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Daily devotional

July 27 – A remnant spared

“Yet I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,” says the LORD. – Amos 9:8b Scripture reading: Amos 9:8-10 As the curtain closes on Amos’s prophecy to Israel, there is a shaft of light in the darkness: there will be a remnant from Israel that will be saved. God will destroy the sinful kingdom from the face of the earth, but He will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob. By using the name of Israel’s covenant ancestor, Jacob, God is directing our attention to His promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God will destroy the kingdom of Israel in keeping with His covenant curses; He will be faithful also in keeping His covenant promise by preserving a remnant from the 10 northern tribes. Consider two examples of how this is witnessed in redemptive history. The first example happened in 715 BC, just a few years after the kingdom of Israel was removed by Assyria. King Hezekiah restored the Passover and sent runners to the remaining people of the land of Israel with an invitation to worship with them. Many mocked the invitation, but some from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and came (2 Chron.30:11). The second example is the prophetess Anna, from the tribe of Asher, who welcomed the Lord Jesus with great joy when He was brought to the temple as an infant (Lk.2:36-38). With the Lord, “not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground” (vs.9). Even in the midst of catastrophic destruction, not one of Jesus’ sheep shall be snatched from His hand. And you are His sheep if you hear His voice and follow Him (Jn.10:27-28). Suggestions for prayer Bless God for His unfailing mercy and steadfast love. Pray for ears to hear His voice and a renewed will to follow. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 26 – Bring down the house

I saw the Lord standing by the altar, and He said, “Strike the doorposts, that the thresholds shake, and break them on the heads of them all.” – Amos 9:1 Scripture reading: Amos 9:1-7 The house of Israel – filled with false worship and injustice – will be brought down. They will take refuge by the altar, but those idols in which we have sought comfort and meaning will offer no protection from the wrath of God. He is the LORD God of hosts, who created and rules all things (vs.5-6). When God is against you, where will you turn for help? Will Israel turn to her covenant membership? Will she point to God’s covenant at Sinai for protection? Israel has turned away from God and will now reap the covenant curses as a covenant-breaking nation. The covenant of grace is not an automatic guarantee of immunity to judgment. It is a personal relationship with the almighty God that includes promises and demands. Israel has filled up the covenant land with sin. She will receive no special treatment from the impartial Judge (vs.7). The awesome majesty of God cuts two ways: For those who are living apart from Him, trusting in created things, the majesty of God is and will be truly terrifying. But, for those who serve the Lord in reliance on His grace, His majesty is a tremendous comfort. “Neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom.8:38-39). Suggestions for prayer Pray for the fear of God, for the trembling joy that comes from beholding the holiness and love of God. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 25 – Spiritual famine

“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord GOD, “that I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.” – Amos 8:11 Scripture reading: Amos 8:11-14 What if you went to the grocery store to restock your empty fridge and there was nothing there? It’s hard for us to imagine! Well, far worse than a natural famine is a spiritual famine of hearing the words of the LORD. If an individual or nation responds with indifference and ingratitude to the Word of God, there comes a point when He removes the Word from them. Are you allowing worldly pleasures to choke your love for Jesus? Are you quenching the work of grace in your heart by withdrawing from communion with the Lord? Let this warning from Amos move you in godly fear to repair your walk with God. What a tragic picture this is! The children of God running to and fro, from sea to sea, north to east seeking the word of the Lord but not finding it. But didn’t God promise that those who seek Him will find Him? Yes, and that promise remains true. The problem is that the Israelites will run everywhere trying to find the word of God except in the place where God promised to speak to them: the temple in Jerusalem. It is like Esau who sought the blessing with tears but did not obtain it because he found no place for repentance (Heb.12:17). Today, you can be assured of God’s grace for you by responding in faith and repentance. Go to God. Bring your sin and guilt and faithlessness to the cross of Jesus Christ. If you seek God in Christ, you will find Him. Suggestions for prayer Confess where your heart has grown cold to the things of God. Pray that He would not remove the Word from you or your loved ones. Seek His help in committing yourself to renewed study of His Word. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 24 – The day of the Lord

“And it shall come to pass in that day,” says the Lord GOD, “that I will make the sun go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in broad daylight.” – Amos 8:9 Scripture reading: Amos 8:7-10 We might think by this point that Amos is laying the judgment on a little thick! But this is not just an idiosyncrasy of Old Testament prophets. The Lord Jesus talked about hell more than He talked about heaven. Threats and warnings are one way that our faithful God bids us to repent and live. Amos describes the coming judgment on Israel as a day of catastrophe and grief. On that day, the land will tremble (vs.8), the sun will go dark at noon (vs.9), and it will end with mourning as for an only son (vs.10). It is quite probable that these things literally took place in the years leading up to Israel’s destruction in 722 BC. At the same time, the Word of God points us to events beyond 722 BC. The Day of the LORD came upon Israel. And the Day of the LORD will come in final fulfillment upon the whole earth when Jesus comes again. That will be a day of cosmic catastrophe. The heavens and earth will pass away and all men, the living and the dead, will stand before the Lord Jesus. The wicked will be thrown into everlasting fire and the righteous into eternal life. The Day of the LORD was visited upon Jesus at the cross. The earth quaked, the sun went dark, and God turned His face away as the Son of God became a curse for us to redeem us from the curse. Will you be exposed in your pride on the Day, or will you be found sheltered in the safety of the cross? Suggestions for prayer Adore the Lord Jesus for His atoning sacrifice on the cross. Be specific. Ask the Father to shelter you under His wings of refuge. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 23 – The least of these

When will the New Moon be past, that we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, that we may trade wheat? – Amos 8:5a Scripture reading: Amos 8:4-6; Matthew 25:31-46 Amos presents the charges against Israel for which she will be judged. In so doing, he returns to a familiar theme: abusing the poor and needy in the land (vs.4). Israel’s guilt is aggravated by the fact that their injustice is committed against the backdrop of worshipping the LORD. They observe the Sabbath and other special feast days; the stores are closed on Sundays and the churches are full. But they can’t wait for worship to be over so that they can get to what they really want to be doing: making money (vs.5-6). They were not explicitly thinking to themselves, “How can I lie and cheat and exploit?” Amos speaks with biting satire to get to the root: what they call “just doing business” is, in fact, trampling their brother to serve self. Our regard for our fellow human beings reveals our regard for God. “He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, but he who honors Him has mercy on the needy” (Prov.14:31). This is why the apostle John cuts to the chase and says: if you don’t love your brother, you don’t love God. It’s that simple. Jesus teaches us in the parable of the sheep and the goats that He will judge us according to how we ministered to the needy. This is not because our good deeds earn us fellowship with God. It is because those who turn away the “least of these” have never truly had fellowship with God. What will He say to you on that day? Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to work the fruit of love in your heart – love for God and for neighbour. If you are withholding mercy from the needy or forgiveness for your brother, confess those sins and ask the Lord Jesus to give you a servant's heart. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 22 – Ripe for judgment

The end has come upon My people Israel; I will not pass by them anymore. – Amos 8:2b Scripture reading: Amos 8:1-3; 2 Kings 17:5-18 Amos receives a fourth and final vision of a basket of summer fruit with the explanation that the end has come, God will no longer pass by. Israel is now ripe for judgment and the Lord is no longer going to withhold His hand. Israel has been growing fruit of sin and rebellion for several centuries and her opportunity for repentance will very shortly expire. Vs.3 describes what will take place in Israel when God comes to judge through the Assyrian scourge. The worship songs at the temple will turn to wailing. The dead bodies will be flung about everywhere, thrown out in silence. Those who have fought in major battles attest to the silence that follows a battle. It is the silence of death. The children of Israel had the covenant promises, the Law of Moses, the witness of the prophets, and providential warnings through natural disasters. God stretched out His hands all day long to a rebellious people (Is. 65:2). But they did not turn from their sinful ways. When their punishment finally came, they had no grounds with which to accuse God of wrongdoing. Friend, are you living apart from Christ? Are you clinging to a sin from which you will not turn? Are you telling yourself that you’ll deal with it later? “Repentance and faith are the gifts of God, and they are gifts that He often withholds, when they have been long offered in vain. I grant you, true repentance is never too late, but I warn you at the same time, late repentance is seldom true.” – Thoughts for Young Men, J.C. Ryle Suggestions for prayer Pray for grace to be on your guard against the deceitfulness of sin. Ask Him to show you sins that you are protecting and to lead you out of them. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 21 – Sword of the Spirit

I was no prophet, nor was I a son of a prophet, but I was a herdsman and a tender of sycamore fruit. Then the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said to me, “Go, prophesy to My people Israel.” – Amos 7:14-15 Scripture reading: Amos 7:10-17 Wherever the Word of God is active it will provoke opposition from the kingdom of Satan. The Word of God is the seed of the kingdom, the sword of the Spirit, and “mighty in God for pulling down strongholds” (2 Cor.10:4). It is no surprise, then, that the enemies of Christ conspire against the Word. Amaziah, priest of Bethel, opposed Amos bitterly. Note his tactics. He attacks Amos’s person by accusing him of a conspiracy against the king (vs.10) and then misrepresents the message by only talking about the judgment part and not the reasons for judgment (vs.11). Some things never change. God’s enemies still use these tactics. Rather than engage the issues, they cry “Bigot!” to shut down the discussion or twist the words of the godly to make a damning news headline. It is becoming increasingly difficult to speak the truth of God’s Word into the public arena. Amos’s reply to Amaziah gives us a two-fold encouragement. First, he is convicted of his prophetic calling from God (vs. 14-15). If you are a child of Christ, God called you to Himself that you may proclaim His praises (1 Peter 2:9). Secondly, Amos reminds us of the tragic end of all those who resist the Word (vs. 17). When we remember that the enemies of the gospel are headed to eternal destruction, we can fear for their souls instead of being afraid of them. When you are taken aback by the world’s hostility to the Word of God, remember that Satan hates the Word because he is fully aware of its truth and power. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks for the active and powerful presence of God’s Word in this world. Pray for confidence in the truth of the Bible and the courage to carry it into every aspect of life. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 20 – God’s plumb line

Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of My people Israel; I will not pass by them anymore. – Amos 7:8b Scripture reading: Amos 7:7-9 Amos receives a third vision in which he sees God standing on a wall with a plumb line in His hand. Like a contractor tests the straightness of a wall with a level, God tests the true state of Israel’s faithfulness. His words to Amos reveal that the plumb line has exposed His people’s covenant unfaithfulness and that He will no longer spare them from judgment. The leading religious and political institutions will be desolated. This time, Amos does not plead for God to relent. It is clear to him that Israel’s window of opportunity has passed. What is God’s standard for determining whether to save or punish? Does the vision of the wall and plumb line suggest that He demands perfect righteousness from us? If so, none of us can ever measure up! Perhaps God allows for a little wiggle-room for sin in an “out-of-level” person? But that would contradict the holiness of God, in whom there is no darkness at all. Indeed, the vision of God and the plumb line are a reminder not to think of ourselves as more deserving than Israel – or any unbeliever, for that matter. We are all crooked; we have all fallen short of the grace of God. We all deserve eternal hell. But the righteousness of God that is given through faith in Jesus Christ has been revealed. We are declared “spot-on level” based on His perfect righteousness. What God’s plumb line looks for is this: Do you truly believe in Jesus for salvation? And is your faith proved true by your obedience? Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His perfect righteousness and justice. Pray for the two-fold gift of forgiving grace and transforming grace in Christ. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 19 – God’s mercy

“O Lord GOD, forgive, I pray! Oh, that Jacob may stand, for he is small!” – Amos 7:2b Scripture reading: Amos 7:1-6 Amos has been readily announcing the judgment of God on His sinful people, but at the sight of the locusts and fire he pleads with the Lord to relent. What is it that moves Amos to intercede on behalf of Israel? Perhaps this was the first time he had actually seen with his eyes the judgments of God and it overwhelmed him. Or maybe he saw that the poor and weak would bear the brunt of these judgments. The locust swarm at the crops “after the king’s mowings” which probably means that the king and his friends would be well-fed while the poor farmers starved. We don’t know what exactly it was that Amos saw that moved him to pray for God to relent. What we do know is that Amos’s prayer reveals the merciful heart of God. It was in His mercy for stubborn sinners that God sent Amos to preach to Israel and pray for them. And when Amos pleaded, God relented because it had been His will all along to show mercy through the intercession of His prophet. The interceding Amos directs our faith to our eternal High Priest who ever lives to make intercession for us (Heb.7:25). In Jesus we see the heart of God perfectly revealed and all those who trust in Christ will never be excluded from His mercy. “Since it has pleased God to give us His Son as our Intercessor, let us not leave Him for another…For when God gave Him to us He knew well that we were sinners” (Belgic Confession, Art.26). Suggestions for prayer Give thankful praise for God’s indescribable gift of His Son. Thank Him for His patience and ask for humble confidence in the perfect High Priesthood of Jesus. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 18 – Unshakeable

The LORD God has sworn by Himself, “I abhor the pride of Jacob, and hate his palaces; therefore I will deliver up the city and all that is in it.” – Amos 6:8 Scripture reading: Amos 6:8-14 The Israelites think that their nation is unshakable. Therefore, Amos declares to them that God abhors the pride they take in their palaces (vs.8) and the way they boast in their own military strength (vs.13). Not only is this arrogant, it is foolish. This same proud folly was witnessed around the world recently when numerous leaders praised the success of human efforts in containing the coronavirus pandemic and gave no glory to God. “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (Psalm 127:1). God will bring Israel’s pride to nothing through the scourge of the Assyrian army. The city of Samaria will be delivered up (vs. 8) and the palace broken into little bits (vs.11). Perhaps the most chilling part of Amos’s message is found in vs. 9-10. When the Assyrians do eventually come, death and destruction will be so great that the survivors will be filled with superstitious dread of even saying the name of the LORD lest He bring even more judgment. In other words, the opportunity for turning to the Lord in godly fear unto salvation will be over. Economies will fall. Nations will crumble. This flesh will fail. The only secure refuge is the kingdom of God. And the only door into the kingdom is through the Lord Jesus. He bore the wrath of God against the sin of Israel and against the sin of the whole world so that we can receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken (Heb. 12:28). Suggestions for prayer Pray for God’s kingdom to come through the defeat of Christ’s enemies, the increase of His church, and submission in your own life. Praise Him for His unshakable rule. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 17 – Complacency

Woe to you who are at ease in Zion, and trust in Mount Samaria. – Amos 6:1 Scripture reading: Amos 6:1-7 Amos exposes Israel’s false sense of security that has led to spiritual complacency. The danger of spiritual complacency is witnessed in the seed that fell among thorny soil where “the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:19). The Bible repeatedly calls us to watch out, be on our guard, and to persevere in faithfulness. It is a scary thing to develop a spirit of apathy toward the things of God. Amos helps us to diagnose this sin in our own lives. In vs.1, he warns those “who are at ease in Zion, and trust in Mount Samaria”. The economy is good, their borders are secure. What can go wrong? They do not see their weakness and their need for God. The spiritually complacent lose a sense of dependence upon God. In vs.3-6a, he opposes those who “put far off the day of doom” because they are too busy enjoying worldly comforts. There is no longer earnestness for spiritual things, a noticeable lack of “fear and trembling” (Phil.2:12). In vs.6b, Amos tells us that they “are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph”. That is, they are indifferent to the spiritual decline of the nation. This happens, for example, when we become desensitized to immorality in the entertainment we consume. Has the Word of God diagnosed spiritual complacency in you today? The apostle James tells us that the pathway to healing begins by humbling ourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift us up (James 4:10). Suggestions for prayer “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps.139:23-24). Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 16 – Formalism

Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! For what good is the day of the LORD to you? It will be darkness, and not light. – Amos 5:18 Scripture reading: Amos 5:16-27 Israel assumed that the day of the LORD was going to be a happy day for them. After all, they were the descendants of Abraham, God’s covenant people. They observed the feast days, gathered for sacred assemblies, and offered the sacrifices of Moses. Why wouldn’t the day of the LORD be a day of blessing for the children of Israel? God’s answer is blistering. He hates their worship. He won’t accept their sacrifices. He can’t stand the noise of their songs and won’t hear their skilled music. He has two reasons for despising their worship: First of all, they are only Sunday Christians and do not practice justice and righteousness in the rest of life (vs. 24). Secondly, like the wilderness generation, they have kept foreign gods on the side (vs. 25-26). The Israelites drew near with their lips, but not with their hearts. One of the ways that the same root spiritual issue shows up in our lives is the sin of formalism. Formalism consists of placing our trust in outward religious forms rather than in Christ Himself. This can happen even when our worship is correct, our theology sound – when we’re doing everything right. Baptism, profession of faith, church attendance, and correct theology, though they are good things, cannot in themselves save. We can sit under faithful preaching week after week and love the form of the sermon rather than the Christ who is preached. Do you see the sin of formalism in your worship and life? Don’t throw out the forms, but lean upon the Spirit of grace to revive your use of them. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks for public worship and the means of grace. Pray for reformation of your worship that it may be truly faithful to the Word of God and governed by the Spirit. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 15 – Trust and obey

Seek good and not evil, that you may live; so the LORD God of hosts will be with you. – Amos 5:14 Scripture reading: Amos 5:10-15 In the story A Christmas Carol, the hard-hearted Ebenezer Scrooge receives a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. The ghost takes Scrooge to visit his own grave and shows him the contemptuous responses of people when they hear of his death. Scrooge trembles, falls to the ground, and pleads "Good Spirit, your nature intercedes for me and pities me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life!" This is what the Lord is looking for from Israel: an altered life. He has given them a glimpse of their own funeral, a picture of their own doom, and called them to seek Him. That is the first aspect of biblical repentance that Amos teaches us: “Seek Me and live” (vs.4). He is the only One who can deal with our sin. Forgiveness and life-change are found in Jesus Christ. The second aspect of repentance, or the other side of the same coin, is a changed life: “Seek good and not evil, that you may live…Hate evil, love good” (vs.14,15). Those who have believed in Jesus for forgiveness will obey His commandments in love (John 14:15). When we have been rescued from eternal hell, clothed with the righteousness of Christ, and brought into favor with God, we will also desire to do His will. Those who persist in rebellion without repentance reveal a heart unchanged by grace. Trust and obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus. Suggestions for prayer Pray for the living fruit of repentance in your life. Pray for the Spirit to lead you into the joy and freedom of walking in the ways of the Lord. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 14 – Seek the Lord

The virgin of Israel has fallen; she will rise no more. She lies forsaken on her land; there is no one to raise her up. – Amos 5:2 Scripture reading: Amos 5:1-9 What if you could watch your own funeral while you were still living? It would help to put life into perspective, wouldn’t it? Sometimes it is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart (Eccl.7:2). That’s what Amos is doing in this passage. In vs.3 he prophesies her coming death at the hand of an invading nation. But in vs.2 he sings a funeral lament for Israel while she’s still alive. Israel feels alive, like a maiden full of youth (vs.2), but in reality she’s at death’s door. She has the appearance of being alive, but spiritually she is terminally ill. Amos gives her a glimpse of her own funeral so that she will be awakened to her desperate situation and repent. God continues to hold out HIs hands to the rebellious nation: “Seek Me and live”. If they will turn away from idol worship at Bethel and serve the living God who made the Pleiades and Orion, they will be saved. Amos shows us the way of repentance. An essential part of biblical repentance is to seek the Lord. That means that we turn away from all the dead-end roads of sin and idols and entrust our lives to Jesus Christ. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He gives life. He cleanses and renews. Biblical repentance is not primarily feelings or methods or tears: it is faith in Jesus for salvation from sin. Suggestions for prayer Confess your sinfulness to the Lord and acknowledge that only Christ can cleanse and save you from your sin. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 13 – Warning signs

“Yet you have not returned to Me,” says the LORD. – Amos 4:6b Scripture reading: Amos 4:6-13 All the warning signs were there, but they ignored them to their peril. God sent famine (“cleanness of teeth”) on their land (vs.6). He shut up the heavens and caused drought (vs.7,8). He sent disease, mold, and locusts to destroy their crops (vs.9). He sent plagues and invaders (vs.10). There were even times when Israel was on the brink of defeat (vs.11). But they refused to take the message to heart. What is that message? It is that God holds all things in His hand and we are not in control of the circumstances of life. Therefore, when disasters and hardships come into our lives we should never think of them as purely the result of natural cause. God uses secondary causes to carry out His purposes, but ultimately all things – both pleasant and painful – come to us from His fatherly hand. It is “He who forms mountains, and creates the wind”. Moreover, Israel should be asking the question: what is the Lord telling us? Had they turned to His Word they would have recognized the covenant curses of Deuteronomy 28 being visited on them. These were divine messages from their Saviour, trumpet calls to repentance, warning signs pointing to the cliff of judgment to which they were hurtling. When the Lord sends disasters upon this world, it is not for us to say what exactly God is up to and why He sent the disaster where He sent it. But there is one question that we should ask ourselves: am I ready to meet God on that Day? Suggestions for prayer Pray for spiritual sensitivity to God’s trumpet calls of repentance. Pray for the Lord to use His providences to awaken unbelieving loved ones and neighbors to their need for Christ. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 12 – Empty religion

Come to Bethel and transgress, at Gilgal multiply transgression; bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days. – Amos 4:4 Scripture reading: Amos 4:1-5 One man puts a large donation into the offering plate to assuage the guilt of his deceitful business dealings. Another sits through worship services he despises in order to keep the family happy. And someone else raves about how much she likes worship at the new church in town because it feels so amazing. We could come up with a thousand examples of the same root problem that Amos confronts: attending worship for selfish reasons rather than going to meet God. “Cows of Bashan” is not a reference to four-legged beasts with horns, but to the wealthy women of Samaria. Amos is not very flattering, but he is simply telling these women what their husbands didn’t have the courage to say: that they are pampered and cruel. As long as they were being served, they were content – even if it meant crushing the poor. Their day will come. Amos proceeds to issue a sarcastic call to worship: “Come to Bethel and transgress, at Gilgal multiply transgression”. Go on, says the LORD through Amos, bring your sacrifices and tithes, your praise and worship, for I know you love it. Israel still observed many of the biblical worship ceremonies. But they did that while they crushed the needy during the rest of the week. They loved religious acts and rituals of worship, but they didn’t love the God whom they professed to worship. Worship is not a series of favors that we do for God to get Him on our side. Worship is a response of thanksgiving to the One who has purchased us with His blood. Suggestions for prayer Pray for deliverance from all man-centered, self-focused worship to wholehearted thankfulness and awe towards God. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 11 – Spiritual poverty

I will destroy the winter house along with the summer house; the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall have an end,” says the LORD. – Amos 3:15 Scripture reading: Amos 3:9-15 Amos addresses the wealthy in Israel: one man has a winter house in the city and a summer cottage on the sea; another man has an extravagant house of ivory, and still, another has a house that’s far bigger than he’ll ever need. Israel’s situation sounds similar to North America. We should listen very carefully to what God is saying through Amos: all those nice houses filled with beautiful stuff will be destroyed one day. Is God against being wealthy and enjoying nice things? No, God is the one who gives power to get wealth (Deut.8:18) and who blesses man with good things for his enjoyment (Ps.104:14,15). The love of money is the root of all evil (1 Tim.6:10), not the money itself. We are called to a joyful and God-pleasing use of His gifts by enjoying them with thanksgiving (1 Tim.4:4) and sharing generously with the needy (Eph.4:28). The wealthy in Samaria made their money on the backs of the poor and filled their houses with the proceeds of injustice (vs.9,10): God will see to it that their wealth is all taken away (vs.11). Like the rich fool of Jesus’ parable, they placed their security in their possessions and hoarded them: God will destroy it (vs.15). Prosperity has a way of lulling us into a sense of false security and blinding us to our spiritual poverty. There is only one currency that will count when we stand in the judgment: the infinite value of Jesus’ righteousness. It is a gift, freely given through faith. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Father for all His good gifts. Pray for the Spirit to lead you away from trust in possessions to finding lasting security in the righteousness of Christ. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 10 – Cause and effect

A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken! Who can but prophesy? – Amos 3:8 Scripture reading: Amos 3:3-8 Amos poses seven questions to Israel. The first five questions (vs.3-5) expect the answer “no” and the last two (vs.6) expect the answer “yes”. The questions are simple to answer and assume the basic law of cause and effect. At first, the questions seem to have no point to them until we come to the last two. Then we notice that Amos is getting close to home: If a trumpet sounds a warning blast, will not people be afraid? He is talking about Israel. Israel can readily see and live by the law of cause and effect in worldly things, but they have ignored God’s principles of cause and effect that govern spiritual life. They do not see that sin leads to judgment. They think that they can live like they are and that disaster will not strike. Amos drives his point home in vs.8: “A lion has roared, who will not fear? The LORD has spoken! Who can but prophesy?” God doesn’t act arbitrarily. If He roars through His prophet, then Israel should be doing something about it! God is sovereign and free. We cannot put Him in a box. But He has revealed to us in Scripture what we can expect of Him and how we ought to respond to Him. He is faithful in judgment and salvation. When He roars, we ought to fear because He will judge. When we persist in sin, we know that His anger will rest upon us. But His promise is just as true and dependable: the one who comes to Jesus, He will by no means cast out (Jn.6:37). Suggestions for prayer Pray for faith to believe the truth of the warnings and promises of God’s Word. Pray also for faith to respond obediently. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 9 – You only

You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities. – Amos 3:2 Scripture reading: Amos 3:1-2; Deuteronomy 7:1-11 The LORD had exposed the ugliness of Israel’s transgressions (2:6-8), but they displayed no conviction of sin. He reminded them of His redeeming grace (2:9-11), yet their hearts remained hard. The most tenacious of us would have written off Israel long ago. But God persistently pursues His beloved and here He speaks to her in terms of covenant love: You only. Israel (along with the kingdom of Judah) is His family that He brought up from Egypt and settled in the Promised Land. Out of all the families of the earth He chose Israel. They were no better than any other nation. There was nothing about Israel that merited His love. In free and sovereign grace He had made Israel His treasured possession, set apart from the rest. His covenant of grace was exclusively for Israel. And then come God’s shocking words: “Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” They expected to hear “therefore I will bless you.” Instead, God says that Israel’s special status is the very reason for their judgment. They have taken His grace for granted and defiled His holy love with their iniquities. Therefore, the covenant relationship will testify against them if they do not repent. The promises of God are received only in the way of faith and obedience. Anyone who thinks that it is possible to be forgiven and live in willful disobedience is living in a dream world. All of God’s saving blessings are found in Christ alone. And it is impossible to be in Christ without walking with Christ in the way of faith and repentance. “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” Suggestions for prayer Thank the Father for His immeasurable love for you in His Son. Ask the Spirit to lead you and your loved ones into thankful obedience. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 8 – Amazing grace

Behold, I am weighed down by you, as a cart is weighed down that is full of sheaves. – Amos 2:13 Scripture reading: Amos 2:9-16 The LORD God is weighed down by Israel like an overloaded cart. Of course, there is no weakness or shortcoming in God who “neither faints nor is weary” (Is.40:28). He is simply speaking in terms we can understand. The years of rebellion and hard-heartedness keep piling up and God will not bear with Israel much longer. God is weary of their contempt for His grace. Their indifference to the plight of the poor and weak demonstrates a graceless heart. If they had truly grasped the overwhelming grace of God in their redemption, they would love their neighbor. When they were weak, He “destroyed the Amorite before them” and brought them into the land of Canaan. When they were oppressed in the land of Egypt, He rescued them. When they were vulnerable in the desert, He protected and provided for them. Their history was one of undeserved kindness. Yet their hearts remain unchanged. God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. He blesses the poor in spirit with the kingdom of heaven. The humble and the poor in spirit are those who know that they owe God an unpayable debt of sin and that God has forgiven that debt at infinite cost to Himself. If we sing “Amazing Grace” in church on Sunday and then remain indifferent to the plight of the needy, what does that reveal about our hearts? Who is the hungry person in your life right now? Or the stranger, the orphan, the widow? By grace you were saved. Now live it. Suggestions for prayer Confess to God where you have been taking His grace for granted. Pray for a heart that is transformed by the power of grace. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 7 – The tyranny of sin

For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals. – Amos 2:6 Scripture reading: Amos 2:6-8 Amos paints a devastating picture of injustice. Wealthy creditors preyed upon the poor, forcing them into slavery for the smallest of debts. The law did nothing to protect the little guy as court verdicts could be bought by the wealthy. Daughters, robbed of the protection of their fathers, were used and abused by shameless men. Meanwhile, at the houses of worship, Israelites reveled on the backs of the poor – sleeping on their garments and drinking their wine. Whenever a nation turns away from the Lord, the weak and vulnerable suffer the most. The Law of Moses provided explicit protection for the poor, the orphan, and the widow. God set Himself apart from all the other gods of the nations as “a father of the fatherless, a defender of widows” (Psalm 68:5). But sin is a tyrant that preys on those who need our protection the most: preborn children, trafficked girls, the neglected elderly, to name a few. His anger burns against the injustice in our nations as it did against Israel in the days of Amos. But we should not forget that Amos was directing his message to the church, God’s covenant people. We must allow God’s gaze to search our hearts and lives. Do you open your hand and home to the needy? What plays on your computer screen? Are you refusing to forgive a brother as God in Christ forgave you? Are you upright in your business dealings? The world’s greatest need is also our greatest need: a Saviour from the guilt and tyranny of sin. Suggestions for prayer Pray for God to arise and defend the oppressed. Ask Him to show you where you are complicit in the injustice in the land and for opportunities to do justice and love mercy. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 6 – Pathway to apostasy

For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they have despised the law of the Lord, and have not kept His commandments. Their lies lead them astray, Lies which their fathers followed. – Amos 2:4 Scripture Reading: Amos 2:4-5; Deut. 30:11-20 The nations surrounding Israel and Judah were without excuse for their transgressions. How much more so the people of Judah who had the benefit of His Word! “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required” (Luke 12:48). Judah had tremendous spiritual blessings: the royal house of David, the temple of the Lord, the priesthood, and the law of God. But they had exchanged these gifts of God’s covenant love for vanity. Amos describes Judah’s descent into apostasy in three steps: despising the law, not keeping His commandments, and following after lies. It began as a heart attitude towards the law, became a settled habit of disobedience, and ended in the embrace of idols. Apostasy doesn’t happen overnight. It begins unseen in the heart. The heart is the battleground for faithful endurance. “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Prov.4:23). How do we keep our heart? The Spirit has given us a toolbox for keeping our hearts. These include corporate worship, Bible study, and prayer. There simply are no substitutes for these means. But as we use them, we must not make them ends in themselves, as simply another set of duties to maintain. Keep your eyes fixed on the goal: knowing God. “Love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days.” Suggestions for prayer Ask the Father to guard your heart and the hearts of your loved ones. Pray for the Spirit to revive and bless your communion with God through the means of grace. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 5 – One way of salvation

I will not turn away its punishment – Amos 1:11b Scripture reading: Amos 1:11-2:3 The prophecy of Amos won’t tolerate talk of “my truth” and “your truth.” There is one God, one way of salvation, and one judgment. God does not speak as Israel’s tribal deity – just one god among many. He rebukes the nations with universal authority as their Creator and Judge: Syria for savagery in war (1:3), Philistia for kidnapping (1:6), Phoenicia for trafficking slaves (1:9), Edom for endless vengeance (1:11), Ammon for tearing open pregnant women (1:13), and Moab for desecrating a human corpse (2:1). God condemns crimes of murder and violence committed against human beings made in His image. Edom’s hatred for his brother, Ammon’s unthinkable cruelty to women and children, and Moab’s desecration of an enemy king’s corpse were not only crimes against humanity – they were crimes against God who created them and cares for them. All violations of human rights are ultimately violations of God’s rights. And He will see to it that justice is done. The punishments that Amos prophesies for each nation are proportionate to the crime. Final judgment has been entrusted to Christ, who will execute perfect and comprehensive justice. For a world of stolen lives and broken hearts, this is good news! But it is also a sobering call to self-reflection and repentance, for each sin that you and I commit are violations of the infinite majesty of God. His justice demands the proportionate penalty of infinite hell. Are you covered by the blood of the Lamb? Only the infinite merits of His atoning sacrifice provide the payment for what we have done to God. Suggestions for prayer Pray for Christ to bring justice against those who oppress the weak and to stop the hand of the wicked. Confess that you deserve eternal hell because of your sins and thank the Father for giving His Son as an atoning sacrifice for your sins. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 4 – Patterns of sin

“For three transgressions…and for four” – Amos 1:3a Scripture reading: Amos 1:3-10 The LORD confronts deeply-rooted habits of sin in Israel and seven neighboring nations. Beginning with Syria (Damascus), Philistia (Gaza), and Tyre, Amos announces that divine judgment is coming upon them and will not be turned back. The repeated phrase “for three transgressions…and for four” refers to entrenched patterns of sin. Each nation is guilty of not just one or two sins, but a multitude of sins. God is patient with sinful people and nations. When wickedness prevailed in the days of Noah, He gave 120 years for the ungodly to repent while the ark was being built. He patiently abided with the nation of Israel through centuries of rebellion and idolatry. Every sunrise welcomes another window of opportunity for sinners to repent and find refuge in the blood of Jesus. But that window of opportunity does not last forever. The repeated “for three transgressions…and for four” pattern points not only to a multitude of sin, but to a lifestyle of sin. It describes the unrepentant and unbelieving. We are all sinners in need of forgiveness in the blood of Jesus. It is a gift freely given to all those who trust in the Son of God who bore the wrath of God in the place of sinners. But those who harden themselves in sin show by their lives that they are living apart from the Saviour. They will not inherit the kingdom of God. Therefore, we are to “exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 7:13). Suggestions for prayer Pray for the Spirit to give you a deeper conviction of sin and eyes to see where there are patterns of sin in your life. Thank the Lord Jesus for His forgiving grace. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 3 – Lord of life

The pastures of the shepherds mourn, and the top of Carmel withers. – Amos 1:2b Scripture reading: Amos 1:2; Deuteronomy 8:1-20 Amos could see Mt. Carmel in the northwest, with its fertile soil and abundant rain. He saw the rich valley pasture lands where the sheep were grazing. These were symbols of fertility and growth for a kingdom that was enjoying unprecedented peace and prosperity. Amos declared what must have seemed unthinkable to the average Israelite: the pastures will mourn under the burden of drought; Carmel will wither in the blistering heat of the sun. The LORD is God. If He should choose to shut up the skies and dry up the economy, there is nothing Israel could do about it. When the source of their wealth and pleasure and power was removed, to whom then would they turn? Baal, the Canaanite god of rain and fertility, in whom they trusted, was powerless to save them. All the idols on all the high places could not deliver them. We know a whole lot more about weather and agriculture today than the Israelites of Amos’s day. The progress of climate and agricultural science in the last century alone has been staggering. And yet, we are still no closer to being in control of our lives. There is only One who rules the wind and makes plants grow and upholds the laws of nature He designed. “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). When God withholds blessings from His people it is to remind us that man cannot live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His works in creation. Be specific. Pray for a deepening of your trust in Him, especially where He is withholding blessings in your life. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

July 2 – The roar of the lion

And he said: “The LORD roars from Zion, and utters His voice from Jerusalem.” – Amos 1:2a Scripture reading: Amos 1:2; Rev. 5:1-10 The LORD is described as a roaring lion, like a king of beasts announcing its intention to attack. Thus God’s voice thunders from Zion, the temple in Jerusalem that represented His heavenly throne. This is the main point of God’s message for Israel through the prophet Amos: the King of heaven and earth approaches and will soon fall upon you in judgment. Amos was not what we would call a motivational speaker. His words were hard, his message devastating. Indeed, the prophet’s description almost seems inappropriately severe. Should we compare God to a lion that is ready to seize its prey? How does one reconcile this terrible image of a lion with the God of love and mercy? The truth is: God is terrible. He is terrible not in the sense of bad or evil, but in terms of His awesome holiness and majestic power. He roars against sin. His wrath is “revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom.1:18). We are sinners living in the presence of a holy God. Tremble before Him with godly fear! But remember that this does not exhaust the unsearchable depths of God. His love is as infinite as His holiness; His mercy is as wide as His justice. He “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The Son of God is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. He is also the Lamb that was slain. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for His awesome majesty and His great love. Pray for growth in godly fear. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....

Daily devotional

Introduction to July’s study of Amos

This month’s devotionals are a study of the book of Amos. The prophets can be difficult to understand and, at times, abrasive in tone. Amos is no exception. He speaks with very tough words to a stiff-necked people. And yet, we must make no mistake about this: these are words of tough love from our covenant God. Even as His people plunge headlong down the pathway of apostasy, He never stops calling, warning, pleading – even roaring like a lion. Some historical background will be helpful: The year is approximately 750 BC. It is nearly 200 years after the dividing of the kingdoms. In 722 BC, Israel will be defeated by the Assyrian army and will never rise again. Judah will continue on for another 130 years or so until its exile to Babylon in 586 BC. The prophet Amos comes from the southern kingdom of Judah (along with Benjamin) and preaches to the northern kingdom of Israel (the other 10 tribes of Jacob). The two kingdoms split during the reign of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. Under the leadership of Jeroboam I, the 10 northern tribes of Israel seceded from Judah. From that time forward, the southern kingdom was usually referred to as Judah and the northern kingdom was called Israel. Judah had a number of faithful kings throughout its history. Israel never had one truly faithful king. Jeroboam I had built altars to golden calves at Dan and Bethel as replacements of the temple in Jerusalem. He still professed to follow the LORD, but told Israel to worship the LORD through the golden calves. It was a political move to prevent Israelites from going to Jerusalem, but it determined the spiritual course of Israel. No king of Israel removed the altars at Dan and Bethel. From day one, the northern kingdom of Israel was engaged in false worship. I have been greatly blessed by meditating on the book of Amos. In particular, it has deepened me in the fear of the Lord. May God give us all ears to hear what the Spirit has to say to us through His faithful servant Amos. In the days of Jereboam The words of Amos, who was among the sheepbreeders of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake. – Amos 1:1 Scripture reading: Amos 1:1; 2 Kings 14:23-29 “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. This opening line from Dickens’ novel A Tale of Two Cities might as well have been describing the nation of Israel in the days of Amos. It was the best of times. Life was good in the kingdom of Israel. King Jeroboam II enjoyed a long and peaceful reign. He extended the nation’s borders to what they had once been under David and Solomon. He had an impressive list of military achievements. And the economy was booming. The Kingdom of Israel had never enjoyed this kind of prosperity since separating from the kingdom of Judah almost 200 years earlier. It was also the worst of times. King Jeroboam walked in the ways of his fathers and propped up idol worship. It was a time of empty religion and social injustice. The prophet Hosea, a contemporary of Amos, said of Israel, “There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land. By swearing and lying, killing and stealing and committing adultery, they break all restraint, with bloodshed upon bloodshed” (Hosea 4:1-2). Underneath the surface, Israel was rotten and the axe was about to be laid to the root of the tree. The Word of God has a telling evaluation: Jeroboam “did evil in the sight of the LORD”. Peace, prosperity, success – these are gifts from the Lord. But apart from God, they have no lasting value, no eternal legacy. One thing matters above all: what is God’s evaluation of your life? Suggestions for prayer Pray for civil leaders to align their priorities with God’s priorities. Pray for grace to set apart the Word of God as your authority in everything. Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional....