From Dust to Dust

Reading the Word

Ecclesiastes 3:16–22 (ESV)
16 Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness.
17 I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work.
18 I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts.
19 For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity.
20 All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.
21 Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth?
22 So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?

Understanding and Applying the Word

Once again, Solomon comments on his observations of life in this world. In the beginning of this passage he speaks of the prevalence of wickedness and the lack of justice and righteousness. He then goes on to observe that both humans and beasts suffer the same fate. They both die. Some may wonder what Solomon means when he says that “all go to the same place.” He is referring to the grave. In such a cruel world where death waits, Solomon surmises that people must find fulfillment in their work, for that is all there is.

The words of this passage seem terribly negative, but they reflect the reality of a life without God. The world becomes a cold, dark place without meaning. Even work actually becomes meaningless in such a world because whatever we are able to produce will eventually fade away and be forgotten. By contrast, in a world with God, we know that wickedness will be judged and that there is hope beyond the grave. Mankind is promised an eternity in the presence of God for all who will repent of their wickedness and trust in Jesus Christ.


**If you enjoy reading Shaped by the Word, please consider sharing this post on social media. Doing so helps us reach a larger audience. Thanks for reading!

Follow Shaped by the Word on WordPress or Facebook.

Defend Their Rights

Reading the Word

Proverbs 31:8–9 (ESV)
8 Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute.
9 Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Understanding and Applying the Word

This passage comes at the end of a section that is ascribed to King Lemuel. These words are things his mother taught him (cf. Proverbs 31:1). After Lemuel’s mother told him not to allow himself to be distracted by women or strong drink, he was told to stand up for those who could not stand up for themselves. He was to be a king who concerned himself with justice and protecting the rights of all, especially the rights of those who are often deprived of such things.

We live in a world where justice and rights are often trampled on, not just in foreign lands, but right here in our own country. This has been true throughout human history and will continue into the future. It is a symptom of mankind’s core problem: sin. The rich and powerful seek to take advantage of the poor and vulnerable. As followers of Christ, we must heed the words of Lemuel’s mother and stand up for the rights of the oppressed. And as we do so, we can look to the future, when Christ will reign over all and will do so with perfect justice and righteousness. Consider the words from the Prophet Isaiah:

Isaiah 11:1–5 (ESV)
1 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
2 And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
5 Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.


**If you enjoy reading Shaped by the Word, please consider sharing this post on social media. Doing so helps us reach a larger audience. Thanks for reading!

Follow Shaped by the Word on WordPress or Facebook.

Flashback: Clean Hands

Originally posted on January 28, 2018.

I do not publish devotional content on Sundays, but I do include a suggested reading for the day. Thanks for reading and, if you have not already, be sure to subscribe so you can follow along every day.

pexels-photo-296282.jpegReading the Word

Psalm 18:20–27 (ESV)

20 The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me. 21 For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God. 22 For all his rules were before me, and his statutes I did not put away from me. 23 I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from my guilt. 24 So the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight. 25 With the merciful you show yourself merciful; with the blameless man you show yourself blameless; 26 with the purified you show yourself pure; and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous. 27 For you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down.

Righteousness Exalts a Nation

Reading the Word

Proverbs 14:34 (ESV)
34 Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Righteousness, or doing what is right, is always important. We often think of doing what is right in our own personal lives, but how often do we think of this collectively, as a society? It is to our advantage as a nation to submit ourselves to God’s word. This applies to how we deal with our own people and how we deal with people from other countries. God’s ways are the best ways because they are the right ways. To follow our own ways, which is sin, is always to our disadvantage.

God’s word stresses that we are to love our neighbors and do to others as we would have them do to us. We are to strive for justice and peace. We are to look out for those who are in need and vulnerable. We are to be people of integrity who keep their word. We are to be fair and honest. These are the values that we should strive for as a nation. Let us pray for our leaders that they would seek the same.


**If you enjoy reading Shaped by the Word, please consider sharing this post on social media. Doing so helps us reach a larger audience. Thanks for reading!

Follow Shaped by the Word on WordPress or Facebook.

Are you a writer who might be interested in writing for Shaped by the Word? I am looking for other contributors who would like to write for this page. Contact me by email (csuviking96 at yahoo dot com). Thanks!

Clothed in Righteousness

Zechariah 34 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Zechariah 3:1–5 (ESV)

1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. 2 And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” 3 Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. 4 And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” 5 And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The name Satan means “the accuser”. In today’s passage, we see him standing before God to accuse Joshua the high priest. Joshua was standing before the Lord in “filthy garments”, indicative of his sin and unworthiness. Satan was there to make sure that God did not miss this. However, even before Satan could make his arguments, God stopped him and declared that the Lord had plucked Joshua from the fire. God had given Joshua grace and demanded that he be clothed in clean garments, a sign of forgiveness and righteousness.

The picture of forgiveness and cleansing from sin is exactly what the Lord does for each and every believer. We come before him in our guilt and sin. We have no argument to make or gift to offer for our salvation. Satan stands ready to accuse, but God extends forgiveness and grace to all who repent and turn to Jesus Christ in faith. Jesus went to the cross to die for our sins. In return, we are clothed in his righteousness. It is a wondrous exchange. So, go before the Lord and call out for forgiveness in faith. He promises grace to all who will.

**If you enjoy reading Shaped by the Word, please consider sharing this post on social media. Doing so helps us reach a larger audience. Thanks for reading!

Follow Shaped by the Word on WordPress or Facebook.

Who Will You Serve?

Romans 617–18 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Romans 6:15–19 (ESV)

15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Should Christians go on sinning? After all, we are saved by grace and not by keeping the law, right? Paul answers this question with “By no means!” It is true that we are saved by grace and not through keeping the law, but how we live reveals who, or what, we serve. If we continue to sin, we prove that we are still slaves to sin. If we live lives of righteousness, we show that we serve righteousness. And Christ died so that we did not have to remain slaves of sin.

When we read this passage, or others like it, we must keep in mind that the Bible is not speaking of perfect sinlessness. Scripture is clear that even the saved still sin, though there should be a continued growth in holiness over a lifetime. One day we will be completely free from sin and its consequences, but that day is still future. For now, we live in obedience to our Lord through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us while humbly admitting that we often fail and seeking to remove sin from our lives rather than letting it grow. Through our righteous living we prove that we are no longer slaves to sin and that we now serve righteousness.

**If you enjoy reading Shaped by the Word, please consider sharing this post on social media. Doing so helps us reach a larger audience. Thanks for reading!

Follow Shaped by the Word on WordPress or Facebook.

Seek First the Kingdom

Matthew 633 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Matthew 6:25–34 (ESV)

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Do you trust the Lord? In these verses, Jesus tells us that we can trust the Father. He knows our needs and he will provide for us. Knowing this and trusting him frees us to live fully committed to doing God’s will. We can seek first the kingdom. In every situation and circumstance, we can do what brings greatest glory to God. We do not have to live like the world to survive in the world. Our Father knows our needs and will provide for us.

It can sometimes be tempting to cut corners or do things we know would not please God because we feel like we have no option if we are going to survive. Our actions in such times reveal a lack of faith that God really will take care of us. Do you trust God enough to seek first the kingdom and his righteousness? What are some areas that may need to change?

**If you enjoy reading Shaped by the Word, please consider sharing this post on social media. Doing so helps us reach a larger audience. Thanks for reading!

Follow Shaped by the Word on WordPress or Facebook

The Lord Will Judge with Equity

2 Timothy 48 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Psalm 75:1–10 (ESV)

1 We give thanks to you, O God;
we give thanks, for your name is near.
We recount your wondrous deeds.

2 “At the set time that I appoint
I will judge with equity.
3 When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants,
it is I who keep steady its pillars. Selah
4 I say to the boastful, ‘Do not boast,’
and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up your horn;
5 do not lift up your horn on high,
or speak with haughty neck.’ ”

6 For not from the east or from the west
and not from the wilderness comes lifting up,
7 but it is God who executes judgment,
putting down one and lifting up another.
8 For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup
with foaming wine, well mixed,
and he pours out from it,
and all the wicked of the earth
shall drain it down to the dregs.

9 But I will declare it forever;
I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.
10 All the horns of the wicked I will cut off,
but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up.

Understanding and Applying the Word

For the next several days we will be looking at different passages from the Bible that speak of giving thanks. I today’s reading, the psalmist thanks God for being near and for his wondrous deeds. As we look at the whole psalm, we see that the focus is on God as judge of all people. He will hold evildoers accountable and he will lift up the righteous.

We live in a world where it is easy to become discouraged. It often seems like those who desire to live their lives for Christ face the roughest road. Christians face mocking and ridicule. Some face constant harassment or social ostracism. Christians in many parts of the world are severely persecuted for their beliefs and face beatings, prison, and even death.

Thinking about these realities can make us feel less than thankful. However, when we keep the future in mind, we know that God stands with us. He is near. And God will not abandon his people. The Judge will hold each and every one accountable and the wicked will be cut off. God will lift up his people and give them an eternal inheritance in his presence. There is much to be thankful for!

**If you enjoy reading Shaped by the Word, please consider sharing this post on social media. Doing so helps us reach a larger audience. Thanks for reading!

Follow Shaped by the Word on WordPress or Facebook.

Motivated by What Is Right

The Flagellation of Christ

The Flagellation of Christ – Public Domain

Reading the Word

Mark 15:15 (ESV)

15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

Parallel Texts: Matthew 27:26; John 19:16

Understanding and Applying the Word

In this single verse, we read of how an innocent Jesus ended up on a cross for crucifixion. Pilate, the Roman governor, wanted to please the crowd. The motivation was not doing what was right, but doing what was popular and best for himself, even if an innocent man had to die.

Sinfulness causes us all to do terrible things. Imagine what the world would be like if our political leaders did what was right rather than always looking to score political points. Imagine what the world would be like if we all were motivated by righteousness and justice rather than selfishness and personal gain. Our sin is why Jesus had to die. Our sin out him on the cross and his death was the solution to our sinfulness. Christ the Just was sacrificed as payment for our sins. All who repent of their sin and trust in Jesus will be saved and that salvation is the promise of a new world where sin and evil are no more.

**If you enjoy reading Shaped by the Word, please consider sharing this post on social media. Doing so helps us reach a larger audience. Thanks for reading!

Follow Shaped by the Word on WordPress or Facebook.

A Man Willing To Give It All Back

Luke 1910 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 19:1–10 (ESV)

1 He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

If you grew up going to church, you are probably familiar with this story. You may have even learned a catchy little song about this incident. Zacchaeus was a tax collector. They were despised by the Jewish people and thought of as traitors and thieves. They both worked for the Romans and cheated their own people out of money to line their own pockets. This is why we often read of the “tax collectors and sinners” listed together. They were thought of as the lowest of the low.

Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowds. To get a better view, he climbed a tree. While he was in his tree, Jesus passed by and called up to Zacchaeus to climb down because he desired to go to his house with him. Zacchaeus immediately got down and welcomed Jesus. Of course, many grumbled that Jesus would spend time with someone so unworthy!

When Zacchaeus came to face to face with Jesus, he promised to give back all of the money he had cheated from people and to give back four times what he had taken! In response to Zacchaeus’ words and willingness to do what was right, Jesus declared, “Today salvation has come to this house.”

This account comes after a series of passages where Jesus addresses money, possessions, and coveting. In the previous chapter (cf. Luke 18:18-30), we read of the rich young ruler who was unwilling to give up his possessions to gain eternal life. Zacchaeus serves as the contrast to that mindset. Zacchaeus was willing to give up all that he had to receive what truly mattered: salvation and eternal life. Through his words and actions, Zacchaeus showed where his heart was and what he truly valued. He desired Jesus and the things of God. He wanted to do what was right and turn from what was wrong. In short, he was repentant and trusting in the words of Jesus and it changed his life.

**If you enjoy reading Shaped by the Word, please consider sharing this post on social media. Doing so helps us reach a larger audience. Thanks for reading!