Pastor Keith's devotional goes through the books of the Bible a chapter at a time. Each day he shares thoughts and insights from a pastor’s perspective that are intended to be encouraging, challenging, and life changing. Here’s how Pastor Keith's daily devotional works best:
Really, it’s as simple as that. Okay, here we go…
As you know, it’s quite common for Christians to call their fellow Christians either brothers or sisters. Of course, we all understand that not all believers are in fact our true blood relatives, but that really doesn’t matter; we’ve all been adopted into the family of God through our faith in Jesus Christ, so in a way, we’re all brothers and sisters in Christ. Now, the question that arises is whether or not we have the same obligations and responsibilities towards our spiritual brothers and sisters as to our actual blood brothers and sisters. While you’re pondering that one, let’s take a look at one very interesting responsibility brothers had under the Mosaic Law.
“If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead man shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband's brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her.” (v.5)
Can you imagine going to work and your co-worker, the one with the beautiful wife and two young children, telling you that his brother died last week, so this weekend he’s marrying his brother’s widow so she can [hopefully] have a son to keep up the family name? Okay, that would be quite the awkward situation. What could you possibly say in response to something like that? Well, if you were living in the days of Moses, you’d probably say congratulations and wish him God’s blessings and favor; after all, your co-worker was stepping up to the plate, obeying the Law, and showing himself to be a faithful brother. Oh, but what if that conversation occurred in our day? I'm pretty sure you would call his wife and tell her to find a lawyer as quick as she could.
“And if the man does not wish to take his brother's wife, then his brother's wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, ‘My husband's brother refuses to perpetuate his brother's name in Israel; he will not perform the duty of a husband's brother to me.’” (v.7)
As it turned out, if a brother refused to “perform the duty of a husband’s brother,” then the widow of his dead brother would call his obstinate brother out on it, pull his sandal off, and spit in his face; basically, she would shame him [for life] right in front of the city elders because he didn't care about his brother's family or the continuation of the tribes of Israel (v.8-10). Okay, so stuff like that doesn’t happen anymore, but might there be some principle from this obscure law that we can glean today? Let’s try this simple one: Brothers and sisters in Christ need to look out for each other, help each other, and show an interest in each other…so that Christ will be honored. I encourage you today to think not only of your own interests, but also to the interests of your brothers and sisters in Christ (Phil 2:4).
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?” (Gen4:9)
We all have certain takes on the poor, don’t we? To the extremes, some think those living in poverty deserve all sorts of government programs and handouts to enable them to eat and have a roof over their heads, while others feel they need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, get a job, and get a life. Of course, in an attempt to ignore the poor, a lot of people choose to simply close their ears and eyes to their plight, thinking it’s someone else’s responsibility to deal with them. But this last option, to look the other way, isn’t that it in stark contrast to what God would have us do?
“You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow's garment in pledge." (v.17)
Over and over again throughout the Scriptures, we find God seems to have a soft spot for the poor, the needy, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. Apparently, he’s very concerned they not be taken advantage of, embarrassed, or mistreated in any way. Specifically, he doesn’t want us to shame the poor when dealing with their loans (vs.10-13), oppress them by holding back their wages (vs.14-15), pervert their justice (v.17), or prevent them from gleaning in our gardens, farms, and fields (vs.19-21). Time for a gut check here; would your friends say you have a soft spot for the poor?
But you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this. (v.18)
To make sure the Israelites never forgot they had been slaves in Egypt, he commanded them to take care of the poor, needy, and helpless living among them. He wanted the Israelites to show love to them, just like he had shown his love, compassion, and kindness to the nation of Israelites who had been sojourning and held as poor and needy slaves in the land of Egypt for over four hundred years. Well, not all of us were literally poor before we experienced the saving grace of God through his Son Jesus Christ, but we were all definitely spiritually poor (dead, really), before we came to faith. I wonder, do we really need a command to help the poor, or can we use the free gift of our salvation as a motivator to show God’s love to the poor…in practical ways? I encourage you today to reflect back on your spiritual plight before the Holy Spirit convicted you of your [poverty of] sins and awakened you to the [incredibly rich] love of God. If that doesn’t prompt you to want to share God’s love in all sorts of ways with the poor and needy, then nothing will.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. (Psa 34:6)
Wouldn’t it be awkward if you could only invite some of your friends to church? Like if one of your friends was deformed in some way, he or she wouldn’t be allowed in the front door? Or how unsettling would it be if your pastor told you r to never invite someone who was married to a person of the “wrong” ethnic group? Oh, and how about not being able to invite people who were born in a certain country that, literally hundreds of years ago, once harassed Christians? Well, those sort of strict requirements were pretty much what God gave Moses to relay to the Israelites as to whom they were allowed to enter the assembly of the Lord. Wow, things like that would have thrown a serious wrench into the once a year, “Invite a friend to the Temple” day, don’t you think?
“No one born of a forbidden union may enter the assembly of the Lord. Even to the tenth generation, none of his descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord.” (v.2)
Right now our country is dealing with illegal immigrant children who were brought into the country by their parents. Our hearts go out to them because they themselves didn’t do anything wrong; it was their parents who came here illegally. So it’s a bit in-our-faces to find out that under the Mosaic Law, those who were born of a marriage that was deemed “forbidden” (due to incest, adultery, fornication, or perhaps even a mixed-marriage) were not allowed into the assembly of the Lord – all the way down to the tenth generations of his or her descendants. Whether the intent was to stir fear into those contemplating a forbidden union or it was simply a matter of God not wanting anything or anyone unholy in his presence, the bottom line was that some people were excluded from worshipping God in the Israeli camp.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16)
Aren’t you glad that we’re now living under the New Covenant and are therefore not under the requirements of the Mosaic Law? This means that we can invite anyone and everyone we want to find the love of Jesus Christ, regardless of their physical condition, their parent's story, or the history of the land of their ancestors? The love of God now extends far and wide to whoever repents and believes in Jesus Christ as Savior. Jesus is calling for all to come to him; a person’s race, age, gender, education, immigration status, or even present sexual orientation doesn’t matter; all are being invited to receive him as Lord and claim the right to become children of God (Jn 1:12). I encourage you today to invite a friend to church this coming weekend, knowing that God has opened the door for him or her or enter into his presence though the shed blood of his Son Jesus Christ.
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Mt 11:28-29)
In today’s news, I read of a Boston College professor who is offering extra credit for students to go out on dates. The stipulation is that both students have to be sober when asking or being asked on a date, they then have to actually go out on the date, and oh yes, there can’t be any physical contact during the date. Kerry Cronin, the philosophy professor who came up with this idea, says she wants to combat what she identifies as a “hyper-sexualized” culture and also because most of her seniors have never been out on a date. Basically, she’s battling back against students hooking up and having casual sex.
“But if the thing is true, that evidence of virginity was not found in the young woman…” (v.20)
Under the Mosaic Law, a bride was expected to be a virgin before she was married. If her husband discovered on their wedding night that she wasn’t, then, hold on – this is something all the students hooking up today don’t want to hear – the woman who was guilty of “whoring in her father’s house," was to be stoned to death. What? That’s right, fornication (otherwise known as but not limited to pre-martial sex) was considered an outrageous and evil thing in Israel (v.21). As you may have noticed, there seems to be no penalty for a groom not being a virgin on his wedding day. What’s up with that?
Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. (1 Cor 6:18)
Do you find it interesting that God is concerned about our sexual purity? In the Law God gave to Moses, he addressed a number of sexual immoralities such as fornication, non-consensual sex (rape), adultery, bestiality, and homosexuality. Apparently, his desire is that we should be holy as he is holy -- in all our conduct, which, of course, includes our sex lives (1 Pt 1:15-16). As you seek to live a set apart life to the honor and glory of God, how are you doing with controlling your sex life? If you’re married, are you keeping your “marriage bed” undefiled (Heb 13:4)? If you’re single, are you fleeing youthful passions and pursuing righteousness (2 Tim 2:22)? I exhort you today to remember that we really do live in a hyper-sexualized culture, so you’ll need to take extra care in avoiding and resisting sexual temptation in order for you to remain pure in the eyes of God (2 Cor 11:2-3).
We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. (1 Cor 10:8; see Num 25)
Let’s be real here, there’s stuff in the Old Testament that we just can’t relate to anymore. Really, when’s the last time someone found a dead body and the surrounding town officials took out a tape measure to determine which of the towns was responsible for the body (vs.1-9)? Oh, and it’s never the case that the U.S. army wins a battle somewhere in the world and some of the soldiers decide to take the beautiful women they “captured” back home to be their brides…for at least a month (vs.10-14). As for a firstborn son receiving double the inheritance of any other son, well, I guess that could be stipulated in a will, but it’s certainly not our cultural norm (vs.15-17). And since we don’t use hanging as a form of capital punishment, we don’t have to worry about taking the dead body down before the sun goes down (vs.22-23). So do any of the more obscure Mosaic laws apply today – even in principle?
“If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives.” (vs.18-19)
Aha, so here’s something that we do still deal with today: rebellious sons (and daughters). Under the Law in the days of Moses, if a son was rebellious against them (and by way of implication, against God as well), then they were to bring him to the elders of the city, tell them he was a drunk and a glutton, and then all the men of the city would…stone him to death! Whoa, didn’t see that one coming did you? The idea here was that every other son in the town would be hit with a sudden fear for their lives and start immediately obeying their parents. Wow, after seeing one of their friends stoned to death, I bet every son in the town ran home as fast as he could, made his bed and cleaned his room, and then made sure all his chores were done well before his parents got home.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Eph 6:4)
So what can parents to do avoid raising a rebellious child? What a great question; if there was a sure formula to ensure a faithful and godly child, I bet every parent would pay big bucks to get it. But a formula like that just doesn’t exist; however, a number of biblical childrearing principles do. Training a child in the way he should go (Prv 22.6), not withholding proper discipline (Prv 13:24, 19:18, 29:17), speaking of and explaining the Scriptures on a regular basis (Dt 6:6-9), and being a role model of Christ (1 Cor 11:1) are all things that won’t necessarily guarantee a godly child, but will at least set them on the path and point them in the right direction. If you’re a parent of a prodigal child today, I encourage you to pray that God would draw him or her close to the cross of Christ to be awakened and convicted in heart and mind by the Holy Spirit so that he or she might turn (or return) to live in the grace, forgiveness, and love of our Heavenly Father.
But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:22-24)
“When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own…” (v.1a)
Here’s the scenario: You’re looking across a battlefield, and you see a huge, terrifying, and much better equipped army that’s never lost a battle on the other side. From what you’ve heard, it’s all psyched up to unleash its pent up anger to completely destroy everyone and everything in its path. Let’s see, what kind of emotions might be running through your head? If you’re like most people, you’re seconds away from a serious panic attack. However, if you were in the Israeli army in the days of Moses, you’d be cool as a cucumber. How could that possibly be?
“For the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.” (v.4)
It’s got to be a matter of faith; really, there’s no other explanation as to why, finding themselves crazily outnumbered and totally out-equipped, the Israelites wouldn’t run for the hills. The only reason they would step onto a battlefield against all odds would be that they really believed, right to their very souls, that God would not only be with them, but also [somehow] give them the victory; they were 100% convinced of it. So, how convinced are you that God can give you the victory on your battlefield, whether it’s one at work, school, the bank, or the hospital?
“And the officers shall speak further to the people, and say, ‘Is there any man who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go back to his house, lest he make the heart of his fellows melt like his own.’” (v.8)
Have you ever considered that a person’s lack of faith on the day of battle can make other’s faith melt faster than a carton of ice-cream left on a picnic table on a hot day in Texas? The reality is that our faith, especially in tough and trying times, can not only melt someone’s faith, but it can also increase it? I encourage you today to be one whose faith is so strong in the power and faithfulness of God that when the day comes, you’ll be the one leading the charge on the battlefield shouting, “Follow me as I follow Christ!” and “To the God be the glory!”
With God we shall do valiantly; it is he who will tread down our foes. (Psa 60:12)
When we consider that God is a God of justice, we often times jump to the final judgment as proof of his justice. After all, know, we know from the Scriptures the final judgment will be fair, unbiased, and without partiality; you know, just. In the end, the wicked will be judged and given their just reward – the eternal wrath of God. In the same way, the righteous will also be judged and inherit their just reward – an eternity in Paradise. But is that the only example of God’s justice? Well, no, actually it isn’t; believe it or not, God’s justice actually permeates our every day lives, especially since much of its written content and guiding principles (from the Mosaic Law) have become deeply interwoven into the fabric of the U.S. legal system.
“This is the provision for the manslayer, who by fleeing there may save his life. If anyone kills his neighbor unintentionally without having hated him in the past.” (v.4)
I’m no legal expert, but it seems fair and just that if someone accidentally kills a person (not due to recklessness or criminal negligence - that would be involuntary manslaughter), then they shouldn’t have to be punished for it (especially by having their life taken by the hand of one of the relatives of the deceased looking for revenge). But I don’t have to rely on my [extremely] limited legal expertise, because God set down clear laws when it came to this sort of thing. The overriding intention of his law was that the innocent, the one who killed someone unintentionally and without prior hate, was to be afforded protection in one of six prescribed cities of refuge. Ah, isn’t it nice that the justice of God makes sure that the innocent goes free?
"If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrong doing,then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days." (vs.16-17)
And isn’t it great that the justice of God will not let the guilty off the hook (Nah 1:3)? Let’s take the case of someone committing perjury (willfully telling an untruth in a court of law after having taken an oath to tell the truth – which could result in the miscarriage of justice. In the U.S., committing perjury is usually a felony. However, in the days of Moses, if one swore falsely, that person would receive the penalty of the one he falsely accused; with no pity shown, as in “life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot (v.21).” Well, that caveat of the law would have made witnesses think twice before lying under oath, don’t you think? As a child of God, I encourage you today to be mindful to be just in all your dealings, just as your Heavenly Father always has been, and always will be.
Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times! (Psa 106:3)
When the priests and Levites were trying to figure out who John the Baptist was, John immediately told them that he wasn’t the Christ (Jn 1:20). Upon hearing that, they then asked him if he was Elijah. The reason they asked him that was because the prophet Malachi had prophesied that before “the great and awesome day” of the Lord would come, God would send Elijah the prophet to do pretty much what they saw John the Baptist doing (Mal 4:5-6). Again, John told them he wasn’t this Elijah person. Not satisfied, they then asked if he was not a prophet, but the Prophet that Moses had talked about (Jn 1:21). Without hesitation, John replied back that he wasn’t this Prophet. But that leaves us with a mystery, doesn’t it? Who was this Prophet they were expecting to show up?
"I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him." (v.18)
Okay, so if you’re a good guesser, you’ve probably figured out that Jesus was the Prophet about whom Moses was speaking. As it turned out, both the Apostle Peter (Acts 3:22-26) and Stephen (Acts 7:37) also made that same connection; in fact, when they were preaching, they used it as evidence that Jesus was the Messiah. As further proof that Jesus was the Prophet, Jesus told his followers that it was his Father who had given him authority and the commandment of what to say and what to speak (Jn 12:49) – exactly as Moses had prophesied over a thousand years before.
"And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. (v.19)"
How can it be that Jesus spoke the very words that God wanted the Israelites to hear, and yet they twisted, wrangled about, and finally rejected his words? Surely they were familiar enough with the Scriptures to know that their spiritual deafness would be held against them, so why didn’t they listen? Well, if we’re honest, I guess we could all ask ourselves that question. We all know the commands of God we’re supposed to obey as well as the biblical principles we’re supposed to follow, but sometimes we stubbornly and defiantly put our fingers in our ears and end up doing whatever we feel like doing, completely forgetting that there are consequences for our sinful actions. I encourage you today to clean out your ears and listen to what God has revealed to us in his Word, knowing that if we don’t do what he says, “it will be required of us.”
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (Jas 1:23-25)
If it was up to you, what book would you make sure was in the Oval Office as well as in the presidential bedroom of the White House? Really, if you could only pick one book to be read on a regular basis, to shape and guide the leader of the free world, which would you choose? President Obama, in his book Audacity of Hope, shared that when he was growing up, “the Bible, the Koran, and the Bhagavad-Gita sat on the shelf alongside books of Greek and Norse and African mythology (p.203).” It seems for him, all [religious] books were pretty much the same, regardless of whether they pointed to God, Allah, Buddha, or a host of fictitious pagan gods. But it wasn’t that way for Israelite kings, not even close; there was only one book, the book that ruled them all.
“And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests.” (v.18)
Admittedly, there’s some debate by Bible translators and commentators on this one, but the prevailing view is that the incoming king of Israel was supposed to pick up a pen and a blank scroll and make his own personal copy of the Law before he sat down on the throne. Wow, I think the equivalent of that would be something like if when a person placed their faith in Jesus, he or she was required to write out a copy of the New Testament instead of buying a Bible online or downloading a smartphone Bible app. Okay, so I’m pretty sure that writing out the entire New Testament would dramatically change a person’s life, don’t you think?
“And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them.” (v.19)
The reason the king was supposed to write out the Law was so he would always have easy access to it. The idea was that he would read it often and lean to fear God and keep all his commandments. By doing so, he would be guarding his heart from pride, wouldn’t stray from the commandments, and as a bonus, he and his children would be richly blessed (v.20). Okay, so we’re probably not going to start writing or typing out the entire New Testament (but if you have the time, that's actually an excellent idea), but would it be too much for us to open our Bibles on a regular basis so we can learn to fear God? After all, if why would expect (or hope) the current President of the United States to do every day it if we don't? I encourage you today to be mindful that the written Word of God can guard and/or change a king or president’s heart, just like it can change yours...on a daily basis.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Tim 2:1-2)
Did you know that there are ten federal holidays in the United States? We love getting a day off to celebrate significant events in our nation’s history. From honoring and remembering those in our military (Memorial and Veterans Day), to celebrating the birthdays of men who had great accomplishments (Martin Luther King, Jr., George Washington, and Columbus), and from acknowledging our workers (Labor Day) to celebrating special days like New Years and Independence Day, we’re all about a good party, some fireworks, and of course, a day off from work. Well, those are the secular holidays; can you name the two remaining holidays that are religious in nature?
“Observe the month of Abib and keep the Passover to the Lord your God, for in the month of Abib the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night." (v.1)
As God prescribed, the Israelites had lots more than ten days of holidays to celebrate each year. In fact, there were actually seven different feasts they were to observe. Here’s the list of their feasts: 1. Passover, 2. Unleavened Bread, 3. First Fruits, 4. Pentecost, 5. Trumpets, 6. Atonement, and 7. Tabernacles. Seriously, considering that some of these holidays lasted for seven days, it’s a wonder that the Israelites ever got any work done. Anyway, a number of these feasts had as their central focus the remembrance of God rescuing the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt – something God wanted to be never forgotten and deeply engrained in the hearts and minds of each generation of Israelites for all time.
"You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt; and you shall be careful to observe these statutes." (v.12)
As a believer in Christ, do you intentionally set aside a day (or days) to remember and celebrate the fact that Jesus has rescued you from a life of bondage to sin (Jn 8:34) and servitude to the whims and wiles of Satan (2 Tim 2:26)? Hmm, isn’t that in way what communion is all about? That we remember (and proclaim) his death on the cross, knowing that without him having atoned for our sins, we would still be eternally stuck in them? I encourage you today to remember the very day (if you can) of when God’s love touched your life, his Holy Spirit awakened your heart, and you were saved by grace through the shed blood of Jesus; in a way that’s a special holiday that’s all your own.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Cor 5:17)
Bonus Holiday Trivia: There is only one state that celebrates a legal holiday marking the end of World War II. Can you name the state and the holiday?