“We Speak Even When the Message Seems Small”
“Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live, turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel” (Ezekiel 33:11).
I readily understand how difficult passages like this one can be to read. It doesn’t sound like an ounce of Good News exists here. Put yourself in Israel’s place. Ezekiel’s prophecy rings of hopelessness. Sin and rebellion had completely marred God’s relationship with His people. Did a two-word sermon, “turn-back,” make any difference in 599 BC? Can a message of turning-back to God, as Creator and Savior, make a speck of difference in today’s world? Truth be told, sometimes it feels as if the church is losing ground. The enemy, Satan and his forces, run rough shod over marriages and families. So many universities continue to march toward a godless social agenda. Christians around the world are persecuted. Wars and rumors of war, disease, earthquakes, floods, man’s inhumanity to man, continual injustice, hatred, and all sorts of other demonic activities give some credence toward hopelessness. But then, and with God, there is always a “but then,” He reminds us that he finds no pleasure in the death of the wicked.
I can’t read this passage and not hear 2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” God is at work. He invites us to stand alongside of Him. With love and grace, we speak, “turn-back, turn-back.” In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
(Note: We apologize that this week’s devotionals have been out of sequence with those in our study guide. We have corrected that with today’s devotional.)
“But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ they were indignant” (Matthew 21:15).
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day did not like the fact that children were shouting praises to Him. The Scriptures tell us they were indignant. “Indignant” is an old word that originally brought together two words – “much” and “grieve.” I’m sure you get the picture. The term was often used to describe physical pain. Matthew 21:15 uses “indignant” to tell us how greatly annoyed the priests and scribes were with the “Hosannas” coming from the lips of children for Jesus. “Hosanna” is a Hebrew term that literally means “save now.” It is a word drawn from the Hallel Psalms (113-118), specifically Psalm 118. The old saying, “Children should be seen and not heard,” must have been a favorite of these sour leaders.
Children have a knack for saying things that the rest of us are thinking. Years ago, while I was preaching, my oldest daughter seated on my wife’s lap, cried out, “Daddy, my buns hurt.” She said some other things too that I won’t repeat in this devotional reflection. My sermon had gone way too long. Everyone was thinking it. She said it. After the laughter died down, I prayed and that was that. Children speak. I have watched with absolutely amazement during my years as a Jesus-follower how many times children said the most remarkable things at just the right time, in just the right way. I know there are those embarrassing moments when we wish they were silent. God, however, the Great Designer, intended for them to speak their hearts. It is a beautiful thing when they speak of Jesus. Amen.
“So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come” (Psalm 71:18).
I’m getting older and will someday be old. So will you. No one escapes the curse of sin and death. That’s the bad news. Now, for the good news. Psalm 71:18 is a reminder to all generations, especially the elderly, that God has a plan that enables all of us to partner with Him in sharing His story. There are no age limits. No retirement dates. The writer of this Psalm has lived long enough to conclude that God can be trusted and praised. He wants future generations to know what he has discovered about the Maker of Heaven and Earth.
One of my heroes of faith is George Muller, (1805-1898) the founder of the famous Bristol, England orphanages. He cared for and raised some 10,000 orphans during his life-time. Time and space do not permit the recording of all that he did in the name of Jesus for children. All of that is noteworthy, but even more extraordinary is what happened in his later years. He longed, as a young man, to enter global missions. Not until he was 70 years of age did he begin a distinguished 17-year season of missionary travel. Did you catch that? At 70 he took on a new passion for sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. Those who heard him often commented on the youthful vigor and passion with which he spoke. The elderly have an advantage over many of us. They have the privilege of a long-view. Like the Psalmist, from youth to old age, they have witnessed God’s faithfulness in good times and bad times. Please, keep speaking, elderly brother and sister. We are listening. Amen.
“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).
Believe it or not, accept it or not, I still feel nineteen. I have long passed my teenage years. Now in my sixth decade of life, I continue to think of myself as young at heart. What I recall about those earlier years is the burning desire that I had to be a genuine apprentice to Jesus. After a couple of prodigal-like years, I came to place my trust in Him, just like Timothy did. Mike is absolutely correct in his assessment of young Timothy (chapter 3). We don’t exactly know how old he was. Young enough to need Paul’s sobering reminder about how to live an exemplary life. Old enough to want to speak up for Jesus and be heard. So, notice with me one more time the five ways Timothy and young people in general can find their youthful “voice” in a pagan culture.
First, be an example in speech. Monitor small-talk daily. Are my words true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind? Second, be an example in conduct. How I live my everyday life either draws others toward Jesus or distracts others from Jesus. Third, be an example in love. Genuine love is hard to refute. Look for practical ways to show Jesus’ love today. Fourth, be an example in faith. Be a doer of the Word. Fifth and finally, be an example in purity. Stick to God’s standards, not the world’s. Youth speak. That’s a given. To be heard or not heard, depends upon our attachment to Jesus. Amen.
We Speak Good News
“We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news. If we are silent and wait until morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come; let us go and tell the king’s household” (II Kings 7:9)
If you have kept up with our commitment to be in church on Sundays and have kept up with your reading, this story from II Kings 6 and 7 has likely become one of your new favorites. It is the perfect story of God intervening to bring a miraculous end to the pain and suffering that had come upon his people as a result of their sin.
One more time, consider the similarities between us and the people of Samaria. Following the path of sin has left our souls with the walls closing in and starving for real inner nourishment. However, through the word and work of God through Jesus on the cross, our enemies of death and sin have fled leaving us both free and sustained by the bread of life.
If this is true, then we can only come to the same conclusion as our leper friends. Today we have good news that will help other besieged and hungry people find freedom and life. This day, and every day that God gives us breath is a day of incredible good news. So, LET US GO AND TELL all who will listen about Jesus. Then we can truly say, we speak good news.
“One Loud Voice”
“And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’ When he saw them he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice…Now he was a Samaritan” (Luke 17:12-16).
We started the week with four lepers shouting good news at the gate of Samaria (2 Kings 7:1ff) and we end the week with one leper shouting good news somewhere in a village on the border of Samaria and Galilee (Luke 17:11). Talk about coming full circle. I love the symmetry of Scripture. And I love the enormous fact that people who have experienced a life change tend to speak up. The irony in Luke 17:12-16 is that only one of the original ten lepers returned to do that very thing. Only one gave Jesus thanks. Amazingly, this man was not only ostracized because of his disease, but he was marginalized because he was a Samaritan outsider. Perhaps that is exactly what it takes. We have to realize the immensity of our healing and the enormity of our journey in order to truly witness of our salvation by Jesus.
Some people are wired with a loud voice. Who hasn’t sat in a restaurant attempting to enjoy a quiet meal with that special person we love, only to be interrupted and irritated by the obnoxious voice of someone at the adjacent table? I’m an introvert by personality, but I assure you that given the right subject, in the right moment, I can be as loud as that person who has forgotten their indoor voice. Jesus Christ did for me what I could not do for myself at the cross. He took away my sin. He gave me new life. He restored my joy. I now have a purpose-filled life. I return to Jesus regularly and often and thank Him for what He did. More than that, I am growing in my desire, even at my age, to speak up with a loud voice of my colossal love for Him. We speak good news, because what Jesus did for us can’t help but be told. Amen.
“Guess Who Came to Dinner”
“And while he (Jesus) was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at a table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head” (Mark 14:3).
Almost all of the commentaries focus on the unnamed woman who came with an alabaster flask of expensive nard. Perhaps rightly so. John, in his account, tells us it was Mary, sister of Lazarus and Martha (John 12:2-8) who performed this selfless act. After all, Mary was preparing Jesus for the cross and was infamous for her devotion to Him (Luke 10:39). However, this mealtime scene is disturbingly abrupt when it reveals that the host was Simon the leper. This man is only mentioned in connection with this story. John implies that the meal was catered by Martha. Who else would do it? Martha’s reputation for cooking blue-ribbon meals was well-known (Luke 10:40). But what do we do with Simon the leper? We don’t know the specifics. Maybe he had been healed by Jesus and out of deep gratitude invited him to a meal. Maybe he was a bachelor and a lousy cook, but a friend of Martha’s, and knew she could save the day. Maybe he was still suffering from leprosy, but knew the nature of Jesus, and so threw caution to the wind and invited the one person to dinner who could save him from all of his heartache. Who knows? The one obvious fact is that his disease stuck to his name: “Simon the leper.” Truth be told, I am “JK the sinner.” Can you imagine Simon not speaking up about this defining day? Never. And so it should be with me and you. Amen.