|March 2011 Daily Devotion Archive|
Now David said, "Is there still anyone who is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan's sake?" And there was a servant of the house of Saul whose name was Ziba. So when they had called him to David, the king said to him, "Are you Ziba?" He said, "At your service!" Then the king said, "Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, to whom I may show the kindness of God?" And Ziba said to the king, "There is still a son of Jonathan who is lame in his feet." - 2 Samuel 9:1-3
David loved Jonathan like a brother, and when Jonathan was killed by the Philistines (see 1 Samuel 31), David was devastated. He very much wanted to repay the kindness Jonathan had shown him if he could find another member of Jonathan's family who had not been killed. He found another son of Jonathan's, named Mephibosheth, and promised that he could eat at David's table from that point on (verse 10). To me, this is an outstanding example of wonderful brotherly love!
Question to Ponder: Can you do something extra-special for a friend who has suffered a great loss like Mephibosheth?
Daniel's Prayer for Israel, Part 4 of 4
"O Lord, according to all Your righteousness, I pray, let Your anger and Your fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people are a reproach to all those around us. Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant, and his supplications, and for the Lord's sake cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary, which is desolate. O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies. O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name." - Daniel 9:16-19
After praising God, confessing the sins of all Israel, and admitting that he understands why God had to punish His chosen people, Daniel just now makes his request. Everything else came before the request. Also notice the enthusiasm with which he prays toward the end. We can all learn a great deal from Daniel's prayer!
Question to Ponder: What have you learned from Daniel's prayer that you can apply to your own prayer life?
How Willing Are You?
After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, "Follow Me." So he left all, rose up, and followed Him. - Luke 5:27-28
When Jesus told Levi to follow Him, Levi didn't hesitate. He didn't try to make excuses or say he would at a later time. He just went. Are you that willing to go where Jesus calls you to go or to do what He calls you to do? Some people will go halfway around the world to serve Jesus while others will spend their whole lives serving Him in their own community. We all have our own unique gifts and ways that we can serve God. I'm not great at speaking in front of people but I'm much better at writing down my thoughts and ideas. That's why I do these daily devotionals instead of spreading God's message in some other way. But the bottom line is, we all have a calling, and God asks us to be willing to go wherever He leads us. An old hymn says, "Wherever He leads, I'll go." Is that true for you?
Question to Ponder: Are you completely willing to give yourself over to God and go wherever He leads?
Roles of Parents and Children, Part 1 of 2
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise: "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth." And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. - Ephesians 6:1-4
This passage reminds me of what Paul just finished writing about in chapter 5 concerning husbands and wives. Wives are to submit to their husbands, but in return husbands are to love and care for their wives. Similarly, children are to submit to their parents and follow their rules, but parents are to love and care for their children, not provoking them. In my observations, many families seem to be struggling with both pieces of this puzzle. Many children don't want to listen, but an increasing number of parents aren't acting like parents, either. Parents need to take responsibility for raising their children properly. That includes discipline--at appropriate times. Giving your child discipline and boundaries shows love and care for your child.
Question to Ponder: If you have children, do you discipline them in a manner consistent with the teachings of the Bible?
He who despises the word will be destroyed,
But he who fears the commandment will be rewarded.
- Proverbs 13:13
This proverb reminds me of something that has been in the news lately about removing the Ten Commandments from schools in Giles County. I will never understand why people who don't even believe that the commandments are true are so greatly disturbed by their mere presence that they would go as far as to sue the school system in order to get them taken down. In any case, this proverb makes it clear what will happen to those people who do despise the Word of God. They may cause trouble here on earth, but they will be destroyed by eternal condemnation. I take no pleasure in that and wish everyone would open their minds to the truth so we could all be saved by Jesus. But, I am thankful that we serve a fair and just God who punishes sinners and rewards those who repent and accept Jesus' gift. Those of us who fear and respect God's commands will be rewarded eternally. Isn't that enough of a reward for us to want to do as God commands?
Question to Ponder: Do you fear (respect) God enough to follow His commandments regularly in your everyday life?
God Fights For Us
Plead my cause, O Lord, with those who strive with me;
Fight against those who fight against me.
Take hold of shield and buckler,
And stand up for my help.
Also draw out the spear,
And stop those who pursue me.
Say to my soul,
"I am your salvation."
- Psalm 35:1-3
In John 16:33, Jesus tells us that we will have troubles in this world, but He has overcome the world! God is far more powerful than anything or anyone on this earth, and if you're facing a difficult struggle, He wants to come alongside and fight for you if you belong to Him. Don't try to stand in the way and fight by yourself; let Him help! He loves all His precious children and wants to take care of us, as long as we'll allow Him to do that.
Question to Ponder: Do you ask for help from God when facing a difficult struggle?
Causes of Jealousy
Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brothers. And the lad was with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to his father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him. - Genesis 37:2b-4
Though it is never good to be jealous, sometimes it is understandable. Jealousy among siblings is often caused by parents who favor one child over another. In this case, Jacob (also known as Israel after his name was changed by God) heavily favored Joseph, the youngest of his twelve sons. All of Joseph's brothers became very jealous of him. Still, was this the right way to react? Yes, Jacob should have shown the same amount of love to all his children, but like all humans, he wasn't perfect. But instead of developing such a jealous hatred for Joseph, his brothers could have handled the situation with much more love.
Question to Ponder: If you have children, do you try to treat them fairly or do you have a favorite?
It happened after this that the king of the people of Ammon died, and Hanun his son reigned in his place. Then David said, "I will show kindness to Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father showed kindness to me." So David sent by the hand of his servants to comfort him concerning his father. And David's servants came into the land of the people of Ammon. And the princes of the people of Ammon said to Hanun their lord, "Do you think that David really honors your father because he has sent comforters to you? Has David not rather sent his servants to you to search the city, to spy it out, and to overthrow it?" - 2 Samuel 10:1-3
Just like he did with Jonathan's son in the previous chapter, David once again tries to show lovingkindness to this king's son and all the people of this land. However, the result this time was quite different. Instead of simply accepting the kindness, the people grew suspicious and thought David was trying to spy on their city. While it's good to not be overly na´ve, it also isn't good to mistrust others so readily. Sometimes, there is no conspiracy theory, and people are just showing genuine kindness.
Question to Ponder: Do you tend to see too many conspiracies? If so, how can you try to view things differently?
Daniel Sees Jesus Again
Now on the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was by the side of the great river, that is, the Tigris, I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, a certain man clothed in linen, whose waist was girded with gold of Uphaz! His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like torches of fire, his arms and feet like burnished bronze in color, and the sound of his words like the voice of a multitude. And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision; but a great terror fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves. Therefore I was left alone when I saw this great vision, and no strength remained in me; for my vigor was turned to frailty in me, and I retained no strength. - Daniel 10:4-8
In Daniel 7:13-14, Daniel saw someone who was most likely the preincarnate Jesus Christ. Here, he seems to see Jesus again, based on the description. It is similar to the description given by the prophet Ezekiel in Ezekiel 1:4. This vision was for Daniel alone, and it was so powerful that it caused him to lose his strength. We'll discuss more about this vision in the coming weeks.
Question to Ponder: Have you ever had an encounter with God that was very intense or powerful?
Eating With Sinners, Part 1 of 2
Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them. And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, "Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" - Luke 5:29-30
Levi did a wonderful, gracious thing for Jesus by throwing a great feast for Him and in His honor. Many other tax collectors joined them at the feast, probably just because they worked together and knew each other. This greatly troubled the Pharisees, who were looking for any excuse to judge and trap Jesus. In the Jewish culture of that time, eating a meal with a sinner may have signified that you accepted that person's sin. However, since we're all sinners, that point of view really doesn't make much sense. The central problem was that the "religious" people didn't realize that they were also sinners; they thought they were better than everyone else. Next week, we will see how Jesus responds to their question.
Question to Ponder: Are you a sinner--meaning, have you ever done anything you shouldn't have done in your entire life?
Roles of Parents and Children, Part 2 of 2
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise: "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth." And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. - Ephesians 6:1-4
Your children and your family should come before everything except God. Recently I observed a girl who was excitedly trying to tell her father about something good that happened in school that day, but the father was so engrossed in reading something on his cell phone that I'm not even sure he knew his daughter was standing next to him. He certainly didn't hear anything she was saying. Is that really the right way to treat a child? It broke my heart to watch that, and that is just one example of our so many people in our society have gotten their priorities all mixed up. Other than spending time with God, nothing should be more important to you than spending time with your family.
Question to Ponder: God should come first; otherwise, what things do you place before your family that you shouldn't?
The law of the wise is a fountain of life,
To turn one away from the snares of death.
- Proverbs 13:14
Laws exist for a reason--to help us know what is right and what is wrong. We can apply laws from the Old Testament in a similar way because, although Jesus came to wash away our sins and set up the New Covenant, those laws from the Old Covenant still serve a purpose by helping us see what we should and should not do. Some people make the claim that, once you become a Christian, you can do whatever you want because all your sins are forgiven. While that may technically be true, I have strong disagreements with that line of thinking. First of all, if you have truly been saved and changed by Jesus, then you shouldn't want to keep living a sinful lifestyle. Secondly, living that kind of lifestyle is a terrible witness to others and tells the world that Christians aren't any different from anyone else. Do you really want to harm everyone's Christian witness in such a way? Finally, the law still exists to help us see that we can't live perfect lives and that we are sinners in need of a Savior.
Question to Ponder: Is following God's law in your life important to you?
Let those be put to shame and brought to dishonor
Who seek after my life;
Let those be turned back and brought to confusion
Who plot my hurt.
For without cause they have hidden their net for me in a pit,
Which they have dug without cause for my life.
Let destruction come upon him unexpectedly,
And let his net that he has hidden catch himself;
Into that very destruction let him fall.
- Psalm 35:4, 7-8
David continues his prayer in these verses, asking God to deliver him from those who seek to kill him. At first, his prayer seems wise; he asks God to bring shame, dishonor, and confusion to those people. After that, I think he goes a little too far, asking for their destruction. I feel like the first part of this prayer is a wiser approach, and perhaps you can apply a similar idea to your prayers if you find yourself in a situation as desperate as David's. Instead of wishing for some type of physical harm as you may be tempted to do, ask God to confuse your enemies or take away something else from them such as fame or fortune.
Question to Ponder: Do you try to pray with wisdom and guidance, or do you just pray that God will destroy your enemies?
Encouraging the Jealousy
Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more. So he said to them, "Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf." And his brothers said to him, "Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?" So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. - Genesis 37:5-8
Joseph's brothers were already very jealous of him because he was their father's favorite son, but Joseph didn't do much himself to dispel those jealous feelings. By telling him about this dream plus another one that was similar (see verses 9-11), he only encouraged that jealousy. It's hard to say what his motives were for telling them about his dream, but regardless of motive, it wasn't the best way to handle the situation. If you know someone is jealous of you, don't make the same mistake that Joseph made here. With humility, try to encourage the other person and show them the same love that Jesus gives to you.
Question to Ponder: Do you do anything that could provoke someone else's jealousy?
Therefore Hanun took David's servants, shaved off half of their beards, cut off their garments in the middle, at their buttocks, and sent them away. When they told David, he sent to meet them, because the men were greatly ashamed. And the king said, "Wait at Jericho until your beards have grown, and then return." - 2 Samuel 10:4-5
Although it's not the main point of this story, this short passage caught my attention. Why were these men so ashamed? I'm sure they got new clothes, so it was because their beards were partially shaved off. Granted, a man's beard in this culture was much more significant than it is in ours today, but still, it is merely an aspect of physical appearance. We only need to look back at 1 Samuel 16:7 to see how the Lord views such things. We're the only ones who see the outer appearance; He just looks at the heart. I know these men had to be embarrassed and ashamed, but it seems to me that the better place for them during this time would have been back home with their families. Physical appearance truly is meaningless, and a major decision should never be based on looks.
Question to Ponder: How much effort do you put into your physical appearance? How important is that to God?
Attributes of Daniel
Suddenly, a hand touched me, which made me tremble on my knees and on the palms of my hands. And he said to me, "O Daniel, man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you." While he was speaking this word to me, I stood trembling. Then he said to me, "Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words." - Daniel 10:10-12
It seems most likely that an angel of God is now speaking to Daniel in his vision. Why was Daniel chosen for this gift and responsibility? God saw that Daniel had a heart to understand and that Daniel humbled himself before Him. The angel also tells Daniel that God has heard his prayers for Israel and that is why he (the angel) has come. Daniel had such great fear and respect for God that he trembled, and that makes me wonder--do we have that same fear and respect today? If (hypothetically) Jesus Himself walked toward you on the street, would you run to Him in awe and reverence or would you be too busy to even stop?
Question to Ponder: Do you fear and respect God as much as Daniel did?
Eating With Sinners, Part 2 of 2
Jesus answered and said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." - Luke 5:31-32
This is Jesus' response to the Pharisees who question why He is eating a meal with a bunch of tax collectors and sinners, and His analogy is perfect. Would you go to the doctor if you felt like you were well? Of course not! You go to the doctor when you're sick and in need of healing. Similarly, those who are sinners go to Jesus for spiritual healing. Of course, we are all sinners--but some people, such as these so-called religious leaders, didn't realize that they were sinners too. They thought they were good enough for God on their own, so they didn't feel like they needed to see Jesus for spiritual healing. Countless people in today's world have the same problem. Many people hope they're good enough to get into heaven, but that isn't the way it works. Jesus calls us all to repentance, but only those who realize their sin are able to respond to His call.
Question to Ponder: Do you realize your need for a Savior? Have you asked Jesus to forgive you for your sins?
Roles of Employers and Employees, Part 1 of 2
Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. - Ephesians 6:5-8
Although we don't really have servants or slaves in this society like they did back when this was written, this passage can be applied in another context. Most of you who read this are employees, serving an employer in some capacity. I am blessed to work for good, caring employers, but if you don't, what can you do? In this passage, Paul says that you should still serve God and follow the example of Christ. Do good things and work hard because God still sees what you're doing, even if the people you work for don't seem to appreciate it. Remember that in the end, God's opinion of what you have done is all that really matters.
Question to Ponder: Even if your job isn't easy or enjoyable, could your attitude toward it be more Christ-like?
Knowledge and Understanding
Good understanding gains favor,
But the way of the unfaithful is hard.
Every prudent man acts with knowledge,
But a fool lays open his folly.
- Proverbs 13:15-16
These two verses from Proverbs are pretty self-explanatory. Don't follow the way of the fool or the unfaithful. Many non-Christians (and, unfortunately, even some Christians) often do things that they know they'll regret, but they go ahead and do those things anyway. The way of the fool or the unfaithful is hard because such people have a tendency to make poor choices (as they aren't being guided by the Holy Spirit), creating a multitude of problems for themselves. Instead, the proverbs advise us to act with knowledge and understanding. Use wisdom and understanding as you respond to different situations, trying to understand the person and the situation rather than just reacting before you think. If you use it regularly, good understanding may be among your most useful attributes, especially in how you deal with others.
Question to Ponder: Do you show wise understanding to the people around you?
Giving Thanks and Praise to God
Lord, how long will You look on?
Rescue me from their destructions,
My precious life from the lions.
I will give You thanks in the great assembly;
I will praise You among many people.
- Psalm 35:17-18
When God rescues you or delivers you from a trial, or when He does some other work in your life, do you give Him thanks and praise or do you move on and forget what He has done for you? For too many people, I think the latter is true. We see similar things in the Bible with the Israelites. God delivered them from many enemies, but they quickly forgot and found something else to complain about. When God does something wonderful in your life, thank Him for it! Even more, tell others what He has done! That is one of the most powerful witnessing tools you will be given, and you can use that to help draw more people to Christ.
Question to Ponder: Who is the receiver of your praise and thanksgiving--God, other people, or yourself?
Effects of Jealousy
And the man said, "They have departed from here, for I heard them say, Let us go to Dothan. " So Joseph went after his brothers and found them in Dothan. Now when they saw him afar off, even before he came near them, they conspired against him to kill him. Then they said to one another, "Look, this dreamer is coming! Come therefore, let us now kill him and cast him into some pit; and we shall say, Some wild beast has devoured him. We shall see what will become of his dreams!" - Genesis 37:17-20
Hopefully, you've never been so jealous of someone that you actually wanted to kill that person. Still, jealousy can lead to some very strong negative emotions and reactions. It's important not to let jealousy control you the way Joseph's brothers did in this passage. They allowed their jealousy to fully consume them to the point that they were willing to kill their own brother! Take a moment to think about something that you have done out of jealousy. Was your reaction justified, and if not, what could you have done differently? We should all try to act out of Jesus' love, not out of resentment and jealousy.
Question to Ponder: How can you respond better to feelings of jealousy?
Jumping to Conclusions
When the people of Ammon saw that they had made themselves repulsive to David, the people of Ammon sent and hired the Syrians of Beth Rehob and the Syrians of Zoba, twenty thousand foot soldiers; and from the king of Maacah one thousand men, and from Ish-Tob twelve thousand men. Now when David heard of it, he sent Joab and all the army of the mighty men. Then the people of Ammon came out and put themselves in battle array at the entrance of the gate. And the Syrians of Zoba, Beth Rehob, Ish-Tob, and Maacah were by themselves in the field. - 2 Samuel 10:6-8
Aside from all the unusual and hard-to-pronounce names, the main idea of this passage is the battle that is about to take place--a completely unnecessary battle. If you recall the devotional from two weeks ago, David tried to show kindness to the people of Ammon, but they became suspicious instead and this battle was the ultimate result. The lesson for us? Don't jump to conclusions about someone's motives or intentions. If you're wrong, the consequences could be disastrous.
Question to Ponder: If you ever jump to the wrong conclusion with disastrous results, how can you react differently?
Good vs. Evil
"But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia. Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come." - Daniel 10:13-14
This is an interesting little passage, and I did some extra research to try to better understand what is going on here. It wouldn't make sense for an angel to be held back by a mere human for 21 days, so most people seem to agree that this passage refers to a battle between good and evil. The "prince of the kingdom of Persia" seems to be someone who is working for Satan, trying to lead and influence the people of Persia. This is one passage that reminds us that the battle between good and evil is very real. It isn't something many of us talk about very often, but we find multiple references to it in the Bible and it is a real battle. This is one reason why we need to be very careful about the kinds of evil things we allow to come into our hearts and minds.
Question to Ponder: What sorts of things do you watch (TV, movies) or listen to (music) that would not be pleasing to God?
Jesus Sees the Heart
Then they said to Him, "Why do the disciples of John fast often and make prayers, and likewise those of the Pharisees, but Yours eat and drink?" And He said to them, "Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days." - Luke 5:33-35
Basically, Jesus responds to this question from the Pharisees by saying that this is not the right time for fasting. I'm not completely sure of this, but I assume that is because He knew He would only be here for such a short time, and He wanted to make that time count. He knew fasting could (and would) be done after His resurrection and ascension. Really, though, all of that is rather irrelevant. Once again, these so-called religious leaders are not setting a very good example for their followers by once again trying to criticize and trap Jesus. The Pharisees fasted mainly so that others could see how "good" they were. Jesus, of course, is more concerned with the heart. Outward actions are good, but what's on the inside is what truly counts.
Question to Ponder: Do you ever do anything "religious" just to try to impress other people? What does God think of that?
Roles of Employers and Employees, Part 2 of 2
Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ ... And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him. - Ephesians 6:5, 9
Last week I applied this passage to employees, especially those of you who work in a less than desirable environment. If instead you are the boss or the owner of a company, then this week's devotional applies to you. Just as Christ loves the church, husbands love their wives, and parents love their children, you are also to care for and look after your employees. Treat them fairly, following Christ's example in the decisions that you make. Remember that each employee is a person, not just a number or a salary figure. In spite of the difficult economy, remember to show kindness and brotherly love when making business decisions. It isn't always easy from a financial standpoint, but if you do what's right, I believe God will take care of you and your business.
Question to Ponder: If people work under you in any capacity, what, if anything, could you do to treat them better?
Reacting to Rebuke
Poverty and shame will come to him who disdains correction,
But he who regards a rebuke will be honored.
- Proverbs 13:18
There are several proverbs which deal with the issue of accepting rebuke. Proverbs 13:1 is another, which I just wrote two devotionals about a couple of months ago. Clearly, the writer of the proverbs (through the hand of God) felt that it is an important subject. We have an epidemic in the world today of people who let themselves get all offended about something someone tells them when they should be listening to that advice instead. Many people just want to do their own thing and don't want anyone telling them that something they're doing may be wrong or sinful. It has long been my opinion that a friend isn't really a true friend unless he or she tells you the truth. Someone who just goes along with you on everything you do, whether something is right or wrong, isn't a true friend. We need to rebuke and correct one another--with lovingkindness, of course, but we need to do that in order to keep each other on the right path in this life.
Question to Ponder: Are you completely honest with your friends, and do you allow them to be completely honest with you?
Our Just Judge
This You have seen, O Lord;
Do not keep silence.
O Lord, do not be far from me.
Stir up Yourself, and awake to my vindication,
To my cause, my God and my Lord.
Vindicate me, O Lord my God, according to Your righteousness;
And let them not rejoice over me.
- Psalm 35:22-24
I suspect many of us have had thoughts similar to these, perhaps when it seems like someone has done something that isn't right and has gotten away with it. We want to be vindicated while the people responsible are punished. Keep in mind that, while such things may happen from time to time in this life, Jesus is the ultimate judge and all will be brought to justice at the appointed time. Things aren't always fair in this world, but thankfully we serve a perfectly fair and just God who makes all things right in the end!
Question to Ponder: Is it healthy to have a strong desire for revenge when you've been wronged by someone?
Still Jealous, but a Little More Sensible
But Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands, and said, "Let us not kill him." And Reuben said to them, "Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit which is in the wilderness, and do not lay a hand on him"-that he might deliver him out of their hands, and bring him back to his father. So it came to pass, when Joseph had come to his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the tunic of many colors that was on him. Then they took him and cast him into a pit. And the pit was empty; there was no water in it. - Genesis 37:21-24
Reuben, one of Joseph's eleven brothers, came to his defense--sort of, anyway. He still wanted to get rid of his brother and he was still being consumed by jealousy, but at least he realized that killing Joseph would have gone too far. What can we learn from Reuben? If everyone around you is determined to do something that you know is wrong, take a firm stand against it. You never know when your stand could make a major difference in what happens next. Unfortunately, Reuben wasn't there to stop his brothers from their next choice, which we'll discuss next week.
Question to Ponder: Have you ever taken such a firm stand against something that you knew was wrong?
When Joab saw that the battle line was against him before and behind, he chose some of Israel's best and put them in battle array against the Syrians. And the rest of the people he put under the command of Abishai his brother, that he might set them in battle array against the people of Ammon. Then he said, "If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me; but if the people of Ammon are too strong for you, then I will come and help you. Be of good courage, and let us be strong for our people and for the cities of our God. And may the Lord do what is good in His sight." - 2 Samuel 10:9-12
Since this battle only took place because the people of Ammon were suspicious of David's kindness, David had every reason to be angry. After all, he was only trying to make peace with his neighbors! But as we can see here, his trust in God never wavered. He knew the Lord would look after him and his people and do "what is good in His sight" and David's faith never seemed to waver. God always cares for His people. Is your faith this strong when facing a battle in your own life?
Question to Ponder: How does your faith compare with the strong, unwavering faith of David?
Weakening Us to Strengthen Us
When he had spoken such words to me, I turned my face toward the ground and became speechless. And suddenly, one having the likeness of the sons of men touched my lips; then I opened my mouth and spoke, saying to him who stood before me, "My lord, because of the vision my sorrows have overwhelmed me, and I have retained no strength. For how can this servant of my lord talk with you, my lord? As for me, no strength remains in me now, nor is any breath left in me." Then again, the one having the likeness of a man touched me and strengthened me. And he said, "O man greatly beloved, fear not! Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong!" So when he spoke to me I was strengthened, and said, "Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me." - Daniel 10:15-19
God strengthened Daniel after Daniel was weakened by the intensity of the visions and the presence of God. God does the same thing for all of us. Sometimes He has to weaken us temporarily to get our attention, but He is still taking care of us and He will give us the strength we need to overcome anything in this life (see John 16:33)!
Question to Ponder: If you have ever had an experience like this, how did your weak period ultimately strengthen you?
Old vs. New
Then He spoke a parable to them: "No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, The old is better." - Luke 5:36-39
This passage can be difficult to understand (at least it has been for me). Basically, Jesus is referring to the differences between the old law and the new law, which came about with His death and resurrection. At that point, the old law was no longer in effect because Jesus became the way, the truth, and the life. The primary reason of the old law is to show us that we cannot live a sin-free life and that we do, in fact, need Jesus as our Savior.
Question to Ponder: Are you able to keep every aspect of the law, perfectly, or do you need a Savior?