Read: Luke 5:1-11
Virtually everywhere Jesus went, people wanted to here the word of God because this word had the power to heal the sick and command demons (Luke 4:36. Luke 4:39). This also made Jesus’ fame spread throughout the region of Galilee. Undoubtedly, all that lived in that area had heard of Jesus by now and the wonders he performed. When Jesus came to the edge of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Lake of Gennesaret he met fishermen who were mending their nets after a long night of fishing. Jesus told them to put down their nets again, and they agreed to do so at his word. When they did, they caught so many fish they couldn’t contain them and had to call for help. His gospel was one to call people to repentance.
Peter’s response to Jesus is one of awe and wonder, and in doing so he comes face to face with his sin. He asks Jesus to leave his presence because he immediately recognizes that Jesus is the Holy One of God. Peter’s response was not unlike Isaiah’s response when he encountered God (Isaiah 6:1-8). Isaiah saw God seated on a throne, exalted. The mere sight seeing God was enough overwhelm someone to the point of death (Exodus 33:20). God cleansed Isaiah and made him his messenger to proclaim the word of God. In much the same manner, Jesus did this with Peter. He tells him from that point on that he would “catch men” – a reference to his new occupation as a disciple and apostle of Jesus. At this, James and John along with Peter left everything and followed Jesus.
God’s word is powerful indeed in how it transforms lives. Romans 10:11-15 outlines this process: faith comes by hearing the word. In order for this to happen they have to have the word preached to them, which means that some one has to be sent. Paul saw himself as one of these “sent ones” (Romans 1:1, Romans 11:13), the literal translation of the Greek word “apostolos” from where the word apostle comes from. While there was a special office of capital “A” Apostles in the New Testament which included the original 12 (Mark 10:2-4), Mathias who replaced Judas (Acts 1:26), and lastly Paul, there were little “a” apostles that were also “sent ones” who were sent out to proclaimed the gospel (Romans 16:7, Philippians 2:25, 2 Corinthians 8:23). In the modern vernacular, little “a” apostles would be called missionaries – ones who are sent out from a church to preach the gospel to that others may hear the word of God and believe. One of the main missions of the church as a whole is to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). The natural response to salvation is obedience, as Isaiah and Peter did – they left everything to follow God’s commands. This applies to every believer. But from among the church, God calls some out to be special envoys to be his “sent ones” to take the gospel to places and preach to those who have never heard the name of Jesus so those that have not heard can hear, believe, and proclaim themselves. Whether one is a sender or a sent one, it requires both to accomplish the task the God has set before the church to make disciples. Everyone therefore should be involved in whatever role he or she is in.
Lord, here am I! Send Me!
Read: Hebrews 11:29-30
Israel was a fickle nation in many regards, but when Israel as a community of faith trusted God, they witnessed some amazingly spectacular feats. The author of Hebrews names two events when Israel was trusting God as a faith community and these events hallmarks of the books that contain them: the crossing of the Red Sea in the book of Exodus (Exodus 14) and the capture of Jericho in the book of Joshua (Joshua 6).
The crossing of the Red Sea exhibited faith on a grand scale. Israel had just left Egypt and was facing annihilation because they were trapped between an advancing army and an impassable body of water. God opened a way through the Red Sea and they crossed on dry land. God then used the sea to destroy the advancing armies of Egypt. Exodus 14:30 notes that it was God who did the fighting on their behalf. When Israel crossed over the Jordan into Canaan, they marched on Jericho using a rather unorthodox military strategy. They simply marched and shouted according to the instructions God had given them rather than laying siege with siege engines and an encampment. After they followed God’s instructions, the city fell. The capture of Jericho was intended to be the pattern by which Israel would follow to conquer Canaan. The final shout was an accolade to God because it was God who gave them the city (Joshua 6:16).
When the nation of Israel turned their hearts to God, he did amazing things on their behalf. The amazing thing is that God hasn’t stopped doing this either. The New Testament community of faith is manifested through local churches and the church universal comprised of all believers. Throughout the history of the church, there have been times when Christians would turn their hearts to God and the people of God would see him doing amazing things in the lives of people. One such revival was the First Great Awakening in America that was catalyzed by Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield. The population of the New England at the time was around 250,000 and from 1730’s and 40’s there were around 80,000 new converts as a result of this.
Amazing things can happen when God’s people communally will turn to him in faith, but it starts with an individual. God is calling all peoples to turn from their sins and believe. Christians should pray for a revival in their own hearts as well as work to unite with other believers to boldly proclaim their dependence on God. In doing so, perhaps God will pour out his blessing like he did at the first Pentecost (Acts 2) and some many other times when his people believed!
Lord, help me and your church to come to you in faith!
Read: Hebrews 10:11-25
The author of Hebrews argued the supremacy of Christ in the opening chapters of the book and spends the middle of the book arguing for the sufficiency of Christ. In these eight verses, the author of Hebrews connects the two by quoting from Psalm 110 which he quoted from to show the supremacy of Christ (Hebrews 1:13) and from the verses he quoted from talking about the coming New Covenant from Jeremiah 31:33-34 (Hebrews 8:8-12). Jesus’ offering was himself and was once and for all. After having offered himself, he made provision for sin, so animal sacrifices are no longer necessary. Now, he is waiting for his second coming when his enemies will become a footstool and when the word of God is so prevalent, there will be no need to declare “know the Lord”.
In the interim between the sacrifice and return, the author of Hebrews talks about what Christians should do:
- Verses 19-23: The author of Hebrews notes the confidence by which believers can draw near to God in confidence. This confidence is brought on the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ, and there is no second guessing. The certainty of the promise is insured by a God who cannot lie (Hebrews 6:9-16).
- Verse 24: Believers should encourage one another onto to love and good works, rather than worrying rote religion. (Hebrews 10:1-10)
- Verse 25: Believers should assemble together. This is almost a prerequisite to what was said in verse 24, and the author says to do it all the more as the final days approach. The book of Hebrews was probably written to a group of persecuted Jews (Hebrews 10:32-33), and some of them had deserted. In any case, the author realized that their confidence was greater as a group than the sum of their confidence as individuals, and they would need this confidence.
Jesus’ work is done. In the meantime, Christians are waiting for his return. All the while, they are drawing confidence from the surety of the promises of God through Jesus. The confidence can be solidified and encouraged by other believers too. For this reason every Christians should be a part of a local church so they can encourage and be encouraged by other Christians. It is evident this chapter that the recipients of the letter were doing good together as the first church in Acts 2:42-47 was doing.
Lord, I’m waiting for your return. In the meantime, help me and my church be confident and do good!
Read: Joshua 21:1-42
The Levites were the descendants of the Levi, and they were responsible for a number of cities scattered throughout the land of Israel. The Levites did not receive a land inheritance in the manner of the rest of the tribes of Israel, rather they received cities and some of the surrounding pastures for live stocks. The Levites received God as their inheritance, meaning that their work was to be ministry to the people, and the people in turn would offer tithes and offerings (Joshua 13:8-33). The Levites would take their portion from these offerings so they could have something to eat.
The distribution of the Levites throughout the land of Canaan was strategic because it made the ones responsible for the ministry of God accessible to all. Rather than being cornered away in a particular part of the countryside, the Levites had 48 towns. In a country the size of Israel, this means that there was sure to be a Levitical city nearby. The priests acted as intercessors for the people of God in their time. They were also the ones who offered sacrifices, managed worship, acted as scribes, administered judgment, taught the Law, among many other responsibilities. Having a priest nearby was therefore important to for giving sacrifice, receiving education, having access to justice. If they were far away, one would have to travel great distances to have access to such things.
When Jesus came, he became for Christians the priest before God (Hebrews 7:20-22). He offered the perfect and final sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 9:25-28) and makes intercession for all (Hebrews 7:25). Christians no longer have to go to a priest for intercession – they can plead before God and Jesus intercedes. Likewise, Christians do not have to make sacrifices because Jesus again is the sacrifice. Staying close to Jesus therefore should be a top priority in the lives of those who believe. While Jesus fulfills many of the priestly duties, there are some duties that are given to the church to administer such as teaching, managing worship, evangelism, collecting offerings, and carrying out the ministries of helps (2 Timothy 2:2, Acts 2:42-47). Hebrews 10:18-25 relates Jesus’ ministry to the Christian’s ministry: because Jesus is the great priest and the great sacrifice, there is confidence and hope. Around this confidence and hope Christians should unite and encourage one another to love and do good deeds in a spirit of unity. For this to happen, their needs to be a gather – that is a local church – for the believer to both encourage and be encouraged to carry out the ministries of the church God has given. Keeping Jesus close and the church close (not just geographically, but in relationally too) are quintessential to living a life committed to God.
Lord, I want to be close to you and your church!