Day 272

Seven Life-Changing Habits

Wisdom Psalm 114:1-8
New Testament Ephesians 6:1-24
Old Testament Nahum 1:1-3:19


For many years, Bruce Streather, a successful lawyer, was an atheist. He never went to church, even though his family did. Most weekends he played golf. Eventually, as a result of considerable persuasion from his wife and three teenage daughters, he came on Alpha. He was extremely argumentative and hostile. None of the sessions had any impact on him until, towards the end of the course, he heard the talk ‘How Can I Resist Evil?’ Afterwards he came up to me and said, ‘In my work as a lawyer, I have seen so much evil. I have always believed in the power of evil. Tonight, it struck me that if there is a power of evil, it makes sense to believe that there is also a power of good.’

That night Bruce became a Christian. Ever since, he has been a committed member of the church with a very powerful and effective ministry affecting the lives of hundreds of people.

We struggle against the global evils of terrorism, racial injustice, human trafficking, the tragic plight of refugees, deadly viruses (such as COVID-19), starvation, poverty, the destruction of the environment, corrupt governments and countless other domestic, local and international issues. We also face struggles against evil in our own lives – temptation, sin and addiction.

The Bible is realistic about this struggle. In the Old Testament, we read about physical battles against the forces of evil. In the New Testament, the struggle is more often described as a spiritual battle. As St Paul puts it, ‘Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’ (Ephesians 6:12).

Today’s passages show us that the battle is won through the victorious power of the Lord.


Psalm 114:1-8

Psalm 114

1 When Israel came out of Egypt,
   Jacob from a people of foreign tongue,
2 Judah became God’s sanctuary,
   Israel his dominion.

3 The sea looked and fled,
   the Jordan turned back;
4 the mountains leaped like rams,
   the hills like lambs.

5 Why was it, sea, that you fled?
   Why, Jordan, did you turn back?
6 Why, mountains, did you leap like rams,
   you hills, like lambs?

7 Tremble, earth, at the presence of the Lord,
   at the presence of the God of Jacob,
8 who turned the rock into a pool,
   the hard rock into springs of water.


Victory over bondage and slavery

The psalmist recalls how Israel was set free from its bondage and slavery in Egypt. The victorious power of God led them out of Egypt and across the sea, which ‘looked and fled’ (v.3).

The ‘presence of the Lord’ with his people gave the Israelites the victory (v.7). It was his presence that ‘turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water’ (v.8).

The character of God was revealed to his people in the Exodus, when God liberated his people from oppression through his victorious power and presence, making it clear that slavery is an evil from which God longs to set people free.

This helps us address one of the big questions from today’s New Testament reading in which Paul gives instructions to slaves and masters (see Ephesians 6:5–9). Why did Paul never attempt to abolish slavery altogether?

We need to remember that in those days, Christians were a tiny persecuted minority and they were in no position to end what was a universal institution in the ancient world. In the Roman Empire alone, about 6 million people (a high percentage of the population) were slaves.

As Professor F.F. Bruce writes, ‘It was better to state the principles of the gospel clearly (“in Christ there is neither slave nor free”, Galatians 3:28) and leave them to have their own effect in due course on this iniquitous institution.’

God wants to set people free, both from the literal bondage and oppression experienced by modern day slaves, and from our slavery to sin and addictions (such as a reliance on alcohol, drugs, violence or pornography). And in the future, when Jesus returns in victorious power, God will free everyone from every kind of slavery.


Lord, thank you that you set me free through your presence with me, and that you turn the rock into a pool and the hard rock into springs of water through your Holy Spirit dwelling within me.

New Testament

Ephesians 6:1-24

6 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honour your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favour when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.

9 And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favouritism with him.

The Armour of God

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

Final Greetings

21 Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. 22 I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you.

23 Peace to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.


Victory over the devil’s schemes

Our battle is against ‘the triple alliance’, writes Raniero Cantalamessa. ‘The world, the flesh and the devil; the enemy around us, the enemy within us and the enemy above us.’

Relying on God’s victorious power does not mean that we are passive or inactive. Paul insists that, in order to win the battle, you need to take responsibility for your life and ‘be strong in the Lord’ (v.10).

We need to take action. Paul uses phrases like ‘put on’ (v.13a), ‘stand your ground’ (v.13b) and ‘stand firm’ (v.14). Be active, replacing bad habits with good habits. Paul outlines seven life-changing habits you should adopt:

  1. Focus on the truth of Jesus

    ‘With a belt of truth buckled around your waist’ (v.14a).

    Focus on truth of heart. Transparency and authenticity are the opposite of hypocrisy. We also need to focus on the truth of doctrine as revealed in Scripture. Both are personified in Jesus who said, ‘I am the truth’ (John 14:6).

  2. Keep short accounts

    ‘With the breastplate of righteousness in place’ (Ephesians 6:14b).

    Jesus died so that you might have the righteousness of God. When you fall, get up quickly. Keep in a right relationship with God and with others.

  3. Get actively involved

    ‘With your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace’ (v.15).

    Here Paul may have had a verse from our Old Testament reading for today in mind: ‘Look, there on the mountains, the feet of one who brings good news, who proclaims peace!’ (Nahum 1:15). The devil hates the gospel – because it is God’s power to change lives.

    Paul asked the Ephesian Christians to pray for him: ‘that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel’ (Ephesians 6:19).

  4. Trust God in difficult times

    ‘In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one’ (v.16).

    The arrows are such things as: false guilt, shame, doubt, disobedience, malice and fear.

  5. Win the battle of the mind

    ‘Take the helmet of salvation’ (v.17a).

    The battle is won or lost in our minds, so it is essential that we ‘take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ’ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

  6. Soak yourself in the word of God

    ‘The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God’ (Ephesians 6:17b).

    Use the Bible when you are under attack, just as Jesus did when he was tempted in the desert (Matthew 4:1–11).

  7. Keep praying

    ‘Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests’ (Ephesians 6:18)

    Prayer is a powerful weapon. Mary Queen of Scots said, ‘I fear John Knox’s prayers more than an army of ten thousand men.’


Lord, thank you that although on my own I am powerless, with the armour of God, the strength of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, I can experience your victory.

Old Testament

Nahum 1:1-3:19

1 A prophecy concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.

The Lord’s Anger Against Nineveh

2 The Lord is a jealous and avenging God;
   the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath.
The Lord takes vengeance on his foes
   and vents his wrath against his enemies.
3 The Lord is slow to anger but great in power;
   the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished.
His way is in the whirlwind and the storm,
   and clouds are the dust of his feet.
4 He rebukes the sea and dries it up;
   he makes all the rivers run dry.
Bashan and Carmel wither
   and the blossoms of Lebanon fade.
5 The mountains quake before him
   and the hills melt away.
The earth trembles at his presence,
   the world and all who live in it.
6 Who can withstand his indignation?
   Who can endure his fierce anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire;
   the rocks are shattered before him.

7 The Lord is good,
   a refuge in times of trouble.
He cares for those who trust in him,
   8 but with an overwhelming flood
he will make an end of Nineveh;
   he will pursue his foes into the realm of darkness.

9 Whatever they plot against the Lord
   he will bring to an end;
   trouble will not come a second time.
10 They will be entangled among thorns
   and drunk from their wine;
   they will be consumed like dry stubble.
11 From you, Nineveh, has one come forth
   who plots evil against the Lord
   and devises wicked plans.

12 This is what the Lord says:

“Although they have allies and are numerous,
   they will be destroyed and pass away.
Although I have afflicted you, Judah,
   I will afflict you no more.
13 Now I will break their yoke from your neck
   and tear your shackles away.”

14 The Lord has given a command concerning you, Nineveh:
   “You will have no descendants to bear your name.
I will destroy the images and idols
   that are in the temple of your gods.
I will prepare your grave,
   for you are vile.”

15 Look, there on the mountains,
   the feet of one who brings good news,
   who proclaims peace!
Celebrate your festivals, Judah,
   and fulfill your vows.
No more will the wicked invade you;
   they will be completely destroyed.

Nineveh to Fall

2 An attacker advances against you, Nineveh.
   Guard the fortress,
   watch the road,
   brace yourselves,
   marshal all your strength!

2 The Lord will restore the splendour of Jacob
like the splendour of Israel,
though destroyers have laid them waste
and have ruined their vines.

3 The shields of the soldiers are red;
   the warriors are clad in scarlet.
The metal on the chariots flashes
   on the day they are made ready;
   the spears of juniper are brandished.
4 The chariots storm through the streets,
   rushing back and forth through the squares.
They look like flaming torches;
   they dart about like lightning.

5 Nineveh summons her picked troops,
   yet they stumble on their way.
They dash to the city wall;
   the protective shield is put in place.
6 The river gates are thrown open
   and the palace collapses.
7 It is decreed that Nineveh
   be exiled and carried away.
Her female slaves moan like doves
   and beat on their breasts.
8 Nineveh is like a pool
   whose water is draining away.
“Stop! Stop!” they cry,
   but no one turns back.
9 Plunder the silver!
   Plunder the gold!
The supply is endless,
   the wealth from all its treasures!
10 She is pillaged, plundered, stripped!
   Hearts melt, knees give way,
   bodies tremble, every face grows pale.

11 Where now is the lions’ den,
   the place where they fed their young,
where the lion and lioness went,
   and the cubs, with nothing to fear?
12 The lion killed enough for his cubs
   and strangled the prey for his mate,
filling his lairs with the kill
   and his dens with the prey.

13 “I am against you,”
   declares the Lord Almighty.
“I will burn up your chariots in smoke,
   and the sword will devour your young lions.
   I will leave you no prey on the earth.
The voices of your messengers
   will no longer be heard.”

Woe to Nineveh

3 Woe to the city of blood,
   full of lies,
full of plunder,
   never without victims!
2 The crack of whips,
   the clatter of wheels,
galloping horses
   and jolting chariots!
3 Charging cavalry,
   flashing swords
   and glittering spears!
Many casualties,
   piles of dead,
bodies without number,
   people stumbling over the corpses —
4 all because of the wanton lust of a prostitute,
   alluring, the mistress of sorceries,
who enslaved nations by her prostitution
   and peoples by her witchcraft.

5 “I am against you,” declares the Lord Almighty.
   “I will lift your skirts over your face.
I will show the nations your nakedness
   and the kingdoms your shame.
6 I will pelt you with filth,
   I will treat you with contempt
   and make you a spectacle.
7 All who see you will flee from you and say,
   ‘Nineveh is in ruins —who will mourn for her?’
   Where can I find anyone to comfort you?”

8 Are you better than Thebes,
   situated on the Nile,
   with water around her?
The river was her defense,
   the waters her wall.
9 Cush and Egypt were her boundless strength;
   Put and Libya were among her allies.
10 Yet she was taken captive
   and went into exile.
Her infants were dashed to pieces
   at every street corner.
Lots were cast for her nobles,
   and all her great men were put in chains.
11 You too will become drunk;
   you will go into hiding
   and seek refuge from the enemy.

12 All your fortresses are like fig trees
   with their first ripe fruit;
when they are shaken,
   the figs fall into the mouth of the eater.
13 Look at your troops—
   they are all weaklings.
The gates of your land
   are wide open to your enemies;
   fire has consumed the bars of your gates.

14 Draw water for the siege,
   strengthen your defenses!
Work the clay,
   tread the mortar,
   repair the brickwork!
15 There the fire will consume you;
   the sword will cut you down—
   they will devour you like a swarm of locusts.
Multiply like grasshoppers,
   multiply like locusts!
16 You have increased the number of your merchants
   till they are more numerous than the stars in the sky,
but like locusts they strip the land
   and then fly away.
17 Your guards are like locusts,
   your officials like swarms of locusts
   that settle in the walls on a cold day—
but when the sun appears they fly away,
   and no one knows where.

18 King of Assyria, your shepherds slumber;
   your nobles lie down to rest.
Your people are scattered on the mountains
   with no one to gather them.
19 Nothing can heal you;
   your wound is fatal.
All who hear the news about you
   clap their hands at your fall,
for who has not felt
   your endless cruelty?


Victory over the forces of evil

We all go through tough times. Jesus told us not to be surprised by trouble (John 16:33). But you are promised that you will be more than a conqueror through Christ who loves you (Romans 8:37).

Take comfort from the promises that God made to his people then, which are still applicable to us now: ‘God is good, a hiding place in tough times. He recognises and welcomes anyone looking for help, no matter how desperate the trouble’ (Nahum 1:7, MSG).

Empires come and go. The British Empire once dominated the world. No longer. Likewise, the Roman Empire and every other Empire has come and gone.

At the time Nahum was writing, the Assyrian Empire dominated the world and seemed invincible. Yet shortly after the book of Nahum was written, in 612 BC, Ninevah, the proud capital of the Assyrian Empire, fell to the Babylonians and Medes.

Nahum assures the people of God, surrounded by powerful forces, that God is in command and no power on earth can stand against him (2:1–13). The message is: ‘Don’t admire or be intimidated by this enemy. They are going to be judged by the very same standards applied to us’ (Eugene Peterson).

The evil of Nineveh is described in chapter 3: ‘Doom to murder city – full of lies, bursting with loot, addicted to violence… luring nations to their ruin with your evil spells’ (3:1,4, MSG).

If the end of this earthly kingdom was ‘good news’ (1:15) bringing such relief and jubilation, how much more should the victory of Jesus over the spiritual forces of evil bring us relief and jubilation? You are still surrounded by enemies in the form of the world, the flesh and the devil, but with God on your side, you will ultimately see his victorious power.


Lord, thank you that you are more powerful than any spiritual force of evil. Thank you that you are a refuge in times of trouble and that you care for those who trust in you (v.7). Help me today to trust in you and your victorious power.

Pippa adds

Psalm 114:7-8

‘God... turned... the hard rock into springs of water.’

God can change any difficult situation into a place of fruitfulness.



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No contemporary or systematic census of slave numbers is known; in the Empire, under-reporting of male slave numbers would have reduced the tax liabilities attached to their ownership. See Kyle Harper, Slavery in the Late Roman World, AD 275–425. Cambridge University Press, 2011, pp. 58–60, and footnote 150.

F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians, (The New International Greek Testament Commentary) (William B Eerdmans Publishing Co., reprint edition, 2014) p.190.

Raniero Cantalamessa, Come Creator Spirit (Liturgical Press, 2002), p.187.

Eugene Peterson, The Message: 'Introduction to Nahum' (Navpress, 2004), p.1271.

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

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