Monday: Genesis 28
Tuesday: Mark 1
Wednesday: Esther 5
Thursday: Acts 28
Friday: Genesis 28, Mark 1, Ester 5, Acts 28
Monday, Genesis 28:
Even after Jacob’s clear sin of deceiving his father, God chooses to continue His blessing, His lineage, His chosen people through him. I sit and think how undeserving I am of His grace, His son, His salvation.
God doesn’t just reiterate His promise to Jacob, though that would have been enough. He speaks to him personally in this dream of the ladder. For Jacob, this ladder was a reminder that God was still coming to make the earth His dwelling place. In John 1:51, Jesus identifies Himself as the ladder, our eternal link between heaven and earth. I think of Jesus, my ladder to Heaven. Not a ladder that I have to climb up, but one where He Himself comes down to get me, to rescue me. We don’t have to climb. We don’t have to strive. We can’t reach heaven on our own. Jesus Himself comes not just to carry us up the ladder but to be our ladder, our only way to stand righteous before God.
Meditate on John 1:51, “You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
Are there ladders you are trying to climb today, thinking that if you are just good enough, wise enough, kind enough you might somehow earn the favor of God?
If so, spend some time in prayer laying these things on the altar. Praise Jesus for being our ladder, our only way into the Kingdom, our King who comes for us.
Tuesday, Mark 1
Here He comes, our Savior. Heralded by John, tested by Satan, beloved of God. Mark was likely writing this Gospel account to a group of persecuted Roman Christians. He writes to give his readers hope that Jesus is, indeed, exactly who He says He is. Here in this first chapter, we learn so much about Jesus. He is baptized by locust-eating John and calls poor and uneducated fishermen to Himself. He loves to use the unlikely. It is His delight to heal the outcast, the demon possessed and leprous, and it is His delight to find solitude with His Father. Who is this strange and wonderful Savior? He is one bringing an upside-down Kingdom and calling the unlikely to Himself – even you, even me.
Where can you look for Jesus in the unlikely today?
How does the Gospel of Jesus give you hope?
Who can you share this unlikely, upside-down Gospel of Grace with today?
Wednesday, Esther 5
I wonder if Esther’s knees were knocking, if her heart was beating too fast as she waited in front of the king’s hall. If this went well, it could save her people. If this went poorly, it would cost her life.
And when the king does agree to see her, Esther is wise and patient in her presentation of her requests. In stark contrast, Haman’s pride and haste, and his delight in the demise of others, blind him to the reality of what is going on.
This passage caused me to think of Psalm 119:
Blessed are those whose ways are blameless,
Who walk according to the law of the Lord.
Blessed are those who keep His statutes
And seek Him with all their hearts –
They do no wrong
But follow His ways
Oh that my ways were steadfast
In obeying your decrees!
Then I would not be put to shame
When I consider all your commands.
I will praise you with an upright heart
As I learn your righteous laws.
I will obey your decrees;
Do not utterly forsake me.
If you are like me, you might get a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you first read these verses – who is blameless and keeps all His statutes? Certainly not me. If you are like me, you might identify a little more with Haman than Esther – more often blinded by pride and haste than strengthened by patience and wisdom. There is good news for those of us who fall short, for those of us who cannot truly say that we “do no wrong” – Jesus! His grace categorizes us as blessed. His grace makes us blameless. His grace gives us the strength, patience, and wisdom of Esther, and makes our hearts upright that we may declare His praise!
Take a few minutes to meditate on the passage above from Psalm 119.
Thursday, Acts 28
Once again, God protects Paul. This time from a deadly snake’s poison, saving his life to fulfill His purposes.
As we wrap up our time in Acts, I am utterly amazed at the way Paul has poured out his entire life to teach the Gospel of Jesus and proclaim His Kingdom. He has been persecuted, beaten, imprisoned, shipwrecked, snake-bitten. He has lost all of his comfort, his physical health, many of his friends. And we know that he would say that it was worth it all for the Kingdom. Lord, please, give us such boldness.
And finally, he arrives in Rome, just as the Lord promised. It was a long and winding road, but God was with him all the way, leading him all the way, accomplishing His purposes all the way.
What promises of God are you still waiting on?
Does the road feel long and winding for you today, too?
I pray Paul’s journey gives you the confident trust to believe that God is still working, even in the detours. I pray we would all find the courage of Paul to forsake anything for the sake of our Lord Jesus.
Jacob is basically homeless. Running from a brother who hopes to kill him, running toward extended family who are basically strangers to him, he begins the 550 mile trek to Haran. And when he is too weary to hold his head up any longer, in desperation he makes a stone his pillow.
Have you ever experienced this kind of weariness? The kind where you are fairly certain that you just cannot go on?
But as the last of his strength finally gives out (imagine how exhausted you have to be to use a stone as a pillow?), here alone in the wilderness, he hears and sees God for the first time recorded in Scripture.
Jacob. His very name means deceiver. Jacob, who dishonored his faither in his old age. Jacob, now hated by his own brother. Jacob, leaving all he has ever known, and headed toward years more struggling and wrestling. Jacob, chosen by God even still. And as he finally succumbs to rest, God shows him a ladder.
In the middle of this desert place, in the middle of his weariness, God speaks and reveals the most beautiful promise of all time: God Himself will come down to get us. God Himself will come to make a home with us. And this God, our God, will not leave us until He has fulfilled these promises to us.
Behold I am with you and will keep you wherever you go…I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you.
And as Jacob awakes a slow realization tumbles from his mouth, one that often stirs in my heart, too, “Surely the Lord was in this place and I wasn’t even aware of it.”
Paul isn’t that different from Jacob, really. Worse than a deceiver, he is a murderer. Running. Running from his own terrible sin, running to kill even more Christians. Paul, chosen by God even still. And doesn’t he even call himself that? The worst of sinners. And I know I have been. And there on the road, on Paul’s way from one murder to another, God speaks to him, too, revealing that same beautiful promise: they will receive the forgiveness of sins. There will be no more ladder to climb because He Himself will come down to get us.
Paul will be persecuted. He will be beaten, flogged, tortured. He will be imprisoned and shipwrecked, hurt, and misunderstood. And Jesus will continue to appear to him, continue to speak to him, continue to reassure him of the promise that He will not leave until He has fulfilled His promises. And while he never says it, I wonder how often Paul thought, surely God was in this place and I wasn’t even aware of it.
This is what is always true, dear one. In the midst of things we label pointless trials, annoyances and setbacks – the Lord is in this place. In the middle of our weariness, when all of our own strength has run out and we are all but ready to lay our head on the hard stone floor and call it a day – the Lord is in this place.
We have had our share of weariness this year. Emergency travel and hospital stays and plenty of losses and goodbyes. We have had our share of the trivial annoyances and interruptions that crop up, too. Things that shouldn’t make me clench my teeth in anger but do. And repeatedly God has brought me to the very end of myself, the place where I slump on the ground tired enough to sleep on a stone.
Remember Psalm 119? Did you know that word “blessed” literally translates to the word happy? We can be happy in God, not because we are righteous or blameless, but because of the ladder, Jesus. Because God came down to get us and gave Jesus as the bridge, the ladder back to Him. We can be happy, even in the desert place, because He who is always working will always fulfill His promises to us.
And so how do we become the Jacobs, those who sit without hesitation and say, “surely the Lord was in this place even when I was not aware of it.” And how do we go a step further and become the Pauls, those who are aware of the presence of God even in the midst of the hardship, whether hardship looks like petty irritations that spark a reaction too big or outright crisis that leaves us gasping for spiritual breath?
I want to be the kind of person who names this place, even the hardest place, Bethel, House of God, because God is always here and Jesus is always our ladder and He will never leave and is with us wherever we go. Even in the desert. Even in the shipwrecks. Even today.