February 26th – “Considerate Jesus”
[Bible reading: Leviticus 19:1-20:21; Mark 8:11-38; Psalm 42:1-11; Proverbs 10:17]
“So He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And when He had spit on his eyes and put His hands on him, He asked him if he saw anything. And he looked up and said, ‘I see men like trees walking.’ Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everyone clearly.” – Mark 8:23-25
There are three things of note here that show one of the coolest things about Jesus; The considerate way in which He ministered to people.
First, we’re told that Jesus took the blind man out of the town. Why would He do that? Think about it. Can you imagine being blind all your life and suddenly receiving your sight? Can you imagine the sudden influx of stimuli you’d receive if you were smack dab in the middle of a town with thousands of people? Jesus considerately took this guy to a place where he wouldn’t be blown away all at once and the thrill of seeing for the first time would break less suddenly on him.
Second, Jesus spit on his eyes. Why in the world would He do something gross like that? Again, Jesus is being considerate and using a method that this man could understand. The ancient world believed there was healing properties to spit. It’s really not so strange when you think about it. When I cut my finger, as gross as it may seem, the first thing I do is put my finger in my mouth. Why? Something innately inside my head says that it’s a good thing to do. Weird, right? But Jesus doesn’t use a method that is way beyond this guy’s understanding, He had a way of speaking and doing things that even the simplest of minds could grasp and understand.
Third, Jesus healed the blind man gradually. This is the singular time that we see Jesus do this. Usually, Jesus’ miracles were instantaneous. However, here, Jesus heals the man in stages. Perhaps there is a truth in this for you and I today? No man sees all of God’s truth all at once. So often, we can tend to make Christianity seem like it is a one-time decision. “Just raise your hand, repeat this prayer, and you’re saved. That’s all you’ll ever need.” The truth is that we should be growing closer to and learning more about Jesus every day. Every day I need seek God’s face… His presence. Why? So that I might grow ever closer to Him.
“Father, help me to be considerate towards others, even as You are. Help me relate to others and make You real to them, by the way that I speak and the way that I live. Today, I ask that You draw close to me that I might know You better. I love You.” – Michael
February 27th – “Soak”
[Bible reading: Leviticus 20:22-22:16; Mark 9:1-29; Psalm 43:1-5; Proverbs 10:18]
“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” – Pslam 43:5
This is the third time the writer has repeated these words (Psalm 42:5 and 11). He is literally speaking to himself, his own soul, commanding himself to “Hope in God”. What he means is that he should wait on God during this time of crisis. He’s reminding himself that there is no reason to fear if God is on his side. The fact that the psalmist repeats himself this many times simply shows that it must have been difficult for him to internalize this truth.
When I am downcast or depressed, fearful or anxious, I must also remind myself to ‘hope in God’. If I allow the gunk and sin of this life to attach itself to me, I often find myself feeling like the psalmist here. There is nothing else that gets me down more than sin. Although I know that God does not condemn (John 3:17), I often get down on myself. What’s the solution? I must ‘hope in God’… I must ‘wait’ on Him. Jesus told us in John 15 that we should “abide” in Him.
I recently heard an illustration that perfectly describes what happens when I ‘abide’ in Him: If I leave a dinner plate out all night, without washing it, the next day the food will be dried on and incredibly hard to scrape off. However, if I soak that plate in water, the next day the food will simply wipe off easily. Many times ‘religion’ says we must ‘scrape’ the sin out of our lives… and it can be incredibly difficult and lead us to feeling depressed and condemned. But Jesus asks me to simply ‘soak’ in Him… His presence… wait on Him… put my hope in Him. As I do, I find that the sin I was struggling with and so concerned about, simply is washed away easily!
“Father, I want to soak in You today. I want to be a man that praises You in any and every circumstance. Your Word tells me that You inhabit the praises of Your people, and what I need is Your presence today. This is how I will hope in You. I love You.” – Michael
February 28th – “Shut Your Trap”
[Bible reading: Leviticus 22:17-23:44:21; Mark 9: 30-10:12; Psalm 44:1-8; Proverbs 10:19]
“In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”– Proverbs 10:19
The Book of Proverbs has much to say about how we should be careful about the stuff coming out of our mouths. Proverbs 6:2 states, “you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth.” It seems the more we talk, the more susceptible we are to sin, and the more likely it is we’ll say something we seriously regret. Proverbs 12:13 goes so far as to call people who do this “evildoers” when it declares, “Evildoers are trapped by their sinful talk, and so the innocent escape trouble.” It sounds like it would be a really good idea to listen more and speak less.
I find it interesting how we can be ‘trapped’ by the words we say. There have been times when I’ve found myself in a conversation and been unsure what to say. Rather than admit that, I have just talked and talked, hoping that by some miracle I’ll hit on something worthwhile. This rarely happens and it is especially true when talking about other individuals behind their backs. A small comment can lead to a longer conversation that often can turn negative. As negative talk continues it can quickly become gossip and downright slanderous. This is sin. And like all sin… it is a vicious trap.
“Father, forgive the times I’ve sinned by speaking too much. Please convict me immediately when I find myself in a situation where I can say too much, especially when that too much is something negative and mean about someone You love. I want to be “wise” and not fall into the sinful trap of gossip and slander. Thank You for forgiving me and helping me become more like You. I love You.” – Michael
March 1st – “Jesus is our Jubilee!”
[Bible reading: Leviticus 24:1-25:46; Mark 10:13-31; Psalm 44:9-26; Proverbs 10:20-21]
“And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession and each of you shall return to his family.”– Leviticus 25:10
God proclaimed that every seventh year was to be a Sabbath for the land – that crops were not to be planted but that they were to live on what God had provided before that time, and what grew up by itself. It was also a “year of release”. This meant that all Israelites who were in bondage were freed, and anyone who had sold his ancestral property would receive it back, and all debts were forgiven.
[Early Americans, who knew their Bibles better than we do, placed this passage on the Liberty Bell, which shows that our founding fathers thought this year of Jubilee was a wonderful idea as they were establishing the United States.]
In that economy, where people depended on the crops they raised, if a family had a bad harvest and ran out of food, they were forced to go into debt or even sell their land. If they couldn’t recover, but fell further in debt, they would have to sell themselves into slavery or leave the country. So, the Jubilee was for one main purpose – to provide for the poor who had gone into debt or lost their land, so that they would be able to start over again. Without it, the wealthy would always do better in bad years, and the land would tend to move into their hands while those who had lost their land would become permanently enslaved. Another effect of the Jubilee would be to stop the destruction of families. If a person lost his land and sold himself and his family into slavery, he would be likely to never see his family together again. The year of Jubilee was to be a year that people returned home and families were brought together again.
There is evidence from other Middle Eastern countries that years of release were proclaimed in ancient times when a new king came into power. It would be a way to ensure support from the masses when a king would declare all debts void and set free all those in bondage to debt. In Luke 4, at the beginning of his ministry, Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue in His hometown; “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn” (Is 61:1-2)… and then He said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing!”
I see in Jesus the greatest picture of God’s grace. Those in prison are those who are under a crushing debt they could never repay. I see in Jesus, a new King setting prisoners free of debt that they owe because of their sin. Through Jesus’ work on the cross, those who become a part of His Kingdom receive a forgiveness of a debt that they cannot pay themselves and they get to start over as new creations. Jesus is our Jubilee!
“Father, You’ve set me free from the bondage of sin, You’ve empowered me to say “no” to sin. I am no longer a slave to it. You’ve also made me rich and I am no longer poor and in debt. Thank You for Your love for me and for Your declaration that I am free in You. You truly are my King, and I love You.” – Michael
March 2nd – “Brother From Another Mother”
[Bible reading: Leviticus 25:47-27:13; Mark 10:32-52; Psalm 45:1-17; Proverbs 10:22]
“after he is sold he may be redeemed again. One of his brothers may redeem him;” – Leviticus 25:48
Whenever an Israelite had fallen on extremely hard times, and was forced to sell themselves into slavery, it was a really bad deal. However, when they had to sell themselves to a foreigner, that happened to live in the area, it was even worse. It was considered to be the grimmest of circumstances because of the degrading aspect of belonging to someone that was not an Israelite. Yet, God made a way for them to be delivered from this bondage! If the year of Jubilee was still a ways off (something we read about in yesterday’s devo), the slave could be redeemed – have their freedom purchased – by a “brother”.
Romans 8:16-17a declares, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ”. An ‘heir’ is one that receives an inheritance when the parent is gone. Paul is saying that because you and I have been redeemed, we can now call ourselves God’s kids! If we are God’s kids, and we’re “joint heirs” with Jesus, Who is the Son of God… then, in a sense, Jesus is our “brother”! Once again, we see a cool picture in the Book of Leviticus of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. Our Brother, Jesus, went to the cross and paid a debt that He didn’t have to pay. Why? Because He didn’t want to see us in slavery to a ‘foreigner’, Satan. You and I were never meant to be slaves to sin and Satan, but we each found ourselves in the grimmest of circumstances, in bondage. That’s when “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son (our Brother), that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
“Father, again I thank You for Jesus. Today, I recognize that I was in bondage to sin, and I had no way of getting out. It was only because of Your great love for me that You sent Jesus as a Savior, Sacrifice, Deliverer, Redeemer, Friend, and Brother. Cleanse me once again, that I may walk in holiness with You. I love that I can have relationship with You. I love You so very much!” – Michael
March 3rd – “Go FIGure”
[Bible reading: Leviticus 27:14-Numbers 1:1-54; Mark 11:1-26; Psalm 46:1-11; Proverbs 10:24-25]
“ Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.”– Mark 11:12-14
The way a person can tell if fig trees have fruit is that their leaves appear in full bloom, so Jesus expected to find something to eat when He saw a fig tree “having leaves“. It may seem that Jesus’ expectations were incorrect, since Mark tells us “it was not the season for figs”. Some say this sounds like a ‘contradiction’, however, there are two possible explanations for this. First, there are different varieties of fig trees in that part of the world, not all of them bear fruit in the same season. Mark may have been saying that it was not the season in which most fig trees would bear fruit, but that the fig tree Jesus saw was the kind that bore fruit in the season when most others did not. Second, and probably more likely in this case, even when it was not the season for mature figs, Palestinian fig trees in leaf had smaller, unripe figs that were absolutely edible. Either way, Jesus was clearly not wrong to expect fruit when He saw a fig tree that was full of leaves.
Sometimes prophets in that area of the world would use a fig tree as a picture of the nation of Israel. In Hebrews 2:12 we read, “And I will destroy her vines and her fig trees…“, which, in context, was a way that Hosea the prophet was describing how God was going to judge Israel. So, when we read that Jesus curses this particular fig tree, then we immediately read how He cleansed the Temple because they had turned it from a “house of prayer” to a “den of thieves” (Mark 11:17), we should understand that Jesus’ curse of the fruitless fig tree was a sign that judgment was about to come on Jerusalem. He cursed the fig tree for its fruitlessness, for not living up to what it appeared to be when it had lots of green leaves but no figs. This is exactly what His big complaint was with the folks who were portraying themselves as “religious”, but living only for themselves. That is a warning to all of us today as well. When we claim to be Christians, we are then called to bear fruit for God’s glory (John 15:1-8). If we are not bearing spiritual fruit, we should pray and ask God to show us why we are not. It could be that we need to repent of saying we are one thing, but living in an opposite way. The truth is, if we were truly following God and full of His Spirit (and not just our own), we’d have evidence of that pouring out of our lives (we’d be bearing Spiritual fruit).
“Father, forgive me for the times I’ve claimed to be a Jesus-follower, but my life has produced no fruit. How devestating it would be to have You come to me, as You approached this tree, looking for authentic fruit, but finding none. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit once again, that I may manifest Your presence as evidenced by the precious fruit of Your Spirit (Galations 5:22). I love You, Lord. I long to please You today.” – Michael
March 4th – “A Priest Walks Into A Bar”
[Bible reading: Numbers 2:1-3:51; Mark 11:27-12:17; Psalm 47:1-9; Proverbs 10:24-25]
“So you shall appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall attend to their priesthood; but the outsider who comes near shall be put to death.” – Numbers 3:10
The stuff that the priests were required to do was all very important because they ensured the ceremonial purity of the sacrificial instruments and curtains of the tabernacle furnishings. Only they were allowed to touch this stuff. Why? Well, for two reasons: First, because God had ordained it to be that way. You see, all the priests throughout the history of the nation of Israel were to be descendants of Aaron. Aaron was a direct descendant of Levi, so it’s important to understand that every priest was a Levite, but not every Levite was a priest, because only Aaron’s family would serve in the priestly service. Second, because every priest had to go through some serious cleansing rituals.
Today, we don’t have all of these rituals, or even a building that we call a Temple. We’re told in the New Testament that because of all that Jesus has done for us, we are the Temple of His Spirit, and that we can all go boldly enter into His presence when we need to (Hebrews 4:16). How is this possible, when our text in Numbers 3:10 states that any “outsider who comes near shall be put to death“? Again, because of what Jesus has accomplished on Calvary. 1 Peter 2:9 declares, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light“. You and I have been chosen by the Lord and placed into the royal priesthood. The Word also teaches us, in Revelation 1:5-7, “and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen“. What an awesome thing that you and I, with or without our Bible college degrees, can be called “priests”, and more importantly enter into the awesome presence of the God of the universe! Not only that, but we’re also called the “sons” of God (Romans 8:14; Romans 9:26; Galations 3:26). In the Greek language, “the son of” is the word “bar“. For example; Peter was also known as Bariónas: “son of Jonah,” Bar-Jonah.
“Father, may I live for Your glory today. Thank You for the honor that I have to hang out with You whenever I am in need. I am a priest in Your sight, as well as a son. I am blown away by Your love and grace towards me. I love You.” – Michael