Daily Devotional Readings: Year One - February
1st February : Genesis 6:1-8
The story of Noah is the story of God's grace - 'Noah found grace' (8). Noah lived in very difficult times (5-7), yet 'Grace found Noah'. His testimony could be summed up: 'Amazing grace...I once was lost but now am found' (Mission Praise, 31). Expanding on the thought of 5:29 - 'this one (Noah) shall bring relief from our work and from the toil of our hands' - we may allow our thoughts to turn to Christ and say to Him: 'Not the labour of my hands can fulfil Thy law's demands...All for sin could not atone, Thou must save, and Thou alone. Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy Cross I cling' (Church Hymnary, 83). In these two statements - 'Noah found grace' and 'this one will bring...', we see both salvation and service. We are saved to serve. Once we ourselves have been found by grace, we are to seek to bring others to Christ that they also may be saved by Him and become His servants.
2nd February: Genesis 6:9-22
To view the flood exclusively in terms of judgment is to see only one side of what God was doing. As well as judging, He was also saving - 'In this ship a few people - eight in all - were saved by water' (1 Peter 3:20). The ark points forward to Christ 'who came back from death to life', Christ who 'saves' us (1 Peter 3:21). God was working out His purpose of salvation. In Noah's day, the remnant of faith was very small, yet the promise of God's love was given to them - 'I will establish My covenant with you' (18). Even when wickedness threatens to overwhelm us, we still have God's promise of love, 'the new covenant in Christ's blood' (1 Corinthians 11:25). 'The blood of Jesus, God's Son, cleanses us from all sin' (1 John 1:7). Knowing that Christ loved us and died for us, we are to be like Noah (22). We are to walk with the Lord and serve Him.
3rd February: Genesis 7:1-24
Here, we pick up on the words of verse 16 - 'the Lord closed the door behind them'. What was going on outside of the ark is contrasted with the haven of salvation inside the ark. What was it that made the ark a place of salvation? - The Lord. What is it that makes Jesus Christ the Source of our salvation? - God has given Him the Name that is above every name, the Name of our salvation (Philippians 2:9-11; Acts 4:12). From the ark, we learn of (a) the one way of salvation - The ark had only one door. Jesus is 'the Door' which leads to salvation (John 10:9); (b) the eternal security of salvation - All were safe inside the ark. In Christ there is eternal security (John 10:28); (c) the absolute necessity of salvation - Outside of the ark, there was certain death. Refusal to come to Christ for salvation leads to judgment: 'How shall we escape...?' (Hebrews 2:3).
4th February: Genesis 8:1-22
Following the flood, we have this simple yet striking declaration: 'the ground was dry' (13). Safe from judgment! This is the message which comes to us from the Cross: 'Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world' (John 1:29). The judgment has fallen upon Christ. We are no longer swept away in the judgment. We can stand on solid ground: 'On Christ the solid Rock I stand' (Church Hymnary, 411). He is our Support in 'the whelming flood'. God said to Noah, 'Come out of the ship' (15). We are in Christ. He is the Source of our salvation. God has brought us into Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30). He does not bring us into Christ solely for our own benefit. We are sent out to be fruitful (17: John 15: 16). We are to 'abide in Christ'. This is the way of fruitfulness (John 15: 4-5). We are not sent out alone. Strengthened in 'the ship' (in Christ), we step out with Christ and for Him.
5th February: Genesis 9:1-19
'When you see a rainbow, remember God is love'. The rainbow reminds us of the gracious promise of God (13-15). If the love of God is revealed in the rainbow, it is more fully revealed in the Cross: 'We sing the praise of Him who died, of Him who died upon the Cross...upon the Cross we see in shining, letters 'God is love', He bears our sins upon the tree. He brings us mercy from above'. When we read the Old Testament stories, we must learn to see their place within the fuller Story, the Story of God's salvation: 'I will sing the wondrous Story of the Christ who died for me'. This is the greatest Story of all - 'the Story of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love,...the Story of wonderful redemption, God's remedy for sin'. 'This is our Story. This is our Song, praising our Saviour all the day long'. This is 'the Story to tell to the nations' (Church Hymnary, 258,381,132; Mission Praise, 59,744).
6th February: Genesis 9:20-29
What a sad episode this is! It teaches us that yesterday's victories can become today's defeats, if we do not keep close to God. We read, in Hebrews 11:7 of Noah the man of faith, but here we have a very different picture. The lesson is clear - 'The arm of flesh will fail you; Ye dare not trust your own'. We must not look to our own strength to keep us in the way of faith and obedience. It cannot be done. We fail. 'God can do anything but fail'. We must affirm our faith in God - 'All my hope on God is founded'. In man, there is no sure foundation - only 'change and chance'. There is nothing that will last - 'only pride of man and earthly glory' (Church Hymnary, 481,405). Can we be guided through change and chance? Yes, but we must learn from Noah's fall - Past grace is no guarantee of present growth - , and we must keep our eyes on Jesus, 'the Author and Finisher of our faith' (Hebrews 12: 2).
7th February: Matthew 5:1-2
Here, we have the introduction to 'the Sermon on the Mount' (chs 5-7). Reference is made to both 'the disciples' and 'the crowds'. The disciples are taught with a view to becoming teachers of the crowds. Peter learned from Christ and later he taught the crowds (Acts 2:14-42). The Sermon on the Mount was heard by the crowds as well as the disciples. Jesus spoke to the crowds. His ministry to the disciples had a dual purpose. It was for their own spiritual strengthening. It was training for the time when they would be entrusted with the Lord's commission: 'Go therefore and make disciples of all nations...teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you' (Matthew 28: 19-20). Do you read God's Word solely for your own benefit? Or, do we have an eye for ways in which we can learn to share His Word with others?
8th February: Matthew 5:3-12
'The Beatitudes' show us God's way of blessing. We might also describe them as the Be Attitudes, since they show us what we are to be. Jesus teaches us that the way to happiness is the way of holiness. The only alternative to the way of holiness is the way of hypocrisy. There can be no true happiness when we are walking in the way of hypocrisy. Holiness is to take shape in our lives - the shape of Jesus Christ living in us. This is the truly happy life: the Christ centered life. We are not to live according to present appearances. We are to live in the light of the future Reality of God's heavenly Kingdom. Some of Jesus' later statements can be viewed as an exploration of the meaning of the Beatitudes. The general principles (3-10) are to be applied personally: 'Blessed are you...' (11-12). We are not only to read the Beatitudes. We are to live them.
9th February: Matthew 5:13-16
Holiness is to be seen. Happiness is to be shared. We are not to be secret disciples. It will not be easy to live the life of Christ's disciples. In a world of much corruption, we are to be 'the salt of the earth' (13). In a world of much darkness we are to be 'the light of the world' (14). If we are to bring the refreshing light of Christ into our world, we ourselves must receive spiritual refreshment as we let the light of God's Word shine on our lives. Reading God's Word can never be a purely personal thing. Being 'the salt of the earth' and 'the light of the world' - this is what Jesus says we are - , we read Scripture with a view to learning how we are to live in the world. Don't lose your saltiness. Be salty enough to create a thirst for God in other people. Don't let your light grow dim. Let it shine brightly. Remember - all the glory belongs to God (16; Psalm 115:1).
10th February: Matthew 5:17-20
In verse 20, Jesus refers to 'the scribes and Pharisees'. Jesus warned against the shallow superficiality of these men who were more concerned with outward appearances than inner reality. This conflict with the Jewish religious leaders lies close to the surface in the Sermon on the Mount. When Jesus says, 'This is their way. This is My way', He is not calling in question the authority of the Old Testament Scriptures: 'Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them' (17). He is in conflict with 'the hypocrites' (6:2 5,16). He is warning against the 'false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves' (7:15). What a difference there was between Jesus' teaching and those who 'preach, but do not practise' (23:3) - He spoke with 'authority', they did not (7:29). May we be like Jesus!
11th February: Matthew 5:21-37
The teaching of Jesus here may be summed up thus: The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. Jesus' teaching was much more penetrating than the pronouncements made by the scribes and Pharisees. Not content to scratch the surface, Jesus asked the deeper question, 'What's going on in your heart?'. Jesus' teaching has real spiritual depth. He takes seriously the biblical teaching that 'the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt' (Jeremiah 17:9). He knows that we need a 'new heart' (Ezekiel 36:26). The Pharisees were bogged down in intricate details - Do this. Do that. Do the other. All the emphasis was on what we do. Christ was much more direct - Get the heart right. Ask God for a heart of love (21-26), purity (27-32), and truthfulness (33-37). Do not say, 'Look what I've done' (7:22). Let Christ live in your heart; let Him change you.
12th February: Matthew 5:38-48
The Pharisees lived by law. Jesus lived by love. The law of God - 'holy and just and good' (Romans 7:12) - had been distorted by the religious hypocrites. They were saying, 'love your neighbour and hate your enemy' (43). 'Love your neighbour' is found in Leviticus 19:18. 'Hate your enemy' is not found in the Old Testament. For the Jews, 'neighbour' meant their own kind. They wrongly concluded that Gentiles were to be hated. Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan makes it clear that we are to love our enemies as well as our friends (Luke 10:25-37). Jesus' disagreement is not with the law of God. It is with man's misuse of it. Jesus' teaching is simple - Love is not to be limited. It is demanding - love is all-embracing. We dare not bring love within our reach. We always fall short. We can only come to Christ. Confessing our lack of love and trusting in His perfect love, we learn to love.
13th February: Psalm 2:1-12
In this Psalm we read of a conflict. On the one side there is 'the Lord and His Anointed' (2). On the other there are those who 'conspire and...plot' (1). The conspiracies and plots of men will come to nothing. The saving purpose of God will be fulfilled. This purpose will be accomplished in Christ, the One to whom God says, 'You are my Son' (7), the One to whom God says, 'I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession' (8). God calls us to worship Christ - 'Kiss the Son' (12). This call to worship Christ is accompanied by a warning against judgment and a promise of salvation. As sinners, we are under God's judgment. Trusting in Christ, we are saved (12; John 3:36). We are to take delight in Christ. This is the thought conveyed by the phrase, 'Kiss the Son'. We delight in God's Son, and we delight in God's Word which leads us to Him.
14th February: Genesis 10:1-32
What a lot of names! Why is all this included in God's Word? It may describe the historical context of God's unfolding purpose of providing salvation for sinners, but what does it say to us? The inclusion of so many obscure names emphasizes that everyone - however obscure - is important. 'God so loved the world' (John 3:16) - not only the 'important' people but all people. Names are important to God. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, calls His sheep 'by name' (John 10:3). Among the many names there is an interesting reference to 'Nimrod, the first mighty warrior on the earth...a mighty hunter whom the Lord blessed' (8-9). First among 'the cities of his kingdom' was 'Babylon' (10). Alarm bells ring! - Babylon's rebellion! The privilege of God's blessing brings the responsibility of maintaining His blessing. We must be 'mighty warriors' for God (2 Corinthians 10:4; Ephesians 6:10-20).
15th February: Genesis 11:1-9
Human pride sets itself up against the authority of God. This is the oft-repeated story of the 'Tower of Babel'. The end of godless men is sure - 'Tower and temple, fall to dust' (Church Hymnary, 405). Sin can be analysed psychologically in terms of the human attitude of proud independence ('let us make a name for ourselves', v.5), sociologically in terms of sin's pervasive influence on a whole society (this was the sin of a whole society), and theologically in terms of the divine judgment which human sin brings upon itself (5-9). What a contrast there is between the Tower of Babel and the great declaration of Proverbs 18:10 - 'The Name of the Lord is a strong tower'. In Babel there is scattering (9). In the Lord, there is safety - 'A righteous man runs to it and is safe'. Do not imagine yourself to be strong (Proverbs 18:11). True strength is in Christ alone (1 Corinthians 1:27).
16th February: Genesis 11:10-32
Another list of names! Again, there is something here for us - God is moving on. These many names summarize the times between Noah and Abraham. We must look beyond this list of names. We must see them in connection with His Story. History can be tedious, until we see it as His Story. From the human standpoint, things seem to have come to a dead end: 'Now Sarai was barren; she had no child' (30). There are, however, no dead ends when God is at work. From verse 30, we move on to 12:1-3. We read on though the story of Abraham. We learn of the faith of Sarah and the faithfulness of God (Hebrews 11:11-12). We follow the Story on to Christ, who is the fulfilment of the promise given to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; Galatians 3:16). This is the Story of 'the God of Abraham', the 'God of love'. Through Christ our Saviour, we will 'sing the wonders of His grace for ever more' (Church Hymnary, 358).
17th February: Matthew 6:1-18
Jesus says that we are not to be like 'the hypocrites' (2,5,16). The word 'hypocrite' means 'play actor'. It refers to 'putting on a performance'. This performance may be extremely religious, but God is not in it. The hypocrites live according to 'the letter' of the law, but they know nothing of the power of 'the Spirit' (2 Corinthians 3:6). The hypocrites' religious performance gets along very well without God. His presence is not sought, welcomed or treasured. The hypocrites draw attention to themselves. They do not direct attention away from themselves to God. There is a better way than the way of hypocrisy. It is the way of holiness. Our lives are to be centred on Christ - 'it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me' (Galatians 2:20). We must not forget: apart from Him we can do nothing. We are to abide in Him (John 15:5) - in true holiness.
18th February: Matthew 6:19-34
On the one side of Christ's disciples, there are the hypocrites. On the other side, there are 'the Gentiles' (32). The hypocrites represent religion without reality. The Gentiles represent the world, living for material things only, refusing to take spiritual realities seriously. We are to be different from both the hypocrites and the Gentiles. Our top priority is pleasing God, not impressing men. We are to live for God's eternal Kingdom rather than living for a world which is passing away. Living for Christ is very different from worldly living. Our life is to be governed by heavenly, and not earthly, priorities (19-21). We are to walk in the light, refusing to be overcome by the darkness (22-23). We are to trust the Lord, refusing to let unbelieving anxiety rule our lives ( 25-34).
19th February: Matthew 7:1-14
Jesus' teaching regarding Christian living can be related to His teaching in 'the Lord's Prayer' (6:9-13). We are not to pray one thing and do another. We are to live the Lord's Prayer. We receive forgiveness from God. We are to show His forgiveness to others. We receive good things from God. We are to be generous in our giving to others. Before you can live the Christian Life, you must receive the Christian Life - Christ living in your heart (Revelation 3.20). Before you can walk in 'the way', you must enter by 'the gate' (13-14). Jesus speaks of two gates, two ways and two destinations. He tells us that some will be saved and many will be lost. What we must remember is this - Christ is 'the Door' (John 10:7), 'the Way' (John 14:6) and 'our Hope of glory' (Colossians 1:27). The gate may be narrow, the way hard, but never forget this - Christ is 'the Gate' and 'the Way' that leads to life.
20th February: Matthew 7:15-29
Whenever we are seeking to follow Christ, there will be dangers - false prophets (15-20), empty profession (21-23). Clearly, our faith must be grounded in the Son of God and the Word of God. This is the point of Jesus' parable of the two builders and the two houses (24-27). We must build upon Christ. We must build on the Word of God. Jesus' 'sermon' ends in verse 27, and is followed - in verses 28-29 - by a statement of its effect upon His hearers. Down through the centuries, Jesus' teaching continues to make this impression on people. His words come to us with authority, addressing us with remarkable relevance. We imagine that our time is very different from Jesus' time, yet Jesus' words make it very clear - things are not so different after all. Still, we hear Him speaking as One who has authority. His Word is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable.
21st February: Proverbs 1:8-19
If we are to be saved, we must follow the Wisdom of the Proverbs: 'Listen, my son, to your father's instruction' (8). We must follow the 'Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing', the living Word, our Lord Jesus Christ (Church Hymnary, 191). Satan is seeking to destroy us - 'let's swallow them alive, like the grave' (12). To 'go along with' those who do not honour the Lord Jesus Christ is to 'rush into sin' (15-16). To live by faith in Christ is to be 'kept by the power of God' for full salvation (1 Peter 1:5). There are choices to be made. You remain a fool if you choose not to ask God for wisdom (James 1:5-8). The fool is 'a double-minded man', trying to live for the Lord and for the world at the same time. Will you be wise or foolish? - The choice is yours. Remember this has more to do with the moral choices you make than with how 'well educated' you may be.
22nd February: Genesis 12:1-20
This is a divine Story, carried forward by God's grace and power. God's very great promises (1-3) find their ultimate fulfilment in the coming of God's eternal Kingdom (Revelation 21:10). We have not reached our heavenly destination. We are still caught in the tension between obedience (4) and disobedience (11-13). We are conscious of our human failure, yet we rejoice in the divine faithfulness. We read of Abraham's sin (10-20), yet we look beyond this to God's salvation. This is not simply the story of Abraham. It is the Story of Abraham's God. This becomes clear in the change of name. Abram ('exalted father') draws attention to the man. Abraham ('Father of Many') points to God's purpose (17:5). Like Abraham , we are to worship God (7-8). We are to say, 'He is exalted'. We are to say, 'Christ must increase, and I must decrease' (John 3:30).
23rd February: Genesis 13:1-18
Life is full of choices. Lot made a selfish choice (10-12). He allied himself with 'the men of Sodom (who) were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord' (13). Abraham made a godly choice, and he was blessed by the Lord (14-17). The lesson of Abraham's choice is the lesson of Matthew 6:33 - Seek God's glory and find His blessing. We read later of Lot's restoration (19:29). This is 'amazing grace'! How much better it would have been if Lot had chosen the Lord's way in the first place! The choices we make reveal the people that we are. The worldly man, Lot, thought only of himself. The spiritual man, Abraham, concerned himself with doing the Lord's will. The worldly man takes for himself (11). The spiritual man receives from the Lord (15). Our sin comes from ourselves. Our salvation comes from the Lord. Confess your sin. Receive God's forgiveness.
24th February: Genesis 14:1-24
Following an account of military conflict, we come to a passage that is full of Christ (18-20). In Melchisedek, we see Jesus. In Hebrews 7:3, we learn that Melchisedek resembles the Son of God. We read on, in verse 4, 'See how great he is', and, in our hearts we say, 'How great is our Lord Jesus Christ'. Melchisedek is 'the King of Salem (peace)' (18), pointing to Christ through whom we have 'peace with God' (Romans 5:1). Melchisedek brings 'bread and wine' (18), pointing to Christ whose body was broken for us and whose blood was shed for us (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Melchisedek spoke of the divine deliverance from enemies (20), pointing to Christ's victory over Satan (Colossians 2:15). In this episode we see the origins of tithing. It is not a legalistic practice. God had been good to Abraham. In grateful worship, Abraham responded, giving the tenth to Him (20).
25th February: Matthew 8.1-22
In verses 1-17, we read of three people who received the Lord's blessing - the leper was cleansed (1-4), the centurion's servant was healed (5-13), Peter's mother-in-law was healed (14-17). Reading verses 18-22 together with Luke 9:57-62, we learn of three people who did not receive the Lord's blessing (Matthew mentions two, while Luke adds a third). Christ calls us to decision. Some say 'Yes' to Him and they are blessed. Some say 'No', and they miss out on the blessing. Christ touches our lives, and we are made clean (3; 1 John 1.7) - 'The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives' (13; Church Hymnary, 374). Through the entrance of His Word, we receive a new Spirit (16; Ezekiel 36:25-27). Cleansed and healed, we are to live as Christ's disciples. There is to be no half-heartedness: 'I will follow you, Lord, but...' (Luke 9:61). Yes, Lord!
26th February:. Matthew 8:23-9:17
In 8:23-9:8, we read of three great miracles, in which Christ demonstrates His power over nature (23), demons (28-34) and sickness (1-8). Following such mighty works of power, the next verse seems so ordinary - Jesus said, 'Follow me'. Matthew 'rose and followed Him' (9). Matthew's conversion may seem so unspectacular, but it is no less a mighty work of God than the great miracles which preceded it. Where does the desire to follow Christ come from? Does it come from our own sinful hearts? No! It comes from the Word of Christ, spoken in power and love - 'He drew me and I followed on, charmed to confess the Voice Divine' (Mission Praise, 499). In the human heart there is resistance - we say, 'I am "righteous". "I have no need" of a Saviour' (12-13). This resistance is broken down by Christ when 'new wine is put into fresh wineskins' (17).
27th February: Matthew 9.18-38
In Jesus' miracles, we see Him triumph over sin, death and hell. As well as healing, there is forgiveness (9:5-6), the raising of the dead (18,24-25) and the casting out of demons (33). The Pharisees (Jewish religious leaders) did not like what was happening, and they came up with their own explanation - 'He casts out demons by the prince of demons' (34). Jesus gives us another, better, explanation: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me...' (Luke 4:18-19). Jesus was sent to preach the Gospel. We are to bring the Gospel to other people. Jesus was 'teaching...preaching...and healing' (35). What opportunities there are to bring the healing power of Christ into many hearts and homes! These opportunities will be missed if 'the labourers' remain 'few' (37). Many are 'harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd' (v.36). We must not fail them!
28th February: Psalm 3:1-6
This Psalm begins with the human situation - 'O Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, "God will not deliver him"'' (1-2). It ends with the divine provision - 'From the Lord comes deliverance' (8). How does the Psalmist rise above his deeply distressing circumstances? He takes his problem to the Lord. The Psalm's opening words, 'O Lord', indicate the way toward its triumphant conclusion. Why is the Psalmist not overwhelmed by depression? - He is looking to the Lord. This is not a case of 'positive thinking' on the part of David. This is deliverance from the Lord. There is no simple 'psychological' explanation for David's change of mood. He is delivered by the Lord. He is raised from his depressive mood by the Lord, 'my Glorious One, who lifts up my head' ( 3). What He's done for others, He can do for you!