A Matter of the Heart

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Reading the Word

Mark 7:1–23 (ESV)

1 Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, 2 they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

“ ‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
7 in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban” ’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Parallel Text: Matthew 15:1-20

Understanding and Applying the Word

The Pharisees and scribes complained that Jesus’ followers were eating without washing their hands properly. This is an example of how the religious leaders had established their own rules about how things should be done that were not a part of God’s word. Jesus responded by quoting from Isaiah 29:13 and accusing the Pharisees with going through the outward motions of holiness while their hearts were not in the right place. Jesus then stressed that what goes into the body does not defile it. It is the things that come from the heart that defile a person. Sin is ultimately a heart issue.

With these words, we find a warning against religious activity and legalism. Both of these concern themselves with external actions and measure themselves by adhering to such actions: regular church attendance, financial gifts, not watching TV or going to the movies, not drinking alcohol, not working on Sunday, etc. While there may be good reasons for some of these actions listed, the religious person and the legalist uses lists of dos and don’ts to show they are spiritual and in a right relationship to God. They fail to see that their hearts are desperately wicked and that they are in need of grace and forgiveness.

Religious activity and the ability to keep rules will never save anyone. We must realize our sinfulness and call out to Christ for forgiveness. It is only by the righteousness that he gives to us and the penalty for sin that he pays for us that allows us to stand before a holy God. In this passage we are forced to ask ourselves what we are counting on to make us right with God. Only Christ will do.

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Starving for Attention

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Reading the Word

Matthew 6:16–18 (ESV)

16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Fasting is the putting aside of food so a person can spend more time in pursuit of God. In Scripture, it was done in times of distress and great need. It was used as a way to say “God, I need you more than anything to intercede in my circumstances right now. I need you more than even food.” Over time, fasting became a way the religious gauged how spiritual they were. The more one fasted, the more spiritual they were. So, people would fast and let everyone else know about it so they would be recognized as spiritual.

Jesus points this out as hypocrisy. Those who behave in this way are not fasting to appeal to God, they simply want to be seen by others. Jesus says that they have already received their reward (i.e. the recognition of others). Instead of trying to impress others, Jesus says our fasting should be done in such a way that no one even knows that it is happening. Only God should know. In this way, we are not seeking the approval of others, but truly seeking God.

Unfortunately, many are still caught up in performing religious acts for show. Just about everything we do can be done for the wrong reasons. We go to church, we pray, we fast, we ask questions and say all of the right things in our Bible studies. But are we doing them to be noticed by others or are we doing them out of the sincerity of our heart? Are our religious acts for show or are we truly seeking God? Ask yourself today, “Who are you trying to please?”

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Give to Him Glorious Praise

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Reading the Word

Psalm 66:1–5 (ESV)

1 Shout for joy to God, all the earth; 2 sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise! 3 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you. 4 All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name.” Selah5 Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Psalm 66 calls for all people to praise God for who He is and for what He has done. His name is glorious and He has displayed His great power for all to see. In the context of this psalm, God displayed His power when He brought the people out of Egypt and led them across the sea on dry ground (Psalm 66:6). He then delivered the people into the Promised Land that was overflowing with abundance (Psalm 66:12).

We too are called to marvel at who God is and to praise His wondrous deeds. We can give praise and thanks for His daily provision in our lives, for how He has brought us through specific trials, or for the promises that He has made to us for the future. These are all great things. But let us not forget our great deliverance. Psalm 66 looks back to the deliverance of the people from bondage in Egypt. We must continually look back to the cross and our deliverance from bondage to sin. Christ died to set us free and to deliver us into eternal life in a new heaven and new earth. Let us praise the name of our great God and remember His awesome deeds!

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The God of Harvest

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Reading the Word

Psalm 65:9–13 (ESV)

9 You visit the earth and water it; you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide their grain, for so you have prepared it. 10 You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth. 11 You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with abundance. 12 The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, 13 the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.

Understanding and Applying the Word

As we read these verses we get a picture of God’s generosity. We read of how God waters the earth to provide for an abundant grain harvest and so that the fields yield the growth necessary to provide for the flocks that graze in them. God is pictured as the generous provider.

Verses 9-13 can be taken alone to show how God provides for our daily needs, but there is something greater to be found in these verses. In the opening of Psalm 65, we read of how God has provided for our spiritual needs by making atonement for our sins. Now, at the end of this psalm, we see an concrete example of how God provides for our physical needs. He is the God who meets our every need and we are reminded every time we sit down to eat. Let us remember to give thanks to him for His provision, especially His provision of our Savior.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!

The Hope of All the Ends of the Earth

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Thank you for reading Shaped by the Word, a daily Bible reading devotional. I do not publish devotional content on Sundays, but I do include a suggested Scripture reading for the day. Please subscribe to this page so you can follow along as we read through the Book of Psalms in 2018.

Reading the Word

Psalm 65:5–8 (ESV)

5 By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas; 6 the one who by his strength established the mountains, being girded with might; 7 who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples, 8 so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs. You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.

Praise Is Due to You, O God

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Reading the Word

Psalm 65:1–4 (ESV)

1 Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion, and to you shall vows be performed. 2 O you who hear prayer, to you shall all flesh come. 3 When iniquities prevail against me, you atone for our transgressions. 4 Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!

Understanding and Applying the Word

“Praise is due to you, O God.” What great words. This is how Psalm 65 begins. It then goes on to tell us why God is due praise. He hears prayer. He forgives sin. He brings us near to dwell with Him. And he shows us goodness in His house. What a great God!

It truly is amazing to think of the goodness and love of God towards us. Scripture and our hearts tell us that we are sinners, but God, who is holy, shows His grace to us by making forgiveness available through the cross at Calvary. Not only does God forgive us, but he welcomes us into His presence, not as servants, but as children! Amazing! Then He shows us goodness by His loving care for us. He truly is deserving of our praise. Let us lift our hearts and voices to Him. He is the great God!

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!

Let the Righteous Rejoice in the Lord

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Reading the Word

Psalm 64:7–10 (ESV)

7 But God shoots his arrow at them; they are wounded suddenly. 8 They are brought to ruin, with their own tongues turned against them; all who see them will wag their heads. 9 Then all mankind fears; they tell what God has brought about and ponder what he has done. 10 Let the righteous one rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him! Let all the upright in heart exult!

Understanding and Applying the Word

The world can often seem unfair and even cruel. Wicked and evil people seem to get away with their actions. Swindlers sometimes seem to prosper from their lies and deceit. And the innocent and weak may seem to be taken advantage of.

But Scripture tells us a different story. God’s word tells us that evil will be judged by an all-knowing God. In the end, truth and justice will prevail as God deals with all of mankind with perfect justice. In that day, the righteous will rejoice and the wicked will be brought to ruin. So, today we live by faith in God’s promise to judge evil as we live for him in a world that is always seeking to devour the weak for profit.

As you read this, you may be wondering how anyone will escape God’s judgment. That is a good question. The Bible says we are all sinners and stand condemned by our sin. Yet God in His grace has provided His Son as payment for our sin. He went to the cross as a perfect sacrifice. And Jesus rose from the dead in victory over sin. God’s word tells us that if we repent of our sin and trust in the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf, we will find forgiveness and salvation. This is the free gift of a loving and gracious God for all who will believe. Will you trust Him today?

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!

The Secret Plots of the Wicked

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Reading the Word

Psalm 64:1–6 (ESV)

1 Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint; preserve my life from dread of the enemy. 2 Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the throng of evildoers, 3 who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows, 4 shooting from ambush at the blameless, shooting at him suddenly and without fear. 5 They hold fast to their evil purpose; they talk of laying snares secretly, thinking, “Who can see them?” 6 They search out injustice, saying, “We have accomplished a diligent search.” For the inward mind and heart of a man are deep.

Understanding and Applying the Word

David calls out to God with a “complaint”. His enemies are secretly plotting to cause him harm. These evil doers are sure that there schemes will remain hidden and that no one can see their secret snares.

God sees what we cannot. There are no secrets that are kept from God. When we are faced with an enemy who is plotting evil, we can be sure that God sees the truth of the situation. We can be encouraged because we know that God is good and He is just.

God sees into our minds and hearts. We may believe that our thoughts and feelings are hidden, but they are not. We may hide them from our fellow man, but God sees even into these deep places. This is a warning to us all. We will all give an account to the righteous Judge who knows every detail to the full, even the things we keep in the depths of our minds and hearts.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!

All Who Swear by Him Shall Exult

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Reading the Word

Psalm 63:9–11 (ESV)

9 But those who seek to destroy my life shall go down into the depths of the earth; 10 they shall be given over to the power of the sword; they shall be a portion for jackals. 11 But the king shall rejoice in God; all who swear by him shall exult, for the mouths of liars will be stopped.

Understanding and Applying the Word

In these words, we read David’s confidence that God would defeat his enemies. David is the king of verse 11 and he mentions that God’s deliverance would result in rejoicing and exultation and that the mouths of liars would be stopped as a result of God’s judgment.

In the previous verses we heard David say that God’s love was greater than life as he was facing great danger at the hands of his enemies (verse 3). In the New Testament we see Jesus going to the cross and showing us what it looks like when the Father’s love truly is our greatest desire. Jesus went to the cross and died in submission to the will of the Father. And, as we read in our verses for today, the Father has given victory over the enemies of the King (i.e. King Jesus) through the resurrection. It is interesting to note that Psalm 63 begins by speaking of a desert without water and Jesus will later declare, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water'” (John 7:37-38).

We can have confidence in God who has promised to be with and deliver His people. We see how he has delivered Christ from His enemies. We can be sure that we too will be saved. Let us trust in Him and let us praise Him for His great love!

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!

You Have Been My Help


Reading the Word

Psalm 63:5–8 (ESV)

5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, 6 when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; 7 for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. 8 My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Life can be a roller coaster. In the heat of the moment we can feel fear and loneliness when things get tough. We may even feel as if God has abandoned us. However, how often have you looked back on difficult events after the passing of time and realized that God had not abandoned you after all? In fact, He was using those difficult times to do some work in your life?

In this psalm, David is in the heat of battle, yet he is comforted as he thinks about God’s faithfulness to him in the past. David declares that “you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.” David sees that God has been with him in the past and trusts that He will continue to be with him in his present trouble.

Are you feeling troubled? Are you afraid of what may lie ahead? Look to the past and see how God has been with you all the way. Look at the demonstration of His love displayed on Calvary as the Son gave His life for you. The Lord has not abandoned you. Cling to Him now and sing for joy.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!