Monday: Genesis 9
Tuesday: Matthew 9
Wednesday: Ezra 9
Thursday: Acts 9
Friday: Genesis 9, Matthew 9, Ezra 9, Acts 9
Monday, Genesis 9:
This story, a new beginning for mankind, is strikingly similar to the story of Adam and Even in creation. Loving God looks on Noah with favor and makes a covenant with him, a covenant to never destroy His people this way again, and for a few moments or maybe a few days or months, all is beautiful. The rainbow fills the sky and Noah plants a vineyard, a sign of new life and a fresh start after the flood. But sin and temptation still remain, the intent of man’s heart still evil. Again, sin leads to shame in the family of Noah. And yet, God still walks faithfully with Noah for several 350 more years, steadfast even when we are not, faithful even when we are not.
Take a few minutes to repent of any recent sin in your life. God does forgive you, in His Son Jesus.
Ask for His help to turn from sin and walk more faithfully with Him.
Tuesday, Matthew 9:
Almost the exact opposite of Noah who found favor with God, today we meet Matthew, the worst of the worst. As a tax collector, Matthew would have been hated by his own people, considered a traitor for working for the Roman occupiers of Palestine. If you are trying to hang with the popular crowd, Matthew is not a guy you pick to be on your team. And yet, he responds immediately to Jesus’s call, ready and willing to give up his lucrative position and follow.
And that’s the thing about Jesus’s team – a gaggle of tax collectors and sinners, unlikely outcasts and poor fishermen. They aren’t good enough; they are willing to follow.
Time and time again, Jesus stops for the outcast. He calls the unworthy. He wants the sinner to come to Him. It isn’t our perfection that He is after, it’s our obedience.
I fall into the trap of trying to be “good enough.” I strive to do better, be more, and am bitterly disappointed in myself when I fail. Have you felt this? Is there something you are striving after today?
Yes, we are called to grow in Christ-likeness. But we will not be perfect. Praise Jesus that He has come, not for the perfect or healthy, but for the sick!
So much more than your perfection, Jesus wants your obedience and willingness to come to Him, to seek Him and to follow Him. Rest in this truth today.
Wednesday, Ezra 9:
Ezra is burdened by the sin of his people, whom he loves dearly and has fought and prayed for. His response to sin is appropriate – he is broken and sorrowful, appalled at the disobedience of his people to God’s commands.
Even as His people turn away, bringing upon themselves great consequence, God has extended His steadfast love and mercy. Even after they forsake His commandments time and again, God punishes them “less than they deserved.”
As I think of the people of Israel returning to the sin that had brough them into captivity in the first place, Paul’s words in Romans come to mind. “What I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do.” I think we can all relate to this. And yet, we see my Ezra’s example that repetitive and habitual sin is meant to be devastating to us when we witness it in our own lives and in the lives of others.
Are you stuck in a pattern of sin? Is there a habitual sin in your life that you need deliverance from? By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are not stuck. Our God does not give us what we deserve (certain death!)
Repent of these sins and ask the Holy Spirit to help you turn and walk in a new way.
I am moved by Ezra’s sadness over the sin of the remnant of Israel even though he has not committed these sins himself. Spend some time in prayer today for people you know who are not walking with Jesus or who are stuck in a habitual sin pattern. Could you reach out to them and share with them about Our God who is just, but also kind and merciful?
Thursday, Acts 9:
Sometimes I look at the life of Paul and wonder how guilt doesn’t just eat him alive. In his own words he is the “worst of sinners.” Sometimes I feel that I am, too. I am tempted to think that Saul should have been embarrassed to stand and teach about Jesus, given his reputation. And yet, his encounter with Jesus overshadows all feelings of guilt, shame, or embarrassment.
It can be tempting to think that because of our past, we cannot be an example for Christ. But in fact, the opposite is true! Our past sin can be a testimony of His goodness and forgiveness in our lives. We are not disqualified, not even me, the worst of sinners!
Saul’s life is a great reminder to us that we are never “too far gone” for Jesus – and neither is anyone else. Saul is on his way to murder Christians when Jesus meets him! Jesus knows Saul’s name and sees his sinful heart and chooses him anyway to testify of His great love.
Speak of the Lord boldly today! Remember His redemption in your own life and praise Him that He keeps no record of wrongs.
Is there anyone in your life who you have categorized as “too far gone” for redemption? Spend some time in prayer for them today.
I’ve always loved the story of the paralyzed man that we read about this week. We read the same story in Luke 5:17-26 in much greater detail, and it isn’t the man who grabs my attention, but his friends. I am amazed as I picture the story of the lengths they are willing to go to in order to get their friend in front of Jesus. They are desperate. The house Jesus is teaching in is so packed that the crowd spills out the door. Luke says, “when they couldn’t find a way because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him through the tiles… right in front of Jesus.”
Right in front of Jesus. They just know that when Jesus sees their friend He will heal him. I think of how cumbersome it must have been, carrying a man with no control of his own limbs on a mat, hoisting him up on the roof, pulling away the tiles to get him to the Savior. They must have been certain that Jesus would perform a miracle. And He does… but not at first.
First, He looks the paralyzed man in the eye. He sees this man in his weakness and sickness and He looks on him lovingly and says words that only Jesus can ever say to us. “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” Jesus calls this man friend. And Jesus forgives all his sin.
And even if that was the end of the story, the plight of this man’s friends would have been worth it. They may not have realized it right away, but what their friend received in that moment was far better than working limbs. He received eternity.
It might be easy to read this section of Matthew and stand in awe of the miraculous physical healing that fills this chapter – the paralyzed man, the bleeding woman, the dead little girl, the blind, the mute, and the demon possessed. Witnessing even just one of these events would blow me away. Or it might be easy to read this section of Scripture and silently wonder why Jesus seemingly provided so much immediate healing during His time here on earth when our prayers don’t always seem to be answered so quickly. But there is another miracle in this story, one that is far greater than physical healing or the end of suffering here on earth. And I don’t want to forget to be utterly amazed by it every day: Jesus calls us friend. Jesus forgives all our sin.
Because of Jesus, we are friends of God and we are fully and forever forgiven for all our ugly past and all of the mistakes we will make in the future and all the ways we will flail and fail and falter.
Yes, it is amazing that He calls the man to get up and walk. It is amazing that He stops the bleeding of the woman sick for over a decade and that He raises up the dead little girl and gives sight to the blind men and words to the mute. But these signs, while remarkable, would be temporary. All of these people would one day get sick again, one day die. The most lasting, eternal miracle of all was that Jesus forgave their sins.
I’ve prayed for miracles. Sometimes, I have been given miracles. And sometimes, I haven’t; my friends and family members have still died, they have remained sick, they have continued to struggle with pain and heartache. But I know this astounding truth – that no matter what we face here on earth, be it the shame of Noah or the confusion of the Israelites, the sorrow of Ezra or the illness of the people we encounter in Matthew, even if our past is as scarlet as Saul’s – our friend Jesus has the power to forgive all our sins and to bring us into eternity with Him.
What are you asking of the Lord today, in this season? Maybe you feel as desperate as the friends carrying the man on the mat, pulling tiles off the roof in the beating sun, just to get your request to Jesus’s feet. Take some time to write your desperate prayers out to Jesus.
He may answer your prayers in the way that you are asking. And He might have something different in store. Can you rejoice today in knowing that Jesus, our Lord and Savior, calls you friend?
Can you rejoice in knowing and believing that your sins are forgiven, and thus, your eternity is secure no matter what hardship this life brings?