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God Is Good Devotional

God Was Good To Judah

Judah’s story is long, twisted and bizarre, so I will spare you the biblical references here and invite you to join me on a narrative. If you would like to read it (and I encourage you to), you will have to read it from Genesis–much of it.

Rough Start

Judah began life as something of a beduin and ended it as a guest of honor in Egypt, In between he had something of a troubled life. Born to a father who had four wives, he wasn’t the firstborn. That wasn’t in his favor in those days. He wasn’t born to the wife that his father truly loved. That was also not in his favor (see Ishmael). But it gets worse.

Joseph

As were the rest of his brothers, Judah was jealous of Joseph. So he did the only reasonable thing he could. He decided that Joseph needed to die. Judah decided that the eldest son from the beloved wife needed to die a quick death until the eldest of all talked him into simply selling him into slavery. Problem solved, Joseph was out of the way. But it gets worse.

Shechem

Dinah, one of Jacob’s daughters, one day was raped by a man from Shechem. Enraged by this, Judah, along with his brothers, devised a plan for revenge. Instead of giving Dinah in marriage to the man, which may have been their custom in the first place, the brothers Israel told the men of Shechem that one of them could marry Dinah only if they were circumcised like the sons of Jacob were.

The men of Shechem bought this ruse, and agreed to be circumcised as adults. Because this left them in a bit of uncomfortable and unseemly pain, all the men were lying around in their houses waiting for the pain to subside when Judah and his brothers carried out their plan. Instead of giving Dinah in marriage to her rapist, the brothers descended on the unsuspecting men of Shechem and killed them all while they recovered from their painful surgeries. But it gets worse.

Tamar

Judah married a woman who gave him three sons. When the eldest became old enough, Judah found a wife for him named Tamar. Now the details are sketchy here, but for some reason God decided he had to die, so Judah asked his younger brother to get Tamar pregnant so his older brother could have offspring in his name. Strange, but apparently totally normal at the time. Again, the details are sketchy, but God decided this brother had to die, too.

Judah had one more son and he wasn’t about to give him over to this widow maker, so he lied to Tamar. Instead of letting her marry his third son, he sent her home to wait for a day that would never come. After some time, Tamar realized that Judah had no intention of letting her marry his youngest son, so she waited for an opportunity to get what she wanted.

Some time later, Judah’s wife died, and he found himself in the position to happen upon a prostitute, which he happily availed himself of. There was a problem with this prostitute, however. First, she wasn’t a prostitute; at least not a professional one. Second, her name was Tamar. This one evening of meaningless intercourse resulted in twin boys which Judah accepted as his sons.

So, with all these notches in his belt, you would think that God would have stricken Judah’s name from the biblical record, right?

Wrong.

God Is Good

Not only did Judah receive the greatest blessing from his father Jacob (greater than Joseph), he was the son that all the great kings of Israel (minus Saul) would descend from. He was to be the ancestor of David, Solomon and yes, Jesus. Judah is the very name that we get the word “Jew” from today. He is the central name of Israel besides his father Israel himself. The messiah Himself was to come from his genetic line.

No matter how bad your life has been, God has purpose and plans for you. No matter what you’ve done, God can redeem it, and He is often very good at it. No matter how bad your story, God has biblical examples of worse that He turns around.

God was good to Judah, and he totally didn’t deserve it. The good news, the gospel, in fact, is that God will be good to you too and you totally don’t deserve it.

None of us do.

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God Is Good Devotional

God Was Good To John

I wrote a Bible study about Revelation and I am currently working on one for John, so I have thought a lot about what it must have been like to be John. In this series I have focused mainly on people who have had a rough life but them overcome, but with John, it’s hard to find a lot of hardships.

We know little about him other than what we are told in the gospels, and there he is one of the most favored apostles. Jesus even gave him the honor of caring for His mother, Mary. If we look to sources outside of scripture, we do find some unpleasantness.

Deep-Fried Apostle

Church tradition tells us that John was severely mistreated by the Roman government in Asia Minor later in his life. For whatever reason, they wanted to martyr him like the other apostles, so they tried to throw him into a vat of boiling oil. Instead of destroying his flesh in an excruciatingly painful death, we’re told that John was unharmed. I suppose it must have been an awkward moment for whomever dipped John into the oil when it didn’t harm him.

Unfortunately for the Romans, they didn’t take a hint from the fact that John wasn’t hurt, so they chose to instead exile him to a small island in the Aegean Sea called Patmos. The island wasn’t deserted, as most think, but the small community there gave the Romans the ability to watch John and make sure he didn’t escape from their island prison.

Jesus’ Shared Revelation

In the midst of his exile, John had possibly one of the greatest gifts given to him, a revelation of eternity. Most people see Revelation and instantly recoil in fear from the unknowns of Revelation, but John saw glory. John saw majesty. John saw goodness.

Jesus shared His revelation of the end times and eternity with John, something that I esteem as a privilege unmatched of any other scripture writer. John, in the midst of active persecution (it doesn’t get much worse than your enemies trying to kill you), was shown the glorious transition that God has in mind from this age to the next. He actually saw God sitting on His throne, something he himself said no one had ever seen (John 1:18).

Not Too Hard A Life

What an amazing privilege it must have felt to John to be given the charge to write the book of Revelation. I love thinking about what it must have been like for Him to see what he saw and then have to write it all down for each of us to ponder.

Maybe your life hasn’t been all that bad. You don’t have to have a hard life for God to show you His goodness. For John, other than a little attempted murder, he seems to have fared pretty well, and God gave him an amazing privilege.

Don’t let your lack of an “amazing testimony” stop you from asking God to show you His goodness. Come boldly before His throne and He will surely answer you.

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God Is Good Devotional

God Was Good To Esther

Most societies throughout history have been patriarchal, and ancient Israel was no different. Women certainly had value, but their opinions, like 30 inch shiny rims on a Toyota Prius, weren’t necessary. Men have long ruled the world, and most of the time they act like they know that all too well.

We find that because King Xerxe’s wife had an opinion and had been willing to express it, she was “removed” from her position (let the reader understand). He sent a decree to all the Persian world that women should obey their husbands and then went about the tedious business of finding a new wife.

Disgusting Reality

Xerxes had a process for finding a wife that is akin to where it looks like American Reality Television is heading. He had beautiful virgins undergo twelve months of beauty treatments before they were “presented” to him. He would then sleep with them and decide if they had what it took to become his wife.

Esther, simply because she was beautiful, was caught up in this disgusting reality show. She underwent the beautification treatments for a year. When has another woman been told so much that all her value was in her looks alone?

When it came to Esther’s turn to be “presented” to Xerxes, I’m sure there had already been a long line of rejects, but God had plans to hijack this wicked plan with Esther.

God’s Plan

Xerxes decided he really liked Esther more than any of the other virgins he had slept with, so he made her queen. If you have been following along up to now, you realize that for Esther, this didn’t mean much other than being Xerxe’s sex slave with very few benefits. She wasn’t even allowed to approach Xerxe’s throne unless he called for her, and that normally meant one thing.

In the midst of what is possibly the most depressing love story ever told, God smiled on Esther. In the midst of one of the most abusive and oppressive regimes in history against women, God chose to use a woman to thwart a wicked plan and save His people.

If you haven’t read Esther’s story, I encourage you to read the entire book of Esther now. It is one of the saddest stories in the Bible, yet God made a way to use Esther in a way unconceivable up until then.

Haman, possibly the same wicked man who devised the New Wife Plan, came up with a new plan to destroy these pesky Jews. His plan to annihilate them, and his very life, was to be undone by a woman.

Standing In Her Place of Intercession

Esther’s uncle Mordecai had to talk her into it, no doubt because of the mental conditioning she had gone through, but she was to be the one to save Israel from Haman. Mordecai saw what God was doing, so he coached Esther in what to do and say. This little girl who believed she had no value but her beauty was now in the place to completely change regional political politics.

If you know her story, you know that she did just that. Not only did Esther intercede for them and save her people from extinction, she set up a favorable relationship toward the Jews that would cause a subsequent Persian ruler to release her people back to Israel and actually pay for them to rebuild their temple!

God’s Goodness

God was good to Esther in the midst of one of the saddest stories of scripture. Esther was destined to be used and discarded by a sicko despot, but God had a greater plan for her. So greatly did God use her in Israel’s history that she has a holiday to commemorate her. Moses doesn’t have a Jewish holiday. David has no holiday. Elijah? Nope. But Esther does. It is called Purim, or sometimes the feast of Esther.

Have you been oppressed by men? Have you been used and discarded? Have you been overlooked for your true value?

God remembered Esther and was good to her. He can show you His goodness too. Would you ask Him to express His love for you now?

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God Is Good Devotional

God Was Good To Paul

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.

1 Timothy 1:15

Paul wasn’t kidding and he wasn’t being cute. Blinded by religious fervor to prove himself righteous before God and others, he had been on a rampage arresting Jews simply for the crime of believing in Jesus. Luke was clear to point out that Paul threw no stones at Stephen, but to Paul that didn’t matter. He had presided over his death, an event that would begin an illustrious career of imprisoning Christians.

Paul is the worst sinner for two reasons. His sins catch us all. If he truly aspired to be “all things to all people,” he was so in his life before Christ as well.

Misguided Zeal

He was a religious man. Paul believed, like all good Pharisees, that he had to obey the entirety of the Law or be guilty of breaking the entire Law. This was a belief not held by any Old Testament prophet or priest, but one that had been invented by the Pharisees. With their doctrines, they had stripped Judaism of its atoning sacrifice, making their religious adherence all that mattered for their justification.

How many Christians in America fall into the same pit? Have you lived in such a way that negated Jesus’ blood over your life? Have you tried to earn favor and justification before God and man by the way you live? By the way you speak? By the front you put on for others? By the lies you tell?

God was good to Paul because He forgave him for trying to earn his salvation. Salvation is found in Jesus and Jesus alone. There is no way we can be redeemed to God except by Jesus’ blood.

Paul The Terrorist

Paul also needed God’s forgiveness and goodness for his raging against God’s very people. Blinded by his own desire to prove to others that he was a spiritual leader, Paul committed atrocities, not too dissimilar to what we’ve seen in recent years in ISIS, the Taliban and other Islamic terror groups. Their aim was Paul’s aim: religious adherence or imprisonment and death.

But here again, God was good to Paul. He arrested his attention on one of his misguided assignments and transformed Paul’s life forever.

Goodness Greater Than Sin

Do you need God’s goodness like Paul? Do you need God to arrest your attention, or will you willingly surrender today? No matter what terrible things you’ve done, there is a place for you to be in good company if you surrender your life to Jesus. Paul truly was the “chief of sinners,” so there is little that you could have done that would be worse.

Even if you have done worse, God can show you His goodness by giving you a reason to compare notes with Paul when you meet him one day in eternity.

God was good to Paul, and He can be to you, too.

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God Is Good Devotional

God Was Good To Nicodemus

10Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? 11Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. 12If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?

John 3:10-12

This is not the best way to start your relationship with Jesus, but sometimes a painful truth is what we need to see clearly.  Nicodemus was a Pharisee, one trained in teaching the Law of God to the people of Israel. He studied, memorized and taught everywhere he went. Not only that, Nicodemus was also a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish supreme court of 71 men who oversaw Jewish law and life. They had the power to judge and condemn—exactly what they would soon do to Jesus.

Afraid And Curious

Nicodemus was different. He was afraid of his fellow members of the Sanhedrin, so he came to Jesus privately at night to find out more about Him. Nicodemus was bound by his tradition and deception that he was a law-abider, but he was curious enough to seek out this Man who performed miracles from God.

Though it wouldn’t happen right away, Nicodemus would become one of Jesus’ followers, after His death.

38After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. 39And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. 40Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. 41Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.

John 19:38-41

And here we see that Jesus, although He had absolutely nothing good to say to the Pharisees, was patient with them. Nicodemus and Joseph were two men who decided to follow Jesus. We know that they would eventually have to abandon everything they had known—power, respect and authority—and humble themselves before the rag-tag group of uneducated apostles, but what an honor they had.

Holding A Dead Body

Nicodemus was the one of the two men to prepare Jesus’ body for burial. He held His lifeless body in his hands. He applied ointment and perfume to His breathless figure. He wept over His form, realizing he had chosen safety and fear instead of taking the opportunity to follow Jesus in life. What a holy moment, to hold the lifeless carcass of the eternal Creator of our universe. Only two men had that honor, and this fearful ruler was one of them. It would forever change him.

Have you feared what following Jesus would cost you? Have you shrunk from pressure? Have you followed Him only at night, when no one could see? He is patient. He is good. He is kind. There is still time.

Life From Death

Nicodemus held Jesus’ lifeless body, but he would soon find out that dead flesh would forever be alive. And so would Nicodemus. And so will you who choose to follow Jesus.

God was kind to Nicodemus. This ruler of the Jews held Jesus in His death, and chose to follow Him the same. Nicodemus would choose to die to his authority, honor and respect and in so doing inherit eternal life. There is no greater goodness to experience Jesus in His death, that Nicodemus could choose to do the same.

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

Romans 6:3