Psalm 24

Vs. 3, “Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place?” Our psalm yesterday reminded us of the pilgrimage the Shepherd leads us through. Today’s psalm looks to the specific journey to Jerusalem. King David was the author and some scholars see this psalm in the backdrop of the Ark of the Covenant coming to Jerusalem (II Samuel 6). Question: Who could ascend the mountain? David sought to help answer such a person (vs. 1-6). Question: Who is the King of glory? It is the LORD (vs. 7-10)!

Regarding application…Clean & Pure. Vs. 4, “The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.” There is a praise song that is based off this psalm that we sing today. Question: Does this mean we have to be perfect? God is looking at our motives and our desire to walk with Him. We cannot be clean and pure without Him. Jesus is the ultimate example! Like a reconciled relationship, God is cleansing us from our sin and impurities to come into His holy presence. By His grace, we can come pure and clean everyday we rest with Him in our devotions!

II Samuel 5

Vs. 3, “When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king made a compact with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel.”  And so it comes to pass, the shepherd boy who slew a giant would become king over all of Israel (vs. 1-5).  It’s important to note that all of Israel supported David as the kingdom was once again united.  David targets Jerusalem as an ideal centralized location to rule over all of Israel (vs. 6-16).  Certainly, Jerusalem is the most important city in the Bible and is mentioned over 800 times.  David easily defeats the Jebusites and begins to increase his kingdom and family there.  However, the Philistines upon hearing David’s rise, would come to challenge the united Israel (vs. 17-25).  But, because David sought the Lord, he found victory against his enemies.

Regarding application…Enemies Tactics.  Vs. 17, “When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over Israel, they went up in full force to search for him, but David heard about it and went down to the stronghold.”  Yesterday, we were reminded of the reality of evil.  Now we are reminded that where God is working; the enemy is also working.  When Israel was divided, the Philistines did not see them as a threat.  However, when they saw David unite all the tribes; they realized that Israel could pose a threat to them.  So their tactic was to assemble and attack.  Fortunately, David sought and inquired of the Lord (vs. 19) for wisdom and assurance.  One of Jesus’ most poignant prayers (John 17) was for the church to be united.  Brothers and sisters, when the church is united the enemy will try every tactic to discourage us.  Let us be aware of the enemies scare tactics, but not fear because the Lord is with us!

David's Battles

Acts 9

Vs. 17, “Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  This is one of the most pivotal moments in the church history; the conversion of Saul/Paul.  What made Paul so effective both as a Pharisee and later a Christian was his zeal and commitment.  It was his zeal that led him to stamp out the Way (vs. 1) and request to go to Damascus.  However, God had different plans for Paul.  Jesus literally intercepts Paul and calls out to him (vs. 5-6).  It must have been quite an encounter on the road to Damascus, for Paul was blind after it (vs. 7-9).  While in Damascus, Jesus comes in a vision to Ananias (a devout Jew) and informs him he must care for Paul (vs. 10-19).  Already, among those who were saved, Paul had quite a reputation of doing harm to the church (vs. 13).  Upon regaining his strength, we see Paul’s zeal as he immediately starts testifying about Jesus (vs. 20-22).  However, the Jews in Damascus began to plot to kill Saul.  By God’s grace Paul escapes and eventually finds his way back to Jerusalem, though it would be three years later (Galatians 1:17, vs. 26).  Question: What was Paul doing?  Most believe it was there that God prepared Saul for the ministry through the Holy Spirit and connecting all the dots he had already learned from OT Scripture to the revelation of Christ on the road to Damascus.  Once Paul finally arrives in Jerusalem (vs. 26), many of the Christians feared him.  But the son of encouragement, Barnabas would live up to his name (vs. 27).  In the last section of our chapter (vs. 32-43), we see Peter healing Aeneas, raising Dorcas back to life and bringing salvation to many.

Regarding application…Standing up For Others.  Vs. 27, “But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.”  While others were skeptical, it was Barnabas (Son of encouragement) that stood up for Paul.  There were many godly people in the church in Jerusalem that had their doubts.  Rather than point out their lack of foresight, the bigger lesson is the actions of Barnabas.  We need people like Barnabas in the church today!  While not everyone is going to have the interpersonal relationship skills and the natural ability to encourage, we should make every effort to prayerfully raise up people that do.  Question: Who is the “Barnabas” at your church?  It could be you!  Whether or not we have a special gift of encouragement, there will be times in our lives where we must be able to stand up for others.

Paul's Conversion

Joshua 15

Vs. 1, “The allotment for the tribe of Judah, clan by clan, extended down to the territory of Edom, to the Desert of Zin in the extreme south.”  Judah was the fourth son of Jacob and his mother was Leah.  The tribe of Judah would produce King David and ultimately Jesus!  The tribe of Judah would possess the largest allocated land.   Judah would need to be large and strong, for they would be surrounded by enemies on each side (Moabites on the East, Edomites on the south, Amalekites on the southwest and the Philistines on the west).  The intricate details of the distribution of the land show us that God’s hand of providence was upon them.  It’s interesting to note that Jerusalem was still inhabited by another people: the Jebusites (vs. 63).  It wouldn’t be until King David, that Jerusalem would be conquered.  And lastly, lodged in between, is the story of Othniel (vs. 13-19) who would step up and help defeat those at Kiriath Sepher (vs. 16).  Joshua would reward his relative Othniel (the first judge for Israel) and give his daughter Acsah to him in marriage.

Regarding application…Seek and Ye Shall Find.  Vs. 19, “She replied, “Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water.” So Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.”  They say, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”  Acsah (Caleb’s daughter) would follow in the footsteps of her father (Joshua 14:12) and boldly ask for special favor.  Because she sought, her request was granted.  Now, certainly that doesn’t apply to all things in life.  But, if Caleb an earthly father would grant his daughter special favor, how much more will our Heavenly Father give (Luke 11:9-13)?  Question: Was do you seek in your life?  Is God granting your request?  As we grow and mature in our spiritual lives, His desires become our desires.  Take time today to actively seek what God wants in your life.

Deuteronomy 12

Vs. 1, “These are the decrees and laws you must be careful to follow in the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess—as long as you live in the land.”  The next few chapter of Deuteronomy (12-26) is Moses expounding upon specific laws that would help the people live out their lives.  You will notice that Moses makes sure that the Israelites were to destroy all the pagan worship places in the Promised Land (vs. 2-3).  These other places of worship and other god’s would always be a stumbling block for Israel if they did not get rid of them completely.  Sadly, some would have disobey God as they years progressed.  Moses gives out some practical instructions about locations of worship.  It would be centuries later when God would instruct David to move the tabernacle to Jerusalem.  Prior to this, there were other locations; Mt. Ebal (Joshua 8:30-35), Shechem (Joshua 24:1-28) and Shiloh (Joshua 18:1).  As they people finally entered the Promised Land, they were to be more disciplined about the offering of sacrifices.  Unlike the pagan worshippers, Israel was to worship in once place.

Regarding application…Deliver us from Evil.  Vs. 31, “You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods.”  There is a tendency for us to have compassion and pity upon the nations in the land of Canaan.  But, here we are reminded of the sheer evil these people were.  One of the most horrible things these nations would do would be to sacrifice their own children in fire to the pagan deity Molech.  Question: Is the enemy now more tame?  Absolutely not!  Jesus already told us that there would be an increase of wickedness in the last days (Matthew 24).  The enemy is just better at disguising the his evil so we think it’s not a big deal.  Brothers and sisters, let us be wise and open our spiritual eyes to the evil that tries to ensnare us.

Matthew 23

Vs. 13a, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!”  As the time is looming with just a few days left before Good Friday and the cross, Jesus takes time to denounce the hypocritical Pharisees and teachers of the law.  Question: Why do so?  It was important for Jesus’ followers not to revere these leaders.  It was also important that they receive judgment for their actions.  While they did adhere to the good parts of the law, their oral traditions made a mockery of God’s intentions.  Jesus still wanted the people to follow their leadership (vs. 3) as long as it did not go against God’s word.  Jesus proceeds to pronounce seven woes of accusation and judgment (vs. 13-36).  The first woe (vs. 13) is a judgment for leading the people astray.  The second woe (vs. 15) is accusing them for their efforts to make false converts of their own pride and leading them away from Jesus.  The third woe (vs. 16-22) deals with how the Pharisee’s developed a complicated system of their own oaths and vows that were dishonorable to God.  The fourth woe (vs. 23-24) accuses them of focusing so much on tithing even small things that they forget to serve the people in other ways.  The fifth woe (vs. 25-26) is an accusation of pride as they focused on the appearance rather than the heart.  The sixth woe (vs. 27-28) builds on the fifth woe in that they were more worried about how they looked, but inside they were unclean.  The seventh woe (vs. 29-32) reveals their boasting that they would not have killed God’s prophets from the past, yet they were conspiring to kill God’s son.  And lastly, we see Jesus lament over Jerusalem (vs. 37-39) as He knows of the soon destruction when the Romans would invade in 70 A.D.

Regarding application…Ugliness of Pride.  Vs. 7, “They love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’” Sadly, we as humans struggle with this.  I believe especially “honor & shame” cultures are more susceptible to this way of thinking.  Korea is just one of the many “honor & shame” cultures.  Certainly, serving in a Korean culture yet being raised in an American culture, I see the dynamics of this phenomenon.  I’ll quickly point out that we can glean good and bad things from both types of cultures.  For example, Korean churches have a tendency to emphasize their titles (deacon, elder, etc.)  While I understand their emphasis to respect each other, this can be a slippery slope.  Pride can set in and we begin to feel like we are entitled to the praises of men.  Certainly, corporate America can look very similar too.   Let us remember that we are to be servants and consider others above ourselves!

Revelation 21

Vs. 1, “Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.”  What a wonderful hope we have for our future!  The promise of a new heaven and earth (Isaiah 65:17, 66:22) now will come to fruition.  Question: Can you imagine a place with no more tears, death, mourning, crying or pain (vs. 4)?  This is the place where those who softened their heart and put all trust in the Savior will reside, and quite a comparison to those who do not (vs. 6-8).  The bride of Christ (the church) is the new city Jerusalem.  We see the combining of the OT saints to the church with the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles (vs. 11-14).  In other words, the faithful will have an eternal reunion!  As John takes his measuring rod, we should be stunned by the size and of the new heavens (vs. 15-21).  Think about it; 12,000 stadia is equivalent to 1500 miles long, wide and the kicker, tall!  That’s a gargantuan new heavens!  The beauty will take our breath away because it will reflect the glory of God.  It’s quite notable that there is no specific temple (vs. 22), for the whole place is the temple of God.  There will be no need for the sun or moon, for God’s glory will provide the light (vs. 23-24).

Regarding application…God Dwells with Us.  Vs. 3, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”  Jesus is called Immanuel (God with us) and now we literally will have God dwell physically with us again (Garden of Eden).  While we find much comfort in the promised Holy Spirit, dwelling with God in the new heavens and earth is going to be amazing!  I think back to my young childhood on those scary nights where the darkness would seem to overwhelm me.  The noises and sounds of the wind would cause me to run to my mom’s room and beg her to sleep in her bed that night.  The safety I felt like a child was wonderful, but imagine brothers and sisters that it will be incredibly amplified when we are finally dwelling with our God!

Revelation 14

Vs. 1, “Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.”  We read of these 144,000 in chapter seven.  There are differing thoughts on who this 144,000 could be.  Some scholars believe it is a literal Jewish remnant living during the time of Tribulation, while others believe it is more symbolic of all believers who did not adulterate themselves to the devil.  It is quite a scene as the army of believers stand with Jesus and sing a new song (vs. 1-5).  John now turns to several scenes of angles bringing their messages.  The first angel brings an announcement more for those who are believers rather than the unrepentant, for humans were to be agents of the Gospel (vs. 6-7).  The announcement of doom upon Babylon probably a code word for Rome, which in turn is really a message against the world and the enemy (vs. 8).  The third announcement is to those who follow the beast (vs. 9-13).  And lastly, the latter portion of our chapter shows us that the harvest is ripe (vs. 14-20).   God calls for the sickle to gather the ripe harvest of grain and of grapes for judgment.

Regarding application…Judgment is Coming.  Vs. 7, “He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”  Certainly, there is a bit of an ominous feeling to this.  However, for Christians, this reminder is actually one of hope!  This is a crazy sin-filled world we live in.  This reminder should bring great relief to know God is ready to bring a righteous judgment.  Just like kids when traveling will ask their parents, “Are we there yet?” God is reminding us that we are arriving soon.  Don’t lose hope, for our travels will finally get us to our true home!

Revelation 3

Vs. 1, “To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.”  Jesus now addresses the last three churches of the seven.  The church in Sardis was a sleeping church (vs. 2).  The church in Sardis enjoyed relative peace compared to the persecution in the other cities.  This peace contributed towards their spiritual slumber.  I fear that we here in America experience such a phenomenon as well.  We then transit to the church in Philadelphia (vs. 7-13).  The city of brotherly love unfortunately had a small Christian community.  There was a large Jewish opposition (vs. 9) that were wayward and closing the door to the believing Jews to the Synagogue’s (place of worship outside of Jerusalem).  However, Jesus reminds the believers that He is the one who controls the opening and shutting of the door (vs. 7).  And lastly we come upon the church in Laodicea (vs. 14-22).  Many of us may be familiar with Jesus’ accusation of being lukewarm (vs. 16).  Historically, Jesus was illustrating the example of their actual water situation.  Laodicea lacked their own water supply so they build aqueducts, but by the time the water reached the city it was lukewarm.  Water is great when it is either hot or cold.  Jesus uses this as an example of their spiritual state.  Though they were rich in material possessions, they lacked spiritual want (vs. 17-18).

Regarding application…Inviting Jesus to Dinner.  Vs. 20, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”  Though this verse is often used for salvation calls, the actual context is for current believers.  Jesus is desiring to fellowship and commune with us.  Yet, so often, we are too busy and self-sufficient to take the time spend with Jesus.  This is a very convicting reminder for the church today.  No amount of programs or increase in numbers is going to matter if the members of the church do not spend time with the Lord daily.  As you spend time with Jesus today, remember to encourage another to join in the dinner!

Leviticus 16

Vs. 34, “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.” And it was done, as the Lord commanded Moses.”  On the tenth day of the seventh month, the Israelites were to observe the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).  Question: What was the purpose?  They were to make sacrifices to reconcile God’s people to Him and forgive their sins (vs. 16-28).  It started with Aaron the high priest and was to be a tradition passed on that only the High Priest could administer.  Only the high priest could enter the most holy of holies on this one day (vs. 2).  The sin offerings (bulls and goats) and burnt offerings (ram) each had their purposes.  It was a sobering and solemn day for the Israelites.  On this day, it was the only required fast given to the people.

Regarding application…Jesus, the Final Sacrifice.  Each year, this special Day of Atonement was given as a picture of God’s grace.  But it was not a permanent solution.  The writer from the book of Hebrews, gives us additional insight to this very important day.  Jesus is portrayed as the final High Priest (Hebrews 10).  Like the sacrifices outside the walls of Jerusalem, Jesus died outside the walls (Hebrews 13:12).  Since the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, the Jews have stopped the actual sacrifices on this day.  However, they still recognize this Day of Atonement.  Sadly, the Jews along with the lost world do not realize Jesus was the sacrificial lamb slain for our sins.  Brothers and sisters, we have much to be thankful for in Christ this Thanksgiving week.  Let us be a light to our friends and family as we recognize God’s wonderful provisions in our life!