October 7 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“Now, Lord our God, delivers us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, Lord, are the only God.” ~Isaiah 37:20

OLD TESTAMENT

Yesterday’s reading concluded with a threat from the Assyrian king. The Assyrians were a fierce people feared for their brutal tactics in warfare and their merciless treatment of captured exiles. So when the Assyrian king took fortified cities in Judah and then threatened to take down the capital, there was reason to fear. The king’s diplomats issued their threats publicly and in the people’s native tongue in order to strike fear into the hearts of the locals. A threatened king had a difficult task trying to rally troops against so formidable a foe.

In such times, Judah, and Israel too, were tempted to rely on foreign allies like Egypt to help them. God was not opposed to forging alliances with other nations for the purpose of bolstering security. (Solomon was a genius at alliance building. Most of his marriages were political stratagems.) The problem was that God’s people became dependent on pagan nations for deliverance instead of trusting God. Victory was ultimately from Him.

King Hezekiah goes against that tide. Instead of calling for foreign reinforcements and aid when the Assyrian threat arises, the first thing he does is pray! Could God not defeat the Assyrians, who ridiculed His name? Could He not show all the nations that He is the only God? Hezekiah was right to ask, and God did hear his plea. He dragged the Assyrian king around with a hook in his nose and a bit in his mouth, wholly at His mercy. The people of God were delivered.

Let Hezekiah be an example to all of us when we are threatened. Make your first response heartfelt, pray-like-you-mean-it prayer! Pray like only God can take care of the problem. Then, and only then, are you ready to plan your best strategy and put on your armor. Go into “battle” with the full knowledge that victory comes from the Lord. Even when a threat is deserved (as they were for Israel), God is still waiting to deliver the repentant! Praise Him when He delivers you.

NEW TESTAMENT

Beware of dogs (Phil. 3:2)! That’s not a nice thing to call a religious person, but it’s exactly what Paul calls the legalists. Those who “mutilate the flesh” (insist upon circumcision) and preach a burdensome gospel of works rob Christ-followers of joy. Christians are saved by grace. Everything else is rubbish (Phil. 3:8). The Greek word translated as rubbish is actually the word for human excrement. One of my friends in seminary did a Greek to English translation paper on Philippians 3:8 and titled his work, “I Consider Everything Else Crap.” The class erupted in laughter, and the professor gave him an A-plus for his able translation and interpretive work.

Paul’s point is that good works are absolutely good for nothing. It is only Christ and the saving work that He does that makes a person right with God. Yes, we’re to produce good works, but not for the purpose of proving ourselves worthy of God’s love or His salvation. Our good works are fruit—the outcome and evidence of becoming more like Christ. “Every Christian is to become a little Christ,” wrote C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity. “The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.” Nothing else in this world comes close to the joy and blessing of being in relationship with Christ and knowing Him. Compared to that, everything else is just…well…you know.


Lectio Divina is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of Calvary Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.