Daily Devotional Readings: Year One - March
1st March: Genesis 15:1-21
God is greater than our circumstances. God had given great promises to Abraham, yet there appeared no sign that His promises were being fulfilled. The circumstances seemed bleak, and Abraham felt despondent. Abraham was full of questions. In verse 2, he asks, 'What can you give me...?' This is the question of salvation. What does God give? He gives salvation. In verse 8, he asks, 'How can I know...?'. This is the question of assurance. We ask for assurance. God gives it - the assurance of salvation, the assurance that salvation has been given and received. Where are we to look for answers to these questions? Are we to look to our circumstances? Are we to look to our feelings? No. We look to the 'Almighty God' (2,8). Trusting in Christ, the 'Passover Lamb...sacrificed for us', we receive a sure salvation (6:1; 1 Corinthians 5:7; John 20:31; 1 John 5:13).
2nd March: Genesis 16: 1-16
From salvation and the assurance of salvation, we turn to Satan and the activity of Satan. Sarai came with temptation (1). Abraham yielded to temptation (2). Temptation becomes sin when we yield to it. In Abraham, we see the conflict between 'the old man' that he was and 'the new man' God was calling him to become (17:5; Galatians 5:17). He chose the way of unbelief. Listening to the voice of Satan, speaking through Sarai, he walked straight into immorality. Unbelief and immorality belong together (Romans 1:18). We must guard our hearts with respect to both what we believe and how we behave. We must not imagine that Satan will win the victory over the Lord and His purpose of salvation. Satan will try to overcome God's gracious purpose, but he will not succeed (Revelation 20:10). 'Hallelujah!... the Lord our God the Almighty reigns' (Revelation 19:6).
3rd March: Genesis 17:1-27
Amazing grace - this is the marvellous theme of this chapter. Abram became Abraham (5). Sarai became Sarah (15-16). What they were belonged to their sinful past. What they became was the work of God's grace. What a contrast there is between human sin and divine grace. We look at ourselves. We see sin, and we lose hope. We look at the God of grace, and we say, 'Sin shall not have dominion. Grace is victorious' (Romans 6:14). Abram and Sarai appeared to be hopeless cases. They had failed the Lord, but He did not fail them. He made them new people. They became the father and mother of nations. To those who do not deserve His love, God still renews His 'covenant', His promise of love (2). He still says, 'I have loved you with an everlasting love' (Jeremiah 31:3). In the Cross of Christ, we have the greatest 'sign of the covenant' (11; Romans 5:8).
4th March: Genesis 18:1-15
Is anything too hard for the Lord? (14). We need to hear these words as God's call to greater faith. Sarah, like Abraham, had heard God's promises, yet 'she laughed to herself' (12). We can hear God's Word, and still remain, in our hearts, men and women of unbelief. The Word of God does not benefit us when we do not receive it with faith (Hebrews 4:2). God knows what is in our hearts, just as He knew what was in Sarah's heart (13-15). He knows the human heart, 'deceitful above all things' (Jeremiah 17:9), yet He continues to love us. He does not give up on us. He perseveres with us. He could have given up on Sarah as a hopeless waste of His time, but He did not. 'The evil heart of unbelief' is always with us, but God is constantly at work to create in us 'a clean heart' ( Hebrews 3:12: Psalm 51:10). 'Soften my heart, Lord' (Mission Praise, 606).
5th March: Genesis 18:16-33
In the face of the threatened judgment of God upon Sodom and Gomorrah, we find Abraham engaging in mighty intercessory prayer. He is not concerned only about himself and his own salvation. He is prayerfully committed to seeking the salvation of others. This is a mark of spiritual maturity - a deep concern for the salvation of sinners, leading to earnest intercessory prayer for them. Abraham drew near to God (23; James 4:8). He pleaded with the God of grace to have mercy on the city (23-25; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:3-4, 1:15; John 3:17). With a deep love for the people, Abraham prays with boldness and persistence (27,32; Hebrews 4:16). A great many people refused to honour God, yet His purpose was not hindered. The remnant seemed impossibly small. It was the beginning of blessing for all nations. 'To God be the glory, Great things He has done' (Church Hymnary, 374).
6th March: Matthew 10:1-20
Jesus gave authority to His disciples (1). He gives authority to us. It is the authority of the Word and the Spirit - 'you will be given what to say' by 'the Spirit of your Father speaking through you' (20). Christ's disciples were being trained for a great work to be done in the Name and the Power of the Lord (28: 18-20). If we are to communicate the Word in the power of the Spirit, we need to see our life as life in the Spirit and life under the Word. Scripture calls us to 'be filled with the Spirit' (Ephesians 5:18) and to 'let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly' (Colossians 3:16). To be filled with the Spirit is to let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly. To let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly is to be filled with the Spirit. We are to live in the power of the Spirit. We are to live in accordance with the Scriptures.
7th March: Matthew 10:21-42
Jesus tells us that 'a student is not above his teacher nor a servant above his master' (24). Our Teacher is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our Master. Jesus emphasizes that 'it is enough for the student to be like his teacher and the servant like his master' (25). This is the goal of the Christian life - we are to be like Jesus. This will not be an easy life. There will be persecution (22; 2 Timothy 3:12). In this situation - going the way of the Cross with Jesus (38) - we need to hear and heed the Word of the Lord: Do not fear man. Fear God (28). The fear of men is to be avoided. The fear of God is to be treasured greatly. There will be conflict with those who do not honour God (34-37). We must remember: pleasing God is more important than pleasing people. Our prayer is that our hearers will receive Christ as well as ourselves (40).
8th March: Matthew 11:1-19
Much is said about John the Baptist here, yet the whole purpose is to draw attention to Jesus the Saviour. Jesus is superior to John. He is the One to whom John pointed. There are two responses to Jesus. We can take offence at Him: 'Blessed is he who takes no offence at Me' (6). We can hear what He says, receiving Him with faith: 'He who has ears to hear, let him hear' (15). In His time, Jesus asked the question, 'To whom shall I compare this generation?', giving the answer, 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn' (16-17). The promise of the Gospel is preached, yet many will not rejoice. The warning of the Gospel is preached, yet many will not repent. This is the story of our generation. May God help us to lead people of this generation to Christ, the 'Friend of sinners' (19).
9th March: Matthew 11:20-30
In John 16:8-11, Jesus speaks of the work of the Holy Spirit, convicting the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. Before there can be conversion, there needs to be conviction of sin. None of us can come to the Saviour of sinners without first seeing ourselves as sinners who need the Saviour. God uses the warning of judgment to send us to the Saviour - there 'will be...judgment', so make sure that you 'come' to Christ for salvation (24,28; Luke 3:7-8; Hebrews 2:3; 3:7-15). Before there can be growth in grace, there needs to be conversion. Before we can live a righteous life, learning from Christ (29; 1 Peter 1:15-16), we must come to Christ for rest, being declared righteous by Him (28; Romans 4:5-8). In Christ, we have salvation, set free from judgment - 'no condemnation' - and set free for righteousness - 'living according to the Spirit' (Romans 8:1).
10th March: Proverbs 1:20-33
This section begins with the words, 'Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares' (20) and ends with the words, 'whoever listens to Me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm' (33). The Gospel is not to be kept to ourselves. Christ is to be proclaimed. Why is it so important that we tell others about our Saviour, Jesus Christ? - It is because He offers salvation to all who come to Him: 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved' (Romans 10:13). Later on, in Proverbs, we read, 'he who wins souls is wise' (11:30). Those who are wise will pray for a greater fulfilment of the Lord's promise: 'you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses...' (Acts 1:8). Filled with the Holy Spirit, we will speak the Word of God boldly (Acts 4:31).
11th March: Genesis 19:1-29
In Genesis 3, we read of humanity's fall into sin. Here, we see the awfulness of human sin and the awesomeness of divine judgment. We must take God with the utmost seriousness. If we refuse to take Him seriously, He will continue to take us seriously - in His judgment! Sin leads to judgment - that's the lesson of Sodom and Gomorrah. There is sadness in the story of Lot. A compromised believer for whom the world had no respect, he chose Sodom. This choice brought him nothing but sin and shame - 'and now he wants to play the judge!' (9). The amazing thing is that God did not give up on this 'backslider' - 'the Lord was merciful to them...He brought Lot out of the catastrophe' (16,29). What a great thing it is to have God's salvation: 'everything we need for life and godliness' to 'escape the corruption in the world' (2 Peter 1:3-5).
12th March: Genesis 19:30-20:18
These are stories of deception and deceit. Lot is deceived by his daughters (30-38). Abraham deceives Abimelech (1-18). Even with the divine provision for godliness, we need to be constantly on our guard. Even those to whom we had looked for help can turn out to be a hindrance. Lot was drawn into incest. This had drastic effects - 'the father of the Moabites, the father of the Ammonites' (37-38)! Devotion to the Lord needs to be renewed day-by-day. Otherwise, we will be vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy and overcome by him. Abraham concealed the whole truth by telling a half-truth (12). Abraham was regarded as 'a prophet' (7). He ought to have lived the life of a prophet, a true life. We are to be true - the people of God.
13th March: Genesis 21:1-21
We have here the contrast between Isaac, the child of promise, and Ishmael, the fruit of unbelief. Ishmael was born as a result of impatience, the failure to wait upon the Lord. In the birth of Isaac, the initiative belonged with God, and the glory belonged to Him. In Christ, we are the children of promise - 'children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God' (John 1:13). God did not forget Ishmael. There were blessings for him (17-21). The difference between Ishmael and Isaac is the difference between common grace and saving grace. Many people know much of the grace of God in 'the common things of life' (Church Hymnary, 457). There are so many blessings for them to count. Still they fail to appreciate God's greatest gift - His Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Thank God for this and that and...Jesus!
14th March: Genesis 21:22-22:14
Here, we see Abraham in his relationship with the world (22-34) and his relationship with the Lord (1-14). Abraham deals honestly and wisely with the pagan king, Abimelech, who acknowledges Abraham's closeness to God - 'God is with you in all that you do' (22). We are to be honest and wise in our relationship with the world (Romans 12:17; Colossians 4:5; Ephesians 5:15; 1 Peter 2:12). Our relationship with the world is to be grounded in our relationship with God. In the testing of Abraham, we catch a glimpse of 'the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world' (John 1:29). Christ is the Lamb whom God will provide (8). In verse 14, we read, 'On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided'. On Calvary's hill, Christ died to bring us to God, so that we might learn to live for Him in this world (1 Peter 3:18; 2:24).
15th March: Genesis 22:15-23:20
After the renewal of God's promise (15-18), Abraham went to Beersheba (19). He returned to the place where he had 'called...on the Name of the Lord, the Everlasting God' (33). This is a good 'place' to be, the 'place' of calling on the Name of the Lord, the Everlasting God. As we read of the death and burial of Sarah, we must remember this: the Lord is the Everlasting God. The death of Sarah took place in God's time. Her death signified that her work had been done. She had mothered the child of promise. Beyond the death of Sarah, there was the continuing purpose of God. The cave at Machpelah (23:19-20) became the burial place for Sarah, Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Leah. We see the continuity of history, and we thank God for His continuing faithfulness down through the generations.
16th March: Matthew 12:1-21
Much of Jesus' ministry was carried out under the watchful eye of the Pharisees. The controversy with the Pharisees was intensifying (2, 14). The Pharisees were out to get Jesus. For all their religion, they had no time for Jesus. Still, there are the critics, those who try to undermine our faith in Christ, those who attempt to draw us away from serving Christ. We must remain resolute in our faith, believing what God says concerning His Son: 'Here is my Servant whom I have chosen, the One I love, in whom I delight' (18; 3:17; 17:5). As we read of Jesus, the chosen Servant of God, loved by the Father and bringing delight to the Father's heart, we should give thanks for all that God has done for us in Christ (Ephesians 1: 4-6), and we should commit ourselves afresh to the service of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:58).
17th March: Matthew 12:22-37
Opposition from the Pharisees was growing all the time (24). Jesus had to rebuke them in very strong words (30, 32,34,36-37). This was not exactly a 'How to win friends and influence people' approach! Nevertheless, this was a time for strong words. Jesus' ministry illustrates the principle: 'a time to tear down and a time to build' (Ecclesiastes 3:3). There was a time for 'whoever is not against us is for us' (Mark 9:40). This was the time for 'he who is not with me is against me' (30). There was a time for speaking of the Spirit as 'the Comforter' (John 14:16,26). This was the time for the warning about the 'blasphemy against the Spirit' (31). The opposition was severe, but Jesus was victorious - He 'drove out demons by the Spirit of God', in Him 'the Kingdom of God had come' (28). In Him, we are victorious (Romans 8:37; Revelation 12:11).
18th March: Matthew 12:38-50
Jesus did not 'mince His words' with the Pharisees. He described them as 'a wicked and adulterous generation' (39,45). They were men who, by their stubborn refusal to listen to Jesus, had placed themselves under the judgment of God. The Pharisees may have had no time for Jesus, but there were those who were eager to learn from Him. Out of 'the crowd' (46), Jesus was calling to Himself those who were learning what it really means to be related to Him (50). Jesus directed attention away from His human connections to His divine authority. Sometimes, people make too much of the wrong things - 'Blessed is the womb that bore you...' (Luke 11:27). They need to be reminded of the things that really matter: 'Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it' (Luke 11:28). As God's children we are to do His will (50; John 14:21).
19th March: Matthew 13:1-23
Jesus spoke in parables. He spoke of everyday things, teaching lessons concerning the Kingdom of God. He was a story-teller, and yet He was more than that. His stories had a message, a life-changing message, a message designed to lead His hearers into new life, the life of God's Kingdom. The parable of the sower may be described more fully as the parable of 'the sower, the seed and the soil'. Some respond to God's Word in a shallow way. In others, there is greater depth of response. Some 'enjoy' the preaching without really responding, in faith, to Christ. Jesus says, 'He who has ears , let him hear' (10). Receive God's Word in obedient faith, and your knowledge of God will increase (12). This is the way of childlike faith and spiritual growth. Beware of proud unbelief and spiritual decline (12; 11:25)!
20th March: Matthew 13:24 -43
Jesus' parables are so rich in spiritual content. They speak with an indirectness which is very direct! They may be parabolic in form, but they do go right to the heart of the matter in a way that is very challenging. The parable of the 'wheat and the weeds' (24-30, with explanation given in 36-43) contrasts a real believing response to Christ with an empty profession of faith in Him. There is also something else - leave judgment to God. He knows those who are His and those who are not. The parable of the mustard seed (31-32) is a word of encouragement - Do not give up hope that the seed of God's Word is growing, slowly and surely, in the hearts of those who do not appear to be bearing much fruit. The parable of the yeast is also encouraging - What a difference even a few believers can make to a whole community!
21st March: Matthew 13: 44-58
Be patient. Do not doubt the power of God's Word. Once God's Word has begun to exert its influence among the people, great things will happen. The beginnings may seem small. Remember: nothing is insignificant when God is in it! Some may be on the verge of the kind of joyful discovery of Christ, described in 44-46! The parable of the net (47-50) is similar to the parable of the wheat and the tares (24-30). The separation of 'the good' and 'the bad' comes 'at the end of the age' (48-49). The Gospel is 'old' and 'new' (52) - we've known its teaching for years, yet there are always some 'new treasures' for us to discover. It's sadly possible to hear the Word of God without believing it and enjoying its blessing. Don't let Christ be 'a prophet without honour' (57). Honour Him in your heart and life.
22nd March: Psalm 4:1-8
There is a great message of the Gospel here. By ourselves, we are sinners, turning God's glory to shame, loving delusions and seeking false gods (2). By grace, God has done something about this - 'the Lord has set apart the godly for Himself' (3). When we pray, 'Answer me' (1), we have this confidence: 'the Lord will hear when I call to Him' (3). The Lord hears the sinner's prayer, 'Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer' (1). Jesus Christ is God's Answer to this prayer. Christ brings relief (salvation).This salvation arises from the mercy of God. In Christ, we have a 'joy' and 'peace' which the world can neither give nor take away (7-8). When the seeking sinner comes with the question, 'Who can show us any good?' (6), the Gospel Answer is always the same - Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
23rd March: Genesis 24:1-21
The servant was sent on a mission. He was 'to get a wife for...Isaac' (4). When Christ entered Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-11), He was on a mission. He had come for His Bride, the Church (Ephesians 5:25; Revelation 21:2-3). The servant was not to 'get a wife...from...the Canaanites' (3). The Church is to be made 'holy,...a radiant Church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless' (Ephesians 5:26-27). The servant carried out his mission carefully and prayerfully (12-14). Jesus was careful to fulfil the words of the prophet - entering Jerusalem 'on a donkey' (Matthew 21:2-7). In His journey to the Cross, Jesus was concerned with this one thing - 'to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work' (John 4:34). The servant prayed, and the answer was given (15-16). Not my will but Thine, Lord!
24th March: Genesis 24:22-49
The detailed account of Isaac's marriage highlights the guidance of God. He directs the life of His people. This is our testimony - 'the Lord...has led me on the right road' (48). The great lessons of this story are stated in verse 27 - (a) the 'steadfast love' of the Lord; (b) the 'faithfulness' of God; (c) the guidance of God - 'the Lord has led me'; (d) worshipping the Lord - 'Blessed be the Lord...'. We are to seek God's guidance, rejoicing in His love and trusting in His faithfulness. Looking to Christ, who went to the Cross for us, we are to say, with Him, 'I have come to do Thy will, O God', 'I will praise Thee', 'I will put my trust in Him', 'Here am I, and the children God has given Me' (Hebrews 10:7; 2:12-13). To those who do His will, praising Him and trusting Him, God will give much blessing - 'an overflowing blessing' (Malachi 3:10).
25th March: Genesis 24:50-67
In verse 60, we read of the blessing of God upon Rebekah - 'Our sister, may you increase to thousands upon thousands; may your offspring possess the gates of their enemies'. This refers to the long-term fulfilment of God's promise to Abraham. Through the death of Christ, the Lamb of God, 'a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation,' will sing the song of salvation, 'Salvation belongs to our God...and to the Lamb' (Revelation 7: 9-10). This is what we must pray for in our own community. In homes where Christ has not been honoured, there will be transformation. The Lord's messengers will be received - 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!' - and the Lord's Name will be praised - 'Hosanna in the highest!' (Matthew 21:9). Such blessing will be given to those who spend time with God (63; Joshua 1:8).
26th March: Genesis 25:1-18
What will we leave behind us? What will we pass on to the next generation? In this passage of many names, there is a challenging contrast between the influence of Abraham and Ishmael on the next generation. In verse 11, we read, 'After Abraham's death, God blessed his son Isaac'. In verse 18, we find that 'Ishmael's descendants lived in hostility toward all their brothers'. In Isaiah 52:13-53:12, there is a great prophecy concerning the death of Christ. We read of His suffering, as He becomes 'an offering for sin'. We learn also of His glorious future - 'He will see His offspring and prolong His days' (53:10). Unlike Abraham (175 years) and Ishmael (137 years), Jesus did not live a long life on earth (33 years), yet 'He shall see the fruit of the travail of His soul and be satisfied' - 'many' will be 'accounted righteous' (11).
27th March: Matthew 14:1-14
John the Baptist was 'arrested' and 'put in prison' (3). Shortly after this, he was 'beheaded' (10). John was a faithful man. He was 'faithful unto death' (Revelation 2:10). His death arose directly from his faithfulness to God. He died as a 'martyr'. Following the death of John, news came to Jesus, who was to die as our Saviour. How did Jesus react to this news?- First, 'he withdrew...privately to a solitary place (13). Then, having renewed His strength in the presence of His Father (Isaiah 40:31), He stepped out again into the sphere of public ministry. He continued on His way, the Way that would lead Him to the Cross. What are we to learn from John, the faithful martyr, and Jesus, the faithful Saviour, who gave Himself in death for us? We are to be faithful to God. If suffering lies ahead of us, He will make us strong.
28th March: Matthew 14:15-36
We read of the feeding of the five thousand (15-21) and the walking on water (25-33), and our thoughts go to Calvary. From the feeding with bread and fish, we move to the bread and wine, symbols of Jesus' body broken for us and His blood shed for us (26:26-28). From the confession of faith - 'Truly You are the Son of God' (33), we move to the Cross to hear the centurion's words of faith; 'Surely He was the Son of God!' (27:54). We see Jesus, the Man of prayer (23), the Healer (35-36), and we look to the Cross, where we experience the healing influence of His prayer for us; 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing' (Luke 23:34). 'Thank You for the Cross, The price you paid for us, How You gave Yourself, So completely, Precious Lord, Now our sins are gone, All forgiven, Covered by your blood, All forgotten, Thank You, Lord' (Mission Praise, 632).
29th March: Matthew 15:1-20
The Pharisees were preoccupied with washing the hands (2), yet they missed out on the most important thing - the cleansing of the heart. They were obsessed with 'correct' religious ritual, yet they sent Christ to the Cross. They honoured God with their words, yet in their hearts they were far from Him (8). We must pray for the cleansing of the heart: 'Purify my heart, Cleanse me from within And make me holy. Purify my heart, Cleanse me from my sin, Deep within' (Songs of Fellowship, 475). When Jesus was buried, He was wrapped in a 'clean linen cloth' (27:59). This was followed by His mighty resurrection. Without lapsing into hypocritical obsession with outward appearances, we make this simple comment: the 'resurrection' of God's work among us will come as we pray earnestly for the cleansing of our hearts.
30th March: Matthew 15: 21-16:4
Above all Jesus' miracles, we celebrate His mighty resurrection from the dead (28:5-7). This miracle is referred to in 16:4 - 'the sign of Jonah': Jonah was raised from 'the belly of a huge fish', Jesus has been raised from 'the heart of the earth' (12:40). We are to 'remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead' (2 Timothy 2:8). In the girl's healing (21-28), we see the risen Lord's great triumph over evil - evil men tried to put Him down, but He did not stay down (Acts 2: 23-24). In the feeding of the crowd (36-37), we see the risen Lord's ongoing ministry of feeding His people. Here, we compare verses 36-37 with the Lord's Supper: (a) He took bread; (b) He gave thanks; (c) He broke it; (d) He gave it to the disciples; (e) The bread is shared with the people; (f) All are satisfied. All glory to the risen Lord !
31st March: Proverbs 2:1-15
There is a real call for spiritual growth here. We are to accept God's words, storing up His commands, turning our ears to wisdom and our hearts to understanding (1-2). If we are to grow in the fear and knowledge of God, we must pray for insight and understanding. These blessings are greater than silver and hidden treasure (3-5). In the Christian life, there is both promise and warning. There is God's promise - you will be led in a way that 'will be pleasant to your soul' (10). There is His warning - make sure that you do not 'leave the straight paths to walk in dark ways' (13). It is very important that we take time to read God's Word, since it is 'the Lord' who 'gives wisdom'. We must listen for God's Voice, speaking to us through Scripture (6). As we listen to Him, we will be led in 'every good path' - protected and victorious (7-9).