Daily Devotional Readings: Year Two - January
1st January: Joshua 1:1-18
For Israel, it was a new beginning. They were leaving the wilderness. That was their past. They were entering the promised land. This was God's future. For God's future there is God's command - 'Be strong' - and God's promise - 'the Lord your God is with you'. We wonder what the future holds. We wonder how it will all work out. God says, 'Don't be frightened. I will be with you wherever you go' (9). How can we face the future with confidence? How can we 'be strong in the Lord' (Ephesians 6:10)? How can we be sure that the Lord will never let us down (2 Corinthians 3:5)? How can we step out into a future full of His blessing? 'Meditate on His Word day and night'. Read your Bible - 'This Book will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from this Book': Which will it be? (8; Psalm 1:1-3).
2nd January: Joshua 2:1-24
The story of Rahab is summarized in Hebrews 11:31 - 'By faith...she gave a friendly welcome to the spies'. A friendly welcome - What an important thing this is! She spoke the word of encouragement - 'I know the Lord has given you this land' (9). This message of faith was taken back to Joshua (24). It was exactly what he needed! Few of us are 'big name' spiritual leaders like Joshua. All of us have an important part to play in the Lord's work. For every 'Joshua' we need plenty of 'Rahabs', giving the friendly welcome, speaking the word of encouragement. Let there be no more unhelpful, negative criticism - 'We cannot do this. We dare not do that. We must not do the other'. Let there be the friendly welcome, the word of encouragement. It will make such a difference - for the better!
3rd January: Joshua 3:1-17
'Sanctify yourselves; for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you' (5). 'Sanctify them in the truth; Thy Word is truth' (John 17:17). Together with the command, there is the prayer. We are called to set ourselves apart for God. We can only do this when we look to the Lord for His strength. We receive His strength through His Word. We give ourselves to the Lord. He gives His promise to us: 'the Lord will do wonders among you'. His promise of blessing is no guarantee of an easy time. In the promised land, there would be problems - and God: 'as I was with Moses, so I will be with you' (7). There would be conflict - and victory: 'the living God is among you...He will without fail drive out from before you...' (10). We look beyond Joshua to Jesus - 'God with us' (Matthew 1:23). In Him, we have the victory (1 Corinthians 15:57).
4th January: Joshua 4:1-24
'These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel for ever' (7). When, in the future, the question was asked, 'What do these stones mean?'(6), Israel would remember what the Lord had done for them (23). Knowing that 'the hand of the Lord is mighty', they would be strengthened to face their difficulties with confidence in God. Rejoicing in what the Lord has done - 'This is the Lord's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes' - , they would learn to 'fear the Lord their God for ever' (24; Psalm 118:23). Israel remembered. We must remember. When you're going through a hard time, don't forget - to remember! God has been good to you. He has blessed you. When God seems so far away, remember - and pray that, once again, 'times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord' (Acts 3:19).
5th January: Joshua 5:1-15
As you read about circumcision (2-7) and the Passover (10), think also of Paul's words in Romans 2:29 and 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 - 'real circumcision is a matter of the heart', 'Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival...with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth'. 'The Commander of the Lord's army' came to Joshua (13-15). Christ comes to us. He calls us to worship. He equips us for battle. 'Christ, the Royal Master, leads against the foe...At the sign of triumph, Satan's legions flee...Hell's foundations quiver at the shout of praise...Like a mighty army moves the Church of God... Gates of hell can never 'gainst that Church prevail; We have Christ's own promise, and that cannot fail...On then, Christian soldiers, on to victory' (Church Hymnary, 480).
6th January: Joshua 6:1-27
'The walls came tumbling down' - What a mighty work of God this was! It was 'the Lord' who gave Jericho into the hands of His people (16). His victory was received by faith: 'By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days' (Hebrews 11:30). Notice that the declaration of victory comes before the obedience of faith (2,16). We start out from victory. We do not achieve the victory by our own faith. The victory is given to us by the Lord. Faith simply receives the blessing already promised to us by the Lord. Faith expresses itself in obedience. Believing God's promise, they obeyed His command - and the blessing followed. They walked 'by faith, not by sight' (2 Corinthians 5:7) - 'It shall be done', not 'It can't be done'. Let us be 'devoted to the Lord' (17-19).
7th January: Joshua 7:1-26
This chapter begins with the word, 'But' - This is ominous! What comes next? - Sin: 'the people of Israel broke faith with regard to the devoted things'. The sin was Achan's, yet it affected the whole people of Israel: 'the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel' (1). Sin is like infection - it spreads! What kind of effect do your actions have on other people? Cain asked, 'Am I my brother's keeper (Genesis 4:9). His question was an expression of callous indifference. There is no place for this attitude among God's people: 'Decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother' (Romans 14:13). Read the story of Achan, and remember this: 'Be sure your sin will find you out' (Numbers 32:23). Let no one have good cause to ask, 'Why did you bring trouble on us' (25).
8th January: Joshua 8:1-35
The victory was given by the Lord: 'I have given into your hand...' (1). The people still had to claim the victory. Israel's triumph was a spiritual victory from which we can learn much. We learn, first, that 'the battle is the Lord's' (7; 1 Samuel 17:47; 2 Chronicles 20:15). Believing the Lord's promise - 'the Lord your God will give it into your hand' (7) - we act upon His command: 'Do what the Lord has commanded' (8). God's work is to be done in God's way - Believing the promise, Obeying the command (18) - with God's Word at the centre. We need the whole Word of God - 'all that is written...'. In this, we learn from Joshua - 'He did not leave out one word from everything Moses had commanded'. We need 'the blessing and the curse' - the strong warnings as well as the precious promises (34-35).
9th January: Joshua 9:1-10:15
Some chose 'to make war against Joshua and Israel' (9:1-2). The Gibeonites came, looking for peace. They achieved their objective - 'Joshua made peace with them' (9:15). In this story we see the work of Satan, and we may catch a glimpse of the work of God. The 'peace' was based on deception. The Gibeonites 'acted with cunning' (9:4). The Israelites were easily deceived. They 'did not ask direction from the Lord' (9:14). The Gibeonites brought trouble to Israel (10:3-5). There were 'weeds among the wheat' - An enemy has done this' (Matthew 13:25,28). Through the grace of God, the Gibeonites' 'curse' could become a 'blessing'. Working at 'the place' of worship, they could come to know and love the Person who is worshipped (23,27; Psalm 84:4). Let Christ bring you from 'no peace' to real peace (Jeremiah 6:14; Romans 5:1).
10th January: Acts 1:1-26
We read, in John 7:39, that 'the Spirit' would not be 'given' until Jesus was 'glorified'. Now, as Jesus was about to be 'taken up...into heaven', He tells His apostles, 'the Holy Spirit' will 'come upon you' (11,8). He gives them His Word of promise: 'I send the promise of my Father upon you'. He gives them His Word of command: 'stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high' (Luke 24:49). They wait upon the coming of the Holy Spirit. They cannot fill themselves with the Spirit. They can only 'be filled with the Spirit' (Ephesians 5:18). Waiting for the Spirit, the apostles 'devote themselves to prayer' (14). They do not earn the Holy Spirit as a reward for spending much time in prayer. Waiting on God, their strength is renewed as they receive God's gift (Isaiah 40:31; Luke 11:13).
11th January: Acts 2:1-47
'No one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit' (1 Corinthians 12:3). 'In Jerusalem', on 'the day of Pentecost' there are 'Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven' (1,5). They are 'amazed' at what they hear - 'we hear them telling in our own tongue the mighty works of God' (7-11). The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus Christ (John 16:14). 'To God be the glory! Great things He hath done!' (Church Hymnary, 374). Speaking 'as the Spirit gave them utterance', the apostles pave the way for Peter's bold proclamation: 'God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified' (36). Empowered 'by the Holy Spirit', this message - 'Jesus is Lord' - is still God's way of bringing people to Himself. Preach Christ. Pray for the Spirit's power. Look to God for His blessing (41-47).
12th January: Joshua 10:16-11:15
God gives the promise. Believing His promise, we obey His command, pressing on to victory (25,6). This is God's way of victory: 'go in to take possession of the land which the Lord your God gives you to possess' (1:11). As we read of Joshua's military exploits, we must not lose sight of the spiritual dimension: 'the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel' (42). This is what we must learn. The victory does not come from ourselves. It comes from the Lord who fights for us. Through 'the obedience of faith' (Romans 1:5), - believing God's promise, we obey His command - , the Lord's victory becomes a living reality in our lives. Joshua built on the foundation laid for him by Moses (12,15). Learning from 'the apostles and prophets', we build on God's Foundation, 'Jesus Christ' (Ephesians 2:20; 1 Corinthians 3:11).
13th January: Joshua 11:16-12:24
What is the spiritual value of this list of victories? Don't be sidetracked by the military aspect. This is not about Israel blowing its own trumpet. It is about giving glory to God. In Genesis 12:1-3, we have God's promise to bring blessing to all nations. Before Christ came as 'the Saviour of the world' (John 4:42), Israel was to become 'a great nation' - 'a holy nation', 'a light to the nations' (Exodus 19:6; Isaiah 49:6). This involved the 'curse' on the rebellious peoples who presented a sinful obstacle to God's saving purpose. The Lord is King! The united people of God won a decisive victory in 'the whole land' (11:23). There was, however, still 'very much land to be possessed' by the individual tribes (13:1). God's Word is preached publicly. It must also be applied personally - by you!
14th January: Acts 3:1-26
'Laid daily at the gate of the temple', the 'man lame from birth' had seen plenty of 'ordinary' days (2). This was no 'ordinary' day. This was a day for 'walking, and leaping, and praising God' (9). Jesus Christ can do for us what 'silver and gold' cannot do (6). He is 'the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith' (Romans 1:16). From the healing of the lame man came a great opportunity for Peter to preach the Gospel to 'the people' (10-12). Peter gave all the glory to God. Peter and John had not performed this miracle by their 'own power or piety' (12). This was the work of God, 'the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob', the God who raised Jesus from the dead (13-16). This is the God who calls us to return to Him. 'Turn' to Him. He will forgive your sins. He will send 'times of refreshing' (19).
15th January: Acts 4:1-5:11
Peter preached Christ with great boldness: 'There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved' (12). This boldness came from the Holy Spirit. Peter was 'filled with the Holy Spirit' (4:8). Don't say, 'I'm no Peter'. Peter failed his Lord and had to be restored (Matthew 26:69-75; John 21:15-17). Peter drew great strength from 'the company of those who believed'. They 'gathered together' for prayer. They 'were of one heart and soul'...' (31-33). Why did God deal so severely with Ananias and Sapphira (5:1-11)? This was the start of something great. God refused to let His work be spoiled! There is a warning for us: Don't pretend to be more holy than you really are. God sees what you're really like. 'Search me, O God...' (Psalm 139:23-24).
16th January : Proverbs 7:1-27
The way of obedience is the way of life: 'keep My commandments and live' (2). This is not a shallow legalism. It is the result of the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It is 'walking in the Spirit'. It is living as 'a new creation'. We do not glory in our own obedience. We 'glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ' (Galatians 5:16; 6:16,14). Obedience is a mark of spiritual maturity. The 'mature' are 'those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil' (Hebrews 5:14). In His Word, God shows us how we are to live and how we are not to live. We must 'listen' to God. We must 'be attentive' to His Word, thinking on and doing 'these things' which will glorify Him (24; Philippians 4:8-9). 'Sin so easily entangles...let us fix our eyes on Jesus' (25-27; Hebrews 12:1-2).
17th January: Joshua 13:1-14:15
God has given the land to Israel. Still, there was the challenge: 'there is still very much land to be possessed' (13:1). 'God...has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing'. Now, we must 'lead a life worthy of His calling' (Ephesians 1:3; 4:1). 'Joshua was old and advanced in years'. Caleb was 'eighty five years old' (13:1; 14:10).These were men of faith. Forty five years earlier, they had called on the people to trust and obey: 'The Lord...will bring us into this land...Only, do not rebel against the Lord' (14:7-10; Numbers 14:6-9). They had persevered: 'I press on...'. They had been preserved: 'Kept by the power of God' (Philippians 3:14; 1 Peter 1:5). 'I am still as strong to this day as I was', 'We will serve the Lord' (14:11; 24:15). This is faith -for yesterday, today and tomorrow!
18th January: Acts 5:12-6:7
There was great blessing: 'More than ever believers were added to the Lord' (14). There was persecution (17-18). This did not hinder the advance of the Gospel (42). Satan was not going to give up easily. He came right back at the apostles (1). Satan was defeated. Through the Spirit of God and the Word of God, the victory was won. The apostles 'devoted themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word'. They were supported by 'seven men...known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom' (3-4). Armed with 'the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God', let us be 'be strong in the Lord' - 'filled with the Spirit' - as we 'let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly' (Ephesians 6:17,10; 5:18; Colossians 3:16). Filled with His Spirit and obedient to His Word, let us look to God for His blessing (7).
19th January: Joshua 15:1-63
'The land of Negeb' had little water. The request was made - 'Give me also springs of water'. The request was granted. Trusting in the Lord's promise - 'the heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him', we receive His blessing - 'rivers of living water' (19; Luke 11:13; John 7:38-39). 'The people of Judah could not drive out' the Jebusites. We may contrast Judah's failure with Caleb's faith - 'the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out as the Lord said'. Learning from Judah's failure - 'Do not be conformed to this world' - , we must build on Caleb's faith - 'Be transformed by the renewal of your mind'. Let us commit ourselves to doing 'God's will - His good, pleasing and perfect will' (63; 14:12; Romans 12:2). Do His will. Let His 'rivers of living water' flow freely.
20th January: Acts 6:8-8:3
In life and death, Stephen was Christlike. In life and death, he made a great impact. In life, we see him, 'full of grace and power', doing 'great wonders and signs among the people'. People noticed that 'his face was like the face of an angel'. Even his enemies took notice of him. Unable to 'withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke', they decided that he needed to be silenced. (6:8,15,10-11). In death, we hear him praying, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit...Lord, do not hold this sin against them' (7:59-60). In Stephen's words, we hear an echo of Christ's words from the Cross (Luke 23:34,46). Stephen was dying. Stephen was praying. Saul was watching. Saul was listening (8). God was working. The seeds were being sown. Saul would be born again as the Apostle Paul (9:4-6)!
21st January: Joshua 16:1-17:18
Compromise is a poor substitute for obedience. Fail to obey God, and you may have to live with the consequences of your disobedience: 'they did not drive out the Canaanites...so the Canaanites have dwelt in the midst of Ephraim to this day (16:10). Settling for anything less than God's very best will surely lead us far from Him and His blessing: 'He gave them what they asked, but sent a wasting disease among them' (Psalm 106:15). If we are to make real spiritual progress, we must not rest on our laurels' - 'We are a numerous people'. We must do the work of God: 'you shall drive out the Canaanites'. Our obedience must be more than 'empty words'. We must not live as 'the sons of disobedience'. We must 'live as the children of light' - 'God's own people' (14,18; Ephesians 5:6-10; 1 Peter 2:9).
22nd January: Acts 8:4-40
Make sure that it's real! Simon the magician was impressed by the 'signs and great miracles', but his 'heart' was 'not right before God' (13,19). The Ethiopian's conversion was real. Searching the Scriptures, he found the Saviour (30-35). From the Ethiopian's conversion, we learn of Jesus' promise: 'Seek and you will find'. From Simon's tragedy, we hear Jesus' warning: 'Not everyone who says to Me, "Lord, Lord", shall enter the kingdom of heaven...' (Matthew 7:7,21-23). What is God saying to us from these two very different stories? - 'Be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure' (2 Peter 1:10). 'Search me, O God, and know my heart today; Try me, O Lord, and know my thoughts I pray; See if there be some wicked way in me, Cleanse me from every sin and set me free' (Mission Praise. 587).
23rd January: Joshua 18:1-19:51
'How long will you be slack to go in and take possession of the land, which the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you?' (18:3). God has given us so much: 'His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness'. How much are we giving ourselves to Him? - 'Make every effort to add to your faith...If you do this you will never fail; so there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ' (2 Peter 1:3-11). In Joshua, we see a fine example of the Christlike spirit - 'not to be served but to serve' (Mark 10:45). After 'they had finished distributing the... land', Joshua received his 'inheritance'. He led with the attitude of a servant. He wasn't 'in it only for what he could get out of it' - the city he chose had to be 'rebuilt' (49-50)!
24th January: Acts 9:1-43
Saul the persecutor become Paul the Apostle (13:9). What a great turning-point this was in the life of the early Church! When we read of Paul's missionary journeys (13:1-28:31). we may be tempted to think, 'What a great man Paul must have been'. In his letters, Paul insists that we must not think like this. He tells us that 'nothing good dwells within' him. Paul never forgot his 'past': 'I cursed Him, persecuted Him, and acted arrogantly toward Him'. Paul describes himself as 'the worst of sinners'. Paul gives his testimony: 'The grace of God was poured on me abundantly' (Romans 7:18; 1 Timothy 1:13-15). God's true servants direct our attention to Christ. Ananias said, 'The Lord Jesus...has sent me...'(17). Saul 'preached boldly in the Name of Jesus' (27). Peter said, 'Jesus Christ heals you...' (34).
25th January: Joshua 20:1-21:45
We read of manslaughter, 'the cities of refuge' and the death of the high priest (20:1-6). What does all this have to do with us? We are sinners. Jesus Christ has died for us. He is our Refuge. He is our Great High Priest. In Him, there is 'no condemnation'. In Him, we become 'a new creation' (Matthew 5:21-22; Romans 5:8; 8:1; Hebrews 2:17; 2 Corinthians 5:17). Israel's story is a human story. It is also the Lord's Story (43-45). We fail God. He never fails us (2 Timothy 2:13). Sin threatens to overwhelm us. The Lord comes to us with His promise of deliverance and victory (Romans 7:21-25; 1 Corinthians 15:56-57). Our spiritual progress is so slow - 'little by little'(Exodus 23:29-30; Deuteronomy 7:22-24). God does not lose patience with us (Psalm 103:8-13). He never stops loving us!
26th January:Acts 10:1-11:18
'When the Holy Spirit comes on you...you will be my witnesses...to the ends of the earth' (1:8). This great advance of the Gospel - Salvation reaches 'the Gentiles' (10:45; 11:1,18) - is a movement of 'the Spirit' (11:12). The Spirit speaks through the Word (10:44; 11:15). In God's Word, we read of (a) God's love for the whole world (John 3:16); (b) God's Son who died for 'the sins of the whole world' (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2); (c) God's command that 'the Good News' should be preached to 'everyone' (Mark 16:15); (d) God's purpose that there should be disciples of Christ in every nation (Matthew 28:19). 'Every person in every nation, in each succeeding generation, has the right to hear the News that Christ can save...Here am I, send me' (Youth Praise, 128). 'Go forth and tell!' (Mission Praise, 178).
27th January: Joshua 22:1-34
Joshua had heard God's Word (1:8). Now, he speaks God's Word to the people (5). To those who 'have obeyed' Him, God says, 'Keep on obeying Me'. This is the way of blessing (1-6). Together with God's promise of blessing, we need His warning against rebellion: 'Do not rebel against the Lord' (19). Why does God warn us against the dangers of 'rebellion against the Lord' (16)? It is because He wants us to say with heart and voice: 'Far be it from us that we should rebel against the Lord and turn away this day from following the Lord' (29). Our 'resolution' seems so weak - 'I feel like giving up'. The temptation to 'rebel against the Lord' seems so strong - 'I feel like I can't go on'. Let us pray for a stronger faith in God - 'The Lord is God' - and a richer experience of His presence - 'We know that the Lord is in the midst of us' (34,31).
28th January: Joshua 23:1-16
God has done, is doing and will do great things for us (3-5, 8-10). He calls us to 'obey' Him, to 'hold fast' to Him, to 'love' Him (6,8,11). The pattern of Joshua's teaching - 'This is what the Lord has done' (3-5) 'Therefore' 'This is what you must do' (6-8) - is similar to Paul's approach in Romans and Ephesians. In Romans 1-11 and Ephesians 1-3, Paul grounds his readers in the truth of the Gospel. In Romans 12:1 and Ephesians 4:1, he says, 'Therefore'. Here are the practical implications. In the light of all that the Lord has done for you, this is how you must live for Him. Be strong in the Lord. In Him, we have the victory (10; Psalm 3:6). Maintain your love for God. Don't presume on God's blessing. There is no guarantee of blessing for those who 'turn back' from following the Lord (11-13,15-16). He has not failed us (14). We must not fail Him!
29th January: Joshua 24:1-33
Close to the end of his life, Joshua commits himself and his family to the Lord (15,29). Moved by his example, the people commit themselves to the Lord (16-18,21, 24). For Israel, this was a momentous decision - a definite, public commitment to the Lord (24-27). Note the pattern of Joshua's preaching. What God has done for Israel (2-13) is followed by 'Therefore...' (14). When we are called to make a real commitment, we must ask the searching question, 'Do I really mean it' (19-20). We must commit ourselves to the Lord: 'Fear the Lord, and serve Him in sincerity and in faithfulness' (14). Make your own commitment to the Lord. Give your testimony - 'as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord'. Pray that others will also say 'We will serve the Lord our God and obey Him (15,24). Let us 'serve the Lord all the days' of our life (31).
30th January: Acts 11:19-12:25
Barnabas 'was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord' (11:24). Let's be like Barnabas, giving ourselves to the Lord and asking Him to make us more useful in His service. Great things can happen when 'earnest prayer' is 'made to God by the church' - God 'is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think' (5-7; Ephesians 3:20). Give all the glory to the Lord. Herod 'did not give God the glory'. He accepted the praise of the people - 'This is the voice of a god, not of a man'. Herod's sudden death - 'an angel of the Lord struck him down' - is a warning (12:22-23; Proverbs 29:1). 'Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows that he will also reap'. 'Walk humbly with your God' (Galatians 6:7; Micah 6:8).
31st January: Psalm 18:25-50
'This God' is 'our God'. He is 'the Rock'. He is 'my Rock'. No one can compare with the Lord our God. He is the living God, the God of our salvation (30-31,46). In the Lord, we have salvation: 'You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty'. In our God, we have victory: 'You armed me with strength for battle; you made my adversaries bow at my feet' (27,39). Do you want to enjoy God's blessing - His salvation and His victory? God says, 'Clothe yourselves with humility'. Together with His command, we have God's warning - 'God opposes the proud' - and God's promise - He 'gives grace to the humble' (1 Peter 5:5). There is a question which each of us must answer: 'Who is on the Lord's side? There is an answer which of us must give: 'We are on the Lord's side' (Church Hymnary, 479).