devotions written by Deborah Galyen
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses … let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (v1). We are fortunate to have the testimony of “witnesses,” believers who have gone before us and who have shown by their example that following Christ is worth every sacrifice (ch 11). Hebrews reminds us that we never follow Christ alone; we are fellow citizens of “the city of the living God” (v22) and members of a holy gathering (v23).
When we catch even a small glimpse of God’s unshakable kingdom (v28), our true home, our energy is renewed to run our race with endurance.
“He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward” (v26). Hebrews teaches that faith means believing that being in right relationship with God produces some kind of “reward” (v6). The mighty Old Testament saints chose temporary hardship because they trusted that God was leading them into long-term joy (v20), even if, like Abraham, they didn’t always understand.
Jesus came to defeat sin and death and to open the way to life. We become willing to follow Him through hardship when we are convinced that life with Him is rewarding beyond imagination; in Christ alone our souls are satisfied.
“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (v6). When we believe that God exists and that He loves us (v1), we naturally want to get closer to Him. Like Noah and Abraham, we begin to act in a way that pleases God and goes against the flow of our world. We join the community of believers – “the city” (v10), whose designer and builder is God.
We can’t fix our lives by our own efforts. But as we spend time with Jesus, in His presence we begin to desire something better (v16).
“Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you” (v1-2). The Old Testament teaches us that God is the author of the life we want: satisfying work, family (v3), and longevity (v6). Like Job, we may suffer loss, or like Paul, we may voluntarily sacrifice our desires for the sake of Christ, yet we can still enjoy the goodness that pours from God’s heart.
“The Lord bless you from Zion!” (v5). All good things come from God (James 1), and His very best gift to us is His beloved Son.
“And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy” (v19). Though in Hosea’s time the nation of Israel was divided into two (northern Israel and southern Judah) and neither one was faithful to God, the prophet declared a promise of redemption and a “door of hope” (v15). The new covenant (the new marriage) would not be based on human effort, but on God’s own steadfast love and mercy.
God’s word to us is “You are My people” (v23) because we have been brought into His family through the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:19).
“And in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ it shall be said to them, ‘Children of the living God’” (v10). Most prophets preached about the True God, but Hosea’s whole life was a picture of God’s relationship with Israel. Hosea married a prostitute in order to demonstrate how Israel had been unfaithful to God, yet God did not sever their covenant. Terrible consequences fell on Israel (invasion, defeat, etc), but God did not forget them.
“Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea” (v10). Because of God’s mercy, all who call on Him become “children of the living God.”
“But go your way till the end” (v13). God told Daniel about “the end” in order to reassure him that God was in control and watching over His people. But Daniel didn’t understand it all (v8). The important thing was that in “a time of trouble” (v1) those whose names were written in the book of life would be delivered (v1). Beyond that, God simply told Daniel to continue to be faithful “till the end.”
“And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above” (v3). Filled with the love of Christ, we shine brightly in a dark world until He returns (Phil 2:15).
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus … and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (v19-22). The author of Hebrews urged the Jewish Christians to “draw near” to God and not to return to the old system of rituals and distance. In Christ, they truly had the right to enter the holy presence of God, and they did not need more cleansing.
Churches, ministers, and traditions are great encouragements (v25), but only Jesus leads us into the presence of the Father.
“But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (v26). Rituals like the old Temple sacrifices taught the Israelites about sin and forgiveness and holiness, but the priests had to perform them over and over because they could not accomplish salvation. But Christ truly entered God’s presence (v24), offering His death in place of ours, conquering sin’s power “once for all.”
Our forgiveness and salvation has already been accomplished by the love of God poured out in the Son. Our part now is to know Him more (Phil 3:8-10).
“I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (v10). The Old Testament prophets looked forward to this “better covenant”; they knew that the Temple and its rituals were only shadows of something better (v5). God’s desire was to dwell among His people and to relate to them personally. The distance between God and humans was not His intention, but only due to sin.
“I will remember their sins no more” (v12). Our sins have been forgiven in Christ, so we can be God’s people and live in His presence, opening our hearts without fear.
“It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep” (v2). While the Proverbs remind us to work hard, this psalm reminds us that we can also rest, knowing that God is ultimately in charge of the result. We were created to work in cooperation with God in Eden, as managers of His wonderful world. Whether we build houses or guard cities (v1), our work only makes sense as it is done under His care.
Our own efforts can be exhausting and empty, but real fruitfulness, like children, is a gift from God (v3).
“He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action” (v32). In Daniel’s vision, Alexander the Great arose (v3), and then his successors battled for the Greek empire. The last king seems to refer to Antiochus IV, who occupied Jerusalem in the 2nd century BC and desecrated the Temple, filling it with foreign idols (v31). He “seduced” many Jews into accepting Greek religion and ways in order to escape persecution.
However, like Daniel himself, in every century certain people stand firm against corruption. False gods and powerful leaders do not sway them, because they know their God (v32).
“O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage” (v19). Daniel’s visions, especially accompanied by an angelic being, caused him to tremble and lose strength (v17). God’s messenger comforted him and gave him strength to understand “what is to happen to your people in the latter days” (v14). He explained to Daniel that there was a conflict going on that was bigger than what Daniel could see; his own people and their situation had larger meaning.
However ordinary or extraordinary are the conflicts surrounding us, when we ask for help like Daniel did (v12), we receive courage and strength to face them.
“For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive” (v18-19). Daniel discovered Jeremiah’s prophecy about the Jews returning to Israel after 70 years of exile. Believing God was faithful to His promises, Daniel immediately prayed on behalf of his people that God would rescue them. He knew that they did not deserve any special treatment, but he asked on the basis of God’s own mercy.
“O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive.” These are prayers that are always answered, because of God’s steadfast love (v4).
August 22: Hosea 1 (08/22/2014)
August 21: Daniel 12 (08/21/2014)
August 20: Hebrews 10 (08/20/2014)
August 19: Hebrews 9 (08/19/2014)
August 18: Hebrews 8 (08/18/2014)
August 17: Psalm 127 (08/17/2014)
August 16: Daniel 11 (08/16/2014)
August 15: Daniel 10 (08/15/2014)
August 14: Daniel 9 (08/14/2014)
August 13: Daniel 8 (08/13/2014)
August 12: Hebrews 7 (08/12/2014)
August 11: Hebrews 6 (08/11/2014)
August 10: Psalm 126 (08/10/2014)
August 9: Proverbs 26 (08/09/2014)
August 8: Daniel 6-7 (08/08/2014)
August 7: Daniel 5 (08/07/2014)
August 6: Daniel 4 (08/06/2014)
August 5: Daniel 3 (08/05/2014)
August 4: Hebrews 5 (08/04/2014)
August 3: Psalm 125 (08/03/2014)