Weekly Devotion for October 7, 2019
Monday, October 7, 2019
Deuteronomy 5:1-21, excerpts (NIV)
The Ten Commandments
5 Moses summoned all Israel and said:
Hear, Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. 2 The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. And he said:
6 “I am the Lord your God….7 You shall have no other gods beforeme.”
11 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”
After leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, Moses received from God a list of “commandments.” These were ten ways that God ordered righteous living for the Israelites. The first five commandments pertained to the Israelites’ relationship with God. God wanted to set them apart from all other people, so he asked them to look to no other gods but the Lord God. He ordered them not to make physical replicas of earthly things to worship; the Israelites were to worship only God and not be distracted by worldly things. They were not to misuse God’s name. They were to show respect for God and to hold God in the highest esteem.
Tuesday, October 8, 2019
Deuteronomy 5:1-21, excerpts (NIV)
12 “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.
One of the ways to show respect for God was to recognize the work God did in creating the world and in lifting the Israelites up as a people of God. To do this, they were to set aside a Sabbath day: a day of rest. This day of rest was for all of God’s creatures – including men, women, children, slaves and animals. Even foreigners were expected not to do any work on the Sabbath day, lest the Israelites decided to get their work done for them by foreigners! For us, a Sabbath day – or day off – often becomes a time to catch up on things left undone during the week. This is not the purpose of a Sabbath, however. We are to stop focusing on tasks and worldly concerns on the Sabbath, and focus our thoughts on God and all God has done for us.
Wednesday, October 9, 2019
Deuteronomy 5:1-21, excerpts (NIV)
16 “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
Fathers, in particular, had a great deal of control over the lives of their offspring. If a child did not show honor and obedience to its father or mother, things might not go so well for that child. They could be disinherited, left with nothing and no hope for the future. God our Father demands respect for parents as a model for respecting God. Keeping God’s commands is the best way to live successfully and have hope for the future.
Thursday, October 10, 2019
Deuteronomy 5:1-21, excerpts (NIV)
17 “You shall not murder. 18 “You shall not commit adultery. 19 “You shall not steal. 20 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. 21 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor’s house or land, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
The last five commandments deal with our relationships with other people. These commands are considered the basis for moral, spiritual, and ethical conduct by modern Jews and Christians alike. You can certainly imagine that doing any of these things would ultimately bring about repercussions that would make your life go less smoothly. Murder and adultery have drastic consequences. Theft and lying about your neighbors (and who are your neighbors?) does not foster harmonious living in community. Desiring the things your neighbor has (or that anyone else has) only leads to dissatisfaction with one’s own life. God did not create us to be dissatisfied. God created us to be joyful, living in a loving community and being thankful for all that God has done for us.
Friday, October 11, 2019
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
These verses are referred to as “the Shema” and are a focal point of prayer in Jewish worship even today. God gave the people of Israel a lot of commandments and requirements, but this one is the most important and is a summary of all others. Know that there is one true God and you are to love this God with everything you have: your heart, soul and strength. Not only that, you are to teach your children to do the same from generation to generation. Keep this thought in mind throughout your day: regardless if you are at home or out about your business, when you wake up and when you go to sleep. Write it down and post it where you will see it and it will remind you to keep God at the forefront of your thoughts. If you do that, the commandments will be easy to do and you will live in right relationship with God.
Saturday, October 12, 2019
The Greatest Commandment
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
When Jesus was asked what was the most important commandment, he quoted the Shema, the verse we read on Friday: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” I find it interesting that Jesus also added, “with all your mind.” I believe that Jesus wants his followers to use their minds, to think about what has been recorded in scripture and what it means. When we have doubts or lack understanding of scripture, we are to think about what has been written, and what meaning is behind the words. In this passage in Mark, Jesus was speaking to a “teacher of the law,” someone who already was very familiar with the written word. Jesus often chastised the Pharisees for following the letter of the law, but not the spirit of the law. I believe that Jesus wants us to think about the meaning behind the words, not just to blindly obey the literal words in scripture. Loving the Lord means using our minds!
Scriptures and Reflections for the Week of October 14-19
Ruth: The Most Beautiful Short Story Ever Written
Monday, October 14
16But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.”
Wow! That is the vow of a strong woman! But who was Ruth, this woman who has earned an entire book in the Old Testament? Background: Time period – somewhere in the 12thcentury B.C., about 50 to 100 years before the birth of King David. Place – Bethlehem in Judah, but includes Moab, east of the Dead Sea in what is now Jordan. The story begins with a famine in Bethlehem that forces an Israelite family to move to Moab. The family includes Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their two sons Mahlon and Chilion. Moab becomes a deathly place for Naomi, as Elimelech dies, leaving her with two sons. In time, the sons marry Moabite women – Mahlon marries Ruth and Chilion marries Orpah. But the shadow of death plagues Naomi again as Mahlon and Chilion die, leaving Naomi and two daughters-in-law. Naomi sees only poverty and disgrace in Moab, so with the famine ended in Bethlehem, she decides to return to Judah with Ruth and Orpah. On the way to Judah, Naomi realizes that her widowed Moabite daughters-in-law will be considered aliens in the Jewish culture, so she urges them to return to Moab. But after many tears, only Orpah returns to Moab, while Ruth delivers our Scripture for today – a resounding statement of loyalty and faithfulness!
There are many lessons to be learned from the story of Ruth, and we have already seen an important character trait in Ruth via her faithfulness to Naomi … and do not forget what Ruth also says, “… your God my God.” God’s grace is at work! What else can we learn?!
Tuesday, October 15
Ruth 1:20-21 and 2:2a
[Naomi talking after returning to Bethlehem] 20Don’t call me Naomi … call me Mara (meaning “bitter”), because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. 21I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty … the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.
2aAnd Ruth said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.”
A lesson for us is that life can be very difficult, as change and loss can bring havoc to one’s life. Naomi and Ruth were and are aliens in foreign lands; both are widows; both have no children. Naomi faces her old friends in Bethlehem and, in her anguish, insists on being called Bitter. But what Naomi does not see is that God has placed His gift of Ruth in her life. If anyone should feel bitter it is Ruth, for she is a widow in a foreign land! Yet, Ruth responds with loving devotion to Naomi by picking up the scraps of grain left by the harvesters … she is reflecting God’s love. Read Monday’s passage again, “May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” This lady is a class act!
Wednesday, October 16
Ruth 2:3; 5-6
3So Ruth went out and began to glean in the fields behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelech.
5Boaz asked the foreman of his harvesters, “Whose young woman is that?” 6The foreman replied, “She is the Moabitess who came back from Moab with Naomi.”
The plot thickens! Ruth is working hard in the fields, she does not have time to be looking for a husband, but it is Boaz who notices her. An honorable, and increasingly interested man, Boaz makes sure that the harvesters leave additional gleanings so that Ruth and Naomi will have more nourishment. When Ruth reports the kindness of Boaz to her, Naomi recognizes that Boaz is a “kinsman-redeemer,” a custom in which a relative of a man who dies should marry the deceased widow in order to maintain the lineage through the woman. Naomi now sees the opportunity for Ruth to find a relationship where she would find love and security … Naomi can focus on returning the devotion and faithfulness that Ruth has shown her. God’s love is working through these two women!
Thursday, October 17
Ruth 3:1-2; 10-11
1One day Naomi said to Ruth, “My daughter, should I not try to find a home for you, where you will be well provided for? 2Is not Boaz a kinsman of ours?
Boaz said to Ruth, 10“The Lord bless you, for this kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier. You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. 11And now don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character.”
Naomi arranges for Ruth to make her intentions known to Boaz that involves the uncovering of feet and sleeping at the feet of an intended. It has an aura of hanky-panky, but it was a culturally honorable way of making an offer of marriage … God was honoring the integrity and diligence of both Ruth and Boaz.
What occurs next would involve some deal making that would fill Donald Trump with pride. We discover that Boaz is aware of another kinsman-redeemer who has a higher claim! First, there is some property that belonged to Elimelech, and could represent Naomi’s opportunity to reestablish herself. The unknown kinsman wants this property, but there is a catch … marriage to Ruth would be part of the deal, and the potential son of that marriage would cause the property to be assigned to Naomi and her family. The unknown kinsman backs down and Boaz assumes the obligation of marrying Ruth and raising a family for Naomi. Boaz becomes the redeemer to Naomi and the true husband to Ruth. A lesson for us is that God is not impressed with our wealth, fame, or power … God is most impressed with the quality of our character.
But there is much more to the story of Ruth!
Friday, October 18
13So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. Then he went to her, and the Lord enabled her to conceive and she gave birth to a son. 14The women said to Naomi, “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! 15He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”
Notice where the emphasis is placed in these three verses … Naomi and the baby. The Book of Ruth begins with Naomi losing virtually everything … she is Mara, bitter! Then God gave her Ruth, “Your God my God.” It was God’s grace that brought Ruth out of Moab to Judah; it was God’s grace that made Ruth a devoted servant to Naomi. It was God’s grace that brought Boaz into the lives of Naomi and Ruth … Naomi said to Ruth, “The Lord bless him! He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead. That man is our close relative, he is one of our kinsman-redeemers.” Ruth 2:20
All that is good and worthwhile will come to us if we are patient and commit ourselves to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord. The Book of Ruth is filled with people of noble character … obviously God notices people of good character, regardless of their station in life. Many scholars refer to The Book of Ruth as a story of redemption – a redeemer God.
What about the baby?
Saturday, October 19
Ruth 4:13b; 16-17
13bAnd Ruth gave birth to a son. 16Then Naomi took the child, laid him in her lap and cared for him. 17The women living there said, “Naomi has a son.” And they named him Obed.
This story does not simply end with Naomi, now an old grandmother, tenderly embracing a new grandson – baby Obed. Ruth’s son, Naomi’s grandson, would be the father of Jesse, and Jesse was the father of King David … the lineage of the Messiah, Jesus the Christ … the Redeemer for all!
There is no such thing as an unimportant person in the eyes of God.
The Kingdom Divided
Monday, October 28. 1 Kings 12:1-7
1Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had come to Shechem to make him king. 2And as soon as Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard of it (for he was still in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), them Jeroboam returned from Egypt. 3And they sent and called him, and Jeroboam and all the assembly of Israel came and said to Rehoboam, 4”Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke on us, and we will serve you.” 5He said to them, “Go away for three days, then come again to me.” So the people went away. 6Then King Rehoboam took counsel with the old men, who had stood before Solomon his father while he was yet alive, saying, “How do you advise me to answer this people?” 7And they said to him, “If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants forever.”
The admonition “Be careful what you wish for” comes to mind. Our study in “The Story” and subsequent readings bring to light that although they had the Lord God as their King, Israel wanted a king so they could be like their neighboring nations. The prophet Samuel warned the people what a king would demand (1 Samuel 8:11), but they persisted, and here we read of the heavy yoke king Solomon placed on the people. During this transition of power, the people had come to the heir apparent asking for their yoke to be lightened in exchange for their allegiance. Let’s meet our main characters; Rehoboam was the son of Solomon, Solomon the son of David, so Rehoboam was assumed to be the next king. Jeroboam had been told through a prophet that he would rule over a portion of a divided Israel. Rehoboam took a logical first step in counseling with the older men that had advised his father Solomon, yet it was a first step on a wrong path, a path that would eventually lead to a divided kingdom. Let us see how the storyline develops.
Tuesday, October 29, 1 Kings 12: 8-11
8But he abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him. 9And he said to them, “What do you advise that we answer this people who have said to me, ‘Lighten the yoke that your father put on us’?” 10And the young men who had grown up with him said to him, “Thus shall you speak to this people who said to you, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you lighten it for us,’ thus shall you say to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s thighs. 11And now, whereas my father laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.’”
Here we witness ‘advice shopping’; that practice of asking different people for advice until you find someone who will tell you what you want to hear. Rehoboam did not agree with the advice of the elder statesmen, so he turned to his friends who might just think more like he did. Advice from friends is generally a good thing, more valued is advice from true friends, those that will share their opinion even when it might be different than yours. Rehoboam took counsel from the old men and listened to the young men who had grown up with him, but nowhere do we read that Rehoboam prayed and sought counsel from God, our truest friend. Left to our own devices, we humans have a propensity to place misstep upon misstep. Let’s see where Rehoboam’s missteps will lead.
Wednesday, October 30, 1 Kings 12: 12-15
12So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king said, “Come to me again the third day.” 13And the king answered the people harshly, and forsaking the counsel that the old men had given him, 14he spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.” 15So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord that he might fulfill his word, which the Lord spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.
With justice and mercy, boldness and kindness, and with a servant’s heart, the good shepherd leads the flock and the sheep are willing and eager to follow. Despite his flaws, king David created a shared vision and purpose with the people and they were willing to sacrifice to accomplish it. Solomon inherited this relationship from David and for a while his wisdom sustained it. Then as Solomon began to neglect his relationship with God, the shared vision with his people began to suffer. Rather than assume the role of a good shepherd, Rehoboam chose leadership by oppression and fear and his folly led to the kingdom being divided. Yet, despite the sin and self-seeking, God was in it all. Despite being neglected, God managed this whole series of events. Not being consulted, God allowed Rehoboam to take the unwise path and make the errors his sinful nature wanted to make. Even when reason seems forgotten and events are in turmoil, God is still in charge. Our peace is in our faith that God will take what comes and work all things for the good of those that love him.
Thursday, October 31, 1 Kings 12: 16-17
16 And when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, “What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Look now to your own house, David.” So Israel went to their tents. 17But Rehoboam reigned over the people of Israel who lived in the cities of Judah.
The ‘tough guy’ approach did not work for Rehoboam. The path that was begun by Rehoboam’s foolishness when he sought self-serving advice, while neglecting to seek counsel from God, has now led to his rejection by all Israel, the people rejecting the descendants of David, Israel’s greatest king. Without God’s guidance, we see that misstep after misstep has produced a kingdom divided; God’s chosen people split in two separate camps. From this point on, the name “Israel” referred to the ten northern tribes and the name “Judah” referred to the southern tribes of Benjamin and Judah, led by king Rehoboam. Our takeaway, along with the history lesson, is to seek God’s guidance. It is free, all we need to do is humble ourselves and ask.
Friday, November 1, 1 Kings 12: 25-29
25 Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. And he went out from there and built Penuel. 26And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David. 27If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah. 28So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” 29And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan.
As the kingdom divides, we continue to see the folly of man, relying on his own counsel and not seeking or listening to God. As Rehoboam did not ask for God’s guidance and sought instead the advice he wanted to hear, now Jeroboam follows suit. As the kingdom became divided, Jeroboam built and established Shechem as his capital city in the northern kingdom of Israel. Jeroboam feared that the people would continue their annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem and in doing so would turn again to Rehoboam. Rather than rely on the promise of God he received through the prophet Ahijah (1 Kings 11), Jeroboam sought to secure his kingdom by establishing gods of convenience in his northern territory. We encounter similar stories throughout history of rulers who were desirous not of a true religion but of a useful religion. Let us pray that God liberates us from a self-serving, ‘useful’ religion and instead grants us a heart to desire Him, His guidance, peace and love.
Saturday, November 2 Mark 10: 42-45
42And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
The message of leadership and power we’ve examined in this week’s devotionals from the Old Testament find renewed and perfected voice in these New Testament verses from Mark. Just as Rehoboam and Jeroboam fumbled in their leadership roles, here we see even the disciples struggled to understand the true nature of authority and leadership Jesus spoke of and demonstrated. The rulers of the Gentiles and the Jewish Pharisees were also counted in the number that missed the mark as to servant leadership. What Jesus preached is a simple concept, yet absent the help of the Holy Spirit, without a routine seeking of God’s guidance, our human nature, our egos, tend to gum things up, allowing our self-interests to rise to the surface. With any shepherd role, we do well to hold in our minds the image of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet as we pray for guidance in leading the flock.