Learning from History

Daily Devotion|Day 262

“For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it” (Hebrews 4:2, NKJV).

The forty years the Israelites spent in the wilderness were a period of test. The test was primarily one of faith. Some failed the test. Consequently, they did not enter the Promised Land. However, others did pass the test. They went in and took possession of God’s promises.

At this point in the Letter to the Hebrews, the author is warning his Christian audience. He does so by reminding them of what happened to the Israelites in the wilderness. The basic problem at stake for the Israelites was a lack of faith (faith understood as confidence/faithfulness/obedience). In 4:1, the author tells his audience to approach their salvation with fear lest anyone comes short as it happened in the Old Testament.

In today’s opening passage, the Scripture says the Gospel was preached to the Israelites of old as well as to current believers (Christians). Unfortunately, the word which they heard (i.e. the Gospel) did not profit them. This means it is possible to hear the word of God in vain. The Bible then tells us why the word of God did not profit them: They did not mix the word with faith. The author of Hebrews wanted his audience to understand this so they too don’t become victims of unbelief.

The underlying message here is that hearing the word of God isn’t enough for one’s salvation. When the word of God comes to us, it doesn’t work independently of our heart’s disposition. For the word of God to benefit us, it must be mixed with our faith. This means putting complete confidence in what God says and making choices consistent with such confidence.

BlessingMay the Lord surround you with favor as with a shield. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

For further studyMatthew 13:1-23 and Numbers 14:1-38

The Culture of God’s Nation

Daily Devotional: Day 139

“Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances” (Leviticus 18:2-3, NKJV).

When the Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt, His purpose was to make Israel His chosen nation, separated from the nations of the world (cf. Exodus 19:1-6). And, that is what He did. To make His plan work, He painstakingly gave them a unique identity through a set of commandments and the ministry of priests and prophets. What makes every nation unique is its laws, customs, history and culture. To be God’s chosen nation, Israel, too, needed its own God-given culture, customs and laws to set it apart from other nations. The formation of Israel’s identity as God’s people wasn’t easy. But it did eventually take shape.

With this background, let’s get into today’s Bible passage. God’s instruction to the Israelites is clear. He identifies two nations and warns His people not to imitate them: Egypt and Canaan. The Israelites had been in Egypt for about four hundred years, so they were well acquainted with Egyptian religion, life and culture. God didn’t want to take any chances. Being under pagan influence for four hundred years, the Israelites had a lot to unlearn and much to learn about becoming citizens of Jehovah’s nation.

Ungodly experiences or habits from your past, if not adequately dealt with, can carry over into your present life and hinder you from being set apart unto God for holiness. Don’t ignore your past as though it never existed. Identify anything from your past which still seems to adversely affect your present life, face it squarely, and by the power of God’s grace, deal with it once and for all.

In addition to Israel’s past contact with Egypt, the Lord also warned Israel about its future contact with the land of Canaan. When you are planning a future move, don’t walk blindly into a situation. It is important to pray, plan and research about the move, and understand how you will live in the new environment while staying true to God. 

As Christians, we should know that the practices of Egypt and Canaan are alive and well in nearly every culture around the world today. Our only protection is to listen to God and not copy blindly. In the Old Testament, we see that the main reason for Israel’s downfall was the fact that they borrowed the pagan practices of the surrounding cultures. As God’s people, we have a culture of our own dictated by the Lord. It is a culture of holiness and righteousness. No matter where we dwell, let’s remember that we are citizens of God’s holy nation. Let’s not be polluted by the ungodly practices around us. 

May the Lord let His face shine on you and your family today! Amen.

For further study: Leviticus 18:1-30