Day 285

Dare to Be Different

Wisdom Psalm 119:17-24
New Testament 1 Thessalonians 5:1-28
Old Testament Jeremiah 25:15-26:24

Introduction

I once had the privilege of meeting and interviewing Pastor Nadarkhani. Youcef Nadarkhani encountered Jesus Christ at the age of nineteen. He went on to become an ordained pastor and lead a church in Iran.

In 2010, aged thirty-two, married with two young children, he was arrested and sentenced to death for ‘apostasy’ (converting to Christianity from Islam). Thankfully, two years later, after sustained international pressure, the decision was reversed.

During his trial, Pastor Nadarkhani refused to recant his belief despite facing a death sentence. He told the judge, ‘I am resolute in my faith and Christianity and have no wish to recant.’ The then UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague, paid tribute to his courage. The Guardian newspaper described him as ‘an inspiringly brave Christian’. Pastor Nadarkhani, like many Christians around the world today, still faces persecution for his faith.*

Jesus gives us a picture of true humanity. Dare to be different, by being like him. Don’t follow what the world tells you is desirable, but follow God by becoming more Christ-like.

*As a result of supporters all across the world standing up and demanding his freedom, Youcef Nadarkhani was eventually released from prison. However, it has since been reported that, on 22 July 2018, authorities broke into his home, beat him in front of his famiy and re-arrested him because of his Christian faith. He is being detained in a prison that is notorious for it’s inhumane treatment of those in custody. We encourage you to continue to pray for Pastor Nadarkhani and his family.

Wisdom

Psalm 119:17-24

ג Gimel

17 Be good to your servant while I live,
    that I may obey your word.
18 Open my eyes that I may see
    wonderful things in your law.
19 I am a stranger on earth;
    do not hide your commands from me.
20 My soul is consumed with longing
    for your laws at all times.
21 You rebuke the arrogant, who are accursed,
    those who stray from your commands.
22 Remove from me their scorn and contempt,
    for I keep your statutes.
23 Though rulers sit together and slander me,
    your servant will meditate on your decrees.
24 Your statutes are my delight;
    they are my counselors.

Commentary

Be a ‘stranger’ on earth

Do you ever feel like you don’t quite fit in with those around you at school, work or in your neighbourhood? Do your values and lifestyle seem to be a little different? Do you sometimes face ‘scorn’ and ‘contempt’ (v.22)?

The psalmist says, ‘I am a stranger on earth’ (v.19). All the great men and women in the Old Testament were ‘strangers on earth’ (Hebrews 11:13). The apostle Peter writes, ‘Live your lives as strangers here’ (1 Peter 1:17). Like the psalmist, as servants of God, we are called to be different from those around us.

Unlike those around him, the psalmist writes, ‘My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times’ (Psalm 119:20). As he reads the Scriptures, he prays, ‘Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law’ (v.18). This is a great prayer to pray when you study the Bible. We only understand what is revealed by the Spirit.

Some of those around him are ‘bad neighbors’ who ‘maliciously gossip’ (v.23a, MSG). But God’s words are to him like ‘good neighbors’ (v.24, MSG). He writes, ‘I’m absorbed in pondering your wise counsel. Yes, your sayings on life are what give me delight; I listen to them as to good neighbours!’ (vv.23b–24, MSG).

Prayer

Lord, give me courage to live as a stranger on earth. Help me to be consumed with longing for your word, to meditate on what you say. Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your word.

New Testament

1 Thessalonians 5:1-28

The Day of the Lord

5Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Final Instructions

12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.

23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

25 Brothers and sisters, pray for us. 26 Greet all God’s people with a holy kiss. 27 I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters.

28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Commentary

Live differently

Called to be different from the world around us, we are given practical instructions on how to do this. Paul writes, ‘Let us not be like others’ (v.6). Dare to be different. Paul uses four metaphors to describe the difference:

1. Light not darkness

The world around is living in darkness (v.4). Don’t run away from the darkness, rather, shine in it. ‘You are all children of the light’ (v.5a). Darkness implies ignorance and sin. You were in darkness. Jesus shines his light into your life. You are a child of the light. To be a child of something is to be characterised by that thing. When Christians are spoken of as ‘children of the light’, it means that ‘light’ is your distinguishing characteristic.

2. Day not night

Paul writes, ‘You are... children of the day. You do not belong to the night’ (v.5). As well as the previous point about light and darkness, this also refers back to ‘the day of the Lord’ (v.2). We are children of the day of the Lord, with all that this means in terms of anticipation and participation in the triumph of that great day when Jesus returns.

3. Awake not asleep

Paul writes, ‘Let us not be like others, who are asleep… For those who sleep, sleep at night’ (vv.6–7). He goes on, ‘Whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him’ (v.10). Jesus is with you now. Jesus himself used this same language of keeping watch and being awake (Matthew 24:42; 25:13). Don’t go to sleep spiritually. Be prepared for the Lord’s coming – awake and watchful.

4. Sober not drunk

Paul writes, ‘Let us be self-controlled’ (1 Thessalonians 5:8). This word literally means ‘not intoxicated by wine’. Like the other metaphors it speaks of both a physical state and a spiritual reality. Drunkenness arises from a lack of self-control and an indulgence of the senses in order to escape reality. Seek to be self-controlled in every area of your life. Put on the clothing of faith, love and hope (v.8).

Your lifestyle is to be totally different from those around you. You are to honour your leaders: ‘We ask you to honor those leaders who work so hard for you, who have been given the responsibility of urging and guiding you along in your obedience. Overwhelm them with appreciation and love!’ (vv.12–13a, MSG).

You are called to a life of respect (v.12). Always treat people with respect. Always stay peaceful (v.13): ‘Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out’ (vv.14–15, MSG). If you want to bring out the best in people you must see the best in them.

Be kind to everyone. Kindness should be a distinguishing feature of your life: ‘Always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else’ (v.15). Even little acts of kindness are so powerful that they can change the world around you.

You are a citizen of a different world. You have to learn a new language. What Paul describes here is effectively the grammar of a new language: ‘Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances’ (v.16). Prayer should be like breathing – something we do continually, but often unconsciously. Instead of always complaining ‘give thanks in all circumstances’ – expressing your thanks to God and other people – in little things as well as big things.

‘Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil’ (vv.19–22).

All this can seem a very daunting prospect. But you are not on your own. Paul prays, ‘May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through’ (v.23), and he finishes on a resounding note of hope and help – ‘He who calls you is faithful, and he will do it’ (v.25).

Prayer

Lord, help me to dare to be different. Thank you that you died for me that I may live together with you (v.10). Help me to avoid every kind of evil (v.22) and live a life of love, kindness, joy and peace.

Old Testament

Jeremiah 25:15-26:24

The Cup of God’s Wrath

15 This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. 16 When they drink it, they will stagger and go mad because of the sword I will send among them.”

17 So I took the cup from the Lord’s hand and made all the nations to whom he sent me drink it: 18 Jerusalem and the towns of Judah, its kings and officials, to make them a ruin and an object of horror and scorn, a curse —as they are today; 19 Pharaoh king of Egypt, his attendants, his officials and all his people, 20 and all the foreign people there; all the kings of Uz; all the kings of the Philistines (those of Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and the people left at Ashdod); 21 Edom, Moab and Ammon; 22 all the kings of Tyre and Sidon; the kings of the coastlands across the sea; 23 Dedan, Tema, Buz and all who are in distant places; 24 all the kings of Arabia and all the kings of the foreign people who live in the wilderness; 25 all the kings of Zimri, Elam and Media; 26 and all the kings of the north, near and far, one after the other—all the kingdoms on the face of the earth. And after all of them, the king of Sheshak will drink it too.

27 “Then tell them, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Drink, get drunk and vomit, and fall to rise no more because of the sword I will send among you.’ 28 But if they refuse to take the cup from your hand and drink , tell them, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: You must drink it! 29 See, I am beginning to bring disaster on the city that bears my Name, and will you indeed go unpunished? You will not go unpunished, for I am calling down a sword on all who live on the earth, declares the Lord Almighty.’

30 “Now prophesy all these words against them and say to them:

“‘The Lord will roar from on high;
    he will thunder from his holy dwelling
    and roar mightily against his land.
He will shout like those who tread the grapes,
    shout against all who live on the earth.
31 The tumult will resound to the ends of the earth,
    for the Lord will bring charges against the nations;
he will bring judgment on all mankind
    and put the wicked to the sword, ’”
        declares the Lord.

32 This is what the Lord Almighty says:

“Look! Disaster is spreading
    from nation to nation;
a mighty storm is rising
    from the ends of the earth.”      33 At that time those slain by the Lord will be everywhere—from one end of the earth to the other. They will not be mourned or gathered up or buried, but will be like dung lying on the ground.

34 Weep and wail, you shepherds;
    roll in the dust, you leaders of the flock.
For your time to be slaughtered has come;
    you will fall like the best of the rams.
35 The shepherds will have nowhere to flee,
    the leaders of the flock no place to escape.
36 Hear the cry of the shepherds,
    the wailing of the leaders of the flock,
    for the Lord is destroying their pasture.
37 The peaceful meadows will be laid waste
    because of the fierce anger of the Lord.
38 Like a lion he will leave his lair,
    and their land will become desolate
because of the sword of the oppressor
    and because of the Lord’s fierce anger.

Jeremiah Threatened With Death

26Early in the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, this word came from the Lord: 2 “This is what the Lord says: Stand in the courtyard of the Lord’s house and speak to all the people of the towns of Judah who come to worship in the house of the Lord. Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word. 3 Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from their evil ways. Then I will relent and not inflict on them the disaster I was planning because of the evil they have done. 4 Say to them, ‘This is what the Lord says: If you do not listen to me and follow my law, which I have set before you, 5 and if you do not listen to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I have sent to you again and again (though you have not listened ), 6 then I will make this house like Shiloh and this city a curse among all the nations of the earth.’”

7 The priests, the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speak these words in the house of the Lord. 8 But as soon as Jeremiah finished telling all the people everything the Lord had commanded him to say, the priests, the prophets and all the people seized him and said, “You must die! 9 Why do you prophesy in the Lord’s name that this house will be like Shiloh and this city will be desolate and deserted?” And all the people crowded around Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.

10 When the officials of Judah heard about these things, they went up from the royal palace to the house of the Lord and took their places at the entrance of the New Gate of the Lord’s house. 11 Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and all the people, “This man should be sentenced to death because he has prophesied against this city. You have heard it with your own ears!”

12 Then Jeremiah said to all the officials and all the people: “The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the things you have heard. 13 Now reform your ways and your actions and obey the Lord your God. Then the Lord will relent and not bring the disaster he has pronounced against you. 14 As for me, I am in your hands; do with me whatever you think is good and right. 15 Be assured, however, that if you put me to death, you will bring the guilt of innocent blood on yourselves and on this city and on those who live in it, for in truth the Lord has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing.”

16 Then the officials and all the people said to the priests and the prophets, “This man should not be sentenced to death! He has spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God.”

17 Some of the elders of the land stepped forward and said to the entire assembly of people, 18 “Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah. He told all the people of Judah, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says:

“‘Zion will be plowed like a field,
        Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble,
        the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.’

19 “Did Hezekiah king of Judah or anyone else in Judah put him to death? Did not Hezekiah fear the Lord and seek his favor? And did not the Lord relent, so that he did not bring the disaster he pronounced against them? We are about to bring a terrible disaster on ourselves!”

20 (Now Uriah son of Shemaiah from Kiriath Jearim was another man who prophesied in the name of the Lord; he prophesied the same things against this city and this land as Jeremiah did. 21 When King Jehoiakim and all his officers and officials heard his words, the king was determined to put him to death. But Uriah heard of it and fled in fear to Egypt. 22 King Jehoiakim, however, sent Elnathan son of Akbor to Egypt, along with some other men. 23 They brought Uriah out of Egypt and took him to King Jehoiakim, who had him struck down with a sword and his body thrown into the burial place of the common people.)

24 Furthermore, Ahikam son of Shaphan supported Jeremiah, and so he was not handed over to the people to be put to death.

Commentary

Speak differently

People do not always want to hear God’s views. It takes courage to speak God’s words to a society that has its own views, which may be very different to God’s.

Jeremiah’s ministry required great courage. He had to dare to be different from the prophets around. They were all prophesying peace, but Jeremiah knew that the exile was coming. He was warning the people about the coming disaster.

God said to him, ‘Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word. Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from their evil ways’ (26:2–3).

However, ‘As soon as Jeremiah finished telling all the people everything the Lord had commanded him to say, the priests, the prophets and all the people seized him and said, “You must die!”’ (v.8).

Jeremiah’s response was again very courageous. He said, ‘Change the way you’re living, change your behaviour. Listen obediently to the Message of your God. Maybe God will reconsider the disaster he has threatened… If you kill me, you’re killing an innocent man… God sent me and told me what to say. You’ve been listening to God speak, not Jeremiah’ (vv.13–15, MSG).

In fact, like Youcef Nadarkhani, Jeremiah escaped the death sentence – but both men were willing to pay the ultimate price to stay true to God. We may not face the same pressure, but the world around us will often dislike us for being different. Do not be surprised or dismayed by such opposition – as Jesus told his disciples, ‘In this world you will have trouble. But,’ Jesus continued, ‘take heart! I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33).

Prayer

Lord, thank you for the examples of Pastor Nadarkhani, Jeremiah, Paul and, ultimately, Jesus himself, who were willing to dare to be different from those around them, even to the point of being sentenced to death. Give me courage to dare to be different and to speak the words you tell me to say.

Pippa adds

1 Thessalonians 5:10

‘He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.’

Such comforting words to know that we never stop living with Jesus. There is a continuation between this life and the next. Life on earth, as we know it, will come to an end, but the life we live with Christ will go on forever.

Verse of the Day

1 Thessalonians 5:15

‘Always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.'
reader

App

Download the Bible in One Year app for iOS or Android devices and read along each day.

reader

Email

Sign up now to receive Bible in One Year in your inbox each morning. You’ll get one email each day.

Sign up now
reader

Podcast

BiOY Youth is avalible as a podcast. Listen along to the Bible in One Year with introductions from Toby Stokes, passages read by David Suchet, and Nicky & Pippa reading each day’s commentary. Listen now on:

Or wherever you listen

reader

Website

Start reading today’s devotion right here on the BiOY website.

Read now
reader

Book

The Bible in One Year Commentary is available as a book.

References

The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers. Used by permission.

The Guardian, ‘Iran: live free – and die’, 29 September 2011, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/sep/29/iran-live-free-die-editorial [last accessed September 2018].

Tim Marshall, Sky News foreign affairs editor, news.sky.com, 13:57pm: Thursday 29 September 2011: http://news.sky.com/story/iran-christian-convert-may-still-be-hanged-10485456 [last accessed August 2016]

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Change Language

Bible in One Year is available in the following languages:

This website stores data such as cookies to enable necessary site functionality and analytics. Find out more