Category Archives: Today in the Word

Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – IN HIM WE HAVE REDEMPTION

 

Ephesians 1:1–14

After a hit-and-run driver killed her son, Donna Holcomb felt God move in her heart to forgive the driver, Marvin Carter. As the young man left the courtroom, she promised to write to him in prison. “Someone has to start making a difference in his life,” she said. “More than anything, this is about understanding that holding anger or animosity isn’t going to do anything but hurt us.” Her willingness to forgive led to healing for both, so much so that he began addressing his letters to “Mama Donna.”

In our passage today, Paul says that repentance and forgiveness are given freely to us as children of God. In Christ, we have “every spiritual blessing” (v. 3). We are adopted and have become sons and daughters of God, who chose us before the creation of the world and loved us (vv. 4–5). Within this relationship we find lavish, unexpected, and complete forgiveness. No matter how terrible we may feel about our sin, God has the power and desire to forgive us and restore our relationship with Him.

And forgiveness is a part of God’s perfect plan, “the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (v. 11). When we put our hope in Christ alone, our lives are transformed for His glory (v. 12).

Notice the words used to describe the security of our relationship with Christ: “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance” (vv. 13–14). Our future is guaranteed. Our relationship with God is secure, based on a deposit and a promise. This transforms our lives into vessels of God’s love for His glory.

APPLY THE WORD

In your notebook or spiritual journal, go through the passage today and make a list of all emotions and actions attributed to God. For instance, He blessed and chose us and lavished His grace on us. After you’ve finished, use your list to praise and thank Him for who He is and all He has done for you. What riches He has given us!

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – THE GUARANTEE OF FORGIVENESS

 

Acts 3:11–26

The words repent, repentance, and repented are mentioned more than 100 times in the Bible, from the Old Testament to the New Testament. The practice of repentance involves more than just feeling bad about what we have done. It means changing our path. It requires both acknowledging what we have done wrong and turning in a new direction.

Today’s passage follows Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. Just as He promised in our reading yesterday (see John 20), we see the disciples exercising the power of the Holy Spirit, and it shocked everyone in attendance. Peter and John healed a lame man, a beggar at the temple gate (vv. 1–10).

Notice Peter’s response to the critics, “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you?” (v. 12). They should have recognized Jesus, since the prophets had foretold His coming. Peter made it clear that the power they displayed in healing this man did not originate with them; it came directly from Jesus, the Son of God. He directed their attention away from this physical healing to an even more important topic: their spiritual healing. Rather than being shocked at these miracles, they should recognize that this power to heal comes from Jesus Christ. Through the work of the Messiah, they could repent and turn from their sins.

Repentance before the Lord will result in two blessings. First, our sins are forgiven, “wiped out” from the ledger. Second, we will be spiritually refreshed from the dark, barren bondage of sin (v. 19). When we repent of our sins and turn to God, we have the testimony of the long line of prophets confirming that Jesus makes it possible for us to be blessed with fellowship with the Lord.

APPLY THE WORD

Do you long for a time of refreshing in your faith? Consider today if the issue is repentance. What sin are you holding on to, unwilling to take to God for forgiveness? We are instructed to repent from our sins and turn to God. Repent today and follow God’s leading in your life. Ask Him to renew you. You are promised a time of refreshing.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – JESUS TEACHES US TO FORGIVE

 

Matthew 9:1–8

To be forgiven changes us. Nelson Mandela spent decades imprisoned by his political enemies. Upon his release in 1994, he chose to devote his life to helping the people of South Africa forgive one another: “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”

For the next few days, we’ll study how Jesus teaches us to forgive. In today’s passage, Jesus offers both physical and spiritual healing. Just after Jesus arrived by boat, He was approached by several men carrying a paralyzed man lying on a mat. The effect of the physical healing was obvious—at their request, Jesus healed the paralyzed man, and the previously incapacitated man was able to walk home (v. 7). But before healing the man physically, Jesus healed him spiritually—forgiving his sins.

This act of forgiveness and spiritual healing angered the religious leaders. They did not object to a paralyzed man being healed, but they drew the line at Jesus’ declaration of forgiveness: “This fellow is blaspheming” (v. 3). To blaspheme means to show irreverence for God or to disrespect the sacred. When Jesus said He forgave the man’s sins, they thought Him presumptuous. How could He claim to do the work God alone could do?

Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Which is easer: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?” (v. 5). We might also ask, which healing is more necessary? Jesus had the power to free the man from physical pain, but He also had the authority to forgive his sin and heal him spiritually. The crowd was “filled with awe” and praised God after seeing this miraculous display of forgiveness (v. 8).

APPLY THE WORD

When we pray and bring our requests to God, we often focus on our physical need, such as physical illness or financial needs. While these are worthy concerns, we should also be mindful that God’s healing power extends far beyond our external needs. He is the One who can heal our hearts and forgive our sins. Praise Him today!

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – POWER OF FORGIVENESS

 

Psalm 103

In his book A Grief Observed, C. S. Lewis said, “Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask—half our great theological and metaphysical problems—are like that.”

We might ask another unanswerable question: How far is the east from the west? The answer, of course, is that the distance is so far that we, in our human limitation, can’t imagine it. The psalmist is giving thanks for the unimaginable vastness of God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness.

Our God has the power of forgiveness. He heals us (v. 3). He redeems us, paying our debt and rescuing us from death (v. 4), and He satisfies our desires, crowning us with love (v. 5).

The psalmist remembers God’s actions concerning Moses and the nation of Israel. God was patient with them, loved them, saved them, and forgave them. We can be assured that He will also forgive us. We are His children, and God loves us like a heavenly Father (v. 13).

The psalmist contrasts the temporary nature of humankind with the eternal nature of God. While our lives are like grass that withers and dies, God’s love lasts from “everlasting to everlasting” (v. 17). This should align our hearts with the God who can remove our transgressions from us, taking them as far as the east is from the west. Human measurements fail to accurately describe how God alone can so completely remove our transgressions. The God who created us and loved us has the capacity and intention to forgive us.

APPLY THE WORD

Sometimes it may feel like your sins will follow you forever and will never truly be forgiven. Today’s passage offers that assurance. When you ask for God’s forgiveness, He will grant it. Picture your sin, tied into a package, and being taken as far as the east is from the west. It is too far to return. God has perfectly and forever forgiven you.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – THE BLESSING OF FORGIVENESS

 

2 Chronicles 6:12–39

After buying her morning paper, Patricia Machin returned home to learn that her husband had been killed by a careless driver. Following the accident, she wrote a letter offering forgiveness to the driver, Brian Williamson: “However bad this accident was for me, I realize it was 1,000 times worse for you.” Patricia recognized the extraordinary blessing of offering forgiveness.

To be forgiven is indeed an extraordinary gift, modeled for us by God Himself. For the next five days, we’re going to explore how forgiveness is a blessing. Today’s passage transcribes Solomon’s prayer of dedication for the temple. He knelt, with his hands extended toward heaven, and addressed God: “There is no God like you in heaven or on earth” (v. 14). He praised God’s greatness, and declared that this earthly temple—no matter how grand—could not contain Him (v. 18).

Recognizing the exalted nature of God and the earthly nature of God’s people, Solomon asked that God hear their prayers—and when He hears their confessions, that He would forgive them (v. 21). Notice how often Solomon makes the plea in these verses: “hear from heaven and forgive” (vv. 25, 27, 30, 39). No matter what circumstances might afflict God’s people, they must come to the Lord and plead for His forgiveness.

God cannot ignore sin, but He also extends the blessing of forgiveness. This gift of forgiveness is not for the purpose of enabling us to persist in sin; rather, forgiveness gives us the blessing of being able to follow God and serve Him. “Forgive, and deal with everyone according to all they do, since you know their hearts (for you alone know the human heart), so that they will fear you and walk in obedience to you” (vv. 30–31).

APPLY THE WORD

You have been given the extraordinary gift of forgiveness. Confess your sins to God, knowing that He hears you from heaven. When you are finished, thank Him for the blessing of His forgiveness. How wonderful to know that God not only knows us but also has promised to forgive us. This should increase our desire to serve Him well.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – THE PERFECT SACRIFICE

 

Luke 22:1–23

Jesus inaugurated the Lord’s Supper, also called the Eucharist or Communion, during His last Passover meal with His disciples. Today, Christians continue to observe the Lord’s Supper as part of corporate worship. Partaking together of the bread and the cup, which represent Christ’s body and blood, reminds us of our life together as the spiritual body of Jesus. This is made possible only because of who He is and what He has done for us.

Today’s passage describes Jesus’ final Passover meal with disciples in the hours preceding His death. It was the first day of Passover, also called the Festival of Unleavened Bread, which commemorated God’s deliverance of Israel from bondage in Egypt (see Exodus 12). As part of their rescue, an unblemished lamb had to be killed and its blood applied to the doorposts. The firstborns within houses with the blood applied would be spared from death.

The meal began with a somber announcement. Jesus declared that one of the Twelve would betray Him. Each of the disciples proclaimed his innocence, but Jesus persisted. Then, while they were eating, Jesus broke a piece of bread, distributing it to His disciples: “This is my body given for you” (v. 19). He distributed a cup of wine, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (v. 20).

Jesus was identifying Himself as the Lamb who delivers us from the bondage of sin. His blood would be shed, and all those who trust in His work of redemption will be saved from sin and death. Only through His blood can we find forgiveness (see Matt. 26:28). In an echo of Exodus 12:24, Jesus instructed His disciples to participate in this Lord’s Supper in “remembrance of me” (v. 19).

APPLY THE WORD

Participation in the Lord’s Supper is more than consuming the elements of the bread and the cup. We should remember that Jesus was the spotless Lamb who died in our place to save us. We should be thankful that the offering of His blood makes it possible for us to be forgiven. And we should renew our commitment to live as His body, the church.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – THE NEED FOR FORGIVENESS

Joshua 24:14–28

Martin Luther said, “Forgiveness is God’s command.” Though we may agree that forgiveness is a central principle of Christianity, we also often struggle to practice it. Many of us resist forgiving those who have hurt us.

Why must we forgive? Why must we be forgiven? We’ll examine the biblical answers to those questions in our study this month, in which we’ll learn that forgiveness is a gift we receive and a gift we offer.

In today’s passage, the people of Israel were asked whether they would choose to serve God or the other gods that they have allowed into their homes. As they had made their way from Egypt into the Promised Land, they had grown increasingly tolerant of foreign gods and practices. Joshua urged them to reject the false gods from Egypt and Arabia that they had accumulated and make a choice about which deity they would trust: “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. . . . But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD” (v. 15).

The people seemed shocked and even offended by Joshua’s suggestion. Of course they will serve God! But Joshua reminded them of God’s character. They serve a God who will not tolerate partial allegiance. He is both “holy” and “jealous” (v. 19). In His holiness, God will not tolerate disobedience, and Joshua warned the people that God would not forgive their rebellion (v. 19). In this context, the word forgive means to “bear with” or “live with.” God would not allow sin to continue unchecked.

God will not ignore our choice to rebel against Him. When we sin against a holy and just God, we are in desperate need of forgiveness. But He offers us the invitation to choose to follow Him.

APPLY THE WORD

On this Easter Sunday, confess your sins to God. We have been given an amazing gift: the forgiveness of sin! The celebration of Jesus’ resurrection is the perfect time to begin a study on the forgiveness offered to us through His death and resurrection. Rejoice that we have a Savior who forgives our sins and guarantees for us eternal salvation.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – GOD: JUDGE, REFINER, REMEMBER-ER

Malachi 2:10–16; 3:16–4:6

One prolific writer has said that books are built on good beginnings and endings. The collection of books that comprise the Minor Prophets more than exceed this criteria for good endings!

The twelve prophets—some of priestly or royal lineage, some of common vocation, some with little biographical information available to us now—wrote over the course of centuries. Some predicted the judgment of God’s people during times of prosperity; others declared the devastation of exile; still others (like Malachi) ministered during the time of rebuilding. But despite their differences, the twelve prophets—minor only in length, not importance—have followed a common thread: sinners in the hands of a merciful God find His astonishing, relenting love.

At the beginning of the month, we began in Hosea with the picture of Israel as God’s unfaithful wife. At the end of our study, we’re left with the foreboding sense that not much has changed. The people still struggle to obey God fully. They’ve intermarried with the pagan nations surrounding them, some divorcing their own wives to do so. They’ve neglected proper observance of the sacrificial rites in the temple (2:11–12). They’ve robbed God by refusing to bring the appropriate tithes and contributions to the temple. Can Israel really turn over a new leaf of righteousness?

She can’t—which is what makes the prophecy regarding the coming of Elijah so critical. God must send a final prophet, a prophecy fulfilled in John the Baptist (see Matt. 3:1–12; 11:13–15). His mission was to point toward a final, faithful prophet, priest, and King—Jesus Christ. He alone can heal our incurable hearts of rebellion. He alone can—and will—save us.

APPLY THE WORD

The prophets longed to understand the gospel of Jesus Christ, which they understood only dimly (see 1 Peter 1:10–12). The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has made it possible for God to relent from judgment and show mercy, and His Spirit within us cures our rebellion, pride, and idolatry. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – A CURSE (AND BLESSING)

 

Zechariah 5:1–11

In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer explored the distinction between “cheap” and “costly” grace. Cheap grace requires no real contrition or repentance. It says that people will be forgiven regardless of their desire to be delivered from sin. Costly grace, on the other hand, “is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner.” Such grace cost God the life of His own Son.

Bonhoeffer didn’t want people to simply believe in Christ; he wanted them to follow Him. And this is always what God has intended for His people—not just mental assent to the right doctrines but rather faith expressed as obedient love. As a primary Old Testament example, in Deuteronomy 28 and 29, God’s people are poised to enter the Promised Land after 40 years of wilderness wandering. God tells them to follow Him. He would bless their obedience and curse their sin.

In the first part of today’s reading, we see two specific sins that God will judge and even curse: stealing and swearing falsely (vv. 3–4). Stealing is condemned by the eighth of the Ten Commandments (You shall not steal), and swearing falsely is prohibited by the third of the Ten Commandments (You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God). Each of these commandments reveals the two vital aspects of God’s Law: maintaining a right relationship with God and maintaining a right relationship with our neighbor (see Exodus 20).

Now that Israel had returned home, they were to renew their pledge of obedience to God’s Law. God’s grace is free, but it must not be taken for granted. As a sign of God’s blessing, wickedness, as represented by the woman in the basket, will be removed to the land of Shinar, which is Babylon (vv. 5–11).

APPLY THE WORD

We cheapen grace when we do not take seriously God’s commands to obey Him. We cheapen grace when we persist in sin and think that God’s love excuses our rebellion. If you have been guilty of this, repent. Thank God for His costly grace, which accepts our repentance and offers us forgiveness through the death and resurrection of His Son.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – A PROPHET’S VISIONS

 

Zechariah 3:1–4:14

Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said he was standing in grove of trees in western New York State when God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him. From this vision, Smith taught that God the Father had a physical body and that the Mormon religion was the only path to salvation.

What are we to make of someone’s claim to have received a vision from God? One important test is if such a vision is consistent with the divinely revealed truth of the Bible. Joseph Smith’s vision was not, but the prophet Zechariah’s visions are consistent with the revelation given by God. In the Minor Prophets, sometimes these visions foretold catastrophic judgment; at other times (as in Zechariah), these visions illustrated a future redemption.

The first of Zechariah’s visions is a man among myrtle trees: God will return to Jerusalem and dwell with His people (1:8–17). The second describes four horns and four craftsmen: God will punish those responsible for Israel’s exile (1:18–21). The third depicts a man with a measuring line: Jerusalem will be restored (2:1–13). The fourth describes the new priestly vestments given to Joshua, the high priest: God will forgive sin (3:1–10). The fifth envisions a golden lampstand and two olive trees: God will restore Joshua and Zerubbabel to their respective positions, and temple construction will be completed (4:1–14).

One of the symbols from Zechariah’s vision—the clean garments offered to Joshua as proof of his spiritual redemption—has a long history throughout Scripture, including in the story of Joseph (Genesis 37:3, 23); in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:22), and in the story of Jesus Christ (John 13:4).

APPLY THE WORD

All our righteous acts, done apart from God, are like filthy rags (see Isa. 64:6). But when we trust in Jesus, we are given His robe of righteousness. Let this be your prayer of praise today: “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness” (Isa. 61:10).

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – RELIGIOUS RITUAL IS REJECTED

Amos 5:6–24

On August 28, 1963, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addressed more than 250,000 people from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. “I have a dream,” he intoned, calling on the crowd to imagine an America where racial injustice no longer oppressed people. Part of his text that day was taken from Amos 5:24: “Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.” Indeed, the Reverend King and many proponents of civil rights legislation at the time used the Bible to support their campaign for racial justice.

Some mistakenly believe that the Bible is simply a book with rules to govern our Sunday affairs and that the rest of the week is ours to do with as we please. But to follow Christ does not permit us to divide between the religious and the secular—between Sunday and the six days that follow. Every minute of our lives belongs to God, and pleasing Him is more than a matter of performing religious duties. In fact, Amos makes clear that in the midst of her oppression of the poor, even her idolatrous worship practices, Israel maintained the façade of religious observance. She was observing the proper feast days, convening regularly for worship and its sacrificial rituals. She sang enthusiastic praise songs to God, played musical instruments with zeal. But none of this pleased God: He longed for the practice of justice instead.

We have a picture in our reading today of what true repentance is and is not. Repentance is not just adding extra Bible reading and prayer to our day. Repentance is not just committing to more regular church attendance. These spiritual disciplines are important, but God also wants us to seek justice in the world: protection for the poor, freedom for the oppressed, help for the marginalized.

APPLY THE WORD

Repentance is a turning to the Lord, but it also involves a turning from sin. In Matthew 19:16–22, the rich young man was asked to turn from his love of money and turn toward God; his unwillingness to do the former prevented him from doing the latter. To turn toward God, what must you turn from?

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – PUNISHMENT IS DECLARED

Amos 3:12–4:13

In August 2017, millions of Americans traveled to see a total solar eclipse. With sophisticated astronomical calculations, scientists could predict exactly where and when to see this celestial phenomenon. But in the pre-scientific era, people told stories to make sense of the sky’s blackness. Societies who worshiped the sun, such as the Egyptians and the Greeks, spun tales of dragons and demons who were trying to devour their god. To scare off these malevolent figures, ancient peoples tried making loud noises, ringing bells, or banging pots and pans.

Whether good or bad fortune, ancient peoples attributed divine causes to everyday events. Moderns, on the other hand, tend to view such explanations as primitive. But what are we to make of today’s key verse? Doesn’t it insist upon God’s sovereignty, even in geopolitical events? And doesn’t Paul’s theology in the opening chapter of Ephesians—that God “works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will”—suggest we should see God’s agency in everything (Eph. 1:11)?

According to the book of Job, we would be wrong to see every misfortune as divine punishment. But the prophet Amos says that the disaster Israel faced was God’s work (3:7). This punishment took the forms of natural disaster (hunger, drought, pestilence) and human violence (war), and Amos is clear to say that these misfortunes come from God’s hand and are intended to return God’s people to Him (see 5:4).

God’s people had not only failed to love Him, they had also failed to love their neighbor. Today, we have further details about that negligence. They were materially prosperous—and actively oppressed the poor. They lived in luxury—and crushed the needy.

APPLY THE WORD

The “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27). What local organizations help the needy in your community? How can you and your church participate in the work of justice on their behalf?

 

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – A GOSPEL HOPE

 

Hosea 14:1–9

For over two years from 2008 to 2010, the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team never lost a game. Their winning streak included two national titles and 90 consecutive victories, which passed the previous NCAA Division I basketball record of 88 victories, held by John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins in the 1970s.

Fans expect the UConn women’s basketball team to win. And as readers of Scripture, we reasonably expect that God will win. But in the book of Hosea, Israel is depicted as an unfaithful bride to her husband. And we never have the sense in the Minor Prophets that sin doesn’t matter to God. The Lord does not tolerate an open marriage, and His people will face consequences because of their sin. What would a victory for the Lord look like?

“Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?” These rhetorical questions, posed by God in Hosea 13:14, indicate His intent to judge Israel’s sin. It’s as if God calls on death itself to punish His people for their sins. He is a lion, a leopard, a bear robbed of her cubs (13:7–8). What hope can Israel have for salvation and rescue?

Yet even though Israel will suffer exile for her sin, the book doesn’t end on a minor chord of doom. Because Israel cannot return to God, as she has been called to do, God chooses to turn to her. He will heal her stubbornness and waywardness. This promise of hope doesn’t end with the story of Israel; it looks forward to the work of Jesus Christ, whose death defeats the penalty and the power of sin and whose indwelling Spirit writes God’s laws on our heart, giving us the capacity to obey. God’s victory is the triumph of His love for His people.

APPLY THE WORD

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul quotes our key verse from Hosea. One scholar says, “Paul turns a text about judgment into one declaring salvation.” Death’s victory and sting are destroyed by the death and resurrection of Jesus! Hosea anticipates God’s love expressed at the cross—where His righteous judgment, mercy, and love defeats our sin.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – YAHWEH: THE PROSECUTOR

 

Hosea 4:1–6; 6:1–11

When U.S. Army soldier Bowe Bergdahl walked away from his post in Afghanistan, he claimed that he wanted to report on misconduct in his unit. Instead, he was captured by the Taliban and tortured for five years. When he was finally released and eventually tried for desertion, the judge in his court-martial sentenced him to a dishonorable discharge, reduction of rank, and a monetary fine in lieu of prison time.

All of us are familiar with courtroom language: prosecution and defense, judge and jury, trial and testimony. At this point in our study of Hosea, the book shifts from the biographical context of Hosea and Gomer to the judicial setting: God brings a case against His people. His accusation against them isn’t that they’ve simply abandoned their religious duties. They’ve also sinned against one another by acting in violent, treacherous ways.

The failure to love neighbor is always a failure to love God—and vice versa. Abandoning “faithfulness” and “love” and “acknowledgement of God” (4:1) will necessarily lead to the crimes against humanity we see throughout Hosea and indeed all the Minor Prophets.

God issues a pronounced condemnation on the leaders of His people—the priests and prophets. It had been their responsibility to teach the knowledge of God, their obligation to speak the words of the Lord. But they had failed in these tasks, and as a result, the people had failed to uphold their covenant obligations.

The people of Israel could have resigned themselves to their fate of divine judgment. They had made their bed, and they must lie in it. But Hosea speaks words of hope: return to the Lord! His mercy, like spring rain, can be counted on (6:1–3).

APPLY THE WORD

We easily become discouraged when we fall into patterns of sin. I’ll never change. There’s no hope. I’m condemned to fail. These messages keep us far from God, never daring to believe He can forgive us or change us. But Hosea, along with all the Minor Prophets, assures us that God’s mercy is available to us if we “acknowledge the LORD” (6:3).

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – YAHWEH: THE WOOING HUSBAND

Hosea 2:14–3:5

On the morning of September 11, 2001, two commercial passenger planes flew into the north and south towers of the World Trade Center. Both erupted into balls of flames upon impact, causing the towers to collapse and resulting in the deaths of thousands of people. In the last several years, a memorial has opened to mark the national tragedy and remember the lives of the many who died. The National September 11 Memorial & Museum is an attempt to reclaim the site for memory and hope rather than ignorance and despair.

Much like Ground Zero was a site of national devastation, the Valley of Achor also symbolized a dark day in Israel’s history (see Joshua 7:25, 26). After the euphoric victory at Jericho, Israel’s troops faced unexpected defeat at Ai. When Joshua asked God why He had abandoned His people, God answered that there was sin in the camp. Though Israel had been warned against taking any spoils of victory in Jericho, someone had disobeyed this prohibition. Achan was eventually singled out and confessed to having stolen and hidden a cloak, 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold. As punishment for his sin, the people of Israel took Achan, his family, and his livestock and stoned them in the Valley of Achor.

Achor had been the site of divine judgment early in Israel’s history, but now God was announcing, through Hosea, that Achor would become a door of hope. This is the kind of reversal we commonly find in Hosea and in the rest of the Minor Prophets: judgment becomes mercy. God does bring judgment on His people, exiling them from the land that had been theirs by divine promise. Exile is not the end of the story, however, and God promises to return them to the land and to restore their fortunes.

APPLY THE WORD

Only by God’s initiative are His people restored to Him. He speaks tenderly to His bride; He removes the names of her lovers from her lips; He makes a new covenant with His people; He betroths her to Himself. God’s grace doesn’t just save us; it also sanctifies us. By His persistent love—and not our self-discipline—we become His faithful bride.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – PRESS ON AND PRESS IN

 

Isaiah 62:1–12

In the documentary series Dispatches from the Front, director Tim Keesee tells the story of David, a gospel worker in the Southeastern European nation of Albania. Though the challenges for missions in Albania are immense, David persists with a simple approach: “Pray. Meet people. Tell them about Jesus.” And, little by little, people are coming to Christ and churches are being established.

The church today might appear to be faltering. Many pews are empty, younger members seem to be scattering, and enthusiasm is dwindling. From local communities to foreign countries, people barely acknowledge that the church exists, even if they drive past a building. Evangelistic outreach seems to bear no fruit at all. Baptisms of new converts are unusual. We can understand Isaiah’s descriptions: deserted, desolate, plundered by her enemies (vv. 4, 8).

This may be the church’s momentary condition. But it is not our promised future. At the end of time, God’s people will have glory, splendor, and praise (vv. 2, 3, 7). When people speak out—refusing to be silent—about the gospel, God will vindicate their message and make it winsome to its hearers. When people pray—persisting in their petitions to God—God will answer by ensuring that His people receive “the praise of the earth” (v. 7). When God’s people do diligent kingdom work, God promises to reward the Son with a redeemed people (vv. 11–12).

Through the simple work of prayer, meeting people, and telling them about Jesus, God promises to build up those who follow Him. The image that Jesus gives us is encouragement indeed: “The good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it” (Luke 16:16). As we press on, people will press in.

APPLY THE WORD

God has in the past poured out a spirit of revival in which many people have come to saving faith. Reading the historical accounts of these great spiritual revivals can encourage our hearts today, and one excellent resource is the book A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories that Stretch and Stir by Collin Hansen and John D. Woodbridge.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – JESUS WILL BE SATISFIED

 

Isaiah 53:1–12

The ubiquitous to-do lists on our desks and kitchen counters give us concrete goals for the day’s work. In fact, making a detailed to-do list may actually cause us to be more productive. According to a study from Wake Forest University, “When participants were allowed to make and note down concrete plans . . . [their] performance on the next task substantially improved.”

Of course, we are seldom able to finish everything on our list for the day, but Jesus Christ always accomplishes exactly what He intends to do, as today’s passage shows us. Isaiah begins this “servant song” with an acknowledgment that the gospel does not always appear to have much success in people’s hearts. “Who has believed our message?” (v. 1) is the poignant cry of a prophet-evangelist who longs to see evidence of faith in many hearts but sees only indifference.

To Isaiah’s hearers, and also to many who hear our message, Christ Himself appears unworthy of attention. He was not outwardly beautiful or powerful. He came from an unknown woman and an out-of-the-way town (see John 1:46). During His life on earth, He received few accolades and plenty of criticism. He died the death of a criminal.

This is one perspective. But, reorienting our view for a moment, Isaiah shows us what the death of the Nazarene carpenter looks like from the throne of God. Jesus, who looks so unremarkable, is seen from heaven as the substitutionary Lamb, the One whose death gives life to many. And His death accomplishes exactly what He intended. Christ died by the will of the triune Lord (v. 10), and His death and resurrection bring many to salvation. As He looks at His finished work on the cross, Jesus is satisfied (v. 11).

APPLY THE WORD

Even when you feel like your efforts in evangelism are incomplete, even when you know there is so much more that you could do to share God’s love, remember that Christ always accomplishes His task! Thank the Lord today that the to-do list is ultimately His, and He will be faithful to complete His good work.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – PRAYER AND EVANGELISM

 

2 Thessalonians 2:13–3:5

In a business-school paper, researchers demonstrated that people value products more when they participate in their construction. Titled “The ‘IKEA Effect’: When Labor Leads to Love,” the paper studied the satisfaction reported by people who purchased from the Swedish retailer IKEA, which sells inexpensive furniture and household items that buyers must assemble.

Over the next few days, we will look at ways that we actively participate in evangelism. And, like the proud owners of a new waxed-wood coffee table, we will hopefully value evangelism more because of our labor.

In today’s passage, Paul first reminds the Thessalonian believers of their own salvation so that they will be encouraged to pray for the salvation of others (vv. 13–14). We know from personal experience the power of God at work for our salvation. We know that apart from His Spirit and the truth of the gospel, we would still be lost (v. 13). And this moves us to pray.

Our prayers are weapons in a spiritual war, which God uses to accomplish both judgment and salvation (see Eph. 6:10–20; Rev. 8:3–5; 2 Cor. 1:11). In response to the prayers of His people, God sends out gospel laborers into His abundant harvest field (Matt. 9:37–38). We pray, then, for our own evangelistic efforts, asking God to work in the hearts of our unbelieving friends and neighbors. And we pray for the evangelistic efforts of the whole church. We participate in the proclamation of the gospel throughout the whole world when we pray.

The prayer of every evangelist is an act of dependence on God. We know that one person may plant the seed and another may faithfully sprinkle the water, but God is the one who makes the tree of faith grow (see 1 Cor. 3:6–7).

APPLY THE WORD

Set aside time to pray for boldness as you speak to friends and neighbors, and also for the work of pastors and missionaries as they proclaim the gospel throughout the world. Thank the Lord that He allows us to participate in evangelism through our prayers, and praise Him for His faithfulness to hear our prayers and to call people to eternal life.

 

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – AN EVANGELIST’S HEART: HOLINESS

1 Peter 3:8–16

In a 2012 conference address, author Albert Mohler said, “We shouldn’t expect that the gospel will have credibility if we don’t look like gospel people.” As important as our spoken message is—and it is essential—we must also testify about Christ with our entire lives.

Christians ought to be beacons of holiness in the world. Our coworkers, friends, and neighbors may be quick to take revenge, practice deceit, and stir up arguments. But those who belong to Christ should be loving, compassionate, and humble (v. 8). In our quest for peace, we ought to be quick to return blessings to even those who hurt us (vv. 9, 11).

The ultimate goal of our holiness is God’s glory. Theologians use the Latin term coram Deo, “before God’s face,” to describe a life lived in every detail for God. We ought not to live a certain way just because people might be looking at us (see Eph. 6:5–8). We pursue holiness because God has called us to it, and He is pleased when we seek to follow the example of Jesus. This is why we can commit to obeying God even when it may bring persecution (vv. 14, 16).

Holy conduct often leads to opportunities for evangelism (v. 15). Our culture is warped and confused in its thinking, but a life lived according to God’s instruction shines like a beacon pointing toward salvation (see Phil. 2:15–16). Were it not for the work of God in us, we would act just like our neighbors, and the change in our conduct may even startle our neighbors into asking us about our God (v. 15; see 1 Cor. 6:9–11).

When we pursue lives of holiness, we testify to God’s transforming power. If He could change us, He can surely change anyone.

APPLY THE WORD

Our lives show the truth of the gospel we proclaim. Does your life “shine” (Phil. 2:15) for God’s glory to encourage others to follow Him? Ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart to reveal any area that may need His correction. And give Him thanks that our holy lives are only possible through His strength, not our own efforts.

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Moody Global Ministries – Today in the Word – JESUS THE EVANGELIST

Mark 10:17–31

One useful technological development in recent years is the Global Positioning System, or GPS. Drivers who are directionally challenged can tell their smartphones where they would like to go, and GPS will identify their current location, orient them in the correct direction, and guide them to their goal.

The man in today’s passage was in need of direction. He came to Jesus with a question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (v. 17), and Jesus’ kind answer reoriented him. The man was mainly interested in himself—how he had kept the law in the past and how he could be assured of an eternal reward in the future. But instead of giving him directions to heaven, Jesus had compassion on him and showed him that his greater need was to know and serve God.

At first glance, it might seem strange that Jesus evangelized by using the Ten Commandments. He certainly wasn’t saying that the man could earn his salvation by keeping the Law! Rather, the Law should have caused the man to confront God’s holiness and his own shortcomings. As the Puritan Thomas Watson said, “Until sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.”

Furthermore, the Law showed the man that following Christ was not simply a quick road to heavenly bliss. The Christian life requires each of us to deny self and take up our cross (see Matt. 16:24). And it is when we give up our own interests that we receive God’s gracious repayment (vv. 29–31).

Jesus’ conversation provides a model for our own evangelism. We too can have compassion, apply God’s Word to their hearts, cause them to count the cost of discipleship, and hold out the promise of heavenly treasure and a new life following Him.

APPLY THE WORD

If we are intent on evangelizing like Jesus did, we must grow in our own knowledge of God and His Word. As you study Scripture, consider how each passage shows you God’s holy and gracious character. Thank God for revealing Himself in the Bible, and be ready to bring those precious truths into your conversations with unbelievers.

 

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