The Need for God’s Word

Reading the Word

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.(Proverbs 29:18, ESV)

Understanding and Applying the Word

We need our Bibles and we need preachers and teachers of God’s word to help us understand them. The first line of this proverb tells us why. Where there is no prophetic vision, or revelation from God, the people cast off restraint. Another way this last phrase could be translated is “the people run wild” or “the people go out of control.” The contrast to this are those who obey God’s law, which is his revealed word. They are blessed.

Our Bibles are God’s word to us. The prophetic vision that this proverb speaks of is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Our Bibles tell us about who God is, what he has done, what he plans to do in the future, and what he wants from us. We need God’s word so we can rightly order our lives and please him. It is easy to see the consequences of how people live when they do not have access to Scripture or when they reject it. They quickly fall into great sin and moral confusion. However, for those who make it their goal to understand the Bible and live by its teachings, there is great blessing. The word of God gives life to all who live by it.

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Are You Good Soil?

The Sower

The Sower (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Luke 8:4–8 (ESV)

4 And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable, 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6 And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. 8 And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus described the different ways the word of God effects people. In the parable, Jesus used the imagery of a farmer planting planting seed and the different types of soil the seed would land in as it was scattered. The seed represented the word of God as it was spread and the different types of soil represented the different responses to it.

The key to properly understanding this parable is focusing on the end result of the seed in each type of soil. Only one soil, the “good soil”, produced a yield. All of the others failed for one reason or another. These words teach us that those who hear the word of God and truly receive it will produce a yield. There will be true evidence in their lives. What has been your response to the word of God in your life? Has it produced a bountiful crop in your life that is evident to all who know you? Praise God for a living and active word that is powerful to change us for his glory!

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Obedience from Love

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Reading the Word

Psalm 119:1–3 (ESV)

1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the LORD!
2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
who seek him with their whole heart,
3 who also do no wrong,
but walk in his ways!

Understanding and Applying the Word

Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the entire Bible. It spends 176 verses telling of the goodness of God’s law and the blessings of keeping that law. The believer finds great benefit in living in obedience to God’s word. However, we must understand the type of obedience that this psalm, and the whole Bible, commends.

There are two ways to keep the word of God. The first is out of legalistic adherence. This is the person who obeys in order to earn blessing. Scripture makes it clear that no one will be saved through the keeping of the law because no one can keep it completely. In this case, the law is not a blessing, but a curse. The second way is obedience out of love. This is the person who understands the grace and mercy that has been shown to them by God and who loves the Lord and wants to obey, not to gain blessing, but as an act of love and devotion. Notice how Psalm 119 speaks of the obedient one who seeks the Lord “with their whole heart.” This is not legalistic obedience, but obedience from love. Our God has shown great love toward us and is worthy of our loving obedience.

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Oh, How I Love Your Law!

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Reading the Word

Psalm 119:97–104 (ESV)

97 Oh how I love your law!
It is my meditation all the day.

98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
for it is ever with me.

99 I have more understanding than all my teachers,
for your testimonies are my meditation.

100 I understand more than the aged,
for I keep your precepts.

101 I hold back my feet from every evil way,
in order to keep your word.

102 I do not turn aside from your rules,
for you have taught me.

103 How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!

104 Through your precepts I get understanding;
therefore I hate every false way.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Psalm 119 is the longest of the psalms. In fact, it is the longest chapter in the entire Bible, going on for 176 verses. Many do not realize that this psalm is an acrostic. The 176 verses are divided up into twenty-two stanzas with each stanza made up of eight lines. The eight lines of each stanza begin with successive letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Many English translations put headings at the beginning of each stanza to try to point this out, but our English translations lose the acrostic pattern.

Another thing that many readers miss is that Psalm 119 is focused entirely on the word of God. In every line of the psalm, God’s word is described using different synonyms. And the overarching message of the longest chapter of the Bible is that God’s word is wonderful. It brings life and wisdom and understanding. It is through the word of God that we know God and the salvation he gives. The word of God is to be cherished, which is why the psalmist proclaims, “Oh, how I love your law!” It truly is “sweeter than honey.” Let us pray that God would help us love his word as we should.

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Protected by Truth

John 1717 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 17:14–19 (ESV)

14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

Understanding and Applying the Word

You have likely heard the phrase “In the world, but not of the world.” It originates from today’s passage. It is not exactly a word-for-word quotation of Jesus’ words, but it is an accurate summation of these verses. As Jesus prepared to go to the cross and depart from the earth, Jesus asked the Father to protect his followers from the dangers of this world as they continued to live in it and represent him.

Notice that the thing Jesus asked the Father to do for his disciples was centered on them knowing the truth. Jesus asked the Father that the disciples might know the truth of God’s word so that they would not be deceived by lies. The world denies the word of God and proposes many other options as the best way to live. It is only through knowing the truth that we can be prepared to live in the world and testify to the good news of Jesus Christ as the Savior.

Let us turn to our Bibles to read of Jesus’ birth as we celebrate Christmas this year, but let us also turn to them each and every day as we seek to live for the glory of God.

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Our Soul Waits for the Lord

Psalm 3320 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Psalm 33:1–22 (ESV)

1 Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous!
Praise befits the upright.
2 Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre;
make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!
3 Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.

4 For the word of the LORD is upright,
and all his work is done in faithfulness.
5 He loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.

6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
and by the breath of his mouth all their host.
7 He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap;
he puts the deeps in storehouses.

8 Let all the earth fear the LORD;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
9 For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm.

10 The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
11 The counsel of the LORD stands forever,
the plans of his heart to all generations.
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!

13 The LORD looks down from heaven;
he sees all the children of man;
14 from where he sits enthroned he looks out
on all the inhabitants of the earth,
15 he who fashions the hearts of them all
and observes all their deeds.
16 The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.

18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.

20 Our soul waits for the LORD;
he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The psalmist calls us to shout for joy to the LORD, to praise him, and give thanks. Why? Because God’s word is trustworthy. God has given his word to his people and we can know that he is faithful to fulfill that word. It is the same word that spoke the world into existence and it is from the same God who rules over all things. Therefore, we wait for the LORD, who is our hope and shield and we trust in his name. He is our hope.

If you have ever asked “Why is this happening to me?” or wondered if God as forgotten you, this psalm is for you. It is a reminder to us all that God’s word is secure and that we can count on it. The promises that God has made in Scripture to his people will be fulfilled. So we can be encouraged that God has not forgotten us. He is the God of steadfast love and will deliver his people.

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The True Source of Authority

John 717 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 7:14–24 (ESV)

14 About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. 15 The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” 16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. 18 The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. 19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” 20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” 21 Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. 22 Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? 24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

In the middle of the Feast of Booths, Jesus went from attending in secret to becoming very public as he began teaching in the temple. The Greek word heiron indicates that Jesus was in the outer court of the temple and would have been very visible. The people were amazed at his knowledge of the Scriptures as he had never had formal training.

When Jesus spoke, he spoke with authority and did not rely on the teaching of others to back up his teaching. Jesus explained that his teaching had authority because it originated with God, not man. Anyone who knew God and desired to live according to God’s will would recognize the truth of Jesus’ teaching. Others taught for their own glory rather than the glory of God.

We must continue to beware of those who seek their own glory rather than the glory of God. There are sure signs to look for. Does the teacher insist on titles and being recognized as superior to others? Does the teacher like to take personal credit for successes rather than give the credit to God? Does the teacher like to talk about himself? Does the teacher speak down towards others and elevate himself? A true teacher of God has authority not because of who he is or what he has accomplished, but because he teaches the truth of God’s word. The authority is in the word, not the teacher and the teacher must submit to that same word.

May we continue to turn to the Scriptures as the final authority in our lives, knowing that they are the revealed teaching of God. We know that they are true and life-giving in all that they teach.

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Woe to the Unrepentant

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Reading the Word

Matthew 11:20–24 (ESV)

20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

Parallel Text: Luke 10:12-15

Understanding and Applying the Word

In the previous verses, Jesus spoke of how he had been rejected by the people. He now denounces those who continue to reject him, even though they had the benefit of seeing the mighty works of Jesus. They had witnessed more of Jesus’ works than anyone, yet they did not believe. The miracles were not an end in themselves, but were to authenticate Jesus’ ministry, but the hearts of the people remained hardened.

Shockingly, Jesus goes on to say that the cities of Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom would have repented in sackloth and ashes had the same signs and wonders been done in them. These cities were notorious for their sin. However, the punishment that would fall on the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida in the day of judgment would be greater than that reserved for those other cities.

With greater revelation comes greater responsibility. We live in an age where God’s word is readily available to us along with access to different resources to help us study and understand it. The chief resource being the Church empowered and gifted by the Holy Spirit. That word bears witness to the mighty acts that God has done and culminates in the Resurrection. When we stand before God, we will not have the excuse that we did not know. There is no reason for not knowing. God has revealed himself in his word and he will judge us according to all that is in it. Let us make it a priority in order that we might know God and know how we ought to live.

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The Life of Jesus Recorded


2nd century biblical text fragment from Egypt

Reading the Word

Luke 1:1–4 (ESV)

1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

Luke’s Gospel begins with a purpose statement. Luke is writing to a recipient he calls “most excellent Theophilus.” To open his Gospel, Luke says that his purpose for writing is to put together an orderly account of the things that have happened. He received his information from those who were eyewitnesses of the events. And he writes these things that Theophilus can be certain of their truth.

We often take the word of God for granted. Most of us have multiple copies and they often sit around on our shelves collecting dust. Imagine where we would be without God’s written word.

What if the events of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection were not recorded for us? If we knew anything about Jesus at all, we would be left to wonder what was true and what was not. Thankfully, God wrote these things down for us so that we could study the events and teachings of our Lord. We can grow in our understanding and we can know who Jesus was, why he matters, and what we need to do in response to his life and teachings. That is what we will be doing together in 2019. Let us take a moment to thank God for his word and ask him to teach us in the year ahead.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. Please subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We will be reading through the life of Christ as recorded in the four Gospel accounts in 2019.

Praise the Lord for His Word

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Reading the Word

Psalm 147:12–20 (ESV)

12 Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem!
Praise your God, O Zion!
13 For he strengthens the bars of your gates;
he blesses your children within you.
14 He makes peace in your borders;
he fills you with the finest of the wheat.
15 He sends out his command to the earth;
his word runs swiftly.
16 He gives snow like wool;
he scatters frost like ashes.
17 He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs;
who can stand before his cold?
18 He sends out his word, and melts them;
he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.
19 He declares his word to Jacob,
his statutes and rules to Israel.
20 He has not dealt thus with any other nation;
they do not know his rules.
Praise the LORD!

Understanding and Applying the Word

Yesterday we looked at the first half of this psalm. Today, we look at the second half. The theme of the psalm continues to be why God is worthy of our praise. However, in today’s verses the reasons are different. The Lord is worthy of praise because he protects his people, he provides for his people, and he gives his law to his people.

The first two reasons seem simple enough, but why should we offer praise for the law? Does not the law limit us and rob us of joy? That is certainly the way some look at it. However, that is not how we should think of God’s law. It does not limit our joy, but tells us how to find true joy. It does not take away from our lives, but tells us how to live life to the full. Our Creator has given us his word and it tells us how we should live to both glorify him and find the greatest fulfillment in our lives. Let us praise him for his wonderful gift!

**Want to read the Bible every day? Be sure to subscribe to this page and follow along! We are currently reading through the Book of Psalms. In 2019, we will focus on the Life of Christ for our daily readings.