Day 160: A Humble King

Jeremiah 3-4; John 13:1-20

Key Verses

Jeremiah 3:12-13
“‘Return, faithless Israel,
declares the Lord.
I will not look on you in anger,
for I am merciful,
declares the Lord;
I will not be angry forever.
Only acknowledge your guilt,
that you rebelled against the Lord your God.'”

John 13:3-5
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Servitude. Is that a characteristic you would expect from God? This is the same God that spoke the world into existence. Are we to expect the mighty, sovereign, all-powerful God to be a servant?

According to traditional Jewish teachings, Jesus, the Messiah, was not supposed to come into the world to wash people’s feet and then die. No. That was a servant’s job. That was a criminal’s job. That was not the Messiah’s job.

But was it? The people didn’t understand this crucial part of God’s character… humble servitude.

What motivated Jesus to wash the dusty feet of his disciples? Humility. It was also humility that motivated God to condescend to the stiff-necked Israelites. In today’s passage from Jeremiah, most of Chapter 3 was God’s invitation to exiled Israel to repent and be forgiven. After all of the Baal worship, child sacrifice, and faithless living, God was still willing to forgive the penitent heart. We do not serve a Haughty God. No! We serve a Humble King.

Where is their room for pride in the presence of this God? His sheer power should cause us to tremble in fear. But his humility causes us to wonder – and to repent – and… to worship.

Humble King

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Day 139: A woman of excellence

Proverbs 30-31; John 4:1-30

Key Verses

Proverbs 31:30
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

John 4:13-14
Jesus said to [the Samaritan woman], “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The Proverbs 31 woman. Just the thought of her makes me feel stressed. She is kind to the needy, makes fine clothes, prepares nutritious meals, doesn’t get much sleep and has a real estate business on the side!

I have to remind myself every time I read this chapter, that she is the ideal embodiment of wisdom. This description is actually an acrostic poem – describing her entire life. It is NOT “a day in the life of the perfect woman!”

If I’m honest, I have more in common with the Samaritan woman found in John 4. I’m not referring to her promiscuity – but to her imperfections in general. Her life was scarred by a cruel world – yet she still had hope for the Messiah.

Little did she know she would meet her Messiah in the most mundane of ways. Here was the King of all creation, sitting beside a well, tired from traveling. I imagine he was dusty and thirsty. He used this ordinary moment to teach an ordinary woman that He is the living water. She listened because she was thirsty – and she needed some of that living water!

I’m thirsty… oh so thirsty. And that’s the first step to becoming the woman of excellence described in Proverbs 31. She is full – filled with the living water of the Spirit of God – which has overflowed into all areas of her life – bringing peace and joy to her and to others.

I need to go find myself some of that living water :)

Day 138: Increasing & Decreasing

Proverbs 28-29; John 3:22-36

Key Verses

Proverbs 29:23
One’s pride will bring him low,
but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.

John 3:36
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

John the Baptist was not a prideful man. He didn’t aspire to greatness. He didn’t want accolades. He lived in the wilderness, dressed strangely, and ate a poor man’s diet. He understood his role. He was to prepare the way for the King.

When Jesus came, John knew. He must decrease so that the Son might increase. His role was complete. He fulfilled his mission, and God was honored.

John the Baptist was honored because of his place in the redemptive story of Jesus. He had no idea that millions of people would learn of his humble obedience through the gospels. In the same way, we have a place in God’s redemptive story. We have been adopted as His children. We are part of His family.

This is the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is where we find the strength to decrease so that He might increase… This is our hope. This is our life!

Day 137: Hope for the Sinner

Proverbs 26-27; John 3:1-21

Key Verses

Proverbs 26:12
Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.

John 3:16
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Nicodemus. If any man were to be wise in his own eyes, it could have been him. Firstly, he was a Pharisee. Pharisees were the respected religious leaders of the Jews. They were notoriously pious. Jesus was constantly berating them for their hypocrisy.

If being a Pharisee wasn’t enough, Nicodemus was also a member of the Sanhedrin… the elite ruling body of the Jews. In other words, he was the elite of the elite.

But Nicodemus wasn’t a fool. He was smart enough to recognize that Jesus possessed power and knowledge that he did not have. Nicodemus humbled himself and sought Jesus by night.

It is in this context that we find the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16. It is one of the clearest statements of the gospel in all of Scripture. But to whom was Jesus speaking? He was speaking to a religious man who knew he didn’t have all the answers. He was speaking to a respected man who knew the darkness of his own heart. Nicodemus was not wise in his own eyes. He sought the Savior. In John 7:51, we read how he defended the Savior and at the end, Nicodemus helped to bury the Savior (19:39).

Jesus made it clear to Nicodemus, the Pharisee, what His purpose was… Whereas the Pharisees acted the role of a judge to the Jews – creating rules and handing out condemnation – “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). Jesus came into the world to save a man like Nicodemus – not because he was religious – but in spite of it. He saved Nicodemus because Nicodemus knew he needed to be saved! 

John 3:16 is for the humble. John 3:16 is for the lowly. John 3:16 is for the sinner.

Day 135: The Lamb of God

Proverbs 22-23; John 1:29-51

Key Verses

Proverbs 22:17-19
Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise,
and apply your heart to my knowledge,
for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you,
if all of them are ready on your lips.
That your trust may be in the Lord,
I have made them known to you today, even to you.

John 1:32; 34
And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. …And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

In today’s New Testament reading, John, the disciple, gives us gives us an insider’s view of Jesus’ first meeting with himself and the other future disciples, Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael.

When Nathanael first meets Jesus, he says to Him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Nathanael’s calling Jesus “King” reveals his expectations that Jesus would overthrow the Roman government and make Israel the most powerful nation on earth. All of the disciples expected this.

But John the Baptist saw something different in Jesus. He says twice in this passage, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” This is an astonishing statement!  By calling Jesus, “The Lamb of God,” John the Baptist was connecting Jesus to the Passover Lamb, which automatically conjured up images of sacrifice and death. Somehow, John the Baptist knew Jesus would be sacrificed as the final Passover Lamb. How else would He “take away the sins of the world” (vs. 29)?

Jesus was not what the Jewish nation expected. We have the luxury of hindsight and know why the Messiah had to suffer and die. We know that He is both the Lion and the Lamb! He established his spiritual Kingdom on earth through his humble Sacrifice. And because He is our King, He deserves our worship and praise!

Day 105: David’s Heart

1 Samuel 15-17; Luke 14:25-35

Key Verses

1 Samuel 16:7
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

Luke 14:27
Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

Saul… He had the audacity to use religious duty as an excuse to disobey God’s word – and we learn from vs. 15:30 that Saul’s first priority was to have honor in the people’s eyes. So, God sent Samuel to anoint a new king, and we read from today’s key verse the qualification most important to God – the condition of the heart.

We see the valor of David’s heart as he faces Goliath in Chapter 17, but more importantly, we see his trust in God! David was also equipped with the Spirit. We read in Chapter 16 (vs. 13-14) that after David was anointed by Samuel, God’s Spirit departed from Saul and rushed upon David. This Spirit was not associated with salvation (as in the New Testament) but rather the Spirit was an Equipper – helping God’s chosen leader to accomplish his kingly purpose.

We too have been given a royal purpose…

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2.9).

Jesus reminds us in today’s reading that discipleship requires whole-hearted commitment. But we have also been given the Equipper – the Holy Spirit – to help us accomplish this high calling.

So I ask… Are our hearts more like the self-serving Saul? Or more like the valiant David? I hope neither!!! I hope for my heart to be like Jesus! I think David would agree ;)

Prove me, O Lord, and try me;
test my heart and my mind.
For your steadfast love is before my eyes,
and I walk in your faithfulness (Psalm 26:2-3; of David).

Day 25: The Miracle That Only Peter Saw

Exodus 9-10; Matthew 17:24-18:6

Key Verses

Exodus 9:1
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, “Let my people go, that they may serve me.”

Matthew 18:2-4
And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Yesterday, we set the stage for my favorite of Jesus’ miracles. Today, we come to the miracle itself! Let’s look at it verse by verse…

When they came to Capernaum, (17:24)

Remember what the disciples had been arguing about on the way to Capernaum? Who was the greatest. They still expected Jesus to throw off his worn rags and overthrow Roman rule in strong military fashion, and then they would be the King’s right-hand men…

the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, (17:24-25)

Jesus spoke first. He knew what Peter was thinking before he even spoke….

saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? (17:25)

Jesus knew Peter’s heart – he knew of Peter’s dreams of glory and crowns that come with being a king…

From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. (17:25-26)

I can imagine Peter thinking (and fist pumping in his head…) “YES! The sons are free. We don’t have to pay the tax. You OWN that temple, Jesus! You are the King – and we are free from the tax! No go in and show them your GLORY!” And Jesus did show His glory – but not in the way Peter expected.

However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself” (17:27).

To paraphrase what Jesus said to Peter… “for the sake of the gospel, I will not offend the man in the temple – but you, Peter, know that I am Lord of Creation. To you, Peter, I will show that I have the power to control all of nature. To you, Peter, I will show that I am Lord of the rulers of the earth as I put their coin in the mouth of a fish. And you, Peter, need to know that I will lay it all down for the sake of the gospel and for the very man who works in the temple.”

If that weren’t clear enough to Peter… Jesus made his point crystal clear in the next verses. Only those with the humility of a child would be considered great in the Kingdom of God. The way of Jesus is service, humility and sacrifice. Are you willing to walk in the way of the Savior? Or will you be swept up in the strong current of the world – the way of power, wealth, fame and self-satisfaction?

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves… [Jesus] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:3; 6-8).

Day 324: Be Doers of the Word

Psalms 95-97; James 1

The book of James was written by James the Just, the half-brother of Jesus. The book begins similarly to an epistle, but after the greeting, the rest of the book is a collection of wisdom sayings focusing on works of righteousness.

Thinking of James as a list of Christian proverbs is a helpful framework from which to read James – especially since he covers a broad range of topics throughout his book. He covers trials, temptation, poverty, blessings, anger, speech, obedience and social justice in the first chapter alone!

The main emphasis of this first chapter is for Christians to not just be hearers of the word, but doers as well (James 1:22). As we hear the word of God, our hearts are either hardened against it or softened under it. There really is no middle-ground… Our response to God (even on a daily basis) is either humble repentance and faith or a hardness of heart that leads to self-will. James is pleading with Christians who are experiencing great poverty and persecution to trust in the almighty God and submit themselves to His authority by acting in obedience to His word.

For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness (Psalm 95:7-8).

How will you respond to Him today? With indifference or defiance? Or with humble dependence and obedience? 

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 (James 1:25).

Day 268: The joy of the Lord

Nehemiah 8-10

These chapters in Nehemiah are a foretaste of the final restoration we will experience in the new heaven and new earth! They depict the beautiful renewed relationship between God and His people. It begins with the people assembling together to hear the reading of the Law.

This was an important occasion. They had even built a platform on which Ezra would stand as he read. And as he read, the Levites were stationed throughout the crowd to ensure the people understood!

They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading (Nehemiah 8:8).

After hearing and understanding the Law, the people wept over their sin (Neh. 8:9). This response from the people proves that they really understood what was read. Because then they could see how great their sin and the sins of their forefathers really were.

But Ezra and Nehemiah told the people not to weep – it was to be a day of celebration! The people were to rejoice over their renewed relationship with their God. It is in this context that Nehemiah says the well-known verse… “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is our strength” (Neh. 8:10).

What was the source of God’s joy? The humble repentance of His people!!

After the priests recounted Israel’s long and troublesome history (Neh. 9), they renewed their covenant relationship with God by committing to uphold the Mosaic Law (Neh. 10).

The gospel is found in the vivid details of this passage. God’s word should cause us to grieve over our sin. But we have a God who really loves us. We can approach His throne to find grace and forgiveness because of the value He places on His relationship with us! He rejoices over our repentance. He is happy to renew and restore us… And from God’s joy, we are given the strength to stand – forgiven – in His presence! 

May our penitent hearts be his joy, and may His grace be our strength!

Day 256: Come Awake!

Daniel 3-4; 1 Corinthians 15:35-58

Oh the folly of this world’s power and might. Who was this Nebuchadnezzar? He was the king of Babylon – the most powerful man of his time. He was so powerful that he commanded the death of others on a whim. He commanded limbs be torn and houses be demolished… and for three men who refused to bow before the golden statue made in his likeness, he commanded that they be thrown into a fiery furnace.

He sounds like a spoiled toddler to me – but unfortunately, he was no toddler. He was the king.

But he wasn’t The King.

Nebuchadnezzar got too big for his britches. He failed to realize he was just a pawn in God’s hand. God tried to warn the king through Daniel… (Dan. 4:27), but unfortunately… he didn’t listen.

“O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (Daniel 4:31-32).

How the mighty fall! But do you see that even this severe act of God towards Nebuchadnezzar was an act of grace? Because of God’s humbling hand upon Nebuchadnezzar, he could say, “I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble” (Daniel 4:37).

For ultimately, our goal is heaven. It must not be earthly power, success or comfort – for these will all be wiped away. Just as our very bodies are perishable – all the things of this earth will be destroyed in the final day.

But. But…

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:51-55)

This is our hope. This is our song!