devotions written by Deborah Galyen
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (v4). The psalmist expressed his deep trust that the Lord, the Good Shepherd, gives us “green pastures” and “still waters” even in the middle of life’s troubles. “I shall not want,” he proclaimed, knowing that whatever he lacked, God would provide. Surrounded by enemies (v5), confronting death (v4), needing comfort and restoration, the psalmist saw that his Shepherd was near.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” (v6). Goodness and mercy are God’s character; if He is with us, we have everything we need.
“Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help” (v11). This is our model for the prayer of faith when we can’t yet see God’s deliverance. Jesus Himself used this psalm to cry out from the cross (v1), and others mocked His suffering (v7-8) as if it were evidence that God had abandoned Him. But we keep praying in the midst of troubles, believing that God will show mercy again, just as He has done in the past (v4,31).
God’s love never fails. “For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard” (v24).
“He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp” (13:46). Leprosy was a feared, contagious disease in ancient times, and the Israelite rules for worship and daily life required isolation of infected people. When people became ceremonially “unclean” in other, temporary ways, they could be quickly restored, but leprosy was serious and often permanent.
Jesus said that we know God’s kingdom is present because “lepers are cleansed” (Luke 7:22). No matter the issue that isolates us or harms us, Jesus’ touch brings healing and wholeness, and we are welcomed into his family.
“For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy” (11:45). The Levitical rules about what was “clean” and “unclean” in Israelite worship and daily life are hard for us to understand because our categories and worldview are different. But in general, God gave the Israelites codes of behavior that encouraged holiness, being set apart from the world, so that they would draw closer to Him.
Jesus has defeated the sin and death that separated us from our perfect God. Cleansed by His righteousness, we now offer our ordinary lives as holy offerings (Romans 12:1).
“And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces” (9:24). God’s instructions about the sacrificial rituals of worship were somewhat familiar to the Israelites; their neighbors also sacrificed animals to their gods. Yet God’s instructions were unique because He was teaching them how to live holy lives, and the rituals were also transformed because God was truly present.
Nadab and Abihu (ch 10) tried to take control of worship and died, not understanding the power and holiness of the true God, who can only be approached in repentance and humility.
“But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit …” (v20). As Jesus explained to his disciples, when the kingdom of God is planted in receptive hearts, it results in new life and reproduces itself. There is resurrection power embedded in the seed, which is the good news about God’s salvation in Jesus Christ, and when it grows, it produces fruit which also carries seed.
Jesus taught us to beware of the “thorns” that hinder the fruitfulness of the gospel in our lives: “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things” (v19).
“And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, "Stretch out your hand" (v5). In the synagogue, knowing the Pharisees wanted to criticize him, Jesus gave them an opportunity to open their eyes. “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm?” he asked them as he prepared to heal a man. They were silent, clinging to an empty form of “rightness” rather than recognizing the powerful Love in their midst. Jesus was grieved.
“For whoever does the will of God …” (v35). Jesus revealed that doing the will of God always includes loving deeply, with compassion, as He first loved us.
“His glory is great through your salvation; splendor and majesty you bestow on him” (v5). This psalm celebrates a good king’s relationship with God, which spilled over to bless the people. The king recognized that his “rich blessings” and years of life came from God’s hand (v3-4), and he depended on God – not armies or idols – for his strength and salvation (v1). Israel flourished when they had righteous leaders because these leaders bowed to God’s authority.
“For the king trusts in the Lord” (v7). As we trust in God for everything we need, we can give our best to the relationships and work God has put in our hands.
“Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart …” (v9-10). The Bible teaches that “the Lord gives wisdom” (v6) in response to those who seek Him. While we often worry about a specific course of action, wisdom just as much to how we live. In our homes and work, we follow “every good path” by choosing honesty, fairness, compassion, and the courage to do the right thing when no one is looking.
“Understanding will guard you, delivering you from the way of evil” (v11-12). As God’s Spirit transforms our hearts and minds, He helps us to live wisely and well.
“And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples” (v15). Jesus’ behavior mystified the Pharisees because what they had to offer was a certain strict moral code which kept them separate from sinners. But Jesus was the healer, the physician (v17), and “Lord of the Sabbath” (v28), and He was giving people Himself. So He ate with sinners and touched unclean people, and His presence changed them.
The good news is not a certain kind of culture or government. Jesus the Son of God is the good news, and in Him we find forgiveness, healing, and new life.
“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (v35). Mark’s gospel opens with Jesus as an adult, the Spirit-baptizer (v8) who announced the kingdom of God (v15). In one chapter, Mark records Jesus being baptized, tempted in the desert, calling the first disciples, and performing three miracles. Amid all this activity, Jesus slipped away “to a desolate place” to talk with his Father.
Jesus needed to eat, sleep, and rest like we do, yet He took time to pray. His unity with the Father was more than an identity, it was a relationship built on daily communication.
“And he poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron's head and anointed him to consecrate him” (8:12). Aaron and his sons, the priests, were chosen to represent the people before God. They were ordinary, sinful men, and so atonement had to be made for them during the ordination process; they needed forgiveness before they could be consecrated or “set apart.” They stayed in the tabernacle for seven days, offering sacrifices, before coming out and serving God on behalf of the people.
The priesthood represented Israel until the true Priest came. Jesus, both perfect sacrifice and High Priest, stands “in the presence of God on our behalf” (9:24).
“He shall also make restitution for what he has done amiss in the holy thing” (5:16). The Levitical laws explained what to do and what not to do (basic moral behavior as well as worship and sacrifice rituals), and the laws also made provision for human mistakes and sin. Even “unintentional” sins (4:2) caused harm to people, and so the Law described the way to make things right.
The justice of God, embedded in the conscience of humans, requires some kind of action to “put things right.” God didn’t ignore sin, but instead, at the right time, Jesus “offered up Himself” for us (Hebrews 7:27).
“When any one of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of livestock from the herd or from the flock” (1:2). The sacrificial system in the Old Testament involved different kinds of offerings: a burnt offering for the purpose of atonement, grain offerings (some burned, some given to the priests), first fruits from harvests, and peace/fellowship offerings, etc. (ch 1-3). Sacrificing their own resources for the Lord was an important act of trust and obedience.
The people’s offerings were a “pleasing aroma” to God (2:2). They gave the best they had, animals and grains, to honor the Giver of life and all gifts.
April 14: Mark 4 (04/14/2015)
April 13: Mark 3 (04/13/2015)
April 12: Psalm 21 (04/12/2015)
April 11: Proverbs 2 (04/11/2015)
April 10: Mark 2 (04/10/2015)
April 9: Mark 1 (04/09/2015)
April 8: Leviticus 6-8 (04/08/2015)
April 7: Leviticus 4-5 (04/07/2015)
April 6: Leviticus 1-3 (04/06/2015)
April 5: Psalm 20 (04/05/2015)
April 4: Psalm 19 (04/04/2015)
April 3: Exodus 39-40 (04/03/2015)
April 2: Exodus 36-38 (04/02/2015)
April 1: Exodus 35 (04/01/2015)
March 31: Matthew 28 (03/31/2015)
March 30: Matthew 27 (03/30/2015)
March 29: Psalm 18 (03/29/2015)
March 28: Exodus 33-34 (03/28/2015)
March 27: Exodus 31-32 (03/27/2015)
March 26: Exodus 29-30 (03/26/2015)