He Has Done Great Things for Me

Luke 149 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 1:46–55 (ESV)

46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

This passage follows after Mary received word that she would give birth to the Son of God, even though she was a virgin. Mary was also told that her relative, Elizabeth, was pregnant. This was also an amazing development because Elizabeth had been barren. Our passage today is Mary’s response as she considered all that was happening to her.

Mary praised God because he had chosen her to use in such a special way. She was not a person of power or influence. She had no great social standing. Mary was a woman of “humble estate.” Yet, this is the woman God chose to give birth to the most important baby to ever be born, the Savior of the world, the long-awaited Messiah, Jesus. Mary could do nothing other than praise God for his grace and mercy.

We must remember Mary’s words here and think about how God used her in his plan to save the word. He can use us too. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31:

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Let us give all glory to God for all he has done and continues to do!

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Enter His Gates with Thanksgiving

Psalm 1004 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Psalm 100:1–5 (ESV)

1 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
2 Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

3 Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

5 For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

Understanding and Applying the Word

As we continue to think about reasons to be thankful, Psalm 100 is a passage we cannot miss. This psalm calls on “all the earth” to come before the Lord with praise and singing. God is our Creator and we belong to him. He is a good God who shows his steadfast love to us. He stands by us even when we are not very lovable.

The steadfast love of God is on display throughout Scripture. Sinful mankind continually rebels against him, but God shows grace over and over again. His love is so great towards us that he sent his Son into the world to save us. Romans 5:8 states:

but God shows his love for us in that while we still sinners, Christ died for us.

This is truly something to be thankful for. Our Creator has not abandoned us, but still loves us and has sent his Son into the world to save us. What a great God!

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God’s Amazing Grace

Beitzel 2009 Beqa and Lebanon Mountains 22

Reading the Word

Matthew 20:1–16 (ESV)

1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ 5 So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ 8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ 9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

In this parable, Jesus tells a story about different workers who were hired to work in a vineyard. The master of the house hired workers at the beginning of the day and agreed to pay them a denarius for a day of labor. A denarius was the standard pay for a day of work. A few hours later, at 9:00 AM, the master hired more workers. He did the same at noon, 3:00 PM, and at 5:00 PM. Each time hiring more workers and promising to give them fair pay for their work. A typical work day was 6:00 AM until 6:00 PM.

At the end of the day, the workers went to receive their pay. Those hired last, at 5:00 PM had only worked for an hour, but they received a denarius as pay. When those hired at the beginning of the day saw that the late-comers received a denarius, they thought they would receive more. They were mistaken. The master paid all of the workers the same. It did not matter when they started. This angered the workers who were hired early in the morning. They believed they deserved more! The master explained to the workers that he paid them exactly what he told them he was going to when he hired them. If he chose to pay others the same, why should it be an issue?

The lesson of this parable is that God’s servants should not spend their time comparing themselves with other servants. God is generous to all of his people and gives us all far more than we deserve. God is a God of amazing grace and his mercies are new every morning. Take the time to reflect on the Lord’s goodness and thank him for it.

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The Self-Righteous

Luke 1813–14 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 18:9–14 (ESV)

9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

This parable addresses the self-righteousness of the Pharisees. Jesus tells of two men who went to the temple to pray. The first, a Pharisee, thanked God that he was not like the sinners of the world. He even commented on his own righteousness by mentioning that he fasted twice per week and tithed on his earnings. The second, a tax collector, could hardly bring himself to the temple to pray. He stood far away and kept his eyes to the ground in shame and humility. He called out to God for mercy for his sins. Jesus ended the parable by saying that it was the tax collector who went home justified, not the Pharisee.

The reason for this parable is given in the opening verse. It was to address those who were self-righteous and looked down on others. Those who are in a right relationship with God have acknowledged their own sin and repented of it. We have asked God to forgive us based not on what we have done, but solely on what Jesus has done for us. He went to the cross as a sacrifice for our sin. If we believe we are righteous by our own doing and somehow deserve God’s blessing, we deceive ourselves and do not belong to God at all. Salvation comes only by grace to sinners who are undeserving.

When we acknowledge our own sin, it should make us humble. We should not look down on others. Instead, we should point fellow sinners to Jesus Christ and tell of the forgiveness and grace that are available to all who will believe.

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Responding to God’s Grace

The Healing of Ten Lepers

The Healing of Ten Lepers (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Luke 17:11–19 (ESV)

11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

This passage tells us of ten lepers whom Jesus healed. The passage does not focus so much on the healing as it does the reaction to the healing. As Jesus was traveling, ten lepers stood at a distance and called out to him for mercy. This would have been quite normal since lepers were not supposed to get close to others. Jesus sent them to the priests, which was part of the Law. The priests had the responsibility of examining the lepers and pronouncing them clean. All ten went to the priests and were cleansed of their disease as they went.

Only one of the healed men returned. He returned to praise God and to thank Jesus for what he had done. The surprising thing is that this one was not a Jew, but a Samaritan. The other nine had simply gone away. This fits what we have seen in other places in Luke. Outsiders often responded to Jesus in great faith, while many Jews, especially the religious leaders, rejected him.

There are multiple things to learn from this account. The leper returned praising God and thanking Jesus. He recognized that God was at work through Jesus. Also, there should be gratitude and thanksgiving for God’s grace in our lives. And lastly, the gospel is for all people. Over and over again, it is the outsider that responds in worship and faith while those we would expect to follow Jesus actually turn away. It is often those we least expect who respond to the gospel.

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The Return of the Prodigal Son

Prodigal Son The Return

Prodigal Son, the Return (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Luke 15:11–24 (ESV)

11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” ’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The third and final parable of Luke 15 is one of the most well-known passages in the New Testament. It is the parable often referred to as The Parable of the Prodigal Son. The word “prodigal” is not one that we often use today, but it speaks of a person who is wasteful and spends money in a reckless manner. It is easy to see how this parable earned its popular title.

The amazing part of the parable is that when the prodigal son returns home after wasting all he had, his father is happy to have him back. Not only does he welcome him, but he restores him to complete standing and throws a party to celebrate. Jesus told this parable to teach the Pharisees and scribes about God, who is represented by the father in the parable. God celebrates when a sinner returns home. It is a grand and joyous occasion! No matter where the person has roamed or what he has done while away, when a sinner repents and goes to the Father, the Father welcomes him with open arms and celebrates.

Know that God’s love for you is the same. He stands ready to welcome you home no matter how far you have gone or what you have done. Turn from your sins and go to him now. He is waiting for you.

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Forgiving as We Have Been Forgiven

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Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but I do include a suggested Scripture reading. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along every day. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

Matthew 18:23–35 (ESV)

23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Judge Not!

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Reading the Word

Matthew 7:1–5 (ESV)

1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Parallel Text: Luke 6:37-42

Understanding and Applying the Word

Have you ever heard someone misapply a passage from the Bible? Well, Matthew 7:1-5 may be the most misunderstood and misapplied passage in the entire Bible. Most of us have heard people quote verse one as a way of saying “we should not say whether someone is right or wrong in their views or actions.” That is not what Jesus was saying!

Throughout the Bible, God’s people are told to live according to his word and to not live like the world. And God’s people are supposed to help each other do just that. We are supposed to do it through encouragement, through teaching, and even through rebuke (cf. 2 Timothy 4:2). In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul even tells the Corinthian church to expel a certain man because of his improper sexual relationship. Yes, throw him out! No one replied, “Well, Paul, judge not that you be not judged.”

Jesus’ words are a warning about being judgmental, not about being discerning. When we look down on others with a self-righteous attitude and demand that they suffer severe consequences for their sins and errors, we do what Jesus is warning against. We need to first examine our own lives and realize our own sin (the log in our eye) before we attack someone else’s. When we do that, our response to others is more gracious and humble. When we are filled with humility and grace, then we are ready to help others deal with their sins. Let us pray that God would help us rightly discern our own sins so we can be better prepared to help others with their’s.

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Good News for the Poor

luke 418 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 4:16–30 (ESV)

16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘ “Physician, heal yourself.” What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’ ” 24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away.

Understanding and Applying the Word

As Jesus returned to Nazereth, where he had been brought up, he had already begun his public ministry in Capernaum. When he arrived in Nazareth, he already had a reputation as a healer due to the works he had performed in Capernaum. This is likely why he was invited to speak at the synagogue in Nazareth.

Jesus read from Isaiah 61 then sat down to teach. Was this reading scheduled to be read on this day? Did Jesus select this passage on his own? We do not know, but it is an incredible passage concerning the ministry of the Messiah. So, when Jesus told the people that the passage had been fulfilled in their midst, he was making a claim to be the Messiah. They wondered how this could be possible since they knew he was the carpenter’s son.

Jesus predicted that the people would call on him to perform in Nazareth the healings he had done in Capernaum. After all, should not the hometown folks benefit if anyone is going to benefit? In response, Jesus reflected on incidents in the Old Testament where God’s favor had fallen on select people, even non-Jews, while many others had not received such grace. In saying this, Jesus was telling the Jewish people that his ministry was not solely, or even primarily for the Jewish people, but for both Jew and Gentile. As a result, the people wanted to seize him and thrown him off of a cliff, but he escaped from them.

How do we respond when others are shown grace? How would you feel if the neighbor you do not get along with, or the co-worker who is always causing problems, or your worst enemy showed up at church? How would you feel if they turned to Christ in saving faith? Would you rejoice? Or, would you wonder how God could show favor to “those people”? Let us remember that Jesus came to save the lost, whoever they may be, and let us give thanks for the grace we have received as well as the grace God shows to others.

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For Your Name’s Sake

Romans 1136 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Psalm 143:1–12 (ESV)

1 Hear my prayer, O LORD;
give ear to my pleas for mercy!
In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!
2 Enter not into judgment with your servant,
for no one living is righteous before you.

3 For the enemy has pursued my soul;
he has crushed my life to the ground;
he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.
4 Therefore my spirit faints within me;
my heart within me is appalled.

5 I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all that you have done;
I ponder the work of your hands.
6 I stretch out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah

7 Answer me quickly, O LORD!
My spirit fails!
Hide not your face from me,
lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
8 Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.

9 Deliver me from my enemies, O LORD!
I have fled to you for refuge.
10 Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God!
Let your good Spirit lead me
on level ground!

11 For your name’s sake, O LORD, preserve my life!
In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble!
12 And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies,
and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul,
for I am your servant.

Understanding and Applying the Word

David is in trouble and needs God to rescue him. However, David knows that he does not deserve God’s mercy because he is unrighteous, as we all are (verse 2). So, David pleads for God to rescue him, not based on what he has done, but for the sake of the Lord’s name (verse 11).

David understood that all things ultimately point to God. It is God who judges sin and it is God who saves from sin. In judgment and in salvation, the Lord’s name is glorified. He is upheld as holy and he is upheld as merciful and forgiving. We must never believe that we somehow earn God’s favor through the works we do. We are saved completely by grace as we understand our sin, repent of it, and trust in Jesus Christ for forgiveness (Ephesians 2:8-9). Is is truly all for the sake of the Lord’s name.

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