REPOSTToday’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Barry Kang who heads Symphony Church in Boston, is an updated version of his blog first posted on October 8, 2015. He is a graduate of Stanford University (BA), Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (D.Min.).
Devotional Thought for This Morning
“Why So Few?
Ezra 2:1-2, 64-65
Now these were the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of those exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried captive to Babylonia. They returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own town. 2 They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, and Baanah. . . . 64 The whole assembly together was 42,360, 65 besides their male and female servants, of whom there were 7,337, and they had 200 male and female singers.
As it turned out, not every Israelite who had been exiled in Babylonia, and later in Persia, returned back to Jerusalem. In fact, we learn in Ezra 2 that the total number of returnees numbered fewer than 50,000. This was a tiny number in comparison with those who had originally been taken captive. Why so few?
It appears that many of the exiles in Babylon had settled down and created new lives for themselves. Indeed, Jeremiah the prophet had urged them to make the best of their captivity (see Jer. 29:4-7). The result was that many of the Jews had grown comfortable and even prosperous, so that when the call came for them to travel some 900 miles to a ruined city and a temple that no longer existed, they could not rise to the occasion. The cost was too big. The shock to their lives was too great.
However, some—a remnant—chose to make the journey. They rose up and stood on the precipice of greatness—they chose to take an active part in God’s story. Often, that takes personal sacrifice. William Booth once said: “You cannot improve the future without disturbing the present.” As mentioned yesterday, that remnant was enough. God can do more with one person who is 100% committed to Him than with one hundred people who are 90% committed.
On a side note: No one would write books about the Jewish people who stayed in Babylon. History remembers the people who acted with courage, not the people who opted for the status quo. Actually, not always true! I am reminded that the biblical book Esther was written about a woman whose grandparents or great grandparents had chosen to stay in Babylon. Even those who stayed in Babylon were under the grace of God!
Prayer: Father, I know that you have called me into a godly life—not a comfortable life. I want to join in the adventure You have for me. I want to live in your presence, for Your mission, and with Your resources. Forgive me for the times that my comfort has been a barrier to joining Your mission. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.
Today’s Bible Reading: Isaiah 28
Lunch Break Study
Read Matthew 14:22-33: Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Questions to Consider
- Describe the circumstances surrounding Peter’s walk on water.
- What needed to happen so that Peter could walk on water?
- Is God asking you to get out of your boat in some way? What is stopping you from walking toward God?
- Jesus tells the disciples to get into their boat and go to the other side of the sea. Dutifully, they set off, but find themselves battling the winds and the waves all night. By the time Jesus reaches them (as He walks on water) in the very early morning, they must have been on the brink of exhaustion. As the wind blows and the waves knock the boat around, the shadowy figure approaching the boat would have been terrifying for the disciples. However, Jesus announces His identity—and Peter courageously asks Jesus to call him to come. Jesus obliges, and Peter climbs over the rail, stepping onto the raging waters, as the boat tossed back and forth. Sometimes, we want God to make all the conditions perfect for us before we take a step of faith. Peter, however, had no such conditions. He was stepping out of one precarious situation (a boat knocking back and forth by the wind and waves) into the waves themselves—the frying pan into the fire, as it were. We will not always have perfect conditions to follow Jesus. But true peace comes only after we follow Him.
- In order for Peter to walk on water, three things needed to happen: (1) Jesus had to call him. We can’t decide to walk on water—Jesus has to invite us first. (2) Peter had to get out of the relatively safe boat and step into the chaos of the sea. (3) Peter had to keep his eyes focused on Jesus. When he focused on the waves instead of Jesus, fear set in, and he began to sink.
Is God asking you to leave your comfort zone and follow Him in faith? Let us journal a prayer of faith as we seek to follow Jesus more.