Scriptures (see the principle in Is. 54:7, 8; John 16:20–22; 2 Cor. 4:17).

Mark 8:2 I have compassion. Only here and in the parallel passage (Matt. 15:32) did Jesus use this word of Himself. When He fed the 5,000, Jesus expressed “compassion” for the people’s lost spiritual condition (6:34). Here, He expressed “compassion” for people’s physical needs. Jesus could empathize with their hunger, having experienced it Himself (Matt. 4:2).

What was the “leaven of the Pharisees and…of Herod” that Jesus warned about?

The skeptical Pharisees asked for a “sign from heaven” in Mark 8:11, demanding further miraculous proof of Jesus’ messianic claims. Not content with the countless miracles He had performed on earth, they demanded some sort of astronomical miracle. Having already given them more than enough proof, Jesus refused to accommodate their spiritual blindness. The supreme sign verifying His claim to be the Son of God and Messiah was to be His resurrection (Matt. 16:39, 40).

Jesus warned the disciples about “the leaven of the Pharisees and…of Herod.” “Leaven” is a yeast that multiplies quietly and permeates all that it contacts. In the New Testament, “leaven” most often symbolizes the evil influence of sin. The “leaven” of the Pharisees included both their false teaching (Matt. 16:12) and their hypocritical behavior (Luke 12:1). The “leaven” of Herod Antipas was his immoral, corrupt conduct (see 6:17–29). The Pharisees and the Herodians were allied against Christ (3:6).

To Jesus’ amazement, the disciples completely missed His point, thinking He was talking about physical bread. He was concerned with spiritual truth, not mundane physical matters. Jesus asks them, “Is your heart still hardened?” (v. 17), which implies that they were rebellious, spiritually insensitive, and unable to understand spiritual truth. And He also reminded them of His ability to provide anything they might lack.




Coming Under God's Authority

“Submit therefore to God” (James 4:7a).

The truly humble will submit to God’s authority.

Most people understand the basic requirements of military service. The first thing anyone experiences when he enlists is his rank within the chain of command under the commanding officer. Implicit in such lining up under the leadership of a superior is that the soldier, sailor, airman, or marine will obediently carry out all he is commanded to do.

However, the military is not the only context in which the concept of submission applies. James 4:7 uses the term “submit” in the far more important arena of our relationship to God. We are to submit to Him and come under the sovereign authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the basic requirement for anyone who would be humble before God. Since Scripture often uses military terms to describe our service to God (Phil. 2:252 Tim. 2:3), it is appropriate to see ourselves as enlisting in God’s army, willingly obeying His commands, and following His leadership.

This kind of humble, willing submission to God’s authority is what Jesus meant when He told the disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). This concept of submission simply means doing God’s will from the heart, no matter what the cost.

The story of the rich young ruler provides a good measuring rod of our submissiveness to God. After the young man professed obedience to God’s law, Jesus tested him further by commanding him to “go and sell all you possess, and give it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Mark 10:21). At that point the young man was not willing to obey Jesus. Instead, “his face fell, and he went away grieved, for he was one who owned much property” (v. 22).

How would you have reacted? Would you have willingly obeyed Jesus’ command, or would you have allowed your pride to keep you from submitting to Him? If you have humbly lined up under God’s authority, the proper response is not difficult.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to remind you throughout this day of your need to submit all you do to His authority.

For Further Study

Read the Acts 9:1-22 account of the apostle Paul’s conversion to Christ.

  • What do you notice about his obedience and humility?
  • What is noteworthy about Ananias’ behavior?

Unlimited Prayer

"Men ought always to pray" (Luke 18:1, KJV).

Prayer should never be limited to certain times, places, or circumstances.

As a child I was taught to pray with my head bowed, eyes closed, and hands folded. Even as a young man I thought that was the only acceptable mode of prayer.

In my seminary days I sang in a quartet that traveled to various churches throughout the United States. The first time I traveled with them we had a prayer meeting in the car, and the driver prayed with his eyes open. All of us were glad he did, but I wondered if God really heard his prayer.

I have since learned that praying with my eyes closed is a helpful way to avoid distractions, but it isn't mandated in Scripture—nor are most of the other limitations people often place on prayer. For example, some people want to limit prayer to a certain posture, but Scripture tells of people praying while standing, sitting, kneeling, looking upward, bowing down, and lifting up their hands.

Some try to limit prayer to certain times of the day, such as morning or evening. But in the Bible people prayed at all times: morning, evening, three times a day, before meals, after meals, at bedtime, at midnight, day and night, in their youth, in their old age, when troubled, and when joyous.

Similarly, Scripture places no limits on the place or circumstances of prayer. It tells of people praying in a cave, in a closet, in a garden, on a mountainside, by a river, by the sea, in the street, in the Temple, in bed, at home, in the stomach of a fish, in battle, on a housetop, in a prison, in the wilderness, and on a cross.

The point is clear: there is no specific correct mode or kind of prayer, and prayer isn't limited by your location or circumstances. You are to pray always. That includes any kind of prayer, on any subject, and at any time of the day or night.

Suggestions for Prayer

Make a list of your current plans, thoughts, and concerns. Have you made each of them a matter of prayer? Commit yourself to sharing every aspect of your life with God.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 136. Note how the Lord is intimately involved in the lives of His people.

Mercy and Justice

“‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy’” (Matthew 5:7).

The relationship of mercy and justice is a confusing one because on the surface they seem the exact opposite. Justice gives exactly what is deserved; mercy gives less punishment and more help than is deserved. So the great question is: How can God be both just and merciful at the same time? The truth is God does not show mercy without punishing sin. For Him to offer mercy without punishment would negate His justice.

Mercy that ignores sin is false mercy and is all too common today. Some think it is unloving and unkind to hold people responsible for their sins. That is what is known as cheap grace—which is neither merciful nor just, nor does it offer punishment or pardon for sin. Because it overlooks sin, it leaves sin untouched and unforgiven. The one who relies on this sort of mercy is left in his sin.

The good news of the gospel, however, is that Christ paid the penalty for all sins so that God might be merciful to all sinners. On the cross Jesus satisfied God’s justice. And when a person trusts in His sacrifice, God opens the floodgates of His mercy. God did not gloss over sin and compromise justice. The good news is that in the shedding of Christ’s blood, He satisfied His justice, forgave sin, fulfilled righteousness, and made His mercy available. There is never an excuse for sin, but there is always a remedy.

Ask Yourself

What is true of God’s mercy should be true of ours. Rather than simply letting people get away with abuse, mistreatment, or destructive habits, we must realize that for mercy to truly be merciful, it must lead others toward health and holiness. Mercy is tougher than we think. How then might it look in practice?

Reading for Today:


Numbers 1:2 a census. In Exodus 30:11–16, the Lord had commanded that a census of the males in Israel over 20 (excluding the Levites) be taken for the purpose of determining the ransom money for the service of the tabernacle. The result of that census is recorded in Exodus 38:25–28. The total number, 603,550 (Ex. 38:26), equals the number in 1:46.

Numbers 1:3 go to war. The purpose of this census was to form a roster of fighting men. The Book of Numbers looks ahead to the invasion of the land promised to Abraham (see Gen. 12:1–3).

Numbers 1:51 The outsider. This word often refers to the “alien” or “stranger.” The non-Levite Israelite was like a “foreigner” to the transporting of the tabernacle and had to keep his distance lest he die.

Mark 7:19 Since food is merely physical, no one who eats it will defile his heart or inner person, which is spiritual. Physical pollution, no matter how corrupt, cannot cause spiritual or moral pollution. Neither can external ceremonies and rituals cleanse a person spiritually. thus purifying all foods. By overturning the tradition of hand washing, Jesus in effect removed the restrictions regarding dietary laws.

Mark 7:20 What comes out of a man. A person’s defiled heart is expressed in both what he says and what he does.

Did Moses perhaps inflate the numbers of Jews in the wilderness?

Twice during the wilderness wanderings a census of the people of Israel was taken (Numbers 1:4626:51). Each time the resulting total count of fighting men exceeded 600,000.These numbers indicate a population for Israel in the wilderness of around 2.5 million people at any time. Viewed naturally, this total appears too high to sustain in wilderness conditions.

Before concluding that Moses inflated the numbers, several factors must be considered. First, the Lord supernaturally took care of Israel for 40 years (Deut. 8:1–5). Miraculous provision of food was a daily event. Second, God also spelled out sanitary practices that prevented the kind of health crises that might have occurred under those conditions. Third, while Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, they only moved camp about 40 times. Spending about a year in each campsite allowed for some normal life without creating a permanent settlement. This preserved some grazing for the herds while keeping the people’s pollution to a manageable amount. Each census was meant to be an accurate accounting of God’s people. They ought to be taken at face value.




Grace to the Humble

“He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble’” (James 4:6).

A person cannot be saved unless he comes to God with a humble attitude.

Today’s verse is a challenge and a promise to anyone who is not sure about his salvation, or who thinks he is saved but does not measure up to the tests of faith in James’s letter. Even the worst sinful character traits—relying on worldly wisdom, having enmity against God, lusting after fleshly and selfish desires—are no match for God’s abundant grace.

The kind of grace James is referring to here is simply God’s saving grace—His undeserved favor of forgiveness and love bestowed on all sorts of sinners. Included within that favor is the Lord’s promise of the Holy Spirit, an understanding of God’s Word, Heaven, and all spiritual blessings. Such grace is available to all who will come in faith to Christ. Nothing in this universe can prevent the truly humble and repentant person from receiving grace—not the strength of sin and depravity, not the might of Satan, not the pull of the flesh, not even the power of death.

Scripture often links humility with saving faith. That’s why James quoted from Proverbs 3:34 (“God is opposed to the proud”) to support his point in verse 6. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells us: “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (18:3).

If you are confused or doubtful regarding your salvation, just ask yourself, “Have I humbly submitted myself to God in faith and repentance?” If you have humbled yourself before God, rejoice! You are by definition a believer, one of the humble. Otherwise, you need to pray with the attitude of the tax gatherer in Luke 18:13, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” and receive His abundant grace.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for His continual grace, which He pours out to those who are humble before Him.

For Further Study

Read James 1—2.

What tests of true faith are discussed there?
How are we to respond to each of them?
Reflect on your response to these issues in the past. How could you improve?

Unceasing Prayer

"Pray at all times in the Spirit" (Eph. 6:18).

Spiritual victory is directly related to the quality of your prayer life.

Prayer is communication with God, and like all communication, it can be developed to maximum efficiency or allowed to languish. Which you choose will determine the quality of your spiritual life.

Ironically, the freedom of worship we enjoy in our society and our high standard of living make it easy to become complacent about prayer and presume on God's grace. Consequently, many who say they trust in God actually live as if they don't need Him at all. Such neglect is sinful and leads to spiritual disaster.

Jesus taught that "men ought always to pray, and not to faint" (Luke 18:1, KJV). "Faint" speaks of giving in to evil or becoming weary or cowardly. Paul added that we should pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and petition, and "be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints" (Eph. 6:18).

First Thessalonians 5:17 says, "Pray without ceasing." That doesn't mean to do nothing but pray. It simply means living in a constant state of God-consciousness. If you see a beautiful sunrise or a bouquet of flowers, your first response is to thank God for the beauty of His creation. If you see someone in distress, you intercede on his or her behalf. You see every experience of life in relation to God.

God wants you to be diligent and faithful in prayer. With that goal in mind we will devote this month to a study of prayer from two texts: Daniel's prayer in Daniel 9:1-19, and the disciples' prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. Both are models of majestic, effective prayer.

As we study those passages together, be aware of your own pattern of prayer. Examine it carefully for strengths and weaknesses. Be prepared to make any necessary changes.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the privilege of communing with Him in prayer.
Ask Him to reveal any areas in your praying that need to be strengthened.
For Further Study

Read Daniel 9:1-19.

What prompted Daniel's prayer?
What was Daniel's attitude toward God? Toward himself and his people?
What did Daniel request?

Mercy Compared to Forgiveness, Love, and Grace

“‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy’” (Matthew 5:7).

To understand the significance of mercy, let’s compare it to three amazing attributes of God. First, mercy has much in common with forgiveness, although it is distinct from it. God’s forgiveness of our sins flows from His mercy. But mercy is greater than forgiveness, because God is merciful to us even when we do not sin, just as we can be merciful to those who have never done anything against us. God’s mercy does not just forgive our transgressions but reaches to all our weaknesses and needs.

Just as forgiveness flows out of mercy, mercy flows out of love: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:4–5). Love is greater than mercy—it can manifest itself even when there is no wrong to forgive or need to meet.

Finally, mercy is also related to grace, which flows out of love. Grace and mercy have the closest possible relationship, yet they are different. Mercy deals with the consequences of sin, while grace deals with sin itself. Mercy offers relief from punishment; grace offers pardon for the crime.

Just look at what the Good Samaritan did. When he found a Jewish traveler who had been robbed and beaten, he held no animosity toward him. Love motivated him to show the man mercy when he bound up his wounds. And when he took him to an inn and cared for him, he showed grace. Such is the expression of mercy working with forgiveness, love, and grace.

Ask Yourself

Is there someone to whom you need to show God’s mercy, expressed through your love, your grace, your forgiveness? Think of how you can turn your merciful intentions into practical action.

Reading for Today:

Leviticus 26:1–27:34
Psalm 29:1-6
Proverbs 10:22-25
Mark 7:1-13


Leviticus 26:9 make you fruitful, multiply you and confirm My covenant with you. What God commanded at creation and repeated after the Flood was contained in the covenant promise of seed (Gen. 12:1–3), which He will fulfill to the nation of Israel as promised to Abraham (Gen. 15:5, 6).

Leviticus 26:12 your God…My people. The promise of an intimate covenant relationship with the God of the universe is given (see 2 Cor. 6:16).

Leviticus 26:30 high places. These were natural shrines for the worship of idols. Solomon disobeyed God by worshiping Him on the high places (1 Kin. 3:4); and not long afterward, he was serving the gods of his foreign wives (1 Kin. 11:1–9).

Psalm 29:1 mighty ones. Literally, “sons of God” (see Ps. 89:6 in its context of vv. 5–10; see the plural form of “gods” in Ex. 15:11). The reference here in Psalm 29 is most likely to Yahweh’s mighty angels.

Proverbs 10:22 rich. While having more than one needs is not the object of wisdom, it is generally the result (see Deut. 6:11–15; 1 Kin. 3:10–14). no sorrow. None of the sorrow that is associated with ill-gotten wealth (see 13:11; 15:6; 16:19; 21:6; 28:6) is associated with wealth provided by the Lord.

What did the washing of hands have to do with spirituality?

In Mark 7:1, a delegation of leading representatives of Judaism came from Jerusalem perhaps at the request of the Galilean Pharisees. They immediately found fault with the disciples of Jesus, accusing them of eating with hands that had not been ceremonially cleansed and, thus, that had not been separated from the defilement associated with their having touched anything profane (v. 2). This washing had nothing to do with cleaning dirty hands but with a ceremonial rinsing. The ceremony involved someone pouring water out of a jar onto another’s hands, whose fingers must be pointing up. As long as the water dripped off at the wrist, the person could proceed to the next step. He then had water poured over both hands with the fingers pointing down. Then each hand was to be rubbed with the fist of the other hand. This was according to the “tradition of the elders”—a body of extra-biblical laws and interpretations of Scripture that had in actuality supplanted Scripture as the highest religious authority in Judaism.

The Pharisees and scribes went to the disciples’ Master for an explanation of the disciples’ allegedly disgraceful conduct. In reality, they were accusing Jesus of teaching His disciples to disobey the tradition of the elders (v. 5). Jesus’ reply was to quote Isaiah 29:13, whose prophecy perfectly fit the actions of the Pharisees. Not only were their hearts far from God but they were “hypocrites,” or spiritual phonies (v. 6). They followed the traditions of men because such teaching required only mechanical and thoughtless conformity without a pure heart. And in doing so, they had abandoned all the commandments contained in God’s Word and substituted a humanly designed standard for God’s standard (v. 8).




God's Glory in Christ

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Christ displayed God’s glory on earth and will again when He comes back. After seeing His glory in Scripture, we should respond in worship and righteousness.

From eternity past Christ had the glory of God. He “is the radiance of [God’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Heb. 1:3), and He prayed, “And now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I ever had with Thee before the world was” (John 17:5).

Christ also displayed God’s glory on earth. Most often He looked like an ordinary man, but one night He appeared in great glory to Peter, James, and John (Luke 9:28-36). “While He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming” (v. 29). Moses and Elijah came and spoke to Him, and the disciples “saw His glory” (v. 32).

When He comes again, He will come “on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:30), to the joy of His people and to the terror of those who reject Him. His glory will fill the whole earth (Num. 14:21), and all creation will worship Him.

What should be our response to God’s glory? Like the angels who sing, “Glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14), we should give Him praise. Also, as we see His glory we should change: “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18). As we look at God, the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and helps us grow and live righteous lives. As “children of God,” we “appear as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15).

The purpose of all creation is to glorify God. As a mirror reflects light, we are to reflect His glory to Him and to a sinful world. Seek to live a holy life so this reflection shines as brightly as possible, and make it your desire to glorify Him in everything you do.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the hope of glory we have as we wait for Christ’s return (Titus 2:13). Ask that your life would brightly reflect God’s glory today.

For Further Study

Read about God’s glory in Heaven in Revelation 21:1—22:5. How is His glory displayed?

Acknowledging the Ultimate Source of Everything

"Joyously giving thanks to the Father" (Col. 1:11-12).

Joyous thanksgiving acknowledges God as the giver of every good gift.

The inseparable link between joy and thanksgiving was a common theme for Paul. In Philippians 4:4-6 he says, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! . . . Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." He told the Thessalonians to "rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thess. 5:16- 18).

As often as Paul expressed thanks and encouraged others to express theirs, he was careful never to attribute to men the thanks due to God alone. For example in Romans 1:8 he says, "I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world." He thanked God, not the Roman believers, because he knew that faith is a gift from God.

That doesn't mean you can't thank others for the kindnesses they show, but in doing so you must understand that they are instruments of God's grace.

Thanking Him shows humility and acknowledges His rightful place as the Sovereign Lord and the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). Those who reject His lordship and refuse to give Him thanks incur His wrath (Rom. 1:21).

Only those who love Christ can truly give thanks because He is the channel through which thanks is expressed to the Father. As Paul says in Colossians 3:17, "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father." Hebrews 13:15 adds, "Through [Christ] then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name."

As one who is privileged to know the God of all grace, be generous in your praise and thanksgiving today. See everything as a gift from His hand for your joy and edification.

Suggestions for Prayer

Recite Psalm 136 as a prayer of praise to God.

For Further Study

From Psalm 136 list the things that prompted the psalmist's thanksgiving. How can that psalm serve as a model for your own praise?

Satisfying Your Spiritual Hunger

“‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied’” (Matthew 5:6).

The all-important result for any believer hungering and thirsting after righteousness is to “be satisfied.” The verb translated “satisfied” frequently refers to the feeding of animals until they want no more. In a parallel to this, Jesus declares that people who hunger and thirst for righteousness will gain complete satisfaction. This satisfaction comes from God. Our part is to seek; His is to satisfy us.

Paradoxically, Christians continually seek God’s righteousness, always wanting more and never getting their fill in this life. Yet the Lord still satisfies them. Again, we can make the analogy to food. We can eat our fill of our favorite dishes, yet our taste for those foods remains. The satisfaction we derive only makes us want more. Believers who crave God’s righteousness will find it so satisfying that they will always want more.

Psalms speaks repeatedly about God’s satisfying our spiritual hunger. The most well-known psalm opens, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” and later says, “You prepare a table before me … my cup overflows” (23:1, 5). A later psalm assures us that God “has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good” (Ps. 107:9; cf. 34:10).

Jesus on another occasion told the crowds, many of whom were among the five thousand fed, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst” (John 6:35). Our spiritual hunger will always be satisfied (cf. John 4:14).

Ask Yourself

It may not happen all at once, but Jesus will always reward your hunger for righteousness with the deep satisfaction reserved for the humbly obedient. How has He satisfied you in the past? Think of a time when you and He celebrated what sanctification was accomplishing in you.

Reading for Today:

Leviticus 25:1–55
Psalm 28:6-9
Proverbs 10:19-21
Mark 6:30-56


Leviticus 25:8–55 The Year of Jubilee involved a year of release from indebtedness (vv.23–38) and bondage of all sorts (vv. 39–55). All prisoners and captives were set free, slaves released, and debtors absolved. All property reverted to original owners. This plan curbed inflation and moderated acquisitions. It also gave new opportunity to people who had fallen on hard times.

Psalm 28:9 Your inheritance. God amazingly considers His people a most precious possession (see Deut. 7:6–16; 9:29; 1 Sam 10:1; Pss. 33:12; 94:5; Eph. 1:18).

Mark 6:44 five thousand men. The Greek word for “men” means strictly males, so the numerical estimate did not include women and children (see Matt. 14:21). The women and children were traditionally seated separately from the men for meals. When everyone was added, there could have been at least 20,000.

Mark 6:50 Be of good cheer! This command, always linked in the Gospels to a situation of fear and apprehension (see 10:49; Matt. 9:2, 22; 14:27; Luke 8:48; John 16:33; Acts 23:11), urged the disciples to have a continuing attitude of courage. It is I. Literally, “I AM.” This statement clearly identified the figure as the Lord Jesus, not some phantom. It echoed the Old Testament self-revelation of God (see Ex. 3:14).

DAY 28: List all the Jewish feasts and dates.

Feast of

Month on

Jewish Calendar









Exodus 12:1–14

Matthew 26:17–20

*Unleavened Bread




Exodus 12:15–20



or Sivan





Leviticus 23:9–14

Numbers (28:26)

*Pentecost (Harvest or Weeks)


6 (50 days after

barley harvest)


Deuteronomy 16:9–12Acts 2:1

Trumpets, Rosh Hashanah


1, 2


Numbers 29:1–6

Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur




Leviticus 23:26–32Hebrews 9:7

*Tabernacles (Booths

or Ingathering)




Nehemiah 8:13–18John 7:2

Dedication (Lights), Hanukkah


25 (8 days)


John 10:22

Purim (Lots)


14, 15


Esther 9:18–22

*The three major feasts for which all males of Israel were required to travel to the temple in Jerusalem (Ex. 23:14–19).




God's Glory

“The heavens are telling of the glory of God, and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Psalm 19:1).

God’s glory is the radiance of all He is.

In Isaiah’s vision of Heaven, angels called out, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory” (Isa. 6:3). What exactly is the glory of God? It encompasses all that He is, the radiance of His attributes and divine nature.

Moses said to God, “I pray Thee, show me Thy glory!” (Ex. 33:18), and the Lord answered, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion” (v. 19). Moses was not allowed to see God’s face, which is the essence of His being: “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” (v. 20). But Moses was allowed to see God’s back, which represents the afterglow of His glory.

Perhaps God’s afterglow is like the radiance of the sun. We only see the light that comes off the sun. If we got too close to it, we would be consumed. If the sun is so brilliant, what must God be like? His glory seen in creation is only a dim reflection of His character.

God displayed His glory many times in Scripture. He represented Himself as a great white cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night as He led Israel through the wilderness (Ex. 13:21). After the Tabernacle was built, “the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Ex. 40:34). Years later, He filled the temple in a similar way (1 Kings 8:10-11). This manifestation of God’s glory served as the focal point of worship for Israel.

God takes His glory very seriously. He said, “I will not give My glory to another” (Isa. 42:8). We must not steal God’s glory by becoming proud and taking credit for the good things He has done. Instead of taking God’s glory, say with David, “I will give thanks to Thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and will glorify Thy name forever” (Ps. 86:12).

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for His glory and majesty.

For Further Study

Read Daniel 4, the story of a powerful man who did not give God the glory. What characterized Nebuchadnezzar in verses 30 and 37?

Attaining Spiritual Stability

"Strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience" (Col. 1:11).

God always empowers you to do what He commands you to do.

An alarming number of Christians seem to lack spiritual stability. Many are "carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming" (Eph. 4:14). Others lack moral purity. Many are driven by their emotions rather than sound thinking. Increasingly, therapists and psychologists are replacing pastors and biblical teachers as the heroes of the faith. While we still proclaim a sovereign, all- powerful God, our conduct often belies our creed.

Despite our inconsistences, the power for spiritual stability is ours in Christ as we allow the knowledge of His will to control our lives. Paul describes the working of that power in Colossians 1:11. There the Greek words translated "strengthened" and "power" speak of inherent power that gives one the ability to do something.

The phrase "according to" indicates that the power for spiritual stability is proportional to God's abundant supply—and it is inexhaustible! The literal Greek says you are being "empowered with all power according to the might of His glory." That thought is akin to Philippians 2:12-13, where Paul says that the power for working out your salvation comes from God, who is at work in you to will and to work for His good pleasure.

In Colossians 1:11 the result of God's enabling is "the attaining of all steadfastness and patience." "Steadfastness" speaks of endurance regarding people; "patience" speaks of endurance regarding things or circumstances. When you are steadfast and patient, you are spiritually stable. Your responses are biblical, thoughtful, and calculated; not worldly, emotional, or uncontrolled. You bear up under trials because you understand God's purposes and trust His promises.

Paul said, "Be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might" (Eph. 6:10). That is possible when you trust God and rely on the infinite power that is yours in Christ.

Suggestions for Prayer

Perhaps you know someone who is struggling with spiritual instability. Pray for him or her and ask God to use you as a source of encouragement.

For Further Study

Psalm 18 is a psalm of victory that David wrote after God delivered him from Saul. Read it, then answer these questions:

What characteristics of God did David mention?
How might those characteristics apply to situations you are facing?

Spiritual Hunger’s Second Object—Sanctification

“‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied’” (Matthew 5:6).

For the Christian, the object of hungering and thirsting is growth in sanctification, which is a crucial mark of the genuine believer. No one who follows Christ attains complete sanctification until heaven, and to claim otherwise would be the height of presumption. Thus saints in this life always need to strive for more holiness, which will be seen in their lives through obedience to the Word. Paul prayed that the Philippian believers might “abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that [they] may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ” (Phil. 1:9–10).

The Greek grammar Matthew used in quoting Jesus indicates that righteousness is the unqualified and unlimited object of “hunger and thirst.” Our Lord is describing people who earnestly desire all the righteousness there is (cf. Matt. 5:48; 1 Peter 1:15–16).

In the original text the definite article appears before “righteousness,” which means that Jesus is not speaking of just any general righteousness, but the righteousness—the true one that comes from God. In fact, it is the Father’s very own righteousness that the Son also possesses.

Because we as believers cannot possibly have our longing for godliness satisfied during our earthly lives, we must continually hunger and thirst until the glorious day when we receive the complete clothing of Jesus Christ’s righteousness.

Ask Yourself

Not on Sunday morning but on Tuesday afternoon, on Thursday morning, on Friday night in front of the television—are you hungering for “all the righteousness there is”? Does the call of Christ’s holiness register at off times of day?

Reading for Today:

Leviticus 23:1–24:23
Psalm 28:1-5
Proverbs 10:17-18
Mark 6:1-29


Leviticus 23:2 proclaim to be holy convocations. These festivals did not involve gatherings of all Israel in every case. Only the feasts of 1) Unleavened Bread; 2) Weeks; and 3) Tabernacles required that all males gather in Jerusalem (see Ex. 23:14–17; Deut. 16:16, 17).

Mark 6:11 shake off the dust. A symbolic act that signified complete renunciation of further fellowship with those who rejected them. When the disciples made this gesture, it would show that the people had rejected Jesus and the gospel and were hence rejected by the disciples and by the Lord. more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah. People who reject Christ’s gracious, saving gospel will face a fate worse than those pagans killed by divine judgment on the two Old Testament cities.

Mark 6:13 anointed with oil…sick. In Jesus’ day olive oil was often used medicinally (see Luke 10:34). But here it represented the power and presence of the Holy Spirit and was used symbolically in relation to supernatural healing (see Is. 11:2; Zech. 4:1–6; Matt. 25:2–4; Rev. 1:4, 12). As a well-known healing agent, the oil was an appropriate, tangible medium the people could identify with as the disciples ministered to the sick among them.

Mark 6:15 “It is Elijah.” This identification of Jesus, which probably had been discussed repeatedly among the Jews, was based on the Jewish expectation that the prophet Elijah would return prior to Messiah’s coming. the Prophet…one of the prophets. Some saw Jesus as the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 18:15, the messianic prophecy that looked to the One who, like Moses, would lead His people. Others were willing to identify Jesus only as a great prophet, or one who was resuming the suspended line of Old Testament prophets. These and the other opinions, although misplaced, show that the people still thought Jesus was special or somehow supernatural.

What is the relationship of unbelief and Jesus’ working in people’s lives?

Although the people in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth were “astonished” by Jesus’ wisdom and mighty works (Mark 6:2), their initial reaction gave way to skepticism and a critical attitude toward Jesus. They still thought of Jesus as a carpenter and the son of Mary with brothers and sisters (v. 3). The residents of Nazareth were deeply offended at Jesus’ posturing Himself as some great teacher because of His ordinary background, His limited formal education, and His lack of an officially sanctioned religious position.

In the face of this, Jesus “could do no mighty work there” (v. 5). This is not to suggest that His power was somehow diminished by their unbelief. It may suggest that because of their unbelief people were not coming to Him for healing or miracles the way they did in Capernaum and Jerusalem. Or, more importantly it may signify that Christ limited His ministry both as an act of mercy, so that the exposure to greater light would not result in a worse hardening that would only subject them to greater condemnation, and a judgment on their unbelief. He had the power to do more miracles, but not the will, because they rejected Him. Miracles belonged among those who were ready to believe.

“He marveled because of their unbelief” (v. 6).“Marveled” means Jesus was completely astonished and amazed at Nazareth’s reaction to Him, His teaching, and His miracles. He was not surprised at the fact of the people’s unbelief, but at how they could reject Him while claiming to know all about Him.




God Is Faithful to Keep Us

“Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

God is faithful in forgiving our sins and securing our salvation.

We have learned that God protects us from temptation, but what happens when we don’t rely on God and give in to sin? John has the answer: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). The Lord says in Jeremiah 31:34, “I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” God has promised to forgive, and He is faithful to do so.

God’s faithfulness stands out especially in His preserving His people for glory. He secures our salvation. Paul says, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). God will preserve us so that we may be “without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” because He is “faithful” (1 Thess. 5:23-24).

There was once a boy whose dad left him on a downtown street corner and told him to wait there until he returned in about half an hour. But the father’s car broke down, and he could not get to a phone. Five hours went by before the father managed to get back, and he thought his son would be in a state of panic. But when the father returned, the boy was standing in front of the corner dime store, looking in the window and rocking back and forth on his heels. The father threw his arms around him, apologized, and said, “Weren’t you worried? Did you think I was never coming back?” The boy replied, “No, Dad. I knew you were coming. You said you would.”

God is always faithful to His promises. The father in the story was unable to keep his promise because of circumstances out of his control. But God is able to overcome any circumstances to keep His word. With a simple faith like that boy’s, we can always say, “I knew you would do it, God. You said you would.”

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God for simple faith to trust Him whatever the situation.

For Further Study

David rejoices in God’s faithfulness in Psalm 103. Make a list of all the ways God demonstrates His faithfulness in this psalm.

Enjoying a Bountiful Harvest

"Bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God" (Col. 1:10).

Your fruitfulness is directly related to your knowledge of divine truth.

Every farmer who enjoys a plentiful harvest does so only after diligent effort on his part. He must cultivate the soil, plant the seed, then nurture it to maturity. Each step is thoughtful, disciplined, and orderly.

Similarly, bearing spiritual fruit is not an unthinking or haphazard process. It requires us to be diligent in pursuing the knowledge of God's will, which is revealed in His Word. That is Paul's prayer in Colossians 1:9, which he reiterates in verse 10.

The phrase "increasing in the knowledge of God" (v. 10) can be translated, "increasing by the knowledge of God." Both renderings are acceptable. The first emphasizes the need to grow; the second emphasizes the role that knowledge plays in your spiritual growth.

As your knowledge of God's Word increases, the Holy Spirit renews your mind and transforms your thinking. As you gaze into the glory of the Lord as revealed in Scripture, you "are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory" (2 Cor. 3:18). You have "put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him" (Col. 3:10).

One of Satan's ploys to retard spiritual productivity is getting Christians preoccupied with humanistic philosophy and other bankrupt substitutes for God's truth. That's why he planted false teachers at Colosse to teach that knowing God's will is inadequate for true spirituality. Paul refuted that claim by affirming that Christ is the fullness of deity in bodily form (Col. 2:9). In Him are "hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2:3). He is all you need!

Scripture commands you to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18). Is that characteristic of your life? Are you looking forward to a bountiful spiritual harvest?

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the privilege of knowing His will and studying His Word.
Prayerfully guard your mind from sinful influences. Saturate it with God's truth.
For Further Study

Read the following passages, noting the effects of God's Word: Psalms 119:9, 105; Acts 20:32; Romans 10:17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 2:14.

Spiritual Hunger's First Object—Salvation

“‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied’” (Matthew 5:6).

The first objective of spiritual hunger by the lost sinner is salvation. The righteousness the unbeliever begins to hunger for—after he or she sees their sin, mourns over it, and gently submits self to God—is the righteousness that repents of sin and submits to the lordship of Christ.

In the Old Testament, righteousness is often a synonym for salvation. Through Isaiah, God declared, “My righteousness is near, My salvation has gone forth” (Isa. 51:5). Daniel said, “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Dan. 12:3).

In Jesus’ day, the great obstacle to receiving the gospel for so many members of His Jewish audience was self-righteousness—their confidence in their own works to achieve a self-styled holiness. They believed that as members of God’s chosen nation of Israel, they were assured of entrance into heaven. But Christ taught them that they would not find the path to salvation unless they hungered and thirsted for the Father’s righteousness instead of their own. And that is the case for everyone today, no matter what race, religion, or economic status.

Ask Yourself

It’s easy for the wonder and majesty of our salvation to be lost on us as time goes by. Let today be another opportunity to realize how empty you were before and how full He has made you in Christ. Put your worship into prayerful words.

Reading for Today:

Leviticus 21:1–22:33
Psalm 27:11-14
Proverbs 10:13-16
Mark 5:21-43


Leviticus 21:16–23 defect. Just as the sacrifice had to be without blemish, so did the one offering the sacrifice. As visible things exert strong impressions on the minds of people, any physical impurity or malformation tended to distract from the weight and authority of the sacred office, failed to externally exemplify the inward wholeness God sought, and failed to be a picture of Jesus Christ, the Perfect High Priest to come (see Heb. 7:26).

Proverbs 10:13 rod. This first reference to corporal punishment applied to the backside (see 19:29; 26:3) recommends it as the most effective way of dealing with children and fools. See also 13:24; 18:6; 19:29; 22:15; 23:13, 14; 26:3; 29:15.

Mark 5:26 suffered many things from many physicians. In New Testament times, it was common practice in difficult medical cases for people to consult many different doctors and receive a variety of treatments. The supposed cures were often conflicting, abusive, and many times made the ailment worse, not better. (Luke, the physician, in Luke 8:43 suggested the woman was not helped because her condition was incurable.)

Mark 5:38 wept and wailed. In that culture, a sure sign that a death had occurred. Because burial followed soon after death, it was the people’s only opportunity to mourn publicly. The wailing was especially loud and mostly from paid mourners.

What do the healings of Mark 5 teach us about faith?

Upon hearing about Jesus, the woman with the flow of blood said to herself, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well” (v. 28). Her faith in Jesus’ healing powers was so great that she believed even indirect contact with Him through His garments would be enough to produce a cure. Jesus’ response to her touch and healing was that “your faith has made you well” (v. 34). The form of the Greek verb translated “has made you well,” which can also be rendered “has made you whole,” indicates that her healing was complete. It is the same Greek word often translated “to save” and is the normal New Testament word for saving from sin, which strongly suggests that the woman’s faith also led to spiritual salvation.

Jesus’ response to the announced death of Jairus’s daughter was simply, “Do not be afraid; only believe” (v. 36). The verb is a command for present, continuous action urging Jairus to maintain the faith he had initially demonstrated in coming to Jesus. Christ knew there was no other proper response to Jairus’s helpless situation, and He was confident of faith’s outcome (Luke 8:50). Even in the face of ridicule, Jesus said, “The child is not dead, but sleeping” (v. 39).With this figurative expression, Jesus meant that the girl was not dead in the normal sense, because her condition was temporary and would be reversed (see note on Matt. 9:24; see John 11:11–14; Acts 7:60; 13:36; 1 Cor. 11:30; 15:6, 18, 20, 51; 1 Thess. 4:13, 14).




God Is Faithful to Care for Us

“God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9).

God is completely faithful to do what He has promised.

We live in a day of unfaithfulness, don’t we? Some husbands and wives are unfaithful to their marriage vows. Children are often unfaithful to the principles taught by their parents. Parents are often unfaithful to meet the needs of their children. And all too frequently we are unfaithful to God.

Only God is always faithful, a fact often celebrated in Scripture: “Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God” (Deut. 7:9). “Thy lovingkindness, O Lord, extends to the heavens, Thy faithfulness reaches to the skies” (Ps. 36:5). “Great is Thy faithfulness” (Lam. 3:23).

Let’s look at several areas in which God is faithful to us. First, He’s faithful in taking care of us. Peter says, “Let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” (1 Peter 4:19). The word translated “entrust” is a banking term that speaks of a deposit for safekeeping. We’re to give our lives to our “faithful Creator,” who is best able to care for us because He created us. “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).

God is also faithful in helping us resist temptation: “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13). No believer can legitimately claim that he was overwhelmed by temptation or that “the Devil made me do it.” When our faithfulness is tested, we have God’s own faithfulness as our resource. “The Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one” (2 Thess. 3:3).

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for His faithfulness in taking care of you and protecting you from temptation.

For Further Study

God had promised Abraham a son, and He finally gave him Isaac. But God made a strange request. Read Genesis 22:1-18 and Hebrews 11:17-19. How did Abraham demonstrate his trust?
In what areas do you have trouble trusting God?

Living in a Worthy Manner

"So that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects" (Col. 1:10).

Your manner of life should be consistent with Christ’s.

In Colossians 1:9 Paul speaks of being controlled by the knowledge of God's will. In verse 10 he speaks of walking in a manner worthy of the Lord. There is a direct cause-and-effect relationship between those verses. When you are controlled by the knowledge of God's will, you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.

The Greek word translated "walk" means "to order one's behavior." It's a common New Testament metaphor for one's lifestyle. Paul made a similar plea to the Thessalonians: "Walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory" (1 Thess. 2:12).

The thought of being worthy of the Lord might raise some eyebrows because we usually relate worthiness to merit or something deserved. But that isn't Paul's point at all. The Greek word translated "worthy" in Colossians 1:10 speaks of something that weighs as much or carries the same value as something else. He isn't saying we deserve Christ, but that our conduct should be consistent with His.

That is Peter's point in 1 Peter 2:21: "You have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps." John said, "The one who says he abides in [Christ] ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked" (1 John 2:6). He added in 2 John 6, "Walk according to His commandments." That's how you demonstrate your love for Christ (John 14:15) and please Him in every respect.

As a word of encouragement, a worthy walk is not a walk of sinless perfection. That won't happen until you are fully glorified. But each day you are growing in godliness as a result of the Spirit's transforming work in you (2 Cor. 3:18). Be faithful to that process. Set your affections on Christ, look to His Word, and rejoice in the privilege of becoming more like Him today.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the power and guidance of His Spirit in your life.
Be diligent to confess your sin when you stray from a worthy walk.
For Further Study

Read Ephesians 4:1-3 and Philippians 1:27-30.

What specific attitudes are involved in a worthy walk?
Does a worthy walk eliminate the possibility of suffering or persecution? Explain.

The Meaning and Necessity of Spiritual Hunger

“‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied’” (Matthew 5:6).

The “hunger and thirst” Jesus speaks of here are far more intense than even strong physical pangs for food and drink, which come when we miss several meals. All true followers of Christ have a continuing hunger and thirst for righteousness—they will regularly long for holiness. Jesus’ analogy shows us that righteousness is necessary for spiritual life just as food and water are necessary for physical life.

But sadly, most people are by nature starved for spiritual life. The tendency of such unbelievers is to turn toward their physical appetites and the world’s ways rather than toward spiritual life (cf. Prov. 26:11; 2 Peter 2:22). Apart from divine revelation and the Spirit’s promptings, these people don’t recognize their spiritual needs or know what will truly satisfy them.

Seeking satisfaction for our spiritual hunger only in God and His gracious provision identifies us as members of His kingdom. Such people sincerely want their sin to be replaced with virtue and their disobedience with obedience.

The first three beatitudes are essentially negative and require costly and painful personal sacrifice to accomplish, even with the help of God’s Spirit. This fourth one, however, is more positive, coming about when we possess the other three. When we have put aside self and our enslavement to sin and turned to the Lord, we will have a genuine, growing desire for righteousness. The true Christian desires to obey God, even though he or she still struggles with unredeemed humanness (cf. Rom. 8:23).

Ask Yourself

What spiritual hungers are growling the loudest in your heart right now? When you have sought to satisfy them in disobedience or in any way other than God intends, what has always been the result? How do you intend to see them fed now?

 Reading for Today:

Leviticus 19:1–20:27
Psalm 27:4-10
Proverbs 10:10-12
Mark 5:1-20


Leviticus 19:2 I the LORD your God am holy. This basic statement, which gives the reason for holy living among God’s people, is the central theme in Leviticus (see 20:26). See 1 Peter 1:16. Israel had been called to be a holy nation, and the perfectly holy character of God (see Is. 6:3) was the model after which the Israelites were to live (see 10:3; 20:26; 21:6–8).

Leviticus 19:26 divination…soothsaying. Attempting to tell the future with the help of snakes and clouds was a common ancient way of foretelling good or bad future. These were forbidden forms of witchcraft which involved demonic activity.

Psalm 27:8, 9 “Seek My face,”…“Your face,”…Your face. God’s “face” indicates His personal presence or simply His being (Pss. 24:6; 105:4); and seeking His face is a primary characteristic of true believers who desire fellowship with God (see Deut. 4:29; 2 Chr. 11:16; 20:4; Ps. 40:16; Jer. 50:4; Hos. 3:5; Zech. 8:22).

Mark 5:5 crying out and cutting himself with stones. “Crying out” describes a continual unearthly scream uttered with intense emotion. The “stones” likely were rocks made of flint with sharp, jagged edges.

Mark 5:9 “What is your name?” Most likely, Jesus asked this in view of the demon’s appeal not to be tormented. However, He did not need to know the demon’s name in order to expel him. Rather, Jesus posed the question to bring the reality and complexity of this case into the open. Legion. A Latin term, by then common to Jews and Greeks, that defined a Roman military unit of 6,000 infantrymen. Such a name denotes that the man was controlled by an extremely large number of militant evil spirits, a truth reiterated by the expression “for we are many.”

What does the term “type of Christ” mean when used to describe someone in the Old Testament?

Certain persons and practices recorded in the Old Testament serve as hints, clues, and preillustrations of what Jesus Christ would accomplish by His life, death, and resurrection. In most cases, the similarities or parallels are pointed out in the New Testament. The following people are some of those mentioned as representing, in a narrow way, what Christ accomplished perfectly: (1) Adam (Rom.5:14; 1 Cor. 15:45); (2) Abel (Gen. 4:8,10; Heb. 12:24); (3) Aaron (Ex. 28:1; Heb. 5:4, 5; 9:7, 24); (4) David (2 Sam. 8:15; Phil. 2:9); (5) Jonah (Jon. 1:17;Matt. 12:40); (6) Melchizedek (Gen. 14:18–20;Heb. 7:1–17); (7) Moses (Num. 12:7; Heb. 3:2); (8) Noah (Gen. 5:29; 2 Cor. 1:5); (9) Samson (Judg. 16:30; Col. 2:14–15); (10) Solomon (2 Sam. 7:12, 13; 1 Pet. 2:5).

The following events and practices also prefigure Christ: (1) Ark (Gen. 7:16; 1 Pet. 3:20, 21); (2) Atonement sacrifices (Lev. 16:15, 16; Heb. 9:12, 24); (3) Bronze serpent (Num. 21:9; John 3:14, 15); (4) Mercy seat (Ex. 25:17–22; Rom. 3:25; Heb. 4:16); (5) Passover lamb (Ex. 12:3–6, 46; John 19:36; 1 Cor. 5:7); (6) Red heifer (Lev. 3:1; Eph. 2:14, 16); (7) Rock of Horeb (Ex.17:6; 1 Cor.10:4); (8) Scapegoat (Lev.16:20–22); (9) Tabernacle (Ex. 40:2; Heb. 9:11; Col. 2:9); (10) Veil of the tabernacle (Ex. 40:21; Heb. 10:20).




God Is Truth

“‘He who has received His witness has set his seal to this, that God is true’” (John 3:33).

Since God is true in everything He does, we can trust Him and His Word.

God’s truthfulness is taught often in Scripture. Balaam, though no righteous man, got this right: “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it?” (Num. 23:19). Samuel said to King Saul that God “will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind” (1 Sam. 15:29). Paul tells us, “God . . . cannot lie” (Titus 1:2), and “Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar” (Rom. 3:4). Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the “Spirit of truth” (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13).

Because God is true, and “all Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Tim. 3:16), it follows that His Word is completely true. The psalmist says, “The sum of Thy word is truth” (Ps. 119:160), and Jesus says, “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17).

The Bible, and therefore God Himself, is constantly under attack by critics. They say God doesn’t exist. But the Bible says, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Ps. 14:1; 53:1). They say the world came into being by itself. But Scripture says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). They say the miracles in the Bible never happened. But God’s Word says that Jesus came “with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him” (Acts 2:22).

Always treat the Bible for what it is: the very words of God. Never deny its truthfulness, neither in your thinking nor in your living. Instead, “be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God that He and His Word are absolutely true and trustworthy.
If you have denied the truthfulness of the Bible, either in your thoughts or in your life, pray for forgiveness and for understanding in what the Bible has to say.
For Further Study

Read 2 Timothy 3:16-17. What useful qualities are inherent in God’s Word? Meditate on these, and think of ways they can and should affect your behavior.

 Understanding God's Will

"We have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding" (Col. 1:9).

Godly living results from being controlled by the principles of God’s Word.

Paul's prayer for the Philippians (Phil. 1:9-11) is closely paralleled by his prayer for the Colossians (Col. 1:9-12). Both epistles were written from the same Roman prison at about the same time in Paul's life. Both prayers focus on godly living, but each approaches it from a slightly different perspective.

The Philippians were gracious people who needed to exercise greater knowledge and discernment in their love. The Colossians also were gracious but their devotion to Christ was being challenged by heretics who taught that Christ is insufficient for salvation and godly living. True spirituality, the false teachers said, is found in Christ plus human philosophy, religious legalism, mysticism, or asceticism. Paul encouraged the Colossian believers and refuted the false teachers by showing the utter sufficiency of Christ.

At the outset of his prayer Paul stressed the importance of being controlled by the knowledge of God's will (which is revealed in His Word). That's the meaning of the Greek word translated "filled" in verse 9. "Knowledge" translates a word that speaks of a deep, penetrating knowledge that results in behavioral change. "Spiritual wisdom and understanding" refers to knowledge that cannot be known through human reasoning or philosophy. It is imparted by the Holy Spirit Himself.

In effect Paul was saying, "I pray that you will be continually controlled by the life-transforming knowledge of God's will, which the Holy Spirit imparts as you prayerfully study and meditate on God's Word."

Scripture supplies the principles you need to live a godly life. The Spirit gives you the power to do so. Many false teachers will try to divert you from the simplicity of devotion to Christ by offering you philosophy, psychology, and a myriad of other hopeless alternatives. Don't be victimized. In Christ you have everything you need!

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for His all-sufficient Son and for the resources that are yours in Him.
Ask for wisdom to apply those resources to every situation you face today.
For Further Study

Read Colossians 1:15—2:23.

What was Christ's role in creation?
What was Paul's goal as a minister?
What warnings and commands did Paul give?

Why Gentleness Is Necessary

“‘Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth’” (Matthew 5:5).

Four basic reasons prove the necessity for people to demonstrate Jesus’ trait of gentleness. First, genuine spiritual gentleness is necessary for salvation. Jesus later instructed His listeners that “unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3; cf. Ps. 149:4).

Second, gentleness is necessary because God commands it. James exhorts his readers, “Putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). Centuries earlier, the prophets agreed with James’s concern (e.g., Zeph. 2:3), knowing that without a gentle, humble spirit we can’t even hear God’s Word correctly, much less grasp and apply it.

Third, gentleness is a necessity for effective witnessing. Peter tells us, “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15). Pride will always be a barrier between us and those we talk to.

Lastly, gentleness is necessary because it always glorifies God. Pride wants its own glory, but gentleness wants God’s. Gentleness in relation to fellow believers especially glorifies Him: “Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:5–6).

Ask Yourself

Oh, what we lose by not choosing a life of gentleness, by not letting the Lord grow in us what (for some) is perhaps the most unnatural of His character traits. What temptations work the hardest against your desire to personify the meekness of Christ?

Reading for Today:

Leviticus 17:1–18:30
Psalm 27:1-3
Proverbs 10:9
Mark 4:21-41


Leviticus 17:11 life of the flesh is in the blood. This phrase is amplified by “Its blood sustains its life” (17:14). Blood carries life-sustaining elements to all parts of the body; therefore it represents the essence of life. In contrast, the shedding of blood represents the shedding of life, i.e., death (see Gen. 9:4). New Testament references to the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ are references to His death. blood that makes atonement. Since it contains the life, blood is sacred to God. Shed blood (death) from a substitute atones for, or covers, the sinner, who is then allowed to live.

Leviticus 18:21 Molech. This Semitic false deity (god of the Ammonites) was worshiped with child sacrifice (see Lev. 20:2–5; 1 Kin. 11:7; 2 Kin. 23:10; Jer. 32:35). Since this chapter deals otherwise with sexual deviation, there is likely an unmentioned sexual perversion connected with this pagan ritual. Jews giving false gods homage gave foreigners occasion to blaspheme the true God.

Psalm 27:1 light. This important biblical word picture with exclusively positive connotations pictures the light of redemption in contrast to the darkness of condemnation (see Pss. 18:28; 36:9; 43:3; Is. 60:1, 19, 20; Mic. 7:8; John 8:12; 12:46; 1 John 1:5).

Mark 4:31 a mustard seed. A reference to the common black mustard plant. The leaves were used as a vegetable and the seed as a condiment. It also had medicinal benefits. smaller than all. The mustard seed is not the smallest of all seeds in existence, but it was in comparison to all the other seeds the Jews sowed in Palestine.

Why would Jesus’ own disciples fear Him?

In Mark 4:35, Jesus and His disciples were on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. To escape the crowds for a brief respite, Jesus wanted to go to the eastern shore, which had no large cities and therefore fewer people. But as they crossed the lake, they were caught in a “great windstorm” (v. 37). Wind is a common occurrence on that lake, about 690 feet below sea level and surrounded by hills. The Greek word can also mean “whirlwind.” In this case, it was a storm so severe that it took on the properties of a hurricane. The disciples, used to being on the lake in the wind, thought this storm would drown them (v. 38).

Meanwhile, Jesus was asleep (v. 38). He was so exhausted from a full day of healing and preaching, even that storm could not wake Him up. Thus they woke Him. He then rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” Literally, it means to “be silent, be muzzled.” Storms normally subside gradually, but when the Creator gave the order, the natural elements of this storm ceased immediately (v. 39).

At that point, we are told “they feared exceedingly” (v. 41). This was not fear of being harmed by the storm, but a reverence for the supernatural power Jesus had just displayed. The only thing more terrifying than having a storm outside the boat was having God in the boat! “Who can this be…”This statement betrayed the disciples’ wonderment.




God's Wrath

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).

God hates sin and will judge unrepentant sinners.

We now come to a topic that is perhaps unpleasant to discuss, but it is essential if we are to have a right understanding of God: His wrath. The idea of a wrathful God goes against the wishful thinking of fallen human nature. Even much evangelism today speaks only of the joys and blessings of salvation without mentioning that those who are without God are under His wrath (Eph. 2:3).

God’s attributes are balanced in divine perfection. If He had no righteous anger, He would not be God, just as He would not be God without His gracious love. He perfectly loves righteousness and perfectly hates evil (Ps. 45:7).

But God’s wrath isn’t like ours. The Greek word used for God’s wrath in the New Testament refers to a settled, determined indignation. God does not “fly off the handle,” whereas we tend to be emotional and uncontrolled in our anger.

Many times God expressed His wrath to sinful mankind in past ages. He destroyed all mankind except Noah and his family in the great Flood (Gen. 6—7). He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for their sins (Gen. 18—19). The Lord told unfaithful Israel, “Behold, My anger and My wrath will be poured out on this place, on man and on beast and on the trees of the field and on the fruit of the ground; and it will burn and not be quenched” (Jer. 7:20).

Some people today foolishly think the God of the Old Testament was a God of wrath and the New Testament God was a God of love, but His wrath is just as clearly taught in the New Testament. Jesus says, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). In the end-times Jesus will return “dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thess. 1:8). God is the same God, and He will always hate sin.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for His righteous hatred of sin.

For Further Study

Read more about God’s wrath in Romans 1:18—2:16.

What specifically causes His wrath?
How does He display His wrath to the unrighteous?

Realizing Our Ultimate Priority

"To the glory and praise of God" (Phil. 1:11).

To glorify God is to reflect His character in your words and deeds.

Paul's prayer in Philippians 1:9-11 closes with a reminder that love, excellence, integrity, and righteousness bring glory and praise to God.

God's glory is a recurring theme in Paul's writings, and rightly so because that is the Christian's highest priority. But what is God's glory and what does it mean to bring Him glory? After all, He is infinitely glorious in nature, so we can't add anything to Him. His glory is never diminished, so it doesn't have to be replenished or bolstered.

In Exodus 33:18-19 Moses says to God, "'I pray Thee, show me Thy glory!' And [God] said, 'I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.'" In effect God was telling Moses that His glory is the composite of His attributes.

That suggests we can glorify God by placing His attributes on display in our lives. When others see godly characteristics like love, mercy, patience, and kindness in you, they have a better picture of what God is like. That honors Him. That's why it's so important to guard your attitudes and actions. Paul admonished Timothy to be exemplary in his speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity (1 Tim. 4:12). That should be true of every believer!

Another way to glorify God is to praise Him. David said, "Ascribe to the Lord, O sons of the mighty, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name; worship the Lord in holy array. . . . In His temple everything says, 'Glory!'" (Ps. 29:1- 2, 9).

You cannot add to God's glory, but you can proclaim it in your words and deeds. What picture of God do others see in you? Does your life bring glory to Him?

Suggestions for Prayer

In 1 Chronicles 16:8-36 David instructs Asaph and Asaph's relatives on how to glorify God. Using that passage as a model, spend time in prayer glorifying God.

For Further Study

Reread 1 Chronicles 16:8-36, noting any specific instructions that apply to you.

The Result of Gentleness

“‘Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth’” (Matthew 5:5).

God rewards the gentle with His own joy and gladness. But more specifically, He allows such saints to “inherit the earth.” In the future the Father will completely reclaim earth, and believers will rule it with Him. Because only believers are truly gentle, Jesus could confidently proclaim “they shall inherit the earth.”

“Inherit” denotes the receiving of one’s allotted portion and correlates perfectly with Psalm 37:11—“the humble will inherit the land.” We sometimes wonder why the godless seem to prosper while the godly suffer, but God assures us that He will ultimately make things right (cf. Ps. 37:10). We must trust the Lord and obey His will in these matters. He will settle everything in the right way at the right time. Meanwhile, we can trust His promise that we, as those who are gentle, will inherit the earth. This promise also reminds us that our place in Christ’s kingdom is forever secure (cf. 1 Cor. 3:21–23).

The promise of a future inheritance also gives us hope and happiness for the present. More than a century ago George MacDonald wrote, “We cannot see the world as God means it in the future, save as our souls are characterized by meekness. In meekness we are its only inheritors. Meekness alone makes the spiritual retina pure to receive God’s things as they are, mingling with them neither imperfection nor impurity.”

Ask Yourself

Yes, it often seems as though everyone “inherits the earth” but us mild-mannered believers. But what truly makes life enjoyable on the earth? And why do the curt and the coarsest among us not really get to experience its simple pleasures?

Reading for Today:

Leviticus 15:1–16:34
Psalm 26:6-12
Proverbs 10:8
Mark 4:1-20


Leviticus 16:12 inside the veil. The veil separated all from the holy and consuming presence of God. It was this veil in Herod’s temple that was torn open from top to bottom at the death of Christ, signifying access into God’s presence through Jesus Christ (see Matt. 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45).

Leviticus 16:20–22 This “sin offering of atonement” (Num. 29:11) portrayed Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice (vv. 21, 22) with the result that the sinner’s sins were removed (v. 22). Christ lived out this representation when He cried from the cross, “My God,My God, why have You forsaken Me?”(Matt. 27:46).

Leviticus 16:30 clean from all your sins. (See Ps. 103:12; Is. 38:17; Mic. 7:19.) This day provided ceremonial cleansing for one year, and pictured the forgiveness of God available to all who believed and repented. Actual atonement was based on cleansing through the sacrifice of Christ (see Rom. 3:25, 26; Heb. 9:15).

Mark 4:2 parables. A common method of teaching in Judaism, which Jesus employed to conceal the truth from unbelievers while explaining it to His disciples.

What does the parable of the soils warn us about our heart?

Jesus made it clear that as the sower sows his seed, some of those seeds fall to the “wayside” (Mark 4:4)—either a road near a field’s edge or a path that traversed a field, both of which were hard surfaces due to constant foot traffic. Other seed falls on “stony ground” (v. 5), where beds of solid rock lie under the surface of good soil. They are a little too deep for the plow to reach, and too shallow to allow a plant to reach water and develop a decent root system in the small amount of soil that covers them. Other seed falls among “thorns” (v. 7)—tough, thistle-bearing weeds that use up the available space, light, and water which good plants need.

Jesus warns in vv. 13-20 that our heart may be hard, like the stony ground, and the “word of God” never takes root in the soul and never transforms our life—there is only a temporary, surface change. Bring along the suffering, trials, and persecutions which result from one’s association with God’s Word and we fall away (John 8:31; 1 John 2:19). Then there are the “cares of this world,” or “the distractions of the age.” A preoccupation with the temporal issues of this present age blinds a person to any serious consideration of the gospel (James 4:4; 1 John 2:15, 16). And “the deceitfulness of riches” come our way. Not only can money and material possessions not satisfy the desires of the heart or bring the lasting happiness they deceptively promise, but they also blind those who pursue them to eternal, spiritual concerns (1 Tim. 6:9, 10).




Being Merciful

“‘Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful’” (Luke 6:36).

Since we have received mercy from God, we are obligated to show mercy to those with physical or spiritual needs.

Jesus demonstrated His mercy many times as He went about healing people and casting out demons. Two blind men cried out, “‘Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!’ . . . And moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight, and followed Him” (Matt. 20:30, 34). He was also deeply moved in spirit and wept when He saw the sorrow that Lazarus’s death caused (John 11:33-36).

His greatest mercy was shown, though, to those with spiritual needs. Not only did He heal a paralytic, but He forgave his sins (Luke 5:18-25). He also prayed for His executioners, saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

We can show mercy by our physical acts. John says, “But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:17-18).

We must also show mercy spiritually. Because we have experienced God’s mercy, we should have great concern for those who have not. We show spiritual mercy by proclaiming the saving gospel of Jesus Christ to the unsaved and by praying that God would show His mercy to them.

We also demonstrate spiritual mercy by lovingly confronting sinning Christians: “Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to yourselves, lest you too be tempted” (Gal. 6:1). Sinning Christians bring reproach on Christ and His church and will fall under God’s discipline. In such cases it is wrong to say nothing and let the harm continue.

God has promised us in Matthew 5:7 that we will receive mercy from Him if we are merciful to others. If we have received unlimited mercy from our loving God, if we have been lifted from our poor, sinful, wretched state to become citizens of heaven, how can we withhold mercy from others?

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that you would be sensitive to opportunities to show mercy today.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 23:37-39.

What was Jerusalem’s condition in verse 37?
How does that intensify the nature of Christ’s compassion and mercy toward His people?

Cultivating the Fruit of Righteousness

"Having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:11).

Bearing spiritual fruit is the acid test of a true believer.

After facing life-threatening situations, people often say, "I saw my entire life flash before my eyes." That's the picture we get in Philippians 1:11.

"The fruit of righteousness" refers to what is produced in you as you operate in love, pursue excellence, and maintain your integrity. It includes every attitude and action consistent with God's standard of what is right.

"Having been filled" speaks of something that happened in the past with continuing results. At your salvation the seed of righteousness was planted within you. It bears righteous fruit throughout your lifetime. On the day of Christ that fruit will confirm your salvation.

Fruitfulness has always been the acid test of true salvation. Jesus said, "If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine" (John 8:31). When John the Baptist admonished his followers to "bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance" (Luke 3:8), he was speaking of good deeds (vv. 10-14). Paul said we are God's workmanship, "created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10) John said that all who profess Christ should live as He lived (cf. 1 John 2:6).

Bearing spiritual fruit is not something you can achieve on your own. It "comes through Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:11). Jesus Himself said, "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing" (John 15:4-5).

You were redeemed to glorify God through righteous deeds. Make that your priority today.

Suggestions for Prayer

Psalm 71 is a psalm of praise to God for His righteousness and faithful provisions. Read it and meditate on its truths. Then praise God for His righteousness toward you.
Ask for opportunities to demonstrate righteousness to others today.
For Further Study

Read Proverbs 11:1-9, 15:8-9, and 21:2-3, noting the characteristics and benefits of righteousness.

Gentleness as Defined by Jesus

“‘Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth’” (Matthew 5:5).

In this verse, “gentle” (a word often rendered “meek” in other translations) means mild or soft. Looking ahead to His triumphal entry, the prophet hailed Christ this way: “Behold your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey” (Matt. 21:5; cf. Zech. 9:9).

From Old Testament times, gentleness has been God’s way for mankind. The book of Job says God “sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety” (5:11; cf. Ps. 25:9). “Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3).

Gentleness does not connote weakness, but rather a way of utilizing all its resources and emotions appropriately (cf. Prov. 16:32; 25:28). The gentle person has died to self and therefore does not resort to violence to defend himself, knowing his person has nothing to commend before God. Gentleness is not cowardice, lack of conviction, or niceness. It is the spirit of Christ, who defended the Father’s glory, not His own, and left us an example: He “committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:22–23).

Christ’s gentleness, however, did not mean He was passive in defending righteousness. He guarded the temple against the moneychangers (John 2:14–15), denounced the hypocritical religious leaders (Matt. 23:1–33), and warned the disobedient of judgment (Matt. 25:45–46). His gentleness was power completely surrendered to God’s control.

Ask Yourself

What’s been your interpretation of “meekness” or “gentleness”? Is this a quality you value and aspire to? If gentleness was more a part of your demeanor, what bene-fits would you begin to see in your daily life?

Reading for Today:

Leviticus 14:1–57
Psalm 26:1-5
Proverbs 10:6-7
Mark 3:20-35


Leviticus 14:18 put on the head. This would not have been understood as an anointing for entry into an office, but rather as a symbolic gesture of cleansing and healing. There could be a connection with the New Testament directive to anoint the sick for healing (Mark 6:13; 16:18; James 5:14).

Psalm 26:1 Vindicate me. Literally, “Judge me!” This refers to exoneration of some false accusations and/or charges under the protection of the covenant stipulations of the theocratic law (see Pss. 7:8; 35:24; 43:1). my integrity. Again, this is not a claim to perfection, but of innocence, particularly as viewed within the context of ungrounded “legal” charges (see Ps. 7:8; Prov. 10:9; 19:1; 20:7; 28:6).

Mark 3:21 His own people. In Greek, this expression was used in various ways to describe someone’s friends or close associates. In the strictest sense, it meant family, which is probably the best understanding here. lay hold of Him. Mark used this same term elsewhere to mean the arrest of a person (6:17; 12:12; 14:1, 44, 46, 51). Jesus’ relatives evidently heard the report of v. 20 and came to Capernaum to restrain Him from His many activities and bring Him under their care and control, all supposedly for His own good. out of His mind. Jesus’ family could only explain His unconventional lifestyle, with its willingness for others always to impose on Him, by saying He was irrational or had lost His mind.

Mark 3:35 Jesus made a decisive and comprehensive statement on true Christian discipleship. Such discipleship involves a spiritual relationship that transcends the physical family and is open to all who are empowered by the Spirit of God to come to Christ in repentance and faith and enabled to live a life of obedience to God’s Word.

How did Mark come to write one of the gospels if he wasn’t one of the original disciples?

Although Mark was not one of the original apostles of Jesus, he was involved in many of the events recorded in the New Testament. He traveled as a close companion of the apostle Peter and appears repeatedly throughout the Book of Acts, where he is known as “John whose surname was Mark” (Acts 12:12, 25; 15:37, 39). When Peter was miraculously freed from prison, his first action was to go to Mark’s mother’s home in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12).

John Mark was also a cousin of Barnabas (Col. 4:10), and he joined Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey (Acts 12:25; 13:5). But Mark deserted the mission team while in Perga and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). Later, when Barnabas wanted to give Mark another opportunity to travel with Paul’s second missionary team, Paul refused. The resulting friction between Paul and Barnabas led to their separation (Acts 15:38-40).

Eventually, Mark’s youthful vacillation gave way to great strength and maturity. In time, he proved himself even to the apostle Paul. When Paul wrote to the Colossians, he told them that if John Mark came, they were to welcome him (Col. 4:10). Paul even listed Mark as a fellow worker (Philem. 24). Later, Paul told Timothy, “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry” (2 Tim. 4:11).

John Mark’s restoration to useful ministry and preparation for writing his Gospel was due, in part, to his extended close relationship with Peter (1 Pet. 5:13). The older apostle was no stranger to failure, and his influence on the younger man was no doubt instrumental. Mark grew out of the instability of his youth and into the strength and maturity he would need for the work to which God had called him. Mark’s Gospel represents




God's Great Mercy

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

Because of His mercy, God desires to lift sinners out of their pitiful condition.

Several years ago I spent about a week in India. Each day I saw countless starving, diseased people with no home but a few square feet of filthy street. I could not help but feel compassion and pity on those people who lived in such misery.

In a spiritual sense, though, before God saved us, we were each even more pathetic than any beggar in India. Spiritually, we “were dead in [our] trespasses and sins . . . and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:1, 3-5). God saw our wretched condition and was moved to do something about it.

How does mercy compare with grace? Mercy has respect to man’s wretched, miserable condition; grace has respect to man’s guilt, which has caused that condition. God gives us mercy to change our condition; He gives us grace to change our position. While grace takes us from guilt to acquittal, mercy takes us from misery to glory.

Doesn’t it give you great joy to know that God not only removed your guilt but looked at you and had compassion? And He’s not through giving us mercy: “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23). We can always “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for His great mercy, for the forgiveness and blessings you have as His child.

For Further Study

Luke 15:11-32 contains the well-known parable of the prodigal son, a moving illustration of God’s loving compassion. What was the son’s condition when he returned?
What was his father’s reaction?
How does God respond to us when we turn to Him in repentance and humility?

Maintaining Spiritual Integrity

"In order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ" (Phil. 1:10).

Seek to have a life that bears scrutiny.

In our society, those whose lives are marked by moral soundness, uprightness, honesty, and sincerity are usually thought of as people of integrity. However, society's standards often fall far short of God's. Spiritual integrity calls for the highest possible standard of behavior and requires supernatural resources available only to those who trust in Him.

Paul's prayer in Philippians 1:9-10 outlines the path to spiritual integrity. It begins with love that abounds with knowledge and discernment (v. 9) and progresses to the pursuit of excellence (v. 10). The result is sincerity and blamelessness—two characteristics of godly integrity.

The Greek word translated "sincere" in verse 10 speaks of genuineness and authenticity. It literally means "without wax" and is an allusion to the practice of inspecting pottery by holding it up to the sunlight. In ancient times pottery often cracked during the firing process. Rather than discarding cracked pieces, dishonest dealers often filled the cracks with wax and sold them to unsuspecting customers. Holding a pot up to the sunlight revealed any flaws and protected the customer from a bad purchase.

Following that analogy, biblical integrity requires that you be without wax, having no hypocrisy or secret sins that show up when you're under pressure or facing temptation.

"Blameless" speaks of consistency in living a life that doesn't lead others into error or sin. Your standard is the same away from church as it is at church.

Being blameless isn't easy in a world that unashamedly flaunts its sinful practices. You must guard against losing your sensitivity to the heinousness of sin and unwittingly beginning to tolerate or even accept the sin that once shocked you. That's when you lose integrity and begin to cause others to stumble.

Diligently pursue integrity with a view toward glorifying Christ in all things until He returns!

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God that He is able to keep you from stumbling and to make you stand in His presence blameless with great joy (Jude 24).
Prayerfully guard your heart and mind from the subtle evil influences that can erode your integrity and make you ineffective for the Lord.
For Further Study

Read Genesis 39.

How was Joseph's integrity challenged?
How did God honor Joseph's commitment to integrity?

Are You Mourning as Christ Commands?

“‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted’” (Matthew 5:4).

Two crucial determinants will tell you if you are mourning over sin as Jesus commands. First, you will have true sensitivity to and sorrow for your sins. Your primary concern will be how your sin detracts from God’s glory, not how its exposure might embarrass you or hurt your reputation.

The mock piety of hypocrites demonstrates no sensitivity to sin, only to their personal prestige and pride (cf. Matt. 6:1–18). Likewise, the mock gratitude of those like the Pharisees who think they are better than others (cf. Luke 18:11) certainly does not show mourning for sin. King Saul twice admitted he had sinned when he did not destroy King Agag and all the Amalekites, and even asked Samuel for pardon, but he was more concerned for his own honor than God’s (1 Sam. 15:10–35).

If your mourning is godly, you will lament the sins of other believers and the world, as well as your own. You will agree with the psalmist, “My eyes shed streams of water, because they do not keep Your law” (Ps. 119:136). You will weep over your community, as Jesus did over His (Luke 19:41).

The second way to know if you are mourning rightly is to check your sense of God’s forgiveness. Have you experienced the sense of spiritual freedom and real release that comes with knowing your sins are forgiven? Can you point to true happiness, peace, and joy in your life that only God gives in response to mourning for sin (cf. Ps. 126:5–6)?

Ask Yourself

What is your main problem with sin—only that it gives you that sick feeling of guilt and hypocrisy? Only that it seems to expose you around those who know you best? Take all the personal inconveniences out of the equation, and be more gravely concerned that your sin offends the God you profess to serve.

Reading for Today:

Leviticus 13:1–59
Psalm 25:16-22
Proverbs 10:4-5
Mark 3:1-19


Leviticus 13:2 bright spot. This probably refers to inflammation. a leprous sore. This is a term referring to various ancient skin disorders that were sometimes superficial, sometimes serious. It may have included modern leprosy (Hansen’s disease). The symptoms described in vv. 2, 6, 10, 18, 30, and 39 are not sufficient for a diagnosis of the clinical condition. For the protection of the people, observation and isolation were demanded for all suspected cases of what could be a contagious disease. This biblical leprosy involved some whiteness (v. 3; Ex. 4:6), which disfigured its victim but did not disable him. Naaman was able to exercise his functions as general of Syria’s army, although a leper (2 Kin. 5:1, 27). Both Old Testament and New Testament lepers went almost everywhere, indicating that this disease was not the leprosy of today that cripples. A victim of this scaly disease was unclean as long as the infection was partial. Once the body was covered with it, he was clean and could enter the place of worship (see vv. 12–17). Apparently the complete covering meant the contagious period was over. The allusion to a boil (vv. 18–28) with inflamed or raw areas and whitened hairs may refer to a related infection that was contagious. When lepers were cured by Christ, they were neither lame nor deformed. They were never brought on beds. Similar skin conditions are described in vv. 29–37 and vv. 38–44 (some inflammation from infection). The aim of these laws was to protect the people from disease, but more importantly, to inculcate into them by vivid object lessons how God desired purity, holiness, and cleanness among His people.

Mark 3:13 called…those He Himself wanted. The Greek verb “called” stresses that Jesus acted in His own sovereign interest when He chose the 12 disciples (see John 15:16).

Mark 3:14 appointed twelve. Christ, by an explicit act of His will, formed a distinct group of 12 men who were among His followers. This new group constituted the foundation of His church (see Eph. 2:20).

Mark 3:15 have power. This word is sometimes rendered “authority.” Along with the main task of preaching, Jesus gave the 12 the right to expel demons (see Luke 9:1).

DAY 21: How does Jesus display the proper use of anger?

In Mark 3:1-6, Jesus was in a synagogue, where there was a man with a withered hand. This describes a condition of paralysis or deformity from an accident, a disease, or a congenital defect. It became another situation for the Pharisees to “accuse” Him (v. 2) of a violation of the Sabbath—an accusation they could bring before the Sanhedrin.

Jesus countered the Pharisees with a question that elevated the issue at hand from a legal to a moral problem. “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good…evil, to save…kill?” Jesus asks (v. 4). He was forcing the Pharisees to examine their tradition regarding the Sabbath to see if it was consistent with God’s Old Testament law. Christ used a device common in the Middle East—He framed the issue in terms of clear-cut extremes. The obvious implication is that failure to do good or save a life was wrong and not in keeping with God’s original intention for the Sabbath. But the Pharisees kept silent, and by so doing implied that their Sabbath views and practices were false.

Jesus’ “anger” (v. 5) with human sin reveals a healthy, moral nature. His reaction was consistent with His divine nature and proved that He is the righteous Son of God. This kind of holy indignation with sinful attitudes and practices was to be more fully demonstrated when Jesus cleansed the temple (see 11:15–18; Matt. 21:12, 13; Luke 19:45–48). The “hardness of their hearts” refers to an inability to understand because of a rebellious attitude (Ps. 95:8; Heb. 3:8, 15). The Pharisees’ hearts were becoming more and more obstinate and unresponsive to the truth (see 16:14; Rom. 9:18).




The Measure of Grace

“Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20).

God will lavish grace upon sinners who are truly repentant.

Did you ever sin so terribly that you felt, I really blew it this time. There’s no way God would want to forgive me now? It’s easy sometimes to let our past sins be a constant burden to us, even after we’ve confessed and repented. Paul has comfort for those who feel this way, and that comfort is founded on the power and measure of God’s grace to us. Before his conversion, Paul (then known as Saul) persecuted the church mercilessly (see Acts 8:3 and 9:1-2). He was “a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor” (1 Tim. 1:13; see also Gal. 1:13). If anyone could be beyond grace, it was Paul.

But God intervened and saved him (Acts 9:3-19). Why? “For this reason,” Paul says, “I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost [sinner], Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:16). If God would forgive Paul, He will forgive anyone who will confess their sins and repent. If He would show abundant grace to a violent unbeliever, He will also shower grace upon His penitent children.

God is not stingy with grace. Paul celebrates God’s saving “grace, which He freely bestowed on us” (Eph 1:6), and “the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us” (vv. 7-8). Speaking of sustaining grace, Paul says, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” (2 Cor. 9:8). Notice the words Paul uses: “all grace,” “abound,” “all sufficiency,” “everything,” “abundance,” “every good deed.” God’s grace is inexhaustible and is given so freely that words cannot express it fully.

Great sins require great grace, but God will give super-abundant grace to those who seek forgiveness, for “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom. 5:20). Don’t let your past sins weigh you down; learn to rest upon God’s super-abundant grace.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to teach you to understand His grace more fully and help you forget “what lies behind” (Phil. 3:13).

For Further Study

Read Romans 6.

What is Paul’s argument here?
How are we to live now that we have received God’s grace?

Pursuing Excellence

"So that you may approve the things that are excellent" (Phil. 1:10).

In a world of mediocrity and confusion, God calls you to excellence and discernment.

There's the story of a pilot who came on the loudspeaker mid flight and said, "I have some good news and bad news. The bad news is we've lost all our instrumentation and don't know where we are. The good news is we have a strong tail wind and are making great time." That's an accurate picture of how many people live: they have no direction in life but they're getting there fast!

We as Christians are to be different because we have divine guidance and eternal goals. Our lives are to be marked by a confident trust in God and a pursuit of spiritual excellence.

"Excellent" in Philippians 1:10 speaks of things that are worthwhile and vital. Approving what is excellent refers to testing things as one would test a precious metal to determine its purity and value. It goes beyond knowing good from evil. It distinguishes between better and best. It involves thinking biblically and focusing your time and energy on what really counts. It involves cultivating spiritual discipline and not being controlled by your emotions, whims, moods, or circumstances.

Many organizations and businesses have adopted the motto, "Commitment to Excellence" to convey their desire to provide the finest product or service possible. If secular-minded people strive for that level of achievement, how much more should Christians pursue excellence for the glory of God!

Look at your life. Is it filled with godly love, discernment, and the pursuit of excellence—or has worldly trivia crowded out those virtues?

Suggestions for Prayer

Read Isaiah 12:1-6 as a psalm of praise to the God of excellence.
Ask God to give you a heart constantly set on pursuing excellence for His glory.
For Further Study

Daniel was a man who pursued excellence. Read Daniel 1:1—2:21.

What was Daniel's decision regarding the king's food and wine, and how did he handle the situation?
How did Daniel and his three friends compare in wisdom and understanding to the magicians and conjurers?
What principles do you see in those two chapters that apply to your life?

Hindrances to True Mourning: Presumption and Procrastination

“‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted’” (Matthew 5:4).

We talked yesterday about two specific sins that hinder biblical mourning. Let’s consider two others today. The sin of presumption is actually a form of pride. Presumption is satisfied with cheap grace and expects God to forgive just a little bit because it sees so little to be forgiven. It leads us to think our sins are not really bad enough for us to confess them, repent of them, and forsake them. But Isaiah exhorts sinners as follows: “Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55:7). The kind of gospel (so popular today) that omits any need for repentance and mourning is a false, unscriptural gospel—or as Paul calls it, “a different gospel” (Gal. 1:6).

Procrastination, as the term suggests, hinders true mourning simply by putting it off. We tend to think when things are better and the time is more convenient, we will ask God to cleanse and forgive our sins. But that is foolish and risky because “you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). If we do not deal with sin sooner rather than later, we can’t be sure God’s comfort will ever come.

The best and surest way to eliminate hindrances to mourning is to look, through prayer and the Word, to the holiness of God and Christ’s great atoning sacrifice for sins.

Ask Yourself

Unlike some of our sins, these tend to be more subtle and soft-pedaled. But sins of all kinds are capable of blinding us to our utter dependence on God and His forgiveness. Ask Him to reveal to you any hidden sins, wanting to bring to the surface everything that dishonors Him.

Reading for Today:

Leviticus 11:1–12:8
Psalm 25:8-15
Proverbs 10:1-3
Mark 2:1-28


Mark 2:5 When Jesus saw their faith. The aggressive, persistent effort of the paralytic’s friends was visible evidence of their faith in Christ to heal. “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” Many Jews in that day believed that all disease and affliction was a direct result of one’s sins. This paralytic may have believed that as well; thus he would have welcomed forgiveness of his sins before healing. The Greek verb for “are forgiven” refers to sending or driving away (see Ps. 103:12; Jer. 31:34; Mic. 7:19). Thus Jesus dismissed the man’s sin and freed him from the guilt of it.

Mark 2:24 what is not lawful on the Sabbath. Rabbinical tradition had interpreted the rubbing of grain in the hands (see Luke 6:1) as a form of threshing and forbidden it. Reaping for profit on the Sabbath was forbidden by Mosaic Law (Ex. 34:21), but that was obviously not the situation here. Actually the Pharisees’ charge was itself sinful since they were holding their tradition on a par with God’s Word.

Mark 2:27 The Sabbath was made for man. God instituted the Sabbath to benefit man by giving him a day to rest from his labors and to be a blessing to him. The Pharisees turned it into a burden and made man a slave to their myriad of man-made regulations.

Mark 2:28 also Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus claimed He was greater than the Sabbath, and thus was God. Based on that authority, Jesus could in fact reject the Pharisaic regulations concerning the Sabbath and restore God’s original intention for Sabbath observance to be a blessing not a burden.

Does God expect us to be holy?

In Leviticus 11:44, 45, God says “consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy.” In all of this, God is teaching His people to live antithetically. That is, He is using these clean and unclean distinctions to separate Israel from other idolatrous nations who have no such restrictions, and He is illustrating by these prescriptions that His people must learn to live His way. Through dietary laws and rituals, God is teaching them the reality of living His way in everything. They are being taught to obey God in every seemingly mundane area of life, so as to learn how crucial obedience is. Sacrifices, rituals, diet, and even clothing and cooking are all carefully ordered by God to teach them that they are to live differently from everyone else. This is to be an external illustration for the separation from sin in their hearts. Because the Lord is their God, they are to be utterly distinct.

In v. 44, for the first time the statement “I am the LORD your God” is made as a reason for the required separation and holiness. After this verse, that phrase is mentioned about 50 more times in this book alone, along with the equally instructive claim, “I am holy.” Because God is holy and is their God, the people are to be holy in outward ceremonial behavior as an external expression of the greater necessity of heart holiness. The connection between ceremonial holiness carries over into personal holiness. The only motivation given for all these laws is to learn to be holy because God is holy. The holiness theme is central to Leviticus (see 10:3; 19:2; 20:7, 26; 21:6–8).




The Meaning of Grace

“‘The Lord, the Lord God, [is] compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth’” (Exodus 34:6).

God’s grace is His undeserved favor shown to sinners.

God’s grace has always been a focus of praise for believers. Today’s verse is quoted several times in the Psalms and elsewhere in Scripture (for example, Neh. 9:17, 31; Ps. 86:15; 103:8; 145:8). Paul is grateful for God’s abundant grace in 1 Timothy 1:14, and John writes, “For of His fulness we have all received, and grace upon grace” (John 1:16). Today some of our favorite hymns are “Amazing Grace,” “Marvelous Grace of Our Loving Lord,” and “Wonderful Grace of Jesus.”

What exactly is grace? It is simply God’s free, undeserved, and unearned favor. It is a gift given by God not because we are worthy of it, but only because God, out of His great love, wants to give it.

Grace is evident to Christians in two main ways. The first is electing, or saving, grace. God “has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity” (2 Tim. 1:9). “By grace [we] have been saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8). This is God’s grace to sinners, for “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom. 5:20).

Another grace in our lives is enabling, or sustaining, grace. We didn’t just receive grace to be saved; we now live in grace. It is the grace of God that enables us to live the Christian life. When Paul asked that some debilitating “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7) be removed, the Lord told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (v. 9). Paul elsewhere says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).

Remember, we have earned neither saving nor sustaining grace. Nothing we can do can make us worthy of one more bit of grace. God says, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious” (Ex. 33:19). This truth should make us all more grateful because He saved us and sustains us despite our sin. It should also make us humble because we have no worthiness to boast about (Eph. 2:9).

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for His grace in saving and sustaining you.

For Further Study

Read Genesis 9:8-19.

How did God extend grace to Noah and his family?
What was the visible sign or symbol?

Avoiding Indiscriminate Love

"This I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment" (Phil. 1:9).

Christian love operates within the parameters of Biblical knowledge and spiritual discernment.

As a Christian, you are a repository of divine love. More than anything else, your love for God and for other believers marks you as a true disciple of Jesus Christ (John 13:35).

In addition to possessing God's love, you have the privilege and responsibility of expressing it to others on His behalf. That's a sacred trust. Paul qualifies it in Philippians 1:9, which tells us love is to operate within the sphere of biblical knowledge and spiritual discernment. Those are the parameters that govern God's love.

No matter how loving an act or word might seem, if it violates knowledge and discernment, it is not true Christian love. Second John 5-11 illustrates that principle. Apparently some believers who lacked discernment were hosting false teachers in the name of Christian love and hospitality. John sternly warned them, saying, "If anyone comes to you and does not bring [sound doctrine], do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds" (vv. 10-11). That might sound extreme or unloving but the purity of God's people was at stake.

In 2 Thessalonians 3:5-6 after praying for the Thessalonians' love to increase, Paul then commanded them to keep aloof from so- called Christians who were disregarding sound teaching. That's not contradictory because Christian love guards sound doctrine and holy living.

Unfortunately, today it is common for Christians to compromise doctrinal purity in the name of love and unity, or to brand as unloving some practices that Scripture clearly commands. Both are wrong and carry serious consequences if not corrected.

Be thoughtful in how you express your love. Abundantly supply it in accord with biblical knowledge and discernment. Excellence and righteousness will result (Phil. 1:10-11).

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the love He has given you through His Spirit (Rom. 5:5).
Ask for opportunities to demonstrate Christ's love to others today.
Pray that your love will always be governed by deep convictions grounded in God's truth.
For Further Study

What do the following passages teach about love? How can you apply them to your life? Romans 12:9-10; 5:5; 1 John 4:7-10; Galatians 5:22; 1 Peter 1:22; 4:8.

Hindrances to True Mourning: Love of Sin

“‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted’” (Matthew 5:4).

A general love of sin is the greatest hindrance to true spiritual mourning, because holding on to sins causes our hearts to harden.

One of the less advertised but more common sins is the sin of despair, which is essentially the same as giving up on God and putting ourselves outside His grace—refusing to believe He can save or help us. The prophet Jeremiah wrote this of such people: “But they will say, ‘It’s hopeless! For we are going to follow our own plans, and each of us will act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart’” (Jer. 18:12). Despair attempts to hide God’s mercy behind our self-made cloud of doubt.

Another hindrance to mourning is the sin of conceit. It seeks to hide the sin itself and tell us we really have nothing to mourn about. Conceit is analogous to a physician treating cancer as if it were just a common cold. If Christ had to shed His blood on the cross for our sin, then sin must be significant and something over which we must mourn.

To be a true mourner, it’s imperative that you remove all basic, sinful hindrances that keep you from mourning. Otherwise you will grieve the Holy Spirit, question the truth of His Word, and restrict His grace from plowing up your hard heart and leading you to obey Him.

Ask Yourself

It’s time to get honest about your sins today, identifying and confessing anything that stands between you and free-flowing fellowship with your Lord and Savior. Is it despair? Conceit? Whatever it is, you probably know it well. Repent of it all. And walk again in the beauty and freedom of holiness.

Reading for Today:

Leviticus 9:1–10:20
Psalm 25:1-7
Proverbs 9:13-18
Mark 1:23-45


Psalm 25:6, 7 Remember…Do not remember…remember. These are not concerns about God forgetting something, but the psalmist’s prayer reminders about God’s gracious covenant promises and provisions, all of which are grounded upon His “goodness‘ sake” (see v. 11, “Your name’s sake”).

Mark 1:24 What have we to do with You…? Or, possibly, “Why do You interfere with us?” The demon was acutely aware that he and Jesus belonged to two radically different kingdoms, and thus had nothing in common. That the demon used the plural pronoun “we” indicates he spoke for all the demons. the Holy One of God. See Psalm 16:10; Daniel 9:24; Luke 4:34; Acts 2:27; 3:14; 4:27; Revelation 3:7. Amazingly, the demon affirmed Jesus’ sinlessness and deity—truths which many in Israel denied and still deny.

Mark 1:40 leper. Lepers were considered ceremonially unclean and were outcasts from society (Lev. 13:11). While the Old Testament term for leprosy included other skin diseases, this man may have actually had true leprosy (Hansen’s Disease), or else his cure would not have created such a sensation (v. 45).

Mark 1:41 compassion. Only Mark records Jesus’ emotional reaction to the leper’s desperate plight. The Greek word appears only in the synoptic Gospels and (apart from parables) is used only in reference to Jesus. touched him. Unlike rabbis, who avoided lepers lest they become ceremonially defiled, Jesus expressed His compassion with a physical gesture.

What was the incident with Nadab and Abihu about?

In Leviticus 9:23, it states that “the glory of the LORD appeared.” The Bible speaks often of the glory of God—the visible appearance of His beauty and perfection reduced to blazing light. His glory appeared to Moses (Ex. 3:1–6; 24:15–17; 33:18–23). The glory of God also filled the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34), led the people as a pillar of fire and cloud (Ex. 40:35–38), and also filled the temple in Jerusalem (1 Kin. 8:10, 11). When Aaron made the first sacrifice in the wilderness, as a priest, the “glory of the LORD appeared to all the people.” In these manifestations, God was revealing His righteousness, holiness, truth, wisdom, and grace—the sum of all He is.

Nadab and Abihu were the two oldest sons of Aaron (10:1). The vessel in which the incense was burned in the Holy Place was to be used only for holy purposes. Though the exact infraction is not detailed, instead of taking the incense fire from the bronze altar, they had some other source and thus perpetrated a “profane” act, especially considering the descent of the miraculous fire they had just seen. The same divine fire that accepted the sacrifices (9:24) consumed the errant priests. The sons of Aaron were guilty of violating both requirements of God’s absolute standard: “regarded as holy…be glorified” (10:3). That was not unlike the later deaths of Uzzah (2 Sam. 6:6, 7) or Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:5, 10).




God's Sacrificial Love

“‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life’” (John 3:16).

God’s love is vicarious and sacrificial.

Today we continue a short study of a topic that brings joy to every Christian: God’s love. Both Paul and John call His love “great” (Eph. 2:4; 1 John 3:1), because only great love would provide such a sacrifice as God did in Christ.

We have already seen that God’s love is unconditional, unrequited, and righteous. God’s love is also vicarious; it bears the pain of others. In a prophecy about Christ, Isaiah wrote: “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried” (53:4). Christ bears our earthly sorrows, and, infinitely more significant, He bore the pain and punishment for our sins.

True love is a sacrificial love that gives without expecting anything in return. God gives so many good things to everyone, and He gave the greatest gift of all, His Son. As John 3:16 teaches, love was His motive for sending Christ to die; He wanted to provide salvation for us.

Again we must examine ourselves after seeing God’s love. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.” Are you encouraging and helping other Christians in difficulty? Also, ask yourself if you love regardless of the sacrifice. Some will “love” up to the point of pain or inconvenience but no further. However, Jesus commands us, “Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men” (Luke 6:35). Love is not always easy, but it’s always best.

So much more could be said about God’s love. Countless books and hymns have been written about it. We can get only a basic understanding in these few paragraphs. But let this introduction serve as a starting point for a lifelong study of God’s love. It’s one of the greatest themes in the Bible; you can’t miss it.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for strength to bear the burdens of others and to love with sacrificial love.

For Further Study

Jesus talks about His love for us in John 15:9-17. In what ways should we respond to God’s love?
Based on these verses, think of specific ways you can demonstrate your love for God and others.

A Prayer for Godliness

"This I pray" (Phil. 1:9).

Your prayers reveal the level of your spiritual maturity.

As we come to our study of godliness in Philippians 1:9-11, we note that this passage is a prayer. Typically, Paul's prayers reflected his concern that his readers would mature spiritually. That is impossible without prayer because spiritual growth depends on the Holy Spirit's power, which is tapped through prayer.

Prayer is so vital that Jesus instructed His disciples to pray at all times (Luke 18:1). Paul commands us to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17). Peter said we should be "of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer" (1 Pet. 4:7).

Scripture gives many other commands to pray, but the true test of your spirituality is your compulsion to pray, not simply your obedience to commands. As a Christian you exist in a spiritual realm in which prayer is as natural as breathing is in the natural realm. Just as atmospheric pressure exerts force on your lungs, compelling you to breathe, so your spiritual environment compels you to pray. Resisting either brings devastating results.

The more you see life through God's eyes, the more you are driven to pray. In that sense your prayers reveal the level of your spiritual maturity. Paul prayed with urgency day and night because he shared God's love for His people and His concern for their spiritual maturity.

Examine your own prayers. Do you pray from a sense of duty or are you compelled to pray? Do you pray infrequently or briefly? Do your prayers center on your own needs or the needs of others? Do you pray for the spiritual maturity of others? Those important questions indicate the level of your spiritual maturity and give guidelines for making any needed changes in your pattern of prayer.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the privilege and power of prayer.
If you have neglected prayer or if your prayers have been centered on yourself rather than others, confess your sin and ask God to give you a sense of holy urgency in praying as you should.
Is there someone for whom you should be praying more consistently?
For Further Study

Read Daniel 6:1-28.

What was Daniel's pattern of prayer?
What accusation did the political leaders bring against Daniel?
What was the king's attitude toward Daniel?
How did God honor Daniel's faith?

The Result of Godly Mourning

“‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted’” (Matthew 5:4).

The positive result for those who mourn is very clear: “they shall be comforted.” God reserves the blessing of His comfort exclusively for the contrite of heart. Those of us who mourn over sin will have our tears wiped away by Jesus’ loving hand.

The Old Testament similarly speaks of God’s comfort for the true spiritual mourners. Isaiah said that Messiah would come “to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning” (Isa. 61:2–3; cf. Ps. 23:4).

In one sense, this “comfort” will be realized only when we meet our Messiah face-to-face. In heaven the Lord “will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain” (Rev. 21:4). Even the most discontented Christian is assured that eternal comfort awaits God’s children in glory.

But God is also the God of present comfort. As we continually mourn over sin, He will continually comfort us. The Scripture declares that “God our Father” has already “given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace” (2 Thess. 2:16; cf. Rom. 15:4; 2 Cor. 1:3). May we walk, therefore, in the light and joy of His blessed comfort, even on this side of its heavenly fulfillment.

Ask Yourself

Have you given up hope of finding comfort in your here and now? The promise of God’s comfort can be yours to claim as you grieve over sin and surrender your heart to holiness. You needn’t wait to feel relief. It’s as near as your next humble prayer.

Reading for Today:

Leviticus 7:1–8:36
Psalm 24:7-10
Proverbs 9:10-12
Mark 1:1-22


Leviticus 8:23, 24 right ear…right hand…right foot. Using a part to represent the whole, Aaron and his sons were consecrated to listen to God’s holy Word, to carry out His holy assignments, and to live holy lives.

Mark 1:15 The time is fulfilled. Not time in a chronological sense, but the time for decisive action on God’s part. With the arrival of the King, a new era in God’s dealings with men had come. the kingdom of God. God’s sovereign rule over the sphere of salvation; at present in the hearts of His people (Luke 17:21), and in the future, in a literal, earthly kingdom (Rev. 20:4–6). at hand. Because the King was present. Repent, and believe. Repentance and faith are man’s required response to God’s gracious offer of salvation (see Acts 20:21).

Mark 1:17 Follow Me. Used frequently in the Gospels in reference to discipleship (2:14; 8:34; 10:21; Matt. 4:19; 8:22; 9:9; 10:38; 16:24; 19:21; Luke 9:23, 59, 61; 18:22; John 1:43; 10:27; 12:26). fishers of men. Evangelism was the primary purpose for which Jesus called the apostles, and it remains the central mission for His people (see Matt. 28:19, 20; Acts 1:8).

Mark 1:22 authority. Jesus’ authoritative teaching, as the spoken Word of God, was in sharp contrast to that of the scribes (experts in the Old Testament Scriptures), who based their authority largely on that of other rabbis. Jesus’ direct, personal, and forceful teaching was so foreign to their experience that those who heard Him were “astonished” (see Titus 2:15).

What was the purpose of John’s baptism?

The Gospels all introduce John the Baptist’s ministry by quoting Isaiah 40:3 (see Matt. 3:3; Luke 3:4; John 1:23). John was called “My messenger” (Mark 1:2), the divinely promised messenger, sent to prepare the way for the Messiah. In ancient times, a king’s envoys would travel ahead of him, making sure the roads were safe and fit for him to travel on, as well as announcing his arrival.

As the last Old Testament prophet and the divinely ordained forerunner of the Messiah, John was the culmination of Old Testament history and prophecy (Luke 16:16) as well as the beginning of the historical record of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Not surprisingly, Jesus designated John as the greatest man who had lived until his time (Matt. 11:11). John’s baptism, being the distinctive mark of his ministry (Mark 1:4), differed from the ritual Jewish washings in that it was a one-time act. The Jews performed a similar one-time washing of Gentile proselytes, symbolizing their embracing of the true faith. That Jews would participate in such a rite was a startling admission that they needed to come to God through repentance and faith just like Gentiles.

John’s baptism was for true repentance. His ministry was to call Israel to repentance in preparation for the coming of Messiah. Baptism did not produce repentance, but was its result (Matt. 3:7, 8). Far more than a mere change of mind or remorse, repentance involves a turning from sin to God (1 Thess. 1:9), which results in righteous living. Genuine repentance is a work of God in the human heart (Acts 11:18). John’s rite of baptism did not produce forgiveness of sin (Acts 2:38; 22:16); it was only the outward confession and illustration of the true repentance that results in forgiveness (Luke 24:47; Acts 3:19; 5:31; 2 Cor. 7:10).




God's Unfailing Love

“The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8).

God’s love is unconditional and righteous.

We hear a lot today about love from books, magazines, TV, and movies. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think that our society is the most loving on earth. Much of the “love,” though, is nothing more than lust masquerading as love, or selfishness disguised as kindness. But today’s verse tells us that “God is love”; the character of God defines love. To clear up any confusion about love, we need only to look at who God is. And then, of course, we need to seek to love others as God loves us.

First, God’s love is unconditional and unrequited. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). God loved us when we were sinners, when we had no righteousness and we didn’t—and couldn’t—love Him back. God doesn’t love us because we deserve it or because we love Him, but because it’s His nature to love.

God’s love doesn’t mean He winks at sin, though. Just as earthly fathers discipline sinning children, “those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives” (Heb. 12:6). True love doesn’t indulge unrighteousness, it confronts it. This kind of tough love isn’t always fun, but it’s for the best: “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful,but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (v. 11).

We’ll study God’s love more in the next lesson, but now it’s only natural to examine how we ourselves are doing in demonstrating love. Is our love unconditional, or do we withhold love from those who hurt us? Do we love only those who love us back? Jesus says, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them” (Luke 6:32). Loving those who love us is easy. Christ loved those at enmity with Him, and He expects us to love our enemies too.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for His great love toward us and for its greatest manifestation in the Person of Christ.

For Further Study

First John has much to say about God’s love for us and our love for Him and others. Read the entire book, noting each instance of the word love.

How to Lose Your Joy

"I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am" (Phil. 4:11).

Discontent and ingratitude will steal your joy.

True joy is God's gift to every believer, yet many Christians seem to lack it. How can that be? Did God fail them? No. As with peace, assurance, and other benefits of salvation, joy can be forfeited for many reasons: willful sin, prayerlessness, fear, self-centeredness, focusing on circumstances, and lack of forgiveness are the main culprits.

Two of the most common joy-thieves are dissatisfaction and ingratitude. Both are by-products of the health, wealth, and prosperity mentality of our day. It has produced a generation of Christians who are more dissatisfied than ever because their demands and expectations are higher than ever. They've lost their perspective on God's sovereignty and have therefore lost the ability to give thanks in all things.

In marked contrast, when Jesus taught about contentment and anxiety (Matt. 6:25-34), He spoke of food and clothing—the basic necessities of life. But preferences, not necessities, are the issue with us. We're into style, personal appearance, job satisfaction, earning power, bigger homes, and newer cars. In the name of greater faith we even demand that God supply more miracles, more wealth, and more power.

Amid all that, Paul's words sound a refreshing note of assurance and rebuke: "I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am" (Phil. 4:11). He made no demands on God but simply trusted in His gracious provision. Whether he received little or much made no difference to him. In either case he was satisfied and thankful.

Don't be victimized by the spirit of our age. See God's blessings for what they are and continually praise Him for His goodness. In doing so you will guard your heart from dissatisfaction and ingratitude. More important, you will bring joy to the One who is worthy of all praise.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that the Holy Spirit will produce in you a joy and contentment that transcends your circumstances.
Make it a daily practice to thank God for specific blessings and trials, knowing that He uses both to perfect His will in you.
For Further Study

Read 1 Kings 18:1—19:8.

How did Elijah deal with the false prophets of Baal?
How did he deal with Jezebel's threat?
What caused Elijah's shift from a spiritual high to a spiritual low?

True Happiness vs. Worldly Happiness

“‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted’” (Matthew 5:4).

The world still operates according to the old popular song lyrics that say, “Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag, and smile, smile, smile.” This philosophy basically tells us to hide all our problems and pretend to be happy; and of course people apply this outlook to sin all the time.

Nevertheless Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn.” Godly mourning and confession of sins bring the only kind of happiness worth having—godly happiness that no amount of human effort, optimistic pretense, or positive thinking can produce.

There is a real need in today’s church to cry instead of laugh. The foolishness, frivolity, and embracing of the world’s view of happiness in the name of Christianity should make us mourn, because we know the difference between empty happiness and true happiness. God’s rebuke to the self-satisfied and indulgent happy is strong: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you” (James 4:8–10).

True happiness does not ignore sin or make light of it; instead it sorrows over sin, turns from it, and flees to God for genuine forgiveness. And in so doing, it finds lasting joy.

Ask Yourself

Does this message sound depressing and cheerless to you? Have you bought the world’s line that happiness can be found only by ignoring sin, not by dealing with it? Aren’t you tired, though, of constantly coming up empty, never quite satisfied? Run weeping into the welcoming arms of God’s forgiveness.

Reading for Today:

Leviticus 5:1–6:30
Psalm 24:1-6
Proverbs 9:7-9
Matthew 28:1-20

Leviticus 5:5 he shall confess. Confession must accompany the sacrifice as the outward expression of a repentant heart which openly acknowledged agreement with God concerning sin. Sacrifice minus true faith, repentance, and obedience was hypocrisy (see Ps. 26:4; Is. 9:17; Amos 5:21–26).

Psalm 24:4 These sample qualities do not signify sinless perfection, but rather basic integrity of inward motive and outward manner.

Matthew 28:1 as the first day of the week began to dawn. Sabbath officially ended with sundown on Saturday. At that time the women could purchase and prepare spices (Luke 24:1). The event described here occurred the next morning, at dawn on Sunday, the first day of the week.

Matthew 28:4 became like dead men. This suggests that they were not merely paralyzed with fear, but completely unconscious, totally traumatized by what they had seen. The word translated “shook” has the same root as the word for “earthquake” in v. 2.The sudden appearance of this angel, at the same time the women arrived, was their first clue that anything extraordinary was happening.

Matthew 28:18 All authority. See 11:27; John 3:35. Absolute sovereign authority—lordship over all—is handed to Christ, “in heaven and on earth.” This is clear proof of His deity. The time of His humiliation was at an end, and God had exalted Him above all (Phil. 2:9–11).

DAY 17: How are the Old Testament sacrifices compared to Christ’s sacrifice?



1. Old Covenant (temporary)

Hebrews 7:228:61310:20

1. New Covenant (permanent)

2. Obsolete promises

Hebrews 8:6–13

2. Better promises

3. A shadow

Hebrews 8:59:232410:1

3. The reality

4. Aaronic priesthood (many)

Hebrews 6:19–7:25

4. Melchizedekian priesthood (one)

5. Sinful priesthood

Hebrews 7:26279:7

5. Sinless priest

6. Limited-by-death priesthood

Hebrews 7:16172324

6. Forever priesthood

7. Daily sacrifices

Hebrews 7:279:12252610:91012

7. Once-for-all sacrifice

8. Animal sacrifices

Hebrews 9:11–152610:4–1019

8. Sacrifice of God’s Son

9. Ongoing sacrifices

Hebrews 10:11–1418

9. Sacrifices no longer needed

10. One-year atonement

Hebrews 7:259:121510:1–412

10. Eternal propitiation




The Comfort of God's Omniscience

“And [Peter] said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You’” (John 21:17).

Since God knows all things, He knows our struggles and will help us through them.

It’s comforting to know that in the vastness of the universe, I’m not lost in insignificance; God knows me personally. Have you ever wondered if He knows you’re there? Some godly people in Malachi’s time wondered that. Malachi spoke words of judgment against the wicked, but the faithful believers feared that God might forget them and that they too would be consumed by God’s wrath. “Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who esteem His name. ‘And they will be Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him’” (Mal. 3:16-17). God has a book, and He doesn’t forget who belongs in it. I know that God knows me and that I belong to Him.

David, too, found comfort in God’s omniscience. He said, “Thou hast taken account of my wanderings; put my tears in Thy bottle; are they not in Thy book?” (Ps. 56:8). It was customary for hired mourners at funerals in David’s time to catch their tears in a bottle, perhaps to prove they earned their money. David knew that none of his trials went unnoticed by God. Not only does He know about them, He cares about them too.

You might be frustrated sometimes in your Christian walk as you see sin in your life. But happily for us, God knows that we still love Him in spite of our failings. In John 21, Peter kept trying to convince Christ that he loved Him, although his words and actions didn’t always prove it. Finally Peter said, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You” (v. 17). Peter appealed to the Lord’s omniscience. We can do the same thing when we stumble.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for knowing and caring about your struggles.

For Further Study

Read Job 42:1-6.

What did Job acknowledge about God?
What did that lead him to do?

The Joy of Pleasing God

"The blameless in their walk are [God's] delight" (Prov. 11:20).

Your love for God brings Him joy.

Our focus so far this month has been on the joy we experience in knowing and serving Christ. Before we turn our attention to the theme of godliness, I want you to consider two additional aspects of joy: the joy of pleasing God, and how to lose your joy. Pleasing God is our topic for today.

Perhaps you haven't given much thought to how you can bring joy to God, but Scripture mentions several ways. Luke 15:7, for example, says, "There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." Verse 10 adds, "There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." Repentance brings joy to God.

Faith is another source of joy for God. Hebrews 11:6 says, "Without faith it is impossible to please Him." That's the negative side of a positive principle: when you trust God, He is pleased.

In addition to repentance and faith, prayer also brings God joy. Proverbs 15:8 says, "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is His delight."

Righteous living is another source of joy to God, as David acknowledges in 1 Chronicles 29:17: "I know, O my God, that Thou triest the heart and delightest in uprightness." Solomon added that those who walk blamelessly are God's delight (Prov. 11:20).

Repentance, faith, prayer, and righteous living all please God because they are expressions of love. That's the over-arching principle. Whenever you express your love to Him—whether by words of praise or acts of obedience—you bring Him joy.

Doesn't it thrill you to know that the God of the universe delights in you? It should! Let that realization motivate you to find as many ways as possible to bring Him joy today.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the privilege of bringing Him joy.
Thank Him for His grace, which enables you to love Him and to express your love in repentance, faith, prayer, and righteous living (cf. 1 John 4:19).
For Further Study

Read 1 Kings 3:3-15.

What did Solomon request of God?
What was God's response?

What Did Jesus Mean by Mourning?

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. - Matthew 5:4

If you have spiritual poverty and true humility, they will lead you to godly sorrow. That’s what Jesus meant by “mourn” here in this second beatitude. Paul told the Corinthians about this kind of sorrow: “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you” (2 Cor. 7:10–11).

Of the nine different New Testament words that indicate the commonness of human sorrow, the one Matthew used here is the most severe. Usually it was used only to denote the grieving over the death of a loved one (cf. Mark 16:10; Rev. 18:11, 15). It conveys the notion of deep, inner agony that is not necessarily expressed by outward weeping or wailing.

Yet genuine, biblical mourning produces results that are surprisingly wonderful because God does something tangible in response to it—the forgiveness of your sins—a holy infusion of real happiness that breathes into you a sigh of relief.

Therefore, this is not simply a psychological or an emotional experience that makes you feel better. No, this mourning is met by blessedness. Genuine spiritual mourning invites communion with the true God, to which He responds with an objective reality—the reality of forgiveness that David knew: “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit!” (Ps. 32:1–2).

Ask Yourself

When was the last time the gravity of your sins fell around you, burying you under its full weight? If it’s been awhile, you’re missing out on the sweet awareness of God’s forgiveness.

Reading for Today:

Leviticus 3:1–4:35
Psalm 23:1-6
Proverbs 9:1-6
Matthew 27:55-66


Leviticus 3:1–17 See 7:11–36 for the priests’ instructions. The peace offering symbolizes the peace and fellowship between the true worshiper and God (as a voluntary offering). It was the third freewill offering resulting in a sweet aroma to the Lord (3:5), which served as the appropriate corollary to the burnt offering of atonement and the grain offering of consecration and dedication. It symbolized the fruit of redemptive reconciliation between a sinner and God (see 2 Cor. 5:18).

Psalm 23:4 the valley of the shadow of death. Phraseology used to convey a perilously threatening environment (see Job 10:21, 22; 38:17; Pss. 44:19; 107:10; Jer. 2:6; Luke. 1:79). Your rod and Your staff. The shepherd’s club and crook are viewed as comforting instruments of protection and direction, respectively.

Matthew 27:56 Mary Magdalene. She had been delivered from 7 demons (Luke 8:2); the other “Mary” (“wife of Clopas,” John 19:25—a variant of Alphaeus) was the mother of the apostle known as “James the Less” (Mark 15:40). the mother of Zebedee’s sons. Salome (Mark 15:40), mother of James and John. From John 19:26, we learn that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was also present at the Cross—possibly standing apart from these 3, who were “looking on from afar” (v. 55), as if they could not bear to watch His sufferings, but neither could they bear to leave Him.

Matthew 27:57 Joseph. Mark 15:43 and Luke 23:50, 51 identify him as a member of the Sanhedrin, though Luke says “he had not consented to their decision and deed” in condemning Christ. Joseph and Nicodemus (John 19:39), both being prominent Jewish leaders, buried Christ in Joseph’s own “new tomb” (v. 60), thus fulfilling exactly the prophecy of Is. 53:9. Arimathea. A town about 15–20 miles northwest of Jerusalem.

DAY 16: Why are there so many uncomfortable expressions in the Psalms—for example in Psalms 23 and 139?

Because the Psalms genuinely reflect real life, we should expect that they will be uncomfortable in the same places that life is uncomfortable. According to the best-known Psalm 23, life isn’t just about green pastures and still waters; it also includes death and enemies. The psalmists were convinced they knew the only true God. When someone was picking on them or their people, they would at times cry out for very specific judgment to be applied by God on their enemies. An amazing fact about the Psalms is their unblushing record of these cries to God that, if we are honest, echo some of our deepest hidden complaints before God.

In David’s case, the role that he filled as the king and representative of God’s people often blurs with his individual self-awareness. At times it is difficult to tell whether he is speaking for himself alone or for the people as a whole. This explains some of the vehemence behind the curse-pronouncing psalms. They unabashedly invoke God’s righteous wrath and judgment against His enemies.




God Knows Everything

“Great is our Lord, and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:5).

God knows everything, and so He knows our sin.

Our time in history has been called “the Information Age.” Computers work around the clock storing the glut of information from all branches of knowledge. And this flood of data is growing bigger all the time. Without the help of advanced technology, we could process and interpret only a tiny fraction of it.

In contrast, God is omniscient; He knows everything. Our Scripture for today says, “His understanding is infinite.” Isaiah asks, “Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or as His counselor has informed Him? With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge, and informed Him of the way of understanding?” (40:13-14). The answer to all those questions is, “No one.”

Since His knowledge is infinite, God never learns anything, nor does He forget anything. When you pray, you’re not telling God something He doesn’t know. He merely chooses to work through our prayers.

God knows every detail of our lives. Jesus says, “The very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Luke 12:7). God doesn’t have to count them because He intrinsically knows how many there are. He also knows all our thoughts (Isa. 66:18). David says, “Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, Thou dost know it all” (Ps. 139:4). In that same psalm, David goes on to say, “Even the darkness is not dark to Thee” (v. 12). You can’t hide anything from the knowledge of God.

God’s omniscience should be a deterrent to our sinning. Think about some of the wrongs you did as a child when your parents weren’t around. You never would have done those things in front of them because you didn’t want to be punished. And you might have gotten away with a few things. But “God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (Eccles. 12:14). Even though the eternal penalty for sin has been paid by Christ, God still disciplines us when we sin (Heb. 12:5-11). Is there anything in your life you would be ashamed about if God knew? If so, repent, because He does know!

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for His infinite knowledge.

For Further Study

Read David’s praise for God’s omniscience in Psalm 139:1-6. What specific areas of God’s knowledge does he mention?

The Joy of Affection

"It is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:7-8).

Often the strongest and deepest relationships are forged in the crucible of Christian ministry.

Undoubtedly there are people who occupy a special place in your heart. Perhaps you seldom see them or talk to them, but they are on your mind and in your prayers often.

That's how Paul regarded the Philippian believers, and it was right for him to do so because they were such an integral part of his life and ministry. They stood by him in every situation—even during his judicial proceedings and imprisonment in Rome.

The gratitude and joy Paul felt was more than an emotion. It was a moral obligation to praise God for what He had accomplished through them. That's the meaning of the Greek word translated "right" in verse 7.

"Heart" refers to the center of one's thoughts and feelings (cf. Prov. 4:23). Paul thought of the Philippians often and eagerly yearned for them with the affection of Christ Himself. In Philippians 4:1 he calls them, "My beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown."

The mutual affection between Paul and the Philippians illustrates that often the strongest and deepest relationships are developed within the context of Christian ministry. There's a special camaraderie among people who work toward life's most noble goals and see God achieve eternal results through their efforts. Guard those relationships carefully and cultivate as many as possible.

Suggestions for Prayer

Make a list of those who share in your ministry. Also list some ways that God has worked through you in recent weeks. Spend time thanking Him for both.

For Further Study

Barnabas was a faithful friend and ministry companion to Paul. Read Acts 4:36-37, 9:22-28, 11:19-30, and 13:1-3 and answer these questions:

What does "Barnabas" mean? Did he live up to his name?
How did Barnabas pave the way for Paul's ministry among the disciples at Jerusalem?
What adventure did Paul and Barnabas share that began at Antioch?

Recognizing Our Humility, Part 2

“‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 5:3).

Continuing from yesterday, a fourth principle for determining our humility, which Thomas Watson recognizes, is that we will see the strengths and virtues of others as well as our own weaknesses and sins. As the apostle instructs, we will “regard one another as more important than” ourselves (Phil. 2:3) and will “give preference to one another in honor” (Rom. 12:10).

Fifth, we will spend a lot of time in prayer. As the physical beggar pleads for earthly sustenance, spiritual beggars ask regularly for spiritual food. Just as when Jacob wrestled with an angel (Gen. 32:24–28), we will not quit until we receive the Lord’s blessing.

Sixth, we will accept Christ on His terms, not ours or any other terms. We will not try to have Him while maintaining our sinful habits. We will not crowd Him aside by our own preferences or traditions, not even by familiar church standards. The Bible alone will be our guide.

And finally, when we have true humility we will praise and thank God for His grace to us. We will gratefully realize that the Father’s grace is “more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 1:14). We will know above all else that every mercy God showers on us is solely from His love and kindness.

Ask Yourself

Remember these seven signposts that point inward to a growing humility. Write them briefly in an appointment calendar or notebook so you can return to them at a later point in time to see how you’re coming along. Humility is worth striving for with that kind of purpose.

Reading for Today:

Leviticus 1:1–2:16
Psalm 22:22-31
Proverbs 8:32-36
Matthew 27:27-54


Leviticus 1:4 put his hand on the head. This symbolic gesture pictured the transfer of the sacrificer’s sin to the sacrificial animal and was likely done with a prayer of repentance and request for forgiveness (see Ps. 51:18, 19). on his behalf. This was a substitutionary sacrifice that prefigured the ultimate substitute—Jesus Christ (see Is. 53; 2 Cor. 5:21). make atonement. The word means “cover.” The psalmist defines it by saying, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Ps. 32:1). Theologically, the “atonement” of the Old Testament covered sin only temporarily, but it did not eliminate sin or later judgment (Heb. 10:4). The one-time sacrifice of Jesus Christ fully atoned for sin, thus satisfying God’s wrath forever and insuring eternal salvation (see Heb. 9:12; 1 John 2:2), even to those who put saving faith in God for their redemption before Christ’s death on the cross (see Rom. 3:25, 26; Heb. 9:15).

Matthew 27:31 to be crucified. Crucifixion was a form of punishment that had been passed down to the Romans from the Persians, Phoenicians, and Carthaginians. Roman crucifixion was a lingering doom—by design. Roman executioners had perfected the art of slow torture while keeping the victim alive. Some victims even lingered until they were eaten alive by birds of prey or wild beasts. Most hung on the cross for days before dying of exhaustion, dehydration, traumatic fever, or—most likely—suffocation. When the legs would no longer support the weight of the body, the diaphragm was constricted in a way that made breathing impossible. That is why breaking the legs would hasten death (John 19:31–33), but this was unnecessary in Jesus’ case. The hands were usually nailed through the wrists, and the feet through the instep or the Achilles tendon (sometimes using one nail for both feet). None of these wounds would be fatal, but their pain would become unbearable as the hours dragged on. The most notable feature of crucifixion was the stigma of disgrace that was attached to it (Gal. 3:13; 5:11; Heb. 12:2). One indignity was the humiliation of carrying one’s own cross, which might weigh as much as 200 pounds. Normally a quaternion, 4 soldiers, would escort the prisoner through the crowds to the place of crucifixion. A placard bearing the indictment would be hung around the person’s neck.

Matthew 27:46 Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? “Eli” is Hebrew; the rest Aramaic. (Mark 15:34 gives the entire wail in Aramaic.) This cry is a fulfillment of Psalm 22:1, one of many striking parallels between that psalm and the specific events of the Crucifixion. Christ at that moment was experiencing the abandonment and despair that resulted from the outpouring of divine wrath on Him as sin-bearer.

How is Christ seen in the Levitical offerings?

1. Burnt Offering (Leviticus 1:3–17; 6:8–13)

Christ’s Provision

Christ’s Character
Christ’s sinless nature

2. Grain Offering (Leviticus 2:1–16; 6:14–23)

Christ’s Provision

Christ’s Character
Christ was wholly devoted to the Father’s purposes

3. Peace Offering (Leviticus 3:1–17; 7:11–36)

Christ’s Provision

Christ’s Character
Christ was at peace with God

4. Sin Offering (Leviticus 4:1–5:13; 6:24–30)

Christ’s Provision

Christ’s Character
Christ’s substitutionary death

5. Trespass Offering (Leviticus 5:14–6:7; 7:1–10)

Christ’s Provision

Christ’s Character
Christ paid it all for redemption. 




Our Response to God's Power

"Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength. . . . They will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary” (Isaiah 40:31).

Relying on God’s power gives us confidence to live as Christians.

What should be our response to God’s power? First, we should worship Him. Our response should follow what God told Israel: “The Lord, who brought you up from the land of Egypt with great power and with an outstretched arm, Him you shall fear, and to Him you shall bow yourselves down, and to Him you shall sacrifice” (2 Kings 17:36).

Understanding God’s power should also give us confidence: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). Because of His strength, we can live the Christian life each day with confidence. God “is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Eph. 3:20).

Our eternal hope rests on the power of God. His power saved us and will “raise [us] up on the last day” (John 6:40). That day should be the great hope of the Christian, because whatever troubles we have on earth, our heavenly destiny is still secure.

When I’m tempted to worry, I’m comforted to remember that God’s power is greater than any problem I have. The psalmist says, “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from whence shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Ps. 121:1-2). The God who made everything can certainly handle our troubles!

God’s power also gives us spiritual victory. Paul instructs us to “be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might” (Eph. 6:10). When the adversary comes and you’re on guard, you don’t fight him; you go tell the commander, and he leads the battle. God will bring about the victory because “greater is He who is in [us] than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Satan may be powerful, but he’s no match for God.

Finally, understanding God’s power gives us humility. Peter exhorts us, “Humble yourselves . . . under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time” (1 Peter 5:6). Apart from God’s gracious power we are nothing and can do nothing (John 15:5).

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for each of these ways He uses His power for our benefit.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 121. In what ways does God demonstrate His power to us?

The Joy of Glorification

God will perfect His work in you "until the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:6).

Someday God will glorify and reward every believer.

For Christians there's an element of truth to the bumper sticker that reads, "Please be patient, God isn't finished with me yet." We aren't what we used to be, but there's much to be done to make us all He wants us to be. Yet God's work within us is so sure and so powerful, Scripture guarantees its completion.

Pondering that guarantee led Bible expositor F.B. Meyer to write, "We go into the artist's studio and find there unfinished pictures covering large canvas, and suggesting great designs, but which have been left, either because the genius was not competent to complete the work, or because paralysis laid the hand low in death; but as we go into God's great workshop we find nothing that bears the mark of haste or insufficiency of power to finish, and we are sure that the work which His grace has begun, the arm of His strength will complete" (The Epistle to the Philippians [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1952], p. 28).

The completion of God's work in you will come at a future point in time that Paul calls "the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:6). Scripture also speaks of "the day of the Lord," which is the time of God's judgment on unbelievers, but "the day of Christ Jesus" refers to when believers will be fully glorified then rewarded for their faithful service (cf. 1 Cor. 3:10-15). All your earthly cares will be gone and God's promise to keep you from stumbling and make you stand in His presence blameless with great joy will be fully realized (Jude 24).

Concentrating on what is wrong in your life might depress you, but focusing on the glorious day of Christ should excite you. Don't be unduly concerned about what you are right now. Look ahead to what you will become by God's grace.

Suggestions for Prayer

Reflect on the joy that is yours because you belong to an all-powerful God who is working mightily in you. Express your joy and praise to Him.
Read 1 Chronicles 29:11-13 as a prayer of praise to God.
For Further Study

Read Revelation 7:9-17 and 22:1-5. What glimpses do those passages give you of the activities of glorified believers in heaven?

Recognizing Our Humility, Part 1

“‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 5:3).

The Puritan Thomas Watson, in his book The Beatitudes, discusses many principles to help the believer recognize his or her humility—those spiritual fruits that enable us to determine whether or not humility is actually growing within us. Here are three.

First, if we are truly humble, we will be weaned from ourselves and have no more constant self-preoccupation. Paul expresses it beautifully this way: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20).

Second, if we are really humble we will be lost in the wonder of Jesus Christ. We will contemplate “as in a mirror the glory of the Lord … being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18). We’ll look forward to the day when we’ll be just like our Lord.

And third, no matter how bad life’s situations get, we will not complain. We’ll understand that we deserve far worse than anything we experience in this life. When tragedy comes, our first response won’t be, “Why me, Lord?” Instead, we’ll fully appreciate that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18).

Ask Yourself

Could you honestly say you’re detecting growth in these three areas? It’s not “proud” to recognize it, to give God glory for what He’s producing in you by His Spirit. If you’re not seeing this kind of spiritual development, ask yourself what needs to change.

Reading for Today:

Exodus 39:1–40:38
Psalm 22:16-21
Proverbs 8:22-31
Matthew 27:1-26


Psalm 22:16 They pierced My hands and My feet. The Hebrew text reads “like a lion,” i.e., these vicious attacking enemies, like animals, have torn me. Likely, a messianic prediction with reference to crucifixion (see Is. 53:5; Zech. 12:10).

Psalm 22:18 They divide…they cast. All 4 Gospel writers appeal to this imagery in describing Christ’s crucifixion (Matt. 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34; John 19:24).

Proverbs 8:27 circle on the face of the deep. The Hebrew word for circle indicates that the earth is a globe; therefore the horizon is circular (see Is. 40:22). This “deep” that surrounds the earth was the original world ocean that covered the surface of the earth before it was fully formed and given life (cf. Gen.1:2).

Matthew 27:26 scourged. The whip used for scourging consisted of several strands of leather attached to a wooden handle. Each strand had a bit of metal or bone attached to the end. The victim was bound to a post by the wrists, high over his head, so that the flesh of the back would be taut. An expert at wielding the scourge could literally tear the flesh from the back, lacerating muscles, and sometimes even exposing the kidneys or other internal organs. Scourging alone was fatal in some cases.

Does Matthew include any material not found in the other Gospels?

Matthew includes nine events in Jesus’ life that are unique to his Gospel:

1. Joseph’s dream (1:20–24).
2. Visit of the wise men (2:1–12).
3. Flight into Egypt (2:13–15).
4. Herod kills the children (2:16–18).
5. Judas repents (27:3-10, but see Acts 1:18, 19).
6. The dream of Pilate’s wife (27:19).
7. Other resurrections (27:52).
8. The bribery of the soldiers (28:11–15).
9. The Great Commission (28:19, 20).




Evidences of God's Power

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know . . . what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might” (Ephesians 1:18-19).

God’s power is seen in creation, preservation, redemption, and resurrection.

Think of all the energy we get from the sun, and multiply that by the innumerable stars in space. But God by His great power created all the stars with no effort whatsoever: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host” (Ps. 33:6). He just spoke, and they were made.

God’s power also preserves the universe. Christ “upholds all things by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3), and “in Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17). Chaos would result unless His sustaining hands were directing the orderliness of creation (Ps. 104; Jer. 31:35-36).

God’s power was beautifully demonstrated at the cross. Satan was subdued, death was conquered, and the penalty for our sins was paid. The gospel “is the power of God for salvation to every one who believes” (Rom. 1:16). When we were saved, God made each of us “a new creature” (2 Cor. 5:17). Not only that, but “He who began a good work in [us] will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). God’s power saved us and gives us strength to live lives pleasing to Him.

The power of God is also made evident in resurrection. Did you know that someday God is going to resurrect every human being who ever lived? The righteous will be raised to eternal life, and the unrighteous to eternal damnation (John 5:28-29; Rev. 20:11-15). Billions of people, long dead, will be resurrected. What tremendous power!

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for the power He has shown in His beautiful creation.
Thank God that by His power He made you into a new creation and will someday raise you to eternal life.
For Further Study

Psalm 33 is a song of praise to God for His power and sovereignty. Examine what it teaches about God’s power, and read it as your own prayer of praise.

The Joy of Anticipation

"I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it" (Phil. 1:6).

God always finishes what He starts.

All who love Christ desire to be like Him in spiritual perfection and absolute holiness. We want to please Him in every respect. However, that noble pursuit is often met with frustration and discouragement as human frailties and sin block our pathway.

Paul's cry in Romans 7 is ours as well: "That which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. . . . I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good. . . . Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?" (vv. 15, 21, 24). His answer resonates with confidence and relief: "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (v. 25).

Paul was convinced that God always completes the good work of salvation He begins in every new believer—a work that progressively conforms us to the image of His Son (2 Cor. 3:18). That might seem like a painfully slow process at times, but be assured He will complete it. All whom He justifies will be glorified (Rom. 8:29-30).

In the meantime, you have an active role to play in the process. Paul called it working out your salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). You must discipline yourself for holiness through prayer, Bible study, obedience, and accountability to other believers. All the resources you need are at your disposal as God Himself works in you to produce His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13).

Rejoice in knowing that you belong to God and that He is conforming you to the image of His Son. See every event of this day as part of that process. Yield to the Spirit's prompting and take heart that God will accomplish His will.

Suggestions for Prayer

Give thanks to God, who is able "to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy" (Jude 24).
Express the desire to discipline yourself for godliness. Ask for wisdom in taking advantage of all the spiritual resources available to you as a believer.
For Further Study

Read Hebrews 10:19-25.

What should be your attitude when approaching God?
What is your responsibility in light of God's promises?

The Way to Humility

“‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 5:3).

Achieving humility doesn’t mean merely putting yourself down. Because of sin, you are already spiritually down, whether you know it or not; humility just recognizes this truth. Furthermore, this recognition comes only from God, which is why asceticism, self-denial, and other human efforts are so futile in seeking humility.

Yet even though genuine humility results from God’s sovereign, saving work, He still commands it of men and women (cf. Matt. 18:4; 23:12; James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:5). Therefore it is always helpful to remember some basic steps to take from our side of the divine equation.

First, we must take our eyes off ourselves and look to God—through study of the Word, time in prayer, and sincerely desiring to be close to Him. Second, we must starve our flesh by removing the things on which it feeds. This means removing those things that promote pride. Third, and most important, we must simply ask for it. God alone can help us keep our lives in balanced perspective, and He will respond when we seek humility with all our hearts. David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10). He desired to be steadfastly humble, and knew only God could grant such a request. The Father stands ready to answer this prayer long before we even utter it—humility is that important.

Ask Yourself

Fashion your own prayer today, deliberately confessing your tendency toward pride, acknowledging your inability to conjure up true humility within yourself, and asking for the Lord’s enablement in pursuing a life of genuine, godly perspective. He will love hearing this prayer from you.

Reading for Today:

Exodus 37:1–38:31
Psalm 22:9-15
Proverbs 8:12-21
Matthew 26:51-75


Matthew 26:57 Caiaphas the high priest. From John 18:13, we learn that Christ was taken first to Annas (former high priest and father-in-law to Caiaphas). He then was sent bound to Caiaphas’s house (John 18:24). The conspiracy was well planned, so that “the scribes and the elders” (the Sanhedrin) were already “assembled” at Caiaphas’s house and ready to try Jesus. The time was sometime between midnight and the first rooster’s crowing (v. 74). Such a hearing was illegal on several counts: criminal trials were not to be held at night; and trials in capital cases could only be held at the temple and only in public.

Matthew 26:59 the council. The great Sanhedrin was the Supreme Court of Israel, consisting of 71 members, presided over by the high priest. They met daily in the temple to hold court, except on the Sabbath and other holy days. Technically, they did not have the power to administer capital punishment (John 18:31), but in the case of Stephen, for example, this was no deterrent to his stoning (see Acts 6:12–14; 7:58–60). Roman governors evidently sometimes ignored such incidents as a matter of political expediency. In Jesus’ case, the men who were trying Him were the same ones who had conspired against Him (see John 11:47–50).

Matthew 26:75 And Peter remembered. Luke 22:61 records that Jesus made eye contact with Peter at this very moment, which must have magnified Peter’s already unbearable sense of shame. “He went out”—evidently departing from Caiaphas’s house—”and wept bitterly.” The true Peter is seen not in his denial but in his repentance. This account reminds us of not only our own weakness, but also the richness of divine grace.

Why did Jesus refuse to take up arms and fight?

When the multitude comes to arrest Jesus in Matthew 26, one of His disciples strikes out with a sword. John identifies the swordsman as Peter (John 18:10). Clearly, Peter was not aiming for the ear, but for the head. Jesus‘ response was immediate. “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (v. 52). Peter’s action was vigilantism. No matter how unjust the arrest of Jesus, Peter had no right to take the law into his own hands in order to stop it. Jesus’ reply was a restatement of the Genesis 9:6 principle: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed,” an affirmation that capital punishment is an appropriate penalty for murder.

Jesus said that if it were a matter of force, His Father would send “more than twelve legions” (v. 53). A Roman legion was composed of 6,000 soldiers, so this would represent more than 72,000 angels. In 2 Kings 19:35, a single angel killed more than 185,000 men in a single night, so this many angels would make a formidable army.

But it wasn’t about force; it was that the “Scriptures…be fulfilled” (v. 54) God Himself had foreordained the very minutest details of how Jesus would die (Acts 2:23; 4:27, 28). Dying was Christ’s consummate act of submission to the Father’s will. Jesus Himself was in absolute control (John 10:17, 18). Yet it was not Jesus alone, but everyone around Him—His enemies included—who fulfilled precisely the details of the Old Testament prophecies. These events display His divine sovereignty.




God Has Unlimited Power

“‘Thine, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Thine is the dominion, O Lord, and Thou dost exalt Thyself as head over all’” (1 Chronicles 29:11).

God has unlimited power and ultimate control over everything.

There is no limit to God’s power. Revelation 19:6 says, “The Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.” In fact, one Hebrew name for God is El Shaddai (El means “God”; Shaddai means “almighty”). Another word for “almighty” is “omnipotent.”

God can do anything effortlessly. It is no more difficult for Him to create a universe than it is for Him to make a butterfly. We get tired when we work, but God’s infinite power never lessens: “The creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired” (Isa. 40:28).

Not only does God have unlimited power but also the authority to use it. “Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Ps. 115:3). But God’s power, authority, and will are in harmony with His nature. He cannot sin, neither can He accept impenitent sinners. Such actions would contradict His holiness.

People often question what God does because they don’t understand that He can do anything He wants. They ask, “Why did God do that?” I’ve often replied, “Because He wanted to.” He showed His sovereignty—His ultimate control of everything—in showing mercy to some like Isaac and Jacob, while hardening the hearts of others like Pharaoh (Rom. 9:6-21). To those who object to God’s right to control such things, Paul said, “Who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay . . . ?” (vv. 20-21).

Never question God’s use of His power. He is in control, and “The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and kind in all His deeds” (Ps. 145:17). We can trust that whatever He does, it’s for the best.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for His infinite power and sovereignty.

For Further Study

Read Isaiah 40:21-31.

How has God demonstrated His power?
How has He demonstrated His sovereignty?
What comfort should that bring to you?

The Joy of Participation

"In view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now" (Phil. 1:5).

You share in a sacred partnership with Christ and your fellow-Christians for the advancement of the gospel.

In recent years the Greek word koinōnia has become familiar to many Christians as the New Testament word for fellowship. However, it is also translated "partnership" and "participation." In Philippians 1:5, Paul uses it to emphasize the participation of the Philippians in common ministry goals.

Romans 12:13 gives one aspect of that partnership and participation: monetary contributions. That's one aspect of fellowship that the Philippian church eagerly shared with Paul. As he says in Philippians 4:15-16, "At the first preaching of the gospel, after I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs." They were partners in his ministry because their financial support made it possible for him to preach the gospel more effectively.

The Philippians knew that Paul carried a tremendous burden in his heart for all the churches. In listing many of the trials he endured as an apostle, then added, "Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches" (2 Cor. 11:28). The Philippian church eased that burden somewhat by being committed to Paul, to his teaching, and to godly living. That brought great joy to him.

How about you? Do your leaders derive encouragement and joy from your participation in the gospel? Remember, you share in a sacred partnership with Christ and your fellow Christians in the advancement of the gospel, just as the Philippians shared a partnership with Paul. Rejoice in that privilege and make the most of it today.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord for the Christian fellowship you enjoy.
Ask for wisdom on how you might advance the gospel more effectively.
Always seek to ease the burden of your spiritual leaders by faithfully participating in the ministry of your church as God has gifted you.
For Further Study

Read Ephesians 4:11-16.

What is the goal of Christian ministry?
What is the role of a pastor/teacher in achieving that goal?
What is your role (see also Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:4-11; 1 Pet. 4:10-11)?

Why the Priority of Humility?

“‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 5:3).

This beatitude was uttered first because humility is the foundation of all other graces and a crucial aspect to salvation (cf. Matt. 18:3–4). The door into Christ’s kingdom is narrow and low, and no one who sees himself or herself too large or too tall will ever pass through. It makes about as much sense to attempt to grow fruit apart from a tree and its branches as to expect the other graces of the Christian life to grow apart from humility.

Until we humble ourselves to recognize our own spiritual poverty and our need of Christ, we cannot see and experience His gracious, saving riches. Jesus said of the contrite tax collector, “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other [the Pharisee]; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14).

No person can receive the kingdom of God until he or she realizes they are unworthy of that kingdom. The proud Laodicean church declared collectively, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” but in reality the members were “wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Rev. 3:17). People like the Laodiceans remind us of the story of the Roman slave girl who would not recognize her blindness, insisting that her world was just permanently dark.

Until the proud are willing to be poor in spirit, they can’t receive the King or enter His kingdom.

Ask Yourself

We see that pride is the chief barrier between people and God, between sinful souls and Christ’s glorious salvation. But what else does pride restrict us from experiencing and enjoying? What other residual costs does it incur in our lives?

Reading for Today:

Exodus 35:1–36:38
Psalm 22:1-8
Proverbs 8:6-11
Matthew 26:26-50


Psalm 22:1 This heavy lament rivals Job 3; Psalm 69; Jeremiah 20:14–18. My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? The repeated noun of direct address to God reflects a personal molecule of hope in a seemingly hopeless situation.“ Forsaken” is a strong expression for personal abandonment, intensely felt by David and supremely experienced by Christ on the cross (Matt. 27:46).

Proverbs 8:10, 11 The most valuable reality a young person can attain is the insight to order his life by the standard of truth (see 3:14, 15; 8:19–21; also Job 28:12–28; Ps. 19:10).

Matthew 26:39 this cup. See v. 42. A cup is often the symbol of divine wrath against sin in the Old Testament (Is.51:17, 22; Jer. 25:15–17, 27–29; Lam. 4:21, 22; Ezek. 23:31–34; Hab. 2:16). The next day Christ would “bear the sins of many” (Heb. 9:28)—and the fullness of divine wrath would fall on Him (Is. 53:10, 11; 2 Cor. 5:21). This was the price of the sin He bore, and He paid it in full. His cry of anguish in 27:46 reflects the extreme bitterness of the cup of wrath He was given. not as I will, but as You will. This implies no conflict between the Persons of the Godhead. Rather, it graphically reveals how Christ in His humanity voluntarily surrendered His will to the will of the Father in all things—precisely so that there would be no conflict between the divine will and His desires. See John 4:34; 6:38; 8:29; Phil. 2:8.

Why did Jesus institute the Lord’s Supper?

In Matthew 26:26, “Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body,’” thus transforming His last Passover into the first observance of the Lord’s Supper. He is the central antitype in both ceremonies, being represented symbolically by both the paschal lamb of the Passover and the elements in the communion service. His statement, “this is My body,” could not possibly have been taken in any literal sense by the disciples present that evening. Such metaphorical language was a typical Hebraism. No eucharistic miracle of transubstantiation was implied, nor could the disciples have missed the symbolic intent of His statement, for His actual body—yet unbroken—was before their very eyes.

When He took the cup of wine, He said that this is “My blood of the new covenant” (v. 28). Covenants were ratified with the blood of a sacrifice (Gen. 8:20; 15:9, 10). Jesus’ words here echo Moses’ pronouncement in Exodus 24:8. The blood of the New Covenant is not an animal’s blood, but Christ’s own blood, shed for the remission of sins. See Jeremiah 31:31–34; Hebrews 8:1–10:18, especially 8:6.Thus He established the observance as an ordinance for worship (1 Cor. 11:23–26). Passover had looked forward to the sacrifice of Christ; He transformed it into an altogether different ceremony, which looks back in remembrance at His atoning death.




God Is Always with Us

“The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth” (Psalm 145:18).

Understanding God’s omnipresence should encourage us in times of distress and keep us from sinning.

It is a great comfort as a Christian to know that God is always present in me both essentially and relationally. No matter what the trial, He is there. Sometimes He might seem faraway, but He’s really no further away than He’s ever been. His promise to us is, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).

God is always with us to support our service to Him. When God called Moses to proclaim His message and lead Israel out of slavery, Moses protested because of his lack of speaking abilities (Ex. 4:10). But God said, “I . . . will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say” (v. 12). Jesus commands us, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations . . . and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20). If you doubt you have the power to witness, remember that you have the same resource as any evangelist—the presence and power of God!

God’s continual presence is also a shield against sin. “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13). Nothing will ever tempt us without His giving us the strength to resist.

The omnipresence of God should also motivate us to holiness. Most of us prefer to sin with no one else watching. But when we sin—whether in thought, word, or action—we sin in the presence of God. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good” (Prov. 15:3). “His eyes are upon the ways of a man, and He sees all his steps. There is no darkness or deep shadow where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves” (Job 34:21-22). Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want God to see, because He’ll see it anyway!

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the comfort He brings to you through His continual presence.

For Further Study

Hebrews 13:5 is a quote from Deuteronomy 31:6. Read Deuteronomy 31:1-8. What was the basis for Moses’ admonition to “be strong and courageous”?

The Joy of Intercession

"Always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all" (Phil. 1:4).

Intercessory prayer is a powerful tool in the hands of a righteous person.

There's the story of a special nurse who knew the importance of intercessory prayer. Each day she used her hands as instruments of God's love and mercy toward those in her care, so she found it natural to use her hand as a scheme of prayer. Each finger represented someone she wanted to pray for. Her thumb was nearest to her and reminded her to pray for those who were closest and dearest. The index finger was used for pointing, so it stood for her instructors. The third finger was the tallest and stood for those in leadership. The fourth finger was the weakest, representing those in distress and pain. The little finger, which was the smallest and least important, reminded the nurse to pray for her own needs.

Undoubtedly that nurse knew the joy of praying for others. Paul knew it too. Given the same circumstances, a lesser man would be consumed with his own well-being, but Paul modeled what he teaches in Philippians 2:4: "Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." Such an attitude is the heart of effective intercessory prayer.

Those who lack the joy of the Holy Spirit often harbor negative thoughts toward others, which debilitates compassion and hinders prayer. That's tragic because intercessory prayer is a powerful tool in the hands of righteous people (James 5:16).

Analyze your own prayers. Are they generous with praise to God for His goodness to others? Do you pray for the needs of others? Practice doing so, and the joy of intercession will be yours.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for specific people and specific needs.
Thank God for what you see Him doing in the lives of others.
For Further Study

John 17 is Christ's intercessory prayer for His disciples, including us (v. 20). After reading that chapter, complete the following statements:

Eternal life is . . .
Christ's mission on earth was to . . .
The world's reaction to Christ and His followers is . . .
The best way to convince the world that Christ was sent by the Father is to . . .

What Is Poverty of Spirit?

“‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 5:3).

Poverty of spirit means recognizing how truly deficient we are apart from God. It means seeing ourselves as we really are: spiritually lost, hopeless, and helpless. Without the gospel of Jesus Christ, everyone is spiritually impoverished, regardless of his or her material accomplishments, educational achievements, or even religious knowledge and church activities.

The “poor in spirit” are people who have recognized their spiritual destitution and their total inability to save themselves—their complete dependence on God. They know their only hope of salvation is to repent and ask for forgiveness, leaning on the sovereign grace and mercy of God. Such a person knows he has no spiritual merit of his own and that his personal strength or wisdom is insufficient to earn him lasting spiritual reward.

“In spirit” expresses the understanding that poverty of spirit can’t be merely a hypocritical, outward act. Being a genuine spiritual beggar reflects true humility, not some phony, pretentious, mild-mannered behavior. Real poverty of spirit is what the prophet said the Lord looks for and affirms: “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isa. 66:2; cf. Pss. 34:18; 51:17).

Augustine in his Confessions says pride was his greatest barrier to salvation. Until he realized that his achievements and possessions were nothing, Christ could do nothing for him. It’s the same for any who would be poor in spirit.

Ask Yourself

What specific items or attitudes threaten your ability to remain “poor in spirit”? How does a person maintain a comfort level in God’s presence without losing the perspective of being undeserving of the privilege?

Reading for Today:

Exodus 33:1–34:35
Psalm 21:8-13
Proverbs 8:1-5
Matthew 26:1-25


Exodus 33:12–17 Again Moses entered earnestly and confidently into the role of intercessor before God for the nation whom he again referred to as “Your people” (vv. 13, 16). Moses clearly understood that without God’s presence they would not be a people set apart from other nations, so why travel any further? Moses’ favored standing before the Lord comes out in the positive response to his intercession (v. 17).

Matthew 26:2 Passover. This was God’s chosen time for Christ to die. He was the antitype to which the Passover Lamb had always referred. Christ had always avoided His enemies’ plots to kill Him (Luke 4:29, 30; John 5:18; 10:39), but now it was His time. The true Lamb of God would take away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

Matthew 26:11 For you have the poor with you always. Jesus certainly was not disparaging ministry to the poor—especially so soon after the lesson of the sheep and goats judgment (see 25:35, 36). However, He revealed here that there is a higher priority than any other earthly ministry, and that is worship rendered to Him. This would be an utter blasphemy for anyone less than God, so yet again He was implicitly affirming His deity.

DAY 11: How does Moses’ veiled face represent the inadequacy of the Old Covenant?

The first time on Mount Sinai (Ex. 24:12–32:14), unlike the second time (34:29–35), had not left Moses with a face which was reflecting some radiance associated with being in the presence of the Lord for an extended period of time.

The second time, in comparison with the first, was not interrupted by the Lord’s sending Moses away because of sin in the camp (32:7–10). A compliant and not defiant people feared the evidence of God’s presence. When not speaking to the Lord or authoritatively on His behalf to the people, Moses veiled his face.

The apostle Paul advised that the veil prevented the people from seeing a fading glory and related it to the inadequacy of the Old Covenant and the blindness of the Jews in his day (2 Cor. 3:7–18). Paul says that “we all,” not just Moses, or prophets, apostles, and preachers, but all believers are “with unveiled face.” Believers in the New Covenant have nothing obstructing their vision of Christ and His glory as revealed in the Scripture. Though the vision is unobstructed and intimate (“beholding as in a mirror”), believers do not see a perfect representation of God’s glory now, but will one day (see 1 Cor. 13:12). As they gaze at the glory of the Lord, believers are continually being transformed into Christlikeness. The ultimate goal of the believer is to be like Christ (see Rom. 8:29; Phil. 3:12–14; 1 John 3:2), and by continually focusing on Him the Spirit transforms the believer more and more into His image. “From glory to glory”—from one level of manifesting Christ to another. The more believers grow in their knowledge of Christ, the more He is revealed in their lives (see Phil. 3:12–14).




God Is Everywhere

“‘But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain Thee’” (1 Kings 8:27).

God is in all places; He is not confined by space.

No matter how big the universe is, God is bigger. His being fills up all of infinity. He is omnipresent—everywhere present. God says, “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” (Jer. 23:24). Solomon said at the dedication of the temple, “Will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain Thee, how much less this house which I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27). There are no limits of time or space to His presence.

Some may object to the doctrine of omnipresence, saying, “Wouldn’t the sin in the world defile an omnipresent God?” No. God is in the hearts of sinners convicting them of sin. He is also in Hell where He “is able to destroy both soul and body” (Matt. 10:28). Though God’s essence is everywhere, He never mingles with impurity. In a similar way, Jesus lived among sinners and was “tempted in all things as we are, yet [He was] without sin” (Heb. 4:15).

Isaiah exhorts people to “call upon [God] while He is near” (55:6); yet Proverbs 15:29 says, “The Lord is far from the wicked.” How can He be near some people and far from others when He is everywhere all the time? To answer this, we must distinguish between God’s essence and His relation to people. He is everywhere in His essence, but with specific individuals He is far or near relationally. When we become Christians, Christ dwells in us. God can fill us with His fullness (Eph. 3:19), and the Spirit who lives in us can also fill us (1:13; 5:18). But before God’s Spirit indwelt us relationally, His essence convicted us of sin and saved us.

The Old Testament tells us that God dwelt between the wings of the cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant. That location was a symbol of God’s presence. Today the church represents God’s presence on earth. In the Millennium, Christ’s rule on the throne of David in Jerusalem will represent God’s presence. In Heaven His presence will be represented by the throne of Revelation 4—5. Remember, though, that the symbol of God’s presence never restricts His essence.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God that He is omnipresent, and thank Him that He lives in you.

For Further Study

What does Psalm 139:7-18 teach about God’s omnipresence?
What was David’s response (vv. 17-18)?

The Joy of Recollection

"I thank my God in all my remembrance of you" (Phil. 1:3).

A key to Christian joy is to recall the goodness of others.

Though Paul was under house arrest in Rome when he wrote to the Philippians, his mind wasn't bound. Often he reflected on his experiences with the Philippian Christians. As he did, his thoughts turned to prayers of praise and thanksgiving for all that the Lord had done through them.

I'm sure Paul remembered when he preached in Philippi and God opened Lydia's heart to believe the gospel (Acts 16:13-14). Subsequently everyone in her household was saved (v. 15). Surely her kindness and hospitality were bright spots in an otherwise stormy stay at Philippi.

He must also have remembered the demon-possessed girl whom the Lord delivered from spiritual bondage (v. 18), and the Philippian jailer, who threw Paul and Silas into prison after they had been beaten severely (vv. 23-24). Perhaps the girl became part of the Philippian church—the text doesn't say. We do know that the jailer and his whole household were saved, after which they showed kindness to Paul and Silas by tending to their wounds and feeding them (vv. 30-34).

The many financial gifts that the Philippians sent to Paul were also fond memories for him because they were given out of love and concern. That was true of their present gift as well, which was delivered by Epaphroditus and went far beyond Paul's need (Phil. 4:18).

Paul's gratitude illustrates that Christian joy is enhanced by your ability to recall the goodness of others. A corollary is your ability to forgive shortcomings and unkindnesses. That goes against the grain of our "don't get mad—get even" society but is perfectly consistent with the compassion and forgiveness God has shown you. Therefore be quick to forgive evil and slow to forget good.

Suggestions for Prayer

Take time to reflect on some people who have shown kindness to you and encouraged you in your Christian walk. Thank God for them. If possible, call them or drop them a note of thanks. Assure them of your prayers, as Paul assured the Philippians.
If you harbor ill-will toward someone, resolve it quickly and begin to uphold that person in prayer.
For Further Study

Read Matthew 5:23-26; 18:21-35. What were our Lord's instructions regarding forgiveness and reconciliation?

Distinctiveness of the Beatitudes

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

The series of conditional blessings Jesus promises, beginning with this verse and continuing through verse 12, are known as the Beatitudes. This name refers to a state of happiness or bliss. The blessedness promised in each is a divine characteristic, one that men and women can realize only as they share in God’s nature (cf. 2 Peter 1:4). When believers are truly blessed, they don’t experience merely an external, circumstantial feeling of happiness, but a deep sense of spiritual contentedness and well-being based on the objective spiritual reality that they belong to God.

We must understand that Christ’s beatitudes are distinctive and firm pronouncements, not merely ambiguous probabilities. Our Lord does not say that if we have the qualities the Beatitudes set forth, we are only likely to be happy; nor is this simply His wish for us. Adherence to these attitudes and practices will result in blessedness, just as surely as judgmental woes await those who are the subject of His pronouncements in Matthew 23.

The blessed life is the opposite of the cursed life. Blessedness is possessed by those who truly have the inner characteristics of the Beatitudes. Conversely, cursedness represents those who don’t know the Beatitudes, such as the Jewish religionists of Jesus’ time.

The Beatitudes are also distinctively progressive, each leading to the next in logical succession. Poverty of spirit demonstrates a right attitude about ourselves. That leads to mourning, gentleness, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, showing mercy, purity of heart, and peacemaking. If we have these traits we will rebuke the world so that it persecutes us and allows us to be lights in its midst.

Ask Yourself

We have often stated—rightly so—that God is more interested in making us holy than making us happy. So does it surprise you to see that happiness is a gift Jesus offers to those who take His Word to heart? What’s wrong with a theology that looks suspiciously at happiness?

Reading for Today:

Exodus 31:1–32:35
Psalm 21:1-7
Proverbs 7:24-27
Matthew 25:31-46

Exodus 32:4 a molded calf. The young bull, which Aaron caused to be fashioned, was a pagan religious symbol of virile power. A miniature form of the golden calf, although made of bronze and silver, was found at the site of the ancient Philistine city of Ashkelon. Since it dates to about 1550 B.C. it indicates that calf worship was known not only in Egypt, but also in Canaan prior to the time of Moses. In worshiping the calf, the Israelites violated the first 3 commandments (20:3–7).

Exodus 32:6 rose up to play. The Hebrew word allows for the inclusion of drunken and immoral activities so common to idolatrous fertility cults in their revelry. Syncretism had robbed the people of all ethical alertness and moral discernment (see 1 Cor. 10:7).

Exodus 32:32 blot me out of Your book. Nothing more strongly marked the love of Moses for his people than his sincere willingness to offer up his own life rather than see them disinherited and destroyed. The book to which Moses referred, the psalmist entitled “the book of the living” (Ps. 69:28).Untimely or premature death would constitute being blotted out of the book. The apostle Paul displayed a similar passionate devotion for his kinsmen (Rom. 9:1–3).

Psalm 21:3 You set a crown of pure gold upon his head. This is symbolic of superlative blessing (note the reversal in Ezek. 21:25–27).

DAY 10: Did Jesus Christ believe in everlasting punishment for the wicked?

Look at His words in Matthew 25:46.“And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” The same Greek word is used in both instances. The punishment of the wicked is as never-ending as the bliss of the righteous. The wicked are not given a second chance, nor are they annihilated. The punishment of the wicked dead is described throughout Scripture as “everlasting fire” (v. 41); “unquenchable fire” (3:12); “shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2); a place where “their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched”(Mark 9:44–49); a place of “torments” and “flame” (Luke 16:23, 24); “everlasting destruction” (2 Thess. 1:9); a place of torment with “fire and brimstone” where “the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever” (Rev. 14:10, 11); and a “lake of fire and brimstone ”where the wicked are “tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20:10).

Here Jesus indicates that the punishment itself is everlasting—not merely the smoke and flames. The wicked are forever subject to the fury and the wrath of God. They consciously suffer shame and contempt and the assaults of an accusing conscience—along with the fiery wrath of an offended deity—for all of eternity. Even hell will acknowledge the perfect justice of God (Ps.76:10); those who are there will know that their punishment is just and that they alone are to blame (see Deut. 32:3–5).




God Doesn't Change

“‘Thou art the same, and Thy years will not come to an end’” (Psalm 102:27).

God never changes, so He can be trusted to do what He says.

God alone is unchanging (or as the theologians say, immutable). The psalmist says, “Even [the heavens and earth] will perish, but Thou dost endure. . . . Thou art the same, and Thy years will not come to an end” (Ps. 102:26-27). Though Israel deserved destruction for its sin, God was faithful to His covenant with Abraham, saying, “I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed” (Mal. 3:6). James calls God “the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow” (1:17).

What about those verses that say God changed His mind (e.g., Amos 7:3, 6; Jonah 3:10)? Let’s look at an example. Jonah warned the wicked city of Nineveh of impending judgment. The city immediately repented, and “when God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it” (3:10). Who changed? The people of Nineveh! God’s nature to punish evil and reward good remained the same, but the object changed.

You can’t blame the sun for melting the wax and hardening the clay. The problem is in the substance of the wax and clay, not in the sun. In a similar way, our standing before God determines how God acts toward us.

What does God’s unchanging character mean? To unbelievers, it means judgment. When God says, “The person who sins will die” (Ezek. 18:20) and “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23), He means it. When He says Hell is eternal (Matt. 25:46; Rev. 20:10, 13-15), then it is.

To Christians, His immutability means comfort. If He loved me in the past, He loves me now and forever. If He forgave and saved me, He did so forever. If He promised me anything, His promise stands forever. If the Bible says, “My God shall supply all your needs” (Phil. 4:19), we know the power that supplied Paul’s needs is the same power that will supply ours. God told Israel, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jer. 31:3), and His love for us is the same.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for His immutability, and thank Him for the comfort that brings you.

For Further Study

Find some promises God makes to His children in Scripture, and ask for faith to believe them, even when belief is difficult.

The Joy of God's Peace

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:2).

Nothing you face today is beyond the purview of God’s grace and peace.

Paul's wonderful benediction for grace and peace was ever on his heart. He offered it in each of his epistles and expounded on it throughout his writings.

Grace is the outpouring of God's goodness and mercy on undeserving mankind. Every benefit and provision you receive is by God's grace. That's why Peter called it "the manifold grace of God" (1 Pet. 1:10). Just as your trials are manifold or multifaceted, so God's multifaceted and all-sufficient grace is correspondingly available to sustain you.

Peace, as used in Philippians 1:2, speaks of the calmness and absence of strife characteristic of one in whom God's grace is at work. The New Testament also links it to mercy, hope, joy, and love. To experience those graces is to experience true peace.

It is said that when Bible translators were seeking a word or phrase for "peace" in the language of the Chol Indians of South Mexico, they discovered that the words for "a quiet heart" gave just the meaning they were looking for. That's an appropriate parallel because peace guards the soul against anxiety and strife, granting solace and harmony.

Colossians 3:15 says, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body." In Philippians 4:6-7 Paul says to "be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Although "grace to you and peace" was a common greeting in the early church, it was an uncommon experience in the unbelieving world. The same is true today because only those who belong to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ receive grace and peace.

Are you experiencing God's peace? Remember, nothing you face today is beyond the purview of God's all- sufficient grace and surpassing peace.

Suggestions for Prayer

Read Ephesians 2:14-18 and praise God for Christ, who is your peace, and for His gracious work on your behalf.

For Further Study

What is the first step to acquiring peace (John 16:33; 1 Pet. 5:14)?
What does the God of peace desire to accomplish within you (1 Thess. 5:23; Heb. 13:20-21)?


February 9 - This Sermon Is for Today

“He opened His mouth and began to teach them” (Matthew 5:2).

Because of the Sermon on the Mount’s seemingly impossible demands and behavioral standards that are counter to everything the world practices and holds dear, many Christians have taught that the Sermon applies only to the millennial age. If it were not just for a future kingdom era, the argument goes, Jesus would not have commanded believers to be perfect, just as their “heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).

But such an argument is invalid, for a number of reasons. First, and most obvious, the body of Jesus’ sermon nowhere indicates or even implies that its message should be set aside for a future age. Second, Jesus was delivering these instructions to people of the present age—His original hearers and us—not those living in the Millennium. Furthermore, many of the teachings become meaningless if we apply them to the Millennium. (For instance, there will be no persecution of Christians at that time; see Matt. 5:10–12, 44.)

The fourth reason these teachings have to apply now is that every principle and command Jesus sets forth is further applied by the writers of the New Testament epistles, directed to believers both then and now. And fifth, many other New Testament passages teach us standards that are equally unattainable as those in the Sermon on the Mount. Only with aid of the indwelling Spirit can these be done, even part of the time (cf. Phil. 1:9–10; Col. 3:1–2; 1 Peter 1:15–16).

Jesus’ sermon certainly does apply to us, marking out the distinctive lifestyle we should display to all those around us.

Ask Yourself

Which of the individual teachings from the Sermon on the Mount have you basically dismissed as being unattainable? Why have you classified one or more in this way? What could this deliberate refusal to obey tell you about the condition of your heart?

Reading for Today:

Exodus 29:1–30:38
Psalm 20:6-9
Proverbs 7:6-23
Matthew 25:1-30

Exodus 29:45 I will dwell. That He would be God of the children of Israel and they would be His people was one thing, but that He would also dwell or tabernacle with them was a very important reality in the experience of the new nation. They were to understand not only the transcendence of their God, whose dwelling place was in the heaven of heavens, but also the immanence of their God, whose dwelling place was with them. Their redemption from Egypt was for this purpose (v. 46).

Psalm 20:7 Some trust in… Trust, boast, and praise must not be directed to the wrong objects but only to God Himself (see, e.g., Deut. 17:16; 20:1–4; Lev. 26:7, 8; Ps. 33:16, 17; Is. 31:1–3; Jer. 9:23, 24; Zech. 4:6).

Proverbs 7:8 took the path. Against the advice of Proverbs 4:14, 15, he put himself right in the harlot’s place. “Fleeing immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18) starts by not being in the harlot’s neighborhood at night.

Matthew 25:15 talents. A talent was a measure of weight, not a specific coin, so that a talent of gold was more valuable than a talent of silver. A talent of silver (the word translated “money” in v. 18 is literally silver) was a considerable sum of money. The modern meaning of the word “talent,” denoting a natural ability, stems from the fact that this parable is erroneously applied to the stewardship of one’s natural gifts.

DAY 9: What do the parables of the 10 virgins and of the talents tell us about Christ’s second coming?

The parable of the 10 virgins (Matt. 10:25:1–13) is given to underscore the importance of being ready for Christ’s return in any event—even if He delays longer than expected. The wedding would begin at the bride’s house when the bridegroom arrived to observe the wedding ritual. Then a procession would follow as the bridegroom took the bride to his house for the completion of festivities. For a night wedding, “lamps,” which were actually torches, were needed for the procession. For those not prepared when He does return, there will be no second chances (vv. 11, 12).

The parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14–30) illustrates the tragedy of wasted opportunity. The man who goes on the journey represents Christ, and the servants represent professing believers given different levels of responsibility. Faithfulness is what he demands of them (v. 23), but the parable suggests that all who are faithful will be fruitful to some degree. Both the man with five talents and the man with two received exactly the same reward, “the joy of your lord,” indicating that the reward is based on faithfulness, not results. The slothful servant (v. 24) does not represent a genuine believer, for it is obvious that this man had no true knowledge of the master. This fruitless person is unmasked as a hypocrite and utterly destroyed (v. 30).





“But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15-16).

God requires holiness and in Christ provides us the means to attain it.

As we have learned, God is holy, and absolute holiness is the standard for anyone who wishes to be in His presence. “God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment” (2 Peter 2:4). In the same way, men who reject God are sent “into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41).

How then can anyone become holy? There’s only one way: through faith in Jesus Christ. It is through Christ’s sacrifice for us that God can credit holiness to our account (2 Cor. 5:21). First Corinthians 6:11 says, “But you were washed, but you were sanctified [made holy], but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.” We are now called saints, and the Greek word for this in Scripture actually means “holy ones.”

So, by God’s grace we are positionally holy. By contrast, however, we are too often unholy in practice. But the Bible says, “Be holy yourselves also in all your behavior” (1 Peter 1:15) and “Let every one who names the name of the Lord abstain from wickedness” (2 Tim. 2:19). We need to be separate from the way the world lives. We need to let others know there is a difference in how Christians live.

When we live holy lives, we will have peace. “There is no peace . . . for the wicked” (Isa. 57:21), but God “disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness” (Heb. 12:10). And that discipline “yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (v. 11). If you lack peace, you may well have let sin come between you and God. If so, follow David’s example in Psalm 51:9-10 and pray for a clean heart. You should also spend time with those who lead holy lives (Prov. 13:20; compare 1 Cor. 15:33).

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God again that He has made you positionally holy in Christ.
Confess any sins you are aware of, and pray that you would live righteously today.
For Further Study

Answer the following questions, based on 2 Corinthians 5:14-21:

What did Christ do for us on the cross?
What happened to us when we were saved?
How should we live as a result?

The Joy of Spiritual Unity

"To the saints . . . including the overseers and deacons" (Phil. 1:1).

Faithful spiritual leaders are worthy of your appreciation and esteem.

Paul's salutation includes the "overseers and deacons" at Philippi. That probably is not a reference to elders and deacons as we know them, but a general reference to all the Philippian saints, which included spiritual leaders (overseers) and those who followed (servants).

That implies unity and submission within the church, which brings joy to leaders and followers alike. Hebrews 13:17 emphasizes that point: "Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you."

Spiritual leadership is a sacred responsibility. Leaders are to lead, feed, and guard the flock of God, which Christ purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28). They are accountable to God Himself for the faithful discharge of their duties.

You have a sacred responsibility as well: to obey and submit to your leaders. Hebrews 13:7 says, "Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith." Paul adds in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, "Appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and . . . esteem them very highly in love because of their work."

Sadly, our society encourages criticism and mistrust of anyone in authority. Verbal assaults and character assassinations are common. Many within the church have adopted that attitude toward their spiritual leaders, whom they view as functionaries or paid professionals. Consequently many churches today are weak and ineffective from disunity and strife. Many pastors suffer untold grief from disobedient and ungrateful people.

You must never succumb to that mentality. Your leaders deserve your appreciation and esteem not because they are exceptionally talented or have winsome personalities, but because of the sacred work God called them to do.

Your godly attitude toward spiritual leaders will contribute immeasurably to unity and harmony within your church and will allow your leaders to minister with joy, not grief.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for your spiritual leaders. Pray for them and encourage them often.

For Further Study

Read 1 Corinthians 9:3-14.

What right was Paul discussing?
What illustrations did he use?

Sermon on the Mount’s Significance

“When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him” (Matthew 5:1).

The gospel of the kingdom’s foundational truth (contained in the Sermon on the Mount) has had an impact for two thousand years on all who read and hear it. At least five reasons come to mind as to why Jesus’ greatest of sermons is so important.

First, the Sermon demonstrates the necessity of the new birth. In order for us to recognize our sin, Jesus made a fuller, clearer presentation of the law, followed by His offer of salvation. Jesus’ message here clarifies the reasons for sin’s curse and shows that we have no righteousness of our own to survive God’s scrutiny. Only those who have a new nature through Christ can meet the law’s demands. By no other way but saving faith can we have righteous attitudes as well as actions and be fully right with God.

Second, the Sermon points all listeners to their dependence on Christ’s enabling power to meet God’s standards.

Third, Jesus’ message gives us the Father’s pattern for true happiness and peace (cf. John 14:27; Phil. 4:7). It provides the real pathway to the believer’s sanctification.

Next, the principles in the Sermon on the Mount are some of the greatest scriptural resources for evangelism. If you as a Christian personify these truths, your life will attract others to the Lord.

Last, the life that is obedient to the Sermon’s teachings is the only one that truly pleases God—and that is the highest, noblest objective of the Christian life.

Ask Yourself

Embarking on a devotional study of something as monumental as the Sermon on the Mount, you’re always sure to discover truths and insights you’ve never noticed before. Which one or two of the five statements above do you think you’re most ready to hear more about?

Reading for Today:

Exodus 27:1–28:43
Psalm 20:1-5
Proverbs 7:1-5
Matthew 24:29-51


Exodus 27:9 the court of the tabernacle. The dimensions of the rectangular courtyard space, bordered by curtains and poles around the tabernacle were also precisely given (vv. 9–19; 150 feet by 75 feet). The outer hangings were high enough, 5 cubits or 7.5 feet, to block all view of the interior of the courtyard (v. 18). Entry into the courtyard of God’s dwelling place was not gained just generally and freely from all quarters.

Exodus 28:1 minister to Me as priest. The 3-fold repetition of this phrase in the opening words about Aaron’s priestly wardrobe would appear to stress the importance of his role in the religious life of the nation. Aaron’s sons were part of the priesthood being set up. The Hebrew text groups the sons in two pairs, the first pair being Nadab and Abihu, both of whom died because of wanton disregard of God’s instructions (Lev. 10:1, 2). Aaron and his descendants, as well as the tribe of Levi, were selected by God to be Israel’s priests—they did not appoint themselves to the position. The law clearly defined their duties for worship and the sacrifices in the tabernacle and for the individual worshiper and the nation’s covenantal relationship to God.

Proverbs 7:2 apple of your eye. This expression refers to the pupil of the eye which, because it is the source of sight, is carefully protected (see Deut. 32:10; Ps. 17:8; Zech. 2:8). The son is to guard and protect his father’s teachings because they give him spiritual and moral sight.

Matthew 24:37 as the days of Noah were. Jesus’ emphasis here is not so much on the extreme wickedness of Noah’s day (Gen. 6:5), but on the people’s preoccupation with mundane matters of everyday life (“eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage”—v. 38), when judgment fell suddenly. They had received warnings, in the form of Noah’s preaching (2 Pet. 2:5)—and the ark itself, which was a testimony to the judgment that was to come. But they were unconcerned about such matters and therefore were swept away unexpectedly in the midst of their daily activities.

DAY 8: How should Jesus’ prophetic statements, many of which are found in Matthew 24 and 25, be interpreted?

The prophetic passages present a particular challenge for those seeking to understand a correct interpretation of Jesus’ words. The Olivet discourse (Matthew 24; 25), for example, contains some details that evoke images of the violent destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Jesus’ words in 24:34 have led some to conclude that all these things were fulfilled—albeit not literally—in the Roman conquest of that era. This view is known as “preterism.” But this is a serious interpretive blunder, forcing the interpreter to read into these passages spiritualized, allegorical meanings unwarranted by normal exegetical study methods. The grammatical-historical hermeneutical approach to these passages is the approach to follow, and it yields a consistently futuristic interpretation of crucial prophecies.




God's Holiness Revealed
“The Lord is righteous in all His ways” (Psalm 145:17).

God’s holiness is evident in everything He does, particularly in creation, the law, judgment, and salvation.

The whole purpose of the Old Testament is to reveal the holiness and righteousness of God, who is utterly perfect and pure. In fact, the Hebrew word for “holy” is used more than 600 times in the Old Testament to indicate moral perfection.

What are some areas in which we see God’s holiness? First, we see it in the original perfection of His creation: “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). All of creation was in tune with God’s holy character.

Later God laid down His righteous, moral law for Israel. In it He gave rules about worship and society. He prescribed penalties for murder, adultery, and stealing. He condemned lying, coveting, and many other sins. There were many rules, but they revealed a God who is infinitely right and without error, flaw, or tolerance for sin. The law showed God’s character: “The Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12).

God’s holiness will ultimately be demonstrated “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thess. 1:7-9). His judgment on sin is a reflection of His holiness; He must punish it.
Perhaps the supreme expression of God’s holiness is seen in sending His Son to die on the cross (cf. Rom. 8:3-4). God paid the highest price, but it was the only price that could satisfy His holiness. Jesus Christ is Himself “the Holy and Righteous One” (Acts 3:14); so only He could “put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:26). God’s holiness is so infinite, and our unholiness is so great, that only the sacrifice of the God-man could pay for the enormity of our sin.

Suggestions for Prayer
Thank God that He sent His Son to die for our sins, so we could be “holy and blameless before Him” (Eph. 1:4).

For Further Study
Some of God’s laws for the Israelites are given in Exodus 21—23. Note in particular the penalties for breaking these laws. What does this passage teach you about God’s character?

The Joy of Sacrificial Giving
"Saints . . . who are in Philippi" (Phil. 1:1).

As you give toward the needs of others, God will supply your needs.

Perhaps more than any other New Testament church, the Philippian church was characterized by generous, sacrificial giving. Their support for Paul extended throughout his missionary travels and was a source of great joy to him. In addition to money, they also sent Epaphroditus, a godly man who ministered to Paul during his imprisonment (Phil. 2:25-30; 4:18).

Paul was selective about accepting financial support from churches because he didn't want to be a burden or have his motives misunderstood. First Corinthians 9:6-14 tells us he had the right to receive support from those he ministered to, but he waived that right so the gospel would not be hindered in any way. In 2 Corinthians 11:9 he says, "When I was present with you and was in need, I was not a burden to anyone . . . in everything I kept myself from being a burden to you, and will continue to do so."
Similarly he wrote to the Thessalonians, "We did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we might not be a burden to any of you" (2 Thess. 3:7-9).

In contrast, Paul's willingness to accept support from the Philippian church speaks of the special trust and affection they shared.

Apparently the Philippians' generosity was so great, it left them with needs of their own. Paul assured them that their sacrifices were well-pleasing to God and that He would supply all their needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:18- 19).

Like the Philippians, you should be characterized by generous, sacrificial support of those who minister God's Word to you. Faithful pastors and elders are worthy of such honor (1 Tim. 5:17- 18), and generous giving brings joy to you and to others.

Suggestions for Prayer
* Thank God for those who faithfully minister to you.
* Ask for wisdom in how you might best support the financial needs of your church.

For Further Study
Read 1 Corinthians 9:1-14, 2 Corinthians 9:6-14, and 1 Timothy 6:6-9.
* What attitudes and principles are reflected in those passages?
* How might you incorporate them into your financial practices?

Healings’ Extraordinary Confirmations

“Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond Jordan” (Matthew 4:25).

The healing miracles of Jesus accomplished things that surpassed and were far more significant than the obvious, immediate benefit to those healed. First, they demonstrated He was the Son of God, since no mere man could do such feats. Jesus later instructed Philip and the other disciples, “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves” (John 14:11).

Second, the marvelous healings revealed that God, through Christ, was and is compassionate to all who suffer: “Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him” (Matt. 20:34).

Third, Jesus’ healings proved He was the predicted Messiah of the Old Testament. Jesus directly told John the Baptist’s disciples, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Matt. 11:4–5; cf. Isa. 35:5–10; 61:1–3).

Finally, the healing miracles proved that God’s kingdom is a reality (cf. Matt. 9:35; 10:7–8). Perhaps even more marvelous for us is that Jesus’ healings were a foretaste of a future kingdom: “The eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will shout for joy” (Isa. 35:5–6; cf. Ps. 96:10).

Ask Yourself
Certainly, many in the “large crowds” came for what they viewed as a sideshow, an entertaining diversion from the humdrum. But are we often guilty of following while expecting nothing? Are you still willing to believe God for the unexplainable?

Reading for Today:
* Exodus 25:1–26:37
* Psalm 19:7-14
* Proverbs 6:32-35
* Matthew 2