Nature of idolatry. Idolatry is an obsession with created things (in lieu of devotion to the Creator), Ephesians 5:5; Philippians 3:19; Colossians 3:5. Idols are made by humans. They are mere pieces of wood and stone, Deuteronomy 27:15. Idols cannot “see or hear or eat or smell,” Deuteronomy 4:2; Psalms 115:2-7. They are “like a scarecrow in a melon patch,” Jeremiah 10:5. Idols have no value (for bonding the worshipper to God), Habakkuk 2:18,19.
Ed Mathews uses John 9.3 and the story of the blind man as a wonderful explanation of evil in the world. Here’s how he starts:
While in Jerusalem, Jesus saw a blind man, John 9:1. As a visitor in the capital city, one might assume the Lord would be enamored with the beautiful buildings. His disciples were, Matthew 24:1. But Jesus was not a tourist. He came to rescue the perishing.
Focus question: Does the pain and suffering in the world make me question God or glorify him?
Nadab and Abhiu are the topic of interest in today’s devotional, Plow New Ground. This excerpt gives an idea of the page-long treatment.
Their offense. The newly appointed priests had acted “contrary” to the command of the Lord, Leviticus 10:1. They took the right censer. They took the right incense. They took the wrong fire, Deuteronomy 4:2. No one has the authority to tamper with the instructions of God. It is our duty to study the written word, to learn the details of His “good, pleasing, and perfect will,” Romans 12:2.
Be sure to read it all at the link above, on today’s date.
Focus question: Among the things right that you do, what is something wrong that you tend toward or are involved in?
Using Jn 6.44 as his text, Ed Mathews wrapped up today’s devotional with this paragraph,
Why do people turn away? Matthew 23:37. They have so much to gain! They have nothing to lose! Their problem is threefold. (1) They evaluate Jesus in human terms. How could a carpenter be the Christ? (2) They argue among themselves. Are their opinions greater than the words of God? And (3) they resist divine kindness. Why do the lost reject the Savior? The decision is up to us, Jeremiah 31:3. He has already taken the first step. Now it is our turn.
The second point notes a great problem. Opinions take the place of revelation. We want to talk instead of listening. We preferring collecting, weighing and sifting rather than accepting and submitting.
Focus question: How can I make the word of God central to my understanding of Christ and to my faith?
Ed M. nails it again:
Why escape to the desert? Why grow “weary in doing good?” Galatians 6:9. Our feeble thoughts and listless tones expose our hopeless hearts. We should not give up. We must not hide in solitude. We were called to deliver the invitation of God on the “street corners” of life, Matthew 22:1-10. The Lord is telling us “to go back the way we came,” to renew our commitment, to get involved again.
Focus question: When do I feel most weary and discouraged? How do I react?
In his last paragraph of today’s devotional, Ed Mathews wrote about Ezekiel’s commission, using Ezek 2.5 as his main text:
“This passage has a special significance for ministers of the word. It shows them the rigors of their appointment, the boundaries of their task, and the source of their strength. It warns them against altering the message. It clarifies the purpose of their actions, Ezekiel 2:5. It validates the reason for being faithful to the end, II Corinthians 2:14-16.”
Focus question: How much does numerical success motivate my service in the Word, rather than faithfulness to the task?
Are you discouraged by society’s evils?
The request of the righteous. The sin of society sickens the soul of the saints. We are tired of hearing about crime. Where is virtue? Where is truth? Because we yearn for right, we grieve over the presence of wrong. We pray for God to “cut off all flattering lips and every boastful tongue” Psalms 12:3. We live in a difficult time. We weep over the corruption in the world, Psalms 73:16. Evil people flaunt their wickedness. They claim victory because they think they have a right to say whatever comes to mind, Psalms 12:4. In spite of their brash claims, however, a man does not own his tongue, Psalms 100:3; I Corinthians 6:19,20. Rather, because of the tongue, he possesses “the power of life and death,” Proverbs 18:21. For he will “give account on the day of judgment for every careless word” he has spoken, Matthew 12:36,37.
So writes Ed Mathews in today’s devotional, based on Psa 12.7.
Today’s devotional by Ed Mathews includes this paragraph on the disciples’ abandonment of Jesus at his betrayal:
Neglect of prayer. During the prayer vigil in Gethsemane, Peter slept, Mark 14:37,38. Satan wanted to sift him like wheat, Luke 22:31,32. Peter did not understand the situation, Luke 22:33. The most confident was the most vulnerable. Jesus encouraged him to pray, Luke 22:40,46. Peter took a nap. He gave the devil an opening. He fell. He fell badly, Mark 14:66-72. Later, this same apostle wrote, “be alert,” I Peter 5:8.
Stay close to Jesus.
Focus question: What today has the potential to distance you from Jesus? Deal with it effectively.
Ed M., writing for today’s date in “Plow New Ground:”
Powerful influence. Jeremiah was not merely blessed with new insight into truth. He was overcome by the power of it. He was not at liberty to do as he pleased—to suppress it, to utter it at his convenience, Jeremiah 6:10,11a. The word of the Lord was his master, a burning fire in his heart. He did not hold the truth. The truth held him, cf. Numbers 24:1,2,10-13. God was present. How could the prophet hide the truth when he was made trustee of the message? II Corinthians 3:4-6.
Feel the fire.
Please download the PDF of Ed Mathews’s free devotional book, Plow New Ground. Today’s meditation alone is worth the effort, based on 2 Cor 2.14. Among other things, Ed writes,
Messenger of God. As a captive in the victory procession of God, Paul spread everywhere the message of redemption, II Corinthians 2:14. The Lord made His intentions known through His surrendered servant, Colossians 1:25. Paul was not fickle. He was faithful. He followed the drum beat of heaven. He was “sent from God,” II Corinthians 2:17b. He went when the Lord called. He did what the Lord commanded. His life was not his own. It belonged to God. Consequently, Paul could rightly say, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me,” Galatians 2:20.
People read so many flawed denominational materials — hey, we have far superior writings and true teaching in many brotherhood material, like this one.