Read Through the Bible

Read Through The Bible, April 1-10

APRIL 1 

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress.

My God, in whom I trust.”

For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper,

And from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with His pinions,

And under His wings you may seek refuge;

His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

Psalm 91:1-4 

            Is God a chicken who has feathers and wings?  No.  Does God, who is spirit, cast a shadow?  No.  This is the writer using figurative language.  The Psalms are poetry and the writers use poetic language to convey lofty ideas.  We are not meant to take poetic language literally.  What is the main idea we are to understand here?  God is someone we can trust, someone whose very nature is to protect and rescue.  Our soul rushes to Him for refuge.

For He will give His angels charge concerning you,

To guard you in all your ways.

They will bear you up in their hands,

Lest you strike your foot against a stone.

You will tread upon the lion and cobra,

The young lion and the serpent you will trample down.

Psalm 91:11-13 

            Satan tried to use this Scripture with Jesus when tempting Him to throw Himself off the top of the temple (Luke 4:9-12).  Jesus replied that we are not to tempt God.  Satan wanted Jesus to take these verses literally, but Jesus knew what was really at stake and refused.  There are places in the United States today where snake-handling is part of their religious worship.  They, too, are taking this and similar verses literally, but I say what they are really doing is tempting God.  We are not to tempt God, but to trust Him.  When we are in dangerous situations, not of our own choosing, God is there to see that no evil harms us.  God has your back, so to speak.  

            “Because he has loved me, therefore I will deliver him.”  Psalm 91:14a.  God’s love is not figurative.  It is literal, and He proved it at the cross.

Daily Reading

Deuteronomy 29, 30                             Psalm 91                                         Romans 11

Abbreviated Reading

Deuteronomy 29:1-15; 30:11-20     Psalm 91:1-4                            Romans 11:25-36

 

APRIL 2

It is good to give thanks to the LORD,

And to sing praises to Thy name, O Most High;

To declare Thy lovingkindness in the morning,

And Thy faithfulness by night.

Psalm 92:1-2

            When I read these words this morning, I thought about the morning and evening e-mails I send to Andrea and Bethany each day.  Since my fall and concussion of December 2007, I have been, at their request, faithfully informing my daughters twice a day that I am still okay.  Sometimes that means just a simple “goodnight” or “good morning.”  However, beginning tomorrow I am going to amplify those thoughts by saying instead:

Here I am, declaring God’s lovingkindness this morning.

Here I am, declaring God’s faithfulness tonight.

            This will give me the perfect lead-in to relate whatever kindness and faithfulness I have experienced during the past twelve or so hours, not just for their benefit, but for mine, as I deliberately focus on the good that God is doing in my life. 

            For this is the kind of person I want to be:

The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree,

He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon.

Planted in the house of the LORD,

They will flourish in the courts of our God.

They will still yield fruit in old age;

They shall be full of sap and very green,

To declare that the LORD is upright;

He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.

Psalm 92:12-15

  

Daily Reading

Deuteronomy 31, 32                              Psalm 92                                        Romans 12

Abbreviated Reading

Deuteronomy 31:1-8; 32:1-4            Psalm 92:1-4                              Romans 12:9-2

 

APRIL 3

     "And this do, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.  The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand.  Let us therefore lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.  Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy.  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts."  Romans 13:11-14.

            It is the latter part of this passage that was the instrument of Saint Augustine’s conversion.  In his Confessions, Augustine tells it like this as he agonized over his own sinfulness: Why not now?  Why not is there this hour an end to my uncleanness?

 So was I speaking, and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when lo!  I heard from a neighbouring house a voice, as of boy or girl, I know not, chanting, and oft repeating, “Take up and read; Take up and read.”  Instantly, my countenance altered, I began to think most intently, whether children were wont in any kind of play to sing such words: nor could I remember ever to have heard the like.  So checking the torrent of my tears, I arose; interpreting it to be no other than a command from God, to open the book, and read the first chapter I should find. . . . Eagerly then I returned to the place where Alypius was sitting; for there had I laid the volume of the Apostle, when I arose thence.  I seized, opened, and in silence read that section on which my eyes first fell:  Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying: but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh in concupiscence.  No further would I read; nor needed I: for instantly at the end of this sentence by a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away.

            Augustine went on to become one of the most influential Christian philosophers and theologians of Western Christianity.  He is revered by Catholics as well as Protestants.  His Confessions and The City of God are two of his books that are widely read today.  He lived in North Africa most of his life, was appointed as a bishop early in his Christian life, and died in A.D. 430.  God used Romans 13:14 as a means of ending Augustine’s agony and giving him new life in Christ.

Daily Reading

Deuteronomy 33, 34                             Psalm 93                                            Romans 13

Abbreviated Reading

Deuteronomy 33:1-3; 34:1-12          Psalm 93:1-2                                 Romans 13:1-14

 

APRIL 4

            Today we begin our reading of the book of Joshua.  Joshua is already a familiar figure for us as we read about him in Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  What have we learned so far?

  • He was from the tribe of Ephraim, which means that one of his ancestors was Joseph
  • From the time of his youth, he attended Moses
  • He was with Moses on Mt. Sinai when God gave the ten commandments
  • He was one of the twelve spies of Numbers 14, one of the two faithful ones
  • The Spirit of God was on him
  • He was filled with a spirit of wisdom
  • He was commissioned by Moses to be his successor
  • Moses was his mentor
  • Moses was told to encourage and strengthen Joshua
  • Joshua was called the servant of Moses

            In addition to all his years of being with Moses and of being taught by him, Joshua had these words from God Himself:

No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life.  Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.  Be strong and courageous, for you shall give the people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.  Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.  This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.  Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous!  Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:5-9.

             Finally, after all the years of wandering, Israel was about to realize the great promise of God.  And Joshua was the one who was to lead the charge.  He had need of strength and courage for his daunting task.  But so do we all!  Our own way forward often seems daunting to us.  Yet it is the same God who has said that He will not leave us or forsake us.  Strengthen your own heart today and take courage no matter what your challenge!

Daily Reading

Joshua 1, 2                                             Psalm 94                                        Romans 14

Abbreviated Reading

Joshua 1:1-11; 2:1-7, 22-24             Psalm 94:17-19                           Romans 14:7-9

 

April 5  

Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me,

  • that I may be delivered from those who are disobedient in Judea,
  • and that my service for Jerusalem may prove acceptable to the saints,
  • so that I may come to you in joy by the will of God
  • and find refreshing rest in your company.  Romans 15:30-32.

            I have taken some liberties in the layout of these verses, but I wanted to emphasize the requests for which Paul was asking prayer.  Paul was on his way to Jerusalem to deliver a contribution from the churches of Macedonia and Greece for the poor Christians in Jerusalem.  He intended to go to Rome from Jerusalem in order to finally meet the Roman Christians, whom he had been wanting to see for some time.  

            The question is:  Were these prayers answered?  Not in the way Paul had anticipated.  Yes, the offering was probably acceptable, but what about deliverance from his enemies in Jerusalem?  Acts 23 tells of Paul’s dramatic escape from death at the hands of some Jews, but he did not escape imprisonment.  In fact, Paul spent at least two years as a prisoner in Caesarea before becoming a prisoner in Rome for at least another two years.  Did Paul go to Rome in joy despite going in chains?  Knowing Paul, he probably did.  There is no doubt this was part of the will of God, however.  And Acts 28:30 tells us that while in Rome he had “his own rented quarters, and was welcoming all who came to him.”  This would lead me to say that he did find “refreshing rest” in their company at last, but hardly as he would have imagined when he was writing this letter to the Romans.

            It is good to have plans, as Paul did.  It is good to pray and to ask for prayer, as Paul did.  But God has plans too, and those are not always the same as ours.  When our plans do not work out, and when our prayers are seemingly not answered, it does not mean that God is not at work in our lives.

            Our part is to:

  • Be open to God
  • Allow God the freedom to do as He pleases in our life (without complaining)
  • Exercise a radical trust in God, no matter what 

Daily Reading

Joshua 3, 4                                             Psalm 95                                           Romans 15 

Abbreviated Reading

Joshua 3:7-17; 4:1-11                       Psalm 95:1-6                                   Romans 15:1-7

 

APRIL 6 

Now it came about when all the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan to the west, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard how the LORD had dried up the waters of the Jordan before the sons of Israel until they had crossed, that their hearts melted, and there was no spirit in them any longer, because of the sons of Israel.  Joshua 5:1.

Now Jericho was tightly shut because of the sons of Israel; no one went out and no one came in.  Joshua 6:1.

            Imagine the scene.  You are a citizen of Jericho.  The familiar river Jordan has done the unheard of – it has dried up during mid-flood.  The familiar Jordan has allied itself with this horde of strange people, these Israelites as they are called, and allowed them to cross into your territory.  Their camping place is nearby.  They’ve been doing nothing either good or bad for several days.  The gates of Jericho are locked tight, however.  No one is moving in or out of the city.  Then a noise is heard, a noise of a trumpet.  Then comes a long line of marching men.  Marching, marching, but not making a sound.  Only the sound of the trumpet.  Marching around the city and then disappearing.  Not a word from their lips.  The next day it is the same.  For six days.  You were already terrified.  Now the suspense is adding to the terror.  What is happening?  What will happen to me? 

            We know the rest of the story.  On the seventh day, Jericho and everything in it was destroyed, except for Rahab and her family.

            As Hebrews 10:31 tells us, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  And yet, most of our contemporary America has no sense of the fear of God.  We go about our lives as if there were no God, or at least not a vengeful God.  That is not the testimony of Scripture.  The bible makes it clear that Yahweh is coming to judge the earth.  It will be a joyful time for some:

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;

Let the sea roar, and all it contains;

Let the field exult, and all that is in it.

Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy

Before the LORD, for He is coming;

For He is coming to judge the earth.

He will judge the world in righteousness,

And the peoples in His faithfulness.

Psalm 96:11-13 

            Those who are clothed in the righteousness of Christ will rejoice in that day.  Those who reject Him have every reason to tremble and be afraid, like the people of Jericho.

 Daily Reading

Joshua 5, 6                                              Psalm 96                                               Romans 16 

Abbreviated Reading

Joshua 5:1, 13-15; 6:1-5, 15-21           Psalm 96:1-6                                  Romans 16:25-27

 

APRIL 7 

            After the spectacular victory over Jericho, it was a bitter blow for the Israelites to be defeated by little Ai.  The reason, however, soon became clear.  Someone had sinned against God’s explicit command, and God was making an example of him.  The man was Achan, and this is what he had to say for himself:

Truly, I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel, and this is what I did: when I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantle from Shinar and two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold fifty shekels in weight, then I coveted them and took them; and behold, they are concealed in the earth inside my tent with the silver underneath it.  Joshua 7:20-21.

            For our meditation today, I want us to think about the connection between coveting and taking and concealing.

            First of all, coveting is particularly singled out as one of the “Thou shalt nots” of the Ten Commandments.  Deuteronomy 6:21 puts it like this: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, and you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field or his male servant or his female servant, his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”  Coveting is something more than the simple desire of wanting something, for many of our wants are genuine needs that we have as human beings.  Coveting, as one of the ten commandments, is particularly wanting something that belongs to someone else, which one may not legitimately buy or otherwise possess.  The type of coveting that is forbidden is the kind that would take against the will of the lawful owner.

            In the case of the items taken by Achan, God was the legitimate owner.  Joshua had specifically told them before the capture of Jericho: “And the city shall be under the ban, it and all that is in it belongs to the LORD.”  Joshua 6:17a.  Not only did Achan greatly desire these banned items, but he actually took them from God, the rightful owner!  Coveting is a kind of strong desire that is going to “take,” commandment or not! 

            Secondly, there is the concealment.  Achan knew he had done wrong, and he wanted no one else to know.  Of course, it is foolish to think we can hide anything from God, but when sin takes hold and we do what is forbidden, our instinct is to hide.  If we can’t hide it from God, we can at least hide it from man!  It never works.  All our hidden deeds will eventually come to light.  It is better to confess and forsake our sins today rather than have God expose them when we least expect it.

Daily Reading

Joshua 7, 8                                             Psalm 97                                                Mark 1 

Abbreviated Reading

Joshua 8:1-22, 30-35                        Psalm 97:10-12                                 Mark 1:21-28

 

APRIL 8 

SOME OBSERVATIONS FROM MARK 2 

            “And when He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward, it was heard that He was at home.”  Mark 2:1.   Although it is known that Jesus had once said that He had nowhere to lay His head, He was speaking hyperbolically, because the text, here and elsewhere, tells us that He made His home in Capernaum when He left Nazareth.  Perhaps His home was with Peter and his family who lived in Capernaum.  Archaeologists have uncovered the ruins of what they are certain is Peter’s house, and it is a favorite tourist destination, especially for Christians.  The town today is not inhabited.

            “And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men . . . And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, ‘My son, your sins are forgiven.’”  Mark 2:2, 5.  It was not the faith of the paralytic but the faith of the four men to which Jesus responded.  Let us not despise the impact we have when we, in faith, touch the lives of others and bring them to Jesus, by our words or deeds or prayers.

            “And hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’”  Mark 2:17.  Jesus’ closest companions were the twelve apostles, but He deliberately put Himself in situations where He could minister to those who knew they were sinners.  Those who considered themselves too good for the scum of society did not even realize that they were the neediest of all.  Let us not despise the weak, the lowly, the unlovely; it is often they whose hearts are most susceptible to the love of Christ.

            “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost; and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.”  Mark 2:22.  I believe that Jesus was here speaking of the newness of the Gospel.  The old traditions of the law would not be able to contain the new life in the Spirit.  Jesus came to fulfill the law but He also came to bring life, life more abundant; and that life would require new forms and expressions that would be radically different from the old.

            “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”  Mark 2:27b.  Even in the order of creation, man was created before the Sabbath rest of the seventh day.  Moreover, God gave man the responsibility of ruling over and of tending the creation so that it could be used for his benefit.  It is not God’s intent that nature be our master, as some present-day environmentalists would like.

Daily Reading

Joshua 9, 10                                           Psalm 98                                              Mark 2

Abbreviated Reading

Joshua 10:1-15                                  Psalm 98:1-6                                   Mark 2:23-28

 

APRIL 9 

Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.  Mark 3:28-29.

            My definition of blasphemy is this: irreverent or false utterances against God.  Under the Old Testament law, blasphemers were to be stoned, and today in some Muslim countries, those who blaspheme Allah are liable to punishment by the authorities or by the mobs.  But blasphemy against the Holy Spirit has a far greater punishment than physical death; it is eternal damnation because it is unforgiveable.  For this reason, we should have some understanding of its meaning.

            We must, therefore, look at what is the Holy Spirit’s work in the world.  Jesus said this in John 16:8:  “And He [speaking of the Holy Spirit], when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment.”  The Holy Spirit’s job in the life of unbelievers is to convict people of their need for salvation and show the way of salvation.  If, during the process of conviction, a person says to himself, “This is not God; this is the devil,” that person is blaspheming or making false statements about the work of God in his life.  In other words, the unforgiveable sin is to reject God’s gracious work in our heart that would lead us to salvation.  It is saying “No!  I have no sin.  No!  I have no need of this kind of righteousness.  No!  I will never come into judgment.”

            It is obvious, then, that no Christian can commit the unforgiveable sin because the Christian has already said yes to the Holy Spirit regarding sin and righteousness and judgment.  Instead, to that person, the Holy Spirit comes as a comforter and a helper. 

            But to those who resist the work of the Holy Spirit, it is like taking the side of Satan who is a liar and the father of lies.  It is choosing Satan’s way instead of God’s way.  It is choosing to believe in the lie that says “I am okay just as I am.  I have no need of God.  I can do life on my own.”  That person is actively suppressing the witness of the Holy Spirit to the contrary.  As long as he persists in that self-talk, he has no hope.

            But I am persuaded of better things of you.  Continue to say yes to the work of the Holy Spirit in your life.  Open yourself to Him.  Trust Him with all your heart. 

Daily Reading

Joshua 11, 12                             Psalm 99                                                 Mark 3

Abbreviated Reading

Joshua 11:16-23; 12:7-24                Psalm 99:6-9                                          Mark 3:1-6

 

APRIL 10 

Now Joshua was old and advanced in years when the LORD said to him, “You are old and advanced in years, and very much of the land remains to be possessed.  This is the land that remains: . . .”  Joshua 13:1 ff. 

            “Very much of the land remains to be possessed.”  This seems almost to contradict what Joshua 11:23 says, “So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD had spoken to Moses, and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes.  Thus the land had rest from war.”  So which is it?  Did Joshua take the whole land or was there much left to be possessed?  My answer to that question is that both are correct.  But we must make a distinction between people who were to be subjugated and land which was to be possessed.  By the end of Joshua’s life the entire area was under the subjugation of the Israelites; the wars had ended, and so it is possible to say that the land was taken.  But all the land was not yet occupied, and that is what remained to be done.  Joshua portioned out the territory for each of the tribes, and it was then up to them to occupy it.  In their subjugation of the land of Canaan, the Israelites had bypassed some enemy strongholds and destroyed others.  Now, as they were getting ready to fully occupy the land, it was up to the individual tribes to complete the destruction of the strongholds that had been bypassed earlier.

            Besides clarifying a possible issue readers might have in the book of Joshua, I think there is an additional insight we can gain here.  That is an analogy to the Christian life and sin. 

            Christ has gained the greater victory over sin for us, but there remain pockets of resistance within us.  It remains for us to root out that which is not pleasing to Christ.  He will help us, and when He does, we will eventually be victorious.  But it takes some active fighting on our part.  We cannot become complacent and think that it does not matter if I am disobedient to Christ in this area of my life.  No.  The longer we tolerate sin in our life, the stronger it becomes and the harder it is to uproot.  We cannot ignore the enemy’s stronghold in our life.  We are meant to destroy it so that we can fully possess the abundant life Christ means for us to have.

Daily Reading

Joshua 13, 14                            Psalm 100                                                 Mark 4

Abbreviated Reading

Joshua 13:1-7; 14:6-15                     Psalm 100:1-5                                   Mark 4:21-34

 

 

Read Through the Bible: March 17-23

MARCH 17

"And as He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”  (Matthew 24:3) 

            Chapter 24 of Matthew is known as the Olivet Discourse because of the place where Jesus and His disciples were when Jesus began to answer these three questions, which had been prompted by Jesus’ prediction that the temple would be destroyed.  It is not very clear, as Jesus speaks, which one of the three questions He is answering, however.  I think it is fair to say that the disciples expected that the destruction of the temple and the end of the age would happen about the same time.  That it did not, is evident to us because we know that the temple was destroyed in A.D. 70, and the end of the age is still in our future. There are at least two predictions that Jesus made, however, which we can confidently say have not yet been fulfilled:

  • And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come.  Verse 14.  (This goal is within reach of our generation.  Wycliffe Bible Translators, for example, has made it its goal to have workers in every language group, that still needs a bible translation, by 2025.)
  •  [T]he sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.  Verse 30.

             Through the ages there have been people who thought they knew when the end of the age was coming, despite the fact that Jesus specifically said we cannot know the day or the hour.  There are two things we can do, however:

  • Recognize the signs that will precede His coming.
  • Be ready!

            To be ready means to be like the faithful and sensible slave who continues to perform his duties, no matter how long the master tarries.  “Blessed is that slave, whom his master finds so doing when he comes.”  Verse 46.  

Daily Reading

Numbers 35, 36                                     Psalm 76                                        Matthew 24 

Abbreviated Reading

Numbers 35:9-15, 29-34                  Psalm 76:1-2                  Matthew 24:1-14

_______________________________________________________________ 

MARCH 18

            Today begins our reading of Deuteronomy.  In the Hebrew bible, this book is called “These Are the Words,” which is an apt title as Moses recounts what has happened during the last forty years.  Moses imparts to the children of Israel his last words before he dies, and before they enter the Promised Land.

             One of the events Moses reminds them of is the story about the ten spies who discouraged the people from entering Canaan thirty-eight years before.  The people of Canaan had not diminished in size or vigor in that time.  Their cities were still large and fortified.  But neither had God changed.  Moses reminded the people of how God had fought for them against the Egyptians, He would have been willing to fight for them thirty-eight years ago, and He will fight for them now.  The Israelites problem then was a lack of trust.  They experienced God’s help in the past against the Egyptians, but they could not trust God for the future against the people of Canaan.  Moses reminds them of all this in order to encourage them to trust God as they move out under the command of Joshua to conquer Canaan.

             It seems to be the human condition to fear, to forget God’s deeds of the past, to struggle with faith for the present, to tremble for the future.  This is not what God wants for us.  He wants us to take courage, to be open for what He has for us, and to radically trust Him no matter how hopeless it all seems. This is what Moses said:

"The LORD your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you saw how the LORD your God carried you, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked, until you came to this place.  But for all this, you did not trust the LORD your God, who goes before you on your way, to seek out a place for you to encamp, in fire by night and cloud by day, to show you the way in which you should go."  (Deuteronomy 1:30-33)

             God has a place for you to camp; He has a way in which you are to go in order to get there; and He will show you that way.  Sometimes He says yes.  Sometimes He says no.  But all the while He is guiding you to the place where He wants you to be.  God Himself is fighting on your behalf.  Take courage!  Rejoice!

Daily Reading

Deuteronomy 1, 2                                 Psalm 77                                         Matthew 25

Abbreviated Reading

Deuteronomy 1:1-8; 2:1-8                 Psalm 77:13-14                       Matthew 25:31-46

 ______________________________________________________________

MARCH 19

             Judas and Peter.  Both were apostles, chosen by Jesus to spend three years of ministry with Him.  Both of them failed Jesus in some way.  But the degree of their failure and the result of their failure were two very different things.

           The Mosaic law made a distinction between sins.  Some that were done unintentionally or done in ignorance, and, we might add, done in a moment of human weakness, are sins that can be forgiven.  A special provision was made for unintentional sins according to the laws set forth in Leviticus.  This was Peter’s sin, and, when he became aware of it, he wept bitterly (Matthew 26:75).

            Judas, on the other hand, had acted deliberately in his betrayal of Jesus.  He had planned the betrayal, and, in fact, was being paid for his actions.  In the Mosaic law, this is what is called sinning defiantly.  The literal meaning is to sin with a high hand.  It is the defiant lifting up of the fist to God.  The provision for this kind of sin was death by stoning.  Judas’ response, when he felt remorse over what he had done, was to hang himself.

             Two different types of failure.  Two different kinds of response.  We can only conclude that Peter, who had the better understanding of Jesus, relied on His mercy and forgiveness.  Judas continued in his defiant attitude and took matters into his own hands.

            Psalm 103:8-14 expresses what Peter must have had in mind whenever he contemplated his denial of Jesus:

"The LORD is compassionate and gracious,

Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.

He will not always strive with us;

Nor will He keep His anger forever.

He has not dealt with us according to our sins,

Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.

As far as the east is from the west,

So far has He removed our transgressions from us.

Just as a father has compassion on his children,

So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.

For He Himself knows our frame;

He is mindful that we are but dust."

            God knows we are weak and He forgives all those who come to Him in fear and humility, seeking His favor.  LORD, keep us from acting defiantly against you.  Give us grace to see and honor your majesty.

Daily Reading

Deuteronomy 3, 4                                    Psalm 78                                        Matthew 26

Abbreviated Reading

Deuteronomy 3:23-29; 4:1-14             Psalm 78:1-4                   Matthew 26:14-16, 20-25,47-56

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MARCH 20 

"So the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God for our good always and for our survival, as it is today.  And it will be righteousness for us if we are careful to observe all this commandment before the LORD our God, just as He commanded us."  (Deuteronomy 6:24-25)

            Unfortunately, the Israelites were not able to observe the commands of the law as set forth by Moses.  The Northern Kingdom with its capital in Samaria was not able to keep the commands outwardly and was destroyed by the Assyrians.  The Southern Kingdom of Judah with its capital at Jerusalem held to an outward form of their religion but their heart was far from God, and they too were conquered and carried into exile in Babylon.  Moses had said, in our text above, that observing the commandments was necessary for survival.  They barely survived.  Only a remnant was left to return to Jerusalem in 538 B.C.

            As important as it is to please God by living righteously, there was another principle at work in the world.  Moses said that observing the commandments would be their righteousness.  But earlier God had said this of Abraham, “Then he believed in the LORD, and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.”  Genesis 15:6.  Abraham’s faith became his righteousness.  And it is this righteousness that Paul speaks about when he talks to the Gentile church.

            Paul never talks about the Gentile church as being descendants of Moses.  But Paul does speak of all of us as being descendants of Abraham:   “[I]t is by faith, that it might be in accordance with grace, in order that the promise may be certain to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.”  Romans 4:16.

            Grace and faith are intricately entwined with obedience.  It is not an either/or situation.  It is both/and.  Without faith in God’s providential love and in His justice, a mere outward obedience avails little.  But trusting in Him completely and relying on His help at all times enables us to be led by the Spirit of God into the freedom of obedience. 

Daily Reading

Deuteronomy 5, 6                                  Psalm 79                                           Matthew 27

Abbreviated Reading

Deuteronomy 5:1-21; 6:1-19            Psalm 79:8-9                 Matthew 27:11-26; 45-50

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MARCH 21

             Today I want to call you to a radical trust in the Lord.  To a trust greater than you have ever imagined.  No matter the difficulties of the past!  No matter the failures of the past!  No matter the successes of the past!  No matter the strength of the enemies in the present!  No matter the weakness you know to be yours!  To a trust so great that you can exult and glory in the present because of the certainty of the glory and exultation that are coming in the future!

             As the Israelites were getting ready to cross the Jordan to gain possession of the land of Canaan, they were told that it would not be without a fight against a strong enemy.  Nevertheless, Moses said this:

"You shall not dread them, for the LORD your God is in your midst; a great and awesome God."  (Deuteronomy 7:21)

            Their past had been filled with humbling experiences, but even those were in the plan of God.  They had only been a test and a means by which they were to have learned that they were not to live by their wits or even by the gifts that God had given them.  They were to live by “everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.”  Deuteronomy 8:3b.  They were to live according to the word of God because God wanted to do good for them in the end.  (Deuteronomy 8:16b.)

            This is God’s way: He had their end in mind.  And it was good.

             He has our end in mind.  And it is good.  In the meantime, we live in obedience and trust.  Not just your everyday trust, but a thoroughgoing, pervasive, far-reaching trust.  

            And we do not dread!  If God were not in our midst, then we would have reason to dread.  But He is in our midst!  Cast off any vestiges of doubt!  Refuse to let doubt and dread or depression rule your life.  Latch onto a radical trust.  Yahweh is a great and awesome God who is fighting on our behalf.  Determine in your heart to be extreme, even militant, in regard to trust.  God is in control and He has your interests in mind.  The past was only to test and teach.  What is coming is God’s design for you.

Daily Reading

Deuteronomy 7, 8                                  Psalm 80                                        Matthew 28

 Abbreviated Reading

Deuteronomy 7:1-11; 8:1-20            Psalm 80:17-19                         Matthew 28:1-20

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MARCH 22 

"Hear, O My people, and I will admonish you;

O Israel, if you would listen to Me!

Let there be no strange god among you;

Nor shall you worship any foreign god.

I, the LORD, am your god,

Who brought you up from the land of Egypt;

Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.

. . .

Oh that My people would listen to Me,

That Israel would walk in My ways!

I would quickly subdue their enemies,

And turn My hand against their adversaries.

. . .

But I would feed you with the finest of the wheat;

And with honey from the rock I would satisfy you."

From Psalm 81

            Can you hear the heart of God speaking?  Oh, how He wants to bless His people!  He wants to satisfy us.  He wants us to be victorious against our enemies.  He longs to be gracious to us.  He wants to meet our needs.

            What is He asking of us?  To worship Him only.  To listen to Him.  To rely on Him.  To walk in His ways.  Is it so difficult?  No!  Because He gives us of His Spirit to help us in our weakness.  And He is right here with us to extend His compassion and grace and strength.  He desires to help us.  It is His heart’s desire for His people to be victorious, to have abundant life, to benefit from His goodness.  What are we waiting for?  Let us take God at His word and revel in all His work on our behalf, appropriate all the blessings He has, rejoice in His provision.

            Listen to Jesus’ heart from Matthew 23:37:  “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.”  Oh, let us not be unwilling to come freely to our God, for He is gracious and compassionate and longs to do good to us.  “Open wide your mouth and I will fill it,” He is saying to us today. 

Daily Reading

Deuteronomy 9, 10                               Psalm 81                                         Romans 1

Abbreviated Reading

Deuteronomy 9:1-5; 10:12-22          Psalm 81:1-2                     Romans 1:1-8, 15-17

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MARCH 23

"[F]or not the hearers of the Law are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.  For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them."  (Romans 2:13-15)

            Instinctively.  Written in their hearts.  Conscience bearing witness.  Paul is saying that God has built into our human nature an instinctive understanding that some things are right and some things are wrong.  The secular world would have us believe that conscience is learned, that it depends on our culture.  To some degree, I believe it is true that our conscience can be developed, and that some things we consider right or wrong are culturally-dependent.  But not all conscience, because the Word of God is here teaching us that some understanding of right and wrong is part of our spiritual DNA, so to speak.

            One of the laws written in our heart is that there is a God.  Paul had said this in Romans 1:19-20: “[T]hat which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”  In other words, nature itself attests to the existence of God.  

            Those who refuse to acknowledge the existence of God must expend great effort to suppress this knowledge within themselves.  Oh, it is true that the militant atheists of our day try to cast believers into the mold of ignoramuses, at best, or of charlatans, at worst.  But I think of this as whistling in the dark.  They perhaps believe that by shouting so loudly and stridently and making a mockery of faith that they will somehow be safe from the God of wrath in His day of wrath.  If they pretend He is not there, perhaps He won’t be there!  This is pure delusion.  God will hold us accountable for what He has written into our hearts.  Some day “God will judge the secrets of men through Jesus Christ.”  Romans 2:16.

            Because God has written this law into our hearts, it is possible for man to instinctively do at least some of God’s law.  It is also possible for man to suppress this knowledge and thus his heart becomes darkened.  When man exchanges truth for falsehood and begins to worship the creature instead of the creator, God gives him over to his passions.  Thus the bible can say that it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.  (Hebrews 10:31.) 

            But I am convinced of better things about you!  “See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking.”  Hebrews 12:25a.

Daily Reading

Deuteronomy 11, 12                                Psalm 82                                             Romans 2

Abbreviated Reading

Deuteronomy 11:1-32                         Psalm 82:4                                          Romans 2:1-4