The AMI QT devotionals from July 16-22 are provided by Cami King. Cami, a graduate of University of Pennsylvania and Gordon Conwell Seminary (M.Div.), is currently serving as a staff at Journey Community Church in Raleigh.
Devotional Thoughts for Today
“Is God Punishing Me?”
Jeremiah 21:3-7 (NRSV)
Then Jeremiah said to them: 4 Thus you shall say to Zedekiah: Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I am going to turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands and with which you are fighting against the king of Babylon and against the Chaldeans who are besieging you outside the walls; and I will bring them together into the center of this city. 5 I myself will fight against you with outstretched hand and mighty arm, in anger, in fury, and in great wrath. 6 And I will strike down the inhabitants of this city, both human beings and animals; they shall die of a great pestilence. 7 Afterward, says the Lord, I will give King Zedekiah of Judah, and his servants, and the people in this city—those who survive the pestilence, sword, and famine—into the hands of King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon, into the hands of their enemies, into the hands of those who seek their lives. He shall strike them down with the edge of the sword; he shall not pity them, or spare them, or have compassion.
As has been fairly consistent throughout this book, the people of God are in trouble (to say the least). They failed to uphold their end of their covenant (promise/contract) with God. Like disobedient children to a parent or defiant subjects to a good king, the people rebelled and went their own way. As a result, instead of enjoying covenant blessings (what God promised to do for them) of protection and prosperity, they faced covenant curses (how God promised to punish them). The Babylonians were coming, and it wouldn’t be pretty. One commentator keenly noted: “The Lord promised that not only the Babylonians but He, too, would fight against the city. He would bring His strong arm against Jerusalem in anger and would strike down its inhabitants. Normally the Divine Warrior fought for His people, but now He would fight against them.” (Constable)
So, they not only faced the full brunt of the Babylonian army—and the Babylonians were ruthless—without the protection of God (covenant blessing), they were doing so with God’s own hand against them (covenant curse). Yikes!
God outlined clearly what was required for relationship with God and the people agreed. But they fell short (sometimes it seems to me like they weren’t even trying!). Yet many years later, God would come in the person of Jesus and fulfill those requirements on their behalf. In fact, He’d do so on behalf of the whole world! Jesus took upon Himself the full brunt of the curse, so that the people of God would never find themselves in a situation such as we read in today’s passage.
There are many reasons why things go wrong in our lives—oftentimes we’re experiencing the natural outworking of the sinful choices we made or that others have made against us. And unfortunately that’s just life—Scripture tells us God is making all things new, but they aren’t new just yet (the world is still a hot mess!). But one thing we know for sure is this: as those who’ve placed ourselves in Christ, none of the calamity we face is ever God punishing us. Never! Praise be to God that, because of Jesus, God never fights against—only for us, working all things for good.
Prayer: Almighty God, I acknowledge Your holiness and the righteousness You require, Your power and Your condemnation of sin. And today I thank You for Jesus, who took the full weight of condemnation for my sin so there is none left for me. There is therefore now no condemnation for me because I am in Christ Jesus! May that truth be the lens through which I interpret whatever I am facing. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Daniel 9
Lunch Break Study
Read Luke 10:25-37 (NRSV): Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii,[k] gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Questions to Consider
- What does the lawyer ask Jesus and how does Jesus respond?
- Oftentimes, we focus on the lawyer “testing” Jesus as where he errs in this passage. But, if we set that aside, where does the lawyer go wrong in this text as it relates to his quest for eternal life? (Look closely at these key verses: 25b & 29a)
- What would have been the natural response of the lawyer to Jesus’ story and teaching in vv. 30-37? How might this exchange have eventually led the lawyer to eternal life?
- What are the ways you fall short of the “Great Commandment” (v. 27) in your daily life? How does the gospel both free you from the weight of the “Great Commandment” and empower you to live it out?
- The lawyer asks Jesus what he needs to do to inherit eternal life. He wants to know what is required to be in right relationship with God and living abundantly eternally. // Jesus answers with a question – What does the law say? In this response, Jesus is basically saying, “What do you know?” or “You already know what’s required.” The same is often true for us. Like the people of God in our passage this morning, we often know what to do but fail to do it (because we are rebellious or because we literally can’t—the righteous requirement is too high and we are broken and sinful).
- A little close reading reveals that the lawyer is relying on his own works and ability to inherit eternal life. He asks, “what must I do…” (when he really should have asked, “What can be done for me?”). And he was “seeking to justify himself” (when he should have been seeking justification for himself). Once we realize how wretched we are and how far short we fall of the glory of God, only then can we, to paraphrase one of my favorite preachers, leave a contract of earning and enter a relationship of receiving (God’s free gift of grace).
- There are a ton of ways the lawyer could have responded. He was likely offended by the juxtaposition of the actions of religious leaders to those of a Samaritan, a people group Jews despised at that time. But if he stayed focused on his quest for eternal life, a natural response would have been something akin to – “That’s impossible!” If a neighbor is anyone in our path, who can effectively keep the command?! And that’s the point! // That realization was what the lawyer needed to inherit eternal life—realizing he couldn’t do it. He needed a Savior.
- Personal reflection.
Freedom from condemnation doesn’t mean we never feel guilty when we do wrong. I like to think of guilt like our nervous system—if our hand is on a hot stove, our body naturally alerts us to the danger (It hurts!) and triggers a change in our course of action (Move that hand!). Otherwise, we’d lose our hand. Similarly, feelings of guilt (and the sorrow that accompanies them) are natural and good, alerting us to danger and triggering a change. But as people not condemned, we aren’t immobilized under the weight of guilt! We can turn to Jesus, thankful for the alert, receive forgiveness through the cross and empowerment through the Spirit to change course.
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:10)
How do you respond to guilt? Do you allow it to propel you to repentance (and change your course of action) and salvation (from death that accompanies sin) and freedom from regret? Or do you respond as a person condemned—allowing it to suffocate you under the weight of your brokenness or even ignoring it because it’s just too much to sort out (and no one’s perfect, right)? Spend some time reflecting on these things with God. Ask the Lord to help you have a proper posture toward feelings of guilt. Ask God to help you respond appropriately to any guilt you are feeling today.