Today is a daily devotional that helps God's people refresh, refocus and renew their faith through Bible reading, reflection, and prayer.
Idols and Images
We don’t talk about idols much these days. And when we do, it’s probably about a pop superstar or an American Idol winner. But when the Bible talks about idols, it usually means carved images that stood in for false gods. The Bible issues strong warnings about that sort of idol.
On their own, idols are powerless. As Psalm 115 says, they may have eyes and ears and hands and feet, but they cannot see, hear, feel, or walk! Yet when people worship idols, they give power to them, destructive power. That’s why, for example, the Bible warns against greed. Greed makes an idol out of wealth. And when wealth is worshiped, it has the power to turn people into misers or mobsters or market frauds. False gods, and their images, are dangerous!
But then there is Jesus. Jesus is the image of God. That’s why he can say, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). And that’s not about his eyes, ears, hands, or feet. It’s about power. Because when we see Jesus, we see the Father’s love. And there is power in that love. It’s the power that saves the world. It’s the power that makes us what we were always meant to be: not idols, but images of our heavenly Father. And, remember, that’s more about love than looks!
The Place to Be
Pilgrims used to sing Psalm 122 on their way to Jerusalem. Nowadays people go to New York for entertainment, to Rome for beauty, and to Paris for romance. In the biblical world, Jerusalem was the place to be. It was “the city of the Great King” (Psalm 48:2), where God was enthroned in the temple. At festival time, all the tribes of Israel would go up to Jerusalem to glorify God.
Starting when he was just a boy, Jesus joined the annual Passover pilgrimage. Can you picture him in the crowd? A smile stretches across his face as he sings this psalm. He’s anticipating the sights and sounds of the city. Jerusalem is the place to be.
As an adult, Jesus continued to visit Jerusalem regularly. Each of those visits seemed to stir up opposition. Eventually the city became a dangerous place for Jesus, a place to die. But that didn’t stop him. He still went up to Jerusalem one last time to celebrate the Passover. But that wasn’t the only reason.
Jesus also had several appointments to keep there: one with the ruling council, one with the Roman governor, and one with a cross. So, for Jesus, Jerusalem was the place to be. And that was for our benefit. So we can rejoice that he went up to Jerusalem.
What’s in the Name
We all have times when we choose our own way instead of God’s way. That’s when we need Psalm 130. This psalm is a prayer for personal forgiveness. “God, I really messed up this time! I can’t sleep because of my sins. So I keep watching for some sign that you forgive me.”
We all commit personal sins. But those sins don’t stand alone. Every personal sin is embedded within a larger web of sinfulness. That sinfulness infects families, orchestras, and baseball teams. It infects prisons and police departments, courtrooms and classrooms. It infects zoning laws, constitutions, and gang culture.
Psalm 130 reflects this bigger picture. It may start with personal sins, but it moves on to the sinfulness that has infected Israel as a nation. That sinfulness troubles Israel from their time of slavery in Egypt all the way to their exile in Babylon! Israel needs to be saved from this sinfulness. And there is only one hope. The psalm ends on that note: “[The Lord] himself will redeem Israel from all their sins” (v. 8).
The angel of the Lord speaks of this hope when he tells Mary what to name her baby. “Jesus” means “the Lord saves.” But not only will Jesus save Israel; he will also take away the sin of the world (John 1:29). And that includes me and you, personally.
Some people are risk-takers. They climb mountains. They fight fires. They have children. They follow Jesus. People may take a risk for the adrenaline rush. Or because something compels them: a principle, a duty, a commitment.
In today’s Scripture, the devil pushes Jesus to take a risk. While Jesus stands at the highest point of the temple, the devil whispers in his ear, “Go ahead. Jump off!” Then the devil recites a verse from Psalm 91. That psalm is all about God protecting the people who trust in him. So it’s a test for Jesus: “Do you trust God to protect you? Then prove it!”
Well, of course Jesus trusts God. But there is more to it than that. You see, it’s never right to say, “I’m going to do something foolish just to test God’s protection.” So Jesus tells the devil to take a leap—well, not exactly. He responds to the devil’s craftiness by quoting another text: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
Jesus is already in the middle of a bigger risk. He is facing off against the devil. And that is dangerous. Human beings have a lousy track record in those confrontations. But the Spirit has sent him into battle. So Jesus takes the risk and confronts the devil head-on. He does it with confidence, because he trusts God to protect him. With Psalm 91 to encourage him, Jesus doesn’t fall or fail.
Calm and Quiet
Stress levels keep rising. At work, at school, even at home, the pressure is on. Productivity targets climb. Housing bubbles burst. Viruses run out of control. Who can calm down? Who can relax?
Well, maybe I can take a cue from Psalm 131 and not concern myself with things above my pay grade. Maybe I can imagine myself as a toddler snuggling against my mother’s warmth, the gentle rhythm of her breathing soothing me. Ahhh. Can I just stay here?
When Jesus was a toddler, he and his family were refugees in Egypt. What a lot they had experienced! Visits by smelly shepherds and stargazing foreigners. A close escape from Herod’s hit squad. And then months turning into years while they lived as strangers in a strange land.
Yet we can imagine Mary picking up Jesus and wrapping him in her arms. And we can imagine Jesus finding comfort from her warmth and her steady breathing. Out of place in Egypt, threatened back home—none of that was a concern for little Jesus, who rested quietly in his mother’s embrace.
The psalm and Jesus himself invite us to snuggle against the warmth of God’s presence, to rest in God’s embrace, to trust God when the pressure is on, to trust God like Jesus trusted his mother’s arms.
Some people are afraid of the dark. Who knows what’s hiding around the corner or down the stairs? On the Bible’s first page in Genesis 1, the world is a dark and scary place. Who knows what’s hiding in the unseen depths? Then God says, “Let there be light,” and puts darkness in its place (Genesis 1:3-4).
From Genesis 1 to Revelation 22, the Bible connects light closely with God. In Revelation 22, we learn that residents of the New Jerusalem won’t need lamps or even the sun because “the Lord God will give them light” (Revelation 22:5).
This connection between God and light shows up in the story of Jesus when a mysterious event changes his appearance. His face shines “like the sun,” and his clothes become “as white as the light” (Matthew 17:2). Amazing!
From multiple angles, the gospel writers seek to answer the question “Who is Jesus?” His shining appearance sends a bright signal that Jesus is God, who “wraps himself in light as with a garment” (Psalm 104:2).
The world can still be a dark and scary place—and not just at night. But here’s some good news. Wherever the light of Jesus shines, it puts darkness in its place. And it helps us not to be afraid.
I thoroughly enjoy this daily devotional. I found it an excellent way to start my mornings. The messages are short, to the point, and explained in a matter that is easy to understand. I have felt my faith beginning to grow as I listen to this daily. Thank you and keep up the amazing work!