Food for the Soul
Food for the Soul
15 “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.” 16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her. 19 So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?” 20 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. 21 I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted[e] me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” 22 So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.
I am always struck by Ruth’s complete dedication to Naomi. The complete dedication she shows to her mother-in-law and her God. Surely it would have been tempting (and easier) to go back to what she had known. But Ruth shows such resolution to stay with Naomi. The choice she made cannot have been easy but it placed Ruth in a position where God could bless her in ways she could not have imagined.
I think there are times in all our lives when we have to be brave – make determined choices and ‘stick to our guns’. Ruth did the right thing. This was a big decision but there are decisions big and small every day that we face. I hope my choices show the same resolution to do the right thing as Ruth showed. I don’t know about you, but I want to be positioned so I can do and receive all that God has for me.
Heavenly Father help me to be courageous in my choices. Help me to choose wisely every day and bring Glory to you. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.
Written by Christine Knight
1 In the days when the judges ruled,[a] there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. 2 The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there. 3 Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, 5 both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband. 6 When Naomi heard in Moab that the Lord had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. 7 With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah. 8 Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. 9 May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.” Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud 10 and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.” 11 But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? 12 Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons— 13 would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord’s hand has turned against me!” 14 At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.
The tragic story starts first with unfortunate circumstances. Bad news is followed by the toughest break. Already exiled by drought this small family then loses all its men. Father gone, husbands gone. The women are alone. Perhaps returning together to their first home (now that it has enough food) they might find a new start? Better yet, the young widows still might have a chance to begin again – to get their lives back – if they were to go alone back to their birth mother’s.
Out of this tragedy, perhaps, circumstances might turn out for the better, if only the 3 women would part ways. Orpah and Ruth might return to their god’s and Naomi, by implication, would be abandoned to the will of her God. Ruth, against all common sense, does not leave Naomi. Some kind of bond has grown between Naomi and Ruth, a bond of friendship on which this whole story will rest. The legendary activity of God is about to unfold in the footsteps of these two women and in their unique friendship. Ruth’s loving devotion to Naomi changes everything.
Jesus, show me today some of the significance of the loving encouragement and support that I can direct to my friends. When times of trouble come, I pray that I might be to them a source of your grace, love and safety. Amen.
Written by Sam Stewart
20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 22 Brothers and sisters, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for in fact I have written to you quite briefly. 23 I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you. 24 Greet all your leaders and all the Lord’s people. Those from Italy send you their greetings. 25 Grace be with you all.
Hebrews ends where it began – with Jesus. The power and the name through which God made and sustains the whole universe, Jesus himself, (Hebrews 1:2-3) is the same power that is available to me. Jesus is in me – to “equip me with ALL I need for doing His will” v21 and “EVERY good thing that is pleasing to Him.” v21.
Do I really live with this reality? Do I wake every day with the realisation that because I have placed my hope and faith in Jesus I now have everything I need to get through the day? That the power that made the universe and holds it together and even raised Jesus from the dead is at my disposal? How different would my life be if I lived every moment soaked in the reality of the power that is available to me through Jesus?
Lord Jesus, when anxiety and fear threaten to crowd my thinking, please remind me of this verse – that the power that made and holds the universe and raised Jesus from the dead IS IN ME! You command me not to be afraid and now I know why! Amen
Written by Boudy Van Noppen
17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. 18 Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. 19 I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.
These verses are very close to the end of the book of Hebrews. They would no doubt ring in the ears of the listeners. The author reminds the listeners to obey their spiritual leaders and gives a reason for this: it is the responsibility of the leaders to ‘watch over’ the believers. The people in these positions of authority are ‘for’ them and are there to help make sure that they finish the race God has set before them.
Am I listening to the spiritual leaders around me? Am I obeying wise counsel? Am I actioning what I hear or leaving it as something to do later?
God, please help me to hear and obey. Help me to take time to stop and consider what I have been told and to take steps to action it. Thank you for positioning people around me to watch over my faith. Amen.
Written by Ps. Bethany Waugh
7 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9 Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so. 10 We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat. 11 The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. 12 And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. 13 Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. 15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
I am always keen to hear how I may please God. And this passage ends with a clear call to do so – do good and share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
It’s powerful to note that such actions please God, but that they are acknowledged as sacrifices. I think the writer of Hebrews acknowledges something real at this point – we are prepared to do good and share, but often without the sacrifice. To do good to those who will not give back, and likewise in our sharing.
Jesus calls us to do good to our enemies, and share with those who we have no other affinity with other than the bond of faith in Jesus. God is pleased when we are prepared to do good in this way – and it is sacrificial. Often because we have to give up doing good in the most natural way, to do good and share in the more unnatural way, but Kingdom way.
I want to please you. So, Lord, I heed your word. Lead me in doing good and sharing as you lead me to, not just in the ways I am most naturally inclined to. Amen.
Written by Ps. Rob Waugh
13 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. 3 Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. 4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. 5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” 6 So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
This passage is gold for advice on the things that are important for Christian living: Love one another; show hospitality, even to those who you don’t know; pray for the oppressed; pray for the suffering; keep marriage honoured and honourable; seek contentment and make sure money doesn’t end up being an idol to you.
All these principles I’ve strived to live by with reasonable success over the past years, but what I realised recently, is that I have also spent a good deal of my Christian walk doing it backwards! I’ve realised that all these elements of Christian living are meant to come out of our worship of God, but I was kind of doing them just because I thought they were just the right things to do.
They are good things, and I was definitely worshipping God along the way, its just that my motivation for being good was going via my steel-willed determination to be a good person, and let me tell you, its really hard work! The Bible presents a better way:
In this section of scripture, if we read Hebrews 12, it is clear that before addressing the practical matters of Christian living, the author writes for at least a whole chapter on the importance of faith and positioning yourself in a place of connection with God.
Romans chapter 12 is full of practical advice on service and love in action too, but it starts with verse 1: ” Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” It’s a verse on worship.
Lord, thank you for revealing your majesty to us and being so worthy of our worship. Thank you that worship is not just about declaring who you are, but in participating in worship, we become more like you and our hearts are transformed to be able to seek after our deepest desires to not only serve you, but also to be obedient to your precepts for living!
Written by Ps Justin Ware
25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”
Most of us don’t like to be shaken. When I was a teenager I was in a major earthquake in Mexico City, and I can still remember the hotel chandeliers swinging and hitting the ceiling. It was terrifying!
Sometimes God has metaphorically shaken things up in my life. Of course I did not like it at the time, but it actually made me sit up and take notice of things that needed to change in me. So, when it is God who is doing the shaking, it can be understood as a good thing.
And then there’s the things that are unshakeable. God’s love, His plans for us, and our eternal future with Him. This is all so incredibly comforting in an uncertain world – that when I hold on to these things, I cannot be shaken.
I love how the Message version puts this:
“Do you see what we’ve got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander. He’s actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and he won’t quit until it’s all cleansed. God himself is Fire!”
Today I am thankful, brimming with worship and deeply reverent before God as He shakes the things that need to be shaken.
Written by Shelley Witt
18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
So many people have a view of God that is like the mountain of fear. They view God as a punisher (‘why would God allow …..’), as a purely condemning authoritarian figure (with rules that culminate in a nasty death if the rules are infringed). In fact, this mountain of fear has imagery that is more reminiscent of hell; fire, doom, gloom, trembling – than how I believe our interaction with God should be. By contrast the mountain of joy invokes images of life; joy, perfection, community (assembly). And a Judge that invokes no fear. The difference is Jesus.
So how does this apply to me. I know at times I experience fear and anxiety in my life. If I dwell on those things, then I find my worldview is coloured by feelings of doom and gloom. I judge myself and feel judged by God and others and feel condemned. HOWEVER, if I take my fears and anxiety to God, if I choose to join with the angels in worship, if I choose to believe that no matter what my situation or how I feel, God loves me and is working for me not against me, that through Jesus I am accepted by God then I find my spirits lift, I feel held by God not condemned or punished. I have learnt this by living through many times of struggle. I am praying for you today to find yourself on Mt Zion rather than a mountain of fear.
Lord God I thank you for your great and generous love for each one of us. I pray for my brothers and sisters today who find themselves on the mountain of fear. I thank you that you have made a way for each one of us to get off that mountain through Jesus. Where there is fear, I pray for hope. Where there is despair, I pray for unexpected joy and peace. In Jesus name Amen.
Written by Christine Knight
14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.
Esau’s desire to immediately satisfy his current situation (hunger), makes a life changing decision. He sells his birthright and inheritance as the oldest son, to Jacob his younger brother, for a meal. He didn’t think. I am sure he carried regrets. He ultimately shipwrecked his future because of an impulsive and poor decision. It sows deception and conflict in the family. His decision affects his future and that of His generations to come. Wow!!
This passage makes me think, and wonder about my decisions that could be like Esau.
Have I held onto unforgiveness and bitterness instead of walking in reconciliation and forgiveness? Have I impulsively bought things to satisfy my earthly longings than live a life of sacrifice and generosity? Have I spoken badly rather than held my tongue and been gracious? Have I gossiped and divulged things that I shouldn’t? Have I not spoken up for those who do not have a voice, when I have had an opportunity? Have I not stood for Christ when suffering persecution or wrong opinions? Have I chosen the easy road rather than God’s higher road?
I am very thankful for the forgiveness and mercy of Christ. We need to be people of reconciliation.
It is so important that you and I tend the garden of our hearts continually making sure that “bitter roots” do not develop and we live in peace with everyone.
I think of the sayings: “It is better to be kind, than right.” “You cannot understand someone, until you have walked a mile in their shoes.”
Read Proverbs 28 v 25 TPT – when it comes to decision making.
Lord Jesus, thank you that you love us so completely. Help us Lord to make wise and better decisions. Choices that Jesus would make – rather than engage in arguments or have the desire to be right; help us to bring your grace, peace, wisdom and presence into conversations and interactions in our lives. Help us to always leave somewhere better than when we entered. Amen.
Written by Ps. Sue Botta
8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
My parents were big believers in discipline. They gave me and my brothers lots of boundaries and set expectations for our behaviour, with firm consequences if we crossed the line.
In addition to this, both of my parents were tennis coaches, so there was also the expectation of the discipline of hard work and regular practice on the tennis court. This is a different form of discipline, which resulted in achievements through perseverance and practice. Discipline was always spoken of in a very positive light in my family.
Fortunately, my parents were big believers in showing love and care for their family, so the discipline we received was not perceived as harsh or unloving. In my mind, there was never a question that their discipline and the strong work ethic were there for my own good.
So, when the writer of Hebrews talks about God’s discipline as an expression of His love, this concept makes perfect sense to me because of my childhood experiences.
However, I realise that not everyone has experienced loving discipline from their parents. It can be a big challenge to work through what the love of God looks like when our earthly parents have not demonstrated God’s unconditional love.
This topic is bigger than what can be addressed in this short blog, but understanding God’s all encompassing, unfailing love for us is crucial. When we come to know that God is for us 100 percent of the time, we can be sure that when challenges and discipline come our way that He is always on our side and can use this as part of our training, painful as it may seem at the time.
I encourage us all to face our challenges as opportunities for God to demonstrate His great love and care as He shapes us into His image. He is making us strong!
“So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong”
Written by Shelley Witt
4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?
Anything worth doing is going to be difficult. I love the idea of discipline and how it shapes us: making us stronger and better. We know that a lack of discipline may cause sloppiness, laziness, and even failure. When our motivation stumbles, discipline keeps us going. It is the practice, training, behaviour, direction, and instruction that help us succeed. When Christ calls us to be his disciples, it is His discipline we are devoted to. It is ultimately for our good!
Now we barely live for a century, and in comparison to the eternity that awaits us, that puts this life into perspective very quickly. What are one hundred years compared to the infinite depths of eternity? So how are we to respond to a passage like this? Those that do not hold to a biblical worldview may think this life is all we have. But we take hope in something more! As disciples of Christ, we know our behaviour and heart reflect Jesus! However, and more often than not, that is easier said than done. We need to not lose heart and endure hardship, a message that is echoed many, many times in the New Testament.
Lord, thank you for your wise and divine discipline on us. Help us to become like you Christ. Forgive us when we forget to be humble, leaning on our own strength and understanding. Thank you that you do not send trials that we cannot endure. Help us to accept your discipline, to not lose heart and to endure hardship. May Your will always be done. In your precious name, Jesus.
Written by Sven Bessesen
12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
A great cloud of witnesses – who – the saints listed in chapter 11. Have you ever thought that there are saints of old in the heavens cheering you on as you choose Christ each day in every way. People who have sacrificed deeply, even with their lives at times who now see you and are saying, John go for it, Betty great call, Anna amazing love expressed, Jerome what patience under fire!! I love this picture of a crowd cheering – oh how I need that crowd at times, probably a whole lot more than I realise in fact!!! And this gets me thinking – who do I cheer on now. Or am I more a grumbler, a malcontent, finding it easier to see the bad than the good, the room for improvement than the improvement already achieved. Oh, how I need the attitude of this great cloud of witnesses!!!
Father help me to be an encourager – at all times in all places and spaces and so help people fulfill their destiny and get rid of their sin and tangles!!!
Written by Ps. Richard Botta
29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days. 31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. 32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. 39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
Hebrews chapter 11: The Great Hall of Faith. Imagine walking into the main exhibition hall of a living museum, with all these people – Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barack, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel – sitting at tables. They are waiting for you to come and listen as they share their stories of how God came through for them. They tell you about how they wrestled with their fears and doubts, how they reminded themselves of God’s faithfulness, and then their jubilation and relief at seeing God move on their behalf and make things happen. You’ve heard some amazing stories and you know that you are in a special place. As you move to the next table, you wonder what great miracle God did for this person. But as you listen, you hear their story is not so great. In fact, it’s terrible. Their prayer wasn’t answered. Far from it. In fact, you think that God abandoned them. Yet here they sit across from you, with the same joy as the others. By looking at them, you wouldn’t know that they had a bad experience.
You wonder how can they be so joyful, so at peace, so unmarked by unanswered prayers?
It’s as though faith shaped them. Not their circumstance. It’s as though faith was a person with a life and power of its own. The Passion Translation describes faith this way:
Faith sparks courage!
How do I get this kind of faith?! God has already gifted it to me when I invited Him to be my Lord and Saviour. Faith is the arena God calls me to live in (v40 TPT). Lord, help me live by faith!
Written by Gab Martin
23 By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.
For faith to be faith, it must have action. For action to be faith, it must have a step into the unknown, knowing that God is in it. Otherwise, it’s just logic. My favourite action step of faith in this passage is verse 28. How could painting a door frame with blood ever stop the first-born kids from getting killed? And how do you convince a whole nation that it’s a good idea? Faith! But it’s not blind faith – it must be faith based on something. My faith is only as strong as the thing I place my faith in.
I once heard Ps Bill Johnson from Bethel Church say, “there is nothing stronger than the name of Jesus, the word of Jesus, and the blood of Jesus”. He is the foundation of my faith. He is the reason we can step out with action, into the unknown of His calling, knowing He will come through for us. It’s His blood on the door frame of my life that gives me confidence that death is not the end but that one day I will be with Him forever.
Dear Jesus, please grow my faith and confidence in You – the foundation of my faith – and help me step out into your unknown for me, knowing that you’ve got me.
Written by Boudy Van Noppen
17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death. 20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. 21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.
What stands out to me most about this passage is that it encapsulates so well the idea of generational faith and leaving a faith-filled legacy. These verses cover four generations of strong, Christian leaders who were all flawed, yet all made decisions that put God first, and ultimately became a part of a lineage of faith. Growing up in the church and with Christian family, I have been blessed to see how impactful a Christian heritage can be, and how what is modelled to you becomes your default.
It challenges me in two ways – firstly, am I acting in faith the way that these people have? While I may have very different circumstances, I am still presented daily with opportunities to step out in faith, to make decisions – whether big or small – that move me in the direction that God has called me to.
Secondly, I am challenged to make sure that actions of faith are both displayed and talked about in my home and family. In many trying times, I have been uplifted and encouraged hearing the testimonies of how God has come through and responded to the faith of those I know or who are in my family. I want to make sure that this is a legacy that I continue and pass down in my own family.
God, thank you so much for the faith-filled examples of those who have come before us, both in the Bible and in our daily lives. I ask Lord that you would help us to open our eyes and see the daily opportunities we have to step out in faith and respond to your call. Help us to be aware of what we are modelling to others as we seek to leave a legacy of faith. Amen.
Written by Ps. Madelaine Tarasenko
8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. 13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
Like most of us, I haven’t been driving very much the past few months, but I do miss it. For me driving is usually quite a precious time, particularly my daily commute. It’s time to think, reflect, worship, call and chat with friends and family – I quite enjoy it!
Reflecting on this, it’s funny how you pretty much always know where you’re going when you drive. Whether it’s mindlessly driving to work, plugging an address into Google Maps or asking your passenger where you’re heading, you don’t usually hit the accelerator until you have a destination in mind.
This passage speaks about faith, and how it operates in quite the opposite fashion. It reminds us that Abraham was obedient and left his homeland to follow God’s call, even though he didn’t know where he was going. He lived as a stranger in a foreign country, as did his descendants, because in faith they were waiting for a promised land from God. And ultimately, they all died not receiving this promise physically – they only received it by faith.
This challenges me immensely. So often I only equate faith to receiving from God in the here and now. Seeing the miracle happen, receiving the blessing, watching the breakthrough happen. But faith is going and trusting even when you can’t see the destination.
Lord, fill me with fresh faith. Help me to hear Your voice and to obey, even if there’s no clear destination and not even a clear next step. Help me to trust in You and stay close to You, so that no matter where you lead me, I follow in faith. Amen.
Written by Ps. Matt Samperi
4 By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead. 5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. 7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.
Hebrews 11 is a chapter all about Faith in Action. We see a hall of fame of men and women of incredible faith from scripture. In this passage the writer of Hebrews highlights Abel, Enoch and Noah. All men who individually have incredible stories of faith filled lives.
Verse 5 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” As followers of Jesus, faith is central to our Christian lives. Faith trusts God in all circumstances, trusts that He is good and faithful to fulfill His promises.
Father, thank you for the examples of faith we can see right throughout scripture. Help us to put our faith in you afresh today. Amen.
Written by Ps. Annique Botta
11 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
How useful is faith? Does it really help in a person’s everyday life?
The media seems to be increasingly opposed to the idea of faith, and I feel that I’m increasingly hearing messages that faith isn’t just useful, but even that it is problematic: When a news report shows a person of faith saying or doing something unpopular, it feels like they are quickly used as an example of why faith is bad.
I don’t say this to try to paint the media as evil, or to suggest that Christians should disconnect themselves from the world. I just want to make sure that I’m paying attention to what is happening in me when I’m regularly exposed to this kind of thinking.
It’s easy to split my life out and live parts of my day as though my faith isn’t working, and then try to switch faith on at other times when I feel like it’s needed, but the reality is, I need to strive to have my faith active and activated at all times!
Just like all the people in this chapter, it is my faith that will help me do great things. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. Faith is an assurance of the hope of that which is unseeable with my worldly eyes, but the eyes of faith can see it clearly.
Lord, help me to grow my faith and apply it to all aspects of life.
Written by Ps Justin Ware
32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” 38 And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” 39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.
DON’T GIVE UP! Don’t go back to the way you used to live or what you believed before Jesus changed your life, persevere. This is what the writer of Hebrews is telling his audience. Remember all the things you’ve already been through, they have not been easy, so don’t give up now!
Many years ago, I clearly remember being on a tram in Hong Kong and wrestling with going back to not living a Christian life, walking away from Jesus. Not because of persecution like our Hebrew brothers & sisters, but because of sin in my life. The struggle was real, as it was for them, and looking back to a seemingly easier non confronting life seemed a way out. But as the writer points out, and the conclusion I thankfully came to, my life would not be better off, I’d be even more wretched because I knew the difference that Jesus had already made to my life, I knew He was God, I knew He had saved me. I knew there was no other way.
This doesn’t mean we won’t have struggles, persecution even, from work colleagues, family, friends, our own internal struggles, but the reward is a much larger, fuller, freer life, trusting by faith that the one who has begun the good work in our lives, will complete it. (Phil 1:6, 2:13)
Lord Jesus, I thank you that you walk with us when life is hard, doubts come, situations seem to want to overwhelm us, but you will work in us and for us, as we continue to walk by faith, holding tightly to you and to your promise of being renewed and beyond to eternity.
Written by Suzie Hodgson
26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
This passage is pretty challenging for anyone, but even more so for our modern minds that have it enculturated to respect “don’t judge me” as a norm.
For me, verse 29 is the heart of why God needs to call us to account and call us up, that is to deliberately keep on sinning is to “trample the Son of God underfoot”, to treat as “unholy” the most holy act of human history – Christ’s death for us, for me. It is to insult God Himself – the Spirit of grace.
This is so important to hear – this grace for me is so wonderful, but I can forget just how dangerous and personal my sin is. To God. This passage calls my temptation to view sin casually to account. Vitally so!
Lord, I am sorry for ever seeing my sin as a casual affront to you. Grace frees me, but not to sin casually before you. I do not want to trample you underfoot, treat as unholy your magnificent sacrifice, and insult you. Forgive me, and keep me wary of any casual attitude towards sin – in me, and the world around me. Amen.
Written by Ps. Rob Waugh
19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
In considering this passage, would I describe my faith as confident, assured and unswerving? Am I recalling to mind the sufficiency of Jesus’ sacrifice? Am I perceiving myself each day as cleansed by the blood of Jesus, no longer guilty in God’s sight? Am I finding my hope each day in the fact that what God has promised, He will do?
God, thank you that Jesus’ sacrifice is enough for me. Please help me to fully enjoy the confidence, assurance and hope offered to me in Jesus. Help me to grasp that your promises are for me, and for those around me. Amen.
Written by Ps. Bethany Waugh
11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. 15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: 16 “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” 17 Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” 18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.
Are we not creatures of habit? Our regular coffee order, our personal idiosyncrasies, our likes and dislikes that make our lives seem safe, comfortable and familiar. It is a narrow line however between routine and complacency .
Do I treat my relationship with God the same way? It’s too easy to fall into spiritual routines that are comfortable and familiar but which require almost no deep personal response from me. Before Jesus there was an established routine in place via the priests that ‘bought you time’ with God. Jesus changed everything, vs 14 and vs 18, these passages show that the old routine was out the door. We need to consider the enormity of what Jesus’s death and resurrection mean for us. How can we not respond and live our lives afresh and renewed everyday? I do not want to take everything that God has done for me for granted.
Lord Jesus, I thank you for all that you have done for me. Lord give me fresh eyes for my relationship with you and fill me afresh with your Holy Spirit today. In your great and holy name, I pray. Amen
Written by Christine Knight
10 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. 2 Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. 3 But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. 4 It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; 6 with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. 7 Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll— I have come to do your will, my God.’” 8 First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. 9 Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Jesus gasped, “It is Finished” as he hung on the cross. This statement has become an eternal declaration over humanity: ‘the power of sin and death is broken, forever!’ His gasps came at the end of an earthly life of selfless obedience to his heavenly Father. This was the kind of sacrifice God was looking for all along. Through Jesus’ once for all sacrifice, forgiveness won the day. Forgiveness reigns and speaks louder than condemnation, forever! Once for all. All people, all sin, all time.
I am forgiven, I am set right, I am a child of God. To achieve this, nothing less than the very life of Jesus was needed. To keep this, nothing more is needed than to embrace Jesus and what he has already done for me. This means dropping anything that would encumber this embrace.
Jesus, I embrace you and thank you for changing my identity forever, my sins are forgiven and remembered no more! Teach me to let go of attitudes and desires that encumber this life-giving embrace.
Written by Andrew Mellor
23 It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
The Jewish Christians who first heard Hebrews were longingly looking back at the tabernacle and the system of sacrifices. But these were only symbols pointing forward to Jesus. He’s the reality they were pointing to. He deals with the sin that separates us from God once and for all. Symbols could never do that.
Rather than looking back, we have our eyes focussed on the future. We have already been saved by Jesus death, but we also “eagerly wait” for Jesus return (v27 in the NLT), and the completion of all things and the fullness of our salvation. We have already been saved fromsin by Jesus death. We look forward to the fullness of eternal life as God’s children that we are being saved for. In place of hopeless nostalgia, we have hope for the best future ever.
So how does that hope change me today? How much of that hope will I pass on to other people?
Jesus, thankyou for the salvation you have already bought for me. Thankyou for how your resurrection life is playing out today. And thankyou for the hope you give as I eagerly wait for the fullness of salvation when you return.
Written by David Cornell
15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. 16 In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, 17 because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. 18 This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. 19 When Moses had proclaimed every command of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. 20 He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.” 21 In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. 22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
Jesus has brokered a new deal for all people. Whatever the Old Testament may say, Jesus has reshaped and renegotiated the ultimate terms of salvation in the world. In many ways, same as it ever was (eg. it requires serious stuff like blood shedding and sacrifice) but is changed now that Jesus’ sacrifice was a perfect human sacrifice – the most extreme kind of sacrifice crossed with an innocent sacrifice.
The layers of metaphor are numerous and the descriptions complex – but I am encouraged not to be put off by this density. I capture in my imagination the key images, ‘ransom’, ‘sacrifice’, ‘inheritance’, ‘covenant’ and ‘forgiveness’ and let them dance in my mind. Perhaps instead of logic, our natural capacity for poetry is better suited to absorb the significance of this passage in its first reading? The fuller, systematic, importance of this passage can come to me later, but for now Jesus is reshaping the very structure of forgiveness in my imagination just as it is eternally shaped in my heart.
My Jesus. Thank you for turning the universe upside down with the most wonderful and at the same time strangest of happenings with Jesus as the sacrifice to end all sacrificing. I am free of debt too because of you Jesus. Debt free forever!
Written by Sam Stewart
11 But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
Hebrews is written to Jewish Christians who followed Jesus as their long-promised Messiah, but following Jesus was beginning to make things very hard for them. They’re thinking it might be better to go back to the comfortable way things were before. Ironically, these comfortable “safe” old ways – the temple with its daily sacrifices – would soon be destroyed (in 70AD).
This passage draws some stark contrasts between Jesus and the way things were. What Jesus does is what fundamentally changes everything, not what we do. He brings us into direct relationship with God himself in the place of his actual presence, not just into symbols of his presence (like the tabernacle) that are made by people. Jesus achieves once and for all what the endlessly repeated sacrifices could not. Only his blood truly cleanses us deep down to our hearts. Our actions bring death, but Jesus brings us into relationship with “the living God”.
Jesus changes everything. This includes changing us. Jesus calls us into a relationship, but it’s not a passive relationship. He sets us free to serve the living God (v14). Jesus transforms our inadequate actions into precious service of God. We become free to please him, to work with him in what he’s doing. Faith in Jesus is not passive dependence but active participation with him.
Holy Spirit, what are you doing today? I want to play might part in whatever it is. I want to serve and please you today.
Written by David Cornell
9 Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. 2 A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand and the table with its consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. 3 Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, 4 which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. 5 Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now. 6 When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. 7 But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. 8 The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning. 9 This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. 10 They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order.
The writer to the Hebrews explains the FIRST COVENANT with God. He explains the inner workings and describes the Temple in Jerusalem it’s layout, the ceremonial requirements and how the High Priest was the only person ONCE PER YEAR to enter the Holy of Holies offering sacrifices on behalf of the peoples’ sins (their sin) – v 9: “yet these were not able to clear the conscience of the worshipper”.
He goes on later in the chapter to explain that Jesus once and for all was the perfect sacrificial lamb (perfect blood – God’s blood) to take away the sins of the world forever.
It was all ceremonial – a human expression of trying to solve the sinfulness of the human heart…….BUT CHRIST.
What I love about this letter to the Hebrew Church is that it explains what most people would know, but never have seen. He cares in this letter to describe the small details: “consecrated bread”, “Aaron’s staff that had budded”, etc. Verse 8 becomes the key – the Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place has not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning.
The curtain separating the Holy of Holies had to be torn at Christ’s death.
Centuries of religious duties now broken by the death (Matthew 27 v 50-52) and resurrection of Christ. Hallelujah.
Lord Jesus, I so thank you for revealing yourself to me, for washing me clean and for filling me with the Holy Spirit. Breakthrough for all people who sit under the Law of Religion and reveal yourself to them. Allow them to live free, knowing you personally and understanding how much you love them. Amen
Written by Ps. Sue Botta
7 For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. 8 But God found fault with the people and said: “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 9 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord. 10 This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 11 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” 13 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.
I’m a fan of true crime podcasts, and one thing I’ve learnt is that criminal masterminds usually retain power by making themselves unknowable to those who work for them. To be knowable is to be vulnerable.
But God, creator of the universe, has made Himself knowable. In the Old Testament He made Himself knowable through designated leaders, priests and prophets. In the New Testament He made Himself knowable in the person of Jesus – God Himself on earth in human form. Now He makes Himself knowable to the world through His Church, the body of Christ, us!
In the temple of the Old Testament only the designated High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies and make atonement on the people’s behalf. In the New Testament when Jesus died the curtain to the Holy of Holies was ripped open, opening it up so that all may enter it and know God directly! And now God is knowable through us – we are mini-Holy of Holies, walking around with the living God inside of us, knowable to anyone we come into contact with!
Lord thank you for making yourself knowable and for coming to earth with vulnerability of a baby. Help us this week make you knowable to those around us.
Written by Rhiannon Mellor
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