Monday, August 7, 2017

Abide as God commands and enables

Monday, August 7, 2017 - Devotions: Ps 89, 2 Sam 13:23-39; Acts 20:17-38; Mk 9:42-50

Ethan the Ezrahite wrote: YHWH, I will sing of Your steadfast love forever; I will proclaim Your faithfulness to all generations.  You swore a covenant with David and his house, to build his throne for all generations.  Let the heavens join in praising You; no heavenly being is like YHWH!  Lord, You rule heavens and earth; You rule the raging, chaotic seas; You crush every enemy, including chaos and rebellion.  You tower over all creation; Your throne sits upon foundations of righteousness and justice; steadfast love and faithfulness go before You!  Blessed are the mortals who shout Your praise; our well-being is from our King, the Holy One of Israel.  You chose David, a king after Your own heart; You made him highest mortal king on earth.  You have established his line forever, as You promised.  You allow human idolatry and sin to bear their consequences--death and exile, not least.  But You sustain David's line with the incarnation of Your own Son, Jesus.  Blessed be YHWH for ever!

David's ambitious son Absalom invited David and all David's other royal sons to be his guests at a sheep shearing.  David declined, but consented to his other sons attending at Absalom's invitation.  At the gathering, Absalom had his servants murder his half-brother Amnon, in vengeance for Amnon's rape of Absalom's sister Tamar.  After the murder, all the surviving princes scattered.  Word was brought to David that Absalom had murdered all the other royal heirs, but David's nephew Jonadab assured the king that only Amnon was dead, as the result of his rape and shaming of Tamar.  The other sons gathered to David, and they all mourned together.  Meanwhile, Absalom fled into Geshur for three years, while David, recovering from Amnon's loss and accepting its inevitability, grieved the absence of his son Absalom.  

Paul was bound in haste for Jerusalem, determined to reach the city before Pentecost, if possible.  He called for the elders of the church in Ephesus to meet him at Miletus, where Paul addressed them: 'You know how I lived among you from my first day in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility, with tears, and withstanding the trials that befell me due to plotting among the Jews.  I never shrank from forthrightly proclaiming anything to your profit; I taught in public, house to house, testifying to both Jews and Gentiles concerning repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus the Messiah.  Now, look:  I am headed to Jerusalem, bound in the Holy Spirit, now knowing what will befall me there--except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and affliction lie before me.  I do not account my life of any value, even to myself, if only I may fulfill the course God has laid before me, the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus the Messiah, to testify to the gospel of God's grace.  Now behold: I know that all of you, among whom I have preached the kingdom, will see my face no more. Therefore, I testify to you today: I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I never shrank from declaring to you God's entire counsel.  Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock concerning whom the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with the blood of His own Son.  I know that after my exodus, fierce wolves will come among you, not sparing the flock.  From among your own will arise men speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after themselves.  So be alert, remembering that for three years I never ceased night and day to admonish everyone with tears.  Now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all who are sanctified.  I coveted no one's gold, silver or apparel; you know for sure that I earned my support with my own hands, and supported also all who worked and traveled with me.  In all things I have shown you that by so toiling one must help the weak, recalling the words of the Lord Jesus: "It is more blessed to give than to receive."' Paul then knelt and prayed with them all; and they wept and embraced and kissed the apostle.  Their sorrow was deepest over his statement that they would see him no more.  At last, they brought Paul to his ship.  

Jesus told His nearest disciples: 'Whoever causes one of the little ones who believes in Me to sin would be better off if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea. Likewise, if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better to enter life maimed, than with two hands to go to hell.  If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; you are better off alive and maimed than, with two feet, to be thrown into hell.  If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; better for you to enter God's kingdom with one eye than to keep both eyes and yet be thrown into hell. where the worms never die and the fire is not quenched.  Everyone will be salted with fire.  Salt is good, but if its savor is lost, you cannot restore its seasoning power.  Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.'  

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

God's Word brings reconciliation

Wednesday, July 5, 2017 - Devotions: Ps 119:145-76; 128-30; 1 Sam 12:1-6, 16-25; Acts 8:14-25; Lk 23:1-12

With my whole heart, I cry: YHWH, answer me.  I will keep Your statutes; save me, that I may observe Your testimonies.  I rise before dawn; I cry for help; I hope in Your words.  I watch through the night, that I may meditate on Your promises.  In Your steadfast love, YHWH, hear my voice; in Your justice, preserve my life.  Those who persecute me ignore Your law, and draw near with evil purpose.  You, O God, are even closer, and You are ever faithful; all Your commandments are true.  You have testified that Your testimonies are eternally valid.  Look on my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget Your law.  Redeem me, Lord; give me life as You have promised.  Salvation is far from the wicked who ignore Your statutes.  Great is Your mercy, YHWH; give my life according to Your justice.  Though I have many persecutors and adversaries, I cleave to Your testimonies.  The faithless disgust me, who do not keep Your commands.  In Your steadfast love, preserve my life, since I love Your precepts so dearly.  All Your words are true' Your righteous ordinances endure forever.  My heart is in awe of Your word, though princes persecute me without cause.  I rejoice at Your word like one finding great treasure; I do Your commands and hope for salvation.  Let my cry come before You, YHWH; give me understanding that matches Your word.  My lips will pour forth Your praise; I will sing of Your word, for all Your commandments are right.  I choose Your precepts, so stand ready to lift me up, God.  I long for Your salvation, and Your law is my chief delight.  Let me live, to praise You; let Your ordinances be my help and stay.  I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek me out, God, for I do not forget Your commandments.  Blessed are all who fear and obey our God.  He makes our labor fruitful and provides our daily bread.  He makes our wives fertile and fills our homes with children.  May YHWH bless us from Zion; may we witness the prosperity of Jerusalem.  May we look upon our grandchildren.  And let God's peace rest on Israel!

After anointing Saul, Samuel addressed all Israel: 'Behold, I heard you and have made a king over you; he walks before you now.  I am old and gray.  If you bear me any accusation, make it now, before God and His anointed.  If I am guilty, I will set right my offenses.' The people replied, 'You have done nothing wrong.'  And Samuel answered, 'The Lord is witness, and so is His anointed one, that I have not offended you.'  And the people agreed.  The prophet continued: 'Now watch what YHWH will do before you all.  Today is wheat harvest day, isn't it?  I will call upon YHWH to send thunder and rain, to show you how great is your wickedness in asking YHWH for a human king.'  And this all came to pass, so that the people greatly feared YHWH and Samuel, His prophet.  The people begged him, 'Pray for us to the Lord your God, that we may not die for our sins.'  And the prophet answered, 'Fear not; you have done evil, but don't turn aside from following YHWH; serve Him with all your heart, turning from vain things which cannot profit or save.  YHWH will not cast His people aside, to protect His name, because He has chosen you as His own people.  Far be it from me, that I should sin by ceasing to pray for you; I will pray, and also instruct you in the way you should go.  Only fear YHWH and serve Him faithfully with your whole heart.  If you persist in wickedness, you will be swept away, both you and your king.'

The deacon and evangelist Philip was having great success in Samaria; and when the Jerusalem apostles heard of this, they sent Peter and John to them, that the converts might receive the Holy Spirit.  When the apostles laid hands on the converts, the Spirit was given them.  Seeing this, Simon Magus, the Samaritan mage, offered money, hoping to purchase the power to dispense the Holy Spirit.  Peter replied, 'May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God's sovereign gift with money!  You have no part nor lot in this matter; your heart is not right before God.  Repent this wickedness and pray the Lord for forgiveness of the intent of your heart.  I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity.'  Simon answered, 'Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing you have said may come upon me!'  When the apostles had testified and spoke the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the Lord's gospel in many villages along their route.

His accusers brought Jesus before the Roman governor Pontius Pilate and began to accuse Him: 'We found this man perverting our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, say that he himself is Messiah, a king.'  Pilate asked Jesus, 'Are you the king of the Jews?'  Jesus replied, 'You have said so.'  Pilate said to the chief priests and the mob with them, 'I find no crime in this man.'  But the Jews were adamant: 'He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee to this very spot.'  Hearing this, Pilate inquired whether Jesus was Galilean; learning that Jesus was under Herod's jurisdiction, he sent Him over to Herod.  This pleased Herod greatly, for he had wanted to meet Jesus and see Him do some miracle.  Herod interrogated Jesus at length, but received no answer, while the chief priests and scribes stood by vehemently accusing Jesus.  Herod and his soldiers treated Jesus with contempt and mocked Him; then, arraying Jesus in gorgeous apparent, Herod returned Him to Pilate.  The Roman and Hasmonean leaders became fast friends that day, who had been at enmity previously.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Mortals waver; God is steadfast

Friday, June 29, 2017 - Devotions: Ps 102, 107:1-32; 1 Sam 9:1-14; Acts 7:17-29; Lk 22:31-38

YHWH, hear and answer my prayer; don't hide from me in times of distress; please answer speedily when I cry out to You.  My days pass like smoke in the wind; my bones burn like a furnace; my life withers; I forget to eat--I'm like a lone vulture in the wilds, an owl in a desert, a bird alone on a housetop.   Only enemies call out, and only to deride and curse me.  My diet is ashes; my drink is my own tears.  In Your righteous indignation, You have discarded me.  But You, Lord, are enthroned for ever; Your Name endures to every generation.  Have pity, Lord, on Your holy city, Your bondservants and worshipers.  Let the nations fear the Lord; and let the Lord build up Zion and come to her in glory.  God, hear the prayers of the destitute; do not despise our supplication.  Let those who come after me take note: YHWH looks down from heaven upon the wretched of the earth; He frees prisoners, pardons those sentenced to death.  So let mortals declare God's Name, and worship Him alone; let those in Jerusalem praise our God together.  God has broken my native strength, so that my only hope is in Him.  The earth and heavens He created may perish, but God endures for ever.  Lord, the children of Your servants will dwell secure, and their posterity will be established before You!
     Let us thank God, Whose steadfast love endures forever.  Let His redeemed declare it, whom He has ransomed from trouble and gathered from every corner of the earth.  Some rambled in desert wastes; God heard their cries and delivered them, providing water and leading them to cities:  He feeds the starving, gives water to the thirsty, and fills all with good things!  Others were moored in darkness, prisoners in affliction, bound in irons.  Their hearts quavered, and they fainted in hard labor, destitute and hopeless.  When they cried to YHWH in their trouble, He delivered them; He brought them out from darkness into His marvelous light; He broke their bonds asunder.  Let them thank YHWH for His steadfast love and mighty acts of compassion.  And some were sick because of sin; they loathed food; they languished near to death.  In their trouble, they cried out to YHWH, and He heard and delivered them from destruction; He sent forth His word and healed them.  Let them join in thanking God for His steadfast love and works of deliverance.  Let them give up sacrifices of thanksgiving and tell of God's deeds in songs of joy.  And some descended seaward in ships; they saw God's hand on the face of oceans and seas--the wind and waves came near to overwhelming them.  Their courage melted; they reeled and staggered like drunks, at their wits' end.  Then they cried out to YHWH, and He stilled storm and seas; He brought them peace and guided them to their safe harbor.  Let them thank YHWH for His steadfast love and wondrous works; let the great congregation extol and the elders praise our God.

When the Israelites begged God for a human king, He obliged them, sending Samuel to anoint the tall, comely son of Kish named Saul.  Kish's donkeys went missing, and he sent Saul to find them.  They searched high and low without success, then visited the man of God, Samuel, whom God had directed to anoint Saul as 'prince over My people Israel.'

The deacon and evangelist Stephen was falsely accused before the Jewish council, and gave his defense--an eloquent review of Israel's history before God--that enraged the authorities, who had him stoned.  During his remarks, Stephen said, 'The people multiplied in Egypt, until a pharaoh arose who knew nothing of Joseph.  He feared the Israelites, and sought to weaken or destroy them, by decreeing that every newborn male should be killed at birth.  Moses was born at this time, a beautiful child whom God preserved, so that when he was exposed, the pharaoh's daughter adopted him and raised him as her own son, so that Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of Egypt, and waxed mighty in words and deeds.  When he was forty, he was moved to visit his brethren, the descendants of Israel, and he witnessed an Egyptian oppressing a Hebrew, and Moses killed the Egyptian and hid his body in the sand.  The next day, Moses again visited, and sought to make peace between two quarreling Israelites.  But the offender thrust Moses aside, saying, 'Who made you a ruler over us?  Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptiain yesterday?'  Hearing this, Moses fled and became an exile in Midian, where he fathered two sons.

In the Upper Room, at Jesus's Last Supper, He addressed Peter:  'Simon, Simon, look!  Satan has demanded to have you [referring to all the apostles], that he might sift you all like wheat.  But I have prayed for you [singular--Peter alone], that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, you will be able to strengthen your brothers and sisters.'  Peter claimed he was ready to die with Jesus, but Jesus knew better:  'I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this coming day, until you hae denied three times that you know Me.'  Jesus reminded the apostles that when He had sent them out as missionaries, they took nothing and lacked nothing.  'But now,' He said, 'Take your purse and your bag, and if you lack one, sell your mantle and buy a sword.  I Am about to fulfill the scripture that says, "He was numbered among the transgressors"--for what has been written about Me is coming now to its fulfillment.'  They answered, 'Look, Lord: we have two swords.'  And Jesus said, 'It is enough.'

Friday, June 23, 2017

Mercy, faith, redemption!

Friday, June 23, 2017 - Devotions: Ps 102; 107:1-32; Num 20:1-13; Rom 5:12-21; Mt 20:29-34

Lord, let my cry come before You; don't hide Yourself from me; listen and reply as I call out to You. My days pass away like smoke; my bones burn as if in a furnace; my heart faints, withered like grass.  I am outcast and downcast, like a vulture in the wilderness, an owl in wastelands.  I lie awake all night; enemies taunt me ceaselessly; my food tastes like ashes and my drink is mingled with my tears.  Your indignation devastates me, and I am forlorn.  But You, Lord, endure forever, enthroned, mighty, lauded.  Have pity on Zion, that the nations may fear YHWH, and people yet unborn may praise You.  God looked down from heaven; He heard the groans of prisoners facing death, and set them at liberty.  God has broken my strength, but He Is almighty.  Creation will perish, but the Creator abides forever.  The children of Your servants shall dwell secure, and their descendants shall remain established before You!  Let the Lord's redeemed declare it; give thanks to the Lord, for He Is good; His steadfast love endures forever.  He has brought us to Himself from all the ends of the earth.  Some wandered in deserts, and He brought them to safe cities.  He satisfies the thirsty and hungry!  Some languished in darkness and gloom, prisoners afflicted in irons, who had rebelled against God's word and spurned His wise counsel.  Their hearts were bowed in hard labor; they fell, and no one helped them stand.  But God heard their lament and brought them forth from darkness and broke their bonds asunder.  Let them thank YHWH for His steadfast love and mighty acts!  Some were sickened by sinful ways, afflicted in their iniquities.  They lost appetite for food and for life and neared the gates of death.  They cried to the Lord, and He delivered them from their distress.  He sent forth His word and healed them.  So let them also thank the Lord for His wonderful works; let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving and tell of His deeds in songs of joy!  Some went down to the sea in ships, to seek commerce; there, they encountered the deeps of the Lord--winds and waves only God can master; the currents lifted and dashed them, and their courage disappeared.  They reeled and staggered like drunks; they came to wits' end, and cried out to God.  And He delivered them from their distress; He stilled the storms and calmed the waves.  He brought them to their desired haven.  Let them thank YHWH for His steadfast love and wondrous works.  Let all extol God in the congregation, and praise Him in the assembly of the elders.

During their wilderness wanderings, the people of Israel came into the wilderness of Zin and abided in Kadesh.  There, Miriam, sister of Moses and Aaron, died and was buried.  There was no water for the people, and they banded together against Moses and Aaron, saying 'Would that we had died when our brethren died before the Lord!  Why did you bring us into this wilderness, that we and our livestock alike should die here?  Why leave Egypt for this evil place?  There is no grain, nor figs, nor vines, nor pomegranates; there is no water to drink.'  Moses and Aaron went to the door of the tabernacle and fell facedown.  YHWH's glory appeared, and He spoke to Moses: 'Take the rod and assemble the people; in their presence, tell the rock to yield its water.  In this way you will give drink to the congregation and their livestock.'  Moses took up the rod, as God had commanded.  He and Aaron assembled the people, and delivered God's message: 'Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?'  And Moses struck the rock with his rod, twice; and water flowed abundantly and the people and their livestock drank all they needed.  But YHWH remonstrated with Moses and Aaron: 'Because you did not believe in Me, to sanctify Me in the eyes of the people of Israel, you will not bring this assembly into the land I have promised to them.'  This took place at Meribah, the waters of Contention, where the Israelites contended with YHWY and He showed Himself holy before them.

Paul wrote: Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and death spread to all mortals because all mortals sinned.  Sin was in the world indeed, before God gave the Law to humankind; but sin is not accounted where there is no law.  Even so, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like those of Adam, who was a type for the one who was to come.  God's free gift is not like the sin of His creatures.  If many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one Man, Jesus the Messiah, abounded for many.  God's free gift is not like the effects of one man's sin.  Holy judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification to many.  If, because of one man's sin, death reigned through that one man, Much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and God's free gift of righteousness reign in life, through the one Man, Jesus the Messiah.  As one man's trespass led to condemnation of all humans, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all humans.  As by one's disobedience many because sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous.  Law came in, to increase the trespass; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that as sin reigned in death, even more, grace also might reign through righteousness issuing in eternal life through Jesus Messiah, our Lord.

Jesus and His disciples were leaving Jericho, heading up to Jerusalem, followed by a great crowd.  Two blind men were sitting near the road; and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, 'Have mercy on us, Son of David!'  Jesus stopped and called to them: 'What do  you want Me to do for you?'  They said, 'Lord, let our eyes be opened!'  In pity, Jesus touched their eyes; immediately they received their sight and followed Him.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Discerning kingdoms: of mortals and of God

Thursday, June 22, 2017 - Devotions: Ps 105:1-45; 1 Sam 8:1-22; Acts 6:15-7:16; Lk 22:24-30

Thank YHWH; call on His name; make His deeds known among all peoples.  Sing to Him; sing praises and tell of all His wonderful works.  Glory in His holy name; let their hearts rejoice, all who seek YHWH.  Seek Him, then; seek YHWH and His presence.  Keep in mind His marvelous acts of power, love and mercy.  He Is--YHWH our God; His judgment extends worldwide; He Is mindful of His covenant for ever--His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, with Jacob--an everlasting covenant: 'I will give to you the Land of Canaan, your portion as an inheritance.'  YHWH chose Israel when they were of little account, wandering among the nations; He protected them from more powerful peoples and rulers.  God had already sent Joseph to Egypt, before drought and famine beset His chosen people.  Joseph was sold by his jealous brothers into slavery; his feet were bruised with fetters; his neck was in a collar of iron.  God tested Joseph, and by grace, Joseph passes His test.  Egypt's king freed him and made Joseph lord over Pharaoh's house and the land of Egypt, to instruct the princes of the land and to teach wisdom to their elders.  Then Israel came to Egypt; Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham.  YHWH made His people very fruitful, stronger than their foes.  God turned Egyptian hearts to hate His people, to deal craftily with His servants. And in time, YHWH sent Moses and Aaron to work signs and miracles before Pharaoh.  He sent darkness; He turned their waters to blood and caused their fish to die and their land to be overrun by frogs.  God's servant spoke, and swarms of flies and gnats beset Egypt.  Hail and lightning devastated the land; God smote their vines and fig trees.  Locusts overran the land and devoured all plant life, but left Goshen intact, where the children of Israel dwelled.  Finally, God struck down all the firstborn, human and animal, throughout Egypt, but passed over the households of Israel.  He led the Israelites forth with silver and gold; Egypt was glad when they departed, for fear of God had overwhelmed the former masters.  God guided His people in the wilderness, with a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night.  He brought them quail and manna, the bread of angels, to eat, and water to drink, even in the desert, from the Rock He opened before them.  For YHWH remembered His holy promise and Abraham, His servant.  So God led forth His people with joy and singing; He gave them the lands of nations, and they took possession of the cities and fields, the fruits of the former residents' toil--to the end that His people should follow God's statutes and obey His laws.  Praise YHWH!

When Samuel became old, he put his sons over Israel as judges.  His firstborn was Joel, and his second, Abijah.  They ruled in Beer-Sheba.  But these sons perverted justice; they took bribes; they did not follow God, but turned aside after selfish gain.  Then, the elders of Israel assembled and came before Samuel at Ramah.  They said to him, 'Look!  You are old and your sons do not walk in your ways.  Appoint a king for us, to rule us as kings rule other nations.'  This displeased Samuel, and he prayed to YHWH.  But YHWH said to Samuel, 'Listen to all the people say to you.  They have not rejected you; rather, they haver rejected Me from being King over them.  From the day I delivered them from Egypt to this very day, they have forsaken Me and served other gods; they're treating you as they have always treated Me.  So now, hearken to their voice and solemnly warn them about the ways of a human king who would rule over them'  Samuel did as God commanded: 'The king you want will conscript your sons to be his charioteers, cavalry and foot soldiers.  He will appoint captains of thousands and of fifties, and will force others to plow his ground and harvest his crops.  He will set others to making weapons and equipment for wars.  He will take your daughters to be perfumers and bakers and cooks.  He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves for his own, and will take a tithe of what you raise and harvest for yourselves, and use it to reward his officers and servants.  He will take for himself your male and female slaves, and the best of your domestic livestock.  In short, you will be slaves of your mortal king.  And on that day, you'll cry out to YHWH for respite, but He will not answer you on that day.  But the people refused to heed Samuel's words; they insisted: 'No!  We will have a king over us, so we can be like all the other nations, so that our king may go out before us and lead us in battle.'  Samuel reported their words to YHWH, and God told His man, 'Hearken to their voice, and make them a king.'  And Samuel dismissed the people, saying 'Every man: to your own city.'  

The Jewish opponents of the evangelist and deacon Stephen instigated false accusations against him; they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes against him before the Jewish council.  The high priest demanded that Stephen answer their false charges.  So he did: 'Brothers and fathers, listed to me.  The God of glory appeared to our ancestor Abraham, while he was yet living in Mesopotamia, and said, 'Depart from your land and kindred and go hence, to a land which I will show you.' And he obeyed, living in Haran until Abraham's father died.  Then, he relocated to this land in which you are now living.  God promised him land and descendants, but at that time, gave him neither.  God told him that his descendants would be aliens in a place where foreigners would enslave and mistreat them for four centuries.  God told him, 'I will judge the nation that enslaves your descendants, and they shall come out and worship Me in this place.'  And God gave the Israelites the covenant of circumcision.  In this manner Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day, and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs.  When the patriarchs became jealous of Joseph, they sold him into slavery in Egypt.  But God was with him and rescued Joseph from all his afflictions, and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made Joseph governor over Egypt and the king's own household.  A great famine overtook Egypt and Canaan, and our ancestors could find no food.  Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, and sent his remaining sons there to buy grain; on their second visit to Egypt from Canaan, Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and then Joseph's family became known to Pharaoh.  At the king's bidding (but doing God's will), Joseph called Jacob his father and all his kindred, a total of 75 souls, to relocate to Egypt under Joseph's care.  So Jacob went down to Egypt; there he died, and presently, so did our other forefathers, and they were carried back the Shechem and laid there in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver, from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.  

At the Last Supper, with Jesus in the upper room before His crucifixion, the apostles disputed over which of them should be considered the greatest.  Jesus said to them, 'The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; those in authority over them are alled benefactors.  But it is not so with you: let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.  Consider which is greater: one who sits at table, or one who serves?  It's the one at table, correct?  But I Am among you as One Who serves.  You are the ones who have persevered with Me in My trials; and to you, I assign a kingdom, as My Father assigned a kingdom to Me--that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.'  

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Eternal truths beyond transient appearances

Tuesday, May 9, 2017 - Devotions: Ps 45, 47, 48; Wisdom 3:1-9; Col 1:15-23; Lk 6:12-26

The court poet wrote this ode for a royal wedding:  My heart overflows with this good theme: You Are fairest of men, blessed by God forever.  Gird on Your sword; in glory and majesty, ride forth!  Defend the right; establish the truth; let Your mighty right hand perform dread deeds; may your sharp arrows find your enemies' hearts!  Your divine throne endures forever; your scepter ministers royal equity; You love righteousness and hate wickedness.  And so Your God has anointed You with the oil of gladness; Your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia.  Stringed instruments serenade You from ivory palaces; Your ladies in waiting are daughters of kings; and at Your right hand stands the queen, robed in gold of Ophir. Let the royal consort turn fully toward her liege Lord; O queen, leave your family of origin behind, and take up the role of royal spouse.  The King Is your Lord; bow to Him alone.  The princess is decked in gold-woven robes; in joy she enters the royal palace.  Great Lord, Your sons will be princes on the earth; Your name will resound in the praises of all peoples for ever!  Let all peoples applaud and show to God loud songs of joy!  YHWH, God Most High, Is terrible--great sovereign over all the earth.  Sing praises to our God, Who reigns over all the nations; He Is highly exalted.  Great Is our Lord and greatly to be praised in God's holy city!  His holy mountain is the joy of all the earth.  All other kings blanch before Him; He alone Is ruler.  O God, we have meditated on Your steadfast love; Your fame and praise encircle the globe.  You Are Victor; Judah's daughters rejoice in Your judgments.  Tell the next generation: This Is our eternal God; He will be our Guide for ever!

The souls of the righteous are in God's hand; no torment can touch them.  Fools think that the righteous perish--that their decease is an affliction.  But in truth they are at peace, and they have assurance of immortality.  God has tested them like gold in a furnace, and in the time of their visitation, they will shine forth and run like sparks through stubble.  God rules them, and His righteous ones govern nations and rule over the peoples of His creation.  All who trust in our God will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with Him in love--His grace and mercy abide on His elect, and He watches over His holy ones.

Jesus Is the image of the invisible Creator; He Is Firstborn over all creation.  In Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible--including every spiritual power: thrones, dominions, principalities, authorities--all things were created through Him and for Him.  He Is before all creatures; in Him all creation coheres.  He Is Head over the body of believers, the church; He Is the beginning, Firstborn from the dead--so Jesus Is pre-eminent in all things.  In Him all God's fullness is pleased to abide; through Him God reconciles to Himself all things on earth and in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.  And we, once estranged and hostile in our minds, doing evil deeds, He has reconciled in His body of flesh by His death, in order to present us holy and blameless and irreproachable before God, provided that we continue in the faith arising from His faithfulness--stable and steadfast, not shifting away from the hope in the gospel we have heard and accepted, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, of which Paul became a minister.

Jesus spent all night praying on a mountain; when day came, He called His disciples and chose twelve of them, whom He named apostles: Peter and Andrew, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who became His betrayer.  Jesus came down with these and stood on a level place; He was surrounded there by a great multitude of people from all over Judea and Jerusalem and from the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon.  They came to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases.  Those troubled by unclean spirits, He cured.  All the crowd sought to touch Him, for power came forth from Him and healed them all.  Jesus lifted up His eyes on His disciples, and said:  'Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.  Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.  Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.  Blessed are you when mortals hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you and cast out your name as evil on account of the Son of man!  Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for look:  your reward in heaven is great--for their ancestors did the same things to God's prophets in days past.'

Monday, May 8, 2017

Human 'wisdom' or God's holy love?

Monday, May 8, 2017 - Devotions: Ps 41, 44, 52; Wisdom 1:16-2:11, 21-24; Col 1:1-15; Lk 6:1-11

Blessed are those who consider the poor; YHWH delivers them in their days of trouble; He protects and preserves their lives.  They are called blessed, and are not surrendered to the will of their enemies.  My enemies seek my demise, but God has sustained me.  I know God is pleased with me by this token:  my enemy has not triumphed over me, and I still live.  You, Lord, have upheld me by Your grace and have set me in Your presence forever.  Blessed is YHWH, God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting!  Amen and amen.  Lord, we have heard of Your deeds in our time, and have been told by our ancestors how You acted in their times.  You drove out nations to make space for Your people, because You delighted in them.  You are my King and my God; by Your grace, we defeat our enemies; You have put them to confusion who hate us.  And still, we struggle.  We will not forget You, nor depart from Your ways, Lord.  Don't cast us off forever; deliver us, for the sake of Your steadfast love.  God breaks down the wicked; but I am like a green olive tree in God's courtyards; I trust in His steadfast love forever.  God, I will proclaim Your holy Name and Your praises, everywhere and always.  I trust in God with no fear.  He keeps my tears in a bottle, and sustains me.  Thus I know that God is for me, that I may walk before God in the light of  life abundant and eternal.  

Righteousness is immortal, but by their words and deeds, ungodly people summon death, befriended death and made covenant with death: they are fit for death's party!  They tell themselves, 'Our life is short and sorrowful; there is no remedy for death; no one has returned from Hades.  We were born by mere chance, and after we die, it'll be as if we had never existed.  The breath in our nostrils is like smoke; reason is a spark kindled by our heartbeats.  When it goes out, the body turns to ashes and the spirit dissolves like empty air.  Our names will be forgotten in time; no one will remember our works; our life will pass away like traces of a cloud and be scattered like mist dissolved by sunlight, evaporated by its heat.  Our allotted time is the passing of a shadow, and death seals us up forever; there is no return.  So let's enjoy the good things at hand now; let us use the creation to the full, as in youth.  Let's drink deep of costly wine, and lavish perfume; let no spring flower go unplucked!  Let's take full advantage of every revelry, and leave every sign of enjoyment--for this is our lot.  Let us oppress the righteous poor; pay no attention to widows and gray-headed old folks.  Let might be our right, for whatever is weak proves worthless.'  They reasoned in this manner, blinded by their wickedness, led astray by their blindness.  They did not know God's secret purposes; they had no inkling of hope for the wages of holiness, nor discernment for the prize of blameless souls.  God created humankind for incorruption; He made us in the image of His own eternity, but through the devil's envy death entered God's creation.  And those who belong to the satan's party experience death indeed.

With Timothy, Paul wrote to the followers of Jesus at Colossae: Grace and peace to you from God our Father.  We always thank our God, the Father of our Lord Jesus the Messiah, when we pray, for we have heard of your love for the Messiah Jesus and for all His people--you depend on the hope laid up for you in heaven, since you first heard of God's grace and truth, learned first from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant, a faithful minister of Christ to our mutual benefit; and he has told us of your love in the Spirit.  From that day, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.  May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father Who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.  He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and has transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in Whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  Jesus Is the ikon o fthe invisible God; He Is the Firstborn over all creation.  

On a Sabbath, Jesus was leading His disciples through grainfields.  His disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands.  Witnessing this, some Pharisees objected: 'Why are you acting thus?  You are doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath!'  Jesus answered them: 'Haven't you read what David did when he was hungry?  He and those with him entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, though that is not lawful for any but the priests to eat--and he shared it with his companions.'  Jesus added, addressing the Pharisees, 'The Son of man Is Lord of the Sabbath.'  On another Sabbath, Jesus entered a synagogue and taught.  Among those present was a man whose right hand was withered.  The scribes and Pharisees watched Jesus to see whether He would heal the man on the Sabbath--they intended to accuse Him, if so.  Jesus knew their thoughts.  He had the man with the crippled hand rise and stand in the midst of the congregation.  And Jesus said to His critics, 'I ask you: is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good, or to do harm?  To save life, or to destroy it?'  As He looked around at them all, Jesus said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.'  He did so, and his hand was restored.  But Jesus's opponents were filled with fury, and they discussed among themselves what they might do to Jesus.