Meditating On God's Word: Old Testament
* Begin with God.
The first verse of the Bible gives us the best starting-place for our life: "In the beginning, God" (Genesis 1:1). Let us "seek first God's Kingdom and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33). "In the beginning, God" - This is what gives our life its true meaning, purpose and direction.
* Build on God's Word.
We don't speak God's Word to ourselves. God's Word is spoken to us. In His written Word, He has given us a firm foundation for living to His glory (2 Timothy 3:14-17). Learning from the Scriptures, let us build our life on our Saviour.
* Be Blessed in God's Spirit.
Being "in the Spirit" is not just having a "happy" feeling. It's learning to "walk with the Lord in the light of His Word." How are we to "be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18)? God's Word tells us - "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly" (Colossians 3:16).
Beyond the darkness of sin, there's the light of salvation (Genesis 1-3).
This is not only about creation. It's also about sin. There's also the promise of salvation (Genesis 3:15).
Even in the darkness of sin, there's a glimpse of the light that will come. God created us. He has not forgotten us. He has sent His Son for us. He has not left us in our sin. He has delivered us. We have just a hint of this here - "The seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent" (Genesis 3:15). There is enough of a hint to persuade us that there are better things still to come. We do not get bogged down in sin. God is calling us beyond that. He is calling us on to salvation. He is calling us to come to the Saviour - our Lord Jesus Christ.
* "In the beginning, God" (Genesis 1:1).
Here, we are taken back to eternity, back to the eternal God. There is nothing beyond this. There is nothing beyond Him. * "God created the heaven and the earth" (Genesis 1:1).
He is the Lord of heaven and earth. The mention of heaven and earth in the Bible's opening verse sends our minds on from the beginning to the middle and the end of God's great Story of salvation. At the heart of this wonderful Story, there is Jesus Christ who came from heaven to earth for us. The Story moves on to the marvellous fulifilment of God's plan of salvation. The Lord Jesus will come to take us from earth to heaven to share with Him in the glory of eternal life.
Genesis 1:1 - "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."
This is our only starting-point. We begin with the eternal God. Before there was creation, there is God. There is nothing beyond God. He is the Beginning.
Genesis 1:2 - "darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of face of the waters."
Before the Spirit of God has done his powerful work in our hearts, we remain in darkness. We can do nothing about this. The light does not come from ourselves. It comes from the Lord.
Genesis 1:3 - "And God said, Let there be light: and there was light."
This is the mighty work of God. Through His amazing grace, He brings us out of His darkness and into His light.
Genesis 1:4 - "the light was good"
What a wonderful blessing it is when the light of the Lord shines in our hearts.
Genesis 1:5 - "Day and Night"
It's like the difference between Day and Night. What a great change there is in us when the Lord brings us out of our darkness and into His light.
Genesis 1:6 - "a firmament"
Firm - We have a firm foundation upon which to build our faith. There is solid ground upon which we can take our stand. The sold ground is Jesus Christ. He is the firm Foundation.
Genesis 1:7 - "the waters"
In the days of Noah, there was a great flood. All around us there is danger. The flood threatens to overwhelm us. How are we to be saved from drowning? There is one way of salvation. Jesus Christ is our Saviour.
Genesis 1:8 - "Heaven"
What a wonderful word this is! What a wonderful Saviour Jesus is. He is the way to heaven (John 14:6).
Genesis 1:9 - "gathered together unto one place"
What a release of the living waters of God's Spirit there is when the Lord's people are gathered together with a real desire to give praise and glory to Him.
Genesis 1:10 - "the gathering together of the waters"
When we are gathered together in the Lord's House, we must pray that the Spirit of God will be at work among us, bringing to us a mighty river of blessing.
Genesis 1:11 - "the fruit tree yielding fruit"
We bear fruit as we build our lives on the Word of the Lord (Psalm 1). There is the fruit of the Spirit in our own lives (Galatians -23). There is the fruit of God at work in the lives upon whom we are able to exert a life-changing influence for God (Psalm 126:5-6).
Genesis 1:12 - "God saw that it was good."
What a good thing it is for the people of God to bear fruit in their lives and in winning others for the Saviour.
Genesis 1:13 - "the third day"
We read these words, and our thoughts move forward to the mighty miracle of Jesus' resurrection from the dead - "on the third day God raised Him from the dead."
Genesis 1:14 - "lights"
We think of the sun and the moon. There is a greater Son - our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. When the sun and the moon are no more, there will be Jesus, the King of creation, the Lord of glory. His reign shall never come to an end. It will be the reign of His everlasting love. When the light of the sun and moon are no longer shining, the light of Christ's love will be shining brightly (Revelation 22:5) - shining "not for the years of time alone, but for eternity."
Genesis 1:15 - "light upon the earth"
As we read these words, we rejoice in this - Jesus is the Light of the world" (John 8:12).
Genesis 1:16 - "the stars"
As we read about the stars, our thoughts turn to the star which led the wise men to Bethlehem. As we think of that star, we are led to Christ. May we join with the wise men in saying, "We have come to worship Him" (Matthew 2:2).
Genesis 1:17 - "light upon the earth"
Where does light come from? Do we look inside our own minds? No! We look to Him who "came down from heaven to earth - Jesus Christ our Saviour."
Genesis 1:18 - "rule over the day and the night"
Beyond the "rule" of "the two great lights", there is the "rule" of the Lord. He is the King of creation. He is the King of salvation. He is "the King of kings" (Revelation 19:16).
Genesis 1:19 - "the evening and the morning"
The morning is bright with new beginnings. In the evening, we feel weary. In all life's changing circumstances, let us look to the Lord. When we feel strong, let us say, "My strength comes from the Lord." When we feel weak, let us pray, "Lord, I am weak. You are strong. I bring my weakness to You. Give me your strength."
Genesis 1:20 - "Let the waters bring forth abundantly."
What abundance of blessing there is when the living waters of the Holy Spirit are flowing freely among the Lord's people (John 7:37-39; Ezekiel 47:5,9).
Genesis 1:21 - "great whales"
Remember "the great fish" that swallowed Jonah (Jonah 1:17). This was God's way of showing us that "salvation comes from the Lord" (Jonah 2:9). From the story of Jonah's mighty deliverance, we look on to the mighty miracle of Jesus' resurrection from the dead. He died, but He did not remain dead. He rose from the dead.
Genesis 1:22 - "God blessed them"
What a great thing it is to be blessed by the Lord. Without His blessing, we have nothing. We must never forget these challenging words of Jesus; "Without Me, you can do nothing" (John 15:5). What a great challenge they are to our human pride. When we think we can manage on our own, Jesus reminds us, "You are nothing, you have nothing and you can do nothing without My blessing." With His blessing, everything changes. This is the great change which God has brought into our life - "In Christ, He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing" (Ephesians 1:3).
Genesis 1:23 - "the evening and the morning"
The repeated pattern of nature - evening, morning, evening, morning ... - speaks to us of God's great faithfulness. Without the sustaining power of God of perfect faithfulness and constant love, our world would return to chaos - "without form and void" (1:2). Whatever changes may take place in our world, let us never forget this: God's mercies are renewed every morning. He is the God of great faithfulness (Lamentations 3:23).
Genesis 1:24 - The "beast"
Whenever we read, in God's Word, about "the beast", we are reminded that we face constant and determined from Satan, the enemy of our souls. Whenever we feel that Satan is getting the upper hand, let us remind him that Jesus is Lord.
Genesis 1:25 - "every thing that creeps upon the earth"
Creep - Isn't that such a sinister word? Satan creeps around, doing no good. There is One who does nothing but good - our Lord Jesus Christ. He will never be defeated by Satan. Let us rejoice in this: Jesus gives His victory to us.
Genesis 1:26 - "in God's image"
This doesn't sound like a true description of the way we really are! We are sinners. We have lost our way. It's a reminder of what God created us to be. It's His high calling for us. He calls us to be like Him. He calls us to bring glory to Him.
Genesis 1:27 - "male and female"
We belong together. We're not to compete with each other. We are to help each other to love the Lord more and more as we journey through life together.
Genesis 1:28 - "dominion"
We are given dominion. God has dominion. Let us never forget this. We must not think too highly of ourselves. We can never think too highly of the Lord.
Genesis 1:29 - "meat"
We need the strong meat of God's Word if we are to grow strong in the Lord. Let us feed on the Word of God. Let us pray that our hunger will increase. The more we hunger for the Lord, the more fully He will satisfy us.
Genesis 1:30 - "I have given"
The gift of God - Life is God's gift. He is our Creator. Salvation is God's gift. Jesus is our Saviour. The Holy Spirit is God's gift. He has come to live in us. He will take us to live with God - to give glory to God forevermore.
Genesis 1:31 - "everything was very good"
When we look at the world as we know it, it's hard to take this in! We must take our stand upon God's Word. There was a time when "everything was good." There was a time before our sin spoiled everything. There will, again, be a time when everything will be a good. There will be a time when sin will be no more. It will be a time of giving glory to God forevermore.
Genesis 2:1 - "finished"
We read about the finished work of creation and we think of Jesus' words from the Cross, "It is finished." This is the finished work of Christ. He has completed the work that was required by the holy God for sinners to receive forgiveness.
Genesis 2:2 - "He rested"
After creation, there was rest. After crucifixion, there was resurrection. We rest in the risen Lord. We rest in His perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. We rejoice in His triumph over death. We remind Satan that he has been defeated by our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Genesis 2:3 - "holy"
When God blesses us, He makes us holy. He has not given to us the forgiveness of our sins and left us just the way we were before we came in faith to Christ. We come to the Saviour - "Just as I am" - but do not remain the same. God has given us new life - the life of the Holy Spirit. From the moment we receive God's forgiveness, we begin our new journey on the High Way of holiness (Isaiah 35:8). We will often wander away from this High Way, but the Lord keeps on bringing us back. He brings us back to the Cross where we find forgiveness. He brings us back to the risen Lord, who empowers us for walking with God in holy living. When we see that our forgiveness and holiness comes from Jesus Christ, crucified for us and risen for us, we give all the glory to God. This is not our own doing. It is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes (Psalm 118:23).
Genesis 2:4 - "This is the history"
This is His Story. This is God's Story. In this great Story of creation, which leads on to the great Story of salvation, we read about the God who has done for us what we could never do for ourselves. we could not create ourselves. We could not save ourselves. We have been created by God. We have been saved by God. Apart from the work of God, we would have no life. Our life has come from Him. Apart from the work of God, we would have no new life. It is through His mighty power that we have become "a new creation in Christ Jesus" (2 Corinthians 5:17). Apart from the work of God, we would have no hope of eternal life - "God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son" (1 John 5:11). In ourselves, there is no hope. In the great God of our salvation, we have this glorious hope - "the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).
Genesis 2:5 "rain"
No rain, no plants of the field, no herbs of the field, no man to till the ground. This is a picture of life without God's blessing. To His faithful servants who look to Him for the blessing, God gives His precious promise: "As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is My Word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55:10-11).
Genesis 2:6 "watering the whole surface of the ground"
It's water that makes the difference. Without water, everything dries up and dies. There's a better way than the way of spiritual death. God says to us, "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters" (Isaiah 55:1). Jesus says to us, "whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:14).
Genesis 2:7 "the breath of life"
Everything changes when the Lord breathes His breath of life into us.
* Until God comes to us in power, our situation is desperate - "I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry" (Ezekiel 37:2).
Genesis 2:8 "garden"
To those who put their trust in Him, the Lord gives His very precious promises - "You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail" (Isaiah 58:11); "They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more" (Jeremiah 31:12). Looking to the Lord as we move towards the great future He has planned for us, we look beyond the Old Testament prophets. We look forward to the glorious fulfilment of God's wonderful purpose of eternal salvation - "Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city ... I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God ... God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away"(Revelation 22:1-2; Revelation 21:2-4).
Genesis 2:9 "Out of the ground the Lord God made every tree to grow"
If we are to make progress in spiritual growth, we must be grounded in Christ - "Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18). It was the Lord God who made every tree to grow. It is the Lord God who gives us the strength that we need to grow in Christ. Spirtual growth is not our achievement. It is the work of God's grace. "To him be glory both now and forever" (2 Peter 3;18).
Genesis 2:10 One river becomes four rivers.
God's blessing is not to be kept to ourselves.
"Water that was ankle-deep" becomes "water that was knee-deep". Then it becomes "water that was up to the waist". This is just the beginning of God's blessing. He is leading us on to even greater blessing - "now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in-a river that no one could cross" (Ezekiel 47:3-5).
When the Lord's blessing is shared, there is an increase of blessing and greater glory is given to the Lord.
Genesis 2:11 "gold"
In Matthew 2:11, we read of the "gold" of worship - "they bowed down and worshipped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gold ... ".
In Job 23:10, we read about the "gold" of obedience - "But he knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold." Job's faith in the Lord was sorely tested. At the beginning of Job's story, we learn that "he feared God and shunned evil" (Job 1:1). At the end of the book of Job, we learn that "The Lord blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first" (Job 42:12).
Genesis 2:12 "aromatic resin and the shoham stone"
"Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume" (John 12:3).
This is not only the story of Mary's costly devotion. It's a call to us to be "the pleasing aroma of Christ. The Lord is calling us to "spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere" (2 Corinthians 2:14-15).
We will do this when we are trusting in Jesus Christ, the "chosen and precious cornerstone" upon which our faith is built (1 Peter 2:6).
When we come in faith to Jesus Christ, our Saviour, God does a mighty work of grace in us: "As you come to Him, the living Stone - rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to Him - you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:4-5).
Genesis 2:13 "the river that flows through the whole land"
God is not only concerned with our personal blessing. He wants His blessing to reach out to many people in every land: "Fill this land with the Father's glory ... Flow, river, flow ... Flood the nations with grace and mercy" (from the hymn, "Shine, Jesus, Shine" by Graham Kendrick).
Genesis 2:14 "Hiddekel ... Ashshur ... Perat"
The names are unfamiliar to us. Think of the places that are familiar to you. Pray that the river of God's blessing will flow freely in these places, bringing people to know the Saviour and leading them on to "a closer walk with God."
Genesis 2:15 "dressing and keeping the garden"
Coming into the "garden" of God's blessing is just the beginning. We must keep on walking with God in the "garden" of His blessing - "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him" (Colossians 2:6).
Genesis 2:16 "The Lord God commanded the man"
Here, we have God's command. He is concerned about us. He gives us His instructions about how we are to live. He knows what is best for us. Who are we to argue with Him?
Genesis 2:17 "you shall surely die."
God is warning us. You can go your own way - but you will find that it is the way of death: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death" (Proverbs 14:12).
Genesis 2:18 "a helper suitable for him"
We are not left to go it alone. As well as receiving the Lord's help, we are to help each other. Give help. Receive help. In everything, never forget this: "My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth" (Psalm 121:2); "Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth" (Psalm 124:8).
Genesis 2:19 The naming of the animals
What's in a name? Names are important to the Lord. He calls us "by name" (John 10:3). We are known by our own name. How disappointed we are when someone forgets our name. How wonderful it is that the Lord never forgets our name. There's something more wonderful than that. He gives us His Name. We are known by the Name - Jesus. His Name means Saviour. Every time, we speak His Name, we are reminded that we have been saved by Him. His Name speaks to us of the forgiveness of our sins, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the glorious hope of eternal life.
Genesis 2:20 "a helper suitable for him"
Man was sharing God's creation with the animals. Now, God was about to do something very special, something that would make the world a very different place.
Genesis 2:21 "a deep sleep"
Man contributes nothing to this mighty work of God. This is a great lesson we must never forget. We dare not make too much of ourselves. Anything good in us comes from the Lord.
Genesis 2:22 "a woman"
This was a new creation. There was nothing else like her. She was the first woman. There was also continuity between the man and the woman. They belonged together. In man and woman, there is both difference and similarity. The woman is different from the man, yet she is more like him than any of the other creatures.
Genesis 2:23 "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh"
There is a sense of fulfilment here. Until this point, there was something missing. Now,the creation is complete. There is Man and there is Woman.
Genesis 2:24 "they will be one flesh"
This is more than a physical sharing. It'a a sharing in every part of life. It's the special sharing which we call "love".
Genesis 2:25 "naked and unashamed"
This is the original creation. This is before sin came in and spoiled everything.
From the majestic perfection of God and the privileged responsibility of humanity, we now move to the evil subtlety of Satan. An intruder has sneaked into the privileged place between God, the Creator, and mankind, His creation.
Chapter 2 ends with the absence of shame. Chapter 3 begins with the presence of Satan. The work of Satan, successfully executed, ensures that chapter ends rather differently from chapter 2 - “the Lord God sent the man out of the Garden of Eden” (v. 23).This was “Paradise Lost”. Was there a way to “Paradise Regained”? There are two answers to this question: “No” and “Yes”. Taking ourselves as the starting-point, the answer is “No”. God will not permit us to take salvation into our own hands (v. 24). Starting with God, the answer is “Yes”. This is the answer of verse 15: Christ (the woman’s descendant will be crucified (the bruising of His heel), but the outcome of this will be the defeat of Satan (the crushing of his head).
Sin, Judgment ... And Salvation (Genesis 3:1-24)
Genesis 3:1 - "The serpent" (Satan) raises doubts - "Has God said?
Genesis 3:2-3 - The woman tells Satan what "God has said."
Genesis 3:4 - Satan contradicts God's Word. Note the progression from questioning God's Word to contradicting His Word.
Genesis 3:5 - "Your eyes will be opened." You will see everything in a different way. You will know "good" as something you've lost. All you'll have left is "evil." That's not exactly how Satan said it would turn out. What can you expect from someone who contradicts God's Word? - Nothing but lies!
Genesis 3:6 - This is the beginning of sin. We listen to Satan. We do what he says - instead of listening to God and doing what He says.
Genesis 3:7 - "Their eyes were opened." They saw what they had become through their disobedience to God's Word.
Genesis 3:8 - Sin leads to hiding from God.
Genesis 3:9 - "Where are you?" Why is God looking for them? Is this nothing more than the voice of accusation? There is something more than that. There is the voice of love.
Genesis 3:10 - The sinner does not hear the voice of God as the voice of love. He hears only the voice of accusation.
Genesis 3:11 - More questions from God - He makes us think about what we have done.
Genesis 3:12 - Passing the buck!
Genesis 3:13 - More passing the buck!!
Genesis 3:14 - Here, we have the Word of judgment - but that's not the only Word that God speaks to the sinner.
Genesis 3:15 - This is the Word of salvation. It's the first prophecy of Satan's defeat. Christ will win the victory over Satan.
Genesis 3:16-19 - Sin has its consequences!
Genesis 3:20-24 - In these verses, we read about "the tree of life." Here, we catch a glimpse of Christ who died on the Cross for us. It's through His death that we receive eternal life.
Before we come to “the Ten Commandments”, we have these great words, “ I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (Exodus 20:2). Grace comes first. Holiness follows on from grace. We see the same pattern in the New Testament – in the teaching of Jesus, in the letters of Paul.
From the ministry of Jesus, we have the words, “Neither do I condemn you … Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). “Neither do I condemn you” – This is grace. “Go and sin no more” – This is holiness. It’s not grace without holiness. It’s not holiness without grace. It’s grace and holiness together. It’s grace leading on to holiness.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians begins with grace – “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). Paul emphasizes that we have been saved by grace and we are called to holiness - “By grace you have been saved, through faith … to do good works … ” (Ephesians 2:8-10). To those who have been saved by God’s grace, the Apostle Paul writes, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4:1).
In his letter to the Romans, Paul gives us a great description of ”the Gospel.” He says that “it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). To those who have saved by the grace of God, Paul says this: “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” (Romans 12:1).
We cannot save ourselves. We cannot make ourselves holy. From beginning to end, salvation is the work of God’s grace. He brings us to Himself. He forgives our sins. He comes to live in our hearts. He gives us the strength to live for Him. He will bring us to His glorious and eternal Kingdom. All glory to His great Name!
The revelation of God's glory (Exodus 33:22-23)
God's glory is too much for us. Step by step, as we walk with him, he reveals his glory to us. "Ever-increasing glory" (2 Corinthians 3:18) - This is the way in which the Lord leads us on towards the full revelation of his heavenly and eternal glory.
The life of holiness is not an expression of our own moral virtue. It is an expression of the holy character of God being reproduced in us: 'I am the Lord who sanctify you' (Leviticus 20:8). God wants us for Himself - This is why we must not live the world's way: 'I the Lord am ... holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine' (Leviticus 20:26). God has a great purpose for us: 'You shall inherit their land... I will give it to you, a land flowing with milk and honey' (Leviticus 20:24). 'The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly... in Christ Jesus' (1 Timothy 1:14). This is the pathway to holiness: 'By grace you have been saved through faith... for good works' (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Victory in the wildernessThe people of Israel had been delivered from their bondage in Egypt. They were going to be brought to the Promised Land. For a long while they were in the wilderness. For forty years, the wilderness was their “now moment”. We look back. we remember what the Lord has done for us. He died on the cross for us. We look forward to His Return. What a great day that will be! In our many “now moments”, we are in the wilderness. It’s a place of danger. It’s a place of promise. We are involved in a constant battle for faith and obedience – “The sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want” (Galatians 5:17). Often, we fail our Lord. We need to hear the challenging words of Paul: “After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” (Galatians 3:3). Thank God, we also hear Paul’s triumphant words: “Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). Even in the wilderness, we catch a glimpse of the glory of the promised land!
There’s nothing better than God’s blessing. It’s nice to have friends. People like you. It feels good. God’s blessing – That’s so much better. Friends come and go. God’s blessing remains. You can be surrounded by friends – and still feel very lonely. Sometimes, they’re great friends. Sometimes, they disappoint us. When you’re surrounded by God’s blessing, everything’s very different. God will never disappoint us. He’s our “always and forever” Friend. His blessing is an “every day” blessing. It’s not just a “now and again” thing. It’s an “all the days of our life” thing. Everywhere we look, we see God. We look to the hills. We see our Creator. We look to the cross. We see our Saviour. We are blessed by our Creator. We are blessed by our Saviour.How do we enjoy God’s blessing?
Trust Him. Walk in His way. Wherever life’s journey takes us, He’s there. He’s our faithful Friend. He’s the Friend who’ll never let us down. In our happy times, He gives us His joy. In our hard times, He gives us His peace. Is there anything better than this? No! There isn’t. This is not about good things happening to us. It’s about the good God being with us, even when bad things are happening to us. Being blessed by the Lord doesn’t mean that we’ll never have hard times. What it does mean is this – God loves us in the hard times as well as the happy times. Put your trust in the Lord. Trust in His love. Walk in His way. Be changed by His love.
How are we to walk in the Lord’s way?
We must never imagine that walking with the Lord will be easy. It wasn’t easy for Jesus. It won’t be easy for us. Sin is always near. The devil sets many traps for us. He’s always trying to draw us away from Jesus. Sin may be very near – but the Lord comes even closer to us. Jesus is “God with us.” The devil is a powerful enemy. He’s also a defeated enemy. Christ has won the victory over Him. Christ has won the victory for us. He gives His victory to us. Why don’t we enjoy constant victory over sin? – We take our eyes off Jesus. We forget that He’s living in us. We forget that it’s from Him that we receive His peace and His joy. His peace is great. It passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7). His joy is great. It’s “a great and glorious joy which words cannot express” (1 Peter 1:8). His peace and His joy give us strength for walking in His way.
Miriam and Aaron complained (Numbers 12:1-2). Caleb and Joshua encouraged (Numbers 13:30; 14:6-9). Thank God for encouragers!
The promised land was near. For Moses, it was ‘so near and yet so far’. He was excluded. Together with the sadness of Moses’ exclusion, there was the joy of the people’s entrance (27-28). When we consider Moses’ sadness and the people’s joy, we must remember this: Nobody deserved to go into the land! The land was God’s gift. Without His strength, the people of Israel would fail. With Him, they would be victorious: ‘You shall not fear them; for it is the Lord your God who fights for you’(22). There is here a basic principle of Christian living: ‘not by might , nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts’(Zechariah 4:6). ‘In heavenly armour we’ll enter the land. The battle belongs to the Lord. No weapon that’s fashioned against us will stand. The battle belongs to the Lord’(Mission Praise, 639).Deuteronomy 4:1-43
The people of Israel were involved in the work of the Lord. The work was based on God - not Moses. Moses would not be in the promised land. God would be there. Moses would ‘not go over the Jordan’. As God’s man. he was to prepare the people for their task: ‘you shall go over and take possession of that good land’(22). Privilege involves responsibility. Israel was a privileged people, redeemed by the Lord, delivered from bondage ‘by a mighty hand and outstretched arm’(34). Israel was a responsible people, called to obey the Lord: ‘Obey His laws and commands’(40). The Lord our God is ‘a merciful God’(31). He has saved us. We are to serve Him. Let Him reign in your heart. Let there be ‘no other besides Him’(35). Flee to Christ for refuge (42-43), and live each day with ‘the attitude of gratitude’.
Obedience is grounded in salvation. The Ten Commandments (7-21) are preceded by the divine declaration: ‘I am the Lord your God’ who brought you... out of the house of bondage’(6). He has redeemed us. We are to live for Him. The Word of God was spoken to Moses before it was spoken by him (27). We cannot begin to live for the Lord until we begin to listen to Him. The way of obedience is the way of blessing. Our obedience is to be offered in a spirit of gratitude to God for His gracious salvation. Never imagine it is because of our obedience that God loves us. His love for us is always prior to our love for Him. Remember what the Lord has done for you, and your love for Him will grow stronger. Forget, and you love will grow weaker. Loved by God, let us love Him - more!
Deuteronomy 28:25-68There is nothing inevitable about the chain of events described in these verses. These are the consequences of disobedience. God is warning His people: ‘If you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God...’(28:15). Why does God warn His people of the consequences of disobedience? He wants them to draw back from the way of disobedience and follow the pathway of obedience and blessing. These ‘curses’ were avoidable. They would only happen if Israel persisted in rebelling against the Lord. We can bring ‘curses’ upon ourselves. Don’t imagine that God doesn’t care how you live. He does. That is why He calls us back from the pathway of disobedience. That is why He exhorts us to choose holiness. Read Hebrews 10:26-31; 12:25-29. Pray for God’s mercy (Luke 18:13). Ask Him to make you more holy (Hebrews 12:14).
Deuteronomy 29:1-29God has done great things for His people - ‘in the land of Egypt... in the wilderness’(2,5). Acknowledging Him to be the Lord their God, they were to live in obedience to Him (6,9). The way of obedience is the way of blessing. Moses warns the people that they must not depart from the way of blessing. Moses warns the people that they must not depart from the way of obedience (16-28). Turning away from the Lord leads to judgment - ‘anger and fury and great wrath’(24-28). There are ‘secret things’. There are ‘things that are revealed’. Some ‘things’ we will never understand. These ‘things belong to the Lord our God’. There are many ‘things’ we have learned and have firmly believed. ‘The things that are revealed’ are found in ‘the Holy Scriptures.’ Through God’s written Word, we are brought to ‘salvation’ and we are ‘thoroughly equipped’ for Christian living (29; 2 Timothy 3:14-17).
"Be strong and of good courage ... the Lord your God ... goes with you ..." (Deuteronomy 31:6).As well as providing atonement for our sins, the Lord provides us with strength to live to His glory. We give thanks for God's gift of forgiveness - "In Christ we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins" (Ephesians 1:7). We also give thanks that God has given the strength that we need to live for Him - "strengthened with power through His Spirit in our inner being" (Ephesians 3:16).
"You have ... obeyed my voice in all that I commanded you. But take careful heed to do the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to keep His commandments, to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul. So Joshua blessed them ... " (Joshua 22:2,5,6).
We don't earn God's blessing as a reward for our obedience. His blessing is always His gift - but we must never forget this: He gives His blessing to those who are walking with Him in obedience.
Remembering that God's blessing is given by Him and not earned by us, we must not forget to give thanks to Him when we are blessed by Him. We must also remember that we dare not take His blessing for granted. We dare not presume that He will continue to bless us if we do not continue to walk with Him on the pathway of obedience.
“Now fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness” (Joshua 24:14).
What a difference there is between being paralyzed by fear and being set free by the fear of the Lord – to live our lives as His faithful servants!We speak about being paralyzed by fear. This is the exact opposite. This is the fear of the Lord sending us out into the service of the Lord. The fear of the Lord is very different from what we mean when we speak about fear. Our fears disable us. The fear of the Lord enables us. Our fears highlight our weakness. They drive us down into our despair. The fear of the Lord focuses on God's strength. As we think of the Lord, we think not about how little we can do for Him. we think about how much He can do for us. Everything changes - when we look away from ourselves to the Lord. Why must we be paralyzed by our fears - when we can be empowered by the fear of the Lord? "Now fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness" (Joshua 24:14).
“If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?” (Judges 6:13).
God has spoken words of encouragement: “the Lord is with you, brave man” (Judges 6:12). Things were not going well. Gideon was having doubts about God: “now the Lord has abandoned us” (Judges 6:13). God was quick to reassure Gideon: “You will rescue Israel … I am sending you” (Judges 6:14). Gideon moved from the ‘why’ question to the ‘how’ question: “How can I rescue Israel?” (Judges 6:15). God’s answer is still the same: “I will be with you” (Judges 6:16).
“Every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).
This sad situation is with us still. May God give us grace to pray, "Not my will, but Thine be done" (Matthew 26:42).
"There was a famine in the land" (Ruth 1:1).
The situation seemed hopeless. We wonder, "Where will hope come from?" In Amos 8:11, we read about a different kind of famine: "not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord." How do we find hope when there is a famine of hearing the words of the Lord"? We must learn to pray to the Lord: "Speak; your servant is listening" (1 Samuel 3:10).
In Ruth 2, there’s a beautiful picture of harvest. Look back to Ruth 1:1 – “There was a famine in the land.” The Christian life’s like that. It’s not always harvest. Sometimes, it’s famine. Sometimes, we feel like we’re on the mountain-top. At other times, we’re in the wilderness. Whatever your circumstances, remember this – God knows what’s best for you. In the happy times and the testing times, be sure of this – God is not far from you, He’s with you, He loves you and He wants to bless you. When it seems like nothing’s going right for you, take time to think about what the Lord has done for you and give thanks to Him.
When things are going well, don’t take God’s blessing for granted. He can withdraw His blessing from us if we don’t give thanks to Him – that’s the warning Jesus gives us in the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:13-21).
When things are going badly, don’t let your head go down. Don’t start thinking that God’s blessing will never return
In the happy times and the testing times, let’s count our blessings. Sometimes, we think that we can decide when we’re going to rejoice and when we’re going to complain. God says, “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4). This is joy in the Lord. It doesn’t depend on us. It comes from the Lord. Good things may happen to us. Bad things may happen to us. In the good times and the bad times, let us “rejoice in the Lord.”
In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” What we’re saying is this. We depend on the Lord. Every good gift comes from Him. Without His blessing, our life is empty. Our life may seem to be full of good things. If Christ isn’t living in us, our life is empty. Don’t be like the rich fool. He lost everything that mattered to him. Life is more than things. We can’t take them with us. Real life is Jesus living in us. It’s the beginning of eternal life.
1 SAMUELTwo men with the same name – Saul, the first king of Israel, and Saul of Tarsus, the persecutor of Christ and His servants.
In both stories, we read of a new man.
* In the case of Saul, the first king of Israel, David was the new man. Saul was rejected. He was replaced.
The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king … So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed David in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power. Samuel then went to Ramah” (1 Samuel 16:1, 13).
* In the case of Saul of Tarsus, it was very different. Saul became the new man. He became Paul the apostle. He was saved by the Lord. His life was transformed by the power of Christ’s love. He became a new creation in Christ Jesus. He had this great testimony: “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20).
- We don’t need to be like Saul, the first king of Israel – castaway, laid aside as of no further use (1 Corinthians 9:27).
- Each of us can be like Paul the apostle. In 2 Corinthians 5:17, we have more than Paul’s own testimony. we have a call to each one of us. God is calling us to be transformed by the power of Christ’s love. He is calling us to become “a new creation in Christ” – “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone. The new has come!”
The Power - "the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power" (1 Samuel 16:13).
The Victory - "I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty ... the battle is the Lord's, and he will give all of you into our hands" (1 Samuel 17:45, 47).
The Thanksgiving - "I will exalt you, O Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me" (Psalm 30:1).
1 Samuel 17
David faced a giant. We face giants. His giant was called Goliath. Our “Goliaths” are the giants of unbelief and disobedience. We’re told that it doesn’t matter what you believe. We’re told that it doesn’t matter how you live. Like David, we must rise up with faith in the Lord. Like David, we must move forward in obedience to the Lord. Let us challenge today’s “Goliaths” – “I come to you in the Name of the Lord … whom you have defied.”We do not face these “Goliaths” in our own weakness. We face them in the strength of the Lord. Knowing that “the battle is the Lord’s”, we take our stand upon the Word of God: “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment, you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me, says the Lord” (1 Samuel 17:45-47; Isaiah 54:17).
"Concerning this temple which you are building, if you walk in My statutes, execute My judgments, keep all My commandments, and walk in them, then I will perform My Word with you, which I spoke to your father David" (1 Kings 6:12).
Building a temple for God means nothing if it isn't accompanied by building the 'temple' of a godly life. We must remember that "our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 6:19). If the place of worship looks great and our lives are a mess, we need to hear what God is saying to us here. He's speaking to us about godly living. How are we to live a godly life? - We must build our life on Jesus Christ - "whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock ... it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock" (Matthew 7:24-25). Whenever we start to attach too much importance to the place where we worship, let us remember the words of Jesus: "In three days I will raise up the temple of my body" and let us build our faith on Jesus Christ, "risen from the dead" (John 2:19-22). He is the Person whom we worship. May He always be more important to us than the place where we worship Him.
“The glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord” (1 Kings 8:11).
The house of the Lord is never to be the chief focus of our attention. The Lord of the house is to be the focus of all that we do when we gather together for worship.
When we look, with admiration, at the grand cathedrals, we may wonder, “Who were they trying to impress when they built this?” When we see two hugely impressive examples of Church architecture located very close to each other, we may wonder, “Is there more than a bit of the ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ thing going on here?”
We may wonder, “What goes on in these places?” Are they places of which it can be said, “The glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord”? or Have they become places that are not really much more than tourist attractions?”
When Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem, He found that life in the Jerusalem Temple was busy with activity, but it was empty – God was not there.
At the end of the book of Ezekiel, there are these simple yet very wonderful words: “The Lord is there” (Ezekiel 48:35).
When we hear these words, we know that this is what really matters: “The Lord is there.”
“The glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord” – What does this mean?
- We are to be “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:10).
- We are to “worship the Lord in Spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).
- We are to “pray in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18).
- We are to pray that we will “hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches” (Revelation 2:7).
- We are to pray that our preachers will speak with the authority and power of God: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the gospel … ” (Luke 4:18).
“Lord, the God of Israel, there is no God like You in heaven above or on earth below—You who keep Your covenant of love with Your servants who continue wholeheartedly in Your way. You have kept Your promise to Your servant David my father; with Your mouth You have promised and with Your hand You have fulfilled it—as it is today" (1 Kings 8:23-24).
There is no God like the Lord. What's so special about Him? It's His love. It's His faithfulness. He loves us with a faithful love. His love is great. His faithfulness is great. Where else could we find such love? Where else could we find such faithfulness? - Nowhere else! It's only the Lord who loves us with a perfect love. It's only the Lord who will remain completely faithful, when others let down and leave us feeling discouraged. There is no God like the Lord. There is no love like His love. There is no faithfulness like His faithfulness. In love, He gives us His precious promises. In love, He fulfils His precious promises. "When Solomon had finished all these prayers and supplications to the Lord, he rose from before the altar of the Lord, where he had been kneeling with his hands spread out toward heaven. He stood and blessed the whole assembly of Israel in a loud voice, saying, Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel just as He promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises He gave through His servant Moses." (1 Kings 8:54-56).
Prayer leads to blessing. When we receive the Lord's blessing, we are to pass it on to others. We do not pray to the Lord so that we can say, "The Lord has blessed me" - and leave it at that. We must move on from there. We are to share His blessing. We are to bring His blessing to others. His blessing inspires our praise. We think of all that He has done for us, and we say, "Praise be to the Lord." He is our God. He has not failed us - and He will not fail us. He will fulfil His promises of blessing. May His blessing give us the strength that we need to keep on saying, with all our heart, "Praise be to the Lord."
“Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to His people Israel just as He promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises He gave through His servant Moses. May the Lord our God be with us as He was with our ancestors; may He never leave us nor forsake us. May He turn our hearts to Him, to walk in obedience to Him and keep the commands, decrees and laws He gave our ancestors" (1 Kings 8:56-58).
God's faithfulness isn't just something that belongs in the past. It's for us. It's for today. We're not just to say, 'God was good to "His people Israel", a long time. We're to say, 'God is good to us today.' When we realize how God our God is, we will give ourselves gladly to Him - "to walk in obedience to Him."
"King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart. Year after year, everyone who came brought a gift – articles of silver and gold, robes, weapons and spices, and horses and mules." (1 Kings 10:23-25).
" Praise be to the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king to maintain justice and righteousness." (1 Kings 10:9).
We read about King Solomon. We read about His great riches. We read about his great wisdom. We learn that he had been greatly blessed by God. What are we to say about Solomon?
We could focus on the spiritual side - "the wisdom God had put in his heart", "the Lord your God ... has delighted in you."
We should also note the temptation that comes to those who have great riches. Things can become more important to us than they should be. We must pray that the Lord will always be more important to us than the things of this world.
"I'd rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands;
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand."
"My servant David" (1 Kings 11:34,38)
David became a king. He remained a servant. He points us forward to Jesus - "the Servant King" (Graham Kendrick). " ... Jerusalem, the city where I chose to place My Name" (1 Kings 11:36).
Jerusalem is called the Holy City. It's not so much Jerusalem that's holy. It's the Name of the Lord that's holy - and He has placed His holy Name in Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, Jesus died for us and rose again for us. Again, it's not Jerusalem that's holy. It's our Saviour who's holy. Jerusalem's a special place because Jesus is special. There's no one like Him. He's our Lord. He's our Saviour.
"A man of God" (1 Kings 13:1).
There are many things that we can be - a son, a brother, a father, a grandfather, a neighbour, a worker ... Surely, this is the greatest - "a man of God"! To be known, first and foremost, as a man of God is both a great privilege and a great responsibility. Does anyone deserve to be called a man of God? No! We are sinners - but this isn't the full story of our life. We have been saved by the grace of God. He has made us His children - His men, His women. All the glory goes to him - never to us! "A man of God" - What a great responsibility this is. We are to be good witnesses for our Lord. May God help us to do this - with His help and for His glory.
"The Lord also called to the man of God. He said, “This is what the Lord says: You rebelled against the words from the Lord’s mouth and didn’t obey the command that the Lord your God gave you ... A lion found him as he traveled on the road and killed him" (1 Kings 13:21, 24).
What we have here is so different from the story of Daniel in the lion's den (Daniel 6). Daniel was so different from this "man of God." This "man of God" didn't do what God told him to do. Daniel did do what God told him to do. What about us? Do we give the Lord lip-service? or Do we serve Him with our lives?
"The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived" (1 Kings 17:22).
The raising of the widow's son confirmed Elijah's authority as God's prophet. Here, we look beyond God's prophet, Elijah, to God's Son, Jesus. We look beyond the raising of the widow's son to the resurrection of Jesus, God's Son. In the resurrection of Jesus, God is confirming the authority of Jesus as His Son - "Jesus Christ our Lord, ... declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead" (Romans 1:3-4).
"Now I'm convinced that you are a man of God and that the Word of the Lord from your mouth is true" (1 Kings 17:24).
"the Word of the Lord in your mouth": What a privilege this is! - God gives us His Word to speak for Him. What a responsibility it is! - May God help us to be His faithful witnesses.
"When he saw Elijah, Ahab said, “Is that you, you troublemaker of Israel?”
Elijah answered, “I haven’t troubled Israel. You and your father’s family have done it by disobeying the Lord’s commands and following the various Baal gods" (1 Kings 18:17-18).
Was Elijah a troublemaker? Ahab thought so. Ahab didn't like what Elijah had to say to him.He would be glad to see the back of Elijah. He wished Elijah would go away and leave him alone. Ahab was missing the point of Elijah's forthright preaching. Ahab needed the 'trouble' that Elijah was causing. If Ahab and the people of Israel were going to be delivered from the real 'trouble', they needed to start listening to Elijah and start doing what Elijah was telling them to do - turn away from the false gods and turn to the true God.
1 Kings 18:37–39, 19:4
When you’re down, look to the Lord. He loves You. He will lift you up.
Life is full of ups and downs. For Elijah, there was a very high point. He prayed. ‘The fire of the Lord fell’. ‘All the people said, ‘The Lord, He is God’’(1 Kings 18:37-39). This was followed by a very low point: ‘O Lord, take away my life’(1 Kings 19:4). We are so changeable. Often, we feel like we are being torn apart. Our emotions pull us in different directions. Sometimes, we are full of joy. At other times, we are at the point of despair. We find ourselves in a turmoil of confused emotions. What are we to do? Are we to ‘pull ourselves together’? This seems to be the very thing we can’t manage to do. Are we to ‘hope for the best’- ‘Some day, some way, things will get better’? We think about this, and we wonder, ‘What happens if things get worse?’! Look to the Lord. His love is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable.
"Answer me, Lord! Answer me! Then these people will know that you, Lord, are God and that you are winning back their hearts” (1 Kings 18:37).
Winning the hearts of the people - This is the work of God. we cannot do it. He must do it.
"a still small voice" (1 Kings 19:12)
When God is speaking to us, we need to "be still and know that He is God" (Psalm 46:10). Hearing God's voice depends on how much we're really listening for His voice. Don't let His still, small voice" be drowned out by all the other noises that are constantly competing for our attention.
"whatever the Lord tells me" (1 Kings 22:14)
This is the way of the true prophet of God. Our words and our life are to be an echo of the voice of the Lord.
"Now the Lord has put a lying spirit into the mouths of all these prophets" (1 Kings 22:23).
While we believe that God is working out His good purpose - "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him" (Romans 8:28), we must remember that history tells the story of our sin as well as God's salvation. Where there is sin, there is also judgment. We see this in John 3:17-18 where the great words of salvation - "God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through Christ" (verse 17) - are followed by these very serious words of warning - "Whoever believes in Christ is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's only Son " (verse 18). "Because he has not believed ... ", there will be condemnation.
Scripture says that "there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). This is the fulfilment of God's wonderful promise: "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Acts 2:21). If we miss out the words, "who calls on the name of the Lord", we would be left with the statement, "Everyone will be saved." This might be what we would like to hear, but it's not what God's Word says. It says that the way of receiving God's salvation is the way of calling on the name of the Lord we receive God's salvation, we must call on the name of the Lord.
How does this help us to understand the words of 1 Kings 22:23 - "now the Lord has put a lying spirit into the mouths of all these prophets"? The NIV Study Bible offers this comment: "The Lord had given 400 prophets over to the power of the lie because they did not love the truth and had chosen to speak out of their own hearts." We may say that the Lord's action as an act of judgment. He says to those who follow the way of disobedience, "If that's the way you have chosen to go, I will not stop you." He doesn't stop them in their tracks and turn them around. He allows them to continue on in the way they have chosen.
Here, we see the great conflict between God and Satan. We must remember that Satan is "the father of lies" (John 8:44). In its comment on 1 Kings 22:23, the NIV Study Bible says, "see also note on 2 Samuel 24:1). Commenting on 2 Samuel 24:1, it points out two things - (1) "God does not cause anyone to sin" - "When tempted to sin, no-one should say,'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed, Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin ... " (James 1:13-15). (2) "Satan's evil acts are under God's sovereign control" - "The Lord said to Satan, 'Very well, then, everything he has in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.'" (Job 1:12).
When we consider the ongoing conflict between God and Satan, we must never forget that the final outcome is certain: "the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur" (Revelation 20:10). Along with God's judgment on "the devil", there is also His judgment on "the false prophet" (Revelation 20:10).
It is this judgment of God that we must see in the words of Proverbs 16:1 - To man belongs the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the reply of the tongue." While we are still on this earth, God speaks to us His Word of warning - "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?" (Hebrews 12:25). God is calling us to stop turning away from Him and start turning to Him. If, however, we persist in turning away from Him, the word of warning will become the word of judgment: "I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers!" (Matthew 7:23).
There is a better way than the word of warning becoming the word of judgment. When there is "a violent earthquake" in our life - the shaking of our whole life (which makes us think about the direction in which our life is heading), we can turn to the Lord with the question, "What must I do to be saved?" When we ask this question, God will speak to us with His wonderful answer: "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved" (Acts 16:26-31).
‘Go to meet the man of God and inquire of the Lord through him’ (2 Kings 8:8).
God’s servants, appointed by Him to serve the people in His Name, play a significant part in leading the people to a deeper knowledge of God. They bring the Word of God to the people. That is what they have been called to do. It is good to have faithful teaching from God’s Word. There needs also to be faithful hearing, reading and doing of God’s Word. God’s servants can take us so far - and no further. You can take a horse to the water, but you can’t make it drink! God’s servants say, ‘Here are ‘the wells of salvation’’. It is up to the people themselves to take the next step: ‘With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation’ (Isaiah 12:3). God’s Word is provided for you. It is delivered to you. What are you doing with it?
God’s judgment on Jezebel was awesome (2 Kings 9:30-37).
Why does God’s Word speak to us so strongly of judgment? He is warning us. He is calling us to repent, to return to Him before it is too late, before our opportunity for repentance has gone. Make sure that you don’t reach the point of no return. ‘Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near’ (Isaiah 55:6). For you, this may be God’s time. The Lord may never be so ‘near’ again. You are in ‘the valley of decision’: ‘Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts’ (Joel 3:14; Hebrews 4:7). There is still time - to open your heart to Christ, to trust Him as your Saviour, to become a new creation in Him. Here is a prayer you can pray: ‘Restore us, O God; let Thy face shine, that we may be saved!’ (Psalm 80:3,7,19).
David called God’s people to worship. They were ‘to raise sounds of joy’, praising the Lord with ‘loud music’. David did not leave it to others. He gave the lead. Along with all the others, he was there, ‘dancing and making merry’. He was a true spiritual leader. He ‘blessed the people in the Name of the Lord’. He called upon the people to ‘praise the Lord’ (1 Chronicles 15:16,28-29; 16:2,4). God calls us to worship Him continually’ (1 Chronicles 16:6). May God help us to be the kind of people who take ‘delight in the Word of the Lord, meditating on His Word day and night’ (Psalm 1:2). Our meditation on God’s Word is to be accompanied by obedience to His Word – ‘be careful to do according to all that is written in it’ (Joshua 1:8). This is the true ‘spiritual worship’ God is looking for – the dedication of our lives to Him (Romans 12:1).
We look back, and we ‘give thanks to the Lord’, remembering ‘the wonderful works that He has done’ (1 Chronicles 16:8,12). We look forward, committing our future to the Lord in prayer, looking to Him to fulfil the promise He gives to those who call upon Him in heartfelt prayer: ‘If My people who are called by My Name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land’ (2 Chronicles 7:14).
"And give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep Your commands, statutes and decrees and to do everything to build the palatial structure for which I have provided” (1 Chronicles 29:19).
We don't begin with what's on the outside - building the temple. We begin with what's on the inside - "wholehearted devotion." The first thing isn't doing things for God. It's loving the Lord. In the work of the Lord, there's something we must never forget: The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. Everything good in the work of the Lord flows from this: "wholehearted devotion" to Him.
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
In 2 Chronicles 7:14, there is a call to prayer and a promise of blessing: ‘If My people who are called by My Name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their hand’. Why is there so little blessing? - ‘You do not have, because you do not ask’. God will bless mightily - when His people pray earnestly. Why does the devil have so many victories among us? - ‘Resist the devil, and he will flee from you’. God will lead us in His way of victory - when we stop tolerating the devil, and start resisting him. Why does God seem so far away? - ‘Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you’ (James 4:2,7-8). God will come near to us - if we will let Him. ‘I stand at the door and knock; if any one... opens the door, I will come in...’ (Revelation 3:20).
We are to seek God’s face. Seeking God’s face – what will this mean? We could simply repeat what is said here – come to him in prayer, come to Him with humility, come to Him in repentance – turning from our wicked ways. Let’s think a little bit more about seeking God’s face. We communicate with each other by letters, emails and telephone calls. All of these things are good, but they’re not really a substitute for being with each other – face-to-face. Seek God’s face – God is calling us to get to know Him better. He’s calling us to move beyond a casual acquaintance with Him. Don’t be content with a superficial knowledge of God. Don’t be content with a shallow experience of God’s love and power. God has given us great promises – “I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” How great is our God! How wonderful is His blessing! Our appreciation of our great God and His wonderful blessing will grow stronger as we are learning to say, from hearts that have been deeply touched by His love and power, ”O for a closer walk with God.”
What will the future hold for us? One thing we can say is this: there is work to be done – God’s work. God is calling us to do His work and He will give us the strength that we need (Ezra 1:2,5). ‘At such a time is this’, a time when many are turning away from the Lord, showing little or no interest in worshipping and serving Him, a time when many are living according to the world’s standards with no real desire to please God and do His will, God is looking for people who will make a whole-hearted commitment to a life of serving Him. He is looking for people who will say, ‘Serving the Lord – this must be the great priority of my life, the most important thing’ (Esther 4:14,16).
Serving the Lord will not be easy. There will be many times when we will feel like giving up. We will be tempted to follow the crowd rather than following our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. When it seems that we are in danger of being overwhelmed by such temptations, we must say, ‘I have decided to follow Jesus’. We must remember that Jesus went to the Cross for us and we must say, ‘There will be “no turning back”’. We must not by put off by those who have no real love for the Lord: ‘Though none go with me, I still will follow’. We must make our choice: ‘The world behind me, the Cross before me. No turning back’ (Mission Praise, 272).Sometimes, as we serve the Lord, we may wonder, ‘What’s this all about? Where is the Lord in all of this?’ When such thoughts fill our minds, we must take encouragement from God’s Word: ‘He knows the way that I take’ (Job 23:10). We must remember God’s great faithfulness (Lamentations 3:23). In the Lord our God, we find ‘strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow’ (Songs Of God’s People, 37). As we look to the Lord, we will catch a glimpse of His eternal purpose for us (Ecclesiastes 3:11) – He is ‘fitting us for heaven to live with Him there’ (Church Hymnary. 195).
My prayer for each of you is that you will learn to ‘turn your eyes upon Jesus’. I pray that you will ‘look full in His wonderful face’ and find that He is ‘altogether lovely’. As you learn to love Jesus more, you will discover that ‘the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace’ (Mission Praise, 712; Song of Solomon 5:16). Through the great love of Jesus Christ our Saviour, may we all grow stronger in our commitment to worshipping and serving the Lord our God.
"The brightness of the Lord's glory ... the sound of the Almighty God when he speaks" (Ezra 10:4-5)
The glory of the Lord shines upon us when we open the Word of the Lord. We pray, "Speak to us, Lord. Show us your glory." This is a prayer that the Lord loves to hear. this is a prayer that he loves to answer.
"For a full 180 days, King Xerxes displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendour and glory of his majesty" (Esther 1:4).
As I was reading these words about King Xerxes, I thought about another king, a very different king, a much better king - King Jesus. What did Jesus say about His Kingdom? This is what He said - "My Kingdom is not of this world... My Kingdom is from another place" (John 18:36). We read about Xerxes. We read about Jesus. We must make our choice. What is most important to us - this world or the world towards which God is calling us, the world of His glory?
"And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?’ ... I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.’" (Esther 4:14,16).
God has a plan for us. Are we willing to pay the price?
Job was a godly man. Job suffered. Did these things just happen to him - by chance? No! There was much more to it than that. There was a spiritual dimension. There was the attack from Satan. There was the control of God. Satan had plenty of power - but he could only do what God allowed him to do. We should not underestimate Satan. He has great power. He has evil intent. He can do us a great deal of harm. We should not overestimate Satan. He is not greater than God. He shall not triumph over God. Be aware of Satan, be on your guard against him - and remind him of this: Jesus Christ is Lord!
"We have examined this, and it is true" (Job 5:27).
It's one thing to say, "It is true." It's another thing to speak the truth of God. Where did Eliphaz and the other 'comforters' get their ideas from? - "We have investigated this." What about revelation? Were their thoughts given to them by God? or Did they come from their own minds? When we compare the words of the 'comforters' with the Word, spoken by God, in Job 1-2, we find that the two are very different. The 'comforters' think in terms of sin and punishment - the more you sin, the more you'll get punished. Is life really as simple as that? God's Word says, 'No.' In Job 1:7, we read about something else - "Satan is roaming through the earth and walking around on it." What is he doing? - "the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour" (1 Peter 5:8). Can we ever get to the bottom of human suffering, if we fail to see Satan - trying to draw us away from the Lord? As a full and final explanation of all human suffering, 'more sin, more punishment' doesn't cut it. While we are here on earth, we will be attacked by Satan - "the devil has come down to you with great fury" (Revelation 12:12). The devil wants us to blame God, to say, 'God's punishing me.' We must never forget that Satan is our "accuser" (Revelation 12:10). When Satan comes to accuse us and attack us, let's remind him of his final outcome - he will be "thrown into the lake of fire ... " (Revelation 20:10).
The first Psalm speaks to us about two ways of living - the Lord's way and the world's way. Each of us must choose. When we choose God's way, His blessing fills our lives. We must not turn away from Him, and lose out on His blessing. May God help us to keep on walking with Him, and to enjoy His blessing on our lives.
The Psalmist speaks of his enemies – “my foes” (Psalm 3:1). They are not only his enemies. They are the Lord’s enemies (Psalm 2:2).
What an encouragement it is to know that we do not stand against our enemies on our own. The Lord is standing with us. We do not stand in our own weakness. We stand in the strength of the Lord. He is with us. Many times, we will fail Him. He will never fail us. Often, we will let Him down. He will never let us down. What does God say to us, in our weakness? – He assures us that He holds on to us with a love which is much stronger than our weak love for Him – “If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful” (2 Timothy 2:13). When, in our battle against strong and determined enemies, we like giving up, let’s remember this: God is faithful – and He is much stronger than Satan. “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
"Whoever does these things will never be shaken" (Psalm 15:5).
Jesus Christ is the Rock upon which our faith is built. Building on Christ means more than believing the right things about Him. It also means living for Him. This is the message taught by Jesus in his parable of the wise man and the foolish man - "everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock... But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand" (Matthew 7:24,26). What are we to believe? - This is not the only question we must ask. If our faith is real, we must move on from there to another very important question: How are we to live?
"I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken" (Psalm 16:8).
An unshakeable faith - What does this mean? Is my faith ever an unshakeable faith? No! It's not. Is my Saviour an unshakeable Saviour? Yes! He is. Our faith is often shaken. Our Saviour is never shaken.
“Show Your marvelous lovingkindness … O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer” (Psalm 17:7; Psalm 19:14).
The lessons that we discover in the Word of God are lessons that are given to us by revelation. God shows us His “marvellous lovingkindness.” He shows us His salvation. Learning about God’s love and His salvation – There is nothing more wonderful than this. To know that we are loved by the Lord and have been saved by Him – This is what gives us strength to keep on loving and praising Him as we travel with Him towards His glorious Kingdom.
"Keep me as the apple of the eye" (Psalm 17:8).
Jesus is God's "beloved Son" (Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5). In Jesus, God's "beloved" Son, we are "accepted" (Ephesians 1:6). In the eyes of God the Father, Jesus is "precious" (1 Peter 2:4,6-7; 1 Peter 1:19) - and our faith is "precious" (1 Peter 1:7: 2 Peter 1:1).
"You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light" (Psalm 18:28).
Without You, Lord, we're stumbling around in the dark. With You, we're walking in the light - the light of Your love, the light of Your truth, the light of Your holiness. "As for God, His way is perfect" (Psalm 18:30).
The Lord knows what He has planned for each one of us. There are no surprises for Him. The Lord doesn’t leave us to travel on our own. He’s with us every step of the way. When we wonder about what’s happening in our lives, He is there, teaching us to say from the heart, “As for God, His way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30; 2 Samuel 22:31). He’s leading us to His Son, Jesus. He’s showing us our suffering Saviour. He’s showing us our risen Lord. He’s showing us that there is a way of peace, joy and love. It’s the way of Jesus. It’s the way of trusting Him. Keep your eyes on Jesus. He will lead you in His way. God’s blessing will surround you each day.
"The heavens declare the glory of God ... " (Psalm 19:1).
Look around you. Lift up your eyes. Look to the Lord. Catch a glimpse of His glory, and say, "Thank You, Lord."
"The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul" (Psalm 19:7).
God’s Word does not return to Him empty. It accomplishes the purpose for which He sent it (Isaiah 55:11). Often, we feel like God’s Word returns to us empty. It never returns to Him empty. Wherever God’s Word is preached in the power of the Holy Spirit, God is at work. He is doing more than we realize. Some may refuse to listen to the voice of the Spirit – but the Spirit keeps on speaking to them, calling them to return to the Lord and receive His free gift of salvation: “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on them, and to our God, for He will freely pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7). Let us pray that the Word of God will be spoken in the power of the Spirit of God: The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul (Psalm 19:7). Psalm 19:14
Pray that ‘the meditation of your heart’ and ‘the words of your mouth’ will be filled with the Spirit of love.
"The Lord gives victory to His anointed" (Psalm 20:6).
Jesus is the Christ (the anointed). Through His death and resurrection, Jesus has won the victory over Satan. He won the victory for us. He gives His victory to us. "Surely You have granted him eternal blessings" (Psalm 21:6).
Through the mighty victory of Jesus Christ (God's Anointed), there are "eternal blessings" - for us.
"My God, God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Psalm 22:1).
How do eternal blessings come to us through Christ? When we see Christ, suffering on the Cross, we must give thanks to God that His suffering was for us. For Him, there was suffering. For us, there is salvation.
"'Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies ... Amazing love! how can it be that Thou, my God shouldst die for me! ... No condemnation now I dread; Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!"
“You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel” (Psalm 22:3).
God is not enthroned because we enthrone Him. We enthrone Him because He is enthroned.
"Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the House of the Lord for ever" (Psalm 23:6).
For us, God's salvation begins while we are here on earth. They continue for "all the days of our life." His blessings do not come to an end when we leave this world. His blessings are eternal - "I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever."
"Your love, Lord reaches to the heavens ... How priceless is Your unfailing love, O God!" (Psalm 36:5,7).
Where do God's eternal blessings come from? They come from His love, His eternal love, His love which endures forever (Psalm 136).
"Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered" (Psalm 32:1).
God's eternal blessings begin with the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus was forsaken by God so that we might be forgiven by God. "We wait in hope for the Lord" (Psalm 33:20).
The forgiveness of our sins is just the beginning of God's eternal blessings. There is more to come. We look forward to being with the Lord forevermore.
"The Lord is my Shepherd ... "
The words are so familiar. When we start to think that we understand all that this great Psalm is saying to us, the Lord comes to with something new, something fresh, something that speaks to our hearts, something that brings blessing into our lives. What are to say about this? ~ From God to us, comes blessing, much blessing. How much blessing? Who can say? All we can say is this - It's His blessing, and His blessing "overflows" (v. 5).
Speaking about God - The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Speaking to God - Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
* The Lord is my Shepherd;
* The Lord is my Shepherd;
* The Lord is my Shepherd;
* The Lord is my Shepherd. "The Lord is my Shepherd" (Psalm 23:1).
In Luke 15:3-7, Jesus tells the story of the lost sheep and the loving Shepherd.
We read about a lost sheep. We know that we are lost sinners. We are lost because we are sinners. Lost sheep need a loving shepherd. Lost sinners need a loving Saviour. That's what Jesus is. He's our Saviour. His Name means "Saviour" - "You are to give Him the Name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).
Why did Jesus come to this world?
- "The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost" (Luke 19:10).
- "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners" (Mark 2:17).
Jesus came to find the lost. He came to save sinners.
God speaks to us in love. He says, ‘I Myself will be the Shepherd of My sheep... ’ (Ezekiel 34:15). We rejoice in His love. We say, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’ (Psalm 23:1). Jesus is our Shepherd. He is ‘the good Shepherd’. He laid down His life for us that we might receive the forgiveness of our sins. ‘Christ died for our sins’. He - ‘the Righteous’ - died for us - ‘the unrighteous’ - ‘to bring us to God’ (John 10:11; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 1 Peter 3:18). He is ‘the great Shepherd’. He was ‘raised’ from the dead’. Through His resurrection, we receive eternal life. He says to us, ‘Because I live you will live also’ (Hebrews 13:20-21; 1 Corinthians 15:4; John 14:19). He is ‘the chief Shepherd’. He will come again with ‘the unfading crown of glory’ for His ‘good and faithful servants’ (1 Peter 5:4; Matthew 25:21). "He leads me in paths of righteousness for His Name's sake" (Psalm 23:3b).
We enter the Kingdom of God through the new birth. Jesus Christ is "the Door" to God's Kingdom (John 10:9). To those who have come, in faith, to Him, the Lord Jesus says, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:27).
* Where does the Good Shepherd lead those who follow Him? - He leads us "in the paths of righteousness."
* Why does the Good Shepherd lead His people in the paths of righteousness? - It is "for His Name's sake."
The real goal of Christ-like living is not our pleasure. It is God's glory. we find our true pleasure as we give glory to the Lord.
Are you following the Lord Jesus? He will lead you in the paths of righteousness for His Name's sake.
In ‘the Shepherd Psalm’ (Psalm 23), we read, in verse 5,: ‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows’. We are to feast on God’s Word. We are to be filled with God’s Spirit. The ‘table’ is the place of feasting. ‘Oil’ is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. As we feast on God’s Word, we will have good cause to say, again and again, ‘God is good’: ‘His goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life’ (6). The Lord never fails us. He always comes with His life-giving Word, the Word of life, through which our life on earth becomes the beginning of life eternal, the pathway to a life in which the fullness of God’s love will be revealed in a way that we can hardly begin to imagine: ‘I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever’(6). This is what Christ is preparing for us (John 14:2)! We sing our song of praise and thanksgiving. Our enemies are never far away! “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” (Psalm 23:5).
The presence of our enemies – this is never removed. It’s always there. There is, however, another Presence – the Presence of the Lord.
“Be still for the presence of the Lord, the Holy One is here” – This is what we must remember when the presence of our enemies threatens to overwhelm us.
“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:1-4).
Here on earth, we are always “in a foreign land”. We haven’t yet arrived safely at our heavenly home. In this “foreign” land, we are called to keep on singing the songs of the Lord. We live in an atmosphere of rebellion. Let us keep on praying that God will send revival.
Can depressing situations be turned around? – Our hope is not in ourselves. It is in the Lord. He is “mighty to save” (Isaiah 63:2).
When I was living in Glasgow, at the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first century, I met a lady who lived in three different centuries! She was a born a few months before the end of the nineteenth century. She died a few months into the twenty-first century. When someone achieves their century of years, it is a time for giving thanks to God. We look back over our life and we say, 'Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life'. It is not only a time for looking back. It is also a time for looking forward – 'I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever' (Psalm 23:6). We look back, giving thanks to God for many precious and treasured memories. We look forward to something even better – 'we will be with the Lord for ever' (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
Jesus Christ - the great King (Psalm 24:8–10 )
“Who is this great King?” (Psalm 24:8, 10) The Psalmist tells us – “He is the Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, victorious in battle … The triumphant Lord – He is the great King!” (vs. 8, 10).
When we turn to the New Testament, we learn that Jesus is the great King. Jesus is the Lord. Jesus is strong and mighty. Jesus is victorious in battle. Jesus is the triumphant Lord. Jesus Christ is the Name which jumps out at us from the first chapter of Ephesians. Everything is centred upon Christ.
“Show me your ways, Lord; Teach me Your paths … Guide me in your truth … for you are God my Saviour … ” (Psalm 25:4-5).
When we pray, “Show me your ways, Lord”, we must always remember that God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9). God says to us, “Let the wicked forsake his way.” There is a better way – “Let him return to the Lord.” When we return to the Lord, we are led into His better way – “He will have mercy on him … our God … will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7). "The one who has clean hands and a pure heart ... the King of glory" (Psalm 24:4,7-10).
We look at Jesus' life on earth. What do we see? We see the Man "who has clean hands and a pure heart" - "There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin."
We look at Jesus, in heaven. What do we see? We see "the King of glory." We see Him, in heaven, and we rejoice in this: "He only could unlock the gate of heaven and let us in."
"Guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my Saviour, and my hope is in You all day long. Remember, Lord, Your great mercy and love, for they have existed from eternity" (Psalm 25:5-6).
What does God's "truth" teach us? He is our "Saviour." He is our "hope." He is the God of "great mercy." He is the God of "love." He is the eternal God. "All day long", He is our God, our Saviour and our hope.
"I see Your mercy in front of me. I walk in the light of Your truth" (Psalm 26:3).
In Your mercy, Lord, open up for us a new way of living - a way of living that is shaped by Your truth, a way of living that is filled with Your light. "I have always been mindful of Your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on Your faithfulness" (Psalm 26:3).
Have we always been mindful of God's unfailing love? Have we always trusted in His faithfulness? We know the answer as soon as we ask the question. Often, we have failed the Lord - but He has never failed us. Many times, we have let Him down - but He has never let us down. It's His love for us that's unfailing - not our love for Him.
"The Lord is my light and my salvation" (Psalm 27:1).
“They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light” (Revelation 22:5).
No fear of a power cut! This is brighter than the Eurovision Song Contest! "The Lord is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life — of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalm 27:1).
The "light" that brightens up our life is the light of God's "salvation." It's the Saviour who brings us out of darkness. He brings us into His light. This light gives us strength. God's salvation is more than forgiveness for the past. It is strength for every day.
"One thing have I asked of the Lord…that I may dwell in the House of the Lord…"(Psalm 27:4).
Why do we come to the House of the Lord? - We come to offer to Him our heartfelt worship.
"To You, Lord, I call; You are my Rock" (Psalm 28:1).
"I’ve anchored in Jesus, the storms of life I’ll brave,
I’ve anchored in Jesus, I fear no wind or wave.
I’ve anchored in Jesus, for He hath power to save,
I’ve anchored to the Rock of Ages" (Lewis E. Jones).
"The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever. The Lord gives strength to His people; the Lord blesses His people with peace" (Psalm 29:10-11).
The Lord is "enthroned" - This is the God of power.
The Lord "gives", the Lord "blesses" - This is the God of love.
When we think of the God of power, we must always remember that He is also the God of love.
When we think of the God of love, we must never forget that He is also the God of power.
The Lord is the King of love.
"I will honour You highly, O Lord ... O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever" (Psalm 30:1,12).
At the heart of true worship, which gives much glory to God, there is thanksgiving. We must never forget that we are sinners, who have been saved by His amazing grace. We receive His grace at the Cross of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us give thanks to God for our Saviour.
"You have turned for me my mourning into dancing" (Psalm 30:11).
What the Lord does for us - This is truly amazing. He does for us what we could never do for ourselves. He does for us what no-one else could ever do for us. We look at what we are. We look at what the Lord has done for us. We say, This is 'amazing grace.' We say, 'To God be the glory. Great things He has done.' "This is the Lord's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes" (Psalm 118:23). "Not to us, Lord, not to us but to Your Name be the glory, because of Your love and faithfulness" (Psalm 115:1).
"My future is in Your hands" (Psalm 31:15).
We wonder what the future holds. God knows - and our future's in His hands. This is all that we need to know.
"Blessed is the person whose disobedience is forgiven and whose sin is pardoned. ...
The Lord says, “I will instruct you. I will teach you the way that you should go. I will advise you as my eyes watch over you. ... Be glad and find joy in the Lord, you righteous people.
Sing with joy, all whose motives are decent." (Psalm 32:1,8,11).
Forgiveness, Instruction and Joy.
Our joy comes from the forgiveness of our sins. Our joy grows as we feed upon the Word of the Lord and discover more of the riches of God's salvation.
"Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!" (Psalm 33:12).
Chosen by God, chosen to be blessed by him - the Lord has reached out to us and claimed us for himself. The Lord is our God. We are his people. The Lord has done great things for us. Let us give all the glory to him.
God is "holy" (Psalm 33:21). God is "love" (Psalm 33:22).
When you're thinking about God's love, don't forget that he is holy. When you're thinking about God's holiness, remember that He loves you.
"Taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8).
Here, on earth, we're still at the 'starter.' When we're in heaven, we'll move on to the 'main course.' We won't be disappointed!
"O Lord ... Say to my soul, I am your Saviour" (Psalm 35:1,3).
Assurance of our salvation comes to us from the Lord Himself. He speaks to us. His Word is a deep Word. It reaches the heart.
"His feet do not slip ... They will be kept safe forever" (Psalm 37:31,28).
Our feet are slipping. Things are getting out of control. Out of whose control? - Out of our control. Not out of God's control. He keeps us safe. He keeps our feet from slipping.
"Wait on the Lord, and keep His way" (Psalm 37:34).
How do we keep on walking in the way of the Lord? It is the Lord who keeps us walking in His way. Before we can "keep His way", we must "wait on Him." If we are to keep on walking with the Lord, we must keep on waiting on Him. "Wait on the Lord" - This is faith. It is looking away from ourselves to the Lord. Left to our own devices, we will wander away from the way of the Lord. We are not left to our own devices. We can "wait on the Lord and renew our strength" (Isaiah 40:31). As we keep our eyes on Him, looking beyond our present situation to His eternal salvation, He will keep us walking in His way -"kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:5).
What an encouragement it is to know that we do not stand against our enemies on our own. The Lord is standing with us. We do not stand in our own weakness. We stand in the strength of the Lord. He is with us. Many times, we will fail Him. He will never fail us. Often, we will let Him down. He will never let us down. What does God say to us, in our weakness? – He assures us that He holds on to us with a love which is much stronger than our weak love for Him – “If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful” (2 Timothy 2:13). When, in our battle against strong and determined enemies, we like giving up, let’s remember this: God is faithful – and He is much stronger than Satan. “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
"O my God, do not be so distant from me. Come quickly to help me, O Lord, my Saviour" (Psalm 38:22).
Is God a faraway God? If we think of God in this way, we've missed the point. We don't just ask Him to come to us. We thank Him that He has come to us. Jesus is our Saviour (Matthew 1:21). Emmanuel - God with us (Matthew 1:23).
"I wait with hope for you, O Lord. You will answer, O Lord, my God" (Psalm 38:15).
We look at Jesus, and we are filled with hope. We bring our problem to God. He gives His answer - Jesus, our Saviour.
"My hope is in You" (Psalm 39:7).
Hope - what does this mean? We speak about hoping for the best' when we fear the words. We say, 'I hope so', when we're not too sure about saying, 'I think so.' What kind of hope is this. It's human optimism. It's wishful thinking. There is another hope, a better hope. This hope begins when we see that our human situation is hopeless. It begins when we look away from ourselves to the Lord, when we look to Him, and say, "My hope is in You."
"He pulled me out of a horrible pit" (Psalm 40:2).
There are two things that we need to hear about - our own situation and God's salvation..
* Our own situation is hopeless. We need to be saved by the Lord.
* The Lord is able to lift us up. He is able to lift from the guttermost - and save to the uttermost" (Hebrews 7:25).
"Blessed is the one who has concern for helpless people ... Thank the Lord God of Israel through all eternity" (Psalm 41:1,3).
Social concern and spiritual worship - Both are important. There's an earthly situation which we cannot turn our back on. There's an eternal dimension we dare not lose sight of
"My soul thirsts for God, for the living God ... He is my Saviour and my God ... my Rock" (Psalm 42:2,5,8).
The living God is our Saviour and our Rock. When we come to Him, our life can never the same again. We were lost. Now, we've been found. We were falling apart. Now, we're standing on the solid Rock.
"Why are you discouraged, my soul? Why are you so restless? Put your hope in God, because I will still praise Him. He is my Saviour and my God" (Psalm 42:11; 43:5).
These two verses are the same as each other. Some things are worth repeating. We need to hear them over and over again. We get discouraged. Our heads go down. We get restless. We're being pulled in different directions. The pull of the world seems so strong. Does this kind of thing happen now and again? No! It's happening all the time. There's never a time when we don't need to hear the words, "Put your hope in God." There's never a time when we no longer need to hear the call to return to the Lord and start praising Him again. What do we find when we return to the Lord? This is what we find - "He is my Saviour and my God."
"By Your power You forced nations out of the land, but You planted our ancestors there. You shattered many groups of people, but You set our ancestors free. It was not with their swords that they took possession of the land. They did not gain victory with their own strength. It was Your right hand, Your arm, and the light of your presence that did it, because You were pleased with them ...All day long we praise our God. We give thanks to You forever" (Psalm 44:2-3,8).
The power comes from God. The victory is given to us. Let us praise the Lord and give thanks to Him.
"My heart is overflowing with Good News ... Grace is poured on your lips ... O warrior, strap your sword to your side ... Ride on victoriously in your majesty for the cause of truth, humility, and righteousness" (Psalm 45:1-4).
As we read this Psalm, we catch a glimpse of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ - "You are the most handsome of Adam's descendants" (Psalm 45:2). The Good News comes to us from Jesus. Grace comes to us from Jesus. We hear the Gospel. we believe in Jesus. He forgives our sins. He leads us in the way of victory. He teaches us truth, humility and righteousness. His truth sets us free - to become less self-centred and more Christ-centred. He teaches us the truth about ourselves. This keeps us humble. We're never any more than sinners who've been saved by His grace. He teaches us the truth about Himself. He is our Saviour. He is our Lord. As we learn of Jesus, our Saviour and Lord, He creates in us a desire to become more like Him - to be "led in paths of righteousness for His Name's sake" (Psalm 23:3).
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).
Our strength comes from the Lord. In ourselves, we are weak. In Him, we are strong.
‘Be still, and know that I am God… Shout to God with loud songs of joy’(Psalm 46:10; Psalm 47:2).
In our worship, there is to be both quiet trust and loud praise.
"Clap your hands, all you people. Shout to God with a loud, joyful song. ... " (Psalm 47).
What a great celebration! What a great God!
"God has proved that He is a stronghold ... This God is our God forever and ever. He will lead us beyond death" (Psalm 48:3,14).
Death is our great enemy - but our God is stronger than death. He is the eternal God.
"Within Your temple, O God, we meditate on Your unfailing love" (Psalm 48:9).
What do we do when human love fails? We look beyond human love. We look to divine love. God's love never fails. It's an "unfailing love." We should think, often, of the love of God. We should think of Jesus - "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son" (John 3:16). We should think of the supreme demonstration of God's love - "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Think of Jesus. Thank God for Jesus.
"The Lord, the only true God has spoken" (Psalm 50:1).
In today's world, there are many voices that demand to be heard. There is one voice that we really need to hear - and keep on hearing. It's the voice of the Lord, our God. He has so much to say to us. What He says really matters. Are we listening to Him? Will we keep on listening to Him - when so many other voices are threatening to drown out His voice?
How are we to make sense of life? What are we to believe? Are there answers to life's biggest questions. Where have we come from? Where are we headed for? What's life all about? We don't have all the answers. Sometimes, we have to say, 'I don't know.' - but there is something else that we must always say, "The Lord, the only true God, has spoken" (Psalm 50:1). We've not been left to wander around in the darkness of our own uncertainty and confusion. God has given us His Word. His light has shone into our lives. We may not understand everything - but we do have His answers to our most important question. Thank God - we can say more than "This is what I think. I may be right. I be wrong. This is my opinion." God has given us something better - "The Lord, the only true God, has spoken" (Psalm 50:1). We thank You, Lord that "Your Word is truth" (John 17:17).
David confesses his sin. He prays for God's forgiveness. Confession and forgiveness - the two go together. We confess our sins. God forgives our sin. Forgiveness is God's gift. He give his gift when we confess our sins to him - "God is faithful and reliable. If we confess our sins, he forgives them and cleanses us from everything we’ve done wrong! (1 John 1:9). When we confess our sins and receive God's forgiveness, we rejoice in this: "the blood of God's Son, Jesus, cleanses us from every sin" (1 John 1:7). We give thanks to God: His gift of forgiveness is not only for the beginning of our life of faith - "The vilest offender, who truly believes, that moment, from Jesus, a pardon receives." It's for the whole of our journey of faith. The blood of Jesus keeps on cleansing us from all sin. God's forgiveness leads to our joy - "joyous songs of salvation" (Psalm 51:7).
"Create in me a clean heart, O God... Cast me not away from Thy presence... Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation" (Psalm 51:10-12).
These words come to us from the ancient past. They were first spoken many centuries ago. They can be the words which change your future. Make them your words. Make a new beginning with God.
"The mercy of God lasts all day long! ... I trust the mercy of God forever and ever" (Psalm 52:1,8).
Mercy is God's gift to us. Trust is our response to God's mercy. His mercy is for here-and-now. It's for today. His mercy is everlasting - "His mercy endures for ever" (Psalm 136). It's for today. It's for tomorrow. It's for every today. It's for every tomorrow. May God help each of us, today and every day, to trust His mercy.
"If only salvation would come from Zion" (Psalm 53:6).
Salvation comes from above - not from below; from the Lord - not from ourselves.
"O God, save me by Your Name ... I will give thanks to Your good Name, O Lord" (Psalm 54:1, 6).
There is no better name than the Name of the Lord. His Name is the best name. It's the Name of our salvation.
"God is my helper" (Psalm 54:4).
The Lord is my helper. He is also my hope. We are no longer helpless and hopeless. The Lord helps us, and He gives us hope.
"I call on God, and the Lord saves me" (Psalm 55:16).
What a great testimony this is! Calling upon the Lord - This is looking away from ourselves. this is looking to the Lord. In ourselves, there is no salvation. Salvation comes from the Lord. We call upon the Lord, and He answers us. Salvation - This is God's answer..
What a difference there is between Psalm 56:1 - "Have pity on me, O God, because people are harassing me. All day long warriors oppress me" and Psalm 56:13 - "You have rescued me from death. You have kept my feet from stumbling so that I could walk in your presence, in the light of life."
God has not forgotten you. He sees what you're going through. A new beginning may be just around the corner. It begins with "Have pity on me, O God" (Psalm 56:1). Sometimes, we don't know what to say to God. Open your heart to Him. Tell Him where you are - in a dark place. Tell Him where you want to be - "walking in His presence in the light of life."
Remember this, "When I begin to lose hope, You already know what I am experiencing" (Psalm 142:3).
God knows where you are. He knows where you want to be.
He will guide you into His place of blessing - the place where you know that you are not alone. He is there with you every step of the way.
"Even when I am afraid, I still trust You" (Psalm 56:3).
There's a battle going on. Fear is threatening to take control of us. Faith is rising up. It's challenging fear. It's saying, "Is that the best you can do?" What is faith? It's facing our fears. It's saying, "Fear: you are strong - but the Lord is stronger."
"I call to God Most High, to the God who does everything for me. He sends His help from heaven and saves me" (Psalm 57:2-3).
Beyond all human help, there is the help that comes to us from "God Most High." He is "the God who does everything for me." His help comes to us "from heaven." He is more than the God of great power - "God Most High." He is the God of great love - "the God who does everything for me." He has sent His Son, Jesus, to be our Saviour. Could He do more than this for us? No! - "He has done everything for me."
“God sends His love and faithfulness” (Psalm 57:3).
Whatever may be happening in our lives, let’s remember God’s faithful love. Let's will look beyond everything that's happening to us. Let's catch a glimpse of God’s presence and purpose. : God is there, and He is fulfilling His purpose of “love and faithfulness.” In Jesus Christ, the love and faithfulness of God are seen more clearly than anywhere else. Rejoicing in God’s faithful love, let us say, from our hearts, “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth” (Psalm 57:5).
"My heart is confident, O God. My heart is confident ... I want to give thanks to You among the people, O Lord. I want to make music to praise you among the nations because your mercy is as high as the heavens. Your truth reaches the skies" (Psalm 57:7,9-10).
Confidence in the Lord - It's very different from confidence in ourselves. It doesn't lead us to think highly of ourselves. It leads us to think highly of the Lord. Lord, let there be less self-praise, less self- confidence - and more praise to You, more confidence in You.
I was reading Psalm 58. It speaks about sin. As I read these dark words - words that show us up for what we really are: sinners, I thought about something else: salvation. Thank God - His Word shows us more than our sin. It show us that we can be saved by the grace of God. It show us that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15). When your sin gets you down, let the Saviour lift you up.
"God is my stronghold, my merciful God!" (Psalm 59:9,17).
God has shown mercy to us. He has forgiven our sins. He gives us the strength that we need to live as His faithful servants. This is the testimony of the Psalmist. It's also the testimony of the Apostle Paul: "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord that He has trusted me and has appointed me to do His work with the strength He has given me. In the past I cursed Him, persecuted Him, and acted arrogantly toward Him. However, I was treated with mercy because I acted ignorantly in my unbelief. Our Lord was very kind to me. Through His kindness He brought me to faith and gave me the love that Christ Jesus shows people" (1 Timothy 1:12-14). Paul looks back to what he used to be - "In the past ... ", and he says, "Everything has changed." He tells us that this has nothing to do with himself. Paul isn't saying to us, "Look at me. I'm a bit special." What he's saying is this, "The Lord saved me. He called me to be His servant." The mercy of God and the strength of God - This is not just for people from a long time ago. It's for us. Whatever we've been can be left in the past - This is the mercy of God. What about the future? - God will give us the strength that we need to live as His faithful servants.
Watching for the Lord means looking away from ourselves, in our weakness, to Him, in His strength. When we look away from our weakness to His strength, He gives us something to sing about. He gives us a song of praise. In our praise, let us exalt the Lord and give glory to Him. He alone is worthy of all praise. As we learn to praise the Lord, we will grow in strength. This strength is not our own strength. It's the strength of the Lord.
"O God, you have rejected us. ... Restore us!" (Psalm 60:1).
Because of our sin, we are rejected by God. Because of our Saviour, we are restored by God. Thank God - His grace is stronger than our sin.
"those who are dear to You" (Psalm 60:5).
This is wonderful. We are dear to the Lord. Why are we dear to the Lord? Is it because there's something special about us? No! It's because God chooses to love us. He sees our many sins. He could have given up on us - but He hasn't. He keeps on loving us. He loves us with the best love , the greatest love of all, the love that will not let us go.
"With God we shall gain the victory, and He will trample down our enemies" (Psalm 60:12).
When, Lord, we're feeling defeated, Your Word gives us great encouragement. The battle isn't ours. It's Yours. The victory isn't ours. It's Yours. In the heat of the battle, You are our "strong tower against the enemy" (Psalm 61:3). When we're feeling the ferocity of Satan's hostility towards the truth of Your Word and the Gospel of Your grace, help us to remember that You, Lord, are "enthroned for ever" (Psalm 61:7).
"a tower of strength" (Psalm 61:3).
In ourselves, we are weak. In the Lord, we are strong. We come to the Lord in our weakness. He gives us His strength. He is our "tower of strength."
You, Lord, are "our rock and our salvation" (Psalm 62:2,6).
As we read these words, we should read also the words of 1 Corinthians 10:4, where we learn that "Christ" is our "spiritual rock."
Whenever we speak of a good friend as "my rock", let's not forget to look beyond even our best friends. Let's remember to pray, "When my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I" (Psalm 61:2). We think of Your Son, Jesus Christ - the "Rock of our salvation" (1 Corinthians 10:1-4,16), and we say, "Your steadfast love is better than life ... I will praise You as long as I live" (Psalm 63:3-4). We look at Jesus, our great Saviour, and we say, "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift" (2 Corinthians 9:15).
"God has spoken once. I have heard it said twice" (Psalm 62:10).
Some things are worth repeating! Again and again, God speaks to us of His great love for us. He loves us. He emphasizes this point. He says to us, 'Make sure that you don't miss this.' If, in our preaching of God's Word, we set out on a endless search for novelty, we will miss lose our focus on the things that really matter. Our preaching will lack emphasis. It will lack the kind of passion that comes when we're really seeking to emphasize the teachings that are at the heart of God's Word. When God emphasizes something, He's saying, 'This is important.' We see this in God's revelation - "God has spoken once. I have heard it said twice." We see it in His call for our response - "Rejoice in the Lord always, and, again, I say, rejoice" (Philippians 4:4). In our preaching, let us make sure that we emphasize the teachings that are so important in God's Word. This kind of preaching will bring joy to the Lord's people. The more we feed our hearts and minds on God's Word, the more we will rejoice in in the Lord, the God of our salvation. Preaching that's seeking earnestly to share the Good News of salvation will bring blessing to the hearers. We don't need to pack our preaching with as much information as we possibly can. We may end up with so much information that people are left wondering, "What was all that about?" We need more than information. We need inspiration.We must pray for inspiration. We need a real Word from the Lord. May our words be a true echo of God's Word. May the heart of God reach out to the hearts of those who hear His Word.
“O God, my whole being desires you” (Psalm 63:1).
May God help us to worship Him like that!
"Your mercy is better than life itself. So I will thank You as long as I live" (Psalm 63:3-4).
As we travel on our journey through our life on earth, enjoying God's blessings, let's not forget to give thanks to the Lord. His blessings are great. He is greater than all His blessings.
"You satisfy my soul with the richest foods. My mouth will sing Your praise with joyful lips.
You have been my help. In the shadow of your wings, I sing joyfully. .. .The king will find joy in God." (Psalm 63:5,7,11)._______________
What is the richest food that satisfies the soul? It's Jesus. He's the Bread of Life (John 6:35). Jesus gives us real joy. He gives us joy in our singing. He gives us joy in our living.
What is the richest food that satisfies the soul? It's Jesus. He's the Bread of Life (John 6:35). Jesus gives us real joy. He gives us joy in our singing. He gives us joy in our living.
"Let the righteous rejoice in the Lord" (Psalm 64:10).
There is only One who is truly righteous - Jesus Christ, God's Son. He has died for us. Now, we are righteous in Him.Our righteousness is based on His righteousness. Our forgiveness comes from this - Jesus died on the Cross for us. As well as the righteousness that comes us, as God's gift - "the vilest offender, who truly believes, that moment, from Jesus, a pardon receives", there is the call to live as righteous people - people whose lives show that we have been changed by the Lord as well as forgiven by Him. Real joy comes from Jesus. It's the joy of knowing that He has forgiven our sins. This joy grows stronger as we learn to walk with the Lord Jesus, seeking, by our lives, to bring praise and glory to His great Name, the Name of our salvation.
Lord, You give us joy - true joy, lasting joy. This is Your joy. It's not just a passing emotion. It's more than a feeling that doesn't last very long. Your joy changes us. It gives us the strength to live as "a new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
"God, our Saviour, the hope of all the ends of the earth" (Psalm 65:5)
What a great description of God. He's more than our Creator. He's "our Saviour." He's more than the God who brought the people of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt. He's "the hopr of all the ends of the earth."
"The river of God is filled with water" (Psalm 65:9).
What a superabundance of blessing there is in the river of God! We read more about the river of God in Ezekiel 47. We read about the amazing increase of God's blessing - "The water came up to my ankles ...The water came up to my knees ... The water came up to my waist ... the water had risen so much that it became a river which I couldn’t cross. The river was too deep to cross except by swimming" (Ezekiel 47:3-5). When God gave this vision to Ezekiel, He asked him, "Son of man, do you see this?" (Ezekiel 47:6). This is the question that the Lord puts to each one of us: 'Do you see what I'm showing you?' What happens when we're learning to swim in the river of God? - "Wherever the river flows, there will be many fish and animals. The river will make the water in the Dead Sea fresh. Wherever the river flows, it will bring life" (Ezekiel 47:9). We read about fish - "From En Gedi to En Eglaim people will be standing on the shore of the sea with their fishing nets spread out. As many kinds of fish will be there as there are in the Mediterranean Sea" (Ezekiel 47:10) - and God speaks to us about becoming "fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19). When we respond to Jesus' call, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19), we become new men and women - "the Dead Sea" becomes "fresh" (Ezekiel 47:9). This is where fruitfulness begins. God begins with us. He changes us. Before we can become fishers of men, we must become followers of Jesus. Before we can follow Jesus into the place of witness, we must follow Him into the place of worship - "All kinds of fruit trees will grow on both sides of the river. Their leaves won’t wither, and they won’t fail to produce fruit. Each month they will produce fresh fruit because this water flows from the holy place. The fruit will be good food, and the leaves will be used for healing” (Ezekiel 47:12). "All kinds of fruit trees" - Bearing fruit for the Lord - this is for all of us! We don't begin with bearing fruit. We begin with the water that flows from the holy place. We begin with worship. When we're learning to worship the Lord, He will teach us the way of fruitfulness. We receive blessing from the Lord. We share His blessing with others. We are blessed, and they are blessed. As we experience God's blessing in the place of worship, we will find that the Lord turns our hearts towards other people, and we will long for them to join with us in worshipping the Lord: "O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His Name together" (Psalm 34:3). True worship will always be more than our own worship. It will be worship that longs for other people to join with us in worship. It will be worship that leads to witness. Lord. send Your blessing, and may Your blessing reach out to more and more people.
"Come and see what God has done, His awesome deeds for mankind! ... Come and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you what He has done for me" (Psalm 66:5,16).
Here, we see the big picture - "what God has done for mankind" - and the small picture - "what He has done for me." We need both - the big picture and the small picture. We need to know that what God has done is more than what we, ourselves, feel He's doing for us right now. We need also, to have more than the testimonies that we hear others giving, when they tell what the Lord has done for them. We need to have our own personal testimony - This is what the lord has done for me.
"Come and see what God has done ... Come and listen, all who fear God, and I will tell you what he has done for me ... Let everyone give thanks to You, O God." (Psalm 66:5,16; Psalm 67:3).
If we want to see what God has done for us, what's the best place to look? - The Cross of Christ. This is where we will see how much the Lord has done for us. This is where we will see how much the Lord loves us.
When we come to the Cross of Christ, we come to look and listen. From the Cross, Christ speaks to us some wonderful words.
Here are some of His words:
* "My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34).
Here, we see Jesus taking our sin upon Himself.
* "It is finished" (John 19:30).
Here, Jesus declares that He has completed the work that needed to be done for us to be saved.
* "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34).
Through Jesus' death for us, we receive the forgiveness of all our sins.
* "Truly, I say to you, today, you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43).
Jesus died for us so that we might live with Him - forever.
Let us give thanks to the Lord for all that He has done for us. Let us give thanks that He still speaks to us of the great salvation, which comes to us through his death on the Cross for us.
"May God have pity on us and bless us! May He smile on us. ... Let everyone give thanks to You, O God. Let everyone give thanks to You" (Psalm 67:1,3).God's salvation comes first. Our praise follows on from His salvation. We sing the song of salvation - because the Lord has saved us.
"Make a highway for God to ride through the deserts" (Psalm 68:4).
Even when we are in the "desert", we are to remember the Lord. The first thing we must remember is this - God remembers. He has not forgotten us - just because we're going through a hard time. The "desert" may seem like a lonely place. When we feel like this, there is something we must not forget - God is there with us. He will give us the strength that we need to "make a highway for Him."
"The God who is in His holy dwelling place is the father of the fatherless and the defender of widows" (Psalm 68:5).
God is holy. God is love. He "is in His holy dwelling place", but He hasn't remained there. In His Son, Jesus Christ, our Saviour, He has come to us to bring us to Him. He has died for us that we might live with Him.
"Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God" (Psalm 69:1-3).
Sometimes, we get ourselves into deep water. We're sinking. We're looking to You, Lord. The world is pulling us down, pulling us away from You. We're looking to You, Lord. It's not easy. Life is difficult. There are many problems. We're looking to You, Lord. Help us to keep on looking to You - when we feel like giving up and giving in. Help us to keep on believing that there is the light at the end of our tunnel. We're looking to You, Lord - and we will keep on looking to You, whatever happens. "Let heaven and earth praise Him… For God will save" (Psalm 69:34-35).
God does not save us because we praise Him. We praise God because He saves us.
"Answer me, O Lord, because Your mercy is good.
Out of Your unlimited compassion, turn to me" (Psalm 69:16).
Unlimited compassion - How wonderful this is! When we use the word, "unlimited", we don't mean what we say. We mean something like this, "Lasts a long time before it runs out." "Unlimited" - this is beyond our human experience. we can only hope for the next best thing - long lasting. When God's God's Word tells us that the Lord turns to us in unlimited compassion, it means what it says. Unlimited - this is no exaggeration. Unlimited means what it says - unlimited! ______________________"Let those who love your salvation continually say, “God is great!”" (Psalm 70:4).
God is great in power and holiness. He is also great in love. His great love reaches us, touches us and changes us in ways that His great power and His great holiness do not. We are impressed by His power. We are terrified by His holiness. We are saved by His love.
"Be a rock on which I may live, a place where I may always go" (Psalm 71:3).
The Lord is our Rock. When no-one else can help us, we turn to the Lord, and we are not disappointed. No human being can be our "rock" in quite the same way that the Lord is our Rock. They can help us - and we must appreciate their help, but they cannot save us. It's only the Lord, who can be the Rock of our salvation.
"O God, you have taught me since I was young, and I still talk about the miracles you have done" (Psalm 71:17).
Look back. Remember what the Lord has taught you. Remember what he has done for you. Keep on thanking him for this many blessings.
"May he rule from sea to sea, from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth ... May all kings worship him. May all nations serve him" (Psalm 72:8,11).
Can such things be said of any human king? No! There's one one King who is worthy of such praise - King Jesus. He's so much greater than any and every human king. He's "the King of kings and the Lord of lords" (Revelation 19:16).
"God is truly good to Israel, to those whose lives are pure" (Psalm 73:1).
* God is truly good. He's not a mixture of good and evil. * God is truly good to those whose lives are pure. When we're living for ourselves, we'll never appreciate the goodness of God. We'll look at our life through human eyes. Rather than thanking God for His blessings, we take pride in our own achievements. When, however, things are going badly, we don't blame ourselves. We blame God. When our hearts are open to God, everything changes. We see things in the light of God. We see His blessing. We thank Him for His love. We say, "God is truly good." * God is truly good to Israel. Where do we see the goodness of God. we see His goodness in His story of salvation. We read about Israel. We read about Jesus. We see what the Lord has done for Israel. we see what He has done for us. We say, "God is truly good."
"We are given no signs from God; no prophets are left, and none of us knows how long this will be. How long will the enemy mock You, God? Will the foe revile Your Name forever?" (Psalm 74:9-10).
"How long?" - The question is asked. When we ask this question, we must remember that God has given His answer to human sin: "But God is my King from long ago; He brings salvation on the earth" (Psalm 74:12).
Psalm 75:1 - Think of all all that the Lord has done for you, and give thanks to him.
"foundations as solid as rock" (Psalm 75:3)
As I read this phrase, my thoughts turned to Jesus Christ, the rock of our salvation. He's the solid rock. He's the rock that doesn't roll - the rock of ages, the eternal rock.
"Make vows to the Lord your God and fulfil them" (Psalm 76:11).
We're not to tell God one thing, and then do something else. Often, this is exactly what we do. We forget what we have said to God. We fail Him. We let Him down. Will He give up on us as quickly and as easily as we give up on the vows that we have made to Him? No! He sees us in our failure - and He waits for us to come, again, to Him and make a new beginning with Him.
"I remember God ... Has God forgotten ..." (Psalm 77:3,9).
When we forget God, it feels like He has forgotten us. When we remember Him, we know that He remembers us.
"I will remember the deeds of the Lord. I will remember your ancient miracles.
12 I will reflect on all your actions and think about what you have done" (Psalm 77:11-12).
Remembering and reflecting - We don't just remember what happened in the past. We reflect on it. We ask, "What does it mean?"
_________________________" ... O God of our salvation, For the glory of Your name ... provide atonement for our sins, For Your name’s sake!" (Psalm 79:9).
Beyond our salvation, there is God's glory. When we think about Christ's atoning sacrifice for sin, we must not think only of the "for us" blessing - the forgiveness of our sins. We must also think of the "for God" character of the atonement which has been provided for us by God. We rejoice in the forgiveness of our sins. We also rejoice in this: God's holiness is proclaimed in the death of Christ for sinners. We may think first of the blessing that has come to us through the the shedding of Christ's precious blood. Scripture speaks first of the "for God" character of the atonement - God is "just" - before speaking of the "for us" blessing - God is "the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Romans 3:26).
“You transplanted a vine from Egypt. You drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it, and it took root and filled the land” (Psalm 80:8-9).
When we read here about a “vine”, we should remember that Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). We read here that the vine “filled the land.” Let us pray for our land – “Shine, Jesus, shine. Fill this land with the Father’s glory.”
Real Listening, A Real Turning To The Lord And A Real Sense Of His Blessing (Psalm 85:8)
We are to pray for real listening - ‘I will listen to what God the Lord will say’- , a real turning to the Lord - ‘turning to Him in our hearts’- , and a real sense of His blessing - ‘He will speak peace to His people’(Psalm 85:8).
"You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to You" (Psalm 86:5).
Sometimes, we contrast 'the God of the Old Testament' and 'the God of the New Testament.' We speak about 'the God of law' and 'the God of love.' If we think that 'love' only began with the start of the New Testament, we need to read God's Word more carefully. Here, we are in the Old Testament. What do we find? We find love - the love of God, the God of love.
"But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and merciful God" (Psalm 86:15).
This is God, with his face turned towards us.
"Zion is the source of all our blessings" (Psalm 87:7).
Zion is not only the "source" of all our blessings. It is also the outcome of all our blessings. It's the place towards which all our blessings are leading us - "The Lord loves the city of Zion more than any other place in Jacob. 3 Glorious things are said about you, O city of God!" (Psalm 87:3).
"Darkness is my only friend" (Psalm 88:18).
What are we to do when we feel like this? - "I cry out to you for help, O Lord" (Psalm 88:13).
"I will sing of the Lord's faithful love forever" (Psalm 89:1).
God's love is a "faithful love." It's a "forever" love.
The older generation will be familiar with the opening question and answer of the Shorter Catechism. It is a question about the purpose of our life. We are 'to glorify God'. We are 'to enjoy Him for ever'. We live our life in the light of eternity. Through faith in Jesus Christ, we look forward to the wonderful future God has in store for us: 'No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him' (1 Corinthians 2:9). How are we to prepare ourselves for this glorious future? We are to pray, 'Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom' (Psalm 90:12). We must not think only about how long we live. We must think also about how well we live. We are to be men and women of faith, men and women who have asked the question of salvation, 'What must I do to be saved?', men and women who have obeyed the Gospel command, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved' (Acts 16:31). We must not think only of ourselves. There is more to life than achieving a comfortable standard of living. We are to be 'rich toward God' (Luke 12:21). There is more to life than 'storing up for ourselves treasures on earth'. We must not forget the challenge put to us by our Lord Jesus Christ: 'store up for yourselves treasures in heaven' (Matthew 6:19-21). As we grow older, we must not forget another type of growth – spiritual growth: 'grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ' (2 Peter 3:18).
"Satisfy us in the morning with Your unfailing love ..." (Psalm 90:14).Out of the darkness of the night, into the light of the morning - "Very early on the first day of the week ... He has risen!" (Mark 16:4,6). Our new morning comes from Christ's resurrection morning.
The Lord is "our refuge" (Psalm 90:1; 91:2,9). He is "our rock" (Psalm 92:15). He is also "our redeemer" (Psalm 19:14).
“proclaiming Your love in the morning and Your faithfulness at night” (Psalm 92:2).
What blessing there is in these few words! Our God is with us in the morning. He is with us at night. He is with us always. He loves us in the morning. He is faithful at night. He says to us, “I will always love you.”
What a God – a God of perfect love, a God of absolute faithfulness! "You, O Lord, are exalted for ever" (Psalm 92:8).
God is not exalted because we exalt Him. We exalt Him because He is exalted.
Psalm 93:2,4-5 - God is eternal (v. 2). God is mighty (v. 4). God is holy (v.5).
Psalm 94:12-13 - God disciplines us (v. 12) and he gives us his peace (v. 13). In our "days of adversity" (v. 13), let us not think that God has abandoned us, He has not left us. He is with us. In love, he is leading us closer to himself.
"When I said, “My foot is slipping”, Your love, O Lord, supported me" (Psalm 94:18).
The Lord is 'able to keep us from falling' (Jude 24-25). We are 'kept by the power of God' (1 Peter 1:3-5). Putting our trust in the Lord, we may be confident of this: 'God, who began His good work in us, will carry it through to completion on the Day of Jesus Christ' (Philippians 1:6). As we 'press on', we must never forget this: 'It is God who works in us to will and to work according to His good purpose' (Philippians 3:14; 2:13). 'Let us fix our eyes on Jesus', trusting in His promise: 'My sheep listen to My voice ... I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no-one shall snatch them out of My hand' (Hebrews 12:2; John 10:27-30).
"Come, let’s sing joyfully to the Lord. Let’s shout happily to the rock of our salvation" (Psalm 95:1).
We are to worship the Lord with joy.
We are to happy with him, in him and for him.
(a) Be happy with the Lord. He is all that we need - "The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want" (Psalm 23:1). (b) Be happy in the Lord. Where do we find true happiness? We find it in the Lord. We do not set out to find happiness. We find happiness when we find the Lord. (c) Be happy for the Lord. Let us share our happiness.
May God help us to live for him - with joy.
"Sing to the Lord a new song!" (Psalm 96:1).
Singing a new song to the Lord - What does this mean? Does it mean that we should stop singing songs that were written a long time ago? Does it mean that we should only songs that have just been written? Singing a new song to the Lord - Let's think a bit more deeply about this. God has given us "a new heart" (Ezekiel 36:26). Let us sing to him - from a new heart. Then, our song will be a new song - even if the words we sing have been around for many years.
"The Lord is great!" (Psalm 96:4).
Think of the greatness of God. Think, especially, of the greatness of his love. He loves us with "an everlasting love" (Jeremiah 31:3). This is the greatest love. This is the best love - the everlasting love of God.
"Zion hears about this and rejoices" (Psalm 97:8).
God's Word brings joy. True joy is not something that we can give to ourselves. It must be given to us by the Lord. This joy - the joy of the Lord - gets stronger and stronger as we listen to the Word of the Lord and receive its message with faith and obedience.
"Find joy in the Lord, you righteous people. Give thanks to him as you remember how holy he is" (Psalm 97:12).
When we seek to rejoice in the Lord, we must not forget that he is holy. He wants us to find joy in him. We are also to seek holiness in him. The world tells us that we should search for happiness. God's Word points us to a better way: Seek for holiness and find happiness. This is true happiness. This is the happiness that comes to us when we have the Lord at the centre of our life.
"Sing a new song to the Lord" (Psalm 98:1).
What is a new song? It's a song that wasn't there - until the Lord put it into our hearts. It's a song that's come to us from the Lord. We give back to Him what He has given to us.
"Exalt the Lord our God, And worship at His holy hill; For the Lord our God is holy" (Psalm 99:9).
We read about the people who worship God, the place where we worship Him, and the God whom we worship.
"Exalt the Lord our God" - We are called to worship God. We are the worshippers. He is the Lord our God. There is nothing special about our worship. Even when we worship, we must never forget that we are never any more than sinners who have been saved by God's grace. When we hear the call: "Exalt the Lord our God", we must always remember this: God is not exalted because we exalt Him. We exalt Him because He is exalted.
"Worship at His holy hill" - Why do we think of the place where we worship as a holy place? Is it because we, the worshippers, are holy. No! Let's never imagine that we are more holy than we really are. Any holiness we may have has been given to us by God through Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30). We are never perfectly holy. When are called to "pursue ... holiness, without which no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14), we must begin by looking away from ourselves to our Saviour, Jesus Christ. He alone can "ascend the hill of the Lord." He alone "has clean hands and a pure heart." He alone can "ascend the hill of the Lord." He alone can stand in God's holy place. He alone will "receive blessing from the Lord" (Psalm 24:3-5). There is, however, something else which Scripture teaches us about Christ. It is something very wonderful: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15). He comes to us in love. He forgives our sin. He renews our strength. He leads us in His paths of righteousness. The holiness of the place where we worship comes from the God whom we worship, the God who loves, the God who has saved us, the God who has forgiven our sins, the God who has sent His Holy Spirit to live in our hearts.
"For the Lord our God is holy" - Holiness: if this was all we had to say about God, we would have to say, "We dare not even attempt to set foot on "His holy hill." Thank God - There is another "holy hill" where we see His love as well as His holiness: "On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross ... where the dearest and best for a world of lost sinners was slain ... 'twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died to pardon and sanctify me." God is holy - and, in love, He calls us to come to Him, to receive His forgiveness, to walk with Him on "the Highway of Holiness" (Isaiah 35:8).
"But You, O Lord, remain forever" (Psalm 102:12).
Times change - but our God doesn't change. He's unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable - in His great love for us. His love doesn't come and go - sometimes up, sometimes down. His love remains forever. This is Good News for sinners. We have wandered far from Him - but He hasn't stopped loving us. He keeps on loving us. He's calling us to return to Him. He's calling us to make a new beginning with Him. This is love - and it gives us great hope for the future. Without His love, a New Year is just another year - more wandering around in the wilderness without really knowing where we're going. With His love, everything changes. His love changes everything. We move forward into the future with confidence in this: the Lord remains forever - and His love remains forever. Thank You, Lord, for Your great love. We don't deserve to be loved by You - but You keep on loving us. This fills our hearts with gladness - and with much hope for the future into which You are leading us.
"Praise the Lord, my soul, and never forget all the good he has done" (Psalm 103:2).
We remember things that are important to us. We must make sure that we don't forget the things that are of the greatest importance. Let us remember what the Lord has done for us. Let us give thanks to him.
May God help each of us to “sing to the Lord.” May we “sing praise to Him.” May we “glory in His holy Name.” May we “rejoice” in Him. May we come to Him in our weakness and find our new “strength” in Him (Psalm 105:2-4).
"an everlasting promise" (Psalm 105:10)
In the promises of God, there is eternal love, leading us on to eternal glory.
"Who can speak about all the mighty things the Lord has done? Who can announce all the things for which He is worthy of praise?" (Psalm 106:2).
There is always more to be said about the Lord than we can ever say. When we have said all that we can say, we have not said enough. The Lord is always greater than all our words about Him. How great is our God! How great is His mighty work of salvation! Praise be to His Name - the Name of our salvation.
There are some things that are worth repeating! The story of God’s amazing grace is worth repeating over and over again – ‘Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress’(Psalm 107:6, 13, 19, 28). The call to praise the Lord is also something we need to hear again and again – ‘Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men’(Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, 31). Let us ‘consider the great love of the Lord.’ Let us ‘give thanks to the Lord’ (Psalm 107:43, 1). ‘The great love of God is revealed in the Son, who came to this earth to redeem every one. That love, like a stream flowing clear to the sea, makes clean every heart that from sin would be free… It’s yours, it is ours, O how lavishly given! The pearl of great price, and the treasure of heaven!’ (Daniel Thambyrajah Niles).
"This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes" (Psalm 118:23).
When we think of all that the Lord has done for us, let us think also of what He will do for us.
Let us look back with thanksgiving. Let us look forward with hope.
"Let Your blessings reach me, O Lord. Save me as You promised" (Psalm 119:41).
We count our blessings. we name them on by one - and it surprises us what the Lord has done for us. None of our many blessings can even begin to compare with the greatest blessing of all - salvation.
When we thank God for His many blessings, may we never forget to thank Him for His greatest blessing - our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
God's Word is "a lamp to our feet and a light to our path" (Psalm 119:105).
He has "wondrous things" to teach us as we pray "Open my eyes that I may see" (Psalm 119:18,11). "May God's blessing surround you each day, as you trust Him and walk in His way. May His presence within guard and keep you from sin, go in peace, go in joy, go in love." "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to Your Name give glory, because of Your mercy and Your truth" (Psalm 115:1).
"O Lord, your word is established in heaven forever. 90 Your faithfulness endures throughout every generation" (Psalm 119:89-90).
God has given us his Word. From His Word, we learn that He is faithful. His Word lifts us out of our this-worldly thinking. It gives us a glimpse of God's heavenly and eternal Kingdom. As we travel towards God's Kingdom, we trust in His faithfulness to keep us safe until the end of our earthly journey.
Why? Why? Why? - Even when we don’t understand, we can still say, ‘My help comes from the Lord’ (Psalm 121:2).
“I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the House of the Lord.’ Our feet are standing in your gates, Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:2).
* Standing – in the House of the Lord! In life’s many trying times, we are put to the test – Will we stand? Will we fall?
* Standing – in the house of the Lord! Let’s never imagine that we can stand in our own strength – “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
* Standing – in the House of the Lord: We stand when we put our trust in the Lord. We stand when we build our life on Him.
"Our help is in the name of the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth" (Psalm 124:8).
Everything in this psalm leads to this final verse - God is "the maker of heaven and earth" - and he is also "our help."
"But with You there is forgiveness so that You can be feared" (Psalm 130:4).
There is a sense in which forgiveness means the end of fear - "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). When we are rejoicing in God's salvation, we rejoice in this - "perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18).
There is another sense in which "the fear of the Lord" (Proverbs 1:7) continues after we've been forgiven. Filled with with thanksgiving to God for His free gift of salvation, we seek to glorify the Lord in our lives. Loving the Lord, who first loved us (1 John 4:19), we pray that He will keep us close to Himself. There will be times when we're looking to the Lord to lead us in His way - "This is the way, walk in it" (Isaiah 30:21). There will be times when we need to hear the word of warning - This is not the way. Do not walk in it. "The fear of the Lord" keeps us from thinking that we're closer to the Lord than we really are. It reminds us that we must keep on coming to the foot of the Cross of Christ. At the Cross, we rejoice in the love of our Saviour. We receive reassurance that "there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." At the Cross, we are challenged by the holiness of our Saviour. He calls us back from "walking in the flesh." He calls us to keep on "walking in the Spirit" (Galatians 5:16).
"May Your priests be clothed with Your righteousness; may Your faithful people sing for joy" (Psalm 132:9).
We need "righteousness" and "joy" - not righteousness without joy, not joy without righteousness. What is "righteousness", if there's no "joy"? It's Pharisaism. What is "joy" without "righteousness"? Is it really "the joy of the Lord"? No! "The joy of the Lord" gives us "strength" to live for the Lord (Nehemiah 8:10). "The joy of the Lord" is always more than a nice feeling. The joy of the Lord changes us.
"God's love endures for ever" (Psalm 136:1).
God loves us. He’s always reaching out to us. He’s calling us to return to Him. He’s inviting us to come and be blessed by Him. When we resist His call and rebel against Him, we miss out on His blessings – the forgiveness of our sins and new life in Christ. We receive these blessings through faith in Christ. Our rebellion against God doesn’t mean that God stops loving us – He keeps on reaching out to us. He keeps on calling us to return to Him – but it does mean that we miss out on the enjoyment of the blessings He’s calling us to receive through faith in Christ.
"I will make music to You in front of the false gods" (Psalm 138:1).
We live in an age of pluralism, but we must remain single-minded in our devotion to the Lord.
"You made me bold by strengthening my soul" (Psalm 138:3).
We come to the Lord in weakness. He give us his strength.
"O Lord, You have examined me and You know me ... Examine me, O God, and know my mind" (Psalm 139:1, 23).
This Psalm begins with a statement about God, and ends with a prayer to Him. In prayer, we say our Amen to God. We look into God's Word, and we learn about God. He is the God of perfect holiness. In prayer, we say to the Lord, "We want to be more like You."
"My eyes look to You, Lord Almighty" (Psalm 141:8).
Where are we looking - to the world or to the Lord?
"When I begin to lose hope, you already know what I am experiencing" (Psalm 142:3).
For God, there are no surprises. We are caught out - when things go wrong. We say, "I never expected this." God is ready for everything - and he gives us what we need.
"O Lord, listen to my prayer. Open your ears to hear my urgent requests. Answer me because you are faithful and righteous" (Psalm 143:1).
The Psalmist doesn't say, 'Answer me because I am faithful and righteous.' He prays, "O Lord ... Answer me because you are faithful and righteous." God is faithful. We fail him.He never fails us. When we let him down, he lifts us up.
"For the enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead. 4 Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled" (Psalm 143:3-4). "Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord! I have fled to you for refuge" (Psalm 143:9). "And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies, and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul, for I am your servant" (Psalm 143:12).
Beyond our human enemies, there is the enemy - Satan. He is a powerful enemy. There is a greater power. It's the power of God's love. We're attacked by Satan. We're loved by God. It's God's love that lifts us out of Satan's pit.
"I will sing a new song to You, O God ... the One who gives salvation ... Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving. Sing praises ... to our God" (Psalm 144:9-10; Psalm 147:7).
"Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised" (Psalm 145:1-3).
The God whom we worship is so much greater than the worship we bring to Him.
"Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom" (Psalm 145:13).
We read about kings. Some were good kings. Some were bad kings. None could even begin to compare with Jesus, the King of our salvation, the King who brings us into his kingdom, the King who brings salvation to us.
"I will praise the Lord all my life. I will sing to the Lord as long as I live" (Psalm 146:2).
Praising the Lord is not a passing phase - something that grabs our interest and then, later on, we lose interest and stop praising him. Praising the Lord - this is for the whole of our life. As we travel on our journey through life, the Lord is teaching us to praise him.
"Hallelujah! ... Hallelujah!" (Psalm 147:1,20).
God has given us plenty of reasons to praise him - reasons to "sing to the Lord with thanksgiving" (Psalm 147:7).
The world sings its songs. They do not sing the song of the Lord. There is a song which can only be sung by those who have been saved by the Lord. It is "a new song." It is the song of "salvation." Saved by the Lord, we sing to Him our song of "thanksgiving." We think of what the Lord has done for us and we say, "Praise the Lord!" (Psalm 149:1).
"Let Israel find joy in her Creator" (Psalm 149:2).
We do not create our own joy. Joy is given to us by the Lord.
The search for wisdom may begin for us with the question, “What does the book of Proverbs teach us about wisdom?”, but it must not end there. While it is important to learn what the Old Testament has to say to us, we should not allow ourselves to get trapped in the Old Testament so that we fail to look beyond the first stage of God’s revelation and see the fullness of God’s revelation – our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2).
The book of Proverbs encourages us to search for wisdom. In our search for wisdom, we find that we are led beyond the book of Proverbs. We read what the New Testament says to us – “you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). We are to led to “Christ” who is “the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24). Christ leads us beyond “man’s wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:25). Whatever else may be said about wisdom, there is one thing that we must always say, “Christ Jesus … has become for us wisdom from God” (1 Corinthians 1:30).
We do learn about wisdom as we read the book of Proverbs – but there is more to learn than the book of Proverbs, on its own, is able to teach us. In the book of Proverbs, we read of “Wisdom” calling out to us (Proverbs 1:20-21). In the Gospels, Jesus speaks to us. He tells us that He is “the Truth” (John 14:6). He tells us that He is “the Light” (John 8:12). We seek understanding. We seek enlightenment. We find these things in Jesus. We are truly wise when we build our life on Christ (Matthew 7:24-27).
When, in the book of Proverbs, we read the words, “Get wisdom” (Proverbs 4:7), we must follow where our search for wisdom leads us. For us, “Get wisdom” means more than it meant for the writer of the book of Proverbs. It means, “Come to Christ and receive salvation.”
Whatever we may learn about wisdom from the book of Proverbs, this is only the beginning of our search. From there, we look to Jesus and we see that in Him are “‘all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ (Colossians 2:3) – all that we need for salvation, sanctification and service.
"Trust the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding ... Blessed is the one who finds wisdom and the one who obtains understanding" (Proverbs 3:5, 13).
Real understanding of what our life really means - this isn't something that comes from within ourselves. It is given to us by the Lord. The first thing we must learn to do is this: Trust the Lord. He knows what our life is all about. When we don't understand what's going on, may we learn to trust Him.
"But the path of righteous people is like the light of dawn that becomes brighter and brighter until it reaches midday. 19 The way of wicked people is like deep darkness. They do not know what makes them stumble" (Proverbs 4:18-19).
What a contrast there is between the "light" of the "righteous" and the "darkness" of the "wicked." The light that shines upon us is the light of the Lord. It is the light of his love, the best love, the greatest love of all, the love that never lets us go, the love that never comes to an end, everlasting love. It's God's love that brings us out of our darkness and into his light. Praise the Lord!
"He that winneth souls is wise" (Proverbs 11:30).
Be wise. Win souls.
"Those are the best educated ministers, who win the most souls" (Charles Finney) - It is estimated that over 250,000 souls were converted as the result of Finney's preaching!
"Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever" (Daniel 12:3).
What kind of people are we to be? What kind of life are we to live? Lord, You're calling us to live a life of "love" (Proverbs 17:9). How, Lord, do we learn what love is? - We learn from You. You show us what love is - "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son ... " (John 3:16). In Jesus, we see perfect love - "The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). The Holy Spirit fills our lives with Your love - "The fruit of the Spirit is love" (Galatians 5:22). Help us, Lord, to live a Godly, Christlike, Spirit-filled life - a life of love.
" ... a faithful messenger ... refreshes the soul ..." (Proverbs 25:13).
God is calling us to be faithful and fruitful. Let us bring His Word to others. Let us bring his blessing to them.
"I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him" (Ecclesiastes 3:14).
- It's a permanent salvation: it "will endure forever";
- It's a complete salvation: "nothing can be added to it";
- It's a secure salvation: "nothing" can be "taken from it";
- It's a salvation which leads to worship: "so that men will revere Him."
“I will sing for the one I love” (Isaiah 5:1).
Isaiah speaks here of our love for God. When we speak of our love for God, we must always remember this: God’s love for us comes before our love for Him. We sing to the One who has loved us. The song we sing to Him is the song of love: “Loving Him who first loved me.”
Lord, we sing a song of love. We sing about the best love of all - Your love for us. There is no love like Your love. It's the greatest love of all. It's Your love for us that inspires our love for You. Our love for You grows strong when we think less about our love for You - and more about Your love for us.
"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty" (Isaiah 6:3); "Your sins are forgiven" (Isaiah 6:7).
"Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I am the worst of them" (1 Timothy 1:15).
Awesome holiness: It was my sin which sent Christ to the Cross.
Amazing love: Christ has taken my sin to the Cross. I receive His forgiveness.
"Say to the faint-hearted: 'Be strong; do not fear! Here is your God" (Isaiah 35:4).
What encouragement there is for us in the Word of the Lord. Our encouragement comes from the Lord. It is He who speaks to us his words of encouragement.
"The Highway of Holiness" (Isaiah 35:8) - It's the highway of the heart. It's the highway of hope. It's the highway to heaven.
* Holiness is more than external conformity to a set of moral teachings. Holiness begins to grow in us when our hearts belong to Jesus, when Jesus lives in us.
* Holiness doesn't take away from our life. Holiness gives us hope for the future. We begin to see ourselves in terms of God's purpose of love. He hasn't given up on us. He's working in us to make us more like Jesus.
* Holiness leads us beyond our earthly journey. It leads us on to our heavenly destination. We're not saved by our own holiness. We're saved by God's grace. By His grace, our Heavenly Father leads us in the pathway of holiness. He's leading us on to His eternal glory.
When we're walking om the highway of holiness, may we always say, "To God be the glory!" There can be no place for self-congratulation. All we can say is "Thank You, Lord."
God’s Word for hard times: “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31).
"I will strengthen you" (Isaiah 45:5).
We come to the Lord in our weakness. He gives us his strength. His strength is more than enough for us.
‘The Lord’ is not only ‘the Holy One of Israel’. He is ‘the God of the whole earth’ (Isaiah 54:5). The Gospel is for ‘all nations’. The ministry of Christ’s apostles began in ‘Jerusalem’, but it did not end there. The Gospel was to be taken ‘to the ends of the earth’ (Luke 24:46-47; Acts 1:8). Taking the Gospel out from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth was not easy. The apostles faced much opposition. They stood upon God’s promise: ‘No weapon formed against you shall prosper’ (Isaiah 54:17). When we face opposition, we must take our stand on the Word of God: ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’ (Romans 8:31). Even when our words seem to fall on stony ground, we must keep on speaking the Word of God’s love: ‘With everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says the Lord, your Redeemer’ (Isaiah 54:8).
"The mountains may move, and the hills may shake, but my kindness will never depart from you. My promise of peace will never change,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you" (Isaiah 54:10).
This may change. That may change. The next thing may change. It may seem like everything's changing. We wonder if there' anything that remains the same. There's one thing that doesn't change. It's the love of God. He loved us then. He loves us now. He will love us forever.
Wonderful Grace of Jesus
We are, because of our sin, under the judgment of God. Christ has taken our judgment that we might receive His salvation. In the Lord’s Supper, we have a great reminder of this. Christ drank from the cup of our condemnation that we might drink from the cup of His salvation. This is amazing grace, reaching out to us.
What we do with this grace, which is so freely offered to us in Christ, is a matter of eternal significance. May God, in this generation where there is so much unbelief, bring many people to heed the words of the Prophet Isaiah: “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him, and to our God, for He will freely pardon.” These great words of grace are followed by some words which tell us how amazing this grace is: “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways’, declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:6-9).
In ourselves, convicted of our sin, we feel that there is no hope. As the Spirit works in our hearts, we are able to look to Christ in faith. As we come to Him, we see how wonderful the love of God is. We think, “The Lord could never accept me after what I have done.” Jesus says, “Those who come to Me, I will never turn away” (John 6:37). “Wonderful grace of Jesus, greater than all my sin; How shall my tongue describe it? Where shall my praise begin?”God’s Word does not return to Him empty. It accomplishes the purpose for which He sent it (Isaiah 55:11).
Often, we feel like God’s Word returns to us empty. It never returns to Him empty. Wherever God’s Word is preached in the power of the Holy Spirit, God is at work. He is doing more than we realize. Some may refuse to listen to the voice of the Spirit – but the Spirit keeps on speaking to them, calling them to return to the Lord and receive His free gift of salvation: “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on them, and to our God, for He will freely pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7). Let us pray that the Word of God will be spoken in the power of the Spirit of God: The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul (Psalm 19:7).
"Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you" (Isaiah 60:1).
* Let the light of Christ shine.
* Let the words of Scripture lead to thoughts of the Saviour.
* In Christ, we are called to salvation, sanctification and service.
* Be wise – worship the Saviour.
"The Spirit of the Almighty Lord is with me
because the Lord has anointed me
to deliver good news to humble people.
He has sent me
to heal those who are brokenhearted,
to announce that captives will be set free
and prisoners will be released" (Isaiah 61:1).
These words were spoken by Isaiah. They were spoken by Jesus. May they also be our words.
"Lord, Your eyes look for the truth" (Jeremiah 5:3).God is looking for more than truth in our teaching. He's looking for truth in our living.
The proclamation of peace with God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1) must be carefully dissociated from a proclamation which says, "'Peace, peace', when there is no peace" (Jeremiah 6:14; Jeremiah 8:11).
"Listen to the Lord's Word, all you people of Judah who go through these gates to worship the Lord" (Jeremiah 7:2).
We worship the Lord. We listen to His Word. It's His Word that inspires our worship. How can we worship the Lord truly if we're bot listening to His Word attentively. We listen so that we might worship.
"Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!”... Has this house, which bears My Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord" (Jeremiah 7:4,11).
Jeremiah spoke to the people of his own day. He speaks to us as well. Don't let the place where you worship become more important than it really is. This is what he says to us. These are not only the words of Jeremiah. This is the Word of the Lord. What's happening in our hearts when we are gathered together in the House of the Lord? Are we thinking to ourselves, "I never miss a church service - not like those who've stopped coming to church"? What kind of "worship" is this? Lord, take us to the heart of worship. Give us a worshipping heart.
" ... Will you ... come and stand before Me in this house, which bears My Name, and say, We are safe" - safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears My Name become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord" (Jeremiah 7:8-11).
We must take care that our love for God's house doesn't become more important to us than our love for God. Love for God's house won't change the way we live - if there's no real love for God in our hearts.
"The heart is deceitful" (Jeremiah 17:9).
We have been deceived by the deceiver - Satan. Christ sets us free by his truth (John 8:32-36).
In Jeremiah 18:5-6, we read about the potter and the clay - "The Lord spoke his word to me. The Lord asked, 6 “Nation of Israel, can’t I do with you as this potter does with clay? Nation of Israel, you are like the clay in the potter’s hands."
When we read these words, let's pray, "Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Break me, melt me, mould me, fill me." Let's pray that the Spirit of the Lord will give us the strength that we need to respond to God's call to return to him and live for him - "Turn from your evil ways, change your lives, and do good" (Jeremiah 18:11).
"Your father ... defended the cause of the poor and needy ... Isn't this what it means to know me?, asks the Lord" (Jeremiah 22:15-16).
True knowledge of god is more than head-knowledge. It changes the way we live.
___________________________"I have loved you with an everlasting love" (Jeremiah 31:3).
God loves us. This isn’t for some perfect people who’ve never fallen into sin. There’s nobody who’s like that. All of us have made a mess of things – but God still says to us, “I love you.” He says, “My Son, Jesus, died for you.” This is what gives us the strength to choose His way rather than our own way. This is what keeps us from sin. This is what convinces us that there’s a better way than the way of sin. There’s a way of blessing. It comes to us when we’re learning how much God loves us. He doesn’t give up on us when we let Him down. He keeps on loving us. He keeps on lifting us up. He sets us on our feet. He changes the direction of our life. It becomes less about ourselves, and more about Him (Galatians 2:20).
So often, we have been like ‘the prodigal son’(Luke 15:11-24). We have walked away from our Father’s House. We have wandered off into ‘the far country’. We feel that we are far from God, yet still He draws near to us.
The Lord is at work in our hearts. He is bringing us ‘to our senses’. He is reminding us of His love. He is drawing us back to Himself. In love, He is calling us home again. He is speaking to our hearts. He is saying to us, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’ (Jeremiah 31:3).
As His love reaches our hearts, ‘the prodigal son’ becomes ‘the returning son’: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son’. ‘Bring me back, let me come back, for you are the Lord my God!’(Jeremiah 31:18).
Where do God’s peace and joy come from? They come from His love. It’s the greatest love of all (Ephesians 3:18). There’s nothing like the love of God. His peace is great. His joy is great. His love is even greater. This is where His blessing comes from. He loves us. He loves us with “an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). It’s a love that will not let us go. It’s a love that goes on forever. When we say, “May God’s blessing surround you each day”, what we’re saying is this: May you know that God loves you; may you know that He’s never going to stop loving you; may you know the blessing of His love.
"Is there any word from the Lord?" (Jeremiah 37:17).
There are different ways of asking questions.
"Is there any word from the Lord?" This is a question which invites Jeremiah to speak the Word of the Lord.
In Genesis 3:1, we have a very different way of asking questions - "the serpent ... said to the woman, Did God really say ... ?"
The "ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan" (Revelation 12:9) is always trying to get us to stop believing the Word of God.
"Is there any Word from the Lord?" - Jeremiah's answer is "Yes" (Jeremiah 37:17).
What was the Word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah at that time? - "You will be delivered into the hands of the king of Babylon" (Jeremiah 37:17).
What are we to do when God's Word doesn't say what we had been hoping to hear? - We must refuse to ask the Satanic question, "Did God really say?" We must learn to say, from the heart, "This is the Word of the Lord."
It's not our place to say what the Word of God should say to us and what it should not say to us. Our response must always be, "Let it be to me according to Your Word" (Luke 1:38); "Your Word is truth" (John 17:17).
We're not to set up as those who have the right to keep on asking the Satanic question: "Did God really say?" We're to bow before the Word of the Lord, which says to us, "This was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by My Father in heaven" (Matthew 16:17).
We must take care that we don't get drawn into the way of the foolish man who builds his life upon the shifting sands of human opinion. There is a better way than that. It's the way of the wise man who builds his life on God's revelation: "Everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock" (Matthew 7:24).
"Great is Your faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:22).
Day by day, we learn more about our own human failure. Day by day, we learn also of God's divine faithfulness. "We are faithless. He remains faithful" (2 Timothy 2:13). Day by day, let's praise God for His wonderful love, His amazing grace and His superabundant marvellous mercy. "The grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant ... Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners ... I obtained mercy ... Now to the King eternal ... be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen" (1 Timothy 1:14-17).
" ... the sky opened, and I saw visions from God ... The power of the Lord came over Ezekiel" (Ezekiel 1:1-2).
Where does revelation come from? Does it come from us? Is it something that we discover? No! It comes from above. It comes from heaven. It comes from the Lord. It is given to us. It is the gift of His grace. Revelation comes to us - but it doesn't begin with us. It begins with God. We see things differently - when our eyes are opened by the Lord. No glory belongs to us. All the glory belongs to the Lord. We dare not say, "Look at what I have discovered." All we can say is this, ""To God be the glory! Great things He has done."
"As He spoke to me, the Spirit entered me, stood me on my feet, and I heard Him speaking to me" (Ezekiel 2:2).
If we are to stand in Christ, we need both the Spirit and the Word - not the Spirit without the Word, not the Word without the Spirit.
"As I looked, I saw a hand stretched out toward me. In it was a scroll. He spread the scroll in front of me. There was writing on the front and back. There were funeral songs, songs of mourning, and horrible things written on it" (Ezekiel 2:9-10).
"funeral songs, songs of mourning, and horrible things" - Sometimes, there are things that we don't want to hear, but we need to hear them. It may cause us pain to listen to some of the things that God's Word says to us - but, as we listen to His Word, we will find that it brings healing to our hurting hearts."Your wounds are as deep as. the sea. Who can heal you?" (Ezekiel 2:13).
There's only one answer to this question - the Lord. Other people can help us - if they point away from themselves to the Lord, if they say to us, 'You need more than the help i can give to you. You need Jesus.'
"The Spirit lifted me" (Ezekiel 3:12,14).
The Spirit speaks God's Word to us, and He gives God's power to us. Through God's Word, the spirit reaches us. Through God's power, the Spirit changes us.
"3 ... In these visions from God, the Spirit carried me between heaven and earth. He took me to Jerusalem, to the entrance to the north gate of the inner courtyard of the temple. That was where an idol that stirs up God’s anger was located. 4 There I saw the glory of Israel’s God as I did in the vision that I saw in the valley.
5 God said to me, “Son of man, look toward the north.” So I looked toward the north, and there in the entrance to the north gate beside the altar, I saw the idol that stirs up God’s anger.
6 He asked me, “Son of man, do you see what the people of Israel are doing? The people of Israel are doing very disgusting things here, things that will force me to go far away from my holy place. But you will see even more disgusting things.” ...
9 He said to me, “Go in, and see the wicked, disgusting things that the people of Israel are doing here.” 10 So I went in and looked. I saw that the walls were covered with drawings of every kind of crawling creature, every kind of disgusting animal, and all the idols in the nation of Israel. 11 In front of these drawings stood 70 of Israel’s leaders. Jaazaniah, son of Shaphan, was standing with the leaders. Each of them was holding an incense burner in his hand, and a cloud of incense went up.
12God asked me, “Son of man, do you see what the leaders of the nation of Israel are doing in secret? Each of them is in the room where his god is, and each one of them is thinking, ‘ The Lord has abandoned this land.’13 Then he said to me, “You will see even more disgusting things that they are doing.”
14 He brought me to the entrance of the north gate of the Lord’s temple. Women were sitting there and crying for the god Tammuz. 15 He asked me, “Son of man, do you see this? You will see even more disgusting things than these.”
16 Then he brought me into the inner courtyard of the Lord’s temple. There at the entrance to the Lord’s temple, between the entrance and the altar, were about 25 men who had their backs turned to the Lord’s temple. They were facing east and worshiping the rising sun. 17 He asked me, “Son of man, do you see this? Isn’t it bad enough that the people of Judah have done these disgusting things that you have seen here? Yet, they also fill the land with violence and continue to provoke me even more. Look how they insult me in the worst possible way. 18 So I will take action because I’m angry, and I won’t have compassion for them or feel sorry for them. Even if they shout in my ears, I won’t listen to them.”
Disgusting! What we have here is idolatry - false gods taking the place of the true God, dead idols taking the place of the living God. Is this just ancient history? What about today? What has taken the place of the Lord in our lives? Idolatry was a big problem - "70 of Israel's leaders" (Ezekiel 8:11)! These men were "the leaders of the nation of Israel" (Ezekiel 8:12). We may say, "They should have known better." They did know better! Why were they were worshipping false gods "in secret" (Ezekiel 8:12)? - They knew that they were doing wrong. They were trying to hide from the Lord. They were saying to themselves - "The Lord doesn’t see me" (Ezekiel 8:12). They were telling themselves, "The Lord has abandoned this land" (Ezekiel 8:12). They were thinking, "Now, we can do whatever we like." The situation was going from bad to worse - "25 men ... had the backs turned to the Lord's temple. They were facing east and worshipping the rising sun" (Ezekiel 8:16). Going from bad to worse - Is this just the story of ancient Israel? No! It's more than that. It's the story of today's world. Are the terrifying words of Ezekiel 8:17-18 only for the idolaters of Ezekiel's day? We would be very foolish if we imagined that we could do whatever we like and still expect God to look on us with favour. This is a solemn word of judgment. We must, however, ask, "Does God have anything else to say to us?" In Ezekiel 8:3, we read about the place "where an idol that stirs up God’s anger was located." In Ezekiel 8:4, we read something else - "There I saw the glory of Israel’s God as I did in the vision that I saw in the valley." In our day, surrounded by so much that brings dishonour to the Name of the Lord, may we, like Ezekiel, catch a glimpse of the glory of God. May God help us to keep looking to Him while many others are turning their backs on Him. May He reveal His glory to us. May we be "changed into His image with ever-increasing glory" (2 Corinthians 3:18).
"The brightness of the Lord's glory ... the sound of the Almighty God when he speaks" (Ezekiel 10:4-5)
The glory of the Lord has shone in our hearts. It is the glory that shines out from his word.
"I will remove their stubborn hearts and give them obedient hearts" (Ezekiel 11:19).
This is the miracle of the new birth . We cannot do this for ourselves. Only God can do this for us.
In Ezekiel 12:11, we read about a "warning sign."
Sometimes, God speaks to us in words of warning! Here, the prophet speaks about things that "will happen" - "exile and captivity." We may need to be warned, "There will be hard times ahead of you. Get ready for them." We will also need to be warned against turning away from the Lord when the going gets tough. Why does the Lord speak to us his words of warning? It's because he loves us. it's because he wants to bless us. When the hard times come, he doesn't wasn't us to be unprepared. He wants us to keep looking to him for his strength - and he assures us that when we do look to him, we will receive his strength.
" ... so will I seek out My sheep ... on a cloudy and dark day" (Ezekiel 34:12).
Our life on earth is " a cloudy and dark day." Left to ourselves, we always lose our way. We cannot find our way back on to the way of the Lord without the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus does not leave us to stumble around on a "cloudy and dark day." He has come "to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10). He is "the Light of the world" (John 8:12). His Light is still shining brightly. The darkness can't put it out (John 1:5). We look to Jesus, and we see beyond "the cloudy and dark day." We look to Him, and we say, "The Lord is my light and my salvation" (Psalm 27:1).
"There before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven… His Kingdom is one that will never be destroyed’ (Daniel 7:13-14).
These words point us to Christ’s description of His Second Coming, the Coming of His Kingdom: ‘They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory’ (Matthew 24:30). In Revelation 1:7, we have another echo of Daniel’s ‘vision’: ‘Look, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him’. ‘Lo! He comes, with clouds descending… Yea, Amen! let all adore Thee, high on Thine eternal throne; Saviour, take the power and glory, claim the Kingdom for Thine own. O come quickly! O come quickly! O come quickly! Alleluia! Come, Lord, come!’(Church Hymnary, 316).
"O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake ... " (Daniel 9:19).
"O Lord" - This is prayer. We do not take our problem to everyone else but the Lord. We take our problem to the Lord.
"Hear" and "listen" - There can be a very real difference between hearing and listening. Something is said in our hearing, but we're not listening. When something is important, we say, "Are you listening?" Why do we want to make sure that the hearer is paying attention to what we're saying? - Because it's important to us. When we say to the Lord, "Hear" and "listen", we're saying, "Lord, this is important to me."
"Forgive" and "act" - We want to break free from our past. We want to be set free for God's future. Don't let my past sins hinder my future blessing. Send Your blessing, Lord. That's what we're praying for when we say, "Lord, forgive and act."
"Do not delay for Your own sake, my God" - This is urgent prayer. Why are we to pray with urgency? Is it because we want to get blessing for ourselves? There is more than that here. There is the glory of God. The more we are learning to love God, the more we will pray that He will be glorified. Our prayers will be less about getting things for ourselves. They will be more about giving glory to God. Let the blessing come to us - but let all the glory go to the Lord.
"I, Daniel, alone saw the vision ... the men who were with me did not see the vision" (Daniel 10:7).
Here, we have a vision that was intended for Daniel. The vision was not given to the men who were with him. While this was, for Daniel, a unique experience of divine revelation, it raises for us a more general question: Why is it that some people receive blessing from the Lord, while others miss out on the blessing?
What are we to say about those who miss out on God's blessing? They may be present when the Lord's people are gathered together for worship - but they have no real sense of the Lord's presence. The power of the Lord is at work in the lives of others, but nothing happens to them. The Word goes on one ear and out the other. Others are being transformed. They remain unchanged. Are we simply to say, "Some are blessed by the Lord. They give thanks for His blessing. Sadly others miss out on His blessing - and we can say no more about this"?
In Romans 9:13, we read these awesome words: "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated." Here, Paul is writing about "the purpose of God according to election." He emphasizes that salvation is "not of works but of Him who calls" (Romans 9:11).
If we are to enter into the blessing of God's salvation, we must honour the principle upon which His salvation is based - "not of works but of Him who calls."
- "Not of works" - In Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul emphasizes this point: "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."
- "Of Him who calls" - In 1 Corinthians 1:21, Paul emphasizes that "it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." In Romans 10:17, he writes, "So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ."
When we come to hear the Word of God, we must come to God, seeking His glory. His glory is much more important than our blessing.
If we are preoccupied with getting a blessing for ourselves, we will find that His blessing is like the elusive butterfly - so close yet so far. We are so close to the blessing. It's all around us. Other people are being blessed. We may ask, "Why them? Why not me?"
There is a problem with the "Why not me?" question. It's centred on ourselves. It's asking about what I can get. It's more concerned with getting blessing for ourselves than giving glory to God.
When we gather together for worship, let's not get stuck at the self-centred level of "I hope there's a blessing there for me." Let's pray that God will lift us up to His God-centred level: "Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to thy name give glory, for the sake of thy steadfast love and thy faithfulness!" (Psalm 115:1).
Let's return to the tragic story of Esau: "Esau despised his birthright" (Genesis 25:34); "Afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears" (Hebrews 12;17).
The tragedy of Esau is this: everything centred around Esau - what Esau wanted. He showed his true colours when he "despised his birthright." Later on, he wanted to get the blessing for himself. He wanted to be 'one up' on his brother, Jacob. What did all this have to do with the glory of God? There were "tears" - but what was he crying about? There were "tears" - but they weren't tears of "repentance." Esau was feeling sorry for himself. Jacob had been blessed - and he hadn't.
Feeling sorry for ourselves because other people have been blessed and we haven't - This is very different from seeking the glory of God. God wants to bless us. We must never doubt that - but we must never forget this: He does not bless us because we want to get blessing for ourselves.
God looks at what's going on in our hearts. Are we filled with envy? - We see others being blessed and we become obsessed with one thing: "Why am I not being blessed as much as he is? I deserve blessing every bit as much as he does."
What does God say about this? - "not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Ephesians 2:9); "not of works but of Him who calls" (Romans 9:11).
Let us pray that God will give us a heart which seeks its glory - and let's leave the blessing to Him. He will send His blessing to those who seek His glory: "the vision ... will surely come", "Though it tarries, wait for it" (Habakkuk 2:3).
"He will come to us" (Hosea 6:3).
A new beginning - that's what the Lord gives to us. Everything changes when the Lord comes to us. He brings us out of the winter of our sin and into the "spring" of his salvation. Without the Lord, we have nothing to look forward to. Sin has the upper hand. It keeps us in darkness. When the Lord comes to us, there's a new brightness. It's the brightness that comes from knowing that he loves us - and his love is stronger than our sin.
"O Lord, I cry to You for help!" (Joel 1:19).
We look to some people for help - and they're no help to us, God is never like that. He is our Helper. He's always there for us. We call upon Him - and He helps us. He's "the help of the helpless" (from the hymn, "Abide with me"). We may not always feel 'helped' - but we have been helped, much more than we'll ever realize! Praise God! Thank Him for His help - even when you're only very vaguely aware of just how much He has helped you. "Even now, declares the Lord, return to Me with all your heart" (Joel 2:12).
"Now" - returning to the Lord is not to be left until later on. With all your heart" -a real return to the Lord must never be a half-hearted thing. "The Lord will be a refuge for His people" (Joel 3:1).
People let us down. The Lord never lets us down. He lifts us up.
"In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and You listened to my cry" (Jonah 2:2).
What are we to do when the going gets tough? We've heard the saying, When the going gets tough, the tough get going. We wonder if this really helps. What if we find that we're not really so tough? What happens when we can't get going? There are times when we know that this is too much for us. We can't raise ourselves up. We need to be lifted. We need You, Lord. You are "the lifter of my head." (Psalm 3:3). It's Your love that lifts us: "Love lifted me. When no-one but Christ could help, love lifted me" (James Rowe).
“When my life was ebbing away, I remembered You, Lord, and my prayer rose to You, to Your holy temple" (Jonah 2:7).
Where does this remembering come from? It comes from the Lord. He puts the prayer into our hearts. Jonah was running away from God. God was drawing Jonah back to Himself. Like Jonah, we lose our way in life. That's when we need to hear the wonderful words of Jesus, our Saviour. He tells us that He "came to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10).
"Salvation is of the Lord. Victory belongs to the Lord" (Jonah 2:9).
Without the Lord, there is no salvation. Without Him, there is no victory. Jonah's story was a disaster story - until God stepped in. It was God who changed everything. That's the way it was with Jonah. That's the way it is with us.
"Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, ‘Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.’ The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth" (Jonah 3:3-5).
What a revival! What power there is in the Word of God!
“I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what He will say to me, and what I will answer when I am corrected” (Habakkuk 2:1).
Habakkuk doesn’t say to God, “Let me hear what you have to say to me – and I’ll go away and think about it and see if I agree with what you have said.” No! He says something very different. He says, “Let me hear what you have to say to me – and I will be corrected by Your Word to me.” It’s our thinking that needs to be corrected by God’s Word – not God’s Word that needs to be corrected by us. The moment we speak about our thinking being corrected by God’s Word, we hear voices being raised – “The Bible was written such a long time ago. The world is very different now.” Yes! The world is very different now – but we must ask the awkward question, “How many of the changes have come from the fact that we have stopped listening to what the Bible has to say to us?” Have we stopped listening to what the Bible has to say to us? We may read the Bible – especially the passages that we like – but what happens when the Bible challenges us to change our way of thinking? Do we dig our heels in and end up in the situation where “everyone does what is right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25)? There’s a better way than this. It’s the way of listening to what the Lord has to say to us. It’s the way of being corrected by the Word of the Lord.
"I will fill this temple with glory" (Haggai 2:7).
We read about the glory of the temple at Jerusalem. There is, however, a greater glory - the glory of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2) - "I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple" (Revelation 21:22). Where do we find the real glory? Is it in the place where we worship? No! It's in the Person whom we worship. It's in the Lord. The real glory comes from Him. It's the Lord who fills the temple with His glory.
A Call For Conversion, A Promise of Salvation (Zechariah 1:1-6)
* The Faithful Ministry of God's Prophets
God’s work does not always move forward smoothly. We face determined opposition. Where there is opportunity, there will be opposition (1 Corinthians 16:9). The servants of Satan rise up to oppose the servants of the Lord. The Lord’s enemies had some success: ‘the work on the House of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill’ (Ezra 4:24). This was only a temporary setback. God gave new strength to His servants. He sent His ‘prophets, Haggai and Zechariah’ (Ezra 5:1). They brought His Word to the people. Strengthened by their ministry of God’s Word, ‘Zerubbabel... arose and began to rebuild the House of God in Jerusalem’ (Ezra 5:2). God’s work was back on track. His people were moving forward - again. When your head goes down, let the Lord come to you. He will lift you up!
God’s work makes good progress when God’s people receive strength from God’s Word. Haggai and Zechariah were faithful in preaching God’s Word to the people. Their preaching ministry was very important. It was just what the builders needed. It inspired them to keep working. God’s House was rebuilt and God’s people rejoiced (Ezra 6:14-16). The rebuilding of God’s House was followed by the ministry of God’s servant, Ezra. ‘The hand of the Lord was upon Ezra’ (Ezra 7:6,28). His ministry was blessed by the Lord. In Ezra’s ministry of the Word, there are three vital elements - studying, doing and teaching (Ezra 7:10). Ezra did not only study and teach God’s Word. He did God’s Word. Obedience lies at the heart of true ministry. This is the kind of ministry that God blesses - an obedient ministry.
* "Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Return to Me,' declares the Lord Almighty, 'and I will return to you,' says the Lord Almighty" (Zechariah 1:3).
What is the message that God's faithful servants bring to today's world?
(a) They bring the Lord's message. They say, "This is what the Lord Almighty says."
(b) They "tell the people" what they need to hear. They don't ask them what they want to hear!
(c) It is a call for conversion - "Return to Me."
(d) It is a promise of salvation - "I will return to you."
“Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Let your hands be strong, you who have been hearing in these days these words by the mouth of the prophets, who spoke ... '" (Zechariah 8:9).
We hear the Word of the Lord so that we might become strong in the Lord. God's Word is not to go in one ear and out the other hand. When that happens, Satan is winning a great victory over us - "When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts" (Mark 4:15). When we "hear the Word of God", let us pray that we will "accept it and bear fruit" (Mark 4:20).
"His dominion shall be ... to the ends of the earth" (Zechariah 9:10).
God's purpose was moving on. He had begun with Israel. Their deliverance from bondage in Egypt was a mighty demonstration of His saving power. This was only the beginning. God was moving on to Jesus - "the Saviour of the world" (John 4:42). In Jesus Christ, crucified for us, God was reaching out, in love, to "the whole world" (1 John 2:2). The Gospel is not only for the Jews: "It is it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek" (Romans 1:16). Jesus is calling us, His redeemed people - empowered by the Holy Spirit - to take His message of salvation to the ends of the earth: "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
"From him will come the cornerstone... they shall be as mighty men, treading down their enemies... because the Lord is with them" (Zechariah 10:4-5).
* Jesus Christ is "the cornerstone" upon which our faith is built - "The Church's one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord" (Samuel John Stone).
* In Christ, we are "more than conquerors" (Romans 8:37) - "From victory unto victory His army shall He lead, till every foe is vanquished and Christ is Lord indeed" (George Duffield).
* Jesus is with us. He is our Saviour. He has forgiven our sins. He is our Lord. He leads us in triumph over Satan.
"They will look on Me, the One they have pierced" (Zechariah 12:10).
"These things happened so that the Scripture would be fulfilled ... ‘They will look on the One they have pierced’" (John 19:36-37).
"They will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for Him as one grieves for a firstborn son" (Zechariah 12:10).
"‘Look, He is coming with the clouds,’ and ‘every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him’; and all peoples on earth ‘will mourn because of Him.’ So shall it be! Amen" (Revelation 1:7).
There is prophecy that has been fulfilled. There is prophecy that will be fulfilled. From the words of the prophet, we look to events that have already taken place - the crucifixion of Christ. We also look forward to an event that still lies in the future - the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. We give thanks to God for the fulfilment of prophecy. We trust in God for the fulfilment of prophecy.
"Throughout the land two-thirds will be cut off and die. Yet, one-third will be left in it. I will bring this third of the people through the fire. I will refine them as silver is refined. I will test them as gold is tested. They will call on me, and I will answer them. I will say, They are my people. They will reply, The Lord is our God" (Zechariah 13:8-9).
In today's world, our faith is under constant attack. God says to us, 'You are My people, and I am your God.' In today's world, we need God's Word. Without His Word, we'll lose our way. "The Lord will be King over all the earth. On that day, the lord will be the only Lord, and His Name the only Name" (Zechariah 14:9).
We read these words, and we think of Jesus Christ. His Name is above name. Every knee shall bow to Him (Philippians 2:9-11).
"It's pointless to serve God. What do we gain if we meet His standards or if we walk around feeling sorry for what we've done" (Malachi 3:14) - This what the world says.
What does the Lord say to us? - "The Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in His wings for you people who fear My Name" (Malachi 4:2).
The Sun is shining upon us. It's not just the sun that's up in the sky. It's Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He makes everything new. It's not pointless. Life has a purpose. It's God's purpose for our life. There is gain. We don't just think in terms of financial gain. There's spiritual growth. There's moral strength. Our life is better when we see it through the eyes of the Lord. Many times, we have let our Lord down. He will not let us down. He will lift us up - above the world's way of thinking, and into His way of living. He will lead us in His way of blessing.
"I have decided to follow Jesus ...
no turning back, no turning back.
The world behind me, the cross before me ...
no turning back, no turning back.
Though none go with me, I still will follow ...
no turning back, no turning back.
Will you decide now to follow Jesus? ...
no turning back, no turning back.