1st March: Ruth 1:1-2:23
Ruth meets Boaz. It seemed like a 'chance' meeting - 'she happened to come...'(2:3). It was more than that. God was at work. Ruth had committed herself to the Lord (1:16-17). She was being guided by the Lord (Psalm 37:3-5; Proverbs 3:5-6). Ruth was unassuming and grateful, hard working and responsible (2:10,13,7,18). She is a fine example of the 'good wife' described in Proverbs 31:10-31. In Boaz, she found a good man - godly, generous and sensitive (2:12,14,16). We read about Ruth. We learn about Jesus Christ. When you come to Him, He says, 'Do not go to glean in another field...' - 'There is salvation in no one else' (2:8; Acts 4:12). In Him, there is amazing grace. He loves us. He looks upon us favourably. He takes notice of us. He died for us (2:10; Romans 5:8). Let us follow Him (1:16-17; John 6:67-69).
2nd March: Ruth 3:1-4:22
Ruth was covered by the 'garment' of Boaz, her 'kinsman - redeemer' (3:9). Jesus is our Kinsman - Redeemer. He has become one of us. He shares our 'flesh and blood', our 'humanity'. Through His 'suffering' and 'death', we are brought to 'glory' (Hebrews 2:10-11,14-15). In Him, we 'rejoice': 'He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness' (Isaiah 61:10). 'Our righteous acts are like filthy rags'. Bring your 'robes' to Christ and let them be 'washed', 'made white in the blood of the Lamb'(Isaiah 64:6; Revelation 7:14). A 'Moabitess', Ruth was brought into the house of Israel (4:10-11). In Christ, Jew and Gentile become one (Ephesians 2:11-18). Ruth played her part in leading us to Christ (4:13-17; Matthew 1:1,5-6). May God help us to lead people to Christ.
3rd March: Acts 22:17-23:35
A Jew, 'praying in the temple' at 'Jerusalem', Paul was obedient to God's call - 'I will send you far away to the Gentiles' (22:17,21). The racists would not hear of this - 'Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he ought not to live' (22:22). This was not simply dislike for Paul. This was hatred directed against the God who, in Jesus Christ, offers salvation to all nations. Paul was a 'Roman citizen' (22:25-29). God was protecting Paul for his future ministry - 'you must bear witness also at Rome' (23:11). Paul was giving his own testimony when he wrote the words, 'All things work together for good to those who love God' (Romans 8:28). Serving the Lord is never easy. Sometimes, it can be very difficult. When we face violent opposition, we draw our strength from God's Word - 'Take courage' (23:10-11).
4th March: Acts 24:1-27
Paul did not abandon the teaching of the Old Testament Scriptures - 'I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the law or written in the prophets (14). He read the Old Testament. It led him to Christ. Paul's great theme was 'faith in Christ Jesus' (24). Paul speaks. Jesus is speaking through him. Jesus did 'not come to abolish the law and the prophets'. He came 'to fulfil them'. 'Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, Jesus interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself' (Matthew 5:17; Luke 24:27). God has spoken 'through the prophets'. God has spoken through His Son' (Hebrews 1:1-2). We read the Old Testament. We learn from 'Moses' and 'Elijah'. They step back. We see 'Jesus, only'. He is God's 'beloved Son'. We 'listen to Him' (Matthew 17:3,8,5).
5th March: Acts 25:1-27
Paul stood before Festus as an accused man. Festus listened. Recognizing his own shortcomings and respecting the accused wishes, he gave Paul a fair hearing (20-21,25). Festus made no decision - 'I have nothing definite to write to my lord about him' (26). Jesus was 'dead'. Now, He is 'alive' (19). This is not just 'something to think about'. We must make our decision. There can be no 'sitting on the fence'. Some are indecisive - 'I have nothing definite to say about Jesus'. It's 'make up your mind' time - 'How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? (Hebrews 2:3). Festus had to make a decision about Paul. There is a more important question: 'What do you think of the Christ?'. Each of us must answer the question: 'What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?' (Matthew 22:42; 27:22).
6th March: Acts 26:1-32
Paul answers three questions concerning himself. He puts a most important question to his hearers. (a) What was I before my conversion? Here, he speaks of his religion - 'According to the strictest party of my religion I have lived as a Pharisee' (5). This brought him 'to the ground' (14). (b) How did my conversion come about? Here, he speaks of his Saviour - 'I am Jesus...Stand up!' (15). (c) What happened after my conversion? Here, he describes how he became a 'servant' and a 'witness' (16). (d) The final question concerns our response - What about you? Will you become a Christian? (27-29). Do you have a story to tell? - Tell your story: the 'before', the 'after', the fact that it was Jesus who made the difference. Don't forget the challenge: To 'all who are listening to me today' - Come to Christ (29).
7th March: Acts 27:1-44
There is, in this story, a great picture of God's way of salvation. (a) Our human situation is hopeless: 'All our hope of being saved was at last abandoned' (20). We are sinners. We cannot save ourselves. (b) There is hope: 'God has granted you all thosee who sail with you' (25). God has provided a way of salvation: 'God so loved the world that He gave His only Son' (John 3:16). (c) Faith believes the Word of God: 'I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told' (25) - 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved' (16:31). (d) Safety: 'all escaped to land' (44). God has 'prepared' for us 'a better country', a 'heavenly one', 'a city', 'the city which is to come'. Do you want to 'escape', to be saved? Make sure that you don't 'neglect such a great salvation' (Hebrews 11:16; 13:14; 2:3).
8th March: Acts 28:1-31
Read of Paul's protection from the 'snake'. 'Rejoice' - Christ has won for us a great victory over 'that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan'. When God gives us His victory, we must not think too highly of ourselves - 'he was a god'. We must give all the glory to God: 'Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of God and the authority of His Christ have come' (3-6; Genesis 3:14-15; Revelation 12:9-12). 'So we came to Rome' (14) - These are words of triumph. God had fulfilled His promise: 'you must bear witness also at Rome' (23:11). Rejoicing that 'this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles', Paul was 'preaching the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ quite openly and unhindered' (29,31). Don't miss God's opportunities to share Christ's Good News!
9th March: 1 Samuel 1:1-28
Hannah 'wept'. Hannah 'was no longer sad' (7,18). What made the difference? No child had been born. She had not even conceived. These things did not happen until later (21). Why was there such a change in Hannah? She believed. God's Word had been spoken (17). Hannah believed His Word. She rejoiced in Him. Jesus ephasized the importance of praying with faith (Mark 11:24). We are to 'ask in faith', to pray 'the prayer of faith' (James 1:6; 5:15). We are also to pray 'according to His will' (1 John 5:14-15). God's ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). God does not always answer our prayers in the way that we want. Sometimes, rather than changing our circumstances, He simply speaks His Word to us: 'My grace is sufficient for you' (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). Always, He 'gives grace to the humble' (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).
10th March: 1 Samuel 2:1-36
What a contrast between the son of Hannah and the sons of Eli - 'the boy Samuel grew in the presence of the Lord...in the favour of the Lord', 'the sons of Eli were worthless men; they had no regard for the Lord (21,26,12). This is the difference between 'the children of God' and 'the children of the devil' (1 John 3:10). God's Word speaks to us with a promise and a warning: 'those who honour Me I will honour and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed' (30). Let your attitude to the Lord be summed up in the words of Hannah: 'There is none holy like the Lord, there is none like Thee; there is no rock like our God' (2). Let us find our joy and our strength in the Lord: 'My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exulted in the Lord' (1). May the Lord help us to be 'His faithful ones' who walk with Him (9).
11th March: 1 Samuel 3:1-4:22
The call of Samuel is a vivid example of what God can do in the lives of children. Samuel's early response to God set in motion a whole process of events leading Samuel to become 'a prophet of the Lord' through whom 'the Word of the Lord...came to all Israel' (3:10,19-4:1). Let us ground our children in Christ, encouraging them to have great expectations of what God can do in and with their lives as they grow up, loving Him. The people of Israel were 'defeated' by the Philistines. The greatest tragedy of this defeat was the 'capture' of 'the ark of God': 'The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured' (4:10-11,22). We may lose 'goods, honour, children, wife' (Church Hymnary, 406). The glory of God among His people - We must not lose this!
12th March: 1 Samuel 5:1-6:16
In 5:3-4, we read of God's superiority over Dagon - 'The Lord is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King' (Jeremiah 10:10). 'The hand of the Lord was heavy' on those who set themselves against Him (5:6-7,9,11). Let 'the Lord alone be exalted'. He is our only 'Saviour' (Isaiah 2:17-18; 43:10-11). Through His victory over Dagon, the Lord calls us to be completely devoted to Him: 'Down went Dagon, smashed in pieces when the ark of God came in. So shall God destroy those idols that defile our hearts within. Come, Lord, and destroy them'. The return of the ark brought joy (6:13). When the Lord is restored to His rightful place among His people, there is joy. 'Heaven came down and glory filled my soul'. When the Lord comes to us, we 'rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory' (1 Peter 1:8).
13th March: 1 Samuel 6:17-7:17
God is 'holy' (20). He calls His people to be holy. With His call to holiness, there is His promise of blessing (3). Committed to serving the Lord only and calling on the Lord for His help, Israel wins a great victory over the Philistines (4-11). God's people give thanks to Him - 'Until now the Lord has helped us' (12). The victory over the Philistines was spectacular. There were, however, many 'ordinary' days. Here, we may learn from Samuel. He served the Lord 'all the days of his life' (15). The spectacular triumphs were few and far between. The 'ordinary' days were many - 'he went on a circuit year by year...'(16). In all his journeys, he did not forget to 'come home' (7:17). Other places and other people seem to be so interesting. Don't forget - There is much work to be done at 'home'.
14th March: Romans 1:1-32
'I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith' (16). Do you think it was easy for Paul to maintain such commitment to Christ, such confidence in Christ? What kind of world did he live in? - A world of 'ungodliness and wickedness' (18-31). Many times, Paul could have given up in despair - 'There is too much ungodliness and wickedness all around me. How can I go on?'. When you feel like giving up, when everything seems to be so difficult, remember Paul. Remember his longing to 'impart some spiritual gift', his desire to 'reap some harvest' his eagerness to 'preach the gospel' (12-15). Let us say, with Paul, 'God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ' (Galatians 6:14). Let us be 'set apart for the gospel of God' (1).
15th March: Romans 2:1-29
None of us can 'escape the judgment of God'. None of us can 'presume upon the riches of His kindness'(3-4). We dare not come to God like the Pharisee, 'God, I thank Thee that I am not like other men...'. We can only come to Him with the prayer of the tax collector, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' (Luke 18:11-13). We must not pretend that we are 'righteous'. We must confess that we are 'sinners' (Luke 5:32). Sinners, lost, dead - We must hear this 'bad news if we are to come to a true appreciation of the Good News: 'Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), 'The Son of man came to seek and save the lost' (Luke 19:10), 'God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved' (Ephesians 2:4-5).
16th March: Romans 3:1-31
We are sinners - every single one of us. There are no exceptions - 'all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God'. When we see ourselves as we really are - sinners - , we come to see that there is no way for us to earn God's love. We will never deserve to be loved by God. His love is always 'a gift' - 'the redemption which is in Christ Jesus' (23-24). Through 'faith' we look away from ourselves to Christ. We rejoice that 'His blood' was shed for us. We receive from Him the forgiveness of our sins. This is the love of God. This is His gift. He gave His Son to be our Saviour. He gives salvation to all who trust the Saviour. 'By grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God' (Ephesians 2:8). No 'boasting' (27) - Rejoice in your Saviour!
17th March: Romans 4:1-25
Salvation is not a 'reward' to be 'earned'. It is God's 'gift' (4-5). Salvation comes from the Lord. 'God so loved the world that He gave His only Son' (John 3:16): Without the love of God, the gift of God, the Son of God, there can be no salvation. The way of salvation does not begin with the word 'I'. Jesus Christ is the Way. He is the Saviour. Salvation is in Him (John 14:6; Matthew 1:21; Acts 4:12). Looking to 'Jesus our Lord', crucified and raised for our salvation, we are saved and we give 'glory to God' (20-25). We rejoice in 'God our Saviour' - 'He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of His own mercy...'(Titus 3:4-7). Looking away from ourselves to Christ, we learn the truth of God's Word: 'it is on the basis of faith that it may rest on grace' (16). This is Good News!
18th March: Proverbs 9:1-18
There is, in verse 5, a Gospel invitation: 'Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed'. We eat bread. We drink wine. We remember our Saviour (Matthew 26: 26-29). 'The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom' (10). 'This sounds so old-fashioned' - so the world tells us. 'The fear of the Lord' - This is something we must not forget. If we do not fear the Lord, we will forget Him. If we forget Him, we are fools. What is foolishness? Is it a lack of education? No! - It is a lack of obedience. When we do not 'honour' God, we are 'without sense'. 'Claiming to be wise', we show that we are 'fools'. If we are wise, we will keep 'going straight on the way', looking always to Jesus Christ who is the true and living Way. He leads us from 'the depths of hell' to the heights of heaven (13-18; Romans 1:21-22; John 14:2,6).
19th March: 1 Samuel 8:1-9:10
Israel's demand for a king did not arise from love for God. It was motivated by human pride (8:5,20). Having 'rejected' the Lord as King, the people made their choice. They did not choose for God! They 'chose for themselves' (8:7,18). God allowed them to have their king but He did not approve of their choice (22,18). Humanly speaking, Saul was well qualified (9:2). There was, however, something tragic about Saul's reign. From the very outset, it was rushing headlong to its inevitable outcome: 'I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly' (26:21). 'He gave them what they asked, but He sent a wasting disease among them' (Psalm 106:15). Saul did more harm than good. There was not much blessing during Saul's reign. God had greater things in store for Israel - but not until Saul's reign was over!
20th March: 1 Samuel 9:11-10:16
The Lord is King: We must never forget this. A human king is no substitute for the divine King (8:7). God was not pleased with His people. They wanted to be 'like all the nations' (8:5). God refused to abandon His people. They wanted a king. He gave them their king (15-17). He would wait patiently for His people to make a whole-hearted return to Him. The Lord would wait patiently until 'a man after His own heart' would rule over 'His people' (13:14). A human king must never forget the divine King. He must not become 'too big for his boots'. He must not impose his own will. He must submit to God's will. This is what it means to be 'a man after God's own heart' - 'Not my will but Thine be done', 'Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven' (Luke 22:44; Matthew 6:10).
21st March: 1 Samuel 10:17-11:15
Everyone was so happy - 'Long live the king! (24). Everything seemed to be so promising - 'The Spirit of God came mightily upon Saul' (6). God's people were victorious (11). God's people 'rejoiced greatly' (15). This is not, however, the whole story. Things were to get worse, much worse - 'You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from Him who calls you' (Galatians 5:7-8). Remember the parable of the sower: 'Satan immediately comes and takes away the Word...When tribulation or persecution arises on account of the Word, immediately they fall away... The cares of the world and the delight in riches, and the desire for other things, enter in and choke the Word, and it proves unfruitful' (Mark 4:15,17,19). Pray - 'Deliver us from evil' (Matthew 6:13).
22nd March: Romans 5:1-21
God has great things in store for His people! (a) 'Much more' (9-10): 'Justified by Christ's blood', 'reconciled to God', 'We shall be saved by Christ from the wrath of God', 'saved by His life'. (b) 'Much more' (15,17): 'The grace of God' has 'abounded for many'. In Christ, we have 'received the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness'. Through Him, we shall 'reign in life'. (c) 'More than that' (3): Our pathway to eternal glory will not be easy. There will be 'suffering'. God has given us a glimpse of our eternal destiny: 'grace reigning through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord' (21). 'We rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God' (2). Having caught sight of the heavenly and eternal glory, we see our 'suffering' in a new light, the light of 'God's love' (3-5).
23rd March: 1 Samuel 12:1-13:15a
To the king as well as the people, God speaks in promise and warning: 'If both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well... If you will not hearken to the voice of the Lord...then the hand of the Lord will be against you and your king' (12:14-15). Samuel was not afraid to speak very directly to the king - 'You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God...Your kingdom shall not continue' (13:13-14). Saul's reign was about to end. God's love continued: 'The Lord will not cast away His people, for His great Name's sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for Himself' (12:22). Saul had become too full of himself and his own importance. He needed to be replaced by 'a man after God's own heart' (13:14). To the divine King be all the glory!
24th March: Romans 6:1-23
(a) 'We know that our old self was crucified' (6) - What a great thing God has done! He has made you 'a new creation in Christ' (2 Corinthians 5:17). (b) 'Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus' (11) - Believe it . This is what the Lord has done: 'you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit...the Spirit of God dwells in you...Christ is in you...the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you...His Spirit dwells in you' (8:9-11). (c) 'Yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life' (13) - Act upon it'. 'Walk in newness of life' (4). Live as those whom God has made new. We are 'not under law but under grace' (14). Keep your eyes fixed on the Saviour and your obedience will be Gospel obedience and not merely legal obedience.
25th March: 1 Samuel 13:15b- 14:23
Humanly speaking, Israel seemed to be 'no hopers' (13:22). There was, however, something else. The Lord was with His people and He would give them the victory (14:6,19,12,23). There is a very important lesson for us here: 'The weapons of our warfare are not worldly'. We are to 'put on the whole armour of God' (2 Corinthians 10:3-6; Ephesians 6:11-13). The victory does not come from our own strength. It comes from the Lord (Psalms 21:16; 21:7). In all our difficulties, we say, with faith, 'If God is for us, who can be against us?...In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us' (Romans 8:31,37). Do you want to have this strong faith which rejoices in the Lord, even when life is very difficult? - 'Wait on the Lord and renew your strength' (Isaiah 40:31).
26th March: 1 Samuel 14:24-52
Making mistakes - it's part of life for all of us: 'We all make mistakes. If any one makes no mistakes ...he is a perfect man' (James 3:2). What are we to make of the 'mistakes' made by Saul and Jonathan? Saul's 'mistake' was an error of judgment which 'troubled the land' (24,29). Jonathan's 'mistake' was unfortunate. In the wrong place at the wrong time, he 'had not heard' what had been going on before he arrived on the scene (27). It was almost his last 'mistake' (43-44)! How are we to react to our mistakes? We can be like Saul or we can learn from our mistakes. Digging in his heels, Saul blundered on from one 'mistake' to another. He acted like he was the 'perfect man' who never makes 'mistakes'. He had got it wrong, and he was the last to see it (44-45)! May God help us to learn from our mistakes!
27th March: Romans 7:1-25
God's purpose is not easily fulfilled in us. Our battle with sin is extremely intense. There is a great conflict going on within us. 'The Spirit' and 'the flesh' are at war with each other (Galatians 5:17). God has given us His Spirit - 'we serve...in the new life of the Spirit' (6). We are still sinners - 'I am carnal, a slave to sin' (14). These are two sides of the one coin. The Spirit is within us yet we remain sinners. Honestly confessing our sin, we say, 'Wretched man that I am!'. Gladly rejoicing in our Saviour, we say, 'Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!' (24-25). Despite our many defeats, we say, 'Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord' (8:39). Wait for 'the final result': 'God gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ' (1 Corinthians 15:57).
28th March: 1 Samuel 15:1-35
Saul chose convenience rather than obedience. He did what he wanted - not what God commanded (3,9). Saul was disobedient. God was not pleased with him (10). Saul made big claims for himself: 'I have performed the commandment of the Lord' (13). This was nonsense. Samuel saw through it immediately - 'What then is this bleating...?'(14). Saul had done what suited himself. God said one thing. Saul did another. Saul tried to 'pass the buck'. He blamed 'the people' (21). Saul appears to confess his sin. Still, there is this element of 'passing the buck'. He blames 'the people' - 'They put me up to it. It was their idea' (24). This was 'the last straw'. For Saul, this was 'the end' - 'the show was over'. He would be replaced (26-28). Love God 'with all your heart...' - not just a part (Deuteronomy 6:5)!
29th March: 1 Samuel 16:1-23
'Samuel did what the Lord commanded' (4). Real obedience comes from 'the heart'. It is more than just 'keeping up appearances'(7). 'The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart' - This is something we must never forget!'. 'It's the presence of Your Spirit, Lord, we need' (Songs of Fellowship, 256) - This is the lesson we must learn from the stories of Saul and David. The great difference between the two men is summed up in verses 13-14: 'the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David...the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul'. David exerted a good influence upon Saul (23). Sadly, however, Saul's best days were behind him. He was only a shadow of what he could have become if he had chosen to become ' a man after God's own heart' (13-14). Don't settle for second best when you can have God's very best!
30th March: Romans 8:1-39
Each of us must choose. We can 'live according to the flesh' or we can 'live according to the Spirit'. We can 'set the mind on the flesh' or we can 'set the mind on the Spirit' (5-6). The new life in the Spirit is just the beginning. God is preparing us for the greater 'glory that will be revealed in us' (18). We have 'the first fruits of the Spirit'. The Holy Spirit is 'the guarantee of our inheritance'. He is the starter which whets our appetite for the main course! With Him in our hearts, we long for more - 'an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you', 'the redemption of our bodies', 'the glorious liberty of the children of God' (21-23; Ephesians 1:13-14; 1 Peter 1:3-5). Led by the Spirit, strong in the Spirit, we press on to glory (14,26,17).
31st March: Psalms 20:1-21:13
'We boast of the Name of the Lord our God...Through the steadfast love of the Most High' we 'shall not be moved' (20:7;21:7). We do not trust in things that 'collapse and fall'. We build on 'the Rock' (20:8; Matthew 7:24-27; Psalms 18:1-3; 62:5-7). We 'rejoice' in our God. He has made us 'most blessed for ever'(21:1,6; Ephesians 1:3). Think of Jesus Christ your Saviour. He is absolutely trustworthy. He is completely dependable. His love is an 'unfailing love' (21:7). In Him, there is salvation. In Him, there is joy. With His strong and powerful love, He has saved us. He has given us 'a new song' to sing, 'a song of praise to our God' (Psalm 40:1-3). Let us lift our hearts and voices to Him in praise and worship: 'Be exalted, O Lord, in Thy strength,! We will sing and praise Thy power' (13).