August 4

2 Chronicles 12:1,5 (NIV) 1After Rehoboam's position as king was established and he had become strong, he and all Israel with him abandoned the law of the LORD...

5Then the prophet Shemaiah came to Rehoboam and to the leaders of Judah who had assembled in Jerusalem for fear of Shishak, and he said to them, "This is what the LORD says, 'You have abandoned me; therefore, I now abandon you to Shishak.'"

Rehoboam began with greed and immediately lost two-thirds of the nation. That did not humble him. He continued in his pride. After strengthening his army and defenses, he abandoned the law of the LORD. As the leader went, so went the nation. They followed his bad example in forsaking God.

An innumerable army, led by the king of Egypt, came against him and captured all the cities he had fortified and armed. One by one they fell. Then the prophet Shemaiah came and told Rehoboam that since they had abandoned God, God had abandoned them. Since they wanted to proceed without God, God allowed them to. What would our life be like without the protection of the hand of God? When a man or family or nation is walking in the fear of the LORD, they are surrounded by a protecting influence. You will never know all the things the LORD spared you from that the enemy planned against your life. That is why the end of the LORD's prayer says, "Deliver us from the evil one."

When we step outside of a trusting dependent relationship with God, that invisible hand of protection is lifted and the enemy is allowed in to bring us to our senses. It worked for Rehoboam. He and his leaders humbled themselves and said, "The LORD is just." Then God could have mercy on them and allowed Jerusalem to remain, though subjugated. All the treasure amassed in the temple was carried away by the enemy. Sin has consequences, and though we are allowed to continue and are restored relationally, there is a great loss because of our rebellion.

Consider: Draw near to God now so that He does not have to use tragedy to draw you back.

August 4

Romans 1:16-17 (NIV) 16I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

The Apostle Paul lived in a world that was similar to ours. Philosophies and a variety of religious beliefs permeated the Roman world. The preaching of the cross was quite contrary to the religions man had created, but Paul was not ashamed to be different. He did not mind not fitting in, for he knew the power of God that could save anyone who would believe. We need to carry that kind of confident boldness into our world.

Since Paul would later say that God does not respect one person over another, what does this mean that the gospel is to the Jew first? Certainly it is not first in importance. Throughout Scripture we can see that it is God's order. Even Jesus' ministry went to the Jew first. Even though God knew that they, as a nation, would reject Him, He still went to them first. It is God's desire that all receive the salvation He has provided for them, and He knows the best order to make that possible.

Verse 17 is the verse that broke through to Martin Luther's conscious mind and showed him salvation was not attainable by works. To be justified with God, to be made acceptable in His eyes, can only happen through faith. No amount of good deeds, no particular ritual, simply a heart that places its hope and trust in the God that made us through the way provided by the cross. Abraham believed God. That belief was credited to him as righteousness. Everyone comes to God the same way, as Martin Luther later summed up, "By grace alone; through faith alone".

To live by faith includes more than a one-time comprehension of God's sufficiency. It is a daily reliance on His all-sufficiency. It is a daily dependence on His power, provision, and His life to be what He calls each of us to be.

Consider: Are you living by faith today? Are you trusting more in the unseen than in what you can see?