Grace to You Devotionals

Devotionals

July 20

Proclaiming the Excellencies of God

"That you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Pet. 2:9).

You are an ambassador of the living God.

The privilege of proclaiming the excellencies of God takes us back to 1 Peter 2:9, but we consider it here because it summarizes the purpose of all our Christian privileges.

The Greek word translated "proclaim" is an unusual word used only here in the New Testament. It means "to advertise" or "publish," and refers to making something known that would otherwise be unknown. "Excellencies" speak of powerful and heroic deeds. You are an ambassador of Christ, having the great privilege of proclaiming what God has done for His people.

That was an intrinsic part of Hebrew worship. For example, Psalm 103 says, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits; who pardons all your iniquities; who heals all your diseases; who redeems your life from the pit; who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; who satisfies your years with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle. The Lord performs righteous deeds, and judgments for all who are oppressed. He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel. The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness" (vv. 2-8).

It would be an honor to be an ambassador of the United States, representing this country's power and capabilities to other countries. But you have an even greater honor: to represent the power and capabilities of the living God. When you have an opportunity to speak for Him, you can rightly say, "I have the privilege of announcing the mighty and heroic deeds of the living God, who has called me into His service."

Because you are in Christ, you have glorious privileges that include union with God, access to the Father, spiritual sacrifices, security, affection, dominion, possession, holiness, illumination, and compassion. What greater honor can there be than to proclaim the excellencies of the One who has granted you such marvelous privileges?

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for calling you as His ambassador.
  • Ask Him for the courage and integrity to represent Him well always.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 147, noting all the mighty deeds of God there proclaimed.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.com.

July 20

Rejection Because of Your Faith

“Not as Cain, who was of the evil one, and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous. Do not marvel, brethren, if the world hates you” (1 John 3:12-13).

Christians are rejected by the world but accepted by God.

An ancient proverb states that you can judge a man’s character by who his enemies are. That is also true in the spiritual realm. The world loves its own, but since Christ chose believers out of the world, the world hates them (John 15:19).

That this is true should come as no surprise to any student of God’s Word. After all, the world hated Jesus so much that it killed Him. We, as His followers, can also expect hostility. “If the world hates you,” Jesus said in John 15:18, “you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.” “If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul,” He added in Matthew 10:25, “how much more the members of his household!”

From the beginning of history, the unrighteous have hated the righteous. The apostle John noted the tragic story of unrighteous Cain, who murdered his righteous brother Abel in a fit of jealous rage (1 John 3:12; Gen. 4:1-8). In Acts 7:52 Stephen asked his accusers, “Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.” Stephen’s accusation aptly summarized the sad history of Israel, “who kill[ed] the prophets and ston[ed] those who [were] sent to her” (Matt. 23:37).
 
Peter noted the reason for the world’s hostility to Christians when he wrote, “[Unbelievers] are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excess of dissipation, and they malign you” (1 Peter 4:4). Christians’ lives are a threat because they rebuke unbelievers’ sin and remind them of coming judgment.

Have you experienced the world’s hostility, opposition, prejudice, rejection, or even persecution for your stand for Jesus Christ? If so, that’s evidence that you belong to the One who also suffered rejection by the world.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that God would enable you to rejoice in the face of persecution (Acts 5:41).

For Further Study

Read Philippians 1:28. What should your attitude be when you are rejected by the world?

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.com.

July 20

Reading for Today:

  • Ezra 1:1–2:70
  • Psalm 86:6-10
  • Proverbs 21:15-16
  • Acts 21:18-40

Notes:

Ezra 1:5 whose spirits God had moved. The primary underlying message of Ezra and Nehemiah is that the sovereign hand of God is at work in perfect keeping with His plan at His appointed times. The 70 years of captivity were complete, so God stirred up not only the spirit of Cyrus to make the decree, but His own people to go and build up Jerusalem and the temple (1:1).

Ezra 2:2 Zerubbabel. This man was the rightful leader of Judah in that he was of the lineage of David through Jehoiachin (1 Chr. 3:17). He did not serve as king (the curse on Jehoiachin’s line, Jer. 22:24–30), but was still in the messianic line because the curse was bypassed (Matt. 1:12; Luke 3:27).The curse of the messianic line for Christ was bypassed in Luke’s genealogy by tracing the lineage through David’s son Nathan. His name means “offspring of Babylon,” indicating his place of birth. He, rather than Cyrus’s political appointee Sheshbazzar (1:11), led Judah according to God’s will. Jeshua. The high priest of the first return whose name means “Yahweh saves.” He is called Joshua in Haggai 1:1 and Zechariah 3:1. His father Jozadak (Ezra 3:2) had been exiled (1 Chr. 6:15). He came from the lineage of Levi, Aaron, Eleazar, and Phinehas; thus he was legitimately in the line of the high priest (Num. 25:10–13).

Acts 21:24 be purified. Having just returned from an extended stay in Gentile lands, Paul was considered ceremonially unclean. He therefore needed to undergo ritual purification before participating (as their sponsor) in the ceremony marking the end of the 4 men’s vows. pay their expenses. For the temple ceremony in which the 4 would shave their heads and the sacrifices associated with the Nazirite vow. Paying those expenses for another was considered an act of piety; and by so doing, Paul would give further proof that he had not forsaken his Jewish heritage. shave their heads. A practice commonly associated with a Nazirite vow (Num. 6:18).

Acts 21:28 the people, the law, and this place. Paul’s enemies leveled 3 false charges against him. They claimed that he taught Jews to forsake their heritage—the same lie told by the Judaizers. The second charge, that Paul opposed the law, was a very dangerous one, albeit false, in this setting. Originally, Pentecost was a celebration of the firstfruits of the harvest. But by this time, it had become a celebration of Moses’ receiving the law on Mt. Sinai. Thus, the Jewish people were especially zealous for the law during this feast. The third charge, of blaspheming or defiling the temple, had helped bring about the deaths of Jesus (Mark 14:57, 58) and Stephen (Acts 6:13). All 3 charges were, of course, totally false.

Acts 21:30 doors were shut. This was done by the temple guards, since Paul’s death on the temple grounds would defile the temple (2 Kin. 11:15). They made no effort, however, to rescue the apostle from the crowd, which was intent on beating him to death.


DAY 20: How did God sovereignly restore the Jews to the land?

It was through a proclamation by Cyrus king of Persia. The Lord had prophesied through Isaiah, who said of Cyrus, He is My shepherd,…saying to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be built,’ and to the temple, ’Your foundation shall be laid’” (Is. 44:28). The historian Josephus records an account of the day when Daniel read Isaiah’s prophecy to Cyrus, and in response he was moved to declare the proclamation of Ezra 1:2–4 (538 B.C.).“That the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled.” Jeremiah had prophesied the return of the exiles after a 70-year captivity in Babylon (Jer. 25:11; 29:10–14; Dan. 9:2). This was no isolated event, but rather an outworking of the covenant promises made to Abraham in Genesis 12:1–3.

We are told that “the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus.” A strong expression of the fact that God sovereignly works in the lives of kings to effect His purposes (Prov. 21:1; Dan. 2:21; 4:17). Cyrus made a proclamation, which was the most common form of spoken, public communication, usually from the central administration. The king would dispatch a herald, perhaps with a written document, into the city. In order to address the people, he would either go to the city gate, where people often congregated for social discourse, or gather the people together in a square, occasionally by the blowing of a horn. The herald would then make the proclamation to the people. A document called the Cyrus Cylinder, recovered in reasonably good condition by archeologists, commissions people from many lands to return to their cities to rebuild the temples to their gods, apparently as some sort of general policy of Cyrus. Whether or not this document was an extension of the proclamation made to the exiles in this passage must remain a matter of speculation.

It is possible that Daniel played a part in the Jews’ receiving such favorable treatment (Dan. 6:25–28). According to the Jewish historian Josephus, he was Cyrus’s prime minister who shared Isaiah’s prophecies with Cyrus (Is. 44:28; 46:1–4). The existence of such documents, written over a century before Cyrus was born, led him to acknowledge that all his power came from the God of Israel and prompted him to fulfill the prophecy.

From The MacArthur Daily Bible Copyright © 2003. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson Bibles, a division of Thomas Nelson, Inc, Nashville, TN 37214, www.thomasnelson.com.

July 20 - Jesus Heals Peter’s Mother-in-Law

“When Jesus came into Peter’s home, He saw his mother-in-law lying sick in bed with a fever. He touched her hand, and the fever left her; and she got up and waited on Him” (Matthew 8:14–15).

Through the centuries, most male Jews have displayed much preju-dice toward women, as evidenced by the old prayer, “Lord, I thank Thee that I was not born a slave, a Gentile, or a woman.” But here Jesus, just as with the leper and the Gentile centurion, shows mercy and compassion to an outsider—a woman—someone not favored by the Jewish establishment. He cuts through the unscriptural attitude of proud Jewish men to demonstrate again that physical health, race, status, or a person’s sex gained no advantage with Him.

When Jesus arrived at Peter’s home with some of the disciples, Peter’s mother-in-law was ill, and Mark adds, “Immediately they spoke to Jesus about her” (Mark 1:30). Luke the physician notes that she had “a high fever” (Luke 4:38), though none of the narratives says what caused her illness. That the fever was high suggests she was seriously ill and maybe in danger of death.

Christ once again responded without delay and healed Peter’s mother-in-law immediately. She was not only a woman but also a Jew, which meant that although the Lord had warned the Jews about presuming upon salvation, He had not completely forsaken them, as ministry to Peter’s relative powerfully showed. The fact that salvation was available to faithful Gentiles did not mean it was now unavailable to faithful Jews. Paul later wrote, “God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. . . . In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice” (Rom. 11:2, 5).

Ask Yourself

Among all religions, none has a higher view of women than does Christianity. And yet, it’s fair to ask ourselves if chauvinism is present within our hearts. Christ honored women. So should we.

From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610, www.moodypublishers.com.
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