1st February: Judges 1:1-2:5
'You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? (Galatians 5:7). Everything seems to be going well - 'From victory to victory His army He shall lead till every foe is vanquished and Christ is Lord indeed' (1-18; Church Hymnary, 481). Things went badly wrong. God commanded His people to 'drive out' His enemies. Again and again, they failed (19,21,27-33). This failure brought a stern rebuke from 'the angel of the Lord'. God had blessed His people. Now, He has to rebuke them - 'you have not obeyed my command'. Read of Israel's weeping, and pray for this: Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation' (2:1-5; 2 Corinthians 7:10). 'Strong in the Lord...' let us 'tread all the powers of darkness down...and stand complete at last' (Church Hymnary, 441).
2nd February: Judges 2 6-3:31
What sadness there is in the words of 2:10 - 'there arose another generation...who did not know the Lord...'! As the generations pass, we must pass on the Gospel of Christ, praying that those who follow after us will 'know the Lord'. In Isaiah 30:21, God says, 'This is the way, walk in it'. Here, in the sin and shame of Israel, He warns us, 'This is not the way, do not walk in it' (2:11-15). Don't be conformed to this world, 'entangled' in its ways (3:5-7; Romans 12:2; 2 Timothy 2:4). God is angry with His rebellious people, but He does not cease to love them - 'the Lord raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel (3:8-9). Read of the deliverers - Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar - and rejoice in our greater Deliverer: 'Jesus...He will save His people from their sins' (3:9,15,31; Matthew 1:21).
3rd February: Judges 4:1-5:11
Barak is an example of 'faith' (Hebrews 11:32-34). Faith involves believing God's promise - 'I will give...' and obeying His command - 'Go' (4:6-7). God still says, 'Go...I am with you always...' (Matthew 28:19-20). Barak needed Deborah's help (4:8-10). Both needed God's help - 'Our sufficiency comes from God' (2 Corinthians 3:5-6). In Deborah's song, we learn of the importance of giving all the glory to God: 'Bless the Lord...To the Lord I will sing, I will make melody to the Lord...Bless the Lord' (5:2-3,9). We are to repeat the triumphs of the Lord'. This is our high calling as 'the people of the Lord' (5:11). 'Awake, awake, Deborah'...Arise, Barak...' (5:12) - God is still calling His people to wake up, to rise up: 'Rise up O Church of God, awake!' (Church Hymnary, 477; Mission Praise, 178).
4th February: Judges 5:12-6:10
'The people of the Lord marched down for Him against the mighty (13) - God is still calling His people to march for Him: 'March on, my soul, with strength, with strength, but not thine own; The conquest thou shalt gain, through Christ the Lord alone' (Church Hymnary, 614). This is not 'marching' for ourselves, for our own cause, trying to get our own way. This is about keeping our eyes on Jesus, living in His strength, living for His glory. Where self reigns, there is sin - 'The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord' - and shame - 'Israel was brought very low' (1,6). Where Christ reigns, there is prayer to the Lord and blessing from the Lord. With God's blessing comes our responsibility - Worship God, listening carefully to His Word and living in obedience to Him (6-10).
5th February: Acts 13:1-43
'Set apart' by 'the Holy Spirit', 'sent out by the Holy Spirit', 'filled by the Holy Spirit' (2,4,9): In the ministry of Paul and Barnabus, we see the ministry of the Holy Spirit. In their teaching, we have 'the teaching of the Lord' (12). This is what Paul describes in 1 Thessalonians 2:13 - 'When you received the Word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the Word of God, which is at work in you believers'. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. What is God saying to us as we listen to His Word? - 'Continue in the grace of God' (43). How are we to continue in the grace of God? - Keep looking away from the human servant to the divine Saviour: 'After me One is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am unworthy to untie' (25).
6th February: Acts 13:44-14:28
When God is working powerfully through His servants, there is always the tendency to attach too much importance to the servants. We must resist this temptation. The glory belongs to God alone. We must never forget: 'We too are only men, human like you'. God has called us to 'bring Good News' to sinners, the Good News of salvation. As we proclaim this Good News - 'Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners' - , we must never forget this: We are 'unworthy servants', 'the worst of sinners' (14:28; 1 Timothy 1:15-16; Luke 17:10). Look beyond the preacher, the evangelist, the teacher of God's Word. Look to the Saviour. Give all the glory to Him. He is the Gospel. He is our salvation. He is the living Word. The Gospel is preached. There is blessing. We say, 'God has done this!' (52,8,27).
7th February: Judges 6:11-7:14
'We are weak but He is strong' (Church Hymnary, 418). In himself, Gideon was weak (15). In the Lord, he was 'a mighty warrior'. Gideon was full of questions. God said to him, 'Go...I will be with you' (6:12-16). Our true strength does not come from ourselves. It comes from the Lord - 'Our help is in the Name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth' (Psalm 124:8). Gideon's true strength came from 'the Spirit of the Lord' (34). We must always remember Jesus' words, 'Without Me you can do nothing' (John 15:5). Consider Gideon's weakness. Consider your own weakness. Rejoice in God's power. Never say, 'My own hand delivered me'. Our testimony must always be this: '...God has given...'(7:2,14). 'It is the gift of God...lest any man should boast' (Ephesians 2:8-9).
8th February: Judges 7:15-8:35
'For the Lord and for Gideon' (7:18). Notice who comes first. It is not Gideon. It is the Lord! 'The men of Israel' attached too much importance to Gideon - 'Rule over us...you have delivered us'. Gideon gave all the glory to God - 'I will not rule over you...the Lord will rule over you' (8:22-23). What happens when people make too much of the man and not enough of the Lord? - As soon as the man is taken away from them, they forget the Lord (33-34). It seems like they were just waiting to turn away from the Lord. The moment Gideon was no longer there to keep an eye on them, they were back to their old ways again (33)! We must never let the servant of the Lord become more important than the Lord. When God's servant has become a distant memory, we must keep on 'remembering the Lord our God' (34).
9th February: Judges 9:1-49
Things were going from bad to worse! The people of Israel had forgotten 'the Lord their God' (8:34). 'The enemy' was ready to 'come in like a flood' (Isaiah 59:19). Abimelech - Gideon's son by 'his concubine who was in Shechem' (8:31) - was very unlike his father. Gideon had pointed away from himself to the Lord (8:23). Abimelech was eager to draw attention to himself. He murdered his seventy brothers, paving the way for himself to become king (1-6). Abimelech spelt trouble! Things were only going to get worse with Abimelech. There was 'an evil spirit' at work among God's people (23). Where was God in all this? - 'Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct' (Romans 1:28). What kind of person are you becoming? Each of us must choose!
10th February: Judges 9:50-11:11
With verses 56-57, read Romans 1:18 - 'The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth'. Doing 'what was evil in the sight of the Lord', 'the people of Israel' brought themselves under God's judgment (10:6-9). When Israel began to return to the Lord, He said to them, 'Mean what you say' (10:10-14). When they persisted with their confession of sin, He answered their prayer - 'In all their affliction He was afflicted...In His love and in His pity He redeemed them' (15-16; Isaiah 63:9). God's answer came in the shape of Jephthah, 'a mighty warrior', a man who 'spoke all his words before the Lord' (11:1,11). Thrust out by men (11:1-2), he was loved by the God of grace - His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9)!
11th February: Judges 11:12-12:15
Israel was not looking for trouble - 'Let us pass...through your land to our country'. The Amorites insisted on fighting with them. They had to be faced and defeated (19-21). The Christian life is like an 'obstacle race'. We do not go out looking for problems. Sometimes, we cannot avoid them. Obstacles can become opportunities - for spiritual growth (James 1:2-4). Watch what you say (29-40; Ecclesiastes 5:2-6). Watch how you say it (1-6). The accent is not the important thing. It is the attitude. Is the accent on Christ? Let the attitude be less of self and more of Christ. Proclaiming the same Christ is more important than pronouncing the words in exactly the same way! Be slow to say, 'He is not one of us'. Be quick to say, 'Christ is proclaimed; and in that I rejoice' (Philippians 1:18).
12th February: Acts 15:1-35
The Gospel is for all nations. In the Old Testament, we catch a glimpse of this (Genesis 12:1-3; Psalms 96:1-3;100:1; Isaiah 45:22). Here, we have the Gospel made clear. Peter says, 'We shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus' (11). Paul says, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved' (16:31). This is the Gospel: 'By grace you have been saved through faith' (Ephesians 2:8). Together with the Good News concerning salvation, there is also an 'exhortation' to go on with the Saviour (31). In this call to submit to the Lord, we hear the word, 'abstain' (20,29). Does this sound negative? It is a positive call to be set apart for God - 'saved...for good works...' (Ephesians 2:8-10). Christ is our Saviour. He is also our Lord. In salvation and surrender, we find our true joy (31).
13th February: Proverbs 8:1-36
Hoping for 'good luck', some people expect good things to happen to them - all the time! God says, 'Seek wisdom. Be ready for the hard times'. Wisdom comes from God. He speaks to us with words of wisdom (2:6; 6-8). Wisdom is not only for 'kings and rulers, princes and nobles'. It is for everyone who loves the Lord (15-17). Wisdom calls us to choose good rather than evil, life rather than death (13,35-36; Hebrews 5:14; Deuteronomy 30:19). The way of wisdom is the way of happiness (32-34). Our path may not be paved with gold. Wisdom is better than 'silver, gold and jewels' (10-11). Christ is our Wisdom. Receiving Him, we receive wisdom. Growing in Him, we grow in wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30; 2:6). As you rejoice in Christ, remember: 'He who wins…' (11:30). Don't keep Wisdom to yourself. Share Christ with others.
14th February: Judges 13: 1-14:9
Samson's birth was announced by an angel. Jesus' birth was announced by angels (13:3; Luke 1:30-33; 2:8-14). Samson's death was a great triumph over the Philistines. Jesus' death brought the greatest triumph of all - victory over Satan (16:30; Hebrews 2:14-15). The story of Samson points us to the greater Story of Jesus. There is, however, a great difference between Samson and Jesus. Often, Samson was concerned only with what pleased him (14:3,7). Always, Jesus did the will of God (John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38). 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me' (Luke 4:18) - We expect these words from Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God. When, however, we read that 'the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon' Samson (14:6), we rejoice in the grace of God - 'while we were yet sinners...the Holy Spirit has been given to us' (Romans 5:8,5).
15th February: Judges 14:10-16:3
'This man receives sinners' (Luke 15:2). These are the words of legalistic Pharisees. They were intended as an insult. They are also words of divine grace: 'Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners' (1 Timothy 1:15). Samson was a sinner. There is no question about that. Is he any different from the rest of us? - 'All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God' (Romans 3:23). Samson was a sinner yet, 'the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him' (14:19). We are sinners. Christ died for us. God has given us His Spirit (Galatians 3:13-14). This is divine grace. Samson often wandered. Still, the Lord was at work in him. Prompted by the Spirit, Samson 'called on the Lord'. Samson was 'very thirsty'. He prayed. He was 'revived' (15:18-19). 'Wilt Thou not revive us again...? (Psalm 85:6). Pray for revival!
16th February: Judges 16:4-31
The story of Samson is a story of tragedy and triumph. We see Samson's tragedy - '"I will go out at other times, and shake myself free". But he did not know that the Lord had left him' (20). There is a warning for us here. Yesterday's triumphs do not guarantee today's victory. Today's challenge needs today's grace. We need to keep close to the Lord - 'His mercies...are new every morning' (Lamentations 3:22-23). We see Samson's triumph - In his death, he triumphed over the Philistines (30). What encouragement there is for us here! How often we feel like Samson - 'seized...gouged...brought down...bound...in the prison' - going through 'the mill' (21)! Satan seems to have the upper hand. We feel so helpless. Satan will not have the last word. Take this for your encouragement: Satan will be 'thrown into the lake of fire' (Revelation 20:10).
17th February: Acts 15:36-16:40
Notice the importance of prayer in the advance of the Gospel. They were looking for a prayer meeting when Lydia was saved (13-14). They were going to a prayer meeting when the girl was saved (16-18). They were having a prayer meeting when the jailer was saved (25-34). They had gone to Philippi 'to preach the Gospel to them' (10). Even when they were 'in chains', the Gospel proved itself to be 'the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith' (Ephesians 6:20; Romans 1:16). 'The Word of God is not bound'. It is 'living and active'. 'Sharper than any two-edged sword', it is 'the sword of the Spirit' (2 Timothy 2:9; Hebrews 4:12; Ephesians 6:17). Do you want people to ask the Salvation question and heed the Gospel answer (30-31)? 'Pray at all times in the Spirit...with all perseverance' (Ephesians 6:18).
18th February: Judges 17:1-18:13
Things are not going well - 'every man did that which was right in his own eyes' (17:6). People were doing what suited themselves. Micah was trying to 'get the best of both worlds'. He was worshipping idols (17:4-5). He was trying to keep on the right side of the Lord - 'Now I know that the Lord will prosper me, because I have a Levite priest' (13). Micah's priest was a 'Yes' man. He told Micah what he wanted to hear. Many people 'refuse to listen to the truth'. They prefer to listen to those who 'tell them what they want to hear' (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Many are 'lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God' (2 Timothy 3:4). We must not fall into the trap of 'trying to please all the people all the time'. Seek to be like Jesus - 'I seek not My own will but the will of Him who sent Me' (John 5:30).
19th February: Acts 17:1-34
Notice the importance of the Scriptures for both public ministry - 'reasoning with them from the Scriptures' and private devotion - 'examining the Scriptures every day' (2,11). We need the Word of the Lord on the Lord's Day. We need the Word of the Lord every day. God is not the 'unknown God'. He has made himself known to us. For many, He seems to be the 'unknown God'. We must seek to lead them beyond a vague awareness of 'the God who made the world' to a real knowledge of Jesus Christ who died and rose again for our salvation (24,3). When our faith is grounded in the Scriptures, we will not think of God as the 'unknown God' about whom we can know very little. We will make it our ambition 'to know Christ and the power of His resurrection' (Philippians 3:10). 'Let us press on to know the Lord' (Hosea 6:3).
20th February: Acts 18:1-21
It was not an easy situation at Corinth. There were some who 'opposed Paul and became abusive' (6). There was great pressure on Paul. He could have given up very easily. It was God's Word which kept Paul going (10). Paul did not collapse under thee pressure - 'he stayed a year and six months, teaching the Word of God among them' (11). At Ephesus, there were people who asked Paul 'to stay for a longer period'. He 'declined'. Paul was moving on. He refused to be shackled by the expectations of other people. The important thing was 'God's will'. For us, there can be no standing still. We must move on with God. We must not get 'stuck in a rut'. Some say, 'Everything must remain the same. Nothing must change'. Paul had to 'set sail from Ephesus'. We must 'launch out into the deep' - at Jesus' Word (20-21; Luke 5:4-5).
21st February: Judges 18:14-19:30
'Keep quiet' - There is a guilty silence which comes from disobedience (18:18-20). When God's people remain silent, things go from bad to worse - 'Where there is no prophecy the people cast off restraint'. We must not be 'disobedient to the heavenly vision' (18:30; Proverbs 29:18; Acts 26:19). Chapter 19 warns us: Sin brings judgment. God cannot stand sin. He punishes sin (Habakkuk 1:13; Numbers 32:23). Sin must be taken seriously. God takes it seriously (Hebrews 10:29-31). It is not easy to see the hand of God in the sinful and shameful events of chapter 19. We must keep on believing that He is present, even when He is 'most invisible' (Church Hymnary, 670). Sometimes, He is present as our Judge. Judgment is not always immediate. There may be 'peace' before the storm. 'Consider' - and learn (19:20, 30)!
22nd February: Acts 18:22-19:22
Apollos 'taught accurately the things concerning Jesus'. He needed to have 'the way of God expounded to him more accurately' (24-26). There is always more to learn. We should never adopt a 'know-it-all' attitude. In 'two years' of ministry, 'God did' great things through Paul (10-11). Paul was moving on. His road led to 'Rome'. It was a road, full of blessing - 'The Word of the Lord grew and prevailed mightily' (20-21). Paul was on the move. God was on the move. Wherever Paul went, there were opportunities to make Christ known.. Wherever he went, people were trusting Christ. Paul was moving from place to place, bringing Christ to so many different people. People were moving 'from death to life' (John 5:24). This is what drove Paul on - Bringing more and more sinners to his Saviour!
23rd February: Acts 19:23-20:16
Read verse 28: 'Great is Artemis of the Ephesians'. Remember Exodus 20:3 - 'You shall have no other gods before Me'. Remove all pretenders from God's throne. Rededicate yourself to the Lord - 'King of my life, I crown Thee now, Thine shall the glory be' (Redemption Hymnal, 165). People could not get enough of God's Word. Be hungry and thirsty for God, for His righteousness, for His Word, for His blessing (7; Matthew 5:6). Paul wanted to be 'at Jerusalem...on the day of Pentecost' (16). This had been a place and time of blessing (2:1-4,41). Paul was eager for the blessing of God in his own life. He was eager to bring God's blessing to others. How much does the blessing of God mean to you? Do you want His blessing? Do you want to be a blessing? 'Lord bless me and make me a blessing'.
24th February : Judges 20:1-28
God uses a sinful and shameful situation - 'Such a thing has never happened or been seen from the day that the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt until this day' (19:30) - to call His people back to Himself - 'all the people of Israel...assembled as one man to the Lord' (1). God's call was clear - 'Put away evil from Israel'. 'The Benjaminites would not listen' to this call for holiness among God's people (13). This was a serious situation. It was not to be taken lightly. This was no mere difference of opinion, something that would soon be forgotten. 'The Benjaminites came together...to go out to war against the people of Israel' (14). Three times, God called His people to 'go up' against the Benjaminites (18,23,28). Victory comes from the Lord: 'I will give them into your hand' (28).
25th February: Acts 20:17-21:14
From Paul's farewell to the Ephesian elders, there are some lessons for all of us. (a) 'Repentance to God' and 'faith in our Lord Jesus Christ' (21) - This is not only a call for conversion. It is for every believer - all the time. (b) 'Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock of God...Care for the Church of God' (28). Taking our own spiritual growth seriously will always involve caring for others. (c) 'It is more blessed to give than to receive' (35). Jesus Others Yourself - This is JOY. Let it be Thanksgiving ('I want to') rather than Duty Giving ('I ought to') or Grudge Giving ('I have to'). For Jesus and Paul, Jerusalem meant suffering. For both, the important thing was doing 'the Lord's will' (10-14; Matthew 16:21-23). 'Let us go forth to Him...and bear the abuse He endured' (Hebrews 13:13).
26th February: Acts 21:15-22:16
Here, we focus on two brief phrases - 'the things that God had done' (19) and you will be a witness for Him' (22:15). In the work of God we must learn to hold these two things together - divine power and human witness. Without the power of God, no one will come to faith in Christ: 'It is the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness", who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ'. How does God work? - He works through human witnesses: 'we preach...Jesus Christ as Lord'. How are divine power and human witness related to each other? - 'We have this treasure in earthen vessels to show that the transcendent, superior, all-surpassing power belongs to God and not to us' (Corinthians 4:5-7). Let God speak - through you!
27th February: Judges 20:29-21:25
Judges ends on such a sad note: 'every man did what was right in his own eyes' (21:25). This situation is not merely political - 'no king'. It is moral and spiritual. The people had no regard for the authority of God and His Word. In Romans 5:20, we have Good News: 'where sin increased, grace abounded all the more'. Here, we have bad news: 'where grace increased, sin abounded all the more'. Reading Judges, we become acutely awareof the need for revival in our own day. In 2 Chronicles 7:14 we see the way to revival: 'If my people who are called by My Name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land'. Read of human 'compassion' (6,15). Rejoice: God 'will again have compassion upon us' (Micah 7:19).
28th February: Psalm 19:1-14
God reveals Himself in creation and Scripture. He speaks through His created world. He speaks through His written Word. God is always speaking. He is never silent. Through His created world, God is speaking to us - every day, every night. He is showing us His glory (1-2). He makes us aware of His presence. He whets our appetite for His written Word. The Scriptures lead us to Christ. Through faith in Him, we receive salvation (2 Timothy 3:15). Christ is the high-point of God's revelation. He is the living Word (John 1:1,14). The testimony of the Psalmist - 'The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul' (7) - becomes real for us through faith in Christ - 'I came to Jesus...My soul revived and now I live in Him' (Church Hymnary, 212). Make it real. Come to Christ. Come alive in Him!
29th February: Matthew 17:1-8
'When they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only' (8). reading through God's Word, we read about many different people. Moses and Joshua, Saul and David, Peter and Paul - These are just some of the people we learn about in God's Word. There is, however, One who stands head and shoulders above them all - our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. None can compare with Him. 'His Name is higher than any other. His Name is Jesus. His Name is Lord'. When we read God's Word, let our prayer always be 'Open our eyes, Lord. We want to see Jesus'. Let it be 'Jesus only' in our lives - 'Jesus shall take the highest honour. Jesus shall take the highest praise' (Mission Praise, 233,545,378). we 'lift up our eyes'. We see 'the hills' (Psalm 121:1). Let us look beyond the hills - and see Jesus!