devotions written by Deborah Galyen
“The LORD is righteous; he has cut the cords of the wicked” (v4). The psalmist rejoiced in God’s righteousness and justice because the world was full of evil that needed to be confronted. “Greatly they have afflicted me from my youth … the plowers plowed upon my back” (v2,3). Yet those who cooperated with evil had not won (v2) and would not win (v5), because they had lost the blessing of the Creator of life (v8).
Zion is the place where God’s good and perfect will is accomplished (v5). Whether we desire this kingdom or fight against it determines our future home.
“Do not forsake your friend … do not go to your brother's house in the day of your calamity. Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother who is far away” (v10). In a culture that emphasized family relationships, the Proverbs have a lot to say about the value of true friendship. Good friends tell you the truth, even when it is uncomfortable (v26); they are supportive “in the day of your calamity”; and they encourage you to change and grow for the better, as they themselves mature (v17).
Friends influence us. If we want to be more like Christ, we choose close friends who point us toward Him.
“I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me” (v15). The Israelites paid a terrible price for their idolatry: “Ephraim is oppressed, crushed in judgment, because he was determined to go after filth” (v11). As people turned away from God, the land stopped being fruitful, the animals stopped multiplying, and violence filled the streets (ch 4). The prophet declared that the only good outcome of this darkness would be Israel’s repentance.
God allowed Israel to experience the consequences of sin, but when they repented, He forgave. He is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love” (Psalm 103:8).
“My people inquire of a piece of wood, and their walking staff gives them oracles …” (v12). Israel had stopped trusting in God to provide for them and keep them safe, and instead they turned to pagan religions, sexual rituals, and fortune-telling. Today, our society tries to find security and prosperity through things like accumulating wealth, sexual relationships, or being fit and healthy. We may not worship physical idols, but we worship ourselves, which leads to the same end (v1-3).
God calls us to faithfulness and steadfast love (v1) because we are made in His image. As we turn from idols and obey Him, we find our place in His world.
“Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods” (v1). The prophet Hosea’s life was a picture of God’s unfailing love for Israel. God directed Hosea to be faithful to a woman who wasn’t faithful to him, just as God kept reaching out to Israel, even though they worshipped idols. Israel did not keep God’s laws or trust Him, yet He did not forget about them.
We know what love is because God first loved us (I John 4:19). While we were rebellious and unfaithful, He poured Himself out even to death on a cross.
“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).
August 27: Hebrews 12 (08/27/2014)
August 26: Hebrews 11:17-40 (08/26/2014)
August 25: Hebrews 11:1-16 (08/25/2014)
August 24: Psalm 128 (08/24/2014)
August 23: Hosea 2 (08/23/2014)
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)