More Devotional Readings from the Old Testament
Rich Lessons that are Never Outdated
Some people sort of ignore the Old Testament. After all, since Jesus died and freed us from the chains of the law and then sent the Holy Spirit, we have all we need in Him. But this doesn't detract from all of the beautiful rich lessons we find in those most ancient scriptures.
I enjoy reading those first books of the Bible. On this page you'll find lessons from Moses and Joshua as well as Gideon and more. Take a moment and meditate on how God speaks to you in the lessons from these Old Testament heroes.
Here's what you'll find on this page:
- Avoiding Catastrophe
- The Blame Game
- Caught Up in the Victory
- The Least in my Family
- We Need Our Rest
- Leaving it All Behind
Deuteronomy 28:58-61 (MSG)
If you don’t diligently keep all the words of this Revelation written in this book, living in holy awe before This Name glorious and terrible, God, your God, then God will pound you with catastrophes, you and your children, huge interminable catastrophes, hideous interminable illnesses. He’ll bring back and stick you with every old Egyptian malady that once terrorized you. And yes, every disease and catastrophe imaginable—things not even written in the Book of this Revelation—God will bring on you until you’re destroyed.
Ok, so that’s not the most uplifting passage of scripture. You don’t like the idea of God “pounding you with catastrophes.” Yeah . . . me neither.
I’ve been participating in a study by Henry Blackaby called “Experiencing God.” One of the things Rev. Blackaby says over and over is my actions and my excuses tell what I really believe about God. For instance, if someone is lackadaisical about church attendance, when they say, “I can worship God wherever I am, I don’t need to meet with other Christians,” what they’re really saying is, “I don’t think God meant what He said in Hebrews 10:24-25.
Those who can’t afford to tithe, it’s not there’s not enough money, it’s they don’t believe what God said in Malachi 3:10, “Bring the whole tithe . . . test me in this.” Christians who don’t read scripture have all kinds of excuses, but bottom line is we don’t really believe what God has to say is of utmost importance. When we neglect our prayer life, what we believe deep in our heart is God doesn’t do anything when I pray anyway.
The words I hear when I read the message from Blackaby are “I may think my reasons for not obeying scripture are more about me, but they’re really about what I believe about God.” Often we say, “I believe God is all powerful, but I don’t know if He answers my prayers.” That statement says a lot about how much we believe God loves and cares for each of us. It also says we think our weaknesses are stronger than God’s power.
I talk to folks all the time who want to hear the voice of God. They want to know what God’s thinking. Oh, that God would tell them exactly which job to apply for or whether or not to buy the new car. But why should we expect God to give us revelations outside of scripture when we aren’t doing the things He already told us to do?
“If you don’t diligently keep all the words written in this book . . .” What if the calamities Deuteronomy pronounces are brought on because we’re walking outside the will of God? That’s not to say evil doesn’t touch people who are walking with the Savior, but how much would we avoid if we simply read the word of God and put it into practice in our lives?
Here are some questions I’m asking myself today, and I hope you will too:
- How much of what the Father wrote am I putting into practice in my life?
- In those places I’m not practicing scripture, what am I really saying regarding what I believe about God?
- What do I need to change to avoid the catastrophes inevitable when I don’t walk with my Savior?
The Blame Game
AKA "Are You living on Denial?"
Moses is one of the greatest men in Judeo-Christian history. Almighty God saved him from death as an infant, gave him standing in the house of Pharaoh, spoke to him from a burning bush and made him leader of the nation of Israel. He spoke with God "as a man speaks to his friend" and left for us a treasure of God's plan for us in the first five books of what we now call the Bible.Because of his greatness, we may be tempted to put Moses on a pedestal, but these few verses today remind us he was human. If you aren't familiar with the details of Moses' life, you might wonder how this short passage puts Moses' immortality into question. However, it's only mortal man who forgets his (or her) mistakes and puts the blame on others.
Go back for a moment and read Numbers 20:6-12. The people of Israel are thirsty. They believe they've been led into the wilderness to die, or at least that's the drama of the conversation. But God loves His people and to show His love and demonstrate His power and might, he commands Moses and Aaron to take the staff from His presence and go speak to the rock. God promised that water would come pouring out. Moses did take the staff. He and Aaron did go the rock. However, when he got there, he chastised the people and struck the rock, not once but twice, with the staff. His exact words before he struck the rock were, "must we bring you water out of this rock?"
Water did pour out of the rock when Moses spoke, but there was a problem. Moses didn't trust God enough to follow instructions. Fortunately for Moses (and us), God often works even when we are disobedient. It would have been a terrible thing for all of Israel if Moses' disobedience had kept the entire nation from getting a drink. But as we see in the Numbers 6:12, Moses missed out on the promised land, not because the Lord was angry with the nation of Israel, but because Moses didn't trust God enough to honor Him as holy before the people.
In our lives we often want to blame others when things don't go right because of our disobedience. We rationalize that the job got done and people were ministered to. Sometimes we ignore the fact that we grumbled through the ministry or we jumped ahead of God and did ministry that was someone else's to do. If God blesses the project regardless of our disobedience, we assume anything we may have done was acceptable.
It won't take long, however, to begin to feel as though we missed out on the promised land. And when that happens, we find someone to blame. Moses, the holy and chosen one of God did it, and most of us in church leadership do it one time or another. It doesn't mean God loves us any less. But it does mean that if we want to be more Christ-like, we need to take responsibility for our own actions and walk in the truth, even when the truth reveals facts we don't find flattering.
Moses spoke with God as a man "speaks to his friend"
The good news is Christ still loves us. There is nothing except a hard heart that can keep Him from forgiving us and showering His grace on us. So the next time you hear yourself blaming, have a talk with your Savior, ask Him to reveal the truth to your heart and spend some time growing in His grace.
Caught Up in the Victory
A lesson for leaders from Joshua
This story falls right after many wins for the Israelites. They'd been blessed by God and had been able to overtake their enemies on every side. Unfortunately, countless victory got the best of them.
Joshua was a fine leader. He was devoted to God and led the people of Israel in a way that kept them following their Creator, but when the Gibeonites came by, impersonating foreigners from a country far away, he made a fatal mistake. Despite his doubt and ignoring the nagging suspicion we can hear so obviously in his voice, he looked at the bread and the wine, the clothes and the shoes and neglected the most important step of his investigation.
Joshua and the leaders of Israel forgot to consult their Commander in Chief. Their egos got the best of them. They'd won enough battles that they got a little cocky and decided to start making decisions on their own.That was their first mistake, and then they made the treaty with the Gibeonites. Little did they know how quickly their decision would come back to haunt them. Some mistakes take years for the repercussions to become evident, but for Joshua and the nation of Israel, it only took three days for the folly of their ways to catch up with them.
As leaders in the Kingdom of God, we have to be very careful we don't let our egos outwit our wisdom. We often come to our meetings from busy days and stress filled lives. Too many times we are in a hurry to get in and out, and it's just too easy to rely on our own wisdom as we make decisions that will affect the body of Christ. We look at the finance reports, listen to common sense discussions and base our decisions on what our eyes can see and ears can hear instead of inviting and waiting for the Holy Spirit to speak.
As a result we too often find ourselves running ahead of God, doing things that seem wonderful but aren't in His master plan. How might our decisions change if we come to every meeting having prayed for at least 15 minutes? What would our decisions look like if we spent time in prayer, not before every vote, but before each discussion? How might our personal lives change if we were in the scripture first thing in the morning every single day?
If the leaders of Joshua's day had consulted their one true King, Gibeon's ruse would have probably been uncovered. Israel could have seen one more win. As leaders we have a responsibility to learn from Joshua and Israel's mistakes and continually look to God to reveal His will to us.Early in his leadership Joshua told the people "Choose this day whom you will serve." He was worried about the gods of the other nations getting in the way of Israel following God. It never occurred to him that ego would be just as lethal. Let's not let the blessings God gives us keep us from the wisdom he wants to bestow!
The Least in My Family
Have you ever read the story of Gideon? If you didn't read Judges 6-8 before you began reading this paragraph, take a moment and do it now. At least skim through it to familiarize yourself with Gideon's life.Gideon was one of the judges of Israel before the nation cried out for a king. He's most famous for the fleece he laid out two nights in a row. He asked God to make the ground wet and the fleece dry and then the fleece dry and the ground wet so he'd be sure he was following God's will. That seems to be what we remember most about Gideon. I hear Christians often comment, "I put out a fleece" for this or that.
We are intrigued by Gideon because everyone wants to know God's will for his or her life.But what if the fleece is only one small part of the story of Gideon? What if we are missing a slightly bigger picture because we focus on the fleece? Maybe some of you are thinking, "You're right, it's not the fleece. It's how the won the battle with such a small army." Well, you're right, that's an important part of Gideon's legacy, too. However, there's one more lesson we can learn from Gideon. It's right at the beginning of his story, and it's one that must be learned before we can truly know God's will or defeat the enemy in the battle which seems too big to win.
Read once again Judges 6:11. Do you see what God's messenger called Gideon? In God's eyes Gideon was a Mighty Warrior. Yep, that's what the angel of the Lord called Gideon when he was threshing wheat in a winepress for fear of the Midianites. But as we continue reading through verse 15, we discover that Gideon didn't view himself quite the same way that God did. Where God saw a mighty warrior, Gideon saw the least likely person in the least likely family in a country that got very little notoriety in a nation that had been abandoned by God.
Do you ever feel like Gideon? Have you ever felt as though you were a nobody on the road to nowhere? When is the last time you hid to avoid something unpleasant? If you can relate to any of those statements, you know exactly how Gideon felt. With the exception that this man was now being confronted with his true identity, the real man that God had created him to be.
Today is the day to ask yourself, "Do you feel as though you are living up to the potential that God created you to live?" Do you see yourself as your Heavenly Father sees you? Or do you feel like Gideon, the least important person you know, hiding in an unlikely spot so no one will notice you? God may not be calling you Mighty Warrior, but rest assured He has a perfect name for you, one that describes the real you, not the you that's been formed by years of negativity and doubt. God sees the potential. He knows what you're capable of. Perhaps He's been calling you to something you're sure you can't do. If so, then you understand better than anyone the turmoil that must have been going on within Gideon as he stood before that angel.
You are precious to God, and He has a special plan for your life. To live up to His potential, we need to be always listening for His voice and watching where He might lead. Additionally, when He whispers our new name in our ear or sends others to remind us of how important we are in His eyes, it's vital we believe this new truth, no matter how opposite it may seem to the lies the world has been filling our head with.The Lord is with you . . . and knows your name, not just the name your parents gave you. God knows your REAL name, the name that truly describes you, the name He gave you, the name that is filled with all the beauty and potential that is really you.
We Need Our Rest
1 Kings 19:1-8
Have you ever felt like Elijah, so overwhelmed with life that you just wanted God to make it all go away? Perhaps your job has you feeling "no better than" those who've gone before you. Maybe family problems, illness or overwhelming debt causes you to spend much of your time worrying. Nearly everyone gets to that point in their life where they feel like they just can't go on anymore. Often times however, we just keep pushing on. Instead we need to take a lesson from Elijah.
When Elijah reached his breaking point, he went to a place all by himself, poured his heart out to his Creator and rested. He didn't do anything miraculous or mighty. He didn't even say a prayer that could be considered wise or inspirational. Elijah simply said, "Lord, take me now," and then He took a nap!
Our bodies were created to need rest. One of the first gifts He gave His creation was the Sabbath. Obviously God didn't need the break, but He took one to set the example for His beloved (that's us). Our humanness demands a sabbatical. And if we look to Elijah for guidance in our state of despair, we'll see a hearty meal is on the agenda also. After we pass from this life to the next, the need for rest and nutrition will probably be left behind, but until then this tent that houses our eternal souls needs both sustenance and sleep.So, when was the last time you made sure that your body had the proper nourishment as well as a good night's sleep? Did you ever consider that God WANTS you to give yourself these necessities? In fact, an angel came and told Elijah to eat and drink.
I wonder if Elijah had been working hard and worrying so much about his safety that he neglected his simple daily needs.And look at what happened after Elijah did as the angel instructed. After two good meals and enough sleep to make two meals necessary, Elijah got up strengthened and refreshed. He was able to travel the necessary 40 days and nights until he came to the Holy Mountain of God.
I think sometimes Christians think that all God is concerned for is our Spiritual side. But this piece of history is a good reminder that our heavenly Father cares about our human needs as well. As leaders, we must be sure to take care of ourselves in order to be able to give all we need to others. And when we do, like Elijah, we'll be much better equipped to make the journey our Creator calls us to. Whether it's four days or forty days, when we get to the mountain of the Lord, we'll be ready for whatever it is He has planned for us!
Leaving it all Behind
I Kings 19:19-21
19 So, Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. 20 Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. "Let me kiss my father and mother good-by," he said, "and then I will come with you.""Go back," Elijah replied. "What have I done to you?"21 So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant.
As I read this retelling of Elisha's call to ministry, I was reminded of the three men Jesus called in Luke 9:57-62. The first promised to follow, the second would follow after his father died, and the third wanted to say good-bye to his family before he left, much like Elisha. In each instance, Jesus replied in an odd fashion, with a response that seemed to almost discourage the disciple from following: "I don't have a roof over my head," "let the dead bury their own dead" and "If you look back, you're not fit to follow me."
At first glance I thought this discourse between Elijah and Elisha was exactly opposite of that between Jesus and these would-be followers. Elisha wants to go home and kiss his parents good-bye, but Elijah doesn't care. Jesus on the other hand seems to be almost scolding those who want to take care of their family.
However, as I pondered the scripture I realized that these three New Testament "Elishas" probably knew this story. And while the account of Jesus and these three men leaves us wondering the outcome, we know that Elisha not only kissed his parents good-bye, he took his plow and his oxen and gave up his farming days forever.
Jesus said, "No one who sets his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the Kingdom of God." Elisha, the farmer, would have understood what Jesus meant by that. Even the man Jesus spoke to in that era where farming was the primary means of making a living would have known that Jesus didn't intend to discourage, He was explaining that service in the Kingdom is like plowing a field. A farmer who looks backward when plowing creates a crooked furrow. Eventually two rows will run into one another, and the garden won't be as fruitful as it could be. Likewise, in our service to Christ, if we don't keep our eyes forward, focused on the job at hand and the goal at the end, the harvest will be paltry or worse.
Elisha gave us a perfect example of the "no turning back" philosophy Jesus portrayed in these verses in Luke. He didn't go back to simply say good-bye to his parents. Elisha went back to say good-bye to his entire way of life. He burned his yoke of oxen and his plow. Not only did he tell his parents good-bye, but he demonstrated to them all, including all the folks he fed, that this segment of his life was over. His actions spoke loud and clear that he was now a disciple of Elijah. This wasn't just a fling or a new job he would try out for a couple of weeks to see if he liked it. Elisha knew he would never be back to plow the fields again.
These few verses made me examine my own life and gave me a challenge for others. Have I broken and burned my plow and burned my oxen on top of them? Are there things in my life that I need to turn my back on since I've set my course on being a follower of Jesus Christ? Am I willing to leave it all behind for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Elisha demonstrates to us the drastic steps we may need to take to be sure we aren't "looking back." His store brings new meaning to the phrase "burning bridges." Jesus knew it wouldn't be easy. He never promised it would be. He did tell us if we were willing to leave it all behind we would "not fail to receive a hundred times as much in this age and the age to come." (Mark 10:30) No, serving Christ, helping others find real life in the Gospel of Jesus won't be easy, but go ahead burn that plow, because Jesus promised it will be worth it.
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© 2015 Lynne Modranski