devotions written by Deborah Galyen
“God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son” (v8). More than anywhere else in Abraham’s story, here we see that he had great faith in the character of God. Without the Mosaic Law, without much experience but his own, Abraham trusted that the good Creator of the universe wanted life, not death. Child sacrifice was a terrible part of pagan religions, yet Abraham believed that the One God was different. Abraham put his beloved only son on the altar, expecting a miracle (Hebrews 11).
“The Lord will provide” (v14). Our faith is in the good Creator who gives us everything we need – even His own beloved Son.
“What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?" (v27). Jesus’ power never depended on special words or circumstances. He Himself was filled with spiritual power to heal and to teach (and more), so every circumstance was changed by Him. The centurion glimpsed this, recognizing that Jesus’ power extended beyond even His own body; Jesus could “say the word” and heal someone at a distance (v8).
“Follow Me …” (v22). Jesus did not ask people to follow a set of ideas, but to follow Him, the Son of God. He saves, He heals, and He speaks words of life into all our circumstances.
“So, every healthy tree bears good fruit …” (v17). Jesus had a way of cutting to the heart of things. He warned his followers against “false prophets” (v15) who did spectacular things for God (v22) but did not really know the Master. Our human nature is easily impressed by eloquence, miracles, and charisma, yet Jesus said that what really mattered was the “fruit” of a God-honoring life. This can only be built quietly, step by step, like the man who built his house on the rock (v25).
Jesus calls us to forget about impressing others and to begin to live for Him. Then, when the rain, floods, and winds come, we will stand firm.
“You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound” (v7). The psalmist David had discovered that the answer to human need – for food, for security, for joy, for rest – was God Himself. Around the world, men and women try to satisfy their never-ending desires, saying, “Who will show us some good?” (v6). The psalmist said, “Put your trust in God” (v5).
“In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety” (v8). When we know that in both life and death God holds us securely, we can rest (Romans 8).
“I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around” (v6). We love the psalms because they demonstrate the full range of human experience through prayer. When King David was fleeing from his own son (v1), he cried out in fear, “How many are my foes!” Yet David put his trust in God, believing “You, O Lord, are a shield about me” (v3). Whatever enemies pursue us, God is on our side (v7).
“I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me” (v5). Deep trust in God’s loving power allows us to rest, even in the middle of conflict.
“For through Isaac shall your offspring be named” (21:12). Isaac was the child of the promise and faith, while Ishmael was the child of Abraham and Sarah’s manipulations, using Hagar to get what they wanted. Therefore the future of God’s covenant would flow through Isaac’s descendents, eventually producing the Messiah. But God did not abandon Hagar and Ishmael (v13-21); they were also in His care.
Only through Jesus Christ (the most unique miracle baby) could the divide in Abraham’s family be healed. In Christ alone, there is no “Jew or Gentile,” and we are one family.
“For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice …” (18:19). God’s plan was to bless Abraham so that the nation that came from him would be marked by “righteousness and justice,” leading to the Messiah. The behavior of people in Sodom and Gomorrah, and Lot’s family (ch 19), reminds us that the world was filled with darkness. Noah’s flood and the tower of Babel were not too distant.
“Walk before Me, and be blameless” (17:1). Through Abraham, God desired to develop a people who would shine brightly in the darkness.
“And he believed the LORD, and He counted it to him as righteousness” (15:6). Abraham didn’t have the Law or the preaching of the prophets, and he made a lot of wrong turns in his life (see the story of Hagar, ch 16). Yet Abraham’s faith in the invisible Creator was real, and God “counted it to him as righteousness.” God was looking for individuals who would listen, believe, and follow. For His part, God promised to give Abraham offspring, land, and a purpose.
Hagar named her son Ishmael, “God hears” (16:11). God is a Person who communicates with us – He speaks, He listens, and He calls us to respond to Him.
“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you" (v6). Jesus’ advice often directly contradicts the flow of society. In an age where we celebrate every achievement on Facebook and expose every intimate moment, Jesus calls us to modesty, privacy, and secret generosity (v3). In a world where being anxious is natural and expected, Jesus reminds us that His Father can supply all that we need (v25).
Jesus said that priorities matter. If we “seek first the kingdom of God” (v33), living by God’s unchanging principles, the rest will make sense.
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (v44-45). Jesus taught His disciples that being citizens of heaven often means being out of step, even persecuted, in the world (v10-12). Those who long for God’s rule of peace, justice, and love cannot help but mourn as they see suffering caused by sin (v3-4). Yet within this world where God is mocked, Jesus called His disciples not to defend themselves, but to be peacemakers (v9).
Jesus’ kingdom of self-sacrifice (v41), promise-keeping (v32-34), and heart-integrity (v22) is still radical. He calls us to live courageously, to be salt and light (v13-14).
"As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill” (v6). The New Testament writers recognized this as a Messianic psalm about the reign of the Savior-King, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:5). God declared that the nations of the earth might “rage” and plot against Him, but in the end, everyone will bow in submission. The universe was made by Him and for Him (Col 1), and therefore to go against Christ leads to death (v10-12). “Be warned, O rulers of the earth” (v10).
“Blessed are all those who take refuge in Him” (v12). We take refuge in Jesus’ perfect life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection.
“And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people” (v23). Jesus’ ordeal in the desert preceded His ministry of healing. He was tempted by the devil after 40 days of fasting, so that He resisted evil when He Himself was at His weakest. He did not confront Satan with miraculous displays of power, but with the strong truth of God’s Word (v4).
“Follow Me” (v19). Jesus called men and women to follow Him on a path that He Himself walked: a path of truth, obedience to the Father, and the Spirit’s power.
“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (v7-8). John’s call to repentance was “preparing the way for the Lord” – the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Matthew says that people from “Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan” responded (v5), as people hungry for purity came for baptism. Yet John saw that some who came were only trying to look good; they wanted to be “on the right side of history.”
If we only want to look good, we will receive nothing. But if we are ready to be baptized with the Spirit and with fire, Jesus calls us to Himself.
“So Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him … to the place where he had made an altar at the first. And there Abram called upon the name of the LORD” (13:1-4). After the disastrous detour into Egypt, Abram resumed his journey with God. God kept calling him forward, being faithful even when Abram was faithless. Finally, when Abram won in battle and rescued Lot, he realized his bounty belonged to “God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth” (14:22).
Abram wasn’t chosen because he already had perfect faith. Decision by decision, Abram’s faith grew as he learned that God was faithful and worth following.
January 23: Genesis 20-21 (01/23/2015)
January 22: Genesis 17-19 (01/22/2015)
January 21: Genesis 15-16 (01/21/2015)
January 20: Matthew 6 (01/20/2015)
January 19: Matthew 5 (01/19/2015)
January 18: Psalm 2 (01/18/2015)
January 17: Matthew 4 (01/17/2015)
January 16: Matthew 3 (01/16/2015)
January 15: Genesis 13-14 (01/15/2015)
January 14: Genesis 12 (01/14/2015)
January 13: Genesis 10-11 (01/13/2015)
January 12: Genesis 8-9 (01/12/2015)
January 11: Proverbs 1 (01/11/2015)
January 10: Genesis 6-7 (01/10/2015)
January 9: Genesis 4-5 (01/09/2015)
January 8: Genesis 3 (01/08/2015)
January 7: Genesis 1-2 (01/07/2015)
January 6: Matthew 2 (01/06/2015)
January 5: Matthew 1 (01/05/2015)
January 4: Psalm 1 (01/04/2015)