Use this devo as you are able, in whole or in part. Don’t feel compelled to read it all. Simply read and meditate upon whatever catches your attention. The goal is enjoying time with God through His Word and in prayer. Questions about the devotional elements?
Call to Prayer
“Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. . . . The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” (Ps. 126:2-3)
Prayer of Confession
Redeemer God, no words of mine are strong enough or deep enough to express my gratitude for all you have done in the glory of your cross.
When my language has pushed its limits, let my love for you and for my neighbor be a poem of praiseto your name;
take my living and make it a joyful noise that others can’t help but join in, to your glory. Amen.
*Prayer borrowed from Philip Reinders’ Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year
This reading plan will help you to develop the habit of being in God’s Word each morning and evening. Come to this time with expectation. Expect God to reveal himself to you. Expect that he delights in you being there, even when you’ve wandered away. Growing a spiritual habit is a slow, patient process. So be kind to yourself as you grow!
Readings are hyperlinked. Simply hover over the passage or click Morning/Evening Reading (email version).
Praying the Psalms: Read slowly. Take note of words and phrases. Bring them before the Lord in prayer and personalize the passage as you pray.
NT Context: “Philemon and Onesimus, the slave owner and slave who figure prominently in this letter from Paul, had no idea that believing in Jesus would involve them in radical social change. But as the two of them were brought together by this letter, it did. And it still does.” Meditate on the passage, noting a few words or a phrase that stood out. Take them to God in prayer.
OT Context: “People who want God as an escape from reality, from the often hard conditions of this life, don’t find this much to their liking. But to the man or woman wanting more reality, not less—this continuation of the salvation story—Joshua’s fierce and devout determination to win land for his people and his extraordinary attention to getting all the tribes and their families name by name assigned to their own place, is good news indeed. Joshua lays a firm foundation for a life that is grounded.” Reflect on the passage. Who was the original audience, and what was their situation? How is that relevant to you today?
Genesis 16:7-16 + Genesis 21:14-21
Our culture does not like messy tales (not really). Upon reading Genesis 16 and 21, we confess that we would prefer the neat and buttoned up: “…and Abram and Sarai got what they deserved and for their history of horrible deeds,” but to quote Flannery O’Conner “The meaning of the Redemption is precisely that we do not have to be our history.” And that is exactly what we will see todayas Iain Duguid again guides us through this story. Then stick around for a reflective question at the end.
“Like Israel in Egypt, Hagar cried out in her misery and was heard by the Lord (Gen. 16:11; cf. Ex. 3:7). Indeed, in Sarai’s oppression of her Egyptian maid there is a miniature picture in reverse of the suffering and oppression that Israel would later undergo in Egypt. But the similarities between Hagar’s situation and the later one of the Israelites only highlight the difference between the commands that the Lord gave concerning each. Whereas God said to Pharaoh, “Let my people go!” he said to Hagar, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her” (Gen. 16:9). One had to find freedom by leaving the house of bondage, while the other could only find freedom by reentering the house of bondage. Hagar was sent back simply because there was no blessing to be found apart from Abram and his seed. Painful though the way of submission may have been, there was no other way for Hagar to receive the blessing of God.
But Hagar’s blessing would prove to be a continual problem for Israel. Her son, Ishmael, would live in the wilderness “close to” or “in hostility to” (the Hebrew can mean either one) his brothers (Gen. 16:12). He would constantly be in his brother’s face, we might say. Sin always complicates things, and the effects are often lasting. There is no neat and tidy way of disposing of Abram and Sarai’s sin. If there were, then there would be no need for the cross. Sin cannot be buried.It can only be atoned for. And there on the cross, we see in Jesus the God who really sees, who is looking out for the wanderer, pursuing us out in the desert. We see Jesus silently convicting us of our sin and rebellion against God, for which he hung there, but also pointing us to the way home, the way to blessing. There is no way to blessing that bypasses the cross. There was no shortcut for Jesus, and there is none for us.
So Ishmael was born. The promised child had not yet come. We have to wait a little longer to see Isaac make his appearance. Man by his best efforts cannot bring about the fulfillment of the promises of God. Abram and Sarai disobeyed God, and their sin would have lasting consequences for their descendants. Yet Abram did not end up a failure. We don’t remember him as the man who failed, but as the man of faith. The reason for that is that God is faithful, even when we are unfaithful. Abram’s righteousness came not from himself, nor even from his faith, but from the God of whom his faith laid hold. So it was that Abram’s failure did not frustrate God’s plan. God had entered into a covenant with Abram and had vowed to take upon himself alone the curse of disobedience. That is precisely what he did for us in Jesus on the cross. Our failures, like those of Abram, were laid upon him, so that his righteousness might be credited to us. That’s good news for Abram the failure and Hagar the wanderer—and it’s good news also for you and me.”
Reflect: What in the story of Hagar comforts, surprises, or troubles you? Why do you suppose God put this story in the story of his people?
Evening Prayer of Examen
Where did you move with or feel close to Jesus today?
Where did you resist or feel far from Jesus today?
Where is Jesus leading you tomorrow? Ask for joy as you follow him.
“Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.” (Jude 21)