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“Behold, if the leprosy have covered all his flesh, he shall pronounce him clean that hath the plague.”
         —Leviticus 13:13

Strange enough this regulation appears, yet there was wisdom in it, for the throwing out of the disease proved that the constitution was sound. This evening it may be well for us to see the typical teaching of so singular a rule. We, too, are lepers, and may read the law of the leper as applicable to ourselves. When a man sees himself to be altogether lost and ruined, covered all over with the defilement of sin, and in no part free from pollution; when he disclaims all righteousness of his own, and pleads guilty before the Lord, then he is clean through the blood of Jesus, and the grace of God. Hidden, unfelt, unconfessed iniquity is the true leprosy; but when sin is seen and felt, it has received its deathblow, and the Lord looks with eyes of mercy upon the soul afflicted with it. Nothing is more deadly than self-righteousness, or more hopeful than contrition. We must confess that we are “nothing else but sin,” for no confession short of this will be the whole truth; and if the Holy Spirit be at work with us, convincing us of sin, there will be no difficulty about making such an acknowledgment—it will spring spontaneously from our lips. What comfort does the text afford to truly awakened sinners: the very circumstance which so grievously discouraged them is here turned into a sign and symptom of a hopeful state! Stripping comes before clothing; digging out the foundation is the first thing in building—and a thorough sense of sin is one of the earliest works of grace in the heart. O thou poor leprous sinner, utterly destitute of a sound spot, take heart from the text, and come as thou art to Jesus—

         “For let our debts be what they may, however great or small,
         As soon as we have nought to pay, our Lord forgives us all.
         ’Tis perfect poverty alone that sets the soul at large:
         While we can call one mite our own, we have no full discharge.”


Spurgeon, C. H. (2006). Morning and evening: Daily readings (Complete and unabridged; New modern edition.). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

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Bread from Heaven and Water from a Rock
Exodus 16–18; John 3:22–36; Song of Solomon 2:8–13

For many years, I said that I believed God would provide for me, but I’m not sure I actually did. Somewhere inside I was still convinced that I was on my own. It wasn’t until recently that I felt convicted about this, and God began working in me to make the necessary changes. As I was dealing with this, I started contemplating what trust issues might’ve looked like for the ancients. Of nearly all biblical characters, Noah must have seemed the craziest to his friends. But I think Moses faced some of the greatest interpersonal struggles involving trust.
Over and over again, the people Moses is leading blame him for all their problems. And they rarely give him credit for his good attributes. God is faithful, though. It’s Moses who sees bread come from heaven (Exod 16) and water from a rock (Exod 17:1–7).
And this really puts it in perspective: if God is capable of this kind of deliverance, what am I so afraid of? It’s not my own strength that will empower me, and even if it were, what good is it? If I put my trust in my own abilities, how will I grow in my trust in God?
Like Moses, I must be willing to be audacious. If God calls me to look to the heavens for providence, I must do it. If He calls me to strike the rock, I must strike it. As the Gospel of John says, “The one who comes from above is over all. The one who is from the earth is from the earth and speaks from the earth” (John 3:31). Let’s be the people who seek the one from above: Jesus.

How do you trust in yourself instead of in God for your needs? How does this impede your relationship with Him and the work He wants to do through you?

JOHN D. BARRY


Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

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Be Vigilant
Genesis 35:16–36:43; Matthew 26:14–56; Ecclesiastes 8:10–17

Faith doesn’t always come to bear until we are faced with our own fallibility. When we “enter into temptation,” it often means we haven’t been vigilant—that we’ve stopped pursuing the God who has pursued us. In the aftermath of temptation, we recognize our spiritual laziness. We become wise—but remorsefully.
Vigilance and complacency are illustrated in the garden of Gethsemane. In His last moments, Jesus requests that His closest disciples stay awake with Him (Matt 26:38). But while He repeatedly prays, they fall asleep. What seems like a request for moral support gets defined a few verses later: “Stay awake and pray that you will not enter into temptation” (Matt 26:41). Staying awake is associated with spiritual awareness. And their sleep is costly. Because of their spiritual sleepiness, they’re not prepared for His end, even though He had repeatedly prepared them for His death. They abandon Him, and they even deny Him (Matt 26:56; 75).
But in this same passage, we get a picture of what vigilance looks like from the Son of God. Jesus anticipated His imminent suffering and death. “Deeply grieved, to the point of death,” He turns to the Father in prayer. Jesus boldly requests relief from suffering; when it is not granted, He submits to the Father’s will.
Being vigilant means seeking guidance and refuge from the God who provides it. He has provided refuge, but we must seek it out. This means asking for His Spirit to equip us for discernment. While we don’t know the challenges and temptations we’ll face, He does. And if we ask Him, He will provide us with all we need to face them.

Are you seeking God’s guidance today? No matter what your situation may be, pray for His Spirit to provide you with strength and discernment.

REBECCA VAN NOORD


Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

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Judging the Time and Seasons
Genesis 14–15; Matthew 11; Ecclesiastes 3:9–15

We often have difficulty judging the events in our lives and then responding appropriately. Although God has placed eternity “in our hearts,” we don’t know the reason or the outcome of our life’s events (Eccl 3:11).
The danger comes in being known for only one mode of operation and one response for all seasons. In Matt 11, Jesus speaks to a generation who responds in one way—with skepticism and unbelief. Those who judge see John the Baptist as a demon-possessed man rather than a prophet. They see Jesus as a glutton, a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and sinners—not the one who has come to save them from their sins.
Jesus illustrates their responses with a tale. He compares them to children who call out to each other in the marketplaces, saying, “We played the flute for you and you did not dance; we sang a lament and you did not mourn” (Matt 11:17). Those who hear and fail to act confuse the writer of Ecclesiastes’ times of mourning and dancing. They don’t acknowledge the judgment of John the Baptist or the joy of Jesus.
For those in His audience who refused to acknowledge His words, and miracles, Jesus pronounces a judgment far worse than that of Sodom. Those who respond with humility and faith, however, have the promise of rest. Jesus invites them: “Take my yoke on you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt 11:29).
This response is an act of faith. We need to rely on God’s Word and His Spirit to judge the events of our lives, and to help us respond with faith.

What response are you known for?


Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

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THERE’S A SONG IN THE AIR!
Josiah G. Holland, 1819–1881
  Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God … (Luke 2:13)
What a beautiful scene is drawn for us in this joyful Christmas hymn! As we visualize once more the glorious chorus of angels, the brilliant star, and Mary watching over her babe in the lowly manger, we feel like joining the “heavenly throng” in their “tumult of joy” to greet our Savior and King!
Josiah G. Holland created one of the most thoughtful and thrilling of all the carols that we sing during this season. It is no wonder that the angels’ song rang out so jubilantly: They knew it was the King of heaven and earth they serenaded. How little did those who followed the brilliant light of the star realize that through the ages the whole earth would be illumined by Christ the Lord (Revelation 22:16). Like those who saw the star, we “rejoice in the light, and we echo the song …”
Born in Belchertown, Massachusetts, Josiah Gilbert Holland began his professional career as a medical doctor. But soon he became involved in writing and editorial work and eventually helped establish Scribner’s Magazine. “There’s a Song in the Air” first appeared in a Sunday school collection in 1874 and five years later in Holland’s Complete Poetical Writings. The present tune, “Christmas Song,” was composed for these words by Karl P. Harrington approximately 25 years later. The composer was a recognized church musician, serving in various Methodist churches as organist and choir director. He was also one of the musical editors for the Methodist Hymnal of 1905, when the present version of the carol first appeared.
  There’s a song in the air! There’s a star in the sky! There’s a mother’s deep prayer and a baby’s low cry! And the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing, for the manger of Bethlehem cradles a King!
  There’s a tumult of joy o’er the wonderful birth, for the Virgin’s sweet Boy is the Lord of the earth. Ay! the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing, for the manger of Bethlehem cradles a King!
  In the light of that star lie the ages impearled, and that song from afar has swept over the world. Ev’ry hearth is aflame—and the beautiful sing in the homes of the nations that Jesus is King!
  We rejoice in the light, and we echo the song that comes down thru the night from the heavenly throng. Ay! we shout to the lovely evangel they bring, and we greet in His cradle our Savior and King!

        For Today: Matthew 2:10; Luke 1:3, 68, 69; Luke 2:9–20, 29–32
Sing the words of this hymn with exuberance as though you were actually joining with the angels in their song that continues to ring—


Osbeck, K. W. (1996). Amazing grace: 366 inspiring hymn stories for daily devotions (pp. 377–378). Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.

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Patient Endurance
Jeremiah 27:1–28:17; Romans 5:1–21; Proverbs 20:1–12

In theory, it’s easy to provide answers to difficult faith questions. But when we face real trials, everything changes. We gain a new perspective on the Bible passages we’ve memorized; the Christian maxims we’ve passed on to others reverse and hit us full force. We don’t have the option to talk in hypotheticals. Trials require heartfelt faith and total reliance on God.
Suffering and trials are not punishment or neglect on God’s part. In fact, they’re quite the opposite. Paul describes how God works through trials to build us up in faith. And His work is not a quick fix or an easy answer. It’s a process, as Paul describes in his letter to the Roman church: “And not only this, but we also boast in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces patient endurance, and patient endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom 5:3–5).
In times of suffering, we aren’t meant to abandon mourning or put up an artifice of strength. We’re not supposed to conquer and overcome and become the next Christian success story. God uses these trials to work in us—a slow, evolving work that begins with endurance, creates character, and culminates with a hope that won’t disappoint. We don’t embark on such a process by ourselves. Throughout our suffering, “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom 5:5).
We will face trials and suffering in our lifetime—whether everyday difficulties or life-altering events. But affliction doesn’t separate us from God’s love (Rom 8:35). Indeed, God uses it to confirm His love for us. May Paul’s words give us comfort and perspective for the work God is or will be doing in us.

What trials or suffering are you enduring? How do Paul’s words shed light on your trials?

REBECCA VAN NOORD


Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

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The Unity of Believers
2 Kings 20:1–21:26; Ephesians 4:1–32; Proverbs 8:27–36

It’s easy to sort believers in a community based on the quantity of their service. Most of us could roll out the masking tape and divide those who contribute their time and efforts from those who don’t. If we’re honest, the topic itself easily divides us—it makes us feel used, overtasked, and resentful. But that’s not the picture of unity of purpose that Paul presents in Ephesians. He describes the church as a body—one in which “each single part” is needed for the growth of the whole.
“But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow into him with reference to all things, who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined together and held together by every supporting ligament, according to the working by measure of each single part, the growth of the body makes for the building up of itself in love” (Eph 4:15–16).
We are each given unique abilities for the growth of the body, and “each single part” is necessary to grow the body of Christ. God gives gifts to each supporting ligament—each person—in order to build up the community. But it is Christ who joins and holds the church together.
Because of Christ’s unifying role, a key aspect of growth as a community and as individuals includes speaking the truth in love—helping others grow to spiritual maturity in the truth of the gospel. Instead of chiding, we can remind others of God’s goodness to them through Christ. Instead of further ostracizing them, we can invite them in by speaking the truth with love, realizing that God has blessed them with special abilities that will soon be realized.

How can you use your gifts to serve your community? How can you lovingly help others recognize theirs?

REBECCA VAN NOORD


Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

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Counterfeit Gospels
2 Kings 9:30–10:36; Galatians 1:1–2:21; Proverbs 7:1–9

We’re fine with the idea of God being our savior, but we’re not always keen on the notion of letting Him transform every area of our lives. We often emphasize sharing the gospel, but do we consider the reality of the outcome?
It’s a question Paul poses to the church in Galatia. Typically, when Paul opens a letter to a church, he follows his greeting with a prayer of thanksgiving for the members of the community. But in his correspondence with the Galatians, he skips the niceties and opts for a biting remark, signaling that something is drastically wrong.
“I am astonished that you are turning away so quickly from the one who called you by the grace of Christ to a different gospel, not that there is a different gospel, except there are some who are disturbing you and wanting to distort the gospel of Christ” (Gal 1:6–9).
Paul’s message is especially cutting because the Galatians knew better. Paul himself had preached the gospel to them. After he left and false teachers infiltrated the community, the Galatians veered off course. Instead of holding to the true teaching or even testing these teachers’ claims against the gospel message, the Galatians adopted a new, counterfeit gospel.
Paul interrogates the Galatians, who may have been affected by the teaching of people who wanted them to adopt Jewish legal requirements, asking, “Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal 3:2–3). The simple gospel had been cluttered by attempts to remain obedient to the law. The believers were no longer living in the Spirit.
We are prone to push aside the lesson in this passage by claiming that it’s specific to that context, but we might be guilty of this very fault. Do we think of becoming a Christian—getting saved—as the end of the journey? The reality of the gospel should affect all areas of our lives, which can now be used to give God the glory. Our entire lives—our thought processes, our ideals and theologies, our relationships—should reflect Christ and be shaped by the Spirit. The gospel isn’t for one moment. It’s going to transform everything.

Have you, without realizing it, turned from the gospel? What area of your life needs to be transformed?

REBECCA VAN NOORD


Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

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I (Don’t) Want to Hear It
1 Kings 22:1–53; Mark 12:35–13:23; Proverbs 5:11–23

My attempts to find guidance are often flawed. I long for honest appraisal of my actions, but I can sometimes be sneaky about choosing my appraiser. When those who know me present a real, raw look at my life and offer hard, helping words, I can become defensive and angry. I might pick a fresh voice instead—someone who doesn’t know my weaknesses and tendencies. “They’re not biased,” I tell myself.
When Ahab and Jehoshaphat combine forces to recapture Ramoth-gilead from the Syrians, they want divine assurance. However, they aren’t necessarily willing to receive divine direction. Ahab, king of Israel, inquires of his 400 prophets, and they assure him of victory. Jehoshaphat isn’t convinced, so he asks for “a prophet of Yahweh.”
Ahab’s response isn’t so far from my own: “Then the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘There is still one man to inquire from Yahweh, but I despise him, for he never prophesies anything good concerning me, but only bad: Micaiah the son of Imlah’ ” (1 Kgs 22:8).
Micaiah can’t really win when it comes to Ahab. When he responds sarcastically to Ahab’s request—telling him he’ll conquer and win—Ahab demands he tell the truth. When Micaiah reveals what Ahab doesn’t want to hear—imminent defeat—Ahab complains that Micaiah never prophesies anything good about him.
When we hear hard words, we often take out our aggression out on the messenger. We regard them as the one at fault. “You always respond this way,” we’ll say. “You don’t really understand me.” Soon, we avoid these truth-tellers because their words of truth expose our sin. And if our sin remains concealed, we won’t have to admit it exists. If we don’t admit it, we won’t have to confess it. And if we don’t confess it, we won’t have to turn from it.
It’s all too easy to avoid necessary reform. But if we truly seek to follow God, we can’t avoid the hard truth. When we truly need guidance, we must be willing to face the truth-tellers—even when it hurts.

Who are the people you go to for guidance? Why? Whose guidance are you really rebelling against?

REBECCA VAN NOORD


Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

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Take Up Your Cross
1 Kings 13:1–34; Mark 8:11–9:1; Proverbs 3:13–22

The way we respond to desperate circumstances often clarifies what gives us hope. Jesus’ followers faced the very real threat of death by choosing to follow Him—something He warns them about: “And summoning the crowd together with his disciples, he said to them, ‘If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life on account of me and of the gospel will save it’ ” (Mark 8:34–35).
In Jesus’ time, “taking up the cross” would have been associated with a shameful death at the hands of the ruling Roman powers. To risk suffering this type of shameful death required more than lukewarm commitment.
Jesus doesn’t limit this calling to His disciples; anyone who “wants to come after” faces this uncertainty and must hold a faith that displays this loyalty. For some Christians today, following Jesus means opposition and death. For most of us, it doesn’t. Yet Jesus goes on to show that this type of devotion is still relevant today: “For whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:36–38).
Many of our lives reflect a lax neutrality—a purposeless ease that avoids conflict and commitment. We might shy away from bold claims. We might fade into the wallpaper in an attempt to fit in. We might show reluctance to declare Christ’s name.
What does commitment look like for you? Are you following Jesus with this type of devotion? Or do you hesitate to share the good news?

How are you taking up your cross?

REBECCA VAN NOORD


Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.