Restoration Time

Can what is old and broken be made new? A friend recently restored an old car. The Holy Spirit can restore our faith.

Read: Genesis 34, 35; Matthew 16; Mark 8

One Word

How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Matthew 16:11

Big Idea

After the miracle of feeding the four thousand, Jesus and His disciple had just crossed the Sea of Galilee landing in Magadan. A group of Pharisees and Sadducees found Jesus there asking Him for a sign from heaven. Jesus told them that they knew how to interpret signs of threatening weather, but “cannot interpret the signs of the times” (Mat.16:3). Jesus continued saying they were an evil and adulterous generation seeking a sign, however, the only sign they would be given would be the sign of Jonah.

Jesus and the disciples then got back in their boat and left. Upon reaching shore Jesus told them to “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (v. 6). The disciples failed to connect the dots and talked among themselves that Jesus was somehow talking about actual bread.

Jesus aware of their thoughts, interrupted them saying, “O you of little faith” (v. 8). He continued asking them why they could not understand reminding them about the feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000 – and how much they collected that was left over. In other words, Jesus wanted them to understand that if they needed actual bread, He could more than supply what was needed with only a crumb.

And so Jesus repeats His warning, How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Matthew tells us that then they understood Jesus was talking about the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Like leaven (or yeast) in a lump of dough, false teaching expands and grows. The multiplying effect of impure doctrine cannot be ignored in the nearly 2,000 years since Jesus first gave this warning to His disciples. Can we likewise perceive that we too need to be watchful and beware false teaching?

Jude, the half-brother of Jesus, urged first century believers “to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jd. 1:3). In less than 50 years the yeast of false teaching had already prevented the true gospel. My prayer and the growing cry of my heart is that the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Truth – will give us wisdom to discern false leaven and restore to us once again the pure faith given to us by Jesus Himself.

Exemplify

I want to know Jesus and the truth of His Word in the same way Peter, James, John, Paul and other first century believers knew the purity of faith in Christ.

Yes to Yield

LORD Jesus, I confess that many of us within the Church today have believed lies, the leaven of false teaching passed down through the generations preceding us. We have accepted as true what has been corrupted by teachers like the Pharisees and Sadducees demanding signs. Holy Spirit give us wisdom to discern the truth cutting out those things we believe yet are false. May we hear Your call to repent turning back to the true gospel that You might in our generation restore all things as You have promised.

(See Peter’s admonition to Jews he called brothers to turn to Jesus received into heaven until the restoration of all things – Acts 3:19-21.)

Picture – On the Sea of Galilee looking toward the eastern shoreline. By D.G. Ebie, April 2015.


If you’re new to Living It Now, you can find an explanation of the O-B-E-Yjournal on the Hearing and Doing page, or the sample post Guard Duty.

Heart Conditions

Inside each of us is the tendency to be a Pharisee; we judge others by what we can see. Jesus looks deeper and sees what we cannot; He knows our heart condition.

Read: Genesis 31, 32, 33; Matthew 15; Mark 7

I confess this devotional is heavier on the teaching side, but stay with me to the end because all of us need to allow Jesus to examine our heart condition.

One Word

And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? Matthew 15:16-17

Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) Mark 7:18-19

Big Idea

Matthew and Mark are both recounting the same story; most bible scholars agree that Mark was written first, and was most likely used as a source or reference by Matthew. I believe that to be true, but even if it is not the difference in what we read in each of these accounts should not be ignored, and should be properly understood. Holy Spirit we need Your help to know the truth.

On with the story; both tell what happens in much the same way. It begins because some Pharisees confront Jesus about his disciples disregard for the traditions of the elders; the disciples were eating without first washing their hands (no this was not a concern about those invisible germs). This was a ceremonial washing, which Mark goes on to say was but one of many traditions passed down by the elders. They believed that if one ate without the ceremonial washing of hands, bowls, pots and the like that the person would become unclean. And if you were unclean you could not worship the LORD at the Temple until you had been properly cleansed.

Jesus responded by pointing out the true hypocrisy of the Pharisees quoting the prophet Isaiah, This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men (Mat. 15:8-9 and Mk. 7:6-7).

Both gospels also include Jesus ‘spiritual surgery’ to reveal the heart condition of the Pharisees. Because their hearts and not their hands were unclean they would break God’s commandments in order to keep their traditions. Jesus reminded them of the commandments “Honor your father and your mother,” and “Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.” Yet Jesus points out how they use their traditions as loopholes to do as they please rather than live in obedience to God.

Jesus then addresses the crowd telling them that what enters through the mouth  does not defile a man or make him unclean. Instead, Jesus tells them it is what comes out of the mouth  that defiles a man making him unclean – things just like the spiritual double talk of the Pharisees who claim to obey God’s law but are actually lawbreakers.

Most of us have read this story before and know Jesus is not talking about food causing an upset stomach but the condition of our hearts. At that time, however, the disciples at  did not understand that what entered the mouth is food and what comes out of the mouth is words – an overflow of their heart. So when they were alone with Jesus they asked Him to explain this simple parable.

Jesus is amazed that they are still so slow to understand, so He gives them a rather graphic answer cleaned up in our bibles. Literally he tells them, “Food goes into your mouth and then into your stomach, and then whatever is not used by your body goes out of your body and is flushed down the toilet” (that’s right the Greek word aphedrōna used only here could literally be translated latrine).

Jesus then explained an unclean heart condition to His disciples and how everything we say and do begins in our heart. He says, “What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” (Mat. 15:18-20; see also Mk. 7:20-23). Notice how Mathew specifically includes the reminder that this entire conversation began because of the Pharisees accusation that the disciples were defiled or unclean because they ate without ceremonially washing their hands. The context of Mark bears witness to this as well.

Yet there is one difference that we find in our bibles. It’s the parenthetical statement made after Jesus begins to explain the meaning of the parable to  the disciples: (Thus he declared all foods clean.)

I hope you’re still with me because it’s important that we understand Jesus did not say, “All food is clean;” instead this is a remark included to explain what Jesus said. But was this explanation made by Mark or a scribe who wrote an explanation in the margin only to have it later included within the text by another scribe? Many bible scholars, and I agree, that this was a marginal note inserted later into the text and is not original.

Many scholars will point to the clumsy Greek grammar; I don’t want to bore you with that. I think a much simpler explanation is right in front of us. If Mark had written this, then why did Matthew exclude it? And let’s not forget too that Matthew was there when Jesus first said this. Matthew wrote to predominately Jewish Christians who understood the Old Testament law regarding clean and unclean food. If Jesus had in fact released His followers from the restrictions of clean and unclean food, then wouldn’t Matthew have made that known too?

Equally important is to dig a little deeper and realize that Peter, the disciple who spoke up and asked Jesus to explain the parable in the first place, Peter did not understand Jesus to say all food was clean. About twenty years later Peter has continued to obey the “kosher” food laws. So how does Peter respond to his vision of the sheet filled with unclean animals and hearing the LORD say, “Kill and eat” three times  in Acts 10? Does Peter understand then that it’s okay to eat all kinds of animals? No! His testimony at the house of Cornelius and again before the church at Jerusalem in Acts 11 tells us that Peter understood that the Holy Spirit  used the vision to show him that God had recognized Cornelius and other Gentile believers in his household as clean.

And why was Cornelius declared clean by the LORD.

What did Jesus say? It was not because he had kept the traditions of the elders through ceremonial washings. It was not because of the food he ate. Rather it was Cornelius’ heart as “a devout man who feared God with all his household” (Acts 10:2).

It is what comes from within that makes us clean or unclean and not what we eat; but let’s not misinterpret scripture to make Jesus or Peter say something they never said. The explanation the all food had been declared clean did not mean eat whatever we like. Rather, food as defined by God’s law in Leviticus 11 is clean regardless of the ceremonial washing of hands or bowls.

It really all does come down to the condition of our hearts.

Exemplify

I need the LORD to continue to examine my heart condition creating in me a pure heart. I choose to honor Jesus as my King by refraining from eating unclean foods, however this act does not make me righteous or clean; only Jesus can cleanse my heart. Rather, my choice of obedience is an act of loving devotion to my LORD, and should not become a badge of spiritual pride or holiness.

(Dare I say that many of us as Pentecostals have used the baptism in the Holy Spirit the same way. It is meaningless to speak in tongues if we don’t also control our tongues in the way we talk about each other – as but one example. Would Jesus see us just like modern Pharisees holding more to our traditions than to obedience to His Word? Let’s not fall into the same trap again just as the Holy Spirit teaches us to obey God’s commandments being sacrificed by His Word.)

Yes to Yield

LORD Jesus, forgive me for letting my heart become unclean by giving place to spiritual pride; it is a heart condition that left unchecked will impact my attitude toward others tearing down rather than strengthening our relationship. Holy Spirit continue to teach me and lead me in truth sanctifying me by God’s Word. But don’t stop there; empower me to also live out the spirit of the law so others might see the joy of walking in obedience desiring it, rather than a self-righteous condemnation unfairly put upon them as a burden. Examine our hearts and make them clean.


If you’re new to Living It Now, you can find an explanation of the O-B-E-Y journal on the Hearing and Doing page, or the sample post Guard Duty.

Pushing for More

As I watching a junior high basketball game, I’m reminded of running suicides at their age; pushing through the pain to run faster and longer, building endurance with each rep up and down the court. If a coach will push his players for more, then would Jesus push us to develop a deeper, stronger faith in Him?

Read: Genesis 29, 30; Luke 9:1-17; John 6

One Word

“Do you take offense at this? . . . It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” John 6:61-64

Big Idea

After feeding the 5,000 Jesus and the disciples went to Capernaum (the disciples by boat and Jesus walking on the water, but that’s another story). The next morning the people realized that Jesus had gone to the other side of the Sea of Galilee so they went and found him. Understand as the events of this day take place that many of those who came to Jesus were also His disciples; a disciple is simply one who follows and may refer specifically to the twelve who Jesus designated as apostles, but also included many others who believed and were followers of Jesus – people just like us who believe.

Jesus informed the crowd that on this day there would not be any free fish sandwiches. Instead of working for food that perishes they must instead work for food that leads to eternal life. Put simply, this food was to believe that Jesus was “the bread of life;” whoever would come to Him would never hunger, and all who believed would never thirst (v.35).

But Jesus does not stop there; He keeps pushing so they fully understand the words He is saying. He goes on to tell them He is the living bread from heaven; all who eat this bread will live forever because,  “the bread that I [Jesus] will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (v.51). Jesus wants them to understand that He is not just speaking metaphorically, but about His actual flesh and blood.

This starts the argument; would Jesus expect them to eat His flesh? Again put simply, Jesus told them they would have no life in them unless they ate His flesh and drank His blood. He compared the bread of His flesh to the manna their forefathers had eaten in the wilderness and said, “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died,” but “whoever feeds on this bread will live forever” (vv. 49, 58).

It is at this point John specifically says that when they heard this many of Jesus’ disciples said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (v. 60)? Too often many of us as Christians (or should I say “disciples” or “followers” of Jesus?) make the mistake of believing Jesus would never challenge our faith. We believe in Jesus; isn’t that enough?

Simply believing was not enough for Jesus and those who believed in Him because they saw his miracles, listened to His teaching, and ate a ‘supernatural happy meal’ on the beach. Jesus pushed their faith for more, so much more in fact that Jesus asked, “Do you take offense at this?”

Jesus then explained that the words He spoke were Spirit and life. The Spirit would give life because the flesh counted for nothing; nevertheless, Jesus said many who heard still would not believe. This is the key to understanding all that Jesus said; we eat of His flesh and drink His blood believing He gave His life in our place – the wrath of God was satisfied by His death, a death we deserved to die. Believing this is a big deal and is part of “the work of God” to believe in His Son Jesus (v. 29).

But is believing, or eating His flesh the only work Jesus expects of us today? Let’s not make the mistake that Jesus would not challenge our faith today. Jesus wants to push us for more, to build endurance so we can stand when the day of evil comes. So when He pushes us for more, will we be like those who did not believe, or like Peter and the other disciples who recognized that only Jesus had the words of eternal life and is the “Holy One of God?” (v. 69)

Exemplify

I grew up in the church and came to believe in Jesus as a child, but my faith in Christ as my Savior is not the same as it was then – for that matter even over the last year the Holy Spirit has continued to challenge and grow my faith. Jesus has opened His word to me with words of life, but His words even today are a hard teaching that can cause offense.

I desire to continue to eat of His flesh and drink His blood for eternal life and not turn away because Jesus begins to reveal truth by His Spirit I don’t understand.

Yes to Yield

LORD Jesus, I thank You for giving Your flesh that I might have life in You. Holy Spirit help me to have wisdom as I read Your word to understand the truth of the gospel contending for the faith that was first given to the saints (see – Jude 1:3). Help me to lovingly share Your truth with others that they might eat Your flesh and drink Your blood unto eternal life. And build my faith to trust You, the Bread of Life with the results, even if some refuse to believe.


If you’re new to Living It Now, you can find an explanation of the O-B-E-Y journal on the Hearing and Doing page, or the sample post Guard Duty.

Wanting to be Alone

We’ve all had those times when we just want to get away and be alone, yet those times of personal sorrow may actually be one of our greatest opportunities to minister to others in Jesus’ Name.

Read: Genesis 26, 27, 28; Matthew 14; Mark 6

One Word

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. Matthew 14:13

Big Idea

Matthew tells about John the Baptist’s tragic execution ordered by King Herod. When John’s friends also known as his disciples heard about his death they “came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus” (v.13). As an aside, I’ve shared this verse at funerals where those grieving were dealing with an unexpected death, and many had no faith in Jesus. Three things are note worthy. [1] They came; in times of sorrow family and fiends come together and find support within loving relationships. [2] They did their duty and buried the body; it is difficult to stand at a graveside, but it is the right thing to do. [3] They went and told Jesus; our greatest hope and peace in times of sorrow is to simply go to Jesus and honestly share how what has happened impacted us.

Okay, now back to the big idea – John’s friends came and told Jesus what happened. How did Jesus respond to the news of His forerunner’s death? He didn’t offer a eulogy, comfort John’s disciples, or preach a sermon about the resurrection. Jesus did what many of us would do. He withdrew from the crowds to spend some time alone. This is one of those times we see Jesus’ humanity. Even though Jesus was God in the flesh, with knowledge of eternity and the resurrection to come, Jesus got away to grieve over John’s death.

But do you know what happened next? What happens after Jesus with his disciples set out on their boat to get away from everyone?  The crowds found Him and Matthew says that when Jesus saw them he went ashore, “had compassion on them and healed their sick” (v.14). I don’t think that’s how I would have responded. I would have turned the boat around to find someplace else to just go and be alone with my friends.

But not Jesus. And the story does not end with Jesus’ healing of the sick.  Jesus does one more remarkable thing. His disciples actually used the fact that it was late in the day and everyone would need to get something to eat as an excuse to send the people away. They may have known Jesus wanted to get away from the crowd, and they too were most likely grieving the news of John’s death. But what followed is the single miracle recorded in all four gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Jesus instructed His disciples to take the pieces He had blessed and broken from the  5 loaves of bread and 2 two fish and feed the people. You know the story: 5,000 men, together with their families, ate dinner with 12 baskets of leftovers for the disciples to have a late night snack (yea, I added that last part about the snack).

And so what’s the point of this story? Within the humanity of Jesus we see His compassion to meet the needs of others. But Jesus’ compassion was multiplied in the lives of his disciples who were able to set out a picnic dinner for everyone rather than focus on their personal pain and sorrow.

Exemplify

It’s not wrong to feel the pain of unexpected tragedy and death; it’s even okay to want to get away by yourself. But even in these times of sorrow, God’s compassion can overflow through us to meet the needs of others. I need to allow the Holy Spirit to open my eyes to see other’s need and put them first because in doing so I will be more like Jesus.

Yes to Yield

LORD Jesus, I thank You that within the gospel story we see glimpses of Your humanity. In every way, even sorrow, You were “tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 14:15). Thank You for teaching Your disciples to not just think of themselves, but to share from Your compassion with others, even to meet the simple need for food. Holy Spirit empower me and give me that same compassion to not just withdraw within my own times of pain and sorrow; give me eyes to see the needs of others. And as You help me share Your compassion with them, may I have faith to know that Your love is lifting my spirit and renewing my hope.


If you’re new to Living It Now, you can find an explanation of the O-B-E-Y journal on the Hearing and Doing page, or the sample post Guard Duty.

Blameless

How will we live our lives today? Will we live like a beast seeking to gratify the flesh with momentary pleasure, or will we be pure of heart living by the Spirit and crucifying the flesh?

Read: Genesis 23, 24, 25; Matthew 9, 10

One Word

Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.  Genesis 25:34

Big Idea

In this short account of Jacob and Esau we find the younger brother cleverly obtaining his brother’s birthright for a bowl of stew. To properly understand this story we must not overlook the contrast between these two brothers.

We are told that “When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents” (Gen 25:27). This is unfortunately a poor translation. In the Hebrew Jacob is described as tam, which is often translated as perfect or complete, but in the ESV is a quiet man. Yet tam is used three times to  describe Job translated in the ESV as blameless.

Can you begin to see the stark contrast between these two brothers? Esau was a wild man; he lived for the moment hunting going from place to place. Jacob on the other hand was a man of integrity, blameless who was steadfast dwelling in his home/tent.

And so Esau came in famished from a day of hunting; he was so hungry he claimed that he was about to die. He is living for the moment, wild and impatient. Esau insisted that his brother Jacob give him a bowl of stew, but Jacob first made him swear that Esau’s birthright would be given to him in exchange for the stew. Esau saw no value in his birthright if he was dying of hunger.

The birthright gave the firstborn son certain rights and privileges over his younger brother(s). Even though Jacob and Esau were twins, Esau was the firstborn. So what did Esau give in exchange for a bowl of stew? First, was the right to be the priest or intermediary for his family before the LORD. Second, he forfeited the authority as the judge and caretaker among his family. Finally, Esau gave his right to the double portion at the time of his inheritance; the brothers would not share equally in their father’s estate but a double portion would be given to the firstborn, twice what his brothers received.

God choose Jacob. He was the man who was pure and perfect. He is the man who would one day wrestle with God refusing to let go until he received a blessing. The blessing of the LORD is not upon one like Esau, an impulsive and wicked man who live like wild beasts; God’s blessing is upon the man like Jacob who is blameless and upright before the LORD.

Exemplify

As a child of God I am an heir with Christ. I am called to be holy, just as the LORD is holy; therefore I should live blamelessly with a heart of integrity. This means I should not despise my birthright and  exchange my inheritance for the momentary pleasures of life.

Yes to Yield

LORD Jesus, I thank You for Your sacrifice by which I am included as not only a child of God, but an heir together with You. Give me a perspective to understand and value all You have given to me. The inheritance You give is of far greater value than anything I might enjoy living for the moment. You have made me a royal priesthood to intercede before the Father for others. You have given me authority in Your Name. You have given me the mind of Christ with wisdom to discern what is best, what is God’s will. And You have given me riches beyond anything this world can offer. You have promised to meet all my needs. You have set me free from worry and given me peace. Holy Spirit may I never despise the birthright You have given me as a child of God; help me live according to Your word, like Jacob a tam blameless and upright man.


If you’re new to Living It Now, you can find an explanation of the O-B-E-Y journal on the Hearing and Doing page, or the sample post Guard Duty.

Doubting God

Who do you look up to? Have they ever disappointed or surprised you by what they said or did? Abraham is among the hall of fame of faith, and yet he sometimes struggles to believe just like me.

Read: Genesis 20, 21, 22; Mark 5

One Word

Abraham said, “I did it because I thought, ‘There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife’.” Genesis 20:11

Big Idea

Sometimes we don’t connect the dots to see the whole picture. Let’s put Abraham’s story together, so we can better understand what happened when he came into Abimelech’s territory.

In Genesis 17, two significant things happen in his life at the age of ninety-nine. First, God appears to him giving him the covenant of circumcision, the sign of God’s promise to multiply his descendants and give them possession of the land. Every male eight days old or older was to be circumcised in his flesh; anyone not circumcised had broken covenant with the LORD and was to be cut off from among the people. On that day Abram and every male in his household were circumcised according to God’s word.

That same day the LORD changed Abram’s name, which meant exalted father, to Abraham, which means father of a multitude. Likewise, God changed his wife’s name from Sarai to Sarah; both mean princess, but the subtle change may reflect the distinction in dialects having come out of Ur of the Chaldeans to Canaan further tying Abraham and his household to the Promised Land. However, what should not be overlooked is that at this time the LORD specifically tells Abraham that he will be given a son through his wife Sarah.

Soon thereafter the LORD again appears to Abraham at the door of his tent by the oaks of Mamre. Abraham has a covenant meal prepared and while they eat it together, the LORD tells him, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son” (Gen. 18:10). Following the meal, the LORD looked down toward Sodom; the LORD asked the men (most likely angels) with Him if he should hide what was about to happen from Abraham. Thus the LORD reveals that he is about to pour out His judgement upon Sodom and Gomorrah because of the outcry of evil from these cities. Abraham interceded with the LORD to not destroy the righteous with the ungodly; ultimately, God agreed that if even 10 righteous people were found, the cities would be spared.

In chapter 19, God rescues Lot and his family from Sodom and Gomorrah. Early the next morning Abraham returns to the place where he had interceded before the LORD and looks down into the valley. From that place Abraham sees, “the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace” (Gen. 19:28).

Chapter 20 begins telling us that Abraham journeyed from there and lived between Kadesh and Shur. It is here that Abraham tells those living in the land that Sarah is his sister, and she affirm his story saying that he is her brother. As a result Abimelech takes Sarah (a 90 year old woman by the way) into his harem. She is there for some time because the LORD closed all the wombs of the women in Abimelech’s household making them barren.

Why did Abraham act in this way causing Abimelech to sin even though he acted in with integrity of heart? Look again at what Abraham said, “I did it because I thought, ‘There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife’.”

Have you followed Abraham’s storyline with me? The LORD gave him a specific promise that Sarah would give him a son within the next year. The LORD also displayed His power over those who did not fear God giving themselves continually to the evil desires of their hearts. So exactly what did Abraham have to fear knowing the LORD’S promise and power?

Abraham is known as ‘the father of faith,’ for by his faith the LORD declared him righteous. Yet living in Abimelech’s territory Abraham’s faith is weak. He is fearful for his life and doubts if the LORD will keep the promise made for Sarah to give him a son. Yet even in the weakness of Abraham’s faith God intervened reuniting him with his wife Sara. Months later, Genesis 21 tells us that Isaac, the child of promise, was born just as the LORD had said.

God showed mercy to Abraham. And the LORD has been merciful to us giving us the sure hope of eternal life. Therefore, the scriptures tell us to “have mercy on those who doubt” (Jude 1:22).

Exemplify

When with uncertainty I face difficulty I need to remember God’s mercy and faithfulness to me and not give into doubt or fear. And when others doubt I need to allow the Holy Spirit to help me encourage them to not give up.

Yes to Yield

LORD Jesus, thank You for Your faithful mercy. You provide and protect in unexpected and sometimes even in unknown ways for all of us who belong to You. Forgive me when I act in doubt rather than faith. Holy Spirit strengthen me to not focus on my circumstances but upon Your faithful love. And LORD, help me to also recognize when others are struggling with doubt, and give me wisdom to speak words of life to lift their spirit to trust in You.


If you’re new to Living It Now, you can find an explanation of the O-B-E-Y journal on the Hearing and Doing page, or the sample post Guard Duty.

Longings

I was told about a young man who took his life. That’s all of his tragic story I know, but his death says much about his life. I can imagine the longings he had fulfilled but with regret, and his longings of life that when unfulfilled. What might our longings say about our lives?

Read: Genesis 17, 18, 19; Matthew 8:14-34; Mark 4

One Word

But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. Genesis 19:26

Big Idea

Genesis 19 tells the story of the LORD’S destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. These cities were condemned because their longings multiplied their sin; the evil of their corrupt and immoral lifestyle rose as an outcry before God.

Yet in the midst of God’s judgment we also see His mercy as Lot and his family are rescued. But as Lot, his wife and two daughters made their escape, Lot’s wife stopped looking back toward Sodom. In that moment she was turned into a pillar of salt.

This single act resulting in God’s judgement of death is her complete life story as told in scripture. Yet even with so little we learn so much. Her turning back was not just a glance to look and see the destruction befalling the cities. Instead her looking back speaks of her longings for the pleasures of sin and life she had left behind in Sodom.

The Rabbinic tradition as recoded in the midrash and talmud give us further possible insight into Lot’s wife’s motives. The condition of her heart resulted in her being destroyed together with the inhabitants of the cities.

One midrash states that Lot’s wife did not want to provide the “undercover” angelic visitors with hospitality. Thus she acted cunningly to have them removed from her home by going to her neighbors asking for salt to prepare food for unexpected company. The result of her actions informed the townspeople that Lot had welcomed these strangers into their home, which in turn led the men of the city to rush upon their home being filled with lust and desiring to have their way with Lot’s guests.

Another midrash tells that Lot actually had four daughters. Two were virgins engaged to be married who escaped with Lot and his wife; the other two remained behind in the doomed city with their husbands. As they made their flight, Lot’s wife looked back in pity upon her daughters. Yet in doing so she beheld the Shekhinah glory of the LORD (God’s Divine Presence). Because no one can look upon the LORD and live she was turned immediately into a pillar of salt.

In either case, God left Lot’s wife as a pillar of salt, a memorial for future generations to not forget. The rabbis taught that all who looked upon this pillar were to say two blessings. The first saying, “Blessed is the One who remembers the righteous” giving thanks to the LORD for remembering Abraham’s family and coming to their rescue. The second blessing, “Blessed be the true Judge” is said in remembrance of of the God’s judgment poured out upon her and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (see Lot’s Wife: Midrash and Aggadah).

These ancient teachings and blessings could be behind Jesus’ teaching and understanding of those listening at the time. The Pharisees had asked Jesus about the coming of God’s kingdom. Jesus told them the time would come when they would seek for the Son of Man but not find Him because His coming (and the coming of God’s kingdom) would not come as they expected it. Then Jesus warned them saying, Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it (Lk. 17:32-33).

Exemplify

God has rescued me from a world doomed “being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly” just like Sodom and Gomorrah (2 Pt. 3:7). I too need to remember Lot’s wife and not look longly to the ways of this world that will ultimately be destroyed by God’s wrath.

Yes to Yield

LORD Jesus, thank You for being gracious to me and all who are saved by Your faithfulness giving Yourself as the sacrifice for our sin. I deserved the punishment for my sin, but You have rescued me. Holy Spirit, help me to live as the new creation You have made me to be; empower me to live by the Spirit and not according to the flesh. LORD grant that I might have a willingness to loose my life rather than seek to preserve it; keep me from longing for the ways of this world that You have rescued me from.


If you’re new to Living It Now, you can find an explanation of the O-B-E-Y journal on the Hearing and Doing page, or the sample post Guard Duty.