Captivated – Luke 19:47-48

“And [Jesus] was teaching daily in the temple.
The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him,
but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.”

Luke 19:47-48

Oh, to be so captivated.

Hanging on the Lord’s every word.

That’s how it should be, is it not? “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

This Word is life for us (Deuteronomy 32:47).

May our souls be stirred with His Word. Stirred by our Lord to passion and love and conviction. Bringing light to our path, strength to our steps, and faithfulness to our heart.

Because how easily we can be led astray. Tempted to exchange the true God for another or to fit Him into a mold of our own making.

Oh, may it never be! May we not pick and choose among His Words based on our own logic, understanding, or comfort level, but rather take them all in! It takes time and discipline to read all of His words, to study and listen to His Spirit and let them soak in, but let us make the time – because this is life for us! Reading only pieces leaves us without context. Our God’s Word will not contradict itself and must be viewed in its entirety. To guard us against the twisting of it, by others or by our own false perception. And to capture the true, beautiful heart of our God, that we may know Him. That we may be as the one described in Jeremiah 9:23-24:

“Thus says the LORD: let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, declares the LORD.’”

Believers, let us hang on every word issued from the mouth of God, for each one has been written with purpose and will be kept forever in His Scriptures. Let us behold His glory and be transformed as the Spirit of God opens our eyes to see Him and guides us into all truth (2 Corinthians 3:18; John 16:13). Let it fill your soul as with the richest of foods, satisfying you each morning with the steadfast love of your God and assuring you of His great power at work toward and within you (Psalm 63:5; Psalm 90:14; Ephesians 1:19-20, 3:20). Draw near and behold the God of the heavens – for He will draw near to you (James 4:8).

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Hurry and Come Down – Luke 19:5

“And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him,
‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.’”

Luke 19:5

Jesus knew. He knew Zacchaeus was waiting, hidden up in the tree, to see Him.

And that mattered to the Savior who seeks and saves the lost.

With all the crowd pressing in, all the people who wanted a glimpse of this miracle worker, He saw Zacchaeus. He called out his name and called him down.

Without this, Zacchaeus probably wouldn’t have spoken to Jesus. The Scripture gives no indication that he planned to try and get close to Him. He likely wouldn’t have had the audacity.

Zacchaeus was an outcast. A traitor in the eyes of the Jews – aligned with their Roman oppressors and corrupt in his dealings.

Yet out of all the people that day, Jesus singled him out. Showing that He knew his name. That he mattered. Enough for particular time, attention, and personal relationship: “Hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”

What beautiful intentionality. And it changed everything for Zacchaeus and his family.

This is what Jesus does for us. Calling our name, beckoning us near, even when we feel too unclean and sinful to dare approach the Holy One.

He draws us in.

Because His cross paved the way to the throne of grace, where we are covered in His righteousness, forgiven all our sin, cleansed from the inside out, and given strength to stand firm and grow in wholehearted love for Him.

We do not change everything to get to Christ.

He comes to us, and when we respond to Him, He changes it all for us. He changes us. The full effects of the change come through a process, but it is one He will complete. And the initial transformation is immediate and eternal. Born again to a living hope (1 Peter 1:3). Our soul brought from death to life (Ephesians 2:4-5). From the kingdom of darkness into marvelous light (Colossians 1:13; 1 Peter 2:9). Sealed forever with His Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14). His love poured directly into our heart (Romans 5:5). We are His, called by His name, and He holds us firmly in His unfailing grasp (John 10:27-29).

It all starts with Him. The God who loved us first (1 John 4:19). The God who came to save us and who draws us to Himself through His work on the cross (John 12:27,32). So let us hurry and come down from wherever we have glimpsed Him. Let us answer His call, welcoming Him to come and do His will, abiding in Him, for it is in this that we find the joy we’ve been searching for. He is life for us – let us experience it to the full.

Abundance – Psalm 66:10-12

“For you, O God, have tested us;
you have tried us as silver is tried.
You brought us into the net;
you laid a crushing burden on our backs;
you let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.”

Psalm 66:10-12

Abundance is coming. Abundance is where this road leads to.

Whatever your situation is, however dark or unexpected it may be, however uncertain your path, this is God’s aim.

Abundance. Beyond anything you can imagine.

Only He knows what that looks like for you. For your most abundant life and fullest joy. Only He knows what that is, and only He knows how to get you there.

And He will get you there.

It just isn’t an easy road…because growth doesn’t happen when it’s easy. Not to the extent of our potential growth through difficulty and fight.

We are tested. We are tried as refining silver. We feel caught and struggle to break free. We are weighed down to where we feel we cannot stand. We feel trampled. We go through fire. We go through water.

But we do not go alone (Isaiah 43:2).

And we do not go without purpose.

The abundance set before us is worth it. God would not take us through it otherwise. Trials are always only as necessary, perfecting and purifying our faith (1 Peter 1:7). Because this foundation, the steadfast faith in our God who is mighty and faithful and wise and who will never fail us, directs us to a life that is free and full and beautiful. Because our God Himself makes us free and whole and beautiful.

Hold fast, believer, if you are in a season of testing and faith-purifying. Hold fast to Christ, lifting your drooping hands in a sacrifice of praise, strengthening your weak knees, making straight paths for your feet so the Lord can come unhindered in shining glory and do His work (Hebrews 12:12-13). It is a season that will prove even more clearly to you who your God is and what He is able to do. You are not alone here. He will come through for you and will accomplish every purpose He has in this trial. His faithfulness does not waver, His power cannot be matched, and He will never leave you on your own.

“Fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you.
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand…
You shall seek those who contend with you,
but you shall not find them,
those who war against you
shall be as nothing at all.
For I, the LORD your God,
hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not,
I am the one who helps you.’”
Isaiah 41:10,12-13

Protected – Numbers 23:19-21

“God is not man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
Behold, I received a command to bless;
he has blessed, and I cannot revoke it.
He has not beheld misfortune in Jacob,
nor has he seen trouble in Israel.
The LORD their God is with them,
and the shout of a king is among them.”

Numbers 23:19-21

These words were spoken by a pagan seer summoned by a king who wanted him to curse Israel, ensuring the safety of his kingdom. But God did not allow them to be cursed, instead compelling the seer to speak words of blessing upon His people.

What this impressed on me this morning is that God protects those who are His. As He did not allow Balaam to curse Israel, so He will not allow anything to rise against any of His own that He will not use for good.

It doesn’t mean that nothing bad will ever happen. But it does mean our God sees it and He has purposes within it. He will strengthen us and be our shield and He will never leave us on our own.

“For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD” (Psalm 112:6-7). We will be remembered forever by the God who remembers all His promises. He will not forget us. He will not overlook our situation. And it is not out of His control. We can trust Him because He is mighty to reign over our circumstances – “The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever” (Psalm 29:10) – and this is what He promises: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isaiah 43:2-3a).

Oh, see His heart here. See His love and constancy. Difficulties will come, but our God will not leave us. He will protect and care for His own. The enemy will not win; none rising against us will ultimately succeed when God is our refuge, strength, and hope (Isaiah 54:17). What our enemy intends for evil, our God uses for good – because our God is more powerful and it is His purpose that will stand (Genesis 50:20; Numbers 23:11).

Take heart, believer, for it is the Lord God who covers you with favor as with a shield (Psalm 5:12). We have a powerful enemy seeking to devour and we live in a broken world where we will be impacted by brokenness and sin. But our God is with us and He will win the day. “Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us” (Isaiah 8:10). Our enemies will see that He has loved us with an everlasting love and continued faithfulness (Revelation 3:9; Jeremiah 31:3). None can thwart His purposes, and they are at work in all things for your good, for hope and a future, shining with the glory of His grace (Romans 8:28; Jeremiah 29:11).

Today, if you sense the pressure or attacks of an enemy or the deep pain of a broken world, take refuge in the God who sees and saves you. Draw near and allow Him to speak into your soul the truth of who He is and what He will do.

He protects and cares for those who are His. He will not neglect or fail you here. He will not turn away or shame you.

“For he has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
but has heard, when he cried to him.”
Psalm 22:24

“‘For the mountains may depart
and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,’
says the LORD, who has compassion on you…
‘Behold, I have created the smith who blows the fire of coals
and produces a weapon for its purpose.
I have also created the ravager to destroy;
no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed,
and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment.
This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD
and their vindication from me, declares the LORD.’”
Isaiah 54:10, 16-17

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the LORD delivers him out of them all…
The LORD redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.”
Psalm 34:19, 22

“Our soul waits for the LORD;
he is our help and our shield.
For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.”
Psalm 33:20-22

Understanding – Proverbs 2:6

“For the LORD gives wisdom;
from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”

Proverbs 2:6

Knowledge and understanding. Because our God does not just know things. He understands them. He understands it all.

The ins and outs of your situation. Where you are and what you are dealing with. The thoughts and feelings you’re having, the fears or hopes or doubts or pain you’re experiencing. He understands your past and how it’s impacting your present.

He understands. He understands you and all those around you whose lives are touched by yours.

That is why we can trust His wisdom. That is why we look to Him. Because our God is not unfeeling. He sees us and all that affects us. He understands those reactions within us we don’t even understand ourselves.

Only He truly sees within all things. So only He can give guidance in truly the way we should go. And the beautiful, wondrous thing is that He loves us enough to do so. The God of the universe loves us enough to see in and through and around our situation and to guide us each step of the way through it.

Our Shepherd who is wholly good and ever-vigilant. Who knows us by name and whose voice is known to us with increasing familiarity as we listen for Him and study the Word of life He has given to us. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28).

We follow our Lord who is wise, understanding, compassionate, faithful, and all-powerful. He will not lead us astray and He will never let us go. His Word endures forever, remaining steadfast and true through all generations – including this current moment, for you and for me.

“He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
He is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
guarding the paths of justice
and watching over the way of His saints.
Then you will understand righteousness and justice
and equity, every good path;
for wisdom will come into your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.”
Proverbs 2:7-10

Lord God, thank You that Your guidance does not come without understanding. That in Your wisdom, Your heart is present here. A heart pouring out steadfast love and faithfulness for those who are Yours, because You know each one of us with intricate detail and intimate understanding. Our names are known to You. They are engraved on Your hands. Impress on us Your great love and understanding, Lord, so that we will listen and readily respond even when we don’t understand Your reasons. May the reminders of Your faithfulness conquer any temptation to ignore Your wisdom. You are the God of light and abundant life, and Your paths of righteousness will lead us to fullness of joy as we behold Your glory.

Doing a New Thing – Isaiah 43:18-19

“Oh, how abundant is your goodness,
which you have stored up for those who fear you
and worked for those who take refuge in you,
in the sight of the children of mankind!”

Psalm 31:19

“Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.”

Isaiah 43:18-19

The other day I mentioned the concept of waiting for a shoe to drop. Fearing something will inevitably go wrong. And last night, I realized my heart held that fear. Scars (which I also mentioned earlier this week) reminding me of what I’ve experienced in the past. Seeming to communicate not to trust things that appear good at first, because they could change quickly.

Oh, how powerful that fear can be. Telling us to put up walls and build defenses to prepare for hurt and disappointment. Telling us not to let hope take hold, because it will just hurt more when things don’t work out.

But that is not faith. And I know, I know that is not how my God does things. I know He is good—His goodness is one of His defining qualities. Psalm 119:68 proclaims, “You are good and do good.” Psalm 23:6 declares, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” And the beginning verse in this devotion speaks without reservation of abundant goodness stored up for those who fear our Lord. Abundant goodness worked for each one of us who takes refuge in Him.

I know all of this…but when light shines on the scars of our past, fear can stir. And it can be really hard to shake. And God knows this. He knows how easily fear can crop up. He knows how powerful it is. He knows it can paralyze us and steal our joy. Which is likely why the phrase “Do not fear” and other similar wordings appear so many times in His Word. He gives us this constant reminder, with varied contexts and assurances, that we don’t need to fear because we are His.

As I prayed through my current fears this morning, focusing on reminding myself that my God is good and He is in control, He brought me to where I believe He wanted my thoughts to land the whole time. Because He knows exactly what we need to hear in the moment, and He is faithful to speak if we are faithful to seek Him and listen. Writing out my prayer (as I tend to do when something is really pressing on me), I wrote the reminder that things aren’t all up to me. And that I simply need to walk each step of the way to wherever God is leading me. “Not rushing forward and not looking behind. This is a new thing.”

That’s where I stopped in my tracks. I did not know my prayer was leading me there. To Isaiah 43:18-19, the second passage quoted at the top. To those beautiful words God spoke, decisively telling His people to not look back to what has happened in the past, but to look forward in eager anticipation. Because He is doing a new thing.

Oh, that my eyes would face forward into what my God is doing. Because He is my God. He is personal. He is here. And He is good. With abundant goodness stored up, planned with flawless timing and orchestration, for me. And if you are His, all of this applies to you as well. And if you are not—belief in Christ will get you there. That’s why Jesus came, and died, and rose again: to draw us to Himself, save us from the sin that would destroy us, and connect us to the God who redeems and restores.

We are to learn from the past, sure. Recognize errors in judgment and areas of rebellion within ourselves. Walk with discernment. But do not let the past dominate. Do not let fear be the driving factor in your steps. Fear is not how our God leads; He leads us with peace.

So let us run with confidence into His new purposes. Hoping in the future God is unfolding for us—a future free from the weight and hindrances of the past. Enlarging our tent, strengthening our stakes, lengthening our cords, and not holding back (Isaiah 54:2). Because we know who our God is, we know what He can do, and no apparent pattern we’ve seen before can dictate how He will guide our lives. He’s more faithful than that. He’s more creative than that. And if He says we will not be ashamed when we wait for Him and that He rewards those who seek Him, rest assured He will come through for you, and it will be amazing.

He is active, and He is good, and He is doing a new thing. And whatever that new thing is, however the details play out, His goodness will be seen, your joy will be made full, and His glory will be radiant.

The Chasm – Luke 16:26

“… between us and you a great chasm has been fixed…”
Luke 16:26

Often, I don’t think we realize the vastness of the chasm between us and the Lord. The utter impossibility of our quest to cross it on our own. We likely won’t fully comprehend it during our mortal lives, but I pray God will impress on us enough to stir our thanks, break down our hardened and stubborn hearts, and compel those not yet rescued to recognize the importance and urgency of His salvation.

It is a chasm fixed in place by our rebellion. Our prideful insistence to do things our own way, to accomplish things in our own strength, to feel the importance of being like God.

And so we are separated. Not by a path we can walk down to reconnect if we just try hard enough, but by a gaping chasm that cannot be crossed. Because we wanted to steal the glory of the Most High who created us and all things.

But there is one – only one – who made a way across that chasm. To reconcile us with the God who will fill the empty, broken places within us created when we broke away from Him.

That one is Jesus. His is the only name by which we are saved, bridging the great chasm with His cross. His sacrifice took on the wrath we deserved for our rebellion against the God of heaven and earth. In justice, God could not turn a blind eye. But in great mercy and unsurpassed love He sent His Son to bear justice for us, giving His life that we could know only grace, forgiveness, relationship, wholeness, healing, hope, and life with Him abundant and eternal.