August 25

2 Chronicles 36:15-16, 21 (NIV) 15The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. 16But they mocked God's messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against his people and there was no remedy.

21The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah.

The LORD kept sending the prophets with warnings, because He had pity on His people. Judgment would come, but their receptivity to the word of God would have made a world of difference in their transition to captivity. Because they were so hard hearted, despising God's word and scoffing at His prophets, the conquest by Babylon was brutal. Young and old were slaughtered, and everything of value was taken. The Temple was burned.

The harder we make our hearts, the more devastating the circumstances must be to wake us up and turn us back. They had faced humiliating defeats during the reign of the last four kings, but none of those defeats caused them to humble themselves before God and turn to Him. There was no remedy. God looked for another way, but there was none. Often people ask how God could have allowed a disaster to happen. In many cases, it is because there was no other remedy. Nothing less would turn people from the hardness of their heart.

Israel had ignored the law of Sabbath rest for many centuries. Every seventh year they were not supposed to plant, but just let what came up on its own be sufficient for them. If they had ignored this law for 490 years, then the land was due for 70 years of Sabbath rests. That is exactly what happened. The land had its rest, and the people had their humiliation and change of heart. Those who returned would be intolerant of idol worship and possess a fear of disobeying God. The following devotions now move into the period of restoration, when the people were allowed to return and build the temple again. God was preparing them for a great redemption, the coming of the Messiah.

Prayer: Lord, help our country to turn to You before it is too late.

August 25

1 Corinthians 3:5-7 (NIV) 5What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe–as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.

Paul returns to one of the main reasons for writing this letter, quarrels and divisions. He told the Corinthians that when they take sides on issues and set themselves against one another that they are acting like the world and not like Christians. Jesus' command was that we love one another. That does not mean that we never correct or instruct, in fact, that may be the hardest expression of love.

This church had formed a number of factions based on who they admired most as a teacher. It is not an evil thing to admire one teacher over another, but they had taken it another step and formed opposing groups that quarreled over which speaker was best. We have the same thing today with denominations. The fact that one group prefers Wesley's teaching over Calvin's or Luther's is not bad. It is when we divide up the church into arguing factions that we are acting like the world. It can happen within an individual church. One group starts preferring one teacher over the preacher, or the preacher over an old timer who has kept the church going though tough times in the past.

Paul brings them back to the central issue. The leaders are merely servants. We all play a part, but it is God that makes things happen. We are nothing in and of ourselves. Any good you see in man is the presence of the Savior. Let us all focus on Him and His command to love one another. Without Him, the teacher, the preacher, the old faithful deacon and elder are nothing. Refuse quarreling and insist on loving. Give and receive correction in love. We can all learn from one another. Consider others better than yourself. Politics and factions have no place in the church of Jesus Christ. Leave that treachery to the world.

Remember: If we cannot love one another, we need to examine our relationship with Jesus Christ.