devotions written by Deborah Galyen
“For behold, the LORD is coming out of His place, and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth …” (v3). The “high places” of the ancient world were places of power, often temple sites or important cities, like Jerusalem, Samaria, and Lachish (v5,13). The prophet Micah said that these cities would be torn down; the corrupt power represented by carved images, money, and idols (v7) would be destroyed by the judgment of God. The earth itself melts at His coming (v4).
Praying, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,” means asking for God to reign supreme over all the high places, both the world’s and the ones in our hearts.
“For I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love …” (v2). Jonah was not pleased that God had forgiven the people of Nineveh; they deserved punishment. Jonah was more easily moved by issues of his own comfort: he rejoiced to find shade and was angry when the plant died. God pointed out that this was nothing compared to the eternal fate of thousands of human beings (v11).
Jonah was uncomfortable with God’s mercy, because it meant that Jonah himself had to soften his heart. “Anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (I John 4:8).
“And the people of Nineveh believed God” (v5). Remarkably, when Jonah obeyed God and warned the people of Nineveh of impending judgment, they listened and repented. They “turned from” their evil ways and fasted as a sign of their sincerity, beginning with the king (v6). Somehow, when a foreign messenger declared the truth, people who had been living in darkness recognized and embraced the light. And God, full of mercy and compassion, “relented of the disaster” (v10).
God’s mercy, fully poured out in Jesus Christ, has been present from the beginning. From the moment we rebelled, He responded in love and compassion.
I John 5
“Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (v12). We can achieve some good things by working hard and being kind to those around us. But John says that we can only have life – the eternal, God-initiated kind of life – through faith in Jesus Christ. In Christ, we find forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with the Father, victory over death and the forces of the world (v4), and power to love as He loved us.
We were created by God not just to survive in the world, but to “overcome”: to thrive and be fruitful, transformed by the love of Jesus Christ.
I John 4
“We love because He first loved us” (v19). John declared that those who are “born of God” share two things: they believe that Jesus Christ came “in the flesh” (2), and they embrace God’s definition of love. Love may be a common word, but only God “is love” (v8). He demonstrated perfect love by sending His own Son to die for us, that “we might live through Him” (v8-9).
All of Christian faith and practice begins with the truth that God first loved us. As His love pushes out insecurity, self-centeredness, and fear, “we also ought to love one another” (v11,18).
“How shall we sing the LORD's song in a foreign land?” (v4). In exile in Babylon, the Jews mourned the loss of their home, their Temple, and their independence. Their Babylonian captors mocked them, wanting them to sing “songs of Zion” for entertainment, but they refused. What they had neglected and undervalued back in Israel – the worship of the One God – was now precious to them. Suddenly, the privilege of being God’s people and knowing Him became their “highest joy” (v5-6).
In distress and difficulty, we remember God. Worship is no longer ritual or entertainment, but the awesome privilege of calling on our Creator.
“Salvation belongs to the LORD!” (v9). Jonah’s terrible experience in the belly of the fish taught him a powerful lesson about God’s mercy. Jonah knew he was drowning as a result of his own rebellion, yet instead of condemnation, “You brought up my life from the pit” (v6). God commanded, and the prophet ran away, yet God did not turn His back on His servant. “I called out to the Lord … and He answered me” (1).
“When my life was fainting away …” (v7). When we are guilty, and lost, and desperate for help, God’s mercy far surpasses all our expectations.
“I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land” (v9). Jonah’s first action in the story is to disobey God’s direct, personal command (to go to Nineveh and preach). Therefore, his words provoke a question: how can he fear God and yet disobey Him? The pagan sailors on Jonah’s boat don’t claim to know God, but they respect His power (v14) and don’t want to kill Jonah (v13).
Rather than letting Jonah drown, God used a fish to rescue him (v17). God’s desire is not to punish, but to save us and shape us into men and women of integrity.
“But in Mount Zion there shall be those who escape, and it shall be holy, and the house of Jacob shall possess their own possessions” (v17). The prophet Obadiah spoke words of warning and judgment over the land of Edom, the near neighbor of Israel. Edomites were said to be descendents of Esau, yet they turned their backs on their cousins the Israelites in their time of need (v11). Obadiah said that the fire of judgment would reveal what could be saved (v18).
Those who escape judgment, according to Obadiah, are not the strong or the winners; they are vulnerable exiles - the weak and needy who recognize their Savior (v20-21).
I John 3
“And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another” (v23). Jesus came to “destroy the works of the devil” (v8), freeing us from our slavery to sin and giving us power to love and live as He did. As God’s “seed” of the Spirit takes root in us (v9), our lives begin to look more like Christ, though we await our total transformation at His return (v2).
We are called to love one another. And if we stumble and our hearts condemn us, God reminds us that Jesus is our advocate and the covering for our sin (2:1).
I John 2
“Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness” (v9). John gave the early believers some guidance as they discerned which spiritual leaders were “antichrist” (v18) and which were true servants of Jesus. John’s rules are simple: followers of Christ walk in love (v3-11), though they are not perfect (v1), and they confess that Jesus is God’s Son, who takes away our sins (v2, 22-23).
“And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments” (v3). As we know Jesus more, His Spirit dwells in us, and the inevitable result is the transformation of our lives.
“He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing” (v1). The Proverbs warn us that we cannot resist God’s ways indefinitely; we are His creation, and if we continue to ignore His voice, our lives will end in brokenness. On the global scale, rulers who steal from their people ruin their nation (v4), and within the family, the way we nurture our children and treat one another has life-long results (v17).
We may not see the instant result of our choices, but over a lifetime, surrendering to God leads to His glory and our own joy (v6).
“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever” (v1). This psalm (song) leads God’s people in repeating this phrase as part of our worship, and the psalm itself explains why the words are true. God’s goodness and love are evident through what He does: He made our beautiful world, the sky and planets and earth (v1-9), and He personally rescued Israel from their enemies (v10-22).
God remembers us in our human weakness (v23). Our own experiences affirm what the psalm says: He never stops reaching out to us with mercy, love, and provision. His steadfast love endures forever.
“I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine …” (9:14). Amos was mainly a prophet of warning, yet his book ends with a powerful message of restoration. Israel would indeed fall to the Assyrians and its people be scattered, yet Amos saw beyond that to the day when “the booth of David” would be restored (v11) and God’s good promises fulfilled by the Messiah.
The good news for Israel and for all the world is that salvation is initiated and accomplished by God. God Himself “rebuilds ruined cities” and gives us a new future.
October 19: Psalm 137 (10/19/2014)
October 18: Jonah 2 (10/18/2014)
October 17: Jonah 1 (10/17/2014)
October 16: Obadiah (10/16/2014)
October 15: I John 3 (10/15/2014)
October 14: I John 2 (10/14/2014)
October 13: Proverbs 29 (10/13/2014)
October 12: Psalm 136 (10/12/2014)
October 11: Amos 8-9 (10/11/2014)
October 10: Amos 6-7 (10/10/2014)
October 9: Amos 5 (10/09/2014)
October 8: I John 1 (10/08/2014)
October 7: II Peter 3 (10/07/2014)
October 6: II Peter 2 (10/06/2014)
October 5: Psalm 135 (10/05/2014)
October 4: Psalm 134 (10/04/2014)
October 3: Amos 3-4 (10/03/2014)
October 2: Amos 1-2 (10/02/2014)
October 1: II Peter 1 (10/01/2014)
September 30: I Peter 5 (09/30/2014)