Search The Scriptures: Old Testament

GENESIS
The Beginning Of Conflict And The Promise Of Victory
“Created in the image of God” (Genesis 1:26-27) - “God saw everything that He had created … it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). At the end of Genesis 1, things couldn’t get any better. It looked so promising. The future looked bright with hope. It was bright with the light of God’s love. Everything looked so good. Could things get any better than this? Sometimes when we feel like this, there can be trouble just around the next corner! That’s what we have in Genesis 3. It begins with the question, “Did God say?” (Genesis 3:1). This is asking for trouble – big trouble! Before long, questioning becomes contradiction – “the serpent said to the woman, ‘You shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). God says one thing. The serpent (Satan – see Revelation 12:9) says something else. He says the exact opposite! From that moment, there was conflict – but there was also the promise of victory. In Genesis 3:15, there’s a great prophecy. It points forward to the death of Jesus Christ, our Saviour. The serpent – Satan – bruises our Saviour’s heel. Jesus was crucified. This is the bruising of His heel. Beyond the pain of crucifixion, there was, for Jesus, the mighty triumph of resurrection. Jesus triumphed over Satan. It was not Satan’s heel that was bruised. It was his head! The heel and the head – what a difference there is between the two! Jesus has the upper hand! The victory belongs to Jesus. The conflict is “fierce.” The victory is “secure.” While we are on this earth, we can never escape the conflict. Satan will keep on badgering us. He will keep on sowing his seeds of doubt – “Did God say?” We are not alone in this battle. God keeps on coming to us. He comes with His grace – and He comes with His question, “Who is on the Lord’s side?” He’s inviting us to walk with Him on the pathway of salvation, sanctification and service. He does not lift us above the conflict – but He does give us the victory: His victory. When Satan comes to us, may God give us strength to say, “No.” When Jesus comes to us, may we receive His strength, the strength to say “Yes”, the strength to say, “By Thy call of mercy … By Thy grand redemption, By Thy grace divine, We are on the Lord’s side; Saviour, we are Thine… Always on the Lord’s side, Saviour, always Thine.”
Great Sin And Even Greater Grace
"The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth" (Genesis 6: 5) - This is great sin. "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord" (Genesis 6:8) - This is even greater grace. God could have looked on the whole human race , and said, "Enough is enough. That's us finished." He didn't do this. He didn't give up on us. He kept on going - with His purpose of grace, His plan of salvation. Beyond the flood, there was the new beginning. God was doing a new thing. This was the work of His grace. It had nothing to do with human righteousness. It had everything to do with divine mercy - the saving grace of God. When you read about the flood, look beyond the destruction - and see the salvation of God.
God's Blessing - Given,  Accepted And Enjoyed (Genesis 12 & 13)
The “land” was given to Abraham by God. It was to be the land of His “blessing” (Genesis 12:1-3).  God’s gift of grace calls forth our response – “Abraham went, as the Lord had spoken to him” (Genesis 12:4). God had spoken. Abraham had acted upon God’s Word. Was it all plain sailing after that? No! There were trying times ahead of Abraham, times when he had to keep his eyes on the Lord. Receiving God’s gift of salvation does not guarantee that we will always walk with the Lord. We fall into sin – when we take our eyes off the Lord. “Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land” (Genesis 12:10). What are we make of this? What was going on here? Here are two different ways of looking at this situation – “Even when we are where God wants us to be, all will not necessarily go well for us materially – no matter what the prosperity gospel teaches. Abram was in the land God had sent him to, but that land was afflicted by famine (Genesis 12:10). The Lord does, however, guarantee to provide a way out. While there was famine in Canaan, there was enough food in Egypt and so Abram went there to wait till the famine in Canaan was over (Genesis 12:11)” (Africa Bible Commentary); “During a time of serious famine, Abram left the place of God’s choosing and fled to Egypt, a symbol of the world. This move bred trouble” (Believer’s Bible Commentary). Was Abram led by the Lord to go to Egypt? or Did he take a wrong turning? One thing we can say is this: When Abraham arrived in Egypt, he needed to be very careful. There’s a lesson for us here: We are not to rest content with receiving God’s gift of salvation. We are to press on from the beginnings of our faith. We are to press on to a greater enjoyment of our salvation. This growing joy in the Lord is more than looking back and saying, “There was a day in my life when I accepted Jesus as my Saviour.” We look back with thanksgiving. We say, “O happy day that fixed my choice on You, my Saviour and my God” – but we must not remain in the past. The life of faith is for here-and-now. The vow that we made to the Lord when we first came is to be renews day-by-day: “So God, who heard my solemn vow, in daily prayer shall hear my voice till in my final breath I bow and bless the day that fixed my choice” (P. Doddridge, this version - Jubilate Hymns). Abraham let the Lord down. He had accepted the Lord’s will for his life, and then he had lost his way. Did he lose his way by going to Egypt? or Did he lose his way once he had arrived in Egypt? Whatever may be said about Abraham losing his way, there is something we must not overlook: Abraham found his way back to the Lord. He learned from his mistakes.If his time in Egypt taught him anything, it taught him this: Be careful. Abram saw that “the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord” – and Abraham made sure that he kept well away from that place (Genesis 13:8-13, “Lot got grass for his cattle. Abram got grace for his children”, Believer’s Bible Commentary – Lot plunged into worldliness. Abraham progressed into holiness). We are not saved by our great holiness. We are saved by the grace of God – the God who gives to us His salvation. We receive this salvation through faith in Christ – “it is not our own doing, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). We need, however, to be reminded, again and again, that our joy in the Lord will only grow strong when we are learning to walk with Him on the pathway of holiness – “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, for good works … ” (Ephesians 2:10).
Let The Living Water Flow.
“And Abraham reproved Abimelech because of a well of water, which Abimelech’s servants had violently taken away” (Genesis 21:25, King James Version).
As I read this verse, I found myself thinking about God’s Word and God’s Spirit. Through God’s written Word, the Holy Spirit speaks to us His Word of “reproof” and “correction” (2 Timothy 3:16). In His ministry of reproof, He says to us, “This is not the way you are to go.” In His ministry of correction, He says to us, “This is the way you are to go.” Leading us out of the wrong way and into the right way – this is the Spirit’s ministry of reproof and correction. Jesus speaks of this ministry of the Spirit – He leads us out of “sin” and into “righteousness” (John 16:8). The Holy Spirit calls us to look at ourselves honestly. He shows us that we “have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters” (Jeremiah 2:13). Jesus calls us to “come to Him and drink.” He says to us that, when we believe in Him, “rivers of living water will flow from our hearts” (John 7:37-38).
Gathered To His People
“Gathered to his people” (Genesis 25:8,17)
This phrase caught my attention. It brought to mind the words of Jesus – ” … they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect … from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:30-31). What a great and glorious future the Lord is preparing for His people! We thank the Lord for what He done. We look forward, and we say, “The best is yet to be” – “if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life” (Romans 5:10).
Open Doors And Closed Doors
"The Lord appeared to Isaac and said,'Do not go down to Egypt, settle in the land that I shall show you" (Genesis 26:2).
Sometimes, God says, "No" - "This is not the way you are to go." Sometimes, He says, "Yes" - "This is the way you are to go." The Lord "opens and no one shuts." He "shuts and no one opens." At the crossroads of life, where we must make decisions concerning the direction our life is going to take, it is good to have the Lord's promise: "I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut" (Revelation 3:7-8). "Thus says the Lord: Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies and walk in it and find rest for your souls" Help us, Lord, not to be like those who looked at the good way, and said, "We will not walk in it" (Jeremiah 6:16). Help us to choose the good way - and not the bad way.
Be Real!
"The voice is Jacob's voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau" (Genesis 27:22).
Be real! What we are and what we appear to be can be two very different things. God is calling us out of hypocrisy and into holiness. There can be no real holiness if we're only trying to keep up appearances. God is looking for holiness of heart. This is so different from the "holiness" of the Pharisees. That wasn't holiness. It was hypocrisy. Lord, deliver us from hypocrisy, and lead us into holiness.
God's Blessing Overflows
"The Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake" (Genesis 39:5).
God's blessing overflows. We go back to Genesis 39:2 - "the Lord was with Joseph." God was blessing Joseph - and His blessing overflowed to others
The Word Of The Lord And The Spirit Of The Lord
"Do not interpretations belong to God?" (Genesis 40:8).
It's a great blessing to have the Word of the Lord. There's another great blessing. God has given to us the Holy Spirit. Through the working of the Holy Spirit in us, the Word of God comes alive. It is more than just a book. It is the Word of God to me. It is the Word of God to you. The Holy Spirit opens our eyes. He shows us Jesus. he leads us to Jesus. He gives us love for Jesus. Thank God for His written Word. Thank Him for the Holy Spirit. We read the Word, and the Holy Spirit says to us, "This is for you."
The Power Of God And The Blessing Of God
"It is not in me. God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace" (Genesis 41:16).
Can any of us speak the Word of God - and bring blessing to others? - "It is not in me." Our words will never bring blessing to anyone, unless God is in our words. The real power comes from God. The real blessing comes from Him.
Sent To Bring Life
"God sent me before you to preserve life" (Genesis 45:5).
We are to bring life. That's why God has sent us. We are to bring the Saviour. We are to bring the Scriptures. We are to bring the Spirit. People coming to the Saviour, people learning from the Scriptures, people walking in the Spirit - this is what we're praying for and working for.
"God meant it for good" (Genesis 50:20).
Sometimes, when we're going through the mill, it can be difficult to see God in the things that are happening to us - but that doesn't mean that He isn't there. It just means that we can't see Him. We're looking for Him, but we can't find Him. Is He hiding from us? Is He trying to confuse us? No! He's waiting in the background - "From a distance, God is watching us." When we see nothing but clouds in our sky, we must keep on believing that the sun is waiting to shine. God is there. His Son is there. His Spirit is giving the strength that we need. There is light at the end of the tunnel. God is leading us out of our dark times. He's leading us to the place, where we will see that He never left us. He was there all the time, leading us to the place where we will say, "God meant it for good."
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EXODUS
Exodus 1:1-2:25
The stage is set for a mighty work of God. The Lord's people face a crisis situation. they are being oppressed by the Egyptians. God sees what is happening. He is making His plans - to give His people a better future. It may have seemed like God was doing nothing about Israel's problems - "a  long time passed " (Exodus 2:23). God was not standing back, paying no attention to what was going on. He was busy - preparing Moses to be the leader of His people. He was taking steps towards the great event of the deliverance from the oppressors. God was looking ahead to the Exodus and the movement from the land of bondage to the land of promise - "He remembered His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" (Exodus 2:24), and He was about to fulfil this promise with a mighty demonstration of His saving power.
Exodus 3:1-22
Moses was called to be a servant of God's people. He was to be the leader who would play an important part in bringing the blessing of God to the people of Israel. He was not to be a 'lone ranger.' He was to "assemble the leaders of Israel" (Exodus 3:16). He was to share with them the Lord's vision for His people's future. God was taking them away from "misery." He was leading them on to blessing - " a land flowing with milk and honey." Moses was not to go to the Pharaoh as a 'lone ranger' - "you and the leaders must go to the King of Egypt" (Exodus 3:18). There are important lessons here for God's servants today. We move forward together - as "one body in Christ."
Exodus 4:1-31
In Moses, there is great weakness. In the Lord, there is great strength. By himself, Moses was completely out of his depth. With God, Moses would go from strength to strength. He had God's promise as well as God's command: "Now go, and I will help you speak and will teach you what to say" (Exodus 4:12). Moses was not to be left on his own. As well as having the help of the Lord, he would also have the help of Aaron, his brother: "I will help both of you speak, and I will teach you what to do" (Exodus 4:15). Moses and Aaron were not to work in isolation from the other "leaders of the people of Israel." They were to share with them "everything the Lord had said" (Exodus 4:29-30). God's Word to Israel was a Word of power - He "did miraculous signs for the people" (Exodus 4:30) - and love - "The Lord was concerned about the people of Israel" (Exodus 4:31).
Exodus 5:1-8:31
It gets worse before it gets better. Things seemed to be going from bad to worse for God's people. They become "discouraged" (Exodus 6:9). They were unable to look beyond their present difficulties. They needed the Lord's Word of encouragement - "The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I use My power against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of there" (Exodus 7:5). Before there was salvation for Israel, there needed to be judgment for Egypt. The judgments on Egypt (the "plagues") were a call to repentance. If there had been a willingness to listen to God's Word at the beginning, these "plagues" would not have happened. Each "plague" was a call to repentance as well as a judgment on disobedience. Each "plague" could have been the last - if Pharaoh had said 'Yes' to the Lord. Pharaoh said 'No', and the "plagues" continued.
In the bad times as well as the good times
“Fulfil your works, your daily tasks, as when there was straw” (Exodus 5:14).
When everything seems to be going from bad to worse, we must pray that God will give us the strength that we need to keep on loving Him, trusting Him and serving Him. Our circumstances may have changed. Nothing seems to be going right. We didn’t think it would turn out this way. Has our Saviour changed? Has He gone away and left us? No! He hasn’t. He’s still with us. Are we still with Him? or Do we opt out when the going gets tough? Lord, You are faithful to us. Keep us faithful to You.
Exodus 9:1-11:10
More plagues, more opportunities for repentance - God was appealing to Pharaoh to change his mind about God and the people of God. The call to repentance was ignored. Pharaoh put on a show of repentance (Exodus 9:27-28; Exodus 10:16-17). - but he didn't mean it: "Pharaoh was stubborn", "the Lord made him stubborn" (Exodus 9:35; Exodus 10:20). He was a man of unbelief. God confirmed him in his unbelief. the final plague - the death of the firstborn - represented the end of the road for Pharaoh - "the Lord made Pharaoh stubborn" (Exodus 11:10). God was saying, 'Enough is enough.' God was going to bring His people out of Egypt - with or without Pharaoh's permission. there were good things happening - "the Lord made the Egyptians kind to the people. And Moses was highly respected by Pharaoh's officials and all the Egyptians" (Exodus 11:3) - but this didn't change the fact that Pharaoh was resistant to God. This resistance did not hinder God in the outworking of His great purpose of salvation.
Exodus 12:1-13:22
The purpose of the Passover was to build a bridge between the past, the present and the future: "Remember this day - the day when you left Egypt, the land of slavery. The Lord used His mighty hand to bring you out of there" (Exodus 13:3), "In the future, when your children ask you what this means, tell them, " 'The Lord used His mighty hand to bring us out of slavery in Egypt'" (Exodus 13:14). What must be remembered about these events is this: the Lord was in control. Once they had come out of Egypt, God continued to be in control of their journey. In Exodus 13:17-18, we read that God closed one door - "the shortest route" - and opened another door. God's perfect way may not always be "the shortest route" - but it is His way, and it's the best way.
"God will surely visit you" (Exodus 13:19).
Sometimes, when we’re reading the Scriptures, there are some words that just jump out at us. We say to ourselves, “That was just what I needed to read.” We say to God, “Thank You, Lord for that Word. You’ve spoken Your Word to me. It was just the right Word – for me, for right now.” Here’s a great word of encouragement – “God will surely visit you” (Exodus 13:19). What a great privilege this is – God visits us! Are we ready for His visit? Do we pretend that we’re not in when He comes knocking on our door? or Are we so pleased to get a visit from Him? Often, we’re so busy with small things – things that don’t really matter that much in the light of eternity – that we fail to give the Lord an enthusiastic welcome.
As I thought about these words of encouragement – “God will surely visit you”, I looked at the rest of the verse and read these words, “the bones of Joseph”! Here, we see the realism of God’s Word. It lifts us up to the eternal God, but it also keeps our feet on the ground – with a reminder of our mortality! Do we need to hear about “the bones of Joseph”? – Of course, we do! We’re not going to go on forever. “The bones of Joseph” – there’s more than this. There are the heavenly “mansions” (John 14:2). Then, we’ll be going to “visit” the Lord. We’ll be more than visitors. We’ll “dwell in the House of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6). That’s our glorious future. This is what we have to look forward to!
Here-and-now, we must settle for something less than that. We’re not quite ready for the fullness of His glory. He’s preparing us for glory. He’s giving us His visitations. He’s giving us ” a foretaste of glory divine.” How well prepared will be for the full revelation of God’s glory? We’ll never be fully prepared. We’ll always be sinners. We can, however, draw encouragement from God’s precious promise – “God will surely visit you.” Here-and-now, we must learn to appreciate God’s visitations. They’re preparing us for something better – “Eye has not seen. Ear has not heard. Neither has it entered into the heart what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Exodus 14:1-15:27
Here, we see "the great power of the Lord" (Exodus 14:31). This leads to worship - "I will sing to the Lord. He has won a glorious victory ... The Lord is my strength and my song. He is my Saviour. This is my God and I will praise Him ... " (Exodus 15:1-2). In the work of God's redemption, we see His love and power - "Lovingly You will lead the people You have saved. Powerfully, You will guide them to Your holy dwelling" (Exodus 15:13). This is the greatness of God's power - it is power which serves the purpose of His love. The Lord is King - "The Lord will rule as King forever and ever" (Exodus 15:18). He is not a tyrant. He is not a dictator. He is the King of love. He loves us. we are to love Him, living for Him and looking to Him to fulfil His promises in our lives.
Exodus 16:1-17:16
The Lord provides. Through the provision of manna and water, the Lord sustains His people. Strong in Him, they press on to victory. This is a picture of the Christian life. Before we can be soldiers of Christ, we must receive our strength from the Lord. We come to Him, looking to Him for strength - His strength. Jesus is the Bread of Life. He is the Living Water (John 6:51: John 4:14). Strengthened by Him, we will not be defeated. We will be victorious - "more than conquerors through Him who loved us." His love will give us the victory. "Nothing will be able to separate us from His love" (Romans 8:37-39). In the provision of manna and water, we see love. In the victory over the Amalekites, we see the victory of love: "Love has the victory forever." The God who loved His people - revealing His love in the Exodus, maintaining His love in the wilderness - gave them the victory.
Exodus 18:1-20:26
The Word of God tells us what God has done for His people: "the Lord saved them" (Exodus 18:8). The Word of God teaches us that being saved by the Lord places us under responsibility to be obedient to Him (Exodus 19:4-5). the vital connection between salvation and obedience is brought out clearly in the giving of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). Before speaking to His people about what they must do if they are to live as His obedient people, God reminds them of what He has done for them: "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of slavery in Egypt" (Exodus 20:2). We must never forget how much the Lord has done for us. If we lose sight of His love, His grace and His mercy, so wonderfully revealed to us in our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, our 'obedience' will be nothing but legalism. Real obedience comes from real salvation. It comes to us from the God of our salvation.
"showing mercy to thousands of those who love Me and keep My commandments" (Exodus 20:6).
In there, among the Ten Commandments, there's the word, "mercy" - what a wonderful word! What a wonderful thought - God is merciful. He does not look upon us in our sin. He looks upon us in His Son, our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.  He looks at Jesus - dying on the Cross. He sees Jesus, bearing our sin - and He sees us, receiving Jesus' salvation. "In my place, condemned He stood. Hallelujah! What a Saviour!" - This is mercy, and it's right here in the Ten Commandments. How wonderful is this!
God's Word speaks here of our love for the Lord and our obedience to His commandments. Where does this come from? It comes from the Lord - from the God of love, grace and mercy. Before we come to the Ten Commandments, we have the great declaration of God's salvation: "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage" (Exodus 20:2). Real love for the Lord and true obedience to his Word can never be reduced to legalism. It's always much more than that. His love for us inspires our love for Him. Our obedience to His Word is grounded in gratitude for His love.
Thousands came out of Egypt. They had been redeemed by the Lord. They weren't taken straight into the Promised Land. They had to spend many years in the wilderness. Is that not the story of our life? We want to love Him more truly and obey Him more fully - but our sin keeps on holding us back. We're not the finished article. We're a work in progress. Thousands - this is not just about the spiritual leaders, people like Moses and Joshua. This is about ordinary people, people with a story tell: "This is what the Lord has done for me." My story is not your story. Your story is not my story. Each one tells their own story - in their own way. All of us tell the same story - "Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me ... " This is mercy - and it's reached so many different people: different names, different faces, different places, one Saviour - Jesus.
How does God's mercy lead us in the pathway of loving him more truly and obeying Him more fully?
"May your Spirit make us look at the commandments not as a set of observances. May they move us to serve you not in a slavish way but as your sons and daughters who love you and whom you have set free. May we thus fulfil more than the law and serve you as your sons and daughters, in whom you recognize Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord forever."
"As grateful children of God, let us put our hearts into seeking in the commandments not our will but the will of God, so that we do not ask what God orders us to do but simply how we can respond to his love and show that love to the people around us."
"Commandments are not just observances that guarantee our salvation. they are a response to all God has given us. We ask God not what we are obliged to do, but what He expects us to do to respond to his love."
"May we learn from Jesus that love is the heart of the law and that true love knows how to serve" (Camilo J. Marivoet, "Liturgy Alive - Models of Celebration: Weekdays", pp. 314-316)
We've read about "thousands", receiving God's mercy, "thousands", learning to love God and obey Him. God's Word describes, for us, the glory of heaven. It says that there will be "a great multitude, which no man could number" (Revelation 7:9). How amazing is this! We'll come from different nations, different languages, different cultures and different centuries. Each of us will come with a different story to tell - our own unique story of what the Lord has done for us. There will be so many differences, but they will mean nothing to us. We will all be singing the same song. We'll be singing, "Salvation to our God, who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb" (Revelation 7:10). As we think of where we have come from - the depths of sin - and where we have been brought to - the heights of glory, we will sing to the Lord: "Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might be to our God for ever and ever" (Revelation 7:12).
Exodus 21:1-23:33
Our obedience to God is to take shape within the varied circumstances of everyday life. At the heart of our obedience, there is to be compassion, an expression of God's compassion (Exodus 22:21,28; Exodus 23:9). At the heart of our obedience, there is to be worship (Exodus 23:14). taking compassion and worship together, we come to the very heart of our obedience to God. It is not compassion without worship. It is not worship without compassion. The spiritual and the social belong together. We need spiritual foundations, leading to social changes. The social does not stand on its own. There needs to be spiritual depth. The 'spiritual' does not stand on its own. It is empty formality, if it does not lead to a change in our way of living from day-to-day.
"If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing” (Exodus 21:2).
In the seventh year, the slave could choose to leave his master. The slave was no longer under a legal requirement to remain in the service of his master. In the service of Christ, we are bound to Him by His everlasting love. There is never a point at which we should ever choose to turn back from following Him. Jesus redeemed us by the shedding of His precious blood. Let us serve Him all the days of our life.
"The Feast of Ingathering" (Exodus 23:16).
We are gathered into Christ. Jesus came "to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10). This is Good News - but it's not to be kept to ourselves. Good News is for sharing. We're to gather others into Christ. As I thought about this phrase, "the feast of ingathering", my thoughts turned to the words of Psalm 126:5-6 - "Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy." We are to take the "precious seed" with us. We are to sow the "precious seed." We are to trust in the Lord's promise: We "will surely come back with shouts of joy, bringing our sheaves with" us. Our salvation is a tremendous privilege - and so is the service that we offer to our Lord. The Lord has saved us, and we say, "Glory to You, Lord." He has called us to be His servants, and, again, we say, "Glory to You, Lord." We look at our life in Christ - being gathered into Him and gathering others into Him, and we say, "This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes" (Psalm 118:23). In the New Testament, we read about a man called Levi (Mark 2:13-14). He was to become Matthew (Matthew 9:9-13). Spiritually, it looked like his life was going nowhere - until Jesus came along, and everything changed. He was never the same again. What a big part Matthew has had in the ingathering of men and women for Christ. He was no longer Levi, a despised and forgotten tax collector. He was Matthew, the Gospel-writer. In Matthew's story, we learn about being gathered into Jesus and gathering in others for Jesus. His story is a story of both conversion and call. His life was turned around. It was turned outward towards others. He had a new purpose in life - winning people for his Saviour. * We see the opening of his eyes. Before Jesus spoke the two life-changing words, "Follow Me", was Levi watching Jesus? Was he seeing something different in Jesus? Was he beginning to see himself differently? Was the Spirit of the Lord working in him, preparing him for these life-transforming words, "Follow Me"? His immediate response - "he got up and followed Jesus" - suggests to us that the Lord was already working in his heart, preparing him for that moment when his new life, his life of discipleship, his life of mission would begin. On the day that Jesus came along, Levi saw himself as he really was - a sinner. He also saw Jesus as He really is - the Saviour of sinners, his Saviour. He was gathered in to Jesus - but this was just the beginning of gathering many others into Jesus. * We see the stirring of his heart. Had Levi noticed Jesus? Had he sensed something of the love of Jesus? Was he already beginning to hope that Jesus might do something special for him? Was the love of Jesus already reaching out to him before Jesus spoke the words, "Follow Me"? One thing we can say is this: Levi's conversion was a conversion of the heart. He gave his whole heart to the Lord Jesus - and, when he speaks to us in his Gospel, he speaks to us from his heart, and he speaks to our hearts. * We see the opening of his ears. As we read Matthew's account of his conversion, we are struck by the power of Jesus' words, "Follow Me." Whatever we may think about what could have been happening in Levi's life prior to that moment, we must say this: The moment that Jesus spoke the words, "Follow Me" was the moment that life began again for Levi. It was the moment that he was saved by the Lord - saved from a life of serving his own interests, saved for a life of serving his Saviour. * We see the changing of his life. Levi, the tax collector, became Matthew, the Gospel-writer - a new name and a new mission. He was not only gathered into Jesus. He began a new life of gathering others into Jesus. * We see the loosening of his tongue. We don't know a lot about Matthew. In Acts, we read of Peter and Paul. They were faithful and fruitful preachers of the Gospel. We don't read about Matthew being a preacher. We do know that, in his Gospel, he was speaking for his Lord. He was letting the world know how much Jesus meant to him. He was playing his part - a very important part - in gathering in men and women for the Saviour. * What about us? Will we play our part in the great "ingathering"? "Return to the Lord ... He will revive us ... He will raise us up ... He will come to us like the rain ... " (Hosea 6:1-3). * Return to the Lord. This is where it begins. A life of faithful and fruitful service to the Lord begins when we return to the Lord, when, like Levi, we say to Jesus, "Yes, Lord. I will follow You." * He will revive us. We pray for revival - a great ingathering of many people to our Saviour. Where does it begin? It begins with ourselves: "He will revive us." * He will raise us up. This is not just a little pick-me-up. This is resurrection. In ourselves, we are spiritually dead. In Christ, our risen Saviour, we are made alive. * He will come to us like the rain. "The spring showers water the land" - This is what we must pray for: a spiritual harvest which will bring many people to the Saviour and much glory to God.
Exodus 24:1-27:21
"The glory of the Lord" (Exodus 24:16-17) - God is to be glorified in all that we do. Symbolic of God's glory is the frequent reference to "gold" or "pure gold." God's glory is to shine brightly among God's people. If God is to be glorified among us, if our lives are to be like "pure gold", we must be like "pure virgin olive oil", keeping our "lamps" burning for Him (Exodus 27:20-21). God will not be glorified if we are not looking to Him to keep our lamps burning for Him - "Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning", "Shine, Jesus, shine. Fill this land with the Father's glory. Blaze, Spirit, blaze. Set our hearts on fire ... " The blessing we read about here is not simply for those who are already God's people. It is also for those who will be reached for Christ and won for Him, as the Lord's people rise to the challenge of carrying Christ to "this land" and to "the nations."
Exodus 28:1-30:38
In all our worship and in all of life, we are to be "holy to the Lord" (Exodus 28:36). Holiness lies at the heart of God's instructions to His people. God speaks of the special blessing of His "presence" at "the tent of meeting - "My glory will make this place holy" (Exodus 29:42-43). The holiness of God is full of love. He lives among His people as the God of redemption: "I brought them out of Egypt so that I might live among them" (Exodus 29:45-46). In the Lord's presence, there is grace - "in the Lord's presence ... the sins in their lives are removed" (Exodus 30:16). This redemption, given to us by the grace of God, is to be an ongoing experience through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Our salvation is never to be taken for granted in an arrogant way. Through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we do receive assurance of God's salvation - but we must never forget this: "Holy to the Lord" (Exodus 30:37).
Exodus 31:1-33:23
The history of Israel is like a rollercoaster ride. It's full of highs and lows. We read of the Lord giving His Word to Moses (Exodus 31:18). This is followed by the people rebelling against God (Exodus 32:1). The sin of the people is very greater. The mercy of God is even greater. He shows mercy to those whop have rebelled against Him. He continues to speak His Word of grace - "My presence will go with you, and I will give you peace" (Exodus 33:14). Often, we feel like God won't want to have anything more to do with us. God is the God of grace. He is also the God of glory. He reveals His glory to us (Exodus 33:18-22. His full glory is too much for us. He gives us a glimpse of His glory. He gives us enough to create in us a thirst for more of His glory. He doesn't give us so much that we are overwhelmed by His glory.  What we have is grace and glory together. When His glory seems too much for us, His grace breaks in and assures us that we belong to Him. He shows us that His glory is the glory of His love, the greatest love of all.
Exodus 34:1-35
Moses received the Word from the Lord. He brought God's Word to the people. With God's Word of grace - "the Lord, a compassionate and merciful God ...", there is also His Word of warning - "He never lets the guilty go unpunished ... " (Exodus 34:6-7). Hearing God's Word of warning, together with His Word of grace, Moses pleads with God for mercy - "Lord, please go with us ... " (Exodus 34:9). The Lord promises to give His blessing - "I'm making My promise again." This promise of His blessing is accompanied by His call to obedience - "Do everything that I command today" (Exodus 34:11). When Moses came, from God's presence, to the people, his "face was shining" (Exodus 34:30,35). This was a sign of the power of the Spirit - filling Him, giving Him strength, equipping Him for the work of ministry.
"The skin of Moses' face shone" (Exodus 34:35).
What glory there is in the presence of the Lord! The glory of the Lord was shining upon Moses. The glory of the Lord was shining out from Moses. In the Lord's presence, there is light. When we come into His presence, we come out of the darkness, and we come into the light. It is the light of His glory. It is the light of His love. It is the glory of His love. This is what changes us. This is what makes us new men and women. How can we remain the same when we have been in the presence of the Lord? Was there something special about Moses? No! There was something special about God. Is there something special about us? No! There's something special about God. In His presence, everything changes. The things that seemed so important to us are seen in a new light - the light of eternity. They are seen for what they really are. Do these things really matter as much as we thought they did? or Have we been shaped too much by the world's way of thinking? In the Lord's presence, everything seems so different. Light is shining upon us. It is the light of God's Word. It is the light of the Gospel. His light is a great light. It shines brightly. It will not be overcome by the darkness. Often, we feel that the darkness is so powerful. It seems like we're struggling to get into the light - and the darkness keeps on pulling us back in. What do we learn when we come into the Lord's presence? What do we learn when we read His Word? What do we learn when His Gospel reaches us? We learn that it's not all about us - our struggle to break free from the darkness. It's all about Him - His power to set us free. "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face; and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace."
Exodus 35:1-36:38
The work of God requires the work of a large number of people, who pool their resources together to see that God's work is done. When there is this willing spirit among God's people, God's work moves forward. This willing spirit comes from the Lord Himself - "The Lord has filled Bezalel with the Spirit of God." Through the Spirit of God, we receive gifts which are put to good use in the service of God (Exodus 35:31). When God's work is done in God's way - "as the Lord has commanded" (Exodus 36:1), there will be God's blessing: "The people are bringing much more than we need for doing the work the Lord has commanded us to do" (Exodus 36:5).
Exodus 37:1-29
Many times over, we read the word, "gold." We look beyond the furnishings of the place of worship to the God whom we worship. In our hearts, we say, "My God, how wonderful You are." All that we read of here is pointing us to the great God, the God of glory, the god who is worthy of all praise. Many people place great value on "gold", but they do not worship God and give glory to Him. How sad it is that so many people place such high value on the things of this world  - and place such little value on the God who created our world. In our world, we must learn to look beyond this world. We must learn to say, "I'd rather have Jesus than riches untold." The Lord must always be more important to us than anyone or anything else. We must not let "gold" become our "god." We must look beyond the "gold" to our God.
Exodus 38:1-40:38
All of this may seem so strange to us. Among all the many details, there is one thing which we must not miss. They "made everything that the Lord commanded." They "followed the Lord's instructions" (Exodus 38:22; Exodus 39:1,5,7,21,26,29,31-32,42-43). God's people are called to be obedient to Him. We are not to do what we want We are to what He commands. We are to follow His instructions. There can be no "anointing" (Exodus 40:9-15), if there is no obedience. The two go together - obedience and anointing. We are to do everything the Lord commands us. We are to follow His instructions (Exodus 40:16,19). Such obedience to God will involve putting His Word at the centre of our lives. His Word is not so much a Word of demand as a Word of "promise." It is not so much a Word of law as a Word of "mercy" (Exodus 40:20). Our obedience to God is grounded in our experience of God's "promise" of "mercy." Having received this "mercy" of God, promised to us in Jesus Christ, we follow the Lord's instructions (Exodus 40:21,23,27,29,32). When we have "finished the work" God has given us to do, we must look to Him to send the blessing - "the glory of the Lord filled the tent" (Exodus 40:34-35). In all the strangeness of the world of Old Testament worship, there are deep spiritual lessons for us, lessons which enable us to go on with the Lord - receiving His mercy, obeying His Word, experiencing His glory. God is good to us. He shows His mercy to us. He puts a new Spirit within us - the Spirit of obedience. He sends His glory so that we might rejoice in His presence and be strengthened by His presence.
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LEVITICUS
Leviticus 1:1-3:17
We may note the frequent recurrence of the phrase, "a soothing aroma to the Lord" (Leviticus 1:9,13,17: Leviticus 2:2,9,12; Leviticus 3:5,16). The presence of the Lord is "like a fragrance that fills the air." Not all people welcome the presence of the Lord. To some, it is "the aroma of Christ", " a life-giving fragrance." To others, it is "a deadly fragrance" (2 Corinthians 2:14-16). We are to pray that our life - in every part - will be pleasing to the Lord, bringing glory to Him. This will involve our worship in the holy place. It will also involve our living for the Lord in the many and varied situations of everyday life.
Leviticus 4:1-35
The word, "blood, appears often here. We may note, in particular, the phrase, in Leviticus 4:25, "the blood of the offering for sin." In the final verse (Leviticus 4:35), we may note why "the blood of the offering for sin" was shed - "forgiveness" and "peace with the Lord." Reading about this, our thoughts turn towards Jesus Christ, our Saviour, who died that we might be forgiven. Out of love for us, He gave Himself for our sins so that we might have peace with God (Romans 5:8,1).
Leviticus 5:1-7:38
In the descriptions of different offerings, we catch a glimpse of our need and Christ's salvation. There is the "offering for sin" (Leviticus 5:6), the "fellowship offering of thanksgiving" (Leviticus 7:15), the "guilt offering" (Leviticus 7:34), the "ordination offering" (Leviticus 7:37). There is teaching here which we must build on in our understanding of our Christian experience. Christ died for our sins to remove our guilt and bring us into fellowship with God. Grateful to Him, we give ourselves to Him, confident that He has ordained that we should bear fruit for Him (1 Peter 3:18; John 15:16). All of this arises from the Old Testament details: - "the burnt offering, the grain offering" (Leviticus 7:37). We must always look beyond the Old Testament sacrifices to our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Leviticus 8:1-9:24
Aaron was anointed with "the anointing oil", set apart or "dedicated" to the Lord for "holy duties" (Leviticus 8:12,30). Anointed by the Lord and dedicated to Him, "Aaron and his sons did everything the Lord commanded, through Moses" (Leviticus 8:36). Concerning the Lord's commands, "Moses said, 'The Lord has commanded you to offer these sacrifices so that you may see the Lord's glory'" (Leviticus 9:6). Together with Moses, Aaron was obedient to God, bringing the blessing of God to the people - "Then the Lord's glory appeared to all the people" (Leviticus 9:23). The principles of God's blessing are still the same. We need the anointing of the Holy Spirit. He calls us to obedience. This is the way of receiving God's blessing. This is the way in which the glory of God comes down upon the people of God. We receive God's blessing when the Holy Spirit comes down upon us in His mighty power.
Leviticus 10:1-11:47
It is vital that we know "the difference between what is holy and what is unholy" (Leviticus 10:10). God calls us to "be holy", to "live holy lives" (Leviticus 11:44). This is the central point we must see in all the many unfamiliar details of ancient Jewish worship. This is the "permanent law" (Leviticus 10:9,15). This is the teaching which must be passed on to "generations to come."
Leviticus 12:1-13:59
Again and again, we read the word, "clean." Looking beyond the teaching "regarding health", we may recall that "the blood of Jesus Christ - God's Son - cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). This is the cleansing which everyone needs. No matter how healthy we may be in our bodies, we are spiritually diseased because of sin, and we need Christ's cleansing.
Leviticus 14:1-57
We read here of our need of cleansing and of the sacrifice of a lamb as a way of removing our guilt and bringing us into peace with God (Leviticus 14:21). Spiritually, we are "poor." What we have to bring to God is not "that much." It is not enough to provide for our cleansing. What we need has been provided for us - "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). Our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us what we could never do for ourselves - "There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin. He only could unlock the gate of heaven and let us in." All glory to God!
Leviticus 15:1-16:34 
Each of us is unclean before God. Each of us needs Christ, who has given Himself as "a sin offering" to "make atonement" for us (Leviticus 16:16). Christ is the perfect Saviour, who "bears all our iniquities" (Leviticus 16:22). Concerning His great sacrifice for us, the Word of God says, "On this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins you shall be clean before the Lord" (Leviticus 16:30).
Leviticus 17:1-18:30
Through the shed blood of Christ, we have peace with God and eternal life (Leviticus 17:11; Romans 5:1-2,8-10). We have received new life in Christ. Now, we are to leave our sinful past behind us. We are to live a new life as those who belong to Christ (Leviticus 18:1-5; Romans 6:12-14; Romans 12:1-2).
Leviticus 19:1-37
Again and again, we read the words, "I am the Lord your God", or, more simply, "I am the Lord" (Leviticus 19:3-4,10,12,14,16,18,25,28,30-32,34,36-37). The whole point of this is that our moral practice is grounded in our spiritual worship (Romans 12:1).
Leviticus 20:1-21:24
The Lord calls us to be holy - because He is holy (Leviticus 20:26). We are to be like Him. He has set us apart as holy (Leviticus 21:8). We are "dedicated with the anointing oil of our God" (Leviticus 21:12). We may take this "anointing oil" as symbolic of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. We are to "eat the food of our God - what is holy and what is very holy" (Leviticus 21:22). Here, our attention is directed towards Christ, who is our spiritual food - "the Bread of Life" (John 6).
Leviticus 22:1-23:44
Our careful obedience to God's Word is not to be a purely legalistic thing. We must never forget that God is the God of redemption. Our holiness is grounded in Him: He is holy, and He sets us apart as holy (Leviticus 22:31-33). Holy living involves both worship and service. We are to worship God (Leviticus 23:1-4), but we must not forget the "poor people" (Leviticus 23:22).
Leviticus 24:1-23
If our light is to be keep on burning continually, we need pure oil (Leviticus 24:2). The emphasis here is on keeping close to God. It is only through closeness to God that our light will be kept burning. In Leviticus 24:15, we read, "Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin." This is followed, in Leviticus 24:16, by some words of explanation of what bearing his sin meant: "He who blasphemes the Name shall be put to death." As we read these words, our thoughts move to Christ, the sinless Saviour who bore the sins of many - "He died that we might be forgiven. He died to make us good, that we might go at last to heaven, saved by His precious blood." Through Him, we are brought close to God. Through Him, we are darkness and into light.
Leviticus 25:1-55
This chapter is full of the Lord's instructions concerning the Jubilee to be celebrated by Israel. Why was it so important for Israel to hear and obey the Word of the Lord? - "The Israelites belong to Me as servants. They are My servants. I brought them out of Egypt. I am the Lord" (Leviticus 25:55). This is still the foundation of our call to obedience. The Lord, who calls us to obedience, has first called us to belong to Him through redemption. He has redeemed us. We belong to Him. We will serve Him.
Leviticus 26:1-46
There is blessing for those who learn to obey the Lord (Leviticus 26:3-13). There is judgment for those who persist in sinning against the Lord (Leviticus 26:14-33). The opportunity of blessing remains even for those who are in despair and are wasting away because of sin (Leviticus 26:36,39) - God says, "I will remember My promise" (Leviticus 26:42). Those who have sinned against the Lord "must accept their guilt." This is the way of coming to know the blessing of the Lord who says, "I will not reject them of look at them with disgust" (Leviticus 26:43).
Leviticus 27:1-34
The underlying theme of this final chapter is giving ourselves to the Lord to belong to Him, to be dedicated to Him, to be set apart for Him, to be holy. Such dedication to the Lord is to affect the whole of our life. We learn this from the variety of details in this chapter. There must be no turning back from following the Lord. Those who turn back do so at great cost. They become spiritually dead through their disobedience to the Lord. Let us keep up our dedication to the Lord.
"a sin offering ... an atonement ... clean" (Leviticus 12:8).
We read the words of the book of Leviticus. We feel like we're out of our depth. We don't really know what to make all of this. We read about " a sin offering", we read about "an atonement", we read about being made "clean" - We read all of this, and the light begins to shine. It's the light of Jesus, our Saviour. We think of Him. We think of His death upon the Cross. We know that He died for us. We know that He loves us - and we rejoice in His love. Do we need to understand all that there is in the book of Leviticus? No! We catch a glimpse of Jesus - and His "sin offering." Our hearts are filled with joy, as we think of His "atonement." This a new beginning for us - "the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7).     It's a new beginning. We're set free from our past. We're set free for God's future.
What is God's future? What great plan does He have for us? - This is what He says to us, "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high" (Leviticus 26:13).
What God has done for us in the past is not all that He will do for us. We must never forget what He has done for us in the past. the Exodus from Egypt was a great event. It was an event of salvation. The death of our Saviour was an even greater event. this is the event of our salvation. without His death for us, we could never be saved. he took our place. He died our death. He took our sin upon Himself. He died that we might have life - the new life of those who have received the forgiveness of their sins, the eternal life which will be filled with joy forevermore. Following our entry into this new life and before our entry into God's everlasting Kingdom, there is a journey that each of us must make. It will be a different journey for each of us. We must make our own journey. My journey will not be your journey. Your journey will not be my journey. In my journey, I am not alone. In your journey, you are not alone. The Lord is with you. The Lord is with me.
What kind of journey will it be? It will be a hard road. How hard? In what way will it be hard? No-one really knows. We know that there will be "enemies" - but we know that the Lord has given us his promise:
"When they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them ... I am the Lord their God" (Leviticus 26:44).
What a great promise this is! We have many enemies - but there is one enemy who is more determined than all of the rest of them, put together. Our great enemy is Satan. God's Word teaches us that Satan is a determined enemy. It also teaches us that he's a defeated enemy. we look at Satan - and we look at Jesus. We see what Satan is trying to do to us. We look at what Jesus has done for us. At the Cross, we learn that Jesus has succeeded - and we learn that Satan has failed. Jesus has triumphed over Satan. Can we doubt that Jesus' victory over Satan will be a complete victory? Can we doubt that Satan's defeat will be a total defeat? At the Cross, we catch a glimpse of the final victory. In our hearts, we know that God's Word is true: "Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:57).
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NUMBERS
Numbers 1:1-4:49
God spoke, Israel obeyed (Numbers 1:1,54). This is the constant pattern of the life of faith - hearing and obeying the Word of God. The names of God's people differ from place to place. The pattern of their life remains the same. This pattern is also emphasized in Numbers 2, which begins with God speaking (Numbers 2:1) and ends with the people obeying (Numbers 2:34). This pattern is repeated in Numbers 3-4, which begin with God's Word (Numbers 3:1; Numbers 4:1) and end with our obedience (Numbers 3:51; Numbers 4:49). In Numbers, we read so much that is unfamiliar to us. We must learn to look for the Word that comes to us, in our time, as a Word from the Lord who is "the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). Hear and obey. Listen to what God is saying. Do what He has said.
Numbers  5:1-6:27
We must take sin seriously. It can lead to a withdrawal of God's blessing. This is the important and challenging message of Numbers 5. We must not lose sight of God's purpose for our lives. We are to be "dedicated to the Lord" (Numbers 6:6). It is God's intention to bless. In His love for us, He continues to speak to us His Word. His promise of blessing is still His Word to us. It is a Word which never ceases to be relevant to His people: "The Lord will bless you and watch over you. The Lord will smile on you and be kind to you. The Lord will look on you with favour and give you peace" (Numbers 6:24-26).
Numbers 7:1-8:26 
From each tribe, the gifts came. The Levites had a special ministry. For this ministry, they needed to be made "clean" (Numbers 8:5). Through cleansing, they were made "ready to do the Lord's work" (Numbers 8:11). In a very special sense, God said of them, "the Levites will be Mine" (Numbers 8:14). Between the gifts from the tribes (Numbers 7) and the preparation of the Levites (Numbers 8:5-26), there are the seven lamps on the lampstand, giving "light in front of the lampstand" (Numbers 8:1-4). The lamp stand was made of "gold."  This is the precious light of God's Word, shining like gold, which is greater than all the other metals. God's Word is the light which inspires the giving of the tribes and the ministry of the Levites. Without God's Word at the centre, everything else means nothing.

Numbers 9:1-10:36
The Israelites were travelling towards the promised land. As they travelled, they were to celebrate the Passover (Numbers 9:1-14). In their journey, they were being led by the Lord (Numbers 9:15-23). In the course of their journey, they faced opposition from their enemies, the enemies of the Lord. In this situation, they looked to the Lord for victory: "the Lord your God will remember you and rescue you from your enemies", "Arise, O Lord! Scatter Your enemies! Make those who hate You, run away from You!" (Numbers 10:9,35). Our journey is from the past (for which we give thanks to God), through the present (in which we look to the Lord for victory), to the future (towards which we are being led by the Lord.) In every part of our journey, we are journeying with God.
Numbers 11:1-35
There were problems among God's people. The spirit of complaint had spread among them. This brought the "fire" of judgment (Numbers 11:1). The spirit spirit of complaint comes when people don't like what God is doing among His people.We see this in Numbers 11:26-28. The words of prophecy are described as the result of the working of "the Spirit" (Numbers 11:26), yet Joshua said, "Stop them, sir!" (Numbers 11:28). Note Moses' response - "I wish all the Lord's people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit on them" (Numbers 11:29).What we need is not the quenching of the Spirit, but the release of God's Spirit among God's people.
Numbers 12:1-13:33 
In his leadership of God's people, Moses faced problems. It was not an easy pathway towards the promised land. There was opposition from Miriam and Aaron (Numbers 12:1). There was an unbelieving report, brought back from the land of Canaan by most of the spies (Numbers 13:31). Alongside these problems, there was the encouragement, which came from Caleb's words of faith: "Let's go now and take possession of the land. We should be more than able to conquer it" (Numbers 13:30). By faith, we shall overcome the problems.
Numbers 14:1-45
The problems continue. The problems increase (Numbers 14:1-4). Again, there is the Word of encouragement - "this time from Joshua, as well as Caleb" (Numbers 14:5-9). The people bring judgment upon themselves. They will not enter the promised land. Of the older generation, only faithful Caleb and Joshua were to enter the land. They would lead the next generation into the land of promise, thus fulfilling the Lord's promise of grace, which is always free grace - but it's never cheap grace. Grace is freely given by the Lord - but it can never be taken for granted by us. This point - not taking God's grace for granted - becomes clear in Numbers 14:39-45.
Numbers 15:1-41
God's work among His people was directed toward the future - "Once you're settled in the land I'm giving you" - and it was grounded in the past - "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God" (Numbers 15:2,41). Our present obedience draws strength from our past redemption - "It is finished" - and our future hope - It is still to come.
Numbers 16:1-50
In this chapter, we read about the judgment of God upon those who sinned against Him. God is perfectly holy. He calls us to be holy. This is not to be a pretence. It is to be real. Those who came under God's judgment claimed to be holy (Numbers 16:3). God saw what they were really like. This very challenging. It's a reminder that we must not take God lightly: "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Alongside this, we should also remember that Christ's hands were pierced for us. He waits to welcome all who return to Him, fleeing from "the wrath to come."
Numbers 17:1-18:30
Moses, the priests, the people - All of them were to honour the Lord in everything. (i) "Moses did exactly what the Lord commanded him to do" (Numbers 17:11). (ii) The priests were "a gift, given by the Lord, to do whatever work is necessary at the tent of meeting" (Numbers 18:6). (iii) The people were to "contribute the best and holiest parts to the Lord" ("out of all the gifts they had received" (Numbers 18:29). Whoever we are, whatever our place in God's work, we are to be dedicated to the Lord, committed to doing His will and being faithful in the work He has given to us to do for Him.
Numbers 19:1-22
When we read about being made clean, we must look beyond what we read in the Old Testament. From the sprinkling of the blood of "a red cow that is perfect, with no defects", we must look on to the New Testament, where we read of "the blood of Jesus Christ which cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). Jesus Christ is "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).
Numbers 20:1-29 
Neither Moses nor Aaron were to enter the land, promised by God to His people (Numbers 20:12,24). This is a reminder to us that we dare not presume on God's continued blessing. The fact that He has blessed us in the past does not mean that He will always bless us. We can lose out on His blessing. The blessing of God is to be treasured. It is not be taken lightly. It must never be taken for granted.
Numbers 21:1-35
The Israelites are journeying with the Lord. He is leading them from victory to victory. Salvation for Israel, salvation from the God of Israel, the true and living God, meant "destruction" (Numbers 21:3) for those who opposed God and His people - "How horrible it is for you, Moab! You are destroyed, you people of the god Chemosh" (Numbers 21:29). If there is to be real blessing among God's people, we must face conflict and overcome opposition from God's enemies.
Numbers 22:1-24:25
The story of Balaam concerns the challenge of speaking God's Word in truth. God is the God of truth (Numbers 23:19). His messengers must speak the Word of truth.. Before we can speak God's Word in truth, there needs to be a confession of sin, an acknowledgment of how far we have deviated from the way of truth. This confession of sin is to be accompanied by a fresh commitment to walking in the way of truth (Numbers 22:34). Speaking the Word of truth involves looking beyond ourselves to the One who is the Word of truth - our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ (Numbers 24:17).
Numbers 25:1-26:65
God's people are being called on to maturity. This is the significance of the phrase, "at least twenty years old" (Numbers 26:2,4). There are, however, many dangers. We are easily sidetracked - putting other "gods" before the Lord our God (Numbers 25:3). This turning away from the Lord is a serious matter, leading to the withdrawal of God's blessing. We can, however, continue to enjoy the Lord's blessing if, like Caleb and Joshua, we are men and women of faith (Numbers 26:64-65).
Numbers 27:1-23
Joshua was to lead the  people beyond the point to which Moses had led them. Joshua was chosen and empowered by God. Reading the story of God's people, from one generation to another, we find that the names change - but the Lord remains the same. Moses played his part. Joshua played his part. At every point in the story, God is there, upholding His servants in every generation.
Numbers 28:1-29:40
The people of Israel were given an extremely elaborate and detailed description of the sacrifices they were to bring to God. We no longer need to to bring such sacrifices to God. God Himself has provided the perfect Sacrifice. The Son of God has given Himself for us. He has put away our sin by the Sacrifice of Himself. We must focus our exclusive attention on Him.
Numbers 30:1-32:42
In the various areas of life - -personal faithfulness (chapter 30), our relationship with the world (chapter 31), our relationship with the Lord's people (chapter 32), there is one thing which is of the utmost importance: "we will do as the Lord has said" (Numbers 32:31). This is the most important thing: obedience to God.
Numbers 33:1-34:29
Much of what we have here is geographical. There is also, however, a spiritual dimension. God is leading His people to their new land, the land He had promised to them. In all the names of the places, we must see the hand of God directing His people according to His perfect plan. In God's "place", the "place" of His blessing, there must be nothing that hinders true worship of the Lord (Numbers 33:52).
Numbers 35:1-36:13
The whole of life is to be arranged according to God's perfect plan. This principle underlies all the detailed instructions given here. We see it, first, in Numbers 35:1 - "The Lord spoke to Moses ... " It is repeated in Numbers 35:9 - "The Lord said to Moses ... " It is emphasized in Numbers 36:5-6 - "So Moses gave the Israelites a command from the Lord ... This is what the Lord commands ... " It is seen in the response of "Zelophedad's daugthers" who "did as the Lord commanded Moses." It is found in the concluding verse of the book of Numbers: "These are the commands and rules the Lord gave the Israelites ... " (Numbers 36:13). Life may be very different today. Still, the spiritual principle remains the same: Our life is to be lived according to the teaching of God's Word.
"We have spoken against the Lord" (Numbers 21:7).
Before we can hear the Lord speaking to us, we must stop speaking against Him. How can we hear what the Lord is saying to us if we keep on speaking against Him? If we are to speak for God, we must begin with listening to Him.
"Speak only the Word that I tell you" (Numbers 22:35).
If we are to bring the Word of God to others, we must pray that He will speak to us. We must pray that He will give to us His Word - "the Lord put a word in Balaam's mouth" (Numbers 23:5). At the heart of our ministry of God's Word, there must be this firm conviction: "God is not a man, that He should lie or change His mind" (Numbers 23:19). Who are we to call in question the Word of the Lord? When God speaks to us, He calls us to believe His Word. We are to trust Him. If we question the Word of the Lord, and, then, attempt to speak His Word to others, we're asking for big trouble - "If the trumpet doesn't sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?" (1 Corinthians 14:8). We do not help the people of God to triumph over Satan, if we do not speak to them the Word of the Lord.
"All that the Lords speaks, I must do" (Numbers 23:26).
There needs to be obedience to God's Word. This is not only speaking God's Word. It's doing what God's Word says.
"The Spirit of God came upon him" (Numbers 24:2).
There needs to be empowering by the Spirit of God. Without His power, our words will never speak to people as the Word of the living God. With His power, everything changes. It is His power that carries home His Word to the hearts of our hearers.
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DEUTERONOMY
Deuteronomy 1:1-3:29
This is the continuing story of God's mighty working on behalf of His chosen people. He is leading them on to the land He had promised to them. Entering this land will not be easy. There will be plenty of opposition. The enemy will be defeated. The Lord will triumph over all who stand against Him.
Deuteronomy 4:1-6:25
There is a real challenge here - Continue in the way of the Lord. Don't turn back from following Him. This is important - not only for ourselves but for generations to come. The Word of the Lord must never be dismissed as something which is to be left in the past. Love for the Lord is not to be set aside as a thing of the past. We are to preserve the Word of the Lord for the next generation. The call to love God must be passed on those who come after us.
Deuteronomy 7:1-8:20
The contrast between God's people and those who worship false gods is so strong. It would be easy for God's people to feel superior. God's Word gives us no encouragement to have a superiority complex (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). How are God's people to remain true to Him when there are so many pressures to conform to the world? - We must remember that we need the Word of the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:3). Without His Word, we will be easy victims for Satan. The Lord warns His people - We must remember to obey Him, or we will, by our disobedience, bring ourselves under His judgment (Deuteronomy 8:19-20).
Deuteronomy 9:1-10:22
The Lord's people were on a 'journey' (Deuteronomy 10:11). They were journeying with Him. He was leading them in the way of His blessing. In our journey through life, how are we to experience an ever-increasing measure of God's blessing? - "Fear the Lord your God, follow all His directions, love Him, and worship Him (Deuteronomy 10:12). This is the way of blessing. It is "for your own good" (Deuteronomy 10:13).
Deuteronomy 11:1-13:18
God had blessed His people greatly. They were to live in obedience to Him. This is the way of further blessing (chapter 11). At the heart of our obedience to God, there is worship, true worship, worship which glorifies the Lord (chapter 12). At the heart of worship, there is to be the Word of God. Without the Word of God, we will be easily led astray (Deuteronomy 13:1-2). The central message to us here is summed up in Deuteronomy 13:4 - "Worship the Lord your God, fear Him, obey His commands, listen to what He says, serve Him and be loyal to Him."
Deuteronomy 14:1-15:23
"The Lord has chosen you to be His own special possession" (Deuteronomy 14:2). This is a great blessing - We have been saved by grace (Ephesians 2:5,8). "You are people who are holy to the Lord your God" (Deuteronomy 14:21). Those who have been saved by the Lord are to live for Him(Ephesians 2:10). "Be generous to the poor and needy" (Deuteronomy 15:11) - Living for the Lord involves showing kindness to others. We have been loved by the Lord. We are to love others.
Deuteronomy 16:1-17:20
"Honour the Lord your God" (Deuteronomy 16:1) - We are to worship the Lord. Our worship is to be filled with thanksgiving, praising the Lord for His redemption - "The Lord your God brought you out of Egypt." Moving from the land of bondage, we move, by faith, into the land of salvation: "You will enter the land that the Lord your God is giving you. You will take possession of it and live there" (Deuteronomy 17:14). As the Lord leads us on, our praise to Him increases. Let praise increase as grace increases.
Deuteronomy 18:1-19:21
"The land the Lord you God is giving you" (Deuteronomy 18:9; Deuteronomy 19:1,8,10,14): In all the practical instructions given to the people of Israel, there is always this reminder of the spiritual dimension. They are the people of God. They have been blessed by the Lord. They are to live as people who appreciate God's blessing. The spiritual dimension must never be forgotten. We are not talking only about social matters. We are talking about the life of God's people, "the redeemed of the Lord."
Deuteronomy 20:1-21:23
The conflict between the Israelites and the other nations was really a conflict between the true God and the false gods (Deuteronomy 20:17-18). Everything in life must be seen in connection with our relationship to God: Are we being true to Him? Or, are we being false? We must seek to do what "the Lord considers right", what is "clean" in His eyes (Deuteronomy 21:9,23).
Deuteronomy 22:1-23:25
We read the detailed instructions regarding morality. We feel that we are in another world, the world of ancient Israel. Nevertheless, we get hints, here and there, of the timeless spiritual principles, which are still applicable to us today. Deuteronomy 23:5 - "The Lord your God loves you." Deuteronomy 23:14 - ""The Lord your God moves around in your camp to protect you and hand your enemies over to you." God gives us His guidelines for life because He loves us and wants to protect us from everything that would endanger our enjoyment of His blessing.
Deuteronomy 24:1-26:19
Doing "the right thing in the presence of the Lord your God" (Deuteronomy 24:13), living "a long time in the land that the Lord your God is giving you" (Deuteronomy 25:15) - the two are vitally connected: obedience and blessing. Together with obedience and blessing, there is prayer. The blessing is not earned by our obedience. It is God at work, answering prayer (Deuteronomy 26:7). Together with the prayer which asks God for blessing, there is to be the prayer which thanks God for His blessing (Deuteronomy 26:8-10). We show our thanksgiving to the Lord by "faithfully obeying His Word with all our heart and with all our soul" (Deuteronomy 26:16). As we keep on obeying the Lord, He will keep on blessing us (Deuteronomy 26:18-19).
Deuteronomy 27:1-28:68
Obedience and blessing or disobedience and curse - This was the choice which was set before the people of God. It is still the same choice today. What a difference there is between the two ways - the way of obedience and the way of disobedience, the way of blessing and the way of curse. So much has changed since these words were written - yet the spiritual principles remain the same.
Deuteronomy 29:1-30:20
"Today I offer you life ... Choose life" (Deuteronomy 30:15,19). The meaning of these words concerning life is expanded on in Deuteronomy 30:16,20 - "Love the Lord your God." Loving God - This is what life is all about. This is life as He intended it to be. This is the meaning and purpose of life. This is to be the direction of our life.
Deuteronomy 31:1-32:52
Moses' time of leadership was coming to an end. Joshua would replace him as the leader of God's people. With God's command - "Be strong and courageous" - and promise - "you will bring the Israelites into the land that I swore to give them, and I will be with you" (Deuteronomy 31:23), Joshua set out into the work of the Lord. Moses still had a Word to bring to the people from the Lord - a Word which proclaimed the Lord as "a faithful God" (Deuteronomy 32:4) and called the people to be faithful to Him (Deuteronomy 32:5-6).
Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12
The Lord's work is moving on. the Lord's servant - Moses - is looking towards the future. He is pronouncing God's blessing on the people of Israel. He pays special attention to each tribe. There is a Word from the Lord for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. The people of Israel had been "blessed" - "a nation saved by the Lord" (Deuteronomy 33:29). The future lay with the whole people of God, as they moved forward together. there was, however, to be one man who was called to special leadership among the people - Joshua. For this work, Joshua was "filled with the Spirit" (Deuteronomy 34:9). The people of God were moving forward, but they would not forget where they had come from - how the Lord had led them. They remembered Moses (Deuteronomy 34:10-12) - and they gave thanks to God.
"You shall give to the Lord your God, as the Lord your God has blessed you" (Deuteronomy 16:10).
Our giving to the Lord can never be any more than a response to His giving to us. His giving to us is always greater than our giving to Him. There can be no comparison between His giving to us and our giving to Him. When we focus our attention on His giving to us, our giving to Him will be transformed. It will not be legalism. It will be thanksgiving. No longer grudge-giving - "I have to", or duty-giving - "I ought to", it will be thanksgiving - "I want to."
"The Lord your God  will raise up for you a Prophet ... to Him you shall listen" (Deuteronomy 18:15).
We read these words, and we think of the words spoken by God on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:5). There is a difference. Jesus is more than a Prophet. He's God's Son. He's greater than Moses. He's greater than Elijah. They were God's servants. He's God's Son. When we realize that we have a Saviour - more than a prophet!, we will listen to Him, we will give ourselves to Him, and we will thank Him for giving Himself for us.
Why do we listen to Jesus? It's because He speaks the Word of the Lord - "I ... will put My words in His mouth; and He shall speak to them all that I shall command Him" (Deuteronomy 18:18).  It's more than that! He is the Word of the Lord (John 1:1,14).
We give ourselves to Him because He has given Himself to us. We do not think much of our great devotion to him. We think much of His great love for us.
As I was reading about "the Prophet", I found my attention drawn to these words - "you shall not be afraid of him" (Deuteronomy 18:22). As I read this verse, I noticed that it's telling us that we do not need to be afraid of the false prophet. Satan has no authority over the Lord's people - "No weapon that is formed against you will prosper ... " (Isaiah 54:17). "you shall not be afraid of him" - I thought a bit more about this verse. I found my thoughts turning to Jesus, our Saviour. We don't need to be afraid of Him. He loves us. In fear, we come to Him. We know that He is holy. In love, He comes to us. He shows us that He is our Saviour. "His perfect love casts out our fear" (1 John 4:18).
"Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for He shields him all day long, and the one that the Lord loves rests between His shoulders" (Deuteronomy 33:12).
The Lord loves us. His love casts out our fear. His love gives us security. His love shields us. We rest in His love. There's a place in His heart for us. The love of God - This is the message which reaches out "to the ends of the earth" (Deuteronomy 33:17).
"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 binds the whole world, every barrier it breaks, the hills it lays low, and the mountains it shakes. It's yours, it is ours, O how lavishly given! The pearl of great price, and the treasure of heaven!" (Daniel Thambyrajah Niles). "All for your sake, all for my sake; yes, for all, I say: Now for the world comes news of salvation: 'Christ is born today!" 'Christ is born today!'" (From the Gujarati of Kahanji Madhavji Ranagrahi).
 * "And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him ..." (Deuteronomy 34:9).
The love of God is for every nation - and it is for every generation. As God's work moves forward from one generation to the next generation, we must look to the Lord to fill us with His Spirit, to give us all that we need to rise to the new challenge of bringing Christ's Gospel of salvation to the people in today's world.
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JOSHUA
This is the story of what God was doing with His people. He was giving them the land he had promised to them. Joshua was to be the leader of God's people. Joshua’s strength came from the Lord: “Be strong and courageous! ...The Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
The report of the spies - “The Lord has given us the whole country” (Joshua 2:24) - emphasizes that God is in control. God is working out His purpose, His perfect purpose, His purpose of love.
It is important to remember this. Without this understanding of the events recorded in the book of Joshua, we will lose our way and fail to see what relevance these events have for us. From these events, we learn that our strength comes from the Lord, who does great things for us because He loves us with a perfect love.
The crossing of the River Jordan was a significant event. It was an event to be remembered. It wasn’t just a geographical event. It was more than a movement from one place to another. It was a spiritual event, a work of God. The meaning of this event would bring blessing to God’s people down through the years: “The Lord did this so that everyone in the world would know His mighty power and that you would fear the Lord your God every day of your life” (Joshua 4:24). The past affects the present. It shapes the future. We remember the Lord so that we might learn to fear Him, now and always.
The victory over Jericho came immediately after the appearance of “the Commander of the Lord’s army.” It was God who told His people how they were to approach the city of Jericho. Everything about this victory marked it out as the work of God: “So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout the land” (Joshua 6:27). The Lord accomplishes His work when His people obey His instructions. We must never forget this. All glory must be given to the Lord. It’s not our obedience which earns His blessing. It’s His power and His love, which sends His blessing down from heaven. His blessing is sent to those who are obedient. It’s always the gift of His grace. It’s never the reward for our good works.
The victory over Ai (Joshua 7 & 8) could not take place until the sin of Achan had been dealt with. There needs to be the tearing down of sin before there can be the building up with salvation. This is a spiritual principle of the greatest importance. God withholds His blessing from us when we withhold our obedience from Him. It is to an obedient people that God sends His blessing. We must,in repentance, remove the barriers to God’s blessing. When we do this, we can, then, reach out, by faith, and receive the blessing that He is so eager to give to us.
“The Lord fought for Israel” (Joshua 10:14). This is what we must see in all the conflicts between Israel and the other nations. God is working out His purpose. He is fulfilling His promises. Without this spiritual dimension, the events recorded in the book of Joshua are of no real significance for us today. Keeping this spiritual purpose at the centre, we will learn this great lesson: The Lord fights for us.
“Don’t be afraid of them because I am going to give them to Israel” (Joshua 11:6). This is the Word of the Lord that lies at the heart of Joshua’s account of Israel’s victories. The victory comes from the Lord. He gives His people the victory. This is still God’s Word to us. As we face our enemies - everything that stands in the way of our spiritual progress, we must stand on the Word of the Lord - His promise of victory.
In the book of Joshua , there’s plenty of geography - lots of place names. There is also the spiritual emphasis on the direct connection between obedience and blessing. We see this in the life of Caleb (Joshua 14:6-9,13-14). There’s something remarkable about Caleb - “I am 85 years old” and “still as fit to go to war as I was when Moses sent me out.” He was still saying, “If the Lord is with me, I can drive them out, as He promised” (Joshua 14;10-12).
The division of the land among the tribes (Joshua 15-19) seems to be so mundane, yet it’s part of the Word of God. This reminds us that even the mundane aspects of our life are lived out “in the presence of the Lord” (Joshua 18:10; 19:51).
The cities of refuge (Joshua 20) and the cities that were given to the tribes (Joshua 21) - This isn’t particularly interesting. We should never lose sight of the spiritual dimension, with which Joshua 21 ends: “The Lord gave Israel the whole land ... The Lord allowed them to have peace on every side ... The Lord handed all their enemies over to them. Every single promise that the Lord had given the nation of Israel came true” (Joshua 21:43-45).
“The Lord is the only true God” (Joshua 22:22,34).
In this new land, the Israelites faced conflict. This was more than a conflict between nations. It was a conflict between the one God and the many gods. It was a conflict  between the true God and the false gods. God’s Word to His people was clear - “You must be loyal to the Lord your God” (Joshua 23:8). God is still speaking to His people. He is still saying, “Get rid of the gods ... Serve only the Lord” (Joshua 24:14). The choice must be made - “Choose today whom you will serve.” God is calling us to make our response: “I will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). After reading many chapters, full of names, we must remember that there is one Name which is more important than all the other names. It’s the Name of the Lord our God. After reading so much about military exploits, we must remember that it is in the Name of the Lord that we are called to do battle. There’s a spiritual battle to be fought. In this battle, we fight for the Lord. We fight in His strength. In this battle, there’s one thing that matters more than anything else. It’s the glory of God.
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JUDGES
The book of Joshua speaks of a high-point in the history of God’s people, Israel. By faith, they took possession of the land which the Lord had provided for them. The book of Judges tells of the downward slope - “ ... The people of Israel did what the Lord considered evil ... “ (Judges 2:10-15). Although this was a bad time in the history of Israel, there was also some encouragement - “Then the Lord would send judges to rescue them from those who robbed them” (Judges 2:16). Sadly, the people wouldn’t listen to the judges (Judges 2:17-19). There were difficult times ahead for the people of Israel. The Lord allowed the nations to remain in the land. This was His way of testing His people (Judges 2:20-23).
In the book of Judges, we see both sin and salvation - “The people of Israel did what the Lord considered evil” (Judges 3:7,12); “Then the people of Israel dried out to the Lord for help” (Judges 3:9,15); “The Lord sent a saviour to rescue them” (Judges 3:9,15). Viewed from the point of view of human sin, this was a bad time in the history of Israel. They were a wayward people. They were prone to wandering away from the Lord. Viewed from the point of view of divine grace, there is the great encouragement that God continues to love His people.He puts into their hearts a desire to return to Him. He responds to their cry from the heart. He sends His blessing. This is His way of showing us that His love for us remains constant, even when our love for Him has grown very weak.
As we read of Israel’s military exploits, we must recognize the spiritual dimension. This is brought out well in the song of victory in Judges 5. It begins with the words, “Praise the Lord!” (Judges 5:2). It is a song of praise to God - “I will sing a song to the Lord. I will make music to the Lord God of Israel” (Judges 5:3). The victories gained by Israel were “the victories of the Lord” (Judges 5:11). When we worship the Lord, we are strengthened to go on, living for Him - “I must march on with strength!” (Judges 5:21).
The story of Gideon is the story of the Lord at work. This is summed up in (a) Gideon’s call - “The Lord is with you, brave man ... You will rescue Israel from Midian with the strength you have. I am sending you” (Judges 6:12,14). (b) Gideon’s victory over the Midianites - “Attack! The Lord will hand Midian’s camp over to you” (Judges 7:15). There is also a warning for us. Even those who have been used by the Lord can fall into Satan’s trap. Gideon made a gold idol, and “it became a trap for Gideon and his family” (Judges 8:27).
“The people of Israel again did what the Lord considered evil ... The Lord became angry with the people of Israel ... Then the people of Israel cried out to the Lord for help” (Judges 10:6-7,10). We don’t deserve to be blessed by the Lord. In mercy, He blesses us, far more than we could ever deserve. The time of the judges was not a time of the greatest blessing. In life’s low points, we must hold on to our conviction that God is there with us, even when He seems to be far away. We must keep on believing that God is with us at all times.
In the story of Jephthah (Judges 11 & 12), we learn that we need wisdom as well as sincerity. We need to have knowledge of God’s will as well as a desire to do His will.
Samson was to “dedicated to God from his birth” (Judges 13:5). His early life is described in terms of God’s blessing - “The boy grew up,and the Lord blessed him” (Judges 13:24). Samson’s adult life can be viewed  at two levels - (a) Samson’s selfishness - “Get her for me! She’s the one I want!”; and (b) God’s sovereignty - “the Lord was behind” this (Judges 14:3-4). We see this pattern continuing throughout Samson’s life. There is victory: “he called out to the Lord, and said, ‘You have given me this great victory.’” There is defeat: “he saw a prostitute and slept with her” (Judges 15:18; 16:1). This combination of defeat and victory continues all the way through to the time of Samson’s death. He was a prisoner of the Philistines (Judges 16:21,23-24). He was used by God to bring the Philistines down (Judges 16:28-30). The story of Samson is a story of divine grace, triumphing over human sin.
In Judges 17 & 18, the chief character is Micah. This was not the prophet, Micah. This man was a worshipper of idols! He did what he wanted - not what God wanted (Judges 17:6). What a contrast to the prophet, Micah (Micah 6:8)! This worshipper of idols tried to keep on the right side of God: “Now I know that the Lord will be good to me. I have a Levite as a priest” (Judges 17:13). This is ‘salvation by works’ - trying to earn one’s own salvation. The message of the prophet, Micah is very different. Salvation is by grace (Micah 7:18-20). The idolater, Micah, had a bad influence on others (Judges 18:30-31). The voice of the prophet, Micah, was very different: “The voice of the Lord calls out to the city. The fear of Your Name is wisdom” (Micah 6:9).
The sinful and shameful times, described in the book of Judges, are summed up in the book’s final verses of chapters 19, 20 & 21. “Never has such a thing happened or been seen from the time the people of Israel came out of Egypt until today” (Judges 19:30). “Then the men of Israel went back to attack the rest of the territory of Benjamin ... “ (Judges 20:48). “Everyone did what he considered right” (Judges 21:25). It was an ‘anything goes’ situation/ Left to our own resources, we will go from bad to worse - further and further into sin,further and further away from God. There is only one thing that can be done in a situation like this. We must repent. We must return to the Lord with our whole heart. When there is a true return to the Lord, even the most sinful people can be mightily transformed. We do not see this at the end of the book of Judges. We see the reverse of this - ‘where grace abounded, sin did much more abound.’ As we see the same thing happening in our own day, we must pray for the triumph of God’s grace over human sin.
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RUTH
Following the triple tragedy of the deaths of Elimelech, Mahlon and Chilion (Ruth 1:3-5) and the departure of Orpah (Ruth 1:14), there was a new beginning for Naomi and Ruth.This new beginning came to them when "they came to Bethlehem" (Ruth 1:19). The town of Bethlehem marked a new beginning for them. It marks a new beginning for us - Bethlehem was the place where our Saviour was born. "They happened to enter Bethlehem just when the barley harvest began - The timing of their arrival turns our thoughts towards fruitfulness. We come to our Saviour - born at Bethlehem, and He makes us fruitful in His service. Without His help, we cannot even begin to see a harvest gathered in for Him. We must look to Him, putting our trust in Him, if we are to see His blessing in the work that we do for Him.
The story of Ruth and Boaz leads us on to David (Ruth 4:22). It leads us beyond David to Christ. In this love story, we have the fulfilment of Naomi's words: "May the Lord bless him" (Ruth 2:20). It's a story which prompts the response: "Praise the Lord" (Ruth 4:14). It's a story which points beyond itself to the Story of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ - the Story of the greatest blessing of all: salvation, the Story which inspires our worship, causing us to say, with heart and voice, "Praise the Lord." From this short story of  Ruth and Boaz, we learn an important lesson: As we read the many stories that we find in Scripture, we must learn to see, in each of them, the Story of our Saviour.
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1 SAMUEL
The name, “Samuel”, tells the story, leading up to his birth. His name means “God hears”. Samuel was given this name to indicate that he was God’s answer to Hannah’s prayer: “I asked the Lord for him” (1 Samuel 1:20). She gave her son back to the Lord - “I prayed for this child, and the Lord granted my request. In return, I am giving him to the Lord. He will be dedicated to the Lord for his whole life” (1 Samuel 1:11,28).
Hannah’s prayer begins with the words, “”My heart finds joy in the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:1). Her son, Samuel, was going the Lord’s way. This was something which made Hannah rejoice in the Lord. We read about Samuel’s spiritual growth (1 Samuel 2:18,21). “The boy Samuel grew up in front of the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:18,21). “The boy Samuel continued to grow and gained the favour of the Lord and the people” (1 Samuel 2:26). For Samuel, this was just the beginning. There were greater things to come: “And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground” (1 Samuel 3:19).
Samuel’s spiritual  growth was in stark contrast to the disobedience and downfall of Eli’s sons. This is the context within which we must grow spiritually. We are surrounded by disobedience. We must look away from all of this disobedience. We must keep our eyes on the Lord. We must ask the Lord to give us His grace so that we might go on growing in Christ.
The Lord had His hand on the boy Samuel, and he grew to be a man of God, empowered by the Spirit of God. The ministry of Samuel was a mighty demonstration of the power of the Spirit of God (1 Samuel 3:19-21). God was with him - in power. God was sending His blessing down from heaven. He was giving His Word to Samuel - “the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel in Shiloh through the Word of the Lord”. God’s Word was reaching out, through Samuel, to “all Israel” (1 Samuel 3:21).
The ark of the Lord signified the Lord’s presence among His people. Even the Philistines, Israel’s enemies, recognized the presence of God among His people - “the ark of the Lord was come into the camp. And the Philistines were afraid , for they said, God is come into the camp. And they said, Woe unto us!” (1 Samuel 3:6-7). When God’s ark was absent, God’s presence was not among the people - “the glory of the Lord has departed” (1 Samuel 4:21). When the ark of the Lord, containing the Word of the Lord, is returned to its rightful place among God’s people, the blessing of God returns. We need to honour God and His Word, if there is to be blessing among us. If God and His Word are taken lightly, there will be no blessing.
God calls His people to return to Him wholeheartedly. They are to make a commitment to the Lord, and serve only Him (1 Samuel 7:3). When we dedicate our lives to the Lord, we are not left to go it alone. The Lord is with us. He is our Helper - “Until now the Lord has helped us” (1 Samuel 7:12). The call to be dedicated to the Lord is always accompanied by the promise of His help.
The people of Israel were warned. They were not to have a human king. They were to have no other king but the Lord. They disregarded the Word of the Lord. They wanted to have a king. They wanted to be like other nations. Having the Lord as their king wasn’t enough for them. They were determined to get their own way. They insisted on having a human king. God allowed them to have a king - Saul. There was no real blessing under Saul’s leadership. He was not a true man of God. He did not influence the people for God.
Samuel and Saul were very different. Samuel loved the Lord. Saul “didn’t follow the command of the Lord” (1 Samuel 13:14). Today’s Church needs men like Samuel in its leadership. He was committed to the priorities of prayer and God’s Word - “It would be unthinkable for me to sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. I will go on teaching you the way that ids good and right” (1 Samuel 12:23). Samuel called upon the people to “fear the Lord, and serve Him sincerely”. He emphasized that they were to fear the Lord and serve Him with a sense of gratitude for all that He had done for them - “Consider the great things He did for you” (1 Samuel 12:24). As well as the Word of command, grounded in the remembrance of grace, there was also the Word of warning: “But if you go on doing what is evil, you and your king will be wiped out” (1 Samuel 12:25). May God help us to be like Samuel - “speaking the truth in love”.
Saul enjoyed success as a military leader: “Wherever he turned, he was victorious” (1 Samuel 14:47). He was a failure as a spiritual leader: “Then the Lord spoke to Samuel, “I regret that I made Saul king. He turned away from Me and did not carry out My instructions” (1 Samuel 15:10-11). God’s Word of judgment was pronounced on Saul: “You rejected what the Lord told you. So the Lord rejects you as king of Israel” (1 Samuel 15:26).
David was the one, chosen by God, to be king - “Anoint him.He is the one” (1 Samuel 16:12). This was for the future. For the present, there was the challenge of Goliath. God’s will had been made known to David. Now, through his victory over Goliath, the will of God would become clear to all the people. David’s victory was really the Lord’s victory: “I come to you in the Name of the Lord ... The Lord will hand you over to me ... The whole world will know that Israel has a God. Then everyone gathered here will know that the Lord can save without sword or spear, because the Lord determines every battle’s outcome. He will hand all of you over to us” (1 Samuel 17:45-47). When we face our “Goliaths”, we must look beyond him to the Lord. When we take our eyes off the Lord, the “giants” look bigger than they really are. When we keep our eyes on the Lord, the “giants” are cut down to size. We are to be like David. We are to rise to the challenge - in the strength of the Lord. Armed with the armour of God, we can face our enemy, Satan, with the confidence that our God will give us the victory.
There’s a great contrast between David and Saul. It is summed up in 1 Samuel 18:12 - “The Lord was with David but had left Saul”. The sadness of this situation is summed up in 1 Samuel 18:29 - “Saul became David’s constant enemy”. The seriousness of this situation is summed up in 1 Samuel 19:10 - “Saul tried to nail David to the wall with his spear”. Saul had been thinking about doing this for some time (1 Samuel 18:11).
Jonathan’s faithfulness to David arose from his love for him (1 Samuel 20:17). This is true of God. He loves us. He is faithful to us. The story of David runs parallel to the story of Saul. It highlight. the continuous conflict between God and Satan. David was God’s man. Saul had become Satan’s tool. God is sending His blessing. Satan is seeking to hinder God’s blessing. This is the conflict that we see in the story of David and Saul. This is the conflict that is still going on in our lives. It’s an unequal conflict. The victory belongs to the Lord - not to Satan!
The story of David and Saul is a story of two very different men. David recognized that the Lord was in control. Saul, on the other hand, was trying to keep himself in control. There are two very different attitudes to life - trusting the Lord and taking things into our hands. We see David’s attitude to the Lord in his response to Nabal: “Blessed be the Lord, who defended me against the insults of Nabal and kept me from doing wrong. The Lord has turned Nabal’s own wickedness back on him” (1 Samuel 25:39).
Saul sinned against the Lord (1 Samuel 28). God’s judgment came upon Saul (1 Samuel 31). While Saul is still king, in these final chapters of 1 Samuel, the chief emphasis is placed on David. God’s work is moving on. It doesn’t stand still. God is looking to the future. Saul was yesterday’s man. David was God’s man for the future. We must move forward with God. He is leading us on to greater blessing.
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2 SAMUEL
The end of Saul’s reign, the beginning of David’s reign
For Saul, the end was tragic - “See how the mighty have fallen” (2 Samuel 1:19,25,27).
David’s reign marked a new beginning. God is gracious. He gives a new beginning when we have made a mess of things. He is the God of hope. He leads us out of our failure and into His victory.
David became the king of Judah (2 Samuel 2:1-7) and the king of Israel (2 Samuel 5:1-5). Behind the story of David, there is the story of God at work: “The Lord was with David”,     “The Lord had established him as king of Israel and made his kingdom famous for the sake of Israel, the Lord’s people” (2 Samuel 5:10-12).
“David worships the Lord” - “I will celebrate in the Lord’s presence”, “You are great, Lord God. There is no one like You, and there is no other god except you” (2 Samuel 6:21; 2 Samuel 7:22).
David trusts God - “Almighty Lord, You are God, and Your words are trustworthy” (2 Samuel 7:28).
David obeys God - “David ruled all Israel. He did what was fair and right for all his people” (2 Samuel 8:15).
“God’s kindness” (2 Samuel 9:3)
God has shown His kindness to us. We are to show His kindness to others.
“Be strong!” (2 Samuel 10:12) - We are to be strong in the strength of the Lord.
Strength and kindness - God will give us the strength to be less self-centred, and more other-centred and God-centred.
“The Lord considered David’s actions evil” (2 Samuel 11:27) - This is a summary of the sinful and shameful events that are recorded in 2 Samuel 11. For most of 2 Samuel 12, we have a record of the consequences of David’s sin. At the end of the chapter, there is a ray of hope - the birth of a son, Jedidiah. His name means “The Lord’s Beloved”. God’s love is greater than our sin!
In 2 Samuel 13 - 14, we read about sin - rape, murder and deception. This realistic account of human behaviour highlights the sin which separates us from God. This shows us very clearly our need of salvation. We need the Lord’s saving grace in our lives, if we are to be kept from going further along the road of sinful living. By His grace, He saves us. He forgives our sin. He calls us to walk with Him on the pathway of holiness.
In 2 Samuel 15 - 16, we have a very human story. It’s just like our life today. We read it, and we think about our own life. We ask, “Where is the Lord in all of this?” We need to maintain the Lord’s priorities. We need to keep “God’s ark” - His Word - among us. We need to seek His favour and honour His servants (2 Samuel 15:25; 2 Samuel 16:18). Maintaining the Lord’s priorities is so important if we are to keep sight of Him. If we fail to maintain our focus on the Lord, we will be swept along by events that do not seem to be filled with any real sense of the purpose of God being fulfilled in our lives. When God seems far away, and we can’t see Him at work, we must keep on believing in His presence and power, We walk by faith - not by sight.
In 2 Samuel 17 - 19, we read of Absalom pursuing David (chapter 17), David defeating Absalom (chapter 18), and David being restored to the throne (chapter 19). At the heart of these very human events concerning conflict within the nation, we must see the outworking of God’s purpose.
“May the Lord your God be praised. He has handed over the men who rebelled against your Majesty” (2 Samuel 18:28). The king is called “your Majesty”. We must never forget that there is an even greater King, an even greater Majesty. The Lord is King. We “worship His Majesty”.
In 2 Samuel 20 - 21, there are so many names. As we read about the various incidents that are described in these chapters, we must not overlook the spiritual dimension. We must respect the Lord and His servants (2 Samuel 20:19). We must seek the Lord’s blessing. “God answered the prayers for the land” (2 Samuel 21:14) - We must look to the Lord to do this in our generation.
David sings his song to the Lord (2 Samuel 22:1-51). It’s a song of praise. It’s a song which exalts the Lord. It’s a song which gives glory to the Lord. At the heart of David’s song of praise, there’s a particularly rich section, which is full of precious statements concerning the Lord.
* God’s way is perfect (2 Samuel 22:31).
* Who is God but the Lord? (2 Samuel 22:32).
* God arms me with strength (2 Samuel 22:33).
* He makes my feet like those of a deer (2 Samuel 22:34).
* He trains my hands for battle (2 Samuel 22:35).
* You have given me the shield of Your salvation (2 Samuel 22:36).
* You make a wide path for me to walk on so my feet do not slip (2 Samuel 22:37).
These great verses jump out from the particular historical circumstances out of which David speaks.
They speak to us as words which jump across the centuries.
These words begin as David’s confession of faith. They become our confession of faith.
David’s work was intended by God to bring blessing to the people.
He was “raised up” by God (2 Samuel 23:1). “The Spirit of the Lord spoke through him" (2 Samuel 23:2).
David’s influence on the people was not always a good influence.
He “sinned” against the Lord, bringing judgment upon the nation (2 Samuel 24:10,15).
Sin and judgment are not, however, the last word concerning God’s dealings with His people.
“So the Lord heard the prayers for the country, and the plague in Israel stopped” (2 Samuel 24:25).
The Lord’s servants are not perfect. There is sin in us. This affects our usefulness in God’s service.
God is greater than His servants.
His grace reaches out to men and women through His very inadequate servants. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels”.
Why? - “To show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to ourselves” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
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1 KINGS
The throne is handed on to Solomon by David. This is seen as part of the ongoing purpose of God: “Praise the Lord God of Israel who has let me see the heir to my throne” (1 Kings 1:48). The kingship was given to Solomon by “the Lord” (1 Kings 2:15) - “The Lord set me on my father David’s throne ... As He promised” (1 Kings 2:24). When we read the history of the kings of Israel, it is important that we do not lose sight of this spiritual dimension. This is more than the story of men. It’s the story of God’s dealings with His people.
Solomon was a wise man. His wisdom came from God: “He possessed wisdom from God”, “God gave Solomon wisdom” (1 Kings 3:28; 1 Kings 4:29). The work done by the king required wisdom. The gift of wisdom is to be received with praise to God: “May the Lord be praised today: He has given David a wise son to rule this great nation” (1 Kings 5:7). God gave wisdom for spiritual leadership - building the Lord’s Temple (1 Kings 6:1,37-38). God gives wisdom to us as we gather together in His House to hear His Word (1 Kings 6:19). We are not only to hear His Word. We are to do His work (1 Kings 7:51). For His work, God gives us His wisdom - holy wisdom.
Solomon prays (1 Kings 8:22-53). The Lord answers Solomon’s prayer (1 Kings 9:3-9). We must seek the blessing of God. Without His blessing, all our efforts are fruitless. When our work is “in the Lord”, it is “not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Together with work, there needs to be prayer. We are to look to God for the blessing. As we pray to God and work for Him, we must remember this: God is faithful - He fulfils His promises to His people (1 Kings 8:56). When God blesses us, we must remember to give thanks to Him. As well as praying to Him, working for Him and thanking Him, we must make sure that we keep on living for Him (1 Kings 8:61). At the centre of our life of obedience, there is to be worshipping Him in His House (1 Kings 9:3).
In 1 Kings 10, we read about Solomon’s wealth. In 1 Kings 11, we read about his weakness - women. There is sadness about Solomon’s reign - “He was no longer committed to the Lord his God as his father David had been ... He did not wholeheartedly follow the Lord as his father David had done” (1 Kings 11:4,6). Solomon’s sin led to God’s judgment: “So the Lord grew angry with Solomon because his heart had turned from the Lord God of Israel” (1 Kings 11:9).
1 Kings 12 tells us about Rehoboam (verses 1-19) and Jeroboam (verses 20-33). God was looking beyond both of these men. He was looking ahead to the reign of King Josiah (1 Kings 13:2). For the fulfilment of this prophecy, we must look on to 2 Kings 23:15-20. God is always ahead of us. We live in our present. He is calling us on to His future.
As we read about various kings, there is something that we must never forget - the Lord is King. He is King of all kings. Over all kings, there is One who reigns supreme. The Lord reigns. His reign is greater than any earthly king. He is the King of heaven. There is no other king like the Lord. He is the One who sits on the heavenly throne. His throne is established forever.
We read about Elijah in his high-points of strength - the triumph over the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:36-39) - and his low-points of weakness - he is ready to give up: “I’ve had enough now, Lord” (1 Kings 19:4). How did Elijah get into such a mess? He forgot this: “The Lord’s power was on Elijah” (1 Kings 18:46). In all life’s ups and downs, we must hold on to this: The Lord has sent His Spirit of power to live in us (2 Timothy 1:7). How are we to live in the power of the Spirit? We need to feed on the Word of God and drink in the Word of God (1 Kings 17:4). We need to pray that the Lord will send His showers of blessing (1 Kings 17:14). We are to live our life “according to the Word of the Lord” (1 Kings 17:16). For our life of faith to be strong in the Lord, we need to listen attentively to the preaching of God’s Word (1 Kings 17:24).
Following the death of the evil king, Ahab, things changed. The new king, Jehoshaphat, was a different kind of man - “Jehoshaphat did what the Lord considered right” (1 Kings 22:43). Sadly, things took a turn for the worse after Jehoshaphat died: “Ahaziah ... Did what the Lord considered evil .... Ahaziah served Baal, worshipped him, and made the Lord God of Israel furious ...” (1 Kings 22:51-53). In all the changing circumstances of our lives, we must remember that the Lord is King. We are not to put our trust in kings. There are good kings. There are bad kings. There is only one true King. There is only One who is King over all. The Lord is the King of kings. This is the thought which we must take with us as we move on from 1 Kings to 2 Kings. The Lord is King. No human king can even begin to compare with the Lord, who is King over all.
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2 KINGS

Near to the end of his life on earth, Elijah remained faithful to God. He stands up for God against “Baalzebub, the god of Ekron” (2 Kings 1:6,16). He spoke the Word that had been given to him by God (2 Kings 1:3-4). When Elijah was taken by God “to heaven in a windstorm” (2 Kings 2:11), the question was asked by Elisha, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” (2 Kings 2:14). The answer to this question is given in 2 Kings 2:15: “Elijah’s spirit rests on Elisha.” The names of the prophets change from generation to the next. The Name of the Lord remains constant. It is in the Name of the Lord that God’s servants speak and act.
The power of God was upon Elisha. God was at work in mighty power. When we red about Elisha, we say, in our hearts, ‘This is not about Elisha. This is about God - - God working through Elisha.’ We must always remember to give all the glory to the Lord. The praise does not belong to the servant. It belongs to the Lord. He alone is worthy of praise.
The ministry of Elisha was filled with the power of God. Elisha was “the prophet”, “the man of God” (2 Kings 5:3,8). Before we can speak and work for God, we must belong to Him. We must be the people of God before we can be prophets for God. The power of God changes us. We become “a new creation in Christ Jesus” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The power of God equips us for service - “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you shall be My witnesses” (Acts 1:8).
“Don’t be afraid. We have more forces on our side than they have on theirs.” We need our eyes opened to see “the mountain ... Full of fiery horses and chariots” (2 Kings 6:16-17), The victory comes from “the Lord” (2 Kings 7:6). “This is a day of good news” (2 Kings 7:9). In the Lord, we have the victory, Strengthened by Him, we triumph over our enemies.
Reading about those who do what the Lord considers evil is not happy reading. Reading about God’s judgment upon such people is serious reading. It brings the challenge of God’s Word - “Be not deceived. God is not mocked. What a man sows, he shall also reap” (Galatians 6:7). This challenge is stated clearly in the words, “Sow a thought, reap an action. Sow an action, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a destiny.”
Royalty and loyalty - The two things are different. Jehu was regarded as royalty, but he wasn’t fully loyal to the Lord. Jehu did some good things, with which the Lord was pleased - “Jehu got rid of Baal worship throughout Israel ... The Lord said to Jehu, ‘You did what I consider right’” (2 Kings 10:28,30). Jehu’s good actions were not the full story of his life. There was also much that was displeasing to the Lord - “Jehu did not turn away from the sins that Jeroboam led Israel to commit - the worship of the golden calves that were at Bethel and Dan ... Jehu didn’t wholeheartedly obey the teachings of the Lord God of Israel” (2 Kings 10:29,31).
The history of God’s people, under their various kings, is like a rollercoaster. There are high-points - “They would be the Lord’s people” (2 Kings 11:17). These high-points are often followed by low-points - “Joash did what the Lord considered right ...but the illegal places of worship weren’t torn down” (2 Kings 12:2-3). The reign of Jehoahaz was one of decline - “He did what the Lord considered evil” (2 Kings 13:2). The decline continued under the reign of Jehoash - “He did what the Lord considered evil” (2 Kings 13:11). Despite all the sins of the kings, there was still hope. This hope did not come from the kings. It came from the Lord: “The Lord was kind and merciful to the Israelites because of His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (2 Kings 13:23).
There were so many kings, and so little submission to the real King, the Lord. Over many generations, the Lord’s purpose for His people seemed to be at a low ebb. Behind all the depressing details of so many disobedient kings, we must learn to see God’s determination to fulfil His promise of blessing. Even in the hard times, God is there. He is ready to revive His work. He waits for His people to call upon in his Name in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).
The great decision is always the same. Who will you serve - God or the gods? God’s Word is clear - “Never  worship other gods. Instead, worship the Lord your God” (2 Kings 17:38-39). Our response is not always so clear - “The people of Israel had refused to listen and made up their own rules ... These other nations worshipped the Lord, but also served their own idols” (2 Kings 17:40-41).
“Hezekiah trusted the Lord God of Israel. No king among all the kings of Judah was like Hezekiah. He was loyal to the Lord and never turned away from Him. He obeyed the commands the Lord had given through Moses, so the Lord was with him. He succeeded in everything he tried” (2 Kings 18:5-7). This description of Hezekiah is so encouraging. It’s an oasis in the middle of a desert of so many godless kings.
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1 CHRONICLES
In 1 Chronicles 1 - 9, there are lots of names. Each one of us is known, by name, to the Lord. This is a very precious truth. It is summed up, for us, in the wonderful words of love, spoken by the Good Shepherd, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
“So Saul died because of his unfaithfulness to the Lord. He did not obey the Word of the Lord” (1 Chronicles 10:13). Here, we read of Saul’s sin, shame and sadness. This was more than a personal thing. It had a profound effect on the whole nation. God looked at the effect Saul was having on His people. The Lord decided that it was time for a change, a new beginning:“So the Lord killed him, and turned the kingship over to David, Jesse’s son” (1 Chronicles 10:14).
David becomes king (1 Chronicles 11:3). David is helped by his supporters. He has more than the help of other people. His help comes from the Lord (1 Chronicles 12:18). The work, done by David, was, first and foremost, the work of God - the restoration of God to His proper place among His people (1 Chronicles 13:3): “The Lord is enthroned on the praises of His people ... David and all Israel were celebrating in God’s presence with all their might ... “ (1 Chronicles 13:6,8).
The defeat of the Philistines was God’s doing: “God has gone ahead of you to defeat the Philistine army” (1 Chronicles 14:15). Along with this victory over the Philistines, there was the bringing to Jerusalem of “the ark of the Lord’s promise.” This was an occasion of joyful worship (1 Chronicles 15:28). In worship, there is “singing songs of thanks to the Lord” (1 Chronicles 16:7) - “Give thanks to the Lord” (1 Chronicles 16:8,34).
“I will place him in My royal House forever, and his throne will be established forever” (1 Chronicles 17:14). This is a word of prophecy concerning Jesus Christ, the King of kings. It is a prophecy, which highlights the eternal purpose of God - the eternal Kingdom of the eternal God. “You made the people of Israel to be Your people forever. And You, Lord, became their God ... Your Name will endure and be respected forever ... Almighty Lord ... You were please to bless my house, so that it may continue in Your presence forever. Indeed, You, Lord, have blessed it. It will be blessed forever” (1 Chronicles 17:22,24,26-27). This is the eternal perspective within which we must read these Old Testament stories. God is the eternal God. His Kingdom is eternal. It will stand forever.
As we read of David and his many exploits, we must remember that this is part of the great story of the mighty works of the Lord. To God’s people, there is the command, “Be strong.” From God’s people, there is the commitment: “Let’s prove ourselves strong for our people and the cities of our God” (1 Chronicles 19:13). This commitment is not only a commitment to the people. It’s a commitment to the Lord. From the Lord, there is His promise: “The Lord will do what He considers right” (1 Chronicles 19:13). This is something we must never forget. God is in control. Without Him, there can be no salvation and no victory. These blessings come from Him.
“Satan stood up against Israel” (1 Chronicles 21:1). This is ominous. Satan spells trouble - trouble for God’s people. Later on, we read of God’s judgment upon Israel (1 Chronicles 21:14). Beyond God’s judgment, there is God’s mercy (1 Chronicles 21:15). In 21:30-22:1, we read about the fear of the Lord - “David was afraid because of the sword of the angel of the Lord” (1 Chronicles 21:30) - and the grace of God - “this is the altar of the burnt offering for Israel” (1 Chronicles 22:1). Here, we learn that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 1:7). The burnt offering points us forward to to Jesus Christ, laying down His life as a sacrifice for our sins. When we are afraid to come into God’s presence, because of our sin, God speaks to us of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, crucified and risen for us, and we sing, from the heart, “’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved.”
The name, “Solomon” means “peace” - “in his time I will give Israel peace and quiet” (1 Chronicles 22:9). The peace came from the Lord. It came from the presence of the Lord with Solomon (1 Chronicles 22:18). When we think of all that the Lord has done for us and all that He has given to us, we must give our hearts and lives to Him, to live as His faithful people - “So dedicate your hearts and lives to serving the Lord your God. Start building the holy place of the Lord your God” (1 Chronicles 22:19).
The work of God is to be carried out by many people, working together as a team - God’s team. The importance of teamwork must be recognized if God’s work is to be moved forward in God’s way. Reading over the many names and numbers in 1 Chronicles 23 - 27, we are reminded of Paul’s words concerning the body of Christ: “the body is one unit and yet has many parts. As all the parts form one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12).
The Lord’s work requires the generous and wholehearted support of God’s people (1 Chronicles 29:9). It needs more than human enthusiasm. We need the presence of the Lord. This is what the Lord promises to us: “The Lord God, my God, will be with you. He will not abandon you before all the work on the Lord’s temple is finished.” This promise of God gives God’s courage to God’s servants: “Be strong and courageous, and do the work.” God’s promise gives us victory over fear: “Don’t be afraid or terrified” (1 Chronicles 28:20). In the service of the Lord, we need both hard work and worship. Without worship, hard work amounts to nothing. It will be service that is offered to God in the flesh - and it will accomplish nothing which brings glory to God. God is glorified only when His servants do all things in the Spirit of worship. This is the lesson that we learn from the song of praise in 1 Chronicles 29:10-15. Everything comes from God. He gives us what we need to do His work. He equips us for His service. He enables us to carry His work forward. At the heart of the life of God’s people, we have the continuation of the scene, described in 1 Chronicles 29:20 - “Then David said to the whole assembly, ‘Praise the Lord your God!’” The worship of God is to be a joyful celebration (1 Chronicles 29:22).
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2 CHRONICLES
“Give me wisdom and knowledge so that I may lead these people ... This great people of Yours” (2 Chronicles 1:10). Wisdom is not given to us for our own benefit, It is given to us for the benefit of others - so that we might lead them to the Lord. We are to follow in the footsteps of our Lord. He “came not to be served but to serve” (Mark 10:45).
“I want to build the Temple for the Lord my God. I want to dedicate it to Him” (2 Chronicles 2:4). Everything that we do is to be done for God. Everything that we do is to be dedicated to Him. This is the lesson that we learn from Solomon and the building of the Temple. We are to do all things for the glory of God. He alone is worthy of our praise. We are not only to worship Him in the place of worship and at the time set aside for worship. We are to worship Him all of the time, wherever we are. We are to praise Him in His House. We are to continue to praise Him, as we go out from His House to the world.
The building of the Temple - It was “the Lord’s Temple” (2 Chronicles 3:1). It was being built “for the Lord’s Name” (2 Chronicles 2:1). The glory of the Lord - This must never be forgotten. There is nothing more important than this. God is to be glorified. This was the reason for the building of the Temple.This must be the driving force in our lives - in everything we do. Let God be glorified in all things. Blessing will only come to us when we give the glory to God. We must not seek glory for ourselves.
“The Lord’s glory filled the Lord’s Temple” (2 Chronicles 5:14), The emphasis is not on Solomon. It is the Lord who must be the focus of our attention. It is the Lord who is to receive glory. Solomon emphasizes this: “I’ve built the Temple for the Name of the Lord God of Israel” (2 Chronicles 6:11). In his prayer (2 Chronicles 6:14-42), Solomon prays for “salvation” (2 Chronicles 6:41). He does not only pray for himself. He prays for others. He prays that they will come to God, praying for “salvation”. He asks God to hear and answer these prayers.
The continuation of God’s blessing is conditional on the continuation of Israel’s obedience. The Temple does not guarantee the continuation of God’s blessing: “If you and your descendants turn away from Me ... I will reject this Temple that I declared holy for My Name. I will make it an example and an object of ridicule for all the people of the world” (2 Chronicles 7:19-20). These are God’s words of warning. He also gives His promise of blessing to those who turn to Him - “If My people ...” (2 Chronicles 7:14-16).
The grandeur of Solomon was most impressive. After reading about all of his glory, we come to the point where he dies. This is a reminder that we cannot take our riches with us. It’s a reminder of Jesus’ words: “Do not lay up treasures on earth.Lay up treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19-20), We must never lose sight of the eternal dimension of our life.
In the history of Israel, there were low points - “all Israel abandoned the Lord’s teaching” (2 Chronicles 12:1) - as well as high points - “Asa did what the Lord his God considered right and good” (2 Chronicles 14:2). Even Asa was not consistently faithful to the Lord. Despite the statement, “Asa remained committed to the Lord his entire life” (2 Chronicles 15:17), there are signs that, at the end of his life, his faith was not as strong as it should have been. God is calling us to move forward in faith and obedience. He is calling us to walk in His ways all the days of our life.
The reign of Jehoshaphat was a good reign. He was the “king of Judah” (2 Chronicles 20:31). He was very different from “King Ahab of Israel” (2 Chronicles 18:3). Good kings, bad kings - Each has his influence on the people: a good influence, a bad influence. Reading about these things makes us think about ourselves and the influence we have on other people. Is it good or bad? What about our own commitment to the Lord? Is it real? Is it changing us - and others?
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EZRA
Following the return of the Jews to Jerusalem, after their captivity in Babylon and prior to the beginning of the rebuilding of the Temple, there was the resumption of worship at the Temple site (Ezra 3:1=6). Worship - This must always lie at the heart of the life of God’s people. Once the foundation had been laid at the Temple, there was joyful thanksgiving - “They prayed and gave thanks to the Lord ... He is good; His mercy toward Israel endures forever ... Praise the Lord” (Ezra 3:11).
In Ezra 4, we read of opposition to God’s work. This opposition led to a temporary hold in God’s work (Ezra 4:24). Inspired by the ministry of Haggai and Zechariah, Zerubbabel resumed the rebuilding of God’s Temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 5:1-2). The work was completed (Ezra 6:15) and dedicated to the Lord (Ezra 6:16). At the heart of the dedication of the Temple, there was worship - joyful worship (Ezra 6:19-22).
Ezra was a man of God. His life was grounded in the word of God. He brought the Word of God to others, teaching them to build their lives on the word of God. In Ezra 8:22, we have a Old Testament statement of the spiritual principle, taught by Paul in Romans 8:28 - “Our God works things out for the good of everyone who dedicates his life to serving him.”
In His Word, God calls us to make a total commitment of our lives to Him. Where we have failed him, we must make confession of our sin and pray that He will give us the strength to live a life that is pleasing to Him and brings glory to Him.
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NEHEMIAH

The book of Nehemiah begins with distressing news - “The wall of Jerusalem has been broken down, and its gates have been destroyed by fire” (Nehemiah 1:3). Nehemiah takes this situation to the Lord in prayer (Nehemiah 1:4-11). With the help of God, the work of rebuilding begins. This work was pleasing to the Lord (Nehemiah 2:18). This work would not be easy. There was opposition: They “mocked and ridiculed us, ‘What is this you are doing?’” (Nehemiah 2;19). The opponents would not succeed. Why? - “The God of heaven” would give “success” to His people (Nehemiah 2:20). God’s work is done by many people, working together. Nehemiah 3 gives us a list of all the people who played their part in the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls.
Nehemiah and his fellow-builders face determined opposition from their enemies: “What they are building - if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!” (Nehemiah 4:3). When the enemies “heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. They all plotted together against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it” (Nehemiah 4:7-8). What did God’s people do when they were faced with this opposition? - “We prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat” (Nehemiah 4:10). They were watching out for their enemies - and they were looking to the Lord. Nehemiah urged the workers to keep looking to the Lord: “Remember how great and awe-inspiring the Lord is ... Our God will fight for us!” (Nehemiah 4:14,20). This is what we must do. We must keep our eyes on the Lord. He is the great God. He is a great help to His people in their many times of testing.
Nehemiah works, with the help of God, for the poor of the people (Nehemiah 5:19). The enemies of Nehemiah continued to oppose the work of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. When they came with their criticisms, Nehemiah refused to be distracted. He kept on working (Nehemiah 6:3). Work on the city walls was completed. The critics were silenced - “When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence.” God was glorified - “They realized we had done this work with the help of our God” (Nehemiah 6:19). The situation of God’s people today is still the same as it was in Nehemiah’s day. To rebuild the “walls” of God’s work, we must overcome determined opposition.
Following the list of those who returned to the city of Jerusalem from exile (Nehemiah 7), we see the people of God, hearing the Word of God, read and explained to them (Nehemiah 8:7-8). The preaching of God’s Word took the place within the context of thanksgiving and worship (Nehemiah 8:6). The ministry of the Word of God was grounded in the study of the Word of God (Nehemiah 8:13).
“Stand up and thank the Lord your God” (Nehemiah 9:5). This is a call to worship. We worship God, our Creator: “You alone are the Lord. You made heaven ... You made the earth” (Nehemiah 9:6). The God of Abraham is our God - the faithful God: “You made a promise ... You kept Your promise” (Nehemiah 9:8). Our God is the God of redemption. He’s the God who redeemed His people, Israel, from their bondage in Egypt (Nehemiah 9:9-11). He is the God who has given us “commandments, laws and teachings” (Nehemiah 9:14). He gives us “bread” and “water”, as we stumble through life’s wilderness, on our way to His promised land (Nehemiah 9:15). Our God is great: “You are a forgiving God, One who is compassionate, merciful,patient, and always ready to forgive” (Nehemiah 9:17). He is the God of “endless compassion” (Nehemiah 9:19). He has given us “His good Spirit” to teach us (Nehemiah 9:20). He blesses us, with His “vast supply of good things” (Nehemiah 9:25). “Our God” is “the great, mighty, and awe-inspiring God.” He is the “merciful and compassionate God” (Nehemiah 9:31-32).
The “separation of God’s people from the inhabitants of the land” was “for the sake of God’s teachings” (Nehemiah 10:28). There is an important principle here. We are separated from the world so that we might be separate to God. Everything revolves around this - giving glory to God by giving Him His rightful place in our hearts and lives: “We won’t neglect God’s Temple” (Nehemiah 10:39).
The walls had been rebuilt. Now, they were “dedicated” to God (Nehemiah 12:27). Was a time of great joy (Nehemiah 12:27,43). The people of God sand “songs of praise and thanksgiving to God” (Nehemiah 12:46). As well as singing praise to God, the Lord’s people listened to His Word (Nehemiah 13:1). Sometimes, after happy times among God’s people, there can be a time of decline - “Why is God’s Temple being neglected?” (Nehemiah 13:11). We must not live in the past. Our walk with God must continue. There must be an ongoing fellowship with the Lord. If there is to be a closer walk with God, we must always remember that this is not our own doing. It is the loving kindness of God, reaching out to us: “Remember Me ... My God ... Since You are very kind” (Nehemiah 13:22). His kindness brings blessing into our lives: “Remember me, my God, for my benefit” (Nehemiah 13:31).
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ESTHER
Queen Vashti is removed from her position. She is replaced by Esther. There is no direct mention of God in connection with these events. That fact that the book of Esther has been included in the Word of God indicates that these events were interpreted as evidence of God’s activity among His people. It is important that we read the book of Esther as part of Scripture, and not only in terms of what is written in the book itself. Reading Esther in this way, we see it as part of God’s Story, and not only as a human story.
Although the Name of God does not appear in this book, we have here an inspiring story of the triumph of good over evil. This is a book about God and Satan. They are opposites. The victory belongs to God. He is Lord. Before the victory, there is the conflict. The people of God are in great jeopardy. Their life is in danger. The evil man, Haman, “planned to wipe out ... All the Jews in the entire kingdom of Xerxes” (Esther 3:6). Esther played a vital part in the defeat of Haman. She was willing to die for the sake of her people. She was protecting her people, even at the risk of losing her own life: “I will go to the king, even if it is against a royal decree. If I die, I die” (Esther 4:16).
Esther’s bold request - “Spare my life ... Spare the life of my people” (Esther 7:3) - was followed by an even bolder accusation of Haman - “Our vicious enemy is this wicked man, Haman!” (Esther 7:6). God honoured His servant, Esther. God’s people were spared. God’s enemy, Haman, was killed. Here, we see salvation and judgment. The Lord is the Saviour of all who put their trust in Him. He is also the Judge of those who oppose Him.
Esther showed great courage in standing up for her people - “I cannot bear to see my people suffer such evil” (Esther 8:6). The outcome of her stand for her people was wonderful - “So the Jews were cheerful, happy, joyful, and successful” (Esther 8:16). What celebration there was among God’s people - “Their grief turned to joy.” In their joy, they did not forget “the poor” (Esther 9:22).
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JOB 
With God’s permission, “Satan, the accuser” attacks Job (Job 1:8). The attack is ferocious, May the Name of the Lord be praised! Through all this, Job did not sin or blame God for doing anything wrong” (Job 1:21-22). Satan’s attack on Job is really a challenge to God. The Lord is in control of the situation. Satan can only do what God permits him to do (Job 2:6).
Job’s so-called ‘friends’ were watching the situation. They intended to sympathize with him and comfort him (Job 2:11). When they saw the “great pain” he was in, they did not say anything to him (Job 2:13). They were thinking about what was happening to him, and their thoughts moved from comfort to blame. They started off with the intention of being comforters. They ended up doing the work of accusers.
In Job 3, we see Job in a state of deep depression. At this stage, there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. He is in desperate need of the Lord’s sustaining strength. Where will the Lord’s help come from? When will his time of suffering come to an end? Job has many questions. He doesn’t have any answers. This is “the dark night of the soul.”
In Job 4 - 5, we have the first speech of Eliphaz. On the pretext of bringing comfort to Job, Eliphaz brings a message of accusation. However much Eliphaz claims to be bringing God’s Word to Job, we can be sure that he is not God’s messenger. Why? - It’s because his message conflicts with God’s understanding of Job’s situation (Job 1:8).
In Job 6 - 7, Job replies. There is real pain in Job’s words. He speaks of his “grief” and “misery” (Job 6:2). There is a real longing for God to answer his prayer. Sadly, his prayer has become a cry of despair: “that God would finally be willing to crush me, that He would reach out to cut me off” (Job 6:9). Even though he is in great distress, Job retains sufficient clarity of thought to know that his so-called ‘friends’ have got it wrong - “Please change your mind ... Change your mind because I am still right about this! ...or is my mouth unable to tell the difference between right and wrong?” (Job 6:29-30). There is sadness here - “As a cloud fades away and disappears, so a person goes into the grave and doesn’t come back again” (Job 7:9). Job hasn’t broken through this sense of hopelessness to the triumphant faith, expressed in his confession of confidence in God: “I know that my Redeemer lives ...” (Job 19:25-26), a tremendous declaration of Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection in Him. It’s so wonderful that in a book, filled with so much suffering, there is this marvellous glimpse of an eternal glory, in which all suffering will be banished forever.
In Job 8, we have the first speech of Bildad. Its theme is very straightforward. Sin leads to suffering (Job 8:4). Obedience leads to prosperity (Job 8:5-7). This teaching is presented in a heavy-handed way. In Job 8:2o, we have an attack on Job’s character: “Certainly, God does not reject a person of integrity or give a helping hand to wicked people.” When this statement is applied to Job, it has the effect of saying to him, “You’re not a person of integrity. You’re a wicked person.” There’s a problem with Bildad’s words. He doesn’t recognize that there is an eternal perspective within which the divine judgment is set. Here, on earth, the wicked may be prospering, but the time of judgment will come. It may not be in this world, but it will come, in God’s final judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). Here, on earth, the righteous may suffer much, but their suffering will not be forever. The day of salvation will come. There will be “a great reward in heaven!” (Matthew 5:10-12). Our suffering is “for a little while now”, but it will not last forever: “Your faith is more precious than gold, and by passing the test, it gives praise, glory and honour to God. This will happen when Jesus Christ appears again” (1 Peter 1:6-7).
In Job 9 - 10, Job speaks. He is in a mood of deep distress. He speaks of the futility of arguing with God (Job 9:3). His situation is very depressing: “I hate my life” (Job 10:1). He is surrounded by deep darkness: “So stop this, and leave me alone. Let me smile a little before I go away to a land of darkness and doom to a dismal land of long shadows and confusion where light is as bright as darkness. I’ll never return” (Job 10:20-22). When we feel like Job, let's remember Jesus. For us, He went through the darkness of crucifixion into the light of resurrection. He will lead us out of our darkness into His light, out of our death into His life - eternal life.
In Job 11, we hear from Zophar. So far, so good - That’s what we can say about the basic principles of his message: “God’s wisdom is higher than heaven” (Job 11:8); “If you want to set your heart right, then pray to Him. If you’re holding on to sin, put it far away” (Job 11:13). There’s a problem with Zophar’s message. He applies these basic principles to Job. He allows the idea that Job has sinned to dominate his thinking rather than allowing for the possibility that God, in His perfect wisdom, may have another reason, a very different reason, for permitting Job to suffer. When we have two important principles - God’s wisdom and God’s forgiveness, we must not assume that we know exactly how the two relate to each other. If we act on the basis of our own wisdom rather than God’s wisdom, we may end up showing ourselves to be fools.
In Job 12 - 14, Job speaks. He emphasizes that wisdom comes from God (Job 12:13). He charges his so-called ‘comforters’ with speaking foolishly, without the wisdom which comes from God: “Will you talk wickedly for God and talk deceitfully on His behalf? ... Doesn’t His Majesty terrify you? Doesn’t the fear of Him fall upon you?” (Job 13:7,11). Job is still unclear about what is happening to him. He is still wishing that he was dead: “I wish You would hide me in Sheol” (Job 14:13). He still insists on his innocence: “I know that I will be declared righteous” (Job 13:18).
In Job 15, we have another speech from Eliphaz. He charges in with all the subtlety of an elephant on the rampage: “you destroy the fear of God, and diminish devotion to God” (Job 15:4). He continues in the same vein, getting bolder and brasher in his word of accusation: “Your sin teaches you what to say. You choose to talk with a sly tongue. Your own mouth condemns you, not I. Your lips testify against you” (Job 15:5-6). Eliphaz did not listen to Job, but he insisted on Job listening to him: “I’ll tell you; listen to me! I’ll relate what I’ve seen, I’ll tell you what wise people have declared” (Job 15:17-18). Eliphaz gives a vivid description of the tortured life of the wicked person (Job 15:20-35). He begins with the words, “The wicked person is tortured all his days” (Job 15:20). This part of his speech is in the third person. While he doesn’t explicitly say, “I’m describing you, Job”, it is perfectly clear that this is what Eliphaz is doing. “This is what you are like, Job” - This is the message that Eliphaz wants Job to take out of his description of “the wicked person.”
Job stands up to his ‘comforters’, who are really his critics: “You are all pathetic at comforting me” (Job 16:2). He is, however, at ‘the end of his tether’, as he tries to understand what is going on in his life: “now, God has worn me out” (Job 16:7). The extent to which Job has been overcome by despair becomes clear in the final verses of Job 17. Again, he stands up to his critics: “I won’t find one wise man among you” (Job 17:10). Again, he feels that his situation is hopeless (Job 17:14-16). As we read of Job’s deep distress, we should remember also the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, as he hung on the Cross: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). Christ suffered for us - but He also rose again for us. Job catches a glimpse of this when he says, “I know that my Redeemer lives” (Job 19:25).
In Job 18, Bildad, the Shuhite, shows his lack of spiritual stature. In his description of “the wicked” (Job 18:5), he implies that all that he says applies to Job. His speech ends with the summarizing words: “This is what happens to the homes of wicked people and to those who do not know God” (Job 18:21). The opening words of the book of Job - “He was a man of integrity ... He feared God” (Job 1:1) - make it clear that Bildad’s words do not apply to Job.
For most of his speech, in Job 19, Job is in the depths of despair, then, towards the end of his speech, there is a breakthrough- “I know that my defender (or Redeemer) lives, and, afterwards, he will stand on the earth. Even after my skin has been stripped off my body, I will see God in my own flesh. I will see Him with my own eyes” (Job 19:25). There is, in Job’s heart, a great conflict. Immediately after speaking these great words of triumphant faith and glorious hope, he speaks, again, with deep agony - “My heart fails inside me!” (Job 19:27).
In Job 20, we hear, again, the voice of Zophar - the ‘so far, so good’ man. His principles concerning the judgment of God on the wicked are all right as far as they go. The problem is that they are general. They are floating over the specific case of Job, without really coming to terms with the real man to whom his harsh words are addressed. Zophar begins his speech with the claim that he has been inspired by God - “a spirit beyond my understanding gives me answer” (Job 20:3). He assumes that this spirit is God. He is, in fact, speaking in the power and service of another spirit - Satan. Zophar is serving Satan, whose purpose is to do down God’s servant, Job. Zophar speaks with arrogance, a ‘know it all’ attitude. He displays the kind of spiritual pride which is characteristic of Satan, the enemy of God and the people of God. Zophar’s speech ends with summarizing words: “This is the reward God gives to the wicked person, the inheritance God appointed for him” (Job 20:29). This is a general conclusion. The question he fails to answer is this: Does all that I have just said really apply to Job?
In Job 21, Job points out the folly of the idea that God’s judgment can be conceived solely in terms of what happens in this world. He observes that, very often, in this life, wicked people do not suffer for their sins. When the judgment of God is seen in the light of eternity rather than in connection with what happens here on earth, it becomes clear that the simplistic application to Job of the general principle - wicked people are punished by God - is very wrong. It assumes that Job was a wicked man. God’s Word tells us that Job was a righteous man (Job 1:8). Job emphasizes that God’s dealings with us are not simple and straightforward - according to an easily defined formula. Job asks, “Can anyone teach God knowledge? Can anyone judge the Most High?” (Job 21:22). We must humble ourselves before Almighty God, acknowledging that He is God and that He knows what He is doing. This is indicated clearly in the first two chapters of Job. God has given us His explanation of what was happening to Job. In drawing attention to this God-given explanation in the case of Job, we should note that, first, that, at the time of his suffering was not given to Job; and, second, God is under no obligation to give us an explanation of all that He is doing in our lives. To those who claim that God must do one thing or another, according to their own limited understanding, we must answer, as Job did, “How can you comfort me with this nonsense when your answers continue to betray me?” (Job 21:34).
In Job 22, Eliphaz charges in with harsh words of accusation - “Aren’t you really very wicked? Is there no end to your wrongdoing?” (Job 22:5). He persists with his probing, heartless questions - “Are you following the old path that wicked people have taken?” (Job 22:15). In general terms, the words of Eliphaz were good words - “Be in harmony and at peace with God” (Job 22:21); “Keep his words in your heart” (Job 22:22). “Return to the Almighty” (Job 22:23); “Put wrongdoing out of your tent” (Job 22:24). The problem with his words is that they are bound up, in such a watertight way, with the promise of prosperity - ‘Do these things and you will prosper.” This leads to the assumption: Because Job is not prospering, he must have sinned. This is not what God says about Job (Job 1:8).
There is real sadness in the words, spoken by Job, in Job 23 - 24. There is no hint of a light at the end of the tunnel, as there was in Job 19:25 - “I know that my Redeemer lives.” That glimpse of glory has dimmed, and Job must continue in the battle for faith, without much to give him any encouragement. His words about God - “He does whatever what He wants” - are not words of complaint. They are words of faith. Job is holding on to God in the darkness of suffering - “He will carry out His orders concerning me, as He does with so many other things” (Job 23:13-14). This is a statement of faith in the sovereignty of God. It is not a cheap confession, mouthed in times of ease. These words do not come easily. They are words that have power because they are words that refuse to lose sight of God, even when suffering obscures Job’s view of Him.
What are we to say about Bildad’s short speech in Job 25: “If you don’t have anything to say, don’t take a long time, saying nothing.” Bildad keeps it short. He lives up to his name - Bildad, the Shuhite (shoe height!!)! In general terms, what he says is true. He speaks about the universality of sinfulness. Lack of purity applies to all of us. It does not, however, provide us with an adequate explanation of Job’s suffering. To understand what was happening to Job, we must reckon with the activity of Satan and the permission of God. We should not blame God, saying, “It’s all God’s fault.” Satan attacks God’s people. He brings suffering upon them. We should not say, “Just pray, and everything will be okay.” This is not always true. There are times when God permits Satan to bring suffering upon His people. Why does God not answer the prayers of His people? The answer is not, “God doesn’t love us.” It’s “God loves us, but He is permitting Satan to attack us.” God does this because, in His time, He intends to bring us through our time of suffering, bringing us closer to Himself - “My grace is sufficient for you; my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Whatever our circumstance here on earth, we take our ultimate comfort from this: “Your faith is more precious than gold, and by passing the test, it gives praise, glory and honour to God. This will happen when Jesus Christ appears again” (1 Peter 1:7).
In Job 26 - 27, Job protests his innocence - “It’s unthinkable for me to admit that you are right. Until I breathe my last breath, I will never give up my claim to integrity. I cling to my righteousness and won’t let go. My conscience won’t accuse me as long as I live” (Job 27:5-6). If these words weren’t true, they would be the height of arrogant pride. It is, however, clear, from the opening verse of the book of Job, that “Job was a man of integrity ... He feared God, and he stayed away from evil” (Job1:1). When Job protested his innocence, he was speaking words of truth. His words were not words of false pride. They were words of true godliness.
In Job 28 - 29, Job emphasizes the importance of pleasing God - “The fear of the Lord is wisdom. To stay away from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28). He describes the earlier part of his life - before his suffering: “God was in my tent ... The Almighty was still with me” (Job 29:4-5). He longs for the sense of God’s blessing to return to him: “If only my life could be like it used to be, in the days when God watched over me, when He made His lamp shine on my head, when I walked through the dark in His light” (Job 29:2). The meaning of past blessings and the hope of future blessings brings strength to Job, as he faces his present suffering.
“When I waited for good, evil came. When I looked for light, darkness came” (Job 30:26). There is great sadness in Job’s words. He could not see any way out of this situation - “Days of misery are ahead of me” (Job 30:27). Job wonders what he has done to deserve all this suffering. There is no suggestion that the more a person has sinned, the more he will suffer. We are not to make a direct link between personal sin and personal suffering. Following on from this long speech, covering Job 28 - 31, we don’t hear any more from Job until Job 40:3-5 and Job 42:1-6.
In Job 32 - 37, we have a long speech from Elihu. He thinks that he can improve on the speeches, given by Job’s other ‘comforters’: “None of you refuted Job. None of you has an answer to what he says” (Job 32:12). He maintains that his speech is better than anything Job has already heard. That’s why he says.”Pay attention, Job! Listen to me! Keep quiet, and let me speak ... Keep quiet, and I’ll teach you wisdom” (Job 33:31-33). Elihu isn’t interested in what Job has to say. Elihu is saying, ‘Let me do the speaking. You, Job, must do the listening and learning. I have the wisdom. I’ll pass it on to you. You’ve got it wrong.Let me put you right.’
Job 34 ends with a ‘prayer’, in which Elihu shows how far his view differs from the view presented by God in Job 1. He prays, “Oh that Job might be tested to the utmost for answering like a wicked man!” (Job 34:36). Job was being thoroughly tested. God was allowing this to happen to Job. Elihu was misrepresenting the true nature of Job’s testing. Job’s was being tested before he gave answers. Whatever we may say about Job’s answers, we must point out that, despite all his despondency, Job does not speak as a wicked man. We must never forget that Job was a righteous man (Job 1:1). There is great pain in Job’s responses to his testing. There is, however, nothing to suggest that God needs to alter his view of Job. What does God say about Job? - He says this - “my servant Job” (Job 1:8).
Elihu is scathing in his criticism of Job - “Job opens his mouth for no good reason and talks without having any knowledge” (Job 35:16). That’s what Elihu said about Job - but it’s not what God said about His “servant, Job.” According to Elihu, Job is “given the judgment evil people deserve” (Job 36:17). This view is very different from God’s view of Job. Generally speaking, Elihu’s teaching has much to commend it: “Be careful that you are not led away with riches ... Be careful! Don’t turn to evil” (Job 37:18,21). When this teaching is combined with his false statements about Job, Elihu strays from being a true messenger of God to Job. This is highlighted in his parting words to Job - “That is why people should fear Him. He does not respect those who think they’re wise” (Job 37:24). True! - but Job does fear God, and he recognizes God as the only One who is truly wise.
In His speech, the Lord asks many questions. They underline the fact that God is God, and none can even begin to compare with Him: “Who endowed the heart with wisdom or gave understanding to the mind” (Job 38:36). Wisdom and understanding come from the Lord. In his response (Job 42:1-6), Job humbles himself before God. At the beginning of the book, Job was close to God - “My servant Job.” At the end of the book, he is even closer to God. This is highlighted in Job 42:5 - “I had heard about You with my own ears, but now I have seen You with my own eyes!” The book ends with the restoration of Job. Before we read of what became of Job, we note God’s Word to Job’s so-called ‘comforters.’ These words are spoken to Eliphaz - “I’m very angry with you and your two friends (Bildad and Zophar) because you didn’t speak what is right about Me as My servant Job has done” (Job 42:7). In this criticism of the ‘comforters’, there is also the divine approval of Job. God was pleased with him. God’s purpose concerning the ‘comforters’ remains a purpose of love - and He calls Job to love them. Job didn’t bear a grudge against his so-called ‘comforters.’ He prayed for them: “My servant Job will pray for you. Then I will accept his prayer not to treat you as godless fools” (Job 42:8). (We note that Elihu is not included in God’s criticism of the others. This may indicate that he spoke with greater wisdom than the others - although we should not overstate this point!) Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar were restored to the Lord in answer to Job’s prayer (Job 42:10). Job was blessed with an abundance of prosperity: “twice as much as he had before ... The Lord blessed the latter years of Job’s life more than the earlier years” (Job 42:10,12).
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PSALMS
God calls us to follow “the way of righteous people” (Psalm 1:6). He directs our attention to His “Son”, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ (Psalm 2:7). He promises blessing to those who “take refuge ... In Him” (Psalm 2:12). There is much opposition: “O Lord, look how my enemies have increased! Many are attacking me. Many are saying about me, ‘Even with God on his side, he won’t be victorious’” (Psalm 3:1-2). We need not be afraid of these enemies - “Victory belongs to the Lord! ... You, O Lord, are a shield that surrounds me” (Psalm 3:8,3).
The Psalmist is experiencing great pain. His honour is being insulted; his enemies are spying on him; he is being harassed by troublemakers (Psalm 4:2; Psalm 5:8; Psalm 6:8). As well as pain, there is prayer, protection and peace. He prays with confidence in God - “The Lord has heard my plea for mercy. The Lord accepts my prayer” (Psalm 6:9). He stands upon God’s promise - “The Lord protects those who take refuge in Him” (Psalm 5:11). He rests in the peace of God (Psalm 4:8).
In Psalms 7 - 10, there is a real sense of the greatness of God. He is “majestic” (Psalm 8:1). He is “enthroned forever” (Psalm 9:7,11). He is “King forever and ever” (Psalm 10:16). He is our “Judge” (Psalm 7:8). The Psalmist teaches us to see our life in the light of God. His light shines brightly upon us. His light exposes our darkness. He’s calling us to walk in His light. He calls us to take refuge in Him: “O Lord my God, I have taken refuge in You” (Psalm 7:1). He calls us to rejoice in Him: “I will be glad and rejoice in You” (Psalm 9:2). He calls us to seek His help: “Those who know Your Name trust You, O Lord, because You have never deserted those who seek your help” (Psalm 9:10). If we are to answer God’s call - take refuge in Him, rejoice in Him and seek His help, we must leave behind the way of the wicked: “In his pride the wicked does not seek Him; in all His thoughts there is no room for God” (Psalm 10:4). When we answer God’s call, He starts changing us - our way of thinking and our way of living. He is the caring and sharing God: “You have heard the desire of oppressed people, O Lord. You encourage them. You pay close attention to them in order to provide justice for orphans, and oppressed people, so that no mere mortal terrify them again” (Psalm 10:17-18). He’s calling us to be like Him. Let’s not keep His love and His blessing to ourselves. Let’s show His love. Let’s share His love.
The Lord is the sovereign God - “The Lord is in His holy temple. The Lord’s throne is in heaven” (Psalm 11:4). The Lord is the God of salvation - “But I trust Your mercy. My heart finds joy in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord because He has been good to me” (Psalm 13:5-6). The sovereign God, the God of salvation is our Helper - when we feel alone, forgotten and oppressed (Psalm 12:1; Psalm 13:1; Psalm 14:3-4). His salvation is not to be kept to ourselves. His joy is not only for ourselves. We are to pray that others will receive His salvation and His joy: “Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!When the Lord restores the fortunes of His people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!” (Psalm 14:7). In the face of all that opposes God, exalting itself against Him, God is calling us to keep close to Him and to walk with Him: “O Lord, who may stay in Your tent? Who may live on Your holy mountain? The one who walks with integrity, does what is righteous, and speaks the truth within his heart, the one who does not slander with his tongue, do evil to friend, or bring disgrace on his neighbour ... He who does these things will never be shaken” (Psalm 15).
Our complete joy, pleasure and satisfaction is found in the Lord. We say, with the Psalmist, “Complete joy is in Your presence. Pleasures are by Your side forever ... I will be satisfied with seeing You” (Psalm 16:11; Psalm 17:15). We join, with the hymnwriter, in singing praise to our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: “O Christ, in Thee my soul hath found, And found in Thee alone, The peace, the joy I sought so long, the bliss till now unknown. Now none but Christ can satisfy, None other Name for me. There’s love and life, and lasting joy, Lord Jesus, found in Thee.”
In Psalm 18, the Psalmist praises God, who delivered him from his enemies. It begins and ends with the thought of God as the Rock upon which our faith is built. He is the rock of our salvation: “I love you, O Lord, my Strength. The Lord is my Rock and my Fortress and my Saviour, my God in whom I take refuge, my Shield and the Strength of my Salvation, my Stronghold” (Psalm 18:1-2). “The Lord lives! Thanks be to my Rock! May God, my Saviour, be honoured!” (Psalm 18:46).
“The heavens declare the glory of God ...” (Psalm 19:1). In God’s creation, we see His glory. “The teachings of the Lord are perfect. They renew the soul” (Psalm 19:7). He reveals Himself to us through His Word. We make our response to Him, as we worship Him - “We will joyfully sing about Your victory ... The Lord will give victory to His anointed king ...We will boast in the Name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:5-7). “Arise, O Lord, in Your strength. We will sing and make music to praise Your power” (Psalm 21:13). “Through the mercy of the Most High, we will not be moved” (Psalm 22:7).
“The Lord is my Shepherd” (Psalm 23:1). He is “my Saviour”(Psalm 25:5). He is also “the King of glory” (Psalm 24:8-10). He has promised to “lead us in the paths of righteousness for the sake of His Name” (Psalm 23:3). This promise is fulfilled, as we open our  hearts to Him - “Be lifted,you ancient doors, so that the King of glory may come in” (Psalm 24:9), when we pray for His leading in our lives: “Make Your ways known to me, O Lord, and teach me Your paths.Lead me in Your truth, and teach me because You are God, my Saviour” (Psalm 25:5). The Lord fulfils His promise to us: “The Lord advises those who fear Him. He reveals to them the intent of His promise” (Psalm 25:14).
The Psalmist loved to worship God in the company of God’s people: “O Lord, I love the House where You live, the place where Your glory dwells... I will praise the Lord with the choirs in worship” (Psalm 26:8,12). “I have asked one thing from the Lord. This I will seek - to remain in the Lord’s House all the days of my life in order to gaze at the Lord’s beauty and to search for an answer in His Temple” (Psalm 27:4).”Hear my prayer for mercy when i call to You for help, when I lift my hands towards Your most holy place... Thank the Lord! He has heard my prayer for mercy! The Lord is the strength of His people and a fortress for the victory of His Messiah. Save Your people, and bless those who belong to You. Be their Shepherd and carry them forever” (Psalm 28:6-9).
“Give to the Lord glory and power” (Psalm 29:1) - God is calling us to worship Him.
“O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever” (Psalm 30:12) - We respond to His call. “Thank the Lord!... Love the Lord, all you godly ones!... Be strong, all who wait with hope for the Lord, and let your heart be courageous!” (Psalm 31:21,23-24). We, who have heard God’s call to worship and are learning to worship Him, are to call upon others to join with us in worshipping the Lord. Worship is to lead to witness, which will bring others to worship.
“Be glad and find joy in the Lord, you righteous people” (Psalm 32:11). “Joyfully sing to the Lord, you righteous people” (Psalm 33:1). Our joy is in the Lord. It is from Him that our “joyous songs of salvation” come (Psalm 32:7). It is “in Him” that “our hearts find joy” (Psalm 33:21). We “look to Him”, and we are “radiant” (Psalm 34:5). Even thought there are many obstacles to our spiritual growth, we are able to face all who oppose us in our walk with God. We are able to say, with confidence in the God who helps us to be strong in Him and victorious through His power, “My soul will find joy in the Lord and be joyful about His salvation” (Psalm 35:9).
In Psalms 36 and 37, we see the conflict between the righteous and the wicked, the godly and the ungodly. By drawing this radical contrast between these two types of people, God’s Word calls us to make our choice. What kind of people will we be? How will we live? There is no more important than the question of character. Will our lives be shaped by the character of God? or Will thy be shaped by a very different character - Satan, the evil one?
In Psalms 38-40, we have the Psalmist’s prayer and his testimony that God had heard and answered his prayer. “Do not abandon me, O Lord. O my God, do not be so distant from me. Come quickly to help me, O Lord, my Saviour... Listen to my prayer, O Lord. Open Your ear to my cry for help... I waited patiently for the Lord. He turned to me and heard my cry for help. He pulled me out of a horrible pit, out of the mud and clay. He set my feet on a rock and made my steps secure” (Psalm 38:21-22; Psalm 39:12; Psalm 40:1-2).
In Psalms 41-43, we see the Psalmist encountering great difficulties. He is not, however, overwhelmed by his problems. Each of these Psalms ends on the triumphant note of praise: “Thank the Lord God of Israel through all eternity!” (Psalm 41:13); “Put your hope in God, because I will still praise Him. He is my Saviour and my God” (Psalm 42:11; Psalm 43:5).
The people of God faced many obstacles, but the Lord gave them His victory and they praised Him - “All day long we praise our God. We give thanks to You forever” (Psalm 44:8). The words of Psalm 45 point forward to Jesus Christ, who is “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16). Concerning Him, the Word of God says to us, “He is your Lord. Worship Him” (Psalm 45:11). Let our response be, “I will cause Your Name to be remembered throughout every generation. That is why the nations will give thanks to You forever” (Psalm 45:17).
The Lord, our God, is “King of the whole earth. He rules the nations” (Psalm 46:10; Psalm 47:7-9). The Lord is great. He is “the great King” (Psalm 48:14). The Lord does not remain detached from us in isolated heavenly glory. He comes to us as the God of our salvation - “God will buy me back from the power of hell” (Psalm 49:15). By His Word, spoken to us and acted out on our behalf, God involves Himself with us as our Saviour. He is not a God who keeps His distance from us - “Our God will come.” He is not a God who keeps His silence - “and will not be silent” (Psalm 50:3). This God comes to us with His promise of salvation - “Call on Me in times of trouble. I will rescue you, and you will honour Me” (Psalm 50:15). Along with this promise of salvation comes God’s call to live in faith and obedience: “Bring your thanks to God as a sacrifice, and keep your vows to the Most High” (Psalm 50:15). To those who walk in His way, the Lord promises His blessing: “Whoever offers thanks as a sacrifice honours Me. I will let everyone, who continues in My way, see the salvation that comes from God” (Psalm 50:23).
We must trust in God’s “mercy”, which “lasts all day long” (Psalm 51:1; Psalm 52:1). We need God’s mercy, because we are sinners - “Everyone has fallen away. Together, they have become rotten to the core. No one, not even one person, does good things” (Psalm 53:3). When we come, as sinners, to the Lord, we find that He is our Saviour. We pray to Him, “O God, save me by Your Name” (Psalm 54:1). He hears ans answers this prayer for salvation. We say, “God is my helper! The Lord is the provider for my life... Your Name rescues me from trouble” (Psalm 54:4,7). Knowing the Lord as our Saviour, we are filled with a spirit of praise to Him. We say, from the heart, “I will give thanks to Your good Name, O Lord” (Psalm 54:6).
“I call on God, and the Lord saves me” (Psalm 55:16) - This is the Psalmist’s testimony. It is followed by his call to others to turn to the Lord and discover how good He is: “Turn your burdens over to the Lord and He will take care of you” (Psalm 55:22). “I praise the Word of God, I trust God, I am not afraid. What can mere flesh and blood (mortals) do to me?” (Psalm 56:4,10-11). “My heart is confident, O God, I want to sing and make music... 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. Our truth reaches the skies. May You be honoured above the heavens, O God. Let Your glory extend over the whole earth” (Psalm 57:7,9-11). As we praise God, He leads us forward in His triumph.
God is calling us to live as "righteous people" (Psalm 58:10-11). When we face hostile persecution, our only hope is in the Lord: “God is my Stronghold, my merciful God” (Psalm 59:9,17). Looking to the Lord, we pray, “Give us help against the enemy because human assistance is worthless” (Psalm 60:11). Trusting in the Lord, we have this confidence: “With God, we will display great strength. He will trample our enemies” (Psalm 60:12). Knowing that god is with us as the God of our salvation, we can say, with glad assurance of faith, “I will triumph!” (Psalm 60:6). We are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). Whatever Satan does, he will not succeed. We have the victory in Christ.
"Listen to my cry for help, O Lord" (Psalm 61:1). God is the God of power and mercy: "Power belongs to God. Mercy belongs to You, O Lord" (Psalm 62:11-12), "I look to You in the holy place to see Your power and Your glory. My lips will praise You because Your mercy is better than life itself" (Psalm 63:3). When we consider how great God is - great in power, great in mercy, we are filled with thanksgiving, praise and joy - "I will thank You as long as I live ... My mouth will sing Your praise with joyful lips" (Psalm 63:4-5).
"Righteous people will find joy in the Lord and take refuge in Him" (Psalm 64:10). "You are the One who hears prayers ... You are the One who forgives our rebellious acts ... You answer us with awe-inspiring acts done in righteousness" (Psalm 65:2-3,5). In the Lord, there is true happiness. This blessing comes to us as we bring our sins to Him and receive His forgiveness. The blessing of forgiveness is a wonderful work of divine grace for which we give thanks to God - "All of them shout triumphantly. Indeed they sing" (Psalm 65:13).
The Psalmist calls upon all of us to offer our praise and thanksgiving to God - "Shout happily to God, all the earth! Make music to praise the glory of His Name. Make His praise glorious" (Psalm 66:1-2). "Let everyone give thanks to You. Let the nations be glad and sing joyfully ... Let the people give thanks to You, O God. Let all the people give thanks to You" (Psalm 67:3,5).
“Our God is a God of victories. The Almighty Lord is our escape from death ... He gives strength and power to His people. Thanks be to God!” (Psalm 68:20,35). These words turn our thoughts to the great words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:57 - “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This victory is the triumph of Christ, risen from the dead. The risen Christ - our Saviour and Lord - gives us victory over our greatest enemy - “death” (1 Corinthians 15:26). It is Christ’s triumph over the devil - “Jesus took on flesh and blood. He did this so that, by dying, He would destroy the one who had power over death (that is, the devil)”; “The reason that the Son of God appeared was to destroy what the devil does” (Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8).
Out of a situation of great distress, the Psalmist prays to the Lord: “O God, out of the greatness of Your mercy, answer me with the truth of Your salvation” (Psalm 69:13). “Answer me, O Lord, because Your mercy is good. Out of your unlimited compassion, turn to me” (Psalm 69:16). “Let Your saving power protect me, O God” (Psalm 69:29). When God answers our  prayer for salvation, this is cause for much praise and thanksgiving: “I want to praise the Name of God with a song. I want to praise its greatness with a song of thanksgiving” (Psalm 69:30). “Let heaven and earth, the seas and everything that moves in them, praise Him” (Psalm 69:34).
The Psalmist is calling upon the Lord to be his “help and Saviour.” He is looking to the Lord for an immediate response - “Come quickly to rescue me, O God! Come quickly to help me, O Lord! ... O God, come quickly to me ... O Lord, do not delay” (Psalm 70:1,5). The Psalmist continues to pray for the Lord’s help: “”O God, do not be so distant from me, O my God, come quickly to me” (Psalm 71:12). In these prayers, we become aware of the Psalmist’s great pain. He speaks of “those who seek his life” and “want his downfall” (Psalm 70:2), his “enemies” who “talk about him” as “they watch him and plot to take his life” (Psalm 71:10). Through all his suffering, we see the light of faith shining brightly - “Because of Your faithfulness, O my God, even I will give thanks to You, as I play on a lyre. I will make music with a harp to praise You, O Holy One of Israel. My lips will sing with joy when I make music to praise You. My lips, which you have rescued, also will sing joyfully. My tongue will tell about Your righteousness all day long” (Psalm 71:22-24).
“May His Name endure forever. May His Name continue as long as the sun shines” (Psalm 72:17); “May He rule from sea to sea” (Psalm 72:8) - These words inspired the hymn, “Jesus shall reign ... “ The words of this Psalm find a glorious echo in the triumphant words of Philippians 2:9-11 - “At the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord.”
In Psalms 73 - 75, there is inner turmoil, as the Psalmist wonders what to make of the success of the wicked who oppose the Lord and His people. There are times of great confusion - “But when I tried to understand this, it was too difficult for me” (Psalm 73:16). There are times when the Psalmist is on the edge of despair - “Why, O God, have You rejected us forever? Why does Your anger smoulder against the sheep in Your care? ... How long, O God, will the enemy insult us? Will the enemy despise You forever?” (Psalm 74:1,10). Despite all that runs counter to God, the Psalmist remains strong in faith. He triumphs over all that opposes the purpose of God in his life - “God remains the foundation of my life and my inheritance forever ... From long ago, God has been my King, the One who has been victorious throughout the earth ... We give thanks to You, O God; we give thanks. You are present, and Your miracles confirm that ... I will speak about Your miracles forever. I will make music to praise the God of Jacob” (Psalm 73:26; Psalm 74:12; Psalm 75:1,9).
“God is known in Judah. His name is great in Israel ... What god is as great as our God” (Psalm 76:1; Psalm 77:13). God is great. He’s greater than we can put into words, or even imagine. As we think of the greatness of God, we worship Him, singing, “How great Thou art”, “Great is Thy faithfulness.” To the Lord be all glory for all that He is, all that He has done for us, and all that He says to us.
Divine grace - “But He is compassionate. He forgave their sin. He did not destroy them. He restrained His anger many times. He did not display all of His fury” (Psalm 78:38) - and human sin - “How often they rebelled against Him in the wilderness! How often they caused Him grief in the desert! Again and again, they tested God and they pushed the Holy One of Israel to the limit. They did not remember His power ... “ (Psalm 78:40-43): This is the story of human history. When God’s love is thrown back at Him by persistently rebellious sinners, there will be divine judgment - “They tested God Most High and rebelled against Him ... When God heard, He became furious ... “ (Psalm 78:56-64). Where God is angry, it can lead to restoration - “ ... He struck His enemies from behind He built His holy place to be like the high heavens ... He chose His servant David ... ” (Psalm 78:65-72).
Blessed by the God of love, called to be “His people, the flock of His pasture”we “praise” Him and “give thanks” to Him (Psalm 79:13). He is our “Shepherd” (Psalm 80:1). He restores our soul. He leads us in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake (Psalm 23). He is “our Strength.” In Him, we rejoice with true happiness (Psalm 81:1). “All the nations” belong to the Lord (Psalm 82:8). He is “the Most High God of the whole earth” (Psalm 83:18). Those who know the Lord as their Shepherd and their Strength, the One who “saves” (Psalm 80:19) and “satisfies” (Psalm 81:16), are to pray and work, with the goal of bringing others to the knowledge of Him.
The way of blessing is the way of praising God and finding strength in Him (Psalm 84:4-5). We worship the Lord - "Your Name is the LordYou alone are the Most High God of the whole earth" (Psalm 83:18). As we worship Him, our strength is restored. He answers our prayer - “Restore us, O God, our Saviour” (Psalm 85:4). As we worship God, our joy is restored - “Give me joy, O Lord, because I lift my soul to You” (Psalm 86:4). What a joy it is to know the Lord. He’s the Source of all our blessings (Psalm 87:7). Knowing that it is God’s desire to bless us, we come to Him, earnestly seeking His blessing: “I cry out to You for help, O Lord, and, in the morning, my prayer will come into Your presence” (Psalm 88:13).
Psalm 89 begins and ends with the faithfulness of God (Psalm 89:1,49). As we think of God, we say, concerning Him, “Your faithfulness stands firm in the heavens” (Psalm 89:2). “O Lord, the heavens praise your miracles and Your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones” (Psalm 89:5). “Mighty Lord, even Your faithfulness surrounds You” (Psalm 89:8).
“You are God, from everlasting to everlasting” (Psalm 90:2). “You are my Refuge and my Fortress, my God, in whom I trust” (Psalm 91:2). “You, O Lord, are highly honoured forever” (Psalm 92:8). As we read the Psalms, we learn of God - how great He is, how much He is worthy of praise, trust and obedience. We learn to worship the Lord - "The Lord rules as King!" (Psalm 93:1). As we learn to centre our lives on Him, we will be blessed by Him.
The Lord comes to us as our Saviour - “When I said, ‘My feet are slipping’, Your mercy, O Lord, continued to hold me up. When I worried about many things, Your assuring words soothed my soul... The Lord has become my Stronghold. My God has become my Rock of refuge” (Psalm 94:18-19,22). We are to come to him as His worshippers - “Come, let’s sing joyfully to the Lord. Let’s shout happily to the rock of our salvation.Let’s come into His presence with a song of thanksgiving. Let’s come, let’s worship and bow down. Let’s kneel before the Lord, our Maker” (Psalm 95:6). “Sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord! Praise His Name!” (Psalm 96:1).
As well as the joy of the Lord, there is also to be the fear of the Lord in our worship. Psalms 97, 98 and 100 speak of the joy of the Lord: “Find joy in the Lord, you righteous people” (Psalm 97:12). “Shout happily to the Lord, all the earth. Break into joyful singing” (Psalm 98:4). “Shout happily to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord cheerfully. Come into His presence with a joyful song” (Psalm 100:1-2). Psalm 99 emphasizes the importance of the fear of the Lord: “The Lord rules as King. Let the people tremble. He is enthroned over the angels. Let the earth quake” (Psalm 99:1).
The Psalmist faced many difficulties. There were the problems caused by “unfaithful people” (Psalm 101:3-5). He had health problems (Psalm 102:3-5). He takes his problems to the Lord, convinced that “from everlasting to everlasting, the Lord’s mercy is on those who fear Him” (Psalm 103:17).
God is the God of providence. He is the God of redemption. He provides food - “All of them look to You to give them their food at the right time” (Psalm 104:27). He has provided salvation for His people - “... He brought His people out with joy...” (Psalm 105:42-45). We think of all that the Lord has done for us, and we say, from the heart, “Thanks be to the Lord God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting. Let all the people say, Amen. Hallelujah!” (Psalm 106:48).
Psalm 107 calls us to “give thanks to the Lord” (Psalm 107:1,8,15,21,31). When we hear the call to “give thanks to the Lord”, our response is to be ‘I want to give thanks to You among the people, O Lord” (Psalm 108:3). “With my mouth I will give many thanks to the Lord, I will praise Him among many people” (Psalm 109:30).
The opening words of Psalm 110 are applied, in Hebrews, to our Lord Jesus Christ: “The Lord said to my Lord, Sit in the highest position in heaven until I make Your enemies Your footstool.” As we consider the mighty triumph of our Lord Jesus Christ, our hearts are filled with worship - “Hallelujah!” (Psalm 11:1; Psalm 112:1; Psalm 113:1,9).
The Lord “turns a rock into a pool, filled with water, and turns flint into a spring flowing with water” (Psalm 114:8). The “Hallelujah” arises from the hearts of God’s people (Psalm 115:18; Psalm 116:19; Psalm 117:2), “The Lord is responsible for this, and it is amazing for us to see” (Psalm 118:23).
Psalm 119 is a personal prayer of devotion to the Lord. It is clear, throughout this Psalm, that our relationship with God is maintained as we build our lives upon his written Word. What blessing the Word of God has brought into the life of the Psalmist! This is still the way of blessing today - “Your Word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my faith” (Psalm 119:105). It is with the Word of God at the heart of our life that we face the future with confidence: “My hope is based on Your Word” (Psalm 119:147).
We call upon the Lord, and He answers us - “When I was in trouble, I cried out to the Lord, and He answered me” (Psalm 120:1). The Lord is our Helper - “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2). We worship the Lord - “I was glad when they said to me, Let’s go to the House of the Lord” (Psalm 122:1). We put our trust in the Lord - “we depend on the Lord our God” (Psalm 123:2).
“Our help is in the Name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 124:8). This is something we must never forget. When we are conscious of being helped by the Lord, we can say with confidence in Him: “Those who trust the Lord are like Mount Zion, which can never be shaken” (Psalm 125:1). Knowing the blessing of God in our lives, we have this joyful testimony: “The Lord has done spectacular things for us. We are overjoyed” (Psalm 126:3). The Lord “builds the house” of our life (Psalm 127:1) - This is the blessing which He promises to those who walk with Him: “Blessed are all who fear the Lord and live his way” (Psalm 128:1).
Psalm 129 speaks of God's judgment upon "wicked people who attack" the Lord's people. Psalm 130 is a prayer for forgiveness. In Psalm 131, the Psalmist comes to the Lord with humility - "My heart is not conceited" (Psalm 130:1). In Psalm, he worships the Lord with joy - "Let your godly ones sing with joy" (Psalm 132:9); "Then Zion's godly ones will sing joyfully" (Psalm 132:16). Our worship is not only personal worship. It is also public worship - worshipping in fellowship with the Lord's people: "See how good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in harmony" (Psalm 133:1).
“Praise the Lord” (Psalm 134:1). “Praise the Name of the Lord” (Psalm 135:1). “Give thanks to the Lord” (Psalm 136:1). God is calling us to worship Him. In a world where worshipping the Lord has been abandoned by so many people, it isn’t easy to keep on worshipping Him - “How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:4). Even though many people have stopped worshipping God, we must renew our commitment to Him: “I will give thanks to you with all my heart” (Psalm 138:1). “If no one joins, still I will worship. No turning back.”
“Examine me, O God, and know my mind. Test me, and know my thoughts. See whether I am on an evil path. Then, lead me on the everlasting path.” (Psalm 139:23-24). The Lord leads us away from the “evil path”, and on to the “everlasting path.” He “hears our plea for pity.” He hears our cry to Him,”Come quickly.” He comes to us as “the strong One who saves us” (Psalm 140:6-7; Psalm 141:1).
God is our “Refuge” (Psalm 142:5). In His “mercy”, He leads us in His way. He protects us and rescues us from our enemies (Psalm 143:8-9). The Lord, “the One in whom we take refuge”, is described by the Psalmist as “my Rock... My merciful One, my Fortress, my Stronghold, my Saviour, my Shield” (Psalm 144:1-2). The Lord is “great.” He is to be praised “every day.” He is to be praised “forever and ever” (Psalm 145:1-3).
Hallelujah! Each of the final five Psalms begins and ends with the word, “Hallelujah!” Again and again, in these Psalms, we hear the call to praise God: “Praise the Lord, my soul!” (Psalm 146:1), “Praise the Lord, Jerusalem! Praise your God, Zion!” (Psalm 147:12). “Praise the Lord from the heavens,Praise Him in the heights above” (Psalm 148:1). “Sing a new song to the Lord. Sing His praise in the assembly of godly people” (Psalm 149:1). “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:6). This outburst of triumphant and glorious praise, in these final five Psalms, is a fitting conclusion to the book of Psalms. Hallelujah!
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PROVERBS
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). The Lord calls to us as the voice of wisdom, ‘Turn to Me when I warn you. I will generously pour out My Spirit for you. I will make My words known to you” (Proverbs 1:23). “The Lord gives wisdom ... Wisdom will come into your heart ... Wisdom will save you  from the way of evil ... So walk in the way of good people and stay on the paths of righteous people” (Proverbs 2:6,10,12,20). Trusting the Lord and fearing the Lord belong together: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart ... Fear the Lord, and turn away from evil” (Proverbs 3;5,7). Wisdom brings great blessing into our lives: “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom and the one who obtains understanding. The profit gained from wisdom is greater than the profit gained from silver. Its yield is better than fine gold. Wisdom is more precious than jewels” (Proverbs 3:13-14).
The call to “acquire wisdom” (Proverbs 4:5) is a call to”walk away from evil” (Proverbs 4:27). The importance of walking away from evil is grounded in the fact that “Each person’s ways are clearly seen by the Lord” (Proverbs 5:21). We are not to give the appearance of living a godly life while remaining far from God in our hearts. There is to be a true commitment to living to please God in all things - in the places which are seen only by Him as well as the places that are seen by other people. Living to please will involve clearly identifying the ways that do not please God, so that we can avoid such ways and seek the better way of doing the Lord’s will.
In Proverbs 7, we are warned against the foolishness of going the way of the world. In Proverbs 8, we hear the voice of wisdom, calling to us; “Now, sons, listen to Me. Blessed are those who follow My ways” (Proverbs 8:32). The call of wisdom continues in Proverbs 9. The call of wisdom comes to us as the call of the Lord, who, from His Table, calls us to His Supper: “Come, eat My bread, and drink the wine I have mixed” (Proverbs 9:5).
The contrast between wisdom and foolishness corresponds to the contrast between righteousness and wickedness (Proverbs 10:1,7). God calls us to be “the wise in heart.” He calls us to show forth “the fruit of a righteous person.” He calls us to be “a winner of souls” (Proverbs 11:19-30). If there are to be the fruits of righteousness, there needs to be the roots of righteousness. In words of warning and promise, we hear of the contrast between a life based on wickedness and a life based on righteousness: “A person cannot stand firm on a foundation of wickedness, and the roots of righteous people cannot be moved” (Proverbs 12:3). The connection between righteous roots and righteous fruits is emphasized in Proverbs 12:12 - “The roots of righteous people produce fruit.” The final outcome of righteousness is stated in Proverbs 12:28 - “Everlasting life is on the way of righteousness.” The Gospel brings hope for the future as well as guidance for the present. We look beyond our present life to the glorious blessing of everlasting life. We move in the direction of this great future, as, in our present life, we reaffirm our choice to walk “on the way of righteousness” with Christ, our great Saviour and Lord, leading us in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake. As we walk with the Lord, we look forward to our ultimate goal - We will “dwell in the House of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6).
“Whoever despises God’s words will pay the penalty, but the one who fears God’s commands will be rewarded” (Proverbs13:13). This principle applies to the nations - “Righteousness lifts up a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any society” (Proverbs 14:34). “A joyful heart makes a cheerful face” (Proverbs 15:13) - True happiness comes from within. It is more than an outward thing. It does not depend on the things that we have. It comes from the Lord. In Him, we have true and lasting joy.
“Whoever gives attention to the Lord’s Word prospers, and blessed is the person who trusts the Lord” (Proverbs 16:20). Here, we are reminded of the most important thing in life - keeping the Lord at the very centre of our life. “The Name of the Lord is a strong tower. A righteous person runs to it and is safe” (Proverbs 18:10). God’s Word teaches us that the Lord is faithful. He will never fail us. We can entrust ourselves into His loving care, confident that He will fulfil His promises to us.
“Wait for the Lord, and He will save you... The Lord is the One who directs a person’s steps” (Proverbs 20:22,24). The Lord saves and keeps: “The victory belongs to the Lord” (Proverbs 21:31). Saving and keeping us, as He leads along the pathway of discipleship, the Lord brings us to our final victory. This is the great triumph, described in the jubilant words of 1 Corinthians 15:58 - “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In Proverbs 22 - 24, we learn about promise and danger. At every stage in our journey through life, there is both promise and danger - the promise of God’s blessing to those who keep Him at the centre of their life, the danger of coming under God’s judgment when we ignore His way and go the way of the world. This kind of instruction, combining both promise and warning, is important. It teaches us about both the way we are to take and the way we  are to avoid, what we are to be and what we are not to be, how we are to live and how we are not to live.
Practical wisdom, wisdom for living  - this is what we have in Proverbs. The teaching of Proverbs is base on the principle: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 1:7). This does not mean that God is mentioned frequently. In Proverbs 25 - 27, there is only one mention of God (Proverbs 25:2). The concern is with life on earth, our relationships with our fellow human beings. These relationships are to be lived out from the godly perspective which comes from "the fear of the Lord."
Again and again, Proverbs calls to make a decision. We must choose - righteousness or wickedness. Will we "abandon God's teachings"? or Will we "follow God's teachings" (Proverbs 28:4)? The way of righteousness is the way upon which God sends His blessing. The way of wickedness is the way upon which there can be no blessing from the Lord. The situation is well summed up in Proverbs 29:18 - "Without prophetic vision people run wild, but blessed are those who follow God's teachings." We are to come to God with humility: "I'm weary and worn out, O God... I don't have knowledge of the Holy One" (Proverbs 30:1,3). When God hears this prayer, He answers, giving us this confidence in Him: "Every word of God has proven to be true. He is a shield to those who come to Him for protection" (Proverbs 30:5). The book of Proverbs ends by reminding us that "the fear of the Lord" (Proverbs 31:30) is the most important thing in life, if we are to be praised - not only by men, but by God.
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ECCLESIASTES 
Life “under the sun” is depressing (Ecclesiastes 1:3,9,14). When life is seen in an earthbound way, with nothing above and beyond it, there is no hope, no glimmer of light. The preacher is not saying that this is the only way we can look at life. He is saying that this way of thinking about life is a dead-end street. He is inviting us to see the meaninglessness of a life that is no more than life “under the sun.” He shows us the hopelessness of life “under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:17,20,22). We can never be satisfied by life “under the sun.” There is always a sense of something more. This dissatisfaction, this longing for something more, comes from God: “He has put a sense of eternity in people’s minds” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Life “under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 4:1,3) offers nothing to those who are searching for a real sense of meaning, purpose and direction.There is an emptiness at the heart of life “under the sun.” Attempting to find something more, through our own efforts, is a never-ending task, a fruitless exercise - “trying to catch the wind” (Ecclesiastes 4:6,8). We need more than life “under the sun.”. We need life in the Son. We need the One who came from above - Jesus Christ, our Saviour. He alone can bring something different into our life. He brings something lasting - eternal life (1 John 5:11-12). As we read Ecclesiastes in the context of the whole of Scripture, our thoughts turn towards another life, a better life - life in the Son. This is a life that is filled with glorious, heavenly, eternal hope. Without God, life is hopeless.With Him, life becomes hopeful. By placing before us these two very different ways of life - life without God and life with God, Ecclesiastes invites us to choose. We are to choose life - the life that comes from above, the abundant life, which is the gift of God’s grace to all who put their faith in Jesus Christ (John 10:10). When we receive life in the Son, our life is transformed. It is transformed by the life of Christ - new life, eternal life.
The book of Ecclesiastes is one of the books of Wisdom. Much of it reads like the wisdom of the writer, as he reflects on his life. There is, however, another dimension in this book. There is God. We are encouraged to see our life in the light of God: “God is in heaven and you are on earth” (Ecclesiastes 5:2). The call to “fear God” (Ecclesiastes 5:7) lies at the heart of this book. This is more than human wisdom. This is the wisdom that comes from above. It’s the wisdom of God. This wisdom comes to us from divine revelation. True wisdom always recognizes that God is at the centre of life. There are times when this book seems to be the writer’s own practical philosophy of life. Sometimes, it seems like God isn’t in his thoughts. In chapter 6, God is only mentioned in verse 2. We should not, however, ignore the fact that he recognizes the reality of God. It is one thing to mention God only occasionally. It is something else when we ignore Him altogether.  The fact that Ecclesiastes (the Preacher) does not have ready-made answers for every question does not mean that he is not listening for the word of the Lord. It does mean that he recognizes that the answers lie with the Lord - not with ourselves. This is what he means when he says, “God is in heaven and you are on earth” (Ecclesiastes 5:2). Our wisdom is limited. Sometimes, we are wise - but we are not always wise. True wisdom comes from God. As we seek Him, we find that He gives His wisdom to us. It comes to us in and through Christ, who is “the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:30). As we look at our life, we are to “consider what God has done” (Ecclesiastes 7:13). When we look at the good things in our lives, we must not forget to say,”this is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 5:19). True wisdom is given to us when we recognize that God is the living God, the God who has done great things for us, the God of our salvation. Recognizing that He is the living God, the God of revelation, doesn’t mean that we’ll understand everything. Throughout our life on earth, there will be matters which are beyond our understanding. We must be content to put our trust in the Lord, with this simple confession of faith: “As for God - His way is perfect.” This is the point the Preacher makes in Ecclesiastes 8:16-17. This is a call for humility. It’s based on the fact that only God understands all things. We must learn to content ourselves with trusting in His wisdom, even we don’t understand all that He’s doing.
* As we learn to trust Him, He teaches us that the quality of our life - learning to live according to His purpose for us - is more important that the quantity of our years - living for a long time without really understanding what our life is all about, without coming to know the true joy that He alone can give to us (Ecclesiastes 5:3-6).
* As we learn to trust the Lord, He teaches us that “patience is better than pride” (Ecclesiastes 7:8). We learn to stop acting like we know it all. He teaches us to say, “God loves me. He knows what’s best for me. He will not fail me - even when I fail Him. He gives me His peace and His joy - even when I don’t really understand much of what’s going on in my life.”
* When we are learning to walk with God, He teaches us that it’s better to seek God-centred holiness - “God made mankind upright” - rather than self-centred happiness - “men have gone in search of many schemes” (Ecclesiastes 7:19).
* As we seek to put the Lord first in our lives, He teaches us that His way, for us, is not the way of seeking “power” for ourselves (Ecclesiastes 8:4,8). We’re not to assert ourselves - ‘I did it my way.’ We’re to submit to Him - “Not my will, but Yours be done.”
The Lord is leading us beyond our own human “power” to achieve our human ambitions. He’s showing us His way. As we walk in His way, we learn that there’s a greater power  - the power of the Holy Spirit. His power is at work in us - to give us a real sense of meaning, purpose and direction: less of ourselves and more of the Lord.
We are to “pay more attention to calm words from wise people” (Ecclesiastes 9:17). This combination of calmness and wisdom is highlighted also in James - “the wisdom that comes from above is first of all pure. Then it is peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good deeds, impartial and sincere.” This description of wisdom is followed by these words of comment: “A harvest that has God’s approval comes from the peace planted by peacemakers” (James 3:17-18). In Ecclesiastes 10:2, the wise person and the fool are contrasted - “A wise person’s heart leads the right way. The heart of a fool leads the wrong way.” At the heart of the call to wisdom, there is the call to remember our Creator (Ecclesiastes 12:1-6). How are we to remember our Creator? - “Fear God and keep His commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
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SONG OF SOLOMON 
This book can be read at two different levels. At the human level, it’s a celebration of the love between a man and a woman. At the spiritual level, it inspires us to appreciate, more truly and more fully, the great love which Christ has for us. As we grow in our awareness of Christ’s amazing love for us, we are called to love Him more. His love comes first. We must never forget this. His love is an everlasting love. Our love for Him can never be any more than a response to His love for us.
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ISAIAH
The Word of God speaks to us of God, who is both holy and loving. This God calls for our response to His Word. In love, He calls us to come to Him and receive His forgiveness. In holiness, He warns us that rebellion leads to judgment (Isaiah 1:18-20). His Word gives us a glimpse of His love and His holiness. The God of perfect love and perfect holiness invites us to say, from the heart, “Let’s go to the mountain of the Lord, to the House of the God of Jacob” (Isaiah 2:3). God’s blessing is promised to those who will honour Him as their God - “Tell the righteous that blessings will come to them” (Isaiah 3:10). Alongside this promise, there is also the warning: “How horrible it will be for the wicked! Disaster will strike them” (Isaiah 3:11).
“The Lord will wash away the filth of Zion’s people ... His glory will cover everything” (Isaiah 4:4-5). The restoration of the divine glory is the goal of the divine cleansing. What God does for us and in us is the reversal of what sin does - “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). God’s people are His “vineyard”, “the garden of His delight” (Isaiah 5:7). Our response to the Lord is to love Him and worship Him: “Let me sing a love song to my Beloved” (Isaiah 5:1). We rejoice in the Lord because He has forgiven our sin (Isaiah 6:7). We sing praise to Him because all glory belongs to Him (Isaiah 6:3). Our sin, which is great (Isaiah 6:5), has been forgiven - All glory to God! This is the Lord’s doing. It is marvellous in our eyes. “The King” is among us. He reveals Himself as the King of love. Out of love for the Lord, we make our response - Here am I. Send me” (Isaiah 6:8). As we obey God’s command, “Go and tell the people” (Isaiah 6:9), we may find that there is much that causes us to be discouraged - “the cities lie in ruins ... The land is completely desolate ... A large area in the middle of the land will be abandoned” (Isaiah 6:11-12). We will also have some encouragement - “a stump is left - The holy seed will be the land’s stump” (Isaiah 6:13). When we are tempted to give up, when discouragement threatens to overwhelm us, we must remember that God is still on the throne. He is the King - and He still loves us. He is the King of love.
Isaiah speaks, prophetically, of the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who is also known as “Immanuel” (“God is with us”) (Isaiah 7:14).  “God is with us” - These words are spoken to God’s people in every situation of our life (Isaiah 8:10). Isaiah’s prophetic message concerns the transformation which brings “glory”, where there is “gloom”: “But there will be no more gloom ... But in the future He will bring glory” (Isaiah 9:1). This “glory” comes through our “Wonderful” Saviour, who is the “Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6). In Him, we have “peace”, “wise counsel” and “everlasting” life. Praise God! To Him be the glory! He has brought us to know Himself, as our Father, through Christ, His Beloved Son. What will it mean, for us , to know God? It will mean being changed by Him. He is teaching us to walk with Him. He is teaching us to follow Jesus. He is teaching us “to refuse the evil, and choose the good” (Isaiah 7:15). Standing upon the promise - “God is with us” - does not mean that we will take God’s presence for granted. God is not only comforting us. He’s also challenging us. We’re not to be conformed to the world’s way of living (Isaiah 8:11). We’re to be transformed. We’re to live the Lord’s way (Isaiah 8:13).
Isaiah 10 speaks of a divine judgment, in which the only “survivors” will be those who “depend on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 10:20). Isaiah 11 contains a Messianic prophecy. These are words, which point forward to our Saviour, Jesus Christ. They are words of the coming Kingdom (Isaiah 11:1-10). Isaiah 12 contains a hymn of praise to God: “I will praise You, O Lord” (Isaiah 12:1), which is followed by a call to praise God - “Praise the Lord ...” (Isaiah 12:4-6). This is a short chapter. It only has six verses. Its words are very precious. We can come to these words, again and again, and experience the fulfilment of the Lord’s precious promise: “With joy you will draw water from the springs of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3). This is the “living water”, which is Christ Himself.
“The day of the Lord is near ... The day of the Lord is going to come. It will be a cruel day with fury and fierce anger. He will make the earth desolate. He will destroy its sinners. Its time has almost come. Its days will not be extended” (Isaiah 13:6,9,22) - what  solemn words of warning regarding divine judgment! Is there hope for anyone? Isaiah 14 speaks of the fall of Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12-17). Lucifer, also known as Satan or the devil, has fallen, and He’s determined to take us down with him. He has caused havoc on earth. In the face of his evil attacks, God’s people need this Word of encouragement: “The Lord has laid Zion’s foundation ... His humble people will find refuge in it” (Isaiah 14:32). This dual perspective - judgment and salvation - is also found in Isaiah 15. There will be “wailing”, but there will also be “survivors” (Isaiah 15:8-9).
Much of what we read in Isaiah 16 - 18 concerns divine judgment on the disobedient - Moab - chapter 16, Damascus and Israel - chapter 17, Sudan - chapter 18. In the face of God’s holy judgment upon sin, we must never forget that “He is the God of our salvation, our Rock, our Stronghold” (Isaiah 17:10). God does not wish to pass judgment upon us. He calls us to Himself, that He may be gracious to us (2 Peter 3:9; John 3:17). This is the love of God. His love is everlasting. He reaches out to us, in love, so that we, loving Him, might rejoice in the fact that we are His beloved - “loved with everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).
In Isaiah 19-21, there are words of judgment and words of grace: “The Lord will strike Egypt with a plague. When He strikes them, He will also heal them. They will come back to the Lord. And He will respond to their prayers and heal them” (Isaiah 19:22). The question is asked, “How can we escape?” (Isaiah 20:6). To this question, the Lord gives His answer: “When the people cry to the Lord because of those who oppress them, He will send a Saviour and Defender to rescue them” (Isaiah 20:20). From the words of Isaiah 21:9 - “Babylon has fallen! It has fallen! All the idols they worship He shattered on the ground”, we look on to Revelation 18:18 - “Fallen! Babylon the  Great has fallen! She has become a home for demons” and Revelation 18:4 - “Come out of Babylon, My  people.” God is calling His people turn from worldly ways “Come out of Babylon, My people.” He’s calling His people to turn to Him - “When the people cry to the Lord ...” He’s calling us to trust Him. He’s calling us to obey Him. He’s calling us to sing the song of salvation: “Hallelujah! Salvation, glory and power belong to our God” (Revelation 19:11).
In Isaiah 22 - 23, we read about God’s judgment on Judah, Shebna and Tyre. We read of “a day of confusion and trampling” (Isaiah 22:5). We read the words of judgment on “Shebna, the man in charge of the palace” - “Look, mighty man! The Lord will throw you out” (Isaiah 22:15,17). There is judgment on Tyre “for seventy years” (Isaiah 23:14). There is also hope for the future - “At the end of seventy years, the Lord will come to help Tyre” (Isaiah 23:17). Sadly, His help was not appreciated - “Then she will go back to earning money as a prostitute for all the world’s kingdoms” (Isaiah 23:17). The message of God’s judgment continues in Isaiah 24. This is hard for us to hear. There is, however, something else that we must never overlook: “In all these things, it is said of the Lord, He will be glorious” (Isaiah 24:23).
“The Lord will save us” (Isaiah 25:9). This is our hope, as we await the “Day” of the Lord. This our cause for joy and gladness. Death shall not triumph over us. Our hope is in the Lord - “He will swallow up death in victory” (Isaiah 25:8). The message of the Gospel comes to us as a declaration of God’s saving power - “The Lord, the Lord alone, is an everlasting Rock.” It comes to us as a call to put our faith in the Lord - “Trust in the Lord always.” In the Lord, there is “everlasting strength” (Isaiah 26:4). In our “pain”, we receive strength from the Lord. It is the strength which comes from knowing that, beyond our present suffering, there is eternal life (Isaiah 26:18-19). As we consider how great our God is and how much He has loved us and done for us, we “will come and worship” Him, giving all the praise and glory to Him (Isaiah 27:13).
Isaiah speaks words of prophecy concerning Jesus Christ, the “Rock of our salvation”, the “precious Cornerstone”, the “solid Foundation” (Isaiah 28:16). Jesus Christ gives us the blessings of God’s salvation - “the deaf will hear the words, written in the book. The blind will see out of their gloom and darkness. Humble people again will find joy in the Lord” (Isaiah 29:18-19). With the Gospel proclamation - in Christ, there is full salvation - comes an appeal to come to Him and receive the blessings, promised to us by the God of love: “This is what the Almighty Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says, You can be saved by returning to Me. You can have rest. You can be strong by being quiet and by trusting Me” (Isaiah 30:15). The Lord is looking for our response. He longs to pour out His blessing on those who put their trust in Him: “The Lord is waiting to be kind to you. He rises to have compassion on you. The Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all those who wait for Him” (Isaiah 30:18). To those who put their trust in Him,the Lord gives His promise. He will lead them in the pathway of obedience, which is the highway of holiness - “You will hear a voice behind you, saying, This is the way. Follow it” (Isaiah 30:21).
There is a great contrast between the true God and false gods (Isaiah 31). God brings great blessing into our lives. He does this through the gift of the Holy spirit - “the Spirit is poured upon us from on high” (Isaiah 32:14). In Him, we receive “peace” (Isaiah 32:18). In Him, we receive “the riches of salvation”, which “are wisdom and knowledge” (Isaiah 33:6). We look away from ourselves in “the fear of the Lord.” We find our “treasure” in “the Lord” - “our Judge, our Lawgiver, our King, our Saviour” (Isaiah 33:6,22).
Isaiah speaks of both God’s judgment (Isaiah 34:2) and His salvation (Isaiah 35:2). What a privilege it is to be called “the redeemed of the Lord” (Isaiah 35:9-10). We're not to "trust Egypt" (Isaiah 36:6) - That's what we've been delivered from. We're to "trust the Lord our God" (Isaiah 36:7) - It's the Lord who has delivered us from "Egypt." The redemption of God - This is the source of true happiness, real joy and lasting gladness.
As we read of what is happening among the nations, both in the Bible and today’s news, we must never forget this - the Lord our God is “enthroned over the angels.” He alone is the God of the kingdoms of the world.” He “made heaven and earth” (Isaiah 37:16). As we rejoice in this truth concerning God, we must pray that “all the kingdoms on earth will know that He is the Lord” (Isaiah 37:20).
As we read about kings - Sennacherib (Isaiah 37) and Hezekiah (Isaiah 38-39), we must remember that God’s Word concerns all of us. We are called to speak the Word of God with boldness - “Hear the Word of the Lord” (Isaiah 39:5) - and to receive the Word of God with humility - “The Lord’s Word that you have spoken is good” (Isaiah 39:8).
"Tell the good news! ... Here is your God" (Isaiah 40:9). "I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will support you with My victorious right hand"  (Isaiah 41:10)."I am the Lord, that is My Name. I will not give glory to anyone else or the praise I deserve to idols" (Isaiah 42:8). The preacher of the Good News is called to proclaim salvation, bringing glory to God alone - zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of sinners.
"I alone am the Lord, and there is no Saviour except Me" (Isaiah 43:11). "I alone am the One who is going to wipe away your rebellious actions for My own sake, I will not remember your sins any more" (Isaiah 43:25)."Come back to Me, because I have reclaimed you. Sing with joy... Rejoice..." (Isaiah 44:22-23). "I am the Lord, and there is no other, I haven't spoken privately or in some dark corner of the world, I didn't say to Jacob's descendants, 'Search for Me in vain.' I, the Lord, speak what is fair and say what is right" (Isaiah 45:19). "There is no other God except Me. There is no other righteous God and Saviour besides Me. Turn to Me and be saved, all who live at the ends of the earth, because I am God, and there is no other" (Isaiah 45:21-22). In these verses, we learn of the unique, incomparable greatness of God in His gracious and mighty work of salvation.
In Isaiah 46 - 48, we read about Israel's conflict with Babylon and God's verdict on Babylon. We also have the precious promise which God gave to His people: "Our Defender is the Holy One of Israel" (Isaiah 47:4). Along with the divine promise, there is also the divine call to obedience. God sees that His redeemed people are not living in obedience to Him. He calls them back to a life of honesty and sincerity. He is calling them to walk in His perfect way: I am the Lord your God. I teach you what is best for you. I lead you where you should go" (Isaiah 48:17). He promises to bless them, if they will follow His leading: "If only you had listened to My commands! Your peace would be like a river that never runs dry. Your righteousness would be like waves on the sea" (Isaiah 48:18).
What "joy" there is in the Lord's "comfort" and "compassion" (Isaiah 49:13). He reaches out to us in compassion. He reaches out to us with His comfort. We rejoice in Him - the God of compassion, the God of comfort. "The Almighty Lord helps me" (Isaiah 50:7,9). What help there is in the Lord! The Maker of heaven and earth is our Helper. "The people ransomed by the Lord will return. They will come to Zion, singing with joy" (Isaiah 51:11). How does the Lord help us? He has "ransomed" us. We have been "bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 6:20). We have been "redeemed with the precious blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1:18-19).
"Clothe yourself with strength" (Isaiah 52:1). Our strength comes from our Saviour. In ourselves, there is sin. In Him, there is salvation (Isaiah 53:6,10-12). We look to our Saviour's sacrifice for our sin. From the Cross, we hear His Word of love: "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 Word from the Lord brings strength into our lives. The Lord leads us in His way of victory. He says to us, "Their victory comes from Me" (Isaiah 54:17).
When God sends out His Word, He sends it with a promise; "My Word... will not come back to Me without results, but it will accomplish whatever I want and achieve whatever I send it to do" (Isaiah 55:11). The Lord is looking out. He's looking beyond those who are already worshipping Him. He says, "I will gather still others besides those I have already gathered” (Isaiah 56:8). When we find, in our hearts, a desire to praise God, where does this spirit of praise come from? God says this, “I’ll create praise on their lips” (Isaiah 57:19).
“Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the foundations of past generations. You will be called the Rebuilder of Broken Walls and the Restorer of Streets where people live” (Isaiah 58:12). How important it is that we build on a solid foundation, and not shifting sand. We are to build on Christ, who is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). If the broken walls are to be rebuilt and the streets are to be restored, we need to recognize our great need of this work of rebuilding and restoration - “Truth has fallen in the street, and honest can’t come in” (Isaiah 59:14). We need to rediscover truth. We need more than a respect for human honesty. We need faith in, appreciation of and love for divine truth - Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). When there is rebuilding and restoration, based on the truth of God, it will be said of God’s people: “You will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise.”It will be said of their God: “the Lord will be your everlasting light. Your God will be your glory” (Isaiah 60:18-19).
In the Lord, we have joy - the joy of His salvation: “I will find joy in the Lord. I will delight in my God. He has dressed me in the clothes of salvation. He has wrapped me in the robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10). This joy of salvation comes to us through our Saviour, Jesus Christ. God has fulfilled His gracious promise: “The Lord has announced to the ends of the earth: Tell My people Zion,Your Saviour is coming” (Isaiah 62:11). In the Lord, we have victory. We rejoice in Him. He gives us the victory. He announces His victory - “It is I, the Lord, I am coming to announce my victory. I am powerful enough to save you” (Isaiah 63:1).
God is “our Father” (Isaiah 64:8). He says to us, “Here I am” (Isaiah 65:2). He waits, in love, for us to come to Him and receive the blessing He has promised: “Whoever asks for a blessing in the land will be blessed by the God of Truth” (Isaiah 65:16). He sets before us this glorious future: “I will create a new heaven and a new earth” (Isaiah 65:17). The Lord’s blessing is like “an overflowing stream” (Isaiah 66:12). The more we experience His blessing, the more we come to realize that this is just the beginning. God has much more blessing for us. There is no end to His love. His love is eternal. This eternal love is the source of His blessing. This is the basis of our eternal hope - “The new heaven and earth that I am about to make will continue in My presence” (Isaiah 66:22).
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JEREMIAH
Jeremiah was called into the service of the eternal God - “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart for My holy purpose. I appointed you to be a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). Jeremiah called the people back to the Lord, “the fountain of living (life-giving) water” (Jeremiah 2:13). He called them to be converted - to turn around. They were turning their backs on the Lord. They were replacing Him with something else, something useless, something that would never bring them real satisfaction (Jeremiah 2:13). Now, they were to turn their faces to Him (Jeremiah 2:27). To a returning people, God promises his mercy - “Come back, unfaithful Israel. It is the Lord speaking. I will no longer frown on you because I’m merciful, declares the Lord, I will no longer be angry with you.” returning to the Lord means confessing our sins - “Admit that you’ve done wrong! You have rebelled against the Lord your God ...” The message of Jeremiah is summed up in the words, “Come back, you rebellious people” (Jeremiah 3:12-14).
Jeremiah speaks of God’s judgment - “I’m bringing disaster and widespread destruction ...” (Jeremiah 4:6). This message comes to us as a word of warning, a plea to the people to return to the Lord and find His mercy - “So put on sackcloth, mourn and cry because the Lord’s burning anger hasn’t turned away from us” (Jeremiah 4:8). This is the call to repentance. We read of God’s burning anger, and we wonder,”Is there still the hope of God’s blessing?” God is speaking of His judgment - “Nation of Israel, I’m going to bring a nation from far away to attack you,declares the Lord, I won’t destroy all of you” (Jeremiah 5:15,18). God’s Word  concerning the threat of judgment is a call to the people to honour Him as God: “Pay attention to My warning, Jerusalem, or I will turn away from you. I will make your land desolate ...” (Jeremiah 6:8). The ministry of Jeremiah differs from the ministry of the false prophets. They say, “Everything is alright!” He says, “It’s not alright! (Jeremiah 6:14). Jeremiah calls upon the people to make a new beginning with God - “Stand at the crossroads and look. Ask which paths are the old reliable paths. Ask which way leads to blessings. Live that way, and find a resting place for yourselves” (Jeremiah 6:16).
God speaks to His people about their sin - "The people of Jerusalem turned away from Me without ever returning ..." (Jeremiah 8:5). He is not pleased with them. He is calling them to return to Him - "Change the way you live ..." (Jeremiah 7:3). The life of Israel is “like the desert” (Jeremiah 9:12). This moral and spiritual desert is described in Jeremiah 9:13-14 - “The Lord answered, They’ve abandoned My teachings that I placed in front of them. They didn’t obey Me, and they didn’t follow them, They followed their own stubborn ways and other gods ...” This was a serious situation. These words are very relevant to today’s Church and world. God is not being taken seriously. His Word  is being ignored. The situation goes from bad to worse. God is speaking. Few people are listening. He speaks through His Word. Few people are reading His Word. We must listen to what God says and do what He tells us to do.
“The Lord is the only God. He is the living God and eternal King” (Jeremiah 10:10). The contrast between God and the gods is simple. God made us. We made the gods. In the Lord our God, there is majesty and mystery - the majesty of the “eternal King”, the mystery that He is always beyond our understanding. Before this majesty and mystery, we bow down in worship. We acknowledge his greatness. We give Him glory. He is worthy of our worship. When God speaks His Word to us, “Obey Me, and do everything that I have told you to do. Then you will be My people, and I will be your God. I will keep the oath I made to your ancestors and give them a land flowing with milk and honey, the land you still have today.” We are to give our answer, “Yes, Lord” (Jeremiah 11:4-5). There will be many times when our "devotion" to the Lord will be put to the "test" (Jeremiah 12:3). These will be times of temptation - times when our 'Yes, Lord' could so easily become 'No, Lord.' When this happens, may God help us to return to Him and hear, again, His wonderful Word of amazing grace: "I will have compassion on them again ..." (Jeremiah 12:15).

“Listen and pay attention! Don’t be arrogant. The Lord has spoken” (Jeremiah 13:5). “Do something, Lord, for the sake of Your Name, even though our sins testify against us” (Jeremiah 14:7). We listen to God, and we call upon Him - “If you return, I will take you back ... I am with you, and I will save you and rescue you, says the Lord” (Jeremiah 15:19-20). Along with the great promise, “I am with you and I will save you”, there is also the call to return to the Lord. God knows what we are like - “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9). God knows that we cannot change ourselves. We can only be changed by Him. He calls us back from the way of the “fool” (Jeremiah 17:11). He calls us to Himself. The Word, given to the prophet, is also the Word, spoken to the people. It is the Word of salvation. “Where is the Word of the Lord? Let it come!” (Jeremiah 17:15). The Word of the Lord comes. It comes from above. It comes from the Lord. We cannot create the Word of the Lord. We must let it come to us. The Word is His. It’s not ours. We must pray, “Let the Word of the Lord come to us.” Let the Word of the Lord be God among us, God speaking to us, God working in us and through us.
“Where is the Word of the Lord? Let it come!” (Jeremiah 17:15). The Word of the Lord comes. It comes from above. It comes from the Lord. The Word of the Lord - This is God at work. He is speaking to us. He is working in us. We cannot create the Word of the Lord. We must let it come to us. The Word is His. It is not ours. We must pray, “Let the Word of the Lord come to us.” Let the Word of the Lord be God among us, God speaking to us, God working in us, God working through us.
Jeremiah’s message had been ignored. His faith was sorely tested. Despite all of this, he was able to say, “Sing to the Lord! Praise the Lord!” (Jeremiah 20:13). This was not his constant theme. In the very next verse, he says, “Cursed is the day that I was born.” We are pulled this way and that way by a turmoil of confused and confusing emotions. Our heart is a battleground. May the Lord lift us out of depression and defeat. May He lift us into vigour and victory.
The Word of God, spoken by Jeremiah, still needs to be heard today - “O land, land, land! Listen to the Word of the Lord!” (Jeremiah 22:29). God has much to say to this land and every land. Are we listening to His Word? or Have we closed our ears? Jeremiah speaks of our Saviour, Jesus Christ - “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will grow a righteous Branch for David” (Jeremiah 23:5). Like Jeremiah, we must direct attention to the Saviour. Speaking God’s Word, Jeremiah said, “I am a God who is near. I am also a God who is far away” (Jeremiah 23:23). We must maintain these two emphases in our preaching. God is greater than we can imagine, yet He has come near to us in Christ.
There’s realism in the ministry of Jeremiah. He prophesies the Babylonian captivity. There is also hope. He looks beyond the Babylonian captivity: “They will be taken to Babylon and stay there.I come for them, declares the Lord. I will take them from there and bring them back to this place” (Jeremiah 27:22). The way we are led may not be easy. The destination will be glorious. When things are going badly, we must never lose sight of the final goal of God’s working in us and through us. Beyond the suffering, there is the glory.
“The days are coming”: These words introduce a prophecy concerning the land (Jeremiah 30:3). The greatest blessing is not being in the land. It is belonging to the Lord. This is the blessing, spoken of by Jeremiah. When, speaking God’s Word, he writes, “You will be My people, and I will be your God” (Jeremiah 30:22).
God says to us, “I love you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). Through His love, we have “a happy song” to sing (Jeremiah 31:7). Through His love, we are “changed.” Our life is “turned around” (Jeremiah 31:18). The love of God for us is revealed most powerfully in His Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. He is the fulfilment of the prophecy in Jeremiah 31:31-34. When we consider Him - how wonderful He is - and all He has done for us, we will “give thanks to the Lord”, rejoicing in His goodness and praising Him for “His love which endures for ever.” We see His love - supremely - in “the righteous branch” - Jesus: “The Lord our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 33:15-16).
“Maybe the nation of Judah will hear about all the disasters that I plan to bring on them, and they will turn from their wicked ways. Then I will forgive their wickedness and their sins” (Jeremiah 36:3). Even in all life’s disasters, we must never lose sight of God’s love. He sends disasters. This is not because He hates us. He loves us. Through these disasters, He’s calling us back to Himself. He’s calling us to receive His forgiveness.
Jeremiah was not a popular prophet. He didn’t tell the people what they wanted to hear. He wasn’t concerned with gaining their approval. He was determined to keep on speaking God’s Word - whatever the people thought about him, said about him or did to him. The first priority is faithfulness. We must not make relevance the be-all and end-all. Relevance must be built on faithfulness. The two are to be held together - faithfulness and relevance. If we do not remain faithful to God’s Word, our words will be irrelevant. They will not be God’s Word for the people. “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17) - This must be at the heart of both our preaching and our living.
We are not to be afraid of those who oppose God and His Word (Jeremiah 42:11). We are to trust God. We are to stand on the promises that He has given to us in His Word - “I will have compassion on you” (Jeremiah 42:12).
Jeremiah’s ministry was a call from God to the people - a call to “listen to the Word of the Lord” (Jeremiah 44:24). Listening to what the Lord has to say to us will mean being ready to revise our own ideas. Our thoughts, without the guiding Word from the Lord, will be very different from thoughts which have been shaped by the Word of the Lord.
Jeremiah was fearless in his preaching of God’s Word. He spoke the truth. He spoke the Word which had been given to him by the Lord. When God speaks the Word of His holiness, the Word which exposes sin for what it really is, there is no place to hide. When we read Jeremiah’s words about Israel’s enemies, we must recognize that the Word of God concerning sin must be spoken clearly. It is only when there is conviction of sin that there can be conversion to the Saviour.
God’s Word speaks against us so that we might learn not to speak against God’s Word. God calls us to holiness - “Run away from Babylon! Run for your lives!” (Jeremiah 51:6). The final outcome is described in Jeremiah 51:8 - “Babylon will suddenly fall and be shattered.” God is warning us. It is folly to live the world’s way rather than the Lord’s way. In the light of the Lord’s Word, preached so faithfully by Jeremiah, we must learn to pray, “Your will be done, Lord.”
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LAMENTATIONS
For Jerusalem, the situation seemed to be hopeless. Humanly speaking, everything looked very gloomy. This was the situation into which the word of the Lord came. Often, our feelings may tell us, “My enemies have triumphed” (Lamentations 1:9). These are the times when we must learn to look beyond our feelings, believing that God has His Word for us, and it is a Word of victory.
There is so much, in Lamentations 2, about God’s judgment. It is, however, encouraging to read the words of Lamentations 2:13 - God’s people are described as the “beloved people of Zion.” Beloved - This is a great word. God used this word to describe Jesus - His Beloved Son. We are in Christ. We are in the Beloved. We are God’s Beloved. We are loved with an everlasting love.
At the heart of this book, in which there is much lamentation, we find words of great encouragement - “Great is Thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23). The Lord is assuring us that, whatever may happen to us, here is something that never changes: the faithfulness of God.
We hear what Lamentations says to us about God’s judgment. We also hear what it says about His faithfulness. Through our sin, we have brought God’s judgment upon ourselves - This is the bad news concerning ourselves. Through His faithful love, we receive the forgiveness of our sins - This is the Good News of God’s love for sinners.
In Lamentations 5, we have a prayer of the prophet. As he prays for a return to the Lord - “O Lord, bring us back to You ...” (Lamentations 5:21), he affirms that the Lord is King - “You, O Lord, sit enthroned for ever” (Lamentations 5:19).
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EZEKIEL
“Visions from God” (Ezekiel 1:1); “The power of the Lord came over Ezekiel” (Ezekiel 1:3); “A bright light” (Ezekiel 1:27); “A rainbow in the clouds” , “The Lord’s glory”, “Bowed down”, “I heard someone speaking” (Ezekiel 1:28). In these phrases, we have some suggestion of the kind of lines we must follow, as we think about the various elements of divine revelation.
In true ministry, there is both the Word of God and the Spirit of God. God’s Word is spoken to us in the power of the Spirit, so that we might speak His Word in the power of the Spirit (Ezekiel 2:1-4). Ezekiel is described as “a watchman over the people of Israel.” He was to speak the word of warning (Ezekiel 3:17). This is the kind of preaching which calls its hearers back from the wages of sin - death. The hearers are called to “change their wicked ways in order to save their lives” (Ezekiel 3:18).
God takes sin very seriously. He sends his judgment upon sin. The unleashing of His fury turns the sinful nation into a wasteland (Ezekiel 5:13-14). When we read of such things, we wonder, “Is there any hope?” When we are reading so much about sin and judgment, we must not lose sight of the love of God. In love, He calls men and women to return to Him.
In Ezekiel 6, we have a message concerning divine judgment. Note the emphasis - “you (they) will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 6:7,13-14). If we are to appreciate the greatness of God’s salvation, we must see the greatness of our sin and the greatness of the judgment from which we are delivered through God’s mighty work of salvation.
“The end is coming” - We read these words five times in Ezekiel 7:1-6. These are words of judgment. Ezekiel 7 ends with the words, “Then they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 7:27). In His judgment, the Lord is known as the holy God. If the people refuse to return to the Lord, there will be judgment. This is the word of warning. It comes as a call to repentance, a call to walk with God in obedience.
In Ezekiel 8, we have a description of sin - “very disgusting things”, even more disgusting things” (Ezekiel 8:6,9,13,17). When we read such “bad news”, we wonder, “Is there good news?” The answer of God’s Word is “Yes”! God does not leave us in our sin. He sends His Son to be our Saviour. This is the Good News, for which the prophets paved the way. Their ministry exposed sin, so that sinners might see their need of the Saviour.
If holiness is to be preserved, there must be a divine judgment upon sin. We cannot grow in our love for God, if we continue to have love, in our hearts, for the ways of the world. “Abba, Father, let me be Yours and Yours alone” (Dave Bilbrough, Mission Praise, 3).
“The Lord’s glory rose from the angels” (Ezekiel 10:4); “The Spirit lifted me” (Ezekiel 11:1 - These prophecies of Ezekiel bring us into the presence of God. “The sound of the Almighty God when He speaks” (Ezekiel 10:5); “The Lord’s Spirit came to me and told me to say” (Ezekiel 11:5) - When we are in the Lord’s presence, He speaks His Word to us. He speaks to us, so that we might speak for Him. “The Spirit lifted me up” (Ezekiel 11:24); “The Lord spoke His Word to me” (Ezekiel 12:1) - The Word and the Spirit belong together. The Spirit inspires the Word. The Word expresses the mind of the Spirit. “This is the divine revelation” (Ezekiel 12:10); “This is what the Almighty Lord says, Everything that I say will no longer be delayed. Whatever I say will happen, declares the Almighty Lord” (Ezekiel 12:28). Through His Word and His Spirit, the Almighty Lord is leading us on to His future. He is lifting us up to glory - His heavenly and eternal glory.
“Listen to the Word of the Lord” (Ezekiel 13:2). We must not “follow our own ideas” (Ezekiel 13:3). “Change the way you think and act” (Ezekiel 14:6). We are changed, as we pay attention to what the Lord has to say to us. What is the alternative to turning to the Lord, listening to Him and being changed by Him? We turn from Him, and our lives become a “wasteland” (Ezekiel 15:8). The message of the prophet, Ezekiel, comes as a call to choose - Turn to the Lord and be saved, or turn from Him and be lost.
Speaking through the prophet, God uses very colourful sexual imagery to describe Israel’s relationship with Himself and her revolt against Him. The last word, in Ezekiel 16, is not, however, a word concerning the rebellion of Israel against the Lord. It is the message of redemption - the forgiveness of sins (Ezekiel 16:63).
“I am the Lord ... I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will do it” (Ezekiel 17:24). In His Word, God tells us who He is and what He has done for us. He is the God who loves us. He has shown us His love in the death of His Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
What a contrast there is between God’s salvation and man’s sin. God brought His people out of Egypt and into the promised land. They rebelled against Him and refused to listen to Him (Ezekiel 20:6-8). God had not given up on His people. He would draw them to Himself. He would make them His instrument of blessing to the nations (Ezekiel 20:40-44).
In Ezekiel 21 - 22, words concerning God’s holy judgment against sin are awesome. He does not take sin lightly. He takes sin very seriously. As we realize the seriousness with which He looks upon sin, we are called to repentance. We are called to return to the Lord, in sincerity and truth.
Samaria and Jerusalem behaved like prostitutes. In graphic language, the sin of turning from the Lord is compared to sexual immorality. Why does God expose their sin with such plainness of speech? He wants to show them the full extent of their rebellion, so that they may see the folly of continuing in sin and may be moved to return to the Lord - “Then they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 23:49).
In Ezekiel 24, we learn about God’s holiness and His love. If we are to appreciate the wonderful love God has for sinners, we need to become more deeply aware of the awesome holiness of God’s hatred of sin. We look at our sin. We look at God’s holiness. We learn about ourselves. We see how far we have fallen short of God’s glory. We learn about God. We come to know that He is the Lord. Deeply aware of God’s holiness and our own sin, we are led, by the Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures, to see Jesus, crucified for us. We hear about God’s holiness. This is the Word of His judgment upon our sin. This is not, however, the final Word that He speaks to us. He speaks His Word of love - His Word of forgiveness, peace and hope.
“Then you will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 25:4,7,11). “Then they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 25:17). God is in control. This is the message of the prophet. The events on earth express the purpose of God. It is so important that we do not lose sight of this spiritual dimension. People say, ‘Everything is politics.’ God’s Word tells us, ‘Politics isn’t everything.’ We must not imagine that we can leave God out of the reckoning. He will remind us of His presence - “That you may know that I am the Lord.”
In Ezekiel 26, we find an awesome Word of judgment, spoken against the city of Tyre. The Word, spoken by God through His prophet, is uncompromising - “Tyre, you famous city, you have been destroyed” (Ezekiel 26:17). The effect of Tyre’s fall is described: “Your defeat will make the people, who live by the coast, tremble. Your end will terrify the islands in the sea” (Ezekiel 26:18). This is the fear of the Lord. We become aware that it’s a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. The Gospel tells us about the hands that were nailed to the Cross for us, so that we might pass from judgment to salvation, through faith in Jesus Christ.
This is a continuation of the Word of judgment, which began in Ezekiel 26. How final are the words at the end of Ezekiel 27: “You have come to a terrible end, and you will never exist again” (Ezekiel 27:36). This is the bad news concerning all of us. We are sinners. We are under God’s judgment. Our only hope is the God of grace and mercy. He has made Himself known to us as the One, who can turn everything around for us. He does through His Son, Jesus Christ.
God’s judgment on Tyre - This theme continues on from Ezekiel 26 - 27. The emphasis is on His judgment on the king - “the ruler of Tyre” (Ezekiel 28:1). Here, we look beyond “the ruler of Tyre.” We may look on from him to Satan. Like the king of Tyre, Satan will also “come to a terrible end” (Ezekiel 28:19). In Ezekiel 28:20-24, we have a prophecy of judgment on Sidon. In Ezekiel 28:25-26, we have a message of hope for God’s people, Israel - “they will know that I am the Lord their God” (Ezekiel 28:26).
In Ezekiel 29, we read about God's judgment upon Egypt, that proud nation, which caused so much distress to His people, Israel. Egypt's time of power had come to an end. Their position of power had been taken by Babylon. The Lord is looking beyond the day of Babylon's power. He is doing a work that is eternal. His work centres upon His people, Israel - "On that day, I will make the people of Israel strong again ..." (Ezekiel 29:21).
In Ezekiel 30, we read about the fall of Egypt and the rise of Babylon. The history of our world is the history of the rise and fall of nations. Whatever happens, the Lord remains the Lord of history. Kingdoms rise. Kingdoms fall. The Kingdom of the Lord endures forever. This is a great encouragement to God's people. The knowledge that God is in control assures us that there is, in history, more than just the ever-changing flow of events. There is the God whose love remains forever.
Egypt will be conquered. This message, from Ezekiel 29-30, continues in Ezekiel 31. The time of Egypt's power will come to an end. The power of God is very different. He is the eternal God. His power is a very special power. It is the power of love. His love is as great as His power. When we sing, "How great Thou art", we do not sing only of His great power. We sing also of His great love. In the events of history, we must learn to see God at work - in power and love. The power of God's love is so different from Egypt's love of power.
Again, in Ezekiel 32, we read about God's judgment on Egypt. God's Word of judgment is awesome. There is a real sense of the holiness of God. Men cannot do what they like, and expect that God will not punish them. When we read of such things, it becomes clear to us that it is better to listen to God and obey His Word than to ignore him and invite Him to send His judgment into our lives.
In Ezekiel 33, we read about the ministry of "the watchman." He listens to God's Word and speaks the Word of warning  to the people (Ezekiel 33:7). He declares the love of God - "I don't want wicked people to die ... I want them to turn from their ways and live" (Ezekiel 33:10). The warning is spoken as the voice of love, calling sinners to draw back from the way that leads to death, to turn to the Lord and live.
In Ezekiel 34, there is the promise of a new Shepherd for the lost sheep. This is Good News. We are more than lost sheep. We are the Lord's sheep. Without the Lord, we are  lost. In Him, we are found. God says, "I will search for My sheep Myself and I will look after them" (Ezekiel 34:11). We read this, and our thoughts turn to Jesus, who came to seek and to save the lost. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, who laid down His life for us. He is the Great Shepherd, who rose from the dead for us. He is the Chief Shepherd, who is coming again for us. The Lord says to us, "You, My sheep, are the sheep of My pasture." He says to us, "I am your God" (Ezekiel 34:31).
In Ezekiel 35, we learn that it is through His judgment as well as His salvation that we learn that the Lord is God. It is important that we remember two things - (i) God's purpose is salvation (John 3:17); (ii) His judgment comes upon us as a result of our sin (John 3:18). The light of God's love shines brightly. It is sin which brings darkness into our world. The darkness of our sin is great. The bright shining light of God's love is greater. This is the great love of God, revealed to us in Jesus Christ, the Light of the world.
The great miracle of the new birth is described in Ezekiel 36:26 - "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you." We cannot change ourselves. We must be changed by the Lord. He forgives our sin. He gives us His Holy Spirit. He enables us to put the past behind us and live the new life in the Spirit.
To the valley of dry bones, the Word of God is spoken: "I will put My Spirit in you, and you will live" (Ezekiel 37:14). It is only through the working of the Holy Spirit that there can be blessing among God's people. It is only through the Spirit's power that God's work is carried forward in the blessing of many who are dead in their sins without God's saving grace. When the Lord comes in power, everything changes. The dead are brought to life.
In Ezekiel 38:23, we read about God's purpose in history - "I will show My greatness and My holiness. I will reveal Myself to many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord." It is important that we see the divine dimension in the events which take place here on earth. There are political events, but politics isn't everything. There's more than politics. There's the work of God. He is working out His plan,
"I will pour out My Spirit on the nation of Israel" (Ezekiel 39:29). True blessing comes when God pours out His Spirit. This is something for which we must always - the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
In Ezekiel 40-43, we have a description of the temple. We can measure the physical dimensions of the temple, but there is something that we cannot measure: "I saw the glory of the Lord fill the temple" (Ezekiel 43:5). This is the spiritual dimension. This is the presence of the Spirit of the  Lord. We look beyond the temple. We catch a glimpse of the glory of God. The glory of the temple fades. The glory of the Lord remains forevermore.
In Ezekiel 44-46, we read about the worship of God. The emphasis is on holiness. The place of worship is described as "the holy place" (Ezekiel 44:1). When we move into the New Testament, the emphasis is on the people. We are to be the holy people of God - "You are chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, people who belong to God." Why does God call us to be His holy people? - "You were chosen to tell about the excellent qualities of God, who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light." As we do this, there's something we must never forget - "Once you were not God's people, but now you are. Once you were not shown mercy, but now you have been shown mercy" (1 Peter 2:9-10).
In Ezekiel 47:1-11, we have a wonderful picture and an encouraging message - the river of God's blessing. In Ezekiel 48:35, we have a wonderful presence and an inspiring message - "The Lord is there."
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DANIEL
Daniel was a faithful follower of the Lord. He refused to follow a worldly way of living (Daniel 1:8). He loved the Lord. He refused to follow a way of life which would harm his walk with God. He is a great example for those who take seriously the call to live in obedience to God. As we read about Daniel’s single-minded devotion to the Lord, we are challenged to live in obedience to God’s holy Word rather than following the ways of the sinful world which is always threatening to pull us away from the Lord.
In Daniel 2, we read about Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s interpretation. God is speaking to Nebuchadnezzar. God is speaking through Daniel. The heart of the message, given in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s interpretation, is summed up in Daniel 2:44 - “At the time of those kings, the God of heaven will establish a Kingdom that will never be destroyed ... It will be established forever.” These are prophetic words. They look far beyond Daniel’s time. They look ahead to God’s eternal Kingdom.
“Look, I see four men ... The fourth one looks like a son of the gods” (Daniel 3:25). These words of Nebuchadnezzar point beyond the servants of God - Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They point to the Son of God - our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. The Son of God saved His faithful servants. He saves all who put their trust in Him. He saved them from the fire of Nebuchadnezzar. He saves us from the fire of judgment.
“Stop sinning and do what is right” (Daniel 4:27). This was the Word that God spoke to Nebuchadnezzar. This is the Word that God speaks to us. “Now, I, Nebuchadnezzar will praise, honour, and give glory to the King of heaven. Everything He does is true, His ways are right and He can humiliate those who act arrogantly” (Daniel 4:37) - This was Nebuchadnezzar’s response to the Word of Lord. In Nebuchadnezzar’s response, there is a call to worship, addressed to every one of us. It is a call to humble ourselves before God. It is a call to learn from Him and live for Him.
The handwriting on the wall (Daniel 5) is a word of judgment. Numbered, Numbered, Weighed and Divided - This is the message that came to Nebuchadnezzar from God. God has numbered the days of your kingdom. He will bring it to an end. You have been weighed on a scale. You have been found to be too light. Your kingdom will be divided. It will be given to the Medes and the Persians. Down through the centuries, these words could be repeated, time and time again. Human greatness is brought to nothing so that the glory might belong to God alone.
Daniel in the lion’s den (Daniel 6) - What a remarkable miracle we have here. When we read about it, our thoughts move on to the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Jesus is a far greater miracle than the deliverance of Daniel. Daniel was delivered from the threat of death. Jesus was dead - and He was raised to life. We rejoice in what God did for Daniel. Our joy is so much greater when we think of what God has done for us through the mighty resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Saviour.
The visions, given to Daniel, concerned God’s eternal Kingdom (Daniel 7:27). This eternal dimension must never be lost. If we have nothing to which we can look forward, with confidence in the eternal God, we are, in the words of the Apostle Paul, “of all men most miserable.” When we look, through faith in Jesus Christ, beyond the earthly horizon, we catch a glimpse of the eternal glory, and our faith is increased. We come to believe, most firmly, that what happens, here on earth, is not the last word on our life. God is preparing us for His Kingdom. He is preparing His Kingdom for us.
“Daniel saw a vision” (Daniel 8:1). With this vision, there was the explanation. Daniel falls down. He hears these words, “Son of man, understand that the vision is about the end times” (Daniel 8:17). Daniel does not remain facedown. He is lifted up: “Then he touched me and raised me to my feet” (Daniel 8:18). Daniel 8 ends with these words - “The vision horrified me, because I couldn’t understand it” (Daniel 8:27). There is much, in God’s Word, that is beyond our understanding. We must keep on looking to the Lord. We must pray that He will lead us in His perfect way.
In Daniel 9, we see Daniel, the man of prayer. He confesses his own sin and the sin of the nation (Daniel 9:8). He looks to the Lord, the God of compassion and forgiveness (Daniel 9:9). He prays that God will move among the people, with His blessing (Daniel 9:19).
“Then he touched me and made my hands and knees shake” (Daniel 10:10). It is an awesome thing to be in the presence of the living God. What a reassuring thing it was, for Daniel, when he heard this gracious word: “Daniel, you are highly respected ... Don’t be afraid” (Daniel 10:11-12). When we are in the presence of God, we must listen to what He has to say to us - “Pay attention to my words ....” (Daniel 10:11). We dare not speak words until God gives us the words that we are to say: “I bowed down ... And was silent” (Daniel 10:15). When God gives the words, that is the time for speaking (Daniel 10:16). God gives us words to confess our need of His grace and mercy: “pain has overwhelmed me, and I’m helpless” (Daniel 10:16). When we look to God for His grace and mercy, He speaks His Word of encouragement: “Be strong! Be strong!” (Daniel 10:19). God’s Word makes us strong.
When, in Daniel 11, we read of the rise and fall of human kingdoms, we must remember this - God is building His eternal Kingdom. This Kingdom - God’s Kingdom - is the only Kingdom which will never come to an end. We put our trust in the Lord. Our trust in the Lord is well-founded. The Lord is absolutely trustworthy.
The Word of God points us forward to “the end times” (Daniel 12:4,7-9,13). There will be a time of salvation. There will be a time of judgment. Those who have believed in our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, are called to win others for Him. Along with the call to be faithful and fruitful servants of the Lord, we are given a great promise: “Those who lead many people to righteousness will shine like the stars for ever and ever” (Daniel 12:3).
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HOSEA
God sees us in our sin. He says, “You are not My people.” He sees us in our Saviour. He says, “You are the children of the living God” (Hosea 1:10). This is grace. This is salvation. This is the love of God. When this great truth reaches us, we are changed. What “a great day” it is when the Lord’s people, gathered together in the Name of the Lord, are led forward with God and by God into true and lasting spiritual growth and blessing.
“I will make the Valley of Achor (Disaster) a door of hope” (Hosea 2:15). What a word of encouragement this is! Here’s another great word of encouragement: “Those who are not loved I will call My loved ones. Those who are not My people I will call My people.” The Lord has done great things for us. By His grace, we are able to say, “You are my God” (Hosea 2:23).
God says, “I will wait for you” (Hosea 3:3). The people were slow to respond to God’s love. God’s Word says, “They will come trembling to the Lord for His blessings in the last days” (Hosea 3:5). How wonderfully patient the Lord is! He doesn’t compel us to come to Him. He waits patiently, until we find it in our hearts to come and receive the new life which He, in love, is offering to us.
“The people of Israel are as stubborn as a bull” (Hosea 4:16). This is more than the story of Israel. It’s the story of every one of us. Resisting God’s Spirit and rebelling against God’s Word, we dig ourselves, more and more deeply, into a hole of our own making. It is a hole from which we cannot lift ourselves. We can only be saved by the Lord. The stubbornness must be taken out of our hearts. Love for Christ must be put into our hearts. It is His love which changes us. He breaks down our stubbornness. He builds in us a new and true love for Him.
Following many words about sin in Hosea 5, we have a call to “return to the Lord.” The people hear God’s call, and they say, “Let’s return to the Lord” (Hosea 6:1). This call to return to the Lord comes to us with the promise of His healing - “He will heal us” (Hosea 6:1), His revival - “He will revive us” (Hosea 6:2), and His life - “He will raise us so that we may live in His presence” (Hosea 6:2). We hear the bad news of our sin so that our hearts may be prepared by the Lord to receive the Good News of His great salvation. Once we have returned to the Lord, we are called to give ourselves to him in loyalty - “I want your loyalty, not your sacrifices” (Hosea 6:8).
God wants “to heal Israel” (Hosea 7:1). Sadly, there is so much “sin” in the hearts of Israel - “I trained them and made them strong. Yet, they plan evil against Me” (Hosea 7:15). God wants to send His blessing. Sadly, “they don’t return to the Most High” (Hosea 7:16). This is Israel’s story. It’s also our story. God is calling us to return to Him, to be trained by Him, to live in His presence, to enjoy His blessing, to give praise and glory to Him.
In Hosea 8, we read about God’s judgment on the sinful nation of Israel. His standard is perfect holiness. Every one of us falls short. None of us can stand before God’s righteous judgment. There is, one Man who has not fallen short. God’s Son, Jesus, our Saviour, has taken our sin upon Himself so that we might receive His salvation. This is the Gospel. It is Good News for sinners.
“The prophet, along with my God, is the watchman over Ephraim” (Hosea 9:8). Being a watchman will involve speaking strong words of warning. It’s not easy to speak God’s Word. It’s not easy to hear His Word. His Word calls for change. It calls us to come out of our sin and into His holiness. The watchman must speak of “days of punishment” and “days of reckoning.” He must speak about “sins” and “hostility” (Hosea 9:7). Why must he speak of such things? Before people can turn to the Lord, they must be shown that they need the Lord. The watchman does not do this work on His own. It is “the prophet, along with my God” who “is the watchman.” We must never forget the Lord our God. Without Him, we can never be real and true watchman. With Him by our side, we will listen to what men will say, “The prophet is considered a fool, the inspired man a maniac” (Hosea 9:7). We still say, “Being a fool for God is very different from being a fool.” “The fool says in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1). A fool for God is only a fool in the eyes of men. He’s not a fool in the eyes of the One who really matters - the Lord.
God speaks to His people with a promise of blessing and a warning against disobedience. The blessing is there, waiting for us. We lose out on the blessing when we continue to walk on the pathway of disobedience. God says to us, “Plough new ground for yourselves, plant righteousness, and reap the blessings that your devotion to Me will produce.” This is the promise of blessing, with its call to return to the Lord. Alongside this promise of blessing, with its call to turn to the Lord - “It is time for you will come and pour out blessings upon you” (Hosea 10:12), there is God’s warning against following a way of life upon which His judgment rests: “But instead you planted evil and reaped its harvest. You have eaten the fruit produced by your lies” (Hosea 10:13).
Love, given by God, is not returned by His people. “When Israel was a child, I loved him” (Hosea 11:1), “The more  I called them, the further they went away” (Hosea 11:2). “I was one who taught the people of Ephraim to walk. I took them by the hand” - This is the love of God, “But they didn’t realize that I had healed them” (Hosea 11:3) - This is the ingratitude of God’s people. “I led them with cords of human kindness, with ropes of love” (Hosea 11:4) - Again, we see the love of God. “They have refused to return to Me” (Hosea 11:5) - Again, we see the people of God, turning away from the God of their salvation. How deep is their rebellion against God - “My people are determined to turn away from Me” (Hosea 11:7). How deep is His continuing love for them - “How can I give you up, Ephraim?” (Hosea 11:8). What a great contrast there is between God and man: “I am God, not a human” (Hosea 11:9). He is so much greater than we are. His love is so much greater than our sin. The Word of God is honest and forthright about our sin - “Ephraim surrounds Me with deceit. Judah rebels against God” (Hosea 11:12) - but is doesn’t end there. It speaks also about the faithfulness of God. This is the great thought with which Hosea 12 ends. Judah’s rebellion is “against the Holy One who is faithful” (Hosea 11:12).
“I spoke to the prophets and gave them many visions. I taught lessons through the prophets ... The Lord used a prophet to bring the people of Israel out of Egypt. He used the prophet to take care of them” (Hosea 12:10,13). The ministry of the prophets was very important. It doesn’t begin with speaking to men. It begins with hearing from God. The question, “What does the Lord have to say to me?” comes before the question, “What will I say to the people?” When we listen to what the Lord is saying to us, we will have “power with God” (Hosea 12:3) - power to speak His Word in a way that will bring glory to Him and people to Him.
“You are against Me, your Helper” (Hosea 13:9). God is our Helper. This is grace. How does He help us? He is our “Saviour” (Hosea 13:4). “You are against Me.” This is ingratitude. It’s not only disobedience of a command. It’s rejection of a love, the greatest love of all, the love of God. If we do not turn to the Lord to save us, we will turn to someone else, someone who will not be able to save us - “Where, now, is your king, the one who is supposed to save you?” (Hosea 13:10). What does God say about others who claim to bring salvation to us? This is what He says: “There is no saviour except Me" (Hosea 13:4). It is the Lord alone who “frees us from the power of the grave” (Hosea 13:14) and “gives us “the opportunity to live again” (Hosea 13;13).
“Return to the Lord your God ... Return to the Lord” (Hosea 14:1-2). Who is the God to whom we return? He is the God who loves us. He is the God who says, “I will love them freely” (Hosea 14:4). God’s love for us is His free gift to us. He does not love us because He has to love us. There is nothing about us that compels God to love us. He is the God of love. He is the God who chooses love. He is the God who chooses us. What wonderful promises of love He gives to us. In Hosea 14:4-5, God says, “I will.” He says this four times. In Hosea 14:5-7, He says, “They will.” He says this nine times. “They will” follows “I will.” The blessings are given to us. They come to us from the Lord. When we realize how much we have been blessed by the Lord, this leads us to make a fuller commitment of our lives to the Lord, turning from our evil ways - “The people of Ephraim will have nothing more to do with idols” (Hosea 14:8) - and turning to the good ways of the Lord - “The Lord’s ways are right. Righteous people live by them” (Hosea 14:9).
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JOEL
There is to be prayer from “every one who lives in the land” (Joel 1:14). It is to be personal prayer - “O Lord, I cry to You for help!” (Joel 1:19). These two belong together - prayer for the nation and personal prayer. This is expressed so well in the words: “O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee. Send a revival. Start the work in me.”
We hear the words, “Return to the Lord, your God” (Joel 2:13). They are followed by some wonderful words about the character of God - “He is merciful and compassionate, patient and always ready to forgive and to change His plans about disaster” (Joel 2:13). How do we know that God is like this? We look at what He has done for us - “Be glad and rejoice. The Lord has done great things!” (Joel 2:21). Looking at all that the Lord has done for us, we trust His promise: “Whoever calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:32). This salvation is more than forgiveness for past sins. It’s more than the future glory of being in God’s everlasting Kingdom - “Mount Zion” (Joel 2:32). It’s also the power of the Spirit, here and now: “I will pour out My Spirit on everyone” (Joel 2:28).
“The Lord will be a Refuge for His people. He will be a Stronghold for the people of Israel. You will know that I am the Lord, your God” (Joel 3:16-17). The Lord is reaching out to us. He’s speaking to us His Word of salvation. As we learn to trust the Lord, we will find that God shows Himself to be the faithful God. May the Lord keep us close to Himself.
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AMOS
Amos begins with a humble description of himself - "one of the sheep farmers" (Amos 1:1). Being a prophet of God has nothing to do with  what we are in ourselves. It's all about God. It's all about His grace and His call. Looking after sheep - This is such an apt description of the ministry of a pastor. "The Lord roars from Zion" (Amos 1:2). These words make us think of a lion. This could be terrifying for sheep. Think of the lion - Aslan - from "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" (C S Lewis). It's a picture of Christ. His voice is more than a roar. It's the voice of love. The "roar" speaks of authority. The greatest authority is the authority of love. How does the Lord command our respect? He loves us. As we learn to appreciate His love, we learn to love Him. Our love for Him is inspired by His love for us. As we learn to love Him, our obedience to Him increases in strength. "The Lord has said this" (Amos 1:15). The prophet's voice is to be an echo of the Lord's voice. We speak because God has spoken.
"I brought you out of Egypt..." (Amos 2:10-11). God had done great things for His people. Sadly, this is followed by "You made the Nazirites drink wine. You commanded the prophets to stop prophesying." God has been good to us. How are we reacting to His love? Are we being changed by His love? His love is not only a gift to be received. It's a power to make us more like Him.
Privilege and responsibility (Amos 3:2). "The Almighty Lord has spoken. Who can keep from prophesying?" (Amos 3:8). God's Word is not to go in one ear and out the other ear. It's to change us. It's to equip us for living as His people and being His witnesses.
"And still you didn't return to Me, declares the Lord" (Amos 4:8-11). What does God say to people who keep on refusing to return to Him? This is what He says: "Prepare to meet your God" (Amos 4:12).
"Search for Me and live! ... Search for Me and live!" (Amos 5:4,6). Life can be tuned around. This isn't something that we can do for ourselves. It must done for us by the Lord. "Search for good instead of evil so that you may live" (Amos 5:14). The Lord gives us a new direction in life. When we read of the call to conversion, we must remember that we cannot answer this call in our own strength. The strength that we need must be given to us by the Lord.
"How horrible it will be ... " (Amos 6:1,3-6,13) - This is a prophecy concerning God's judgment. Such words need to be heard, if people are to be turned back into walking in the ways of the Lord. If we don't hear of God's judgment, we are likely to keep on walking in our own ways. There needs to be "an alarm to the unconverted" (Joseph Alleine). There needs to be an alarm to the converted. The danger of remaining apathetic and unconverted is not the only danger. There is also the danger that, after being converted, we become apathetic and backslidden. God is calling us to turn to Him. He's calling us to keep on being turned towards Him.
"Almighty Lord, please forgive us!" (Amos 7:2) - This is the prayer that the Lord is waiting to hear and answer. "Almighty Lord, please stop!" (Amos 7:5) - This is a prayer for God's mercy. We come to Him, deeply aware of our sin and His judgment. We cry to Him for mercy. Why should He have mercy on us? From our point of view, there is no answer to this question. From His point of view, there is an answer - the Cross. Upon Christ, there is our sin and God's judgment. To us, there is mercy and grace. There are people who do not want to hear the Word of the Lord. They say, "Don't ever prophesy again in Bethel" (Amos 7:13). Why did they tell the prophet to "run away to Judah! ... and prophesy there" (Amos 7:12). The reason is this - "This is the king's holy place and the king's palace" (Amos 7:12). Holy? - What is holy about a place when its people send away the prophet of God, and tell him to preach the Word of God somewhere else? If a place is really holy and the people are really holy, there would be a real desire to hear what the Lord has to say to us. What did Amos say about this? This is what he said - It was the Lord who said to me, "Prophesy to My people, Israel" (Amos 7:15). The Lord says, "Speak." The world says, for the Word of the Lord "Stop speaking to us." A true prophet will speak the Word of the Lord.
"The days are going to come, declares the Almighty Lord, when I will send a famine throughout the land. It won't be an ordinary famine of hearing the words of the Lord. People will wander from sea to sea, and roam from the north to the east, searching for the Word of the Lord, but thy won't find it" (Amos 8:11-12). There's a real sadness in these words. People are looking, and they're not finding.  They know they're looking for something, but they don't know what it is. It is the Word of the Lord. May God help us to continue speaking the Word of the Lord and looking to Him to send the blessing.
"I will restore and rebuild My people, Israel, as they were a long time ago" (Amos 9:11,14). This is not about good times and bad times. Sometimes, we have good times. Sometimes, we have bad times. This is about the blessing of God, which comes to us from the faithfulness of God. We must never forget the Lord. Real blessing comes from Him. God-given blessing is more than things turning out all right for us. It's having a real sense that the Lord is with us, that He's showing us how much He loves us, that He's leading us into a closer walk with Himself, and that He's leading us to give all the glory to Him.
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OBADIAH
Three times, in the first verse of Obadiah, the divine origin of Obadiah's message is emphasized - "This is what the Almighty Lord says ... We heard a message from the Lord. A messenger was sent ..." (Obadiah, verse 10).  The final verse   places the emphasis on the divine outcome of the prophetic message: "The Kingdom will belong to the Lord" (Obadiah, verse 21). What is the way in which the Lord leads us from the beginning of our faith to the completion of our faith? - It's the way of holiness (Obadiah, verse 17). God is calling us to be holy. He's calling us to walk with Him in holiness of life.
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JONAH
Jonah tried to run away from the Lord. The Lord protected Jonah (Jonah 1:17). The Lord hadn’t given up on Jonah. God had a purpose for Jonah. What a great purpose it was! The call of God (Jonah 1:1-2) wasn’t obeyed by Jonah – but the call of God remained. God was still planning to use Jonah to bring great blessing to the people of Nineveh. Jonah’s attempt to go to Tarshish (Jonah 1:3) was a detour – but God had not forgotten His plan for Jonah. The “big fish” was the beginning of God’s way of getting Jonah to the place where He wanted him to be. The “three days and three nights” were God’s way of getting Jonah ready for being His faithful and fruitful servant. In this time of preparation for service, there is prayer (Jonah 2:1-10). Jonah’s prayer was preparing the way for revival in Nineveh.
“From inside the fish…” – Not a great place to be; Jonah prayed to the Lord our God” – Can prayer change things? – Yes! “I called to the Lord in my distress, and He answered me” (Jonah 2:1-2). Humanly speaking, Jonah’s situation was hopeless: “The deep sea covered me completely… I sank to the bottom, where bars held me forever…” Humanly speaking – Is this all that there is? – No! There is more than this. There is God: “But You brought me back from the pit, O Lord my God” (Jonah 2:5-6).
"Then the Lord spoke His Word to Jonah a second time" (Jonah 3:1). "A second time" - This is so wonderful. This is the grace of God. He doesn't give up on us. He comes to us "a second time." Jonah was to give to the people of Nineveh the message that had been given to him by the Lord (Jonah 3:2). We don't make up the message as we're going along. We speak the message that has been given to us by the Lord.
"Jonah was very upset about this, and He became angry" (Jonah 4:1). After the high points of prayer (Jonah 2 and revival (Jonah 3), we come to this! This is pathetic. It's more than being upset and angry. Jonah became suicidal (Jonah 4:8-9). Why? - There's no good reason for him to feel like this. There are good reasons for him to rejoice in the Lord and give thanks to the Lord. What are we to say about this? "The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. Who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9). There's something else we must never forget - God knows the heart, and He can change it!
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MICAH
"The Lord spoke the Word to Micah" (Micah 1:1).  The Word is given to the prophet. This is where true prophecy begins. It begins with God. It does not come from the mind of the prophet. It is given to him by the Lord. In this revelation, given by God to the prophet, there is "the Word" and "the vision." God speaks to us. He draws near to us. Jesus is God's "Word" to us. He is more than the words spoken to us. He is "the Word made flesh" (John 1:1,14). To "all" people, God says, "Listen ... Pay attention" (Micah 1:2). What does God say to us? He speaks "against" us (Micah 1:2). Do we need to hear this? Yes! We do. The Word that is spoken against us prepares us for the Good News of God's love. The more seriously we take the Word that is spoken against us, the more we will give thanks to God for His love. We will rejoice in this - His love reaches us in our sin and triumphs over our sin.
"The Lord will lead the people" (Micah 2:13). These are precious words. Whatever happens in our life, we must hold on to this: "The Lord will lead the people." Whatever happens to us - good things or bad things, we must not lose sight of the Lord. In the good times, let us trust Him to keep us, walking in His way, praising Him, even when we don't understand what's going on in our lives. He is there with us, every step of the way. He loves us - always and forever.
"I am filled with the power of the Lord's Spirit" (Micah 3:8). This is what makes true ministry of God's Word so different from 'prophecy' that doesn't come from the Lord. Without the power of the Lord, there can be no Word from the Lord. We need the Word, and we need the power.
"Let's go to the mountain of the Lord ...He will teach us His ways so that we may live by them" (Micah 4:2). We are taught by the Lord so that we might live for Him. Teaching and living - they belong together. We do not learn from God's Word so that we can amass more head-knowledge. We pray for a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ - a life-changing knowledge that gives us the strength that we need to live for the glory of God.
"You, Bethlehem ..." (Micah 5:2-4) - a great prophecy of the birth of Christ. As we read the Old Testament, and come across passages like this, we see the hand of the Lord at work in human history. We see God, fulfilling His plan, carrying out His eternal purpose - salvation.
"Remember your journey ... so that you may know the victories of the Lord" (Micah 6:5). It is a good thing to recall what the Lord has done for us. This gives us strength to face the future with confidence in the Lord. "The voice of the Lord calls out to the city" (Micah 6:9). God is calling us to be His voice, speaking His Word to the people of our community.
"I  will look to the Lord. I will wait for God to save me. I will wait for my God to listen to me" (Micah 7:7). Who is the Lord our God? The answer to this question is found in Micah 6:18-20. we are never wasting our time when we look to the Lord.We are never wasting our time when we wait on Him. He listens to us.He saves us. What wonderful words we have in the last three verses of Micah. God forgives our sin. He overlooks our rebellion. Better than our sin is God's salvation. Better than our rebellion is God's redemption. God is not angry forever. He shows mercy to us. God's wrath was poured out on Christ so that His mercy might be poured out upon us. Jesus took our place. He died for us. He drank, fully, from the cup of our condemnation so that we might drink, fully, from the cup of His salvation. God has compassion on us. He overcomes our wrongdoing. He sees what we are really like. He sees us in our sin. He also sees what we can become. He sees us in His grace. Overcoming our wrongdoing means more than forgiving our sin. The forgiveness of our sins is very wonderful. It is not, however, all that God does for us and gives to us. There is also the changing of our lives. God throws all our sins into the deep sea. God is faithful. When we think of the faithfulness of God, we're thinking of more than forgiveness. There's also the faithfulness of God, keeping us for Himself, working in us so that our hearts and lives may be, more truly and more fully, set apart for Him. We think of God's great salvation, and we say, "'Tis mercy all, immense and free." We know that this great change in us did not begin with ourselves. It began with God. It began with His eternal love.
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NAHUM
"This is a revelation from the Lord ..." (Nahum 1:1). What a wonderful start to this prophecy! "The Lord is patient and has great strength" (Nahum 1:3). Where does such knowledge of God come from? It comes from the revelation of God. It is revealed to us. It is the Word that comes to us from the Lord. It is the Word that is given to us by the Lord. "The Lord is good. He is a fortress in the day of trouble" (Nahum 1:7). Do we come to this faith by way of our unaided reason? or Is such faith given to us by the Lord? The way to faith is the way of revelation. "What do you think about the Lord?" (Nahum 1:9). This is a challenging question. True thoughts about the Lord are given to us by the Lord Himself. Fake thoughts come from our own minds. We think that we know God, until God comes to us and shows us that we are far from Him, and we need to be saved by Him. We need to have our minds renewed by Him. "This is what the Lord says" (Nahum 1:12). Learning to listen to the Lord is more important than anything else.
A Word of warning for God's people: "The one who will scatter you is coming to attack you. Guard your fortress! Keep a lookout on the road! Prepare for battle! Be very courageous!" (Nahum 2:1). A promise of victory for God's people: "The Lord will restore Jacob's glory like Israel's glory, although enemies have looted it and have destroyed its vines" (Nahum 2:2). We read the Old Testament prophets. It seems to us that their world is very different from our world. There are, however, spiritual principles which remain constant for every nation and every generation. The Lord comes to us in our conflict. He leads us on to His victory.
"I am against you, Nineveh, declares the Lord of Armies" (Nahum 3:5) - The Lord speaks against us so that we might learn to stop speaking against Him. We cannot really appreciate God's positive Word concerning salvation until we learn to listen attentively to His negative Word concerning our sin. It's only when we begin to see ourselves as sinners that we will begin to see how wonderful is the great salvation that has provided for sinners.
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HABAKKUK
“The divine revelation that the prophet Habakkuk saw” (Habakkuk 1:1) – This is a Word from the Lord. It is given to Habakkuk. It is given to God’s people, Israel. It is given to His Church in every nation and every generation. God’s Word is to be received by God’s people. God’s Word is to be passed on to God’s people. “Didn’t You exist before time began, O Lord my God, my Holy One?” (Habakkuk 1:12). God does not speak to us from the standpoint of a human observer. He’s more than someone who belongs to time alone. He is the eternal God. When we listen to the voice of God, we are listening to the voice of the One who is eternal, the One who is calling us on to eternal life.
“I will stand at my guard  post. I will station myself on the wall. I will watch to see what He will say to me…” (Habakkuk 2:1). When we speak about God’s revelation, we’re emphasizing that God speaks to us. Here, we’re emphasizing our response to God’s revelation. God’s Word is heard by us when we listen to Him. “Write the vision. Make it clear on tablets so that anyone can read it quickly” (Habakkuk 2:2). When we have heard the Word of the Lord, we are to share it with others, We are to pray that they will be changed by it. “The vision… will certainly happen…” (Habakkuk 2:3). When the vision comes from the Lord, it will be a true vision, a vision that will be fulfilled. “The righteous person will live because of his faithfulness” (Habakkuk 2:4). These great words are quoted by Paul in Romans 1:17. When Martin Luther read these great words, his life was changed by the power of God. Luther’s conversion led to the Reformation of the Church. “The Lord is in His holy temple. All the earth should be silent in His presence” (Habakkuk 2:20). When the Lord speaks to us, in power, from His Word, what are we to do? The first thing we must do is this: Bow before Him in worship – “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
"A prayer of the prophet Habakkuk" (Habakkuk  3:1) - Prayer and prophecy go together. Pray before preaching God's Word. Let the prayers go up to the Lord. May the power come down from the Lord. Keep on praying after the Word's been preached. Pray that the Lord will follow His Word with His blessing. "... renew... reveal... remember... " (Habakkuk 3:2). Pray that God will remember us - "remember to be merciful." Pray that He will reveal Himself to us as the living God, the God who works in our lives to change us and make us more like Himself. Pray that He will renew our life so that we are no  longer walking in our own weakness. Now, we are living in His strength. "Praise... power... paths... " (Habakkuk 3:3-6), "His praise fills the earth, His brightness as the sunlight. Rays of light stream from His hand. That is where His power is hidden." We need to go to His Word. We need to let His Word shine upon us. We need to pray that His power will reach us and change us. "The ancient paths belong to Him." Which way are we to go? We  are to "walk with the Lord  in the light of His Word." This is the way of blessing - praising the Lord, receiving His blessing, walking in His pathway. The Lord reaches out to us with His "salvation." He comes to us with "rivers" of blessing (Habakkuk 3:8). The Lord saves us. He calls us to be His people. He anoints us, touching our lives, shaping our lives by His Holy Spirit. Why does He save us? Does He forgive our sins, and then leave us just the way we were? No! He empowers us for "action (Habakkuk 3:9). As we consider all that the Lord has done for us, is doing for us and will do for us, we learn to say, "I will be happy with the Lord, I will truly find joy in God, who saves me, The Lord Almighty is my strength... He makes me to walk on the mountains" (Habakkuk 3:18-19). There is so much in these verses to encourage us to go on with the Lord, strong in Him, strengthened by His Word and His Spirit. To God be the glory!
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ZEPHANIAH
"This is the Word that the Lord spoke to Zephaniah" (Zephaniah 1:1). Straightaway, our attention is drawn away from the prophet to the Lord - "The Lord spoke His Word" (Zephaniah 1:1). How are we to hear the Word of the Lord? - "Be silent in the presence of the Almighty Lord" (Zephaniah 1:7). How can we hear what the Lord is saying to us, if we're too busy speaking? We must listen to God, if we are to hear what He is saying to us. What we hear from the Lord may not be what we want to hear. It will be what we need to hear. He speaks to us His Word of judgment so that we might see ourselves as sinners and come to Him for salvation.
"Search for the Lord, all you humble people in the land... " (Zephaniah 2:2). Even when the people have wandered away, far from God, and the land has become deeply affected by ungodly and unrighteous ways of thinking and living, God continues to call the people to return to Him and enter into His blessing.
The Lord is "righteous" (Zephaniah 3:5). His people are "rebellious" (Zephaniah 3:1). The people were not served well by their "prophets" and "priests" (Zephaniah 3:4). Could this situation be turned around? Could the people be led back from rebellion to righteousness? From the human side, there is no returning to the Lord. The human side is not all that there is. There is God - and He refuses to give up on His people: "Then I will give all people pure lips to worship the Lord and to serve Him with one purpose" (Zephaniah 3:9). To His people, God says, "I will remove your arrogance" (Zephaniah 3:11). Rebellious people can be changes by God's saving grace. How many will return to the Lord? - God speaks about "a faithful few" (Zephaniah 3:12-13). "They will seek refuge in the Name of the Lord" (Zephaniah 3:12). Any good thing in us has come from the Lord, When we consider all that the Lord has done for us, we are to worship Him - "Sing happily, people of Zion... " (Zephaniah 3:14). What reasons do we have for singing praise to the Lord? - "The Lord has reversed the judgments against you. He has forced out your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is with you" (Zephaniah 3:15). We rejoice in the Lord, and He takes delight in us - "He... celebrates over you with shouts of joy" (Zephaniah 3:17).
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HAGGAI
"The Lord spoke His Word through the prophet Haggai" (Haggai 1:1). The prophet is only the messenger. It is the Lord who speaks His Word. God's Word challenges our way of thinking and our way of living. We say, "Everything is okay." God says, "Everything is not okay." There is a problem. God says to us, "Carefully consider your ways" (Haggai 1:5). Our way of thinking and living is self-centred. It should be God-centred (Haggai 1:4). When we respond to God's Word, He says to us, "I am with you" (Haggai 1:13). We are not left to do the work in our own strength. He gives us the strength that we need.
First, the Lord speaks to Haggai (Haggai 2:1). Then, Haggai speaks for God (Haggai 2:2). "The faithful few who returned from Babylon" (Haggai 2:2) - Even if we are few, let us remain faithful. God calls us to "be strong" (Haggai 2:4). He says to us, "Work, because I am with you" (Haggai 2:4). He gives us His strength. He calls us to use His strength in His service. God looks beyond what we are in ourselves. He looks on to what we will become through His strength. He says to us, "Is there any seed left in the barn? The vines, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree still haven't produced" -This is the fruitless life, the life that is lived in our own strength. "But from now on, I will bless you" - This is the fruitful life, the life that is lived in the strength of the Lord. For the work of the Lord to be established, there needs to be the tearing down of the work of man - "I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of nations. I will overthrow chariots and their riders, and the horses will fall along with their riders" (Haggai 2:22). When the work of Satan is torn down, the work of the Lord begins - "a new creation. All things have passed away. All things have become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
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ZECHARIAH
There is a call from God - "Return to Me" - and a promise from God - "I will return to you" (Zechariah 1:3). God's Word contains both challenge and comfort. It is not challenge without comfort. It is not comfort without challenge. We need both - challenge and comfort.
The Lord is "the glory within" Jerusalem (Zechariah 2:5). He is "the glory within" His Church. We dare not attach so much importance to the externals of religion that we forget about the presence of the Lord To make secondary things more important than they really are is to miss the most important thing - the Lord is "the glory within" His Church. To His people, in Old Testament times and today, God says, "I'm going to come and live among you" (Zechariah 2:10).
"I, the Lord, silence you, Satan!" (Zechariah 3:2). We cannot silence Satan. The Lord can silence Satan. This is why we must answer Satan with the Word of the Lord. Satan has no answer to the Word of the Lord. "See, I have taken your sin away from you, and I will dress you in fine clothing" (Zechariah 3:4). This is God's great salvation: our sin is removed, and we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Satan has no answer to this. He may try to accuse us, but the Lord's Word will prevail over him: "For those who are in Christ Jesus, there is no condemnation" (Romans 8:1). Those who have been forgiven by the Lord are called to "live according to His ways" (Zechariah 3:7). We are to walk in the Spirit. He gives life to us. He raises us up from and above the way of sin and death (Romans 8:2). "These men are a sign of things to come" (Zechariah 3:8) - a sign that pointed forward to Jesus, God's Servant, "the Branch" (Zechariah 3:8). We are to point to Jesus. We are to bring something of heaven and its glory into the lives of the people we meet. "The stone" - Look at the stone (Zechariah 3:9). This is a call to look to Jesus, the cornerstone, the Foundation Stone of our faith. "I will remove this land's sin in a single day" (Zechariah 3:9). The forgiveness of our sin comes in a day. Its effects last for a lifetime - "each of you will invite your neighbours to sit under your vine and fig tree" (Zechariah 3:10). We are to invite people to rest in Jesus.
The work of God is not done in our own strength. We need the superior power of God's Spirit (Zechariah 4:6). The power of the Spirit comes to us as the power of love, the power of Christ, the power of the Gospel. This is the power that reaches us and changes us. There  is no power like the power  of God's Spirit. The power of God's Spirit does not come in an entirely supernatural way. It comes to us through people:. "Zerubbabel's hands have laid the foundation of this House, and his hands will finish it" (Zechariah 4:9). It is the Lord who uses us in His service. We must never forget that the real power comes from Him: "Then you will know that the Lord of Armies has sent me to you" (Zechariah 4:9). This supernatural dimension is at the heart of every real work of God. When we emphasize this supernatural dimension. This something that we must never forget - if we are to honour the Lord, truly and fully. God works through ordinary people, who give themselves to Him, the extraordinary God. God is looking for people who will say to Him, "Here am I, send me" (Isaiah 6:8).
"A house in Shinar (Babylonia)" (Zechariah 5:11). Babylon is symbolic of the world that opposes God and His purpose. Even in 'Babylon', an unbelieving and disobedient world, God is building His House. "They are going to build a House" - There human builders, but, ultimately, this is the work of the Lord. All the glory belongs to Him. We must not sit back, and say, "You do it, Lord." We acknowledge that, without God, no real work of lasting value will be done - but we also say, "We commit ourselves to You, Lord. We will not leave your work undone."
"Here  is the man whose name is Branch ... He will rebuild the Lord's Temple" (Zechariah 6:12), We read these words. We think of Jesus and His promise, "I will build My Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). The servants of the Lord are sent out to different places (Zechariah 6:1-7). The "Spirit" of the Lord goes with them (Zechariah 6:8). It is the Spirit of the Lord who brings blessing when the Word of the Lord is preached. "Those who are far away will come and rebuild the Lord's Temple" (Zechariah 6:15). By ourselves, we are "far away" - far from God. Through Christ, we have been brought near - near to God. By His grace, he has saved us. By His grace,He will use us in the rebuilding of His Temple. There will be blessing when we are fully obedient to the Lord - This will happen if you obey the Lord your God completely" (Zechariah 6:15). Lord, lead us on to a closer walk with You and a fruitful witness for You.
Who is most important to us? Our God or ourselves (Zechariah 7:5-6)? This is the challenge that is placed before us by the prophets of God. Our way of thinking and our way of living must be laid bare by the Word of the Lord. God wants us to see ourselves as we really are. He wants us to see Him as He really is. By ourselves, we cannot move from a self-centred life to a God-centred life, but we can look to the Lord to change us. When we ask for the Lord's help, we don't suddenly become perfect, but we do receive help from the Lord - help to become more what He wants us to be.
We need both truth and holiness (Zechariah 8:3). Truth is not just something to be believed. Truth changes us. Truth leads us into the pathways of holiness. We need both "truth and peace" (Zechariah 8:19). When truth changes us, it leads us into the paths of peace. The holy life is not to be a life of pride. That is Pharisaism. We think that holiness is all our own doing. The way of true holiness is also the way of peace. We seek to show, by our way of living, that we have been saved by the Lord and changed by Him. We show that the Lord is working in us, when we learn to walk in the way of peace. We are not to be like the Pharisee who looks down his nose at other people. We are to reach out to them in peace. At the Cross, we have learned that we are loved. At the Cross, we learn to hold out the love of Christ to other people.
"Rejoice with all your heart... Shout in triumph... Your King is coming to you... " (Zechariah 9:9). Here, we have the prophecy that was fulfilled by Jesus when He entered the city of Jerusalem, on His way to the Cross. This is followed, in Zechariah 9:10, by the words, "He will rule from sea to sea, and from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth." This speaks to us of the coming King and His coming Kingdom. While we are here on earth, we catch glimpses of the coming Kingdom. The full revelation is still to come. It will come - in God's time.
"From them (the people of Judah) will come a cornerstone" (Zechariah 10:4). Here, we have a prophecy concerning our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Cornerstone of our faith, the Cornerstone upon which the Church is built. He is our solid Rock. Those who build on Him are wise. "I will bring them (the people of Judah, Joseph's people) back because I have compassion for them" (Zechariah 10:6) - This is the love of God and the salvation of God. Through the Lord Jesus Christ, we receive life. This life gives us new strength.
Favour and unity (Zechariah 11:7) - God will look with favour on His people when they are united in Him. Let us seek the Lord's favour. Let us be united in seeking His favour. Let us seek to be united in the Lord, praying that He will look upon us with favour.
"I will pour out the Spirit of blessing and mercy on David's family and on those who live in Jerusalem" (Zechariah 12:10). Through our Lord Jesus Christ, who is "greater than David", we receive the blessing of the Spirit. this blessing is given to us through the mercy of God. It's all of grace. All the glory belongs to the Lord. Let us magnify His Name, the Name of our salvation. After Jesus' ascension, His apostles were told to wait in Jerusalem until the Spirit of the Lord was poured upon them. What a day it was - the day of Pentecost - when the Spirit came upon them in power.It was power for the effective communication of the Gospel, leading to the conversion of many. Such an outpouring of the Spirit brings great glory to the Lord. When great numbers of sinners are brought to the Saviour, all we can say is that this is the Lord 's doing and it is marvellous in our eyes. Hallelujah!

"A fountain ... to wash away their sin and stain" (Zechariah 13:1) - Here's a prophecy that points forward to our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. In death, He gave Himself for us. His blood was shed for us.Through His death, by the shedding of His blood, we receive the forgiveness of our sins. This is such a great blessing from such a great Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Here, on earth, there is spiritual warfare. We do not fight in our own strength - "The Lord will go out and fight against those nations" (Zechariah 14:3). when the Lord returns, there will be His triumph over all His enemies: "The Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones will be with Him" (Zechariah 14:5). We must not lose sight of the eternal perspective. This is what gives us encouragement: "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).
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MALACHI
"Even outside the borders of Israel, the Lord is great (Malachi 1:5). The Lord is not great because we call Him great. We call Him great because He is great. When we worship God, we are not creating His greatness. We worship God because He is so much greater than we can put into words or even imagine. His greatness does not come from our understanding of Him or our faith in Him. our understanding is limited. Our faith is weak. Our God is great. we must never forget this. It's not about our great faith or our great understanding. It's about our great God. He is great in holiness and power. more than that, He is great in love. We see the greatness of His love in Christ, His Son, our Saviour. we see His love in the death of our Saviour - "Hallelujah! What a Saviour!" "His Name will be great among the nations" (Malachi 1:11). To say that God's greatness extends beyond Israel is not an excuse for complacency. Wave a God-given responsibility to proclaim His greatness: "I am a great King" (Malachi 1:14). The Lord is King. he's the King of love. Let us never think that the Lord can be compared to earthly kings. He is far greater than any and every earthly king. He is to be the King in our worship. He is to be the King in every part of our life. When we say, "The Lord is King, we're not just speaking words - even words of faith. we're pointing to the reality - "The Lord is King" - and we're committing ourselves to living in the light of this reality.
God's Word speaks out against us so that we might learn to stop speaking against Him. We speak against Him when we present ourselves as righteous in His sight. To imagine that we are righteous is to be guilty of self-deception. If we are to enjoy the blessing that comes to us from the Lord, there is something that we must hear: "this warning is for you" (Malachi 2:1). Through the warning of the Gospel, we are brought into the position where we see ourselves as sinners. This is God's way of showing us our need of the Saviour. It's His way of leading us to Jesus.
There is, in Malachi 3:1, a prophecy which has two parts - John the Baptist, Jesus the Saviour. When Jesus comes to us, He makes us new (Malachi 3:2-3). This purpose of God - to make us holy - is in fulfilment of His plan, which has been spoken of in "the past, as in years long ago" (Malachi 3:4). In His coming, there is salvation, and there is also judgment (Malachi 3:5). When we speak about prophecy and fulfilment, there is something we must never forget: "I, the Lord, never change" (Malachi 3:6). When we read God's Word, we must pray that we will see the continuity that comes from the character of God. In Old Testament times, in New Testament times and today, He calls us to "return" to Him. He promises that He will "return" to us. as we are faithful in committing ourselves to Him, He will send His blessing to us (Malachi 3:7-10). This blessing is described in Malachi 3:11-12. if we are to enjoy His blessing, we must learn to stop speaking against Him (Malachi 3:12-14). It is a good thing to seek God's blessing. We must never take His blessing for granted. That is arrogance (Malachi 3:15). the better way is the way of fearing the Lord and serving Him (Malachi 3:16,18). When we give ourselves truly to the Lord, we will draw strength from this: "They will be mine, says the Lord of Armies. On that day I will make them My special possession" (Malachi 3:17).
"The Sun of Righteousness will rise ... " (Malachi 4:2). The perfect Son of God has risen from the dead. This is the great declaration of salvation. The resurrection - This is what stands at the heart of the New Testament. The resurrection stands at the centre of the Gospel of Christ. This is the thought that we are to carry with us into the New Testament.

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