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Daily devotional

September 10 – Will we be consumed?

Bow down Your heavens, O LORD, and come down; Touch the mountains, and they shall smoke. – Psalm 144:5 Scripture reading: Psalm 144 This verse is impressive. God speaks to us here about Himself. He wants us to know that were He to come down, the solid, rock-hard elements of this earth would erupt into fire and smoke. What about us? How could we survive being in the presence of this glorious and majestic, thrice holy God? Well, on our own we couldn’t. The entire Old Covenant system made this clear. The blood of animals was shed to point to cleansing from sin so that sinful man could be near to God. Yet, almost no people ever entered in the presence of God. The High Priest could enter, but only one day each year and again, only by shed blood. The glorious reality is, this verse tells us about what we have in Jesus Christ. All who believe on Him have everlasting life and will remain near to God for all of eternity, in His presence, but we have already now been granted full access into the holy of holies by the new and living way of the shed blood of Jesus. Will God consume sin? Yes, but that is why Jesus Christ died on the cross. The Father poured out His wrath for our sins on the cross and Jesus “took” (absorbed) that punishment for us. Here is where knowing God and knowing who we are is so important. We have come to know that we need a Saviour. Trust Jesus Christ! Suggestions for prayer Ask God to reveal who you are and Who He is so that you know clearly your need for Jesus Christ. No other prayer is more important. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Harold Miller is the pastor of the Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) of Kansas City, Missouri....

Daily devotional

September 9 – The blaze of His glory

Bow down Your heavens, O LORD, and come down; Touch the mountains, and they shall smoke. – Psalm 144:5 Scripture reading: Psalm 144 I believe it was C.S. Lewis who, in a book he wrote, posed the rhetorical question, “Do you think God is safe?” The answer expected was “no.” There is an important sense in which that is true. “Our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:29). Verse 5 surely drives that point home. To bow or bend the heavens is to ask God to “interrupt” creation – to cause a rift or a break in the elements that are above us, the unchanging nature of which we probably take for granted. When God enters the scene, nothing is unchanged. Were He to “touch the mountains” they would smoke. This is what Israel experienced at Sinai. They heard the sound, saw the sights of God impacting His creation. Let’s ask the question again – from this verse – Who is God?? We remember that this Psalm is set in the context of warfare. This is spiritual warfare for us and often we are overwhelmed by it. Then this verse teaches us that we can call out to God Who can break into this creation, into our reality. We need to remember this and believe. To put a truth into practice we first need to accept it as truth. God is this One Who can powerfully come down to save us. This new day and new work week afford us the opportunity to take God at His Word for everything we face. Believe! Suggestions for prayer Ask God to give you an expanded view of His majestic glory. Ask Him to impress you with Himself! This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Harold Miller is the pastor of the Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) of Kansas City, Missouri....

Daily devotional

September 8 – Day of rest for those passing on

Man is like a breath; His days are like a passing shadow. – Psalm 144:4 Scripture reading: Psalm 144 “The Sabbath was made for man…” (Mark 2:27). Have you ever asked why? Let’s answer that question in terms of what we know already from our study of Psalm 144. We have carefully studied the first four verses. What we know so far is that God trains us for warfare. This spiritual warfare which Paul mentions in Ephesians 6 is difficult. We grow weary. We understand verse 4 better as we age and feel our once strong bodies getting weak and easily tired. Yet spiritually, we learn how much we lack strength. How do you feel if, by a sad situation, you have to miss attending worship on a Lord’s Day? Even more tired, right? We are like a breath and we easily get out of breath, spiritually! We are like a passing shadow and we feel time rushing past us. We need a day of FULL STOP. Today is that day. Praise God that He gives you the opportunity to step aside from all the regular challenges and trials, and hear of the perfect rest Christ has provided you. “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). You are like a breath and you need rest. Your life is passing away quickly and you need to enter into that place and time of eternal things to be reminded that God is eternal in the heavens. As you attend worship today remember your need and His full supply! Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to restore to you the joy of His salvation on this glorious day of rest! This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Harold Miller is the pastor of the Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) of Kansas City, Missouri....

Daily devotional

September 7 – God is not like us

Man is like a breath; His days are like a passing shadow. – Psalm 144:4 Scripture reading: Psalm 144 Well, it is good that God is the opposite! Have we given enough thought to how “other” God is? This is hard for us because we live gasping for each breath, scraping for every next dollar, praying for each new day. But this verse of our Psalm is telling us who we are so that we would remember this is exactly Who God is NOT! God is not like a breath. He is firm, rock-solid, unchangeable. He is permanent and eternal. If you live near mountains you might be tempted to think those rocks are forever. That mountain range will disappear someday. God is forever. In this devotional study of Psalm 144 we are learning Who God is. What have you learned so far? Actually, this verse uses two related concepts to show how frail man is, all to teach us how reliable God is. This verse mentions “breath” and “a passing shadow.” Breath has to do with substance. Man is like a mist (James 4:14). Man is impermanent, even though we think we are pretty sturdy and can handle quite a bit. Man is also like a passing shadow. As the sun moves across the sky, so our life passes along quickly. God is solid and timeless. What a blessing to know these things about our God! We are not helped by worry, but are strengthened by faith – in Who God is! For the rest of this day (passing shadow!) set your mind on God’s stable Being. Be encouraged! Suggestions for prayer Try praying for longer than you ever have before. When you are done, check how long you prayed, then remember that God has been listening to the prayers of His people for thousands of years. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Harold Miller is the pastor of the Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) of Kansas City, Missouri....

Daily devotional

September 6 – Putting ourselves in place

LORD, what is man, that You take knowledge of him? Or the son of man that You are mindful of him? – Psalm 144:3 Scripture reading: Psalm 144 Reading the Bible can be a very encouraging practice. There is so much to know about Who God is in His gracious ways to us in Jesus Christ. The promises of Scripture bring us comfort, bring us hope and bring us joy. But just who is the “us” we are thinking about? This is the second great thing we want to know by the end of this study of Psalm 144 and by the end of this month: Just who am I as a human? That’s the question of verse 3. Who are we? What are humans like? The assumption of the writing of the verse is that we humans are not “all that.” We are not all we think ourselves to be and certainly not as great and powerful, wise and wealthy as Hollywood makes us out to be. Compared to God, we are specks of dust riding on the eyelashes of microscopic dust mites. But that is exactly the point, isn’t it? Have you ever met someone or can you think of a person you remember in your past who thought he was really “the cat’s meow?” This person was convinced he was really special or important. Did he annoy most everyone else around him? Yet, we are all a little like that from time to time and maybe more often than we realize. The answer expected in this verse humbles us. We really are not that important. Yet God sent His Son for folks just like us! Suggestions for prayer Ask God to remind you that He loves you even though it is true that you are not lovely in yourself. Ask Him to show you how rich is His grace in Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Harold Miller is the pastor of the Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) of Kansas City, Missouri....

Daily devotional

September 5 – The condescending mercy of God

LORD, what is man, that You take knowledge of him? Or the son of man that You are mindful of him? – Psalm 144:3 Scripture reading: Psalm 144 There is a perfect contrast displayed in this verse. This contrast is unlike any other contrast in all of creation. This is the contrast between the Creator and the creature. Every other contrast you could mention has less “distance” to cross, less difference to wrestle with than the Creator-creature contrast. God, the LORD has no need for anything. Man the creature is completely needy. God is entirely complete in Himself, we are fully dependent on Him for everything we have. In this verse the Psalmist asks why does the God Who needs nothing spend any effort, time or resource on us humans. This is an excellent question! Mercy is the answer. God is merciful. Do you remember from the introduction to this devotional that we are striving to know well two things: Who God is and who we are? This verse tells us by a question that seems to have no good answer, that God is merciful. Otherwise, what possible answer could we expect to the question of this verse? Since God is everything, what is man? Man is nothing, that’s what. Since God has all power, what power do we humans have? None. Since all life comes from God’s work and good pleasure, what life do we humans have on our own? None. Since salvation from sins comes from God’s plan in sending His Son to save us, what claim and authority over our salvation do we have? None. What is God like? He is merciful. Believe. Suggestions for prayer Ask God to give you greater clarity and trust in Who He says He is in the Bible. Ask Him to give you a greater interest in knowing Him each time you read the Bible. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Harold Miller is the pastor of the Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) of Kansas City, Missouri....

Daily devotional

September 4 - Taking possession of what God gives

My lovingkindness and my fortress, My high tower and my deliverer, My shield and the One in whom I take refuge, Who subdues my people under me. – Psalm 144:2 Scripture reading: Psalm 144 We noticed yesterday that the structure and exact words of the Psalm are important. God determines exactly which Words He wants to teach His truth. In this second verse of the Psalm, there are personal pronouns of covenant significance “attached” to each comment about an attribute or description of God. In other words, God is not just “a” fortress, rather He is “MY” fortress. These personal pronouns are exactly what God wants to say. He says that He is the fortress or high tower or shield for His people. Do you see what that means?! “Since God is for us, who could be against us?” (Romans 8:31). Our personal application of this verse goes like this – since God sent His only begotten Son to save us (cf., John 3:16), He also promises to keep us safe, out of harm's way and ultimately safe out of hell. No enemy can take us down. We need this confidence because, as a latter part of the Psalm will show us, we don’t always “feel” well, safe, protected and peaceful. We need to believe it and tell our feelings to trust God’s Word. Have you had times in your life and experiences when your emotions got the best of you? Have you experienced fear and anxiety that has no realistic explanation? When we feel like that, we need a “High Tower.” God is our refuge and our strength (Psalm 46).  Ask this question: On this day is God MY mighty fortress? Suggestions for prayer Ask God to remind you that He is able to do all we need and more! (Ephesians 3:20) This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Harold Miller is the pastor of the Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) of Kansas City, Missouri....

Daily devotional

September 3 – My powerful fortress of safety

My lovingkindness and my fortress, My high tower and my deliverer, My shield and the One in whom I take refuge, Who subdues my people under me. – Psalm 144:2 Scripture reading: Psalm 144 Since you are reading through Psalm 144 every day you will soon start to learn the structure of the Psalm. You will note its rhythm, cadence and poetic features. You will notice that certain words and phrases are significant in this Psalm. One such structural clue is that most of the verses begin with Who God is or what He has done. Verse 2 is no different. Seven statements about God fill up this verse. Can you find all seven? God is “my lovingkindness…fortress…high tower…deliverer…shield…One in whom I take refuge…and the One Who subdues people under me.” Seven aspects of a profession of faith in the nature and attributes of God are found here. God is the entire reason for any confidence we might have. He is full of power, able to protect us. We are weak and prone to all sorts of weaknesses. God is able to put us out of the reach of trials, disasters and mortal enemies. We are easily overcome both physically and emotionally. What matters the most is do we know the Salvation found only in the Lord Jesus Christ? Are we safe from all alarm, hiding in the arms of Jesus Christ? To know anything about this world or about yourself you must first be able to give a concrete answer to this one question: Do you trust in Jesus Christ as your Saviour – is He your High Tower? What joy to know that God is the unchanging source of our well-being! Suggestions for prayer Ask God to give you greater faith and confidence about His ability to keep His people safe from all alarm. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Harold Miller is the pastor of the Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) of Kansas City, Missouri....

Daily devotional

September 2 - My hands?

Blessed be the LORD my Rock, Who trains my hands for war, And my fingers for battle – Psalm 144:1 Scripture reading: Psalm 144 Sometimes we read Bible verses or passages and are encouraged at how nice it sounds. The Bible can bring peace and joy and relief and comfort – especially in knowing our sins are forgiven when we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. But it is also kind of easy to remain at a distance from the words, phrases and truths in the Bible. This verse is personal. Whoever you are as you read this, whatever you have known, no matter what your job or place in life is, God is training your hands and your fingers to fight. Maybe your fingers have knit blankets. Perhaps your hands have typed on a computer keyboard. Maybe your fingers often run through the soft hair of your grandchild. Each action we just listed is warfare. These hand-crafted items given in love defeat the lies of the enemy that people only, always hate one another. Word processing programs can advance gospel truth. Parents and grandparents know they are on the front lines of the battle. Whoever you are, whatever you do, God is training you for the battle. Yet, we know that “hands” and “fingers” in this verse is “part of the whole.” God is using His Word, corporate worship and Christian experiences to train you for the warfare of the Christian life. As you read this Psalm, think of your responsibility and your personal involvement in the difficult battle of the Christian life. Have you fought before? Suggestions for prayer Ask God to show you how important it is to be aware of the battle. Ask Him to reveal to you that it is because of this battle that He had to send His Son, Jesus Christ. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Harold Miller is the pastor of the Covenant Reformed Church(URCNA) of Kansas City, Missouri....

Daily devotional

September 1 – Introduction to Psalm 144

Repetition. If you have lived for a few years, you have already learned the value of repetition. God has placed repetition into the Bible as a very helpful learning tool for us. A word or concept is repeated in the Bible because God wants that truth emphasized. For example, God is holy, holy, holy! We are going to use repetition this month as a key tool to come to grips with what God says about Himself and what we should do in response. More than anything, we must know well Who God is and who we are. Repetition will help us focus on those two things. This devotional will be very narrow and limited. We will spend the whole month in Psalm 144. God makes Himself known in His Word and His Word is a mirror by which He shows us who we are. The Bible is the richest food to feed our souls and lead us in the way everlasting. Are you ready to go?! Here’s our plan. Each day we will read Psalm 144. This should take less than 5 minutes to accomplish. But first, pray. Ask God to give you understanding of the Psalm we are studying. Then, read the entire Psalm each day. Don’t rush. Read slowly. Meditate on this Psalm; come to know it. Know God through the Word He wrote through King David. Know yourself. The devotional material will focus on one verse of the Psalm, in order, for two days. On the first day, we will see Who God is from that verse. On the second day, we will come face to face with who we are from that verse. As we look carefully at God’s Word we learn Who He is and who we are, and grow in grace and knowledge. Let’s go! My stable teacher Blessed be the LORD my Rock, Who trains my hands for war, And my fingers for battle - Psalm 144:1 Scripture reading: Psalm 144 If you were asked to give an answer to the question, “Who is God; how would you describe Him?” How would you answer? There are many proper ways to answer that question. God created all things. God is in control of all things. God knows all things, He has power over all things, He is present everywhere, all the time. He is the God Who saves His people.  But would you say that He is the One Who trains you for battle? Maybe you have never thought of God that way before. Maybe this first verse is a statement limited to Who King David knew God to be – the God Who trained Him for war. Yet, it seems the Apostle Paul knew God to be a battle-trainer. That comes out in how Paul wrote Ephesians 6. There is a battle to be fought and our God makes us ready for battle. His will for us includes the reality that we will need to fight. He strengthens us for the fight, but this first verse says He also trains us. He uses the Bible, sermons, studies, books, conversations with other Christians, prayer, and other means to teach us the art of what John Bunyan called “Holy Warfare.”  This Psalm is God’s way of teaching us that He plans to train us to “fight the good fight of the faith.” Suggestions for prayer Pray, “Lord make me aware that You give grace for real life.” Pray this with thanks for His daily grace. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Harold Miller is the pastor of the Covenant Reformed Church(URCNA) of Kansas City, Missouri. ...

Daily devotional

August 31 – Choose you this day

“Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24:15 Scripture reading: Joshua 24:1-28 As the book closes, Joshua calls all Israel to him to again ratify God’s covenant. They must publicly pledge to follow their mighty, majestic and merciful God. First, Joshua reminds Israel that the Patriarch, Abraham, was mercifully drawn out of paganism by the Lord (vs. 2). If even Abraham needed God’s divine intervention, how much more do we also! Then God’s continued covenantal faithfulness is expounded upon by Joshua (verses 3-13), reminding them that salvation is always and only the work of Almighty God. Next, Joshua challenges the people to properly respond to God’s grace. Will they serve the Lord in gratitude and thanksgiving, or will they side with the gods their fathers served or the idols of the pagans around them (vs. 15)? The people promise to serve the Lord, but Joshua questions their commitment (verses 19-20). The people insist, however, so Joshua confronts them about the nature of the God they say they will follow. He will accept no half-hearted followers, no half-baked commitments. So choose you – very carefully – whom you will serve. This challenge is for us today. Because God is holy and jealous, He demands perfection and righteousness from us. But we too fail in our covenantal obedience. We need the loving sacrifice and the holy righteousness of Jesus. He alone keeps covenant perfectly for us. He alone stands in our place and turns aside the Father’s wrath. God does for us what we can never do for ourselves. Find your eternal rest in Christ alone. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for pulling you out of unbelief and sin. Thank Him for His great show of divine grace as seen in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Ask Him to make that grace known to even more people around the world, until the full number of His elect are saved. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 30 – A witness between you and us

“Let us now prepare to build ourselves an altar, not for burnt offerings nor for sacrifice, but that it may be a witness between you and us and our generations after us.” – Joshua 22:26-27 Scripture reading: Joshua 22:10-34 Our passage today reveals how a miscommunication nearly turns into a massacre! How what one side did, intending it to be a deed of faithfulness to God, was misconstrued to be a deed of rebellion against God. Out of a zeal for the honour of the Lord, the tribes on the West side of the Jordan prepare themselves to do battle with the tribes on the East side of the River. This zeal was not misplaced. With the building of this “alternate altar,” it appeared that God’s Word was being called into question and God’s honour was being threatened. So Israel was willing to go to war against their brothers. This teaches us that God’s name is worth more than our ease, that God’s honour is more valuable than our family, that God’s Word is to be kept even if it means offending friends. Thankfully, because of the open conversation held between the offending parties, the misunderstanding was resolved. Honest dialogue prevented disaster. The alter was not built as a substitute for proper worship, but for a memorial for all to see that the Jordan did not separate God’s people. As a witness to the next generation, the memorial is erected. God’s church today also has a memorial for all to see, a witness to future generations: the Cross of Jesus Christ. May we not fear open conversations and honest dialogue with those around us as we preach Christ and Him crucified. May Jesus be our Witness to the world. Suggestions for prayer Ask God to give you godly, humble zeal for His Name. Ask Him to guide you to those who need to hear the honest truth about themselves and about the Good News of the Gospel. Ask Him for wisdom to deal openly with the misunderstandings in your life. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 29 – Take careful heed

“But take careful heed to do the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you.” – Joshua 22:5 Scripture reading: Joshua 22:1-9 In the last chapters of the book, Joshua calls all the people of Israel together so that he can challenge them about their proper response of gratitude that they are to live out for the Lord. Israel’s leader knows how important this emphasis is, especially now that the people are being released to go and enjoy their promised rest and begin a new life in their inheritance. It is important for them to serve the Lord now in times of peace, just as they did in times of war. For it is exactly in times of peace that we are most tempted to forget about the Lord. When a trial overtakes us, or a hardship overwhelms us, we find it easy to cry out to God in prayer. We open His Word to discern His will. We enter His church in order to find comfort. But what happens to this zeal when life is fine and things are easy? That is usually when the Bible stays closed, when church seems boring and our prayers wither on the vine. Joshua knew this would be true for Israel also. They did great when they were fighting giants. But what would they do with God now, when their biggest concern was what to make for dinner? How is your life today? May we always remember all that Jesus has done for us in saving our soul. For then, in both hard times and in ease, whole-hearted devotion will overflow from us. Suggestions for prayer Dwell on and praise God for his amazing grace shown to you. Praise Him for His might, His majesty, His mercy. Ask Him for even more strength to put off the old man and to be filled with the new. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 28 – Divine faithfulness

“Not a word failed of any good thing which the LORD had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass.” – Joshua 21:45 Scripture reading: Joshua 21:43-45 One commentator called the three verses of our passage today “the jugular vein for the book of Joshua.” So important are these truths! Here is the theological heart of the Book of Joshua. Verse 43 mentions the land. It nicely summarizes chapters 13 through 21 of this book. God had promised Abraham that one day his descendants would inherit all the land of Canaan. This verse testifies that God has kept His promise to the patriarch. Verse 44 speaks of Israel’s enemies. It summarizes chapters 1 through 12 and all the battles and conflicts found there. God had promised Joshua in Chapter 1 that not one of the occupants of Canaan would be able to stand against them and this verse testifies that God has kept that promise as well. Then verse 45 reassures Israel that as they settle into this new land they can trust in the Lord to keep His promise to watch over them and to bless them. Because Israel’s God has proven Himself to be persistent in keeping His promises, they can walk forward confidently into the future with Him. Because He is mighty, majestic and merciful“not a word failed” of what He had said in the past, and so, therefore “all will come to pass” in the future as well. This is the same message that we must hold to today. God’s Word is truth. As you too settle into life, or face conflicts and battles, never forget that your mighty, majestic and merciful God is walking with you and seeing you through. We have Jesus Christ, THE Commander of the Lord’s army who has fought the battle for us and has proven Himself victorious. Trust in Him. Suggestions for prayer Praise God for being mighty, majestic and merciful. Thank Him for being faithful to His covenant promises. Express your gratitude to Christ for His finished work in your salvation. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 27 – divine sojourners

“So the children of Israel gave to the Levites from their inheritance, at the commandment of the LORD, these cities and their common-lands.” – Joshua 21:3 Scripture reading: Joshua 21:1-42 As the land was being divided in chapters 13 through 19, it was often mentioned that the tribe of Levi would receive no specific place because “their portion was the LORD.” They were God’s special servants with no earthly home. As such, the Levites foreshadow our life as God’s people on earth. This world is not our home, but we still have worldly needs. The Levites were set aside by God for special ministry, but they still needed to eat. So they come to Joshua in chapter 21 and ask for “cities to dwell in, with their common-lands for our livestock” (vs. 2); essentially, they needed a roof over their heads and a pasture for their animals. This tells us that we are to pursue the things of God with all our heart, but we also need to pay our bills! Our Heavenly Father knows this. He supplies all of our eternal and earthly needs. He calls us to be faithful in our service to Him wherever He has us sojourn in this world. Notice too how the Lord provides for the earthly needs of the Levites through the glad giving of the different tribes. Forty-eight cities are given for the Levites out of the inheritance that God has just given to the twelve tribes. This is their “tithe” given out of what God has just given to them. May we as God’s people hold loosely to earthly things. May we give gladly to God from the riches He has given to us. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for all His rich gifts given to you, both eternal and earthly. Ask Him to supply you with an eternal perspective which views earthly things in a way that honours Him. Thank Him for supplying all of our needs in the riches of Christ Jesus, our Lord. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 26 – Divine justice

“The LORD also spoke to Joshua, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, saying: “Appoint for yourselves cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses”.’” – Joshua 20:1-2 Scripture reading: Joshua 20 In the ancient world the rule of “an eye for an eye” prevailed. Whenever an injustice was done, an “avenger of blood” was appointed to make sure that someone paid for the crime. With the cities of refuge, God sets a higher standard of justice for Israel. Anyone who killed a man accidentally could flee to the nearest city of refuge and be safe until a preliminary hearing could be held (verse 4). He is to be presumed innocent until a trial before his peers can take place (verse 6). If the fugitive’s story does not stand up, he is given to the avenger of blood for punishment. If the killing was indeed accidental, then the man-slayer would be allowed to live, but he had to remain in the city away from family and friends as punishment for not properly safeguarding his neighbour’s life. Only upon the “death of the high priest” was he free to return back to his home. Two truths are seen here. First, our God is the God of life! Because man is created in the image of God, all life matters to Him and should be protected by us. Second, is imputation. In God’s eyes, the High Priest’s death substitutes for the offender’s death, and he is allowed to go home. This foreshadows the work of our Great High Priest. God looks upon Jesus’ death and credits us with righteousness, so that we are allowed to go “home” into the presence of our Heavenly Father. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord that in His Divine Justice He looks upon our Substitute and imputes our sin to Him and His righteousness to us. Ask that God’s justice would be known more and more across this land. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 25 – The deceitfulness of sin

“And it happened, when the children of Israel grew strong, that they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not utterly drive them out.” – Joshua 17:13 Scripture reading: Joshua 15:63, 16:10 and 17:12-13 In direct contrast to the whole-hearted faithfulness of Caleb seen in yesterday’s passage, these next chapters of Joshua testify to the whole-hearted failure of the tribes of Israel to follow the command of God and totally remove unbelievers from the land. In fact, with each description of failure, the sin gets worse. In chapter 15, Judah allows the pagans in one city to remain alive. In chapter 16, Ephraim also allows the sinners of one city to remain alive and they turned them into “forced laborers.” This is worse because if Ephraim had the power to turn the pagans into slaves, then they surely had the power to put them to death. In chapter 17, Manasseh allows the unbelievers in many cities found in “three hilly regions” (vs. 11) to remain alive. In this growing denigration of God’s will, in this half-hearted devotion to the Lord, in this purposeful sin and rebellion, we see an Old Testament picture … of us! Here, sad to say, is our own less than stellar life of faith and obedience. In God’s Church today, the Ten Commandments will be read. This practice is done because so easily we tell ourselves that “I’m not so bad. There are worse people than me. I am pretty good.” But God’s holy law and these verses of Scripture tell us the truth: we are great sinners. Thankfully, the Lord has sent us an even greater Saviour! Look in faith to Jesus Christ and you will be saved. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the sin that hides within you. Pray for an ever increasing awareness of how great a Saviour we have in Jesus Christ our Lord. Pray that around the world today the great good news of the Gospel of our Lord would go forth with power. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 24 – Wholly following the Lord

“Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt, but I wholly followed the LORD my God.” – Joshua 6:8 Scripture reading: Joshua 14:6-15 Today we focus on Caleb, one of only two faithful spies who gave a good report to Moses. Ten spies reported that the land was filled with fortified cities and that giants lived there, so Israel would never be able to conquer it. The people believed this bad report, rebelled against Moses and rejected the Lord. As a result, they never set foot in the Promised Land. In direct contrast to this unbelief, Caleb, “wholly follows the Lord” and is blessed by God. Notice the repetition in this passage. Five times Caleb speaks of what God said or promised (vs. 6, twice in vs. 10, and twice in vs. 12). Because Caleb based his faith on the sure promises of God, he was able to “wholly follow the Lord” (repeated three times, vs. 8, 9, and 14). In this whole-hearted following of God, Caleb is more than just a good moral example for us. He is an Old Testament picture of Christ! Caleb had a strong faith and followed the Lord with all his heart, but he still sinned. Caleb needed to look, as we all do, to the Lord. Jesus came and fully accomplished and perfectly completed every command of Almighty God with His righteous life. He laid down his life, paying for all our sins with His sacrificial death on the Cross. Caleb’s obedience foreshadows Christ’s. God’s plan for the history of redemption is carried out fully and completely in Jesus Christ alone. Look to Jesus and whole-heartedly follow Him. Suggestions for prayer Give thanks to God for the whole-hearted obedience of Christ, lived out for us. Thank God for the sacrificial death of our Lord in our place. Pray that this message of the Gospel would go forth powerfully from faithful churches tomorrow. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 23 – As the Lord had commanded

“As the Lord had commanded Moses, so the children of Israel did; and they divided the land.” – Joshua 14:5 Scripture reading: Joshua 14:1-5 Repetition is used in the Old Testament to emphasize the main point that is being expressed. In our passage today the phrase “as the Lord had commanded” is repeated twice, signifying that we must notice this truth. Joshua begins his work as God’s “Registrar of Deeds.” With Eleazar the high priest, he casts lots in order to determine which tribe of Israel receives which part of the Promised Land. Both verse 2 and verse 5 emphasize that they do this “as the Lord had commanded.” It would be easy for us to read over this repetition, but it is here for a reason. You might think, “All they are doing is dividing up the land. Why is it so important who lives here and who lives there?” What is important is not what they are doing, but how they are doing it! “As the Lord had commanded” them – That is the point being stressed. This underscores the truth that God cares about ALL that we do, how He wants us to be faithful in even the small things of life, just as much as in the big things of life. The Lord considers Joshua’s work as “Registrar of Deeds” just as important as him exterminating Canaanites. So too in your life today. No command from God is small. No work done for the Lord is “insignificant.” Whether you are a CEO or are doing another load of laundry; do it faithfully, with all your heart, for His honour and glory. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for the work that He has given you to do. Ask Him for the strength and diligence to do it well. Ask Him to use you today for His honour and glory. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 22 – An ominous warning

“Nevertheless the children of Israel did not drive out the Geshurites or the Maachathites, but the Geshurites and the Maachathites dwell among the Israelites until this day.” – Joshua 13:13 Scripture reading: Joshua 13:8-14 Because of the Lord’s righteous judgment against sin, the Israelites were to exterminate all of the Canaanites from the Promised Land. This was a foreshadowing of what will happen at the end of time when God’s eternal judgment is brought upon the whole earth. In our passage today, we see the first occurrence of what will quickly become a common pattern with Israel: a failure to walk by faith and to trust in the Lord. Even though they have God’s specific promise to lead them, they fail to do as He commands. Pagans are allowed to live in Israel. Our tendency is to read this and not see anything too threatening. This is not much to get worked up over, is it? A couple of minor Canaanite tribes? Whom we have never even heard of before? Whose names we can’t even pronounce? Is this really such a big deal? After all, Israel has been through a lot already. They have been very faithful in the big tests given them against those massive coalitions of pagan kings! So they deserve a break, don’t they? Maybe later they can take care of these last few stragglers. But “later” never comes. Israel too easily lives with sin. They become comfortable with pagans in their midst. And within one generation these pagans have taken over God’s people (see Judges 2:7-10). This is how easily sin infects our heart. Do not live with it. Fight it! Trust in Jesus, and He will strengthen you for this battle. Suggestions for prayer Ask the Lord to reveal and root out sin from your life. Ask the Spirit to increase your spiritual fervour. Ask Christ to work within you in powerful new ways. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois....

Daily devotional

August 21 – The divine promise

“Them I will drive out from before the children of Israel.” – Joshua 13:6 Scripture reading: Joshua 13:1-7 With Joshua 13, a very different section of the book begins, the division of the now conquered Promised Land. One Bible commentator described the difference between the first half and the second half of this book as the difference between watching an action-packed war movie and going to the register of deeds office to read through the descriptions of land surveys! Yet even here in the division of the land, we can learn much from God’s Word. With this chapter, Joshua’s work for the Lord takes a much different turn. His role as Israel’s military general is finished and his role as the Lord’s “Registrar of Deeds” begins. The boundaries for the 12 tribes within the Promised Land need to be settled because there are still small pockets of Canaanite resistance left which need to be eliminated. All the main fortified cities have been destroyed. The coalitions of pagan kings have been eliminated, so there is no need for the whole army of Israel to remain together. But each tribe needs to eliminate the small enclaves of pagan people that yet remain within their borders. It is about these last remnants of unbelievers that God gives His promise, “Them I will drive out from before the children of Israel.” What reassuring words for His people to hear. In the power of this promise, Israel can move forward confidently. May this promise give you confidence as you go forth in your life. God has promised. He is faithful. He will watch over your life. Suggestions for prayer Thank the Lord for His faithfulness shown to each new generation. Praise Him for His watchful eye shown to you. Ask Him to use you mightily for Him this day. This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Ed Marcusse is the pastor of the Oak Glen United Reformed Church of Lansing, Illinois. This picture adapted from one adapted by Malus Catulus and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license....

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