Monday: Genesis 21
Tuesday: Matthew 21
Wednesday: Nehemiah 11
Thursday: Acts 21
Friday: Genesis 21, Matthew 21, Nehemiah 11, Acts 21
Monday, Genesis 21:
The Word says The Lord was gracious to Sarah to do what He had promised. Even when she is certain it will never happen – a son. And how much more gracious to us, to give us His Son, just as He promised! Just when we are tempted to despair, a well, a place of refreshment – Jesus.
How often do I laugh like Sarah, not believing that His promises could be possible and yet they are? How often do I despair like Hagar, allowing myself to believe that I do not have what I need to move on, and yet He provides?
Gently He calls to me, “Do not be afraid.” He has heard us, He has seen us, He has done what He has promised and He has provided His son.
Are there places in your life where you are doubting God or doubting that He will come through?
How can His fulfillment of His promises in Scripture, most importantly His fulfilled promise to send the Messiah, encourage you today that He will fulfill all His other promises to us?
Tuesday, Matthew 21:
We begin today with Jesus fulfilling prophecy, the very proof that God keeps His promises, Jesus Himself the very best promise God kept. And even until the very last minute, Jesus so desires the people to understand, the grace of God desiring all to come into the Kingdom. There are hard truths here for the Pharisees, for those who would not accept His message. But there is a great truth here for you and me – apart from Him, I know that I am a Pharisee. I know that my tendency is to be like the son who says he will do it but doesn’t, to be lacking in fruit like the fig tree, to be as selfish as those selling in the temple. Can you identify?
We need a Savior and so we cry out, “Hosanna! Save us!” And in His amazing grace, He does!
Spend some time today examining your heart for places where selfish ambition may have gotten in the way of humility, where distraction or disobedience has caused you to remain unfruitful, or where you have obeyed with lip service and not with your heart. Repent as He reveals these things to you.
Now REJOICE! He is the one who comes in the name of the Lord, who saves us from our sin and will bring us into eternity with Him forever!
I’ll be honest, it was a bit difficult for me to pull encouragement from another list of names, but I keep coming back to the truth that we are all necessary in the plans of God. Here, Jerusalem is finally rebuilt, but it is still weak and vulnerable without enough people living there. Verse two says some people had to volunteer or willingly offer to live in Jerusalem, suggesting that there was some sacrifice involved. Some would have been leaving their homes, their farms, their families. But their sacrifice was accomplishing something bigger, something better – unity in the community of God’s people.
Is there something you are being called to sacrifice for unity in the Body of Christ? Maybe it is something tangible, but often for me it is my own pride, selfishness, or comfort. Maybe you can relate?
Spend some time today asking God to give you a heart that is ready to joyfully sacrifice for the sake of the Body of Christ.
Sometimes, I cannot believe that Paul kept going. Uproar after uproar, persecution after persecution, one tearful goodbye after another, suffering upon suffering. And yet, he carries on. The only way this is possible must be that he remembers the grace of God who saved him. Paul describes himself as the worst of sinners, but rather than despair this only strengthens his resolve to see other sinners come and receive the grace and healing that Paul himself has experienced, at any cost.
Even in the midst of persecution, Paul asks for permission to share the Gospel with the crowd. How can this encourage us to testify to God’s grace even in the midst of our own hardship?
Only one thing can keep us persevering through suffering – Jesus. His grace, His strength, His presence with us. Can you testify to His goodness today, no matter what you are facing?
There is grace here.
But we have to choose to see it.
There is joy here.
But sometimes I am too focused on my own agony that I am blinded by what is right in front of me.
Genesis doesn’t say God made a new well appear. It says He opened Hagar’s eyes to see it. And then just a short walk away she filled up her skin with water for her son.
Is it possible that in her pain and despair, Hagar assumes the worst – that God is not with her, that He will not help her, that God does not see her suffering – and that this perspective is what caused her to be blind to the well in front of her?
Is it possible that in my own trials or pain, I let that same lie sneak in – that God couldn’t possibly see me, that maybe this time God has left me or maybe this time will be the time that He does not come to my aid – and my eyes become so fixed on that lie that I am blinded to the grace and joy that is right in front of me, all around me, or perhaps just around the corner?
I need Him to open my eyes.
I remember watching my children and our dear friends jump around in a circle, singing loudly one evening after dinner. Our friends were living with us temporarily because they had just lost their mother. It had been an extremely painful season, one where we begged for healing and miracles and God answered in a different way. I remember watching them jump, the sound of their laughter filling up our tiny house. The words dropped into my spirit as if straight from the Lord, there is joy here.
From an outside perspective, maybe there shouldn’t have been. Their mom, my friend, had just died. My own children, whose laughter rang loud in this moment, had also lost parents in similar fashions at different times in their lives. There were many days where it felt like a desert, where I thought grief might take all of us under. And the momentary laughter didn’t mean that the grief wasn’t there, it didn’t take the sorrow away, but in that moment I saw there was joy there, too. No matter how hard it got, we would still have joy, and He would give us eyes to see it.
I scribbled it on the journal always laying open on the counter:
This is what I want them to remember: there was joy here, too.
Yes, it was hard. Yes, there was pain. Yes, there were long seasons in the desert. But His grace didn’t leave.
And this has remained true through all our seasons. We’ve walked through several hard ones. In fact just a few months ago we found ourselves in the midst of impossible grief all over again. There were nights where I felt like we were wandering in the desert, water skins and hearts depleted. There were nights when we couldn’t see the way through, just barrenness stretching in all directions and me crying to God that I couldn’t watch my child suffer like this any longer.
But I have been in the desert enough times before that it doesn’t take me too long to ask the Lord to open my eyes.
Beloved, the well is there. Here. Our well is Jesus. His grace, His joy, they never run out. But we have to choose to see it. We have to ask Him to open our eyes to His goodness right here in the middle of the desert. We need His grace like Hagar and Ishmael need water. And it doesn’t come from within.
Maybe you feel it, too, like you are here in the wilderness with your own empty water skin and if you don’t find some grace soon then you just won’t be able to keep going. It’s true. Without Him, we perish. God has to open our eyes to the well before we can drink from it. And He opens our eyes to the truth of His grace and goodness through our time in His Word.
Do you remember what Hagar called God last time she was in the desert? Back in Chapter 16, Hagar said to the Lord, “You are the God who sees me.” He is the God who sees us, and He is the God who makes us see.
When I forget that He is the God who sees me, I am blind. But when I, like Hagar, cry out to Him remembering His grace, He gives me eyes to see Him right here in the desert. He provides the well of grace in this moment – enough for today. He provides the well of joy in all circumstances – even the hardest. He provides the well of His goodness, even in the midst of this world’s pain.
Nehemiah knows it, and he keeps building. The disciples know it, and they keep following. Paul knows it, and he keeps testifying. We know it, let’s keep looking for it.
Genesis 1:20 says God was with the boy.
Make a list of the ways that you see God – glimpses of His grace and joy today.
What if we challenged ourselves to do this every day for the next few weeks? I bet you’d be surprised how long the list gets, and how looking for the good truly changes our wilderness into places of His grace and provision.