His Love Endures Forever…

Psalm 136:1 (NIV)

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever…

Though Thanksgiving Day has passed and we have entered the Season of Advent in preparation for the arrival of the Son of God … we have reason each day to give thanks to the LORD. Indeed, when we declare, “God is good,” there is a response we usually receive, “All the time!” Indeed, God is good all the time … and all the time, God is good! He is merciful and gracious because “His love endures forever!” So, I pray we will keep thanksgiving ever before us each day of life. If we see the sun rise, let us fall to our knees and give thanks to the God of heaven for another day to serve Him … and to love one another as He commanded.

If you have a moment today, spend a few minutes and read the entire Psalm 136 as it recounts the myriad of ways God has manifested Himself to humankind. Indeed, He has revealed Himself through supernatural acts on behalf of His people. The link above is for the NIV, but I have reprinted the New Living Translation (NLT) below:

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods. His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords. His faithful love endures forever.

Give thanks to Him who alone does mighty miracles. His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to Him who made the heavens so skillfully. His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to Him who placed the earth among the waters. His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to Him who made the heavenly lights— His faithful love endures forever.
The sun to rule the day, His faithful love endures forever.
And the moon and stars to rule the night. His faithful love endures forever.

10 Give thanks to Him who smote the firstborn of Egypt. His faithful love endures forever.
11 He brought Israel out of Egypt. His faithful love endures forever.
12 He acted with a strong hand and powerful arm. His faithful love endures forever.
13 Give thanks to Him who parted the Red Sea. His faithful love endures forever.
14 He led Israel safely through, His faithful love endures forever.
15 But He hurled Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea. His faithful love endures forever.
16 Give thanks to Him who led His people through the wilderness. His faithful love endures forever.

17 Give thanks to Him who struck down mighty kings. His faithful love endures forever.
18 He smote powerful kings— His faithful love endures forever.
19 Sihon king of the Amorites, His faithful love endures forever.
20 And Og king of Bashan. His faithful love endures forever.
21 God gave the land of these kings as an inheritance— His faithful love endures forever.
22 A special possession to His servant Israel. His faithful love endures forever.

23 He remembered us in our weakness. His faithful love endures forever.
24 He saved us from our enemies. His faithful love endures forever.
25 He gives food to every living thing. His faithful love endures forever.

26 Give thanks to the God of Heaven. His faithful love endures forever.

In addition, here are some links to some wonderful passages that I believe will bless you:

David’s Song of Praise                                             1 Chronicles 16:7-36

Glorious Presence of the Lord                                2 Chronicles 5:7-14

Defeat of the Armies                                                2 Chronicles 20:20-24

A Song for the Sabbath Day                                    Psalm 92

Songs of Joy and Victory                                         Psalm 118

Perhaps, you might write your own Psalm and list all the ways that God has expressed His steadfast love to you…. When you are finished, read it out loud and declare it to your heart in the hearing of your ears. You might be surprised at how powerful giving thanks can be….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Give Praise to the Lord…

1 Chronicles 16:8 (NIV)

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done.

Inherent with giving thanks to God is the offering of praise to Him as the expression of our gratitude! And we can do so in two ways: vertically and horizontally. While I think, for the most part, we are comfortable to express our praise directly to God during individual prayer time, or perhaps, during corporate worship; I believe where we might not feel so “bold” is sharing our thanks and praise in front of other people outside of family or church. Our Verse of the Day encourages us to “proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done.” This level of exaltation goes beyond our homes and our local assembly. We are to declare the life of God within His people to everyone … everywhere. Let’s look at this verse in the immediate context when David brought the Ark of the Covenant into the Tent (Tabernacle); offered sacrifices; and appointed congregational worship leaders:

1 Chronicles 16:7-36 (NIV)

7 That day David first appointed Asaph and his associates to give praise to the Lord in this manner:

8 Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done. 9 Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all His wonderful acts. 10 Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. 11 Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always. 12 Remember the wonders He has done,His miracles, and the judgments He pronounced, 13 you His servants, the descendants of Israel, His chosen ones, the children of Jacob. 14 He is the Lord our God; His judgments are in all the earth. 15 He remembers His covenant forever, the promise He made, for a thousand generations, 16 the covenant He made with Abraham, the oath He swore to Isaac. 17 He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant: 18 “To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion you will inherit.” 19 When they were but few in number, few indeed, and strangers in it, 20 they wandered from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another. 21 He allowed no one to oppress them; for their sake He rebuked kings: 22 “Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.” 23 Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim His salvation day after day. 24 Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples. 25 For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; He is to be feared above all gods. 26 For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. 27 Splendor and majesty are before Him; strength and joy are in His dwelling place. 28 Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. 29 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; bring an offering and come before Him. Worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness. 30 Tremble before Him, all the earth! The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. 31 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!” 32 Let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them! 33 Let the trees of the forest sing, let them sing for joy before the Lord, for He comes to judge the earth. 34 Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever. 35 Cry out, “Save us, God our Savior; gather us and deliver us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name, and glory in your praise.” 36 Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Then all the people said “Amen” and “Praise the Lord.”

I know this was a lengthy passage of Scripture, but I find it so expressive and powerful! I believe it truly captures the heart of thanksgiving and describes its foundations for worship. Yes, and note in Verse 7 how David first appointed Asaph and his associates to give praise to the Lord in this manner!  This is our blueprint for praise and worship! So, I pray these thoughtful, inspired instructions of David will encourage us to find liberty of expression not only during times of congregational worship … but will fill us with courage and boldness to express the praises of God with others who cross our paths. Indeed, we need to get out of our comfort zones and tell everyone what HE has done … declaring His faithfulness not only in the lives of His people before us, but in our own lives as well!

Yes, give praise to the Lord and proclaim His Name! His Name is a strong and mighty tower … a shelter like no other … and it alone has the power to save! As the Prophet Joel foretold, “For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Cf. Joel 2:32; Romans 10:13) And as Peter declared: “There is no other name under heaven given among mankind by which we must be saved.” (Cf. Acts 4:12) Indeed, what a beautiful, wonderful, powerful name … is the name of Jesus! Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

God of Wonders…

Job 37:5-6 (NIV)

God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; He does great things beyond our understanding. He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’

I thought our Verse of the Day had a great message as I watched the gale bent trees and wind driven sheets of rain outside my window – the forces of Hurricane Nicole as it passed through our area. It reminded me again of the sovereign power of God displayed in creation, and this truth resonated even deeper today.  Coming from the Book of Job, I realized that I had not read this particular book in a while, so I thought that I would at least read this chapter and catch up on the wisdom of my patient, suffering friend. However, Chapter 37 was just a continuation of a “rebuke” directed at Job from his friend, Elihu, that had started earlier at the beginning of Chapter 35. So, I spent some time reading these chapters. Although we find at the conclusion of the Book of Job that Elihu and two other friends were misguided in their assessment of Job’s character and his relationship with God, I think their insight and contemplations about the character of God should not be ignored or dismissed. If we look at the discourse of Elihu, we can still glean some inspiration from him that will impact our theology.

Job 37:1-16 (NIV)

1 “At this my heart pounds and leaps from its place. Listen! Listen to the roar of His voice, to the rumbling that comes from His mouth. He unleashes His lightning beneath the whole heaven and sends it to the ends of the earth. After that comes the sound of his roar; He thunders with His majestic voice. When His voice resounds, He holds nothing back. God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; He does great things beyond our understanding. He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’ So that everyone He has made may know His work, He stops all people from their work. The animals take cover; they remain in their dens. The tempest comes out from its chamber, the cold from the driving winds. 10 The breath of God produces ice, and the broad waters become frozen. 11 He loads the clouds with moisture; He scatters His lightning through them. 12 At His direction they swirl around over the face of the whole earth to do whatever He commands them. 13 He brings the clouds to punish people, or to water His earth and show His love. 14 “Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders. 15 Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes His lightning flash? 16 Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of Him who has perfect knowledge?

In this particular passage, we can find truth regarding the majesty and power of God as it is displayed in familiar scenes of our physical existence. I love the imagery that Elihu uses to describe tempestuous weather … the experience of flashing bolts of lightning and the thunderous sonic booms that shake us afterwards. He entertains the reactions of both man and creatures; and he attributes these workings of nature to its Creator – God Himself. We can observe the mysterious and the miraculous in nature and never quite understand how it all works or how it all fits together. Seriously, do we really understand rain? Do we really understand the wind and its movement? Oh, scientists and meteorologists might explain “how it works,” but I think they fail to expound on “why it works.” I believe the “why” is the inherent wisdom and knowledge of God. Indeed, our Father has ordained and designed every detail of creation for His own purpose and pleasure.

As I meditate on these things, what amazes me the most is that God delights to share His creative pleasure with mankind. King David mused: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.” (Cf. Psalm 8:3-5) How incredibly wonderful it is that we can view the starry expanses of the universe, the majestic heights of mountains, the beauty of windswept canyons, and intricacies of wave sculpted coastlines – their awe-inspiring vistas filling our eyes with amazement and our hearts with the knowledge of His perfect splendor….

So, yes, I invite you to revisit some of the colorful, poetic language found in the Book of Job … and really throughout much of the “wisdom” literature compiled in the Scriptures. People, moved by the Holy Spirit, captured a wealth of understanding about God as they contemplated and meditated on His creative works. I think, sometimes, we just are too busy in our lives to stop and notice … or to ponder the incredible design of creation and every detail within it. Maybe this verse is a reminder to stop for a moment and receive the joy of knowing everything was created for our enjoyment and delight as well. Indeed, what a gracious and loving Father we have to love and worship in return for this experience of life! So, I pray that today we will be encouraged to spend time with our Heavenly Father and to give Him thanks for the lovingkindness He displays toward us through His Creation….

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. ~ Genesis 1:1

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

The Ultimate Authority

Romans 13:1 (NIV)

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

Our Verse of the Day is not always seen in a positive light … especially when we can survey the history of governments and rulers that have come and gone over the millennia. Some have been viewed as forces for good; while others have proliferated evil against their own people and surrounding countries. While we do not always agree with the government authorities over us, in democratic and republic forms, citizens are still afforded the privilege to cast their votes for whom they believe will best serve the purposes of God. And so, I believe we should exercise our right to vote whenever possible for this very reason….

Romans 13:1-7 (NIV)

1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. 6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

To me, the primary principal that we need to understand from this verse is the sovereignty of God. There is no vote cast … no military coup … no passing of a monarchal crown … no political violence or war that God has not permitted to occur within His greater sovereign will. Sometimes that is hard for us to understand when we see the mistreatment and suffering of innocent people under a totalitarian regime; but we trust that God will cause all things to work for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Cf. Romans 8:28) In addition, we need to realize that the higher purposes of God will always result in His glory … not the glory of man or any other. (Cf. Isaiah 42:8; 48:10-11) God, speaking through Moses, declared to Pharaoh His sovereignty saying, “For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” (Cf. Exodus 9:15-16; Romans 9:17) On this side of history, we now know the glory God achieved through this ancient Egyptian king….

We cannot know all the reasons why God exercises His sovereign will in the ways that He chooses; but we do know what God has revealed in His Word is the assurance that He is working His will for our ultimate good. We can look at the historical records of King Cyrus, King Darius, and King Artaxerxes during the captivity of Israel in the Babylonian Empire. (Cf. Ezra 6:14) We can look at the testimonies of some Old Testament Prophets:

2 Chronicles 20:5-6 (NIV)

5 Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the Lord in the front of the new courtyard 6 and said: “Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you.

Jeremiah 10:6-7 (NIV)

6 No one is like you, Lord; you are great, and your name is mighty in power. 7 Who should not fear you, King of the nations? This is your due. Among all the wise leaders of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you.

Zephaniah 3:7-8 (NIV)

7 Of Jerusalem I thought, ‘Surely you will fear me and accept correction!’ Then her place of refuge would not be destroyed, nor all my punishments come upon all those I appointed over her. But they were still eager to act corruptly in all they did. 8 Therefore wait for me,” declares the Lord, “for the day I will stand up to testify. I have decided to assemble the nations, to gather the kingdoms and to pour out my wrath on them— all my fierce anger. The whole world will be consumed by the fire of my jealous anger.

These are just a few examples of where the Scriptures have testified to the sovereignty of God … not only over the nation of Israel … but over all the nations and kingdoms of the earth. And if you think of these events in theological terms, the sovereign work of God has been to bring Israel into a faithful, covenant relationship with Himself. And that is what He desires for all believers! Jesus said, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” (Cf. John 6:29) So perhaps we need to view God with this perspective in mind. What God permits in the geopolitical realm is to accomplish His will and purpose in the spiritual realms of our hearts. The authorities over us are part of the context in which each of us live out the message of the Gospel. I think Isaiah 48 provides great insight into how God works in the lives of His people in order to bring them to the obedience of faith. I encourage you to read it….

Both Peter and Paul admonished believers to submit to the governmental and civil authorities over us; to show proper respect for them and their offices; and to pray for them so that we may live peaceful and quiet lives:

1 Peter 2:13-17 (NIV)

13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 (NIV)

1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Well, there is certainly more that could be discussed on this topic, but I think this will suffice to get us focused in the right direction.  And I hope that you will see your freedom to vote is part of the context in which God is working His will on the earth.  I urge you to exercise your right and to pray for those in office as well as those seeking office.  Pray they will be servants of God as they fulfill the responsibilities of their offices. Ask God to fill them with the knowledge of His will through all wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives. (Cf. Colossians 1:9) Then, perhaps, we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Fear of the Lord…

Proverbs 9:10 (NIV)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Our Verse of the Day is one we have studied before; but perhaps, the Lord wants us to review it again. And today I sense there is a need to distinguish the concept of “fear” as it is applied here in this wisdom literature because we can confuse the use and application of this word without its some context.

The first use of the word translated “fear” in the Bible occurs in Genesis 3:10, “He (Adam) answered, “I heard you (the Lord) in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” In this context, the traditional meaning of “fear” is recognized because Adam described himself as “afraid”. The definition here is “a feeling induced by perceived danger or threat that occurs within us and which causes a change in metabolic and organ functions and ultimately a change in behavior; such as fleeing, hiding, or freezing from perceived traumatic events.” In short, fear is a response to the perception of a danger or threat to the body or life. But this is not the type of response God desires in us when it comes to an intimate relationship with Him. In this respect, God tells us: “Do not fear … do not be afraid.” (Cf. Isaiah 41:13,14; 43:1,5; 44:2,8; 51:7,12; 54:4,14)

So then, what is the “fear of the Lord” as used in our verse? Used as a noun this context, “fear” refers to profound reverence, awe, and wonder toward God. This concept of “fear” finds its expression through worship, submission, and obedience. Consider Exodus 20:20 where we see both uses of this word: “Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” Moses asserts that our understanding of who God “is” and a reverent relationship with Him should keep us from sinning against Him. Likewise, in Deuteronomy 6:13, Moses admonishes the people: “You shall fear the Lord your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name.” I believe we can infer from these passages that “the fear of the Lord” will ultimately find its deepest expression as “love” for God. As Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands.” (Cf. John 14:15) Therefore, worship, submission, and obedience are the proper responses of love.

I think the Holy Spirit wants us to heed what these Scriptures are saying. It is important for us to understand that we will not find or obtain the wisdom of God until we fear Him. Until we hold God with deepest reverence in our hearts and believe Him at His Word, the knowledge and understanding that we need to submit to Him will fail to penetrate our hearts or change them. This is why we most assuredly need Jesus Christ to abide in us! For He is the power of God and the wisdom of God! And He has chosen us out of the world to follow Him and to worship Him.

I believe the question to ask yourself is this: “Do I truly fear God?” Consider this verse: “Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” (Cf. Job 1:8) Do you think God would characterize you with those words? Over and over in Scripture, we are admonished to fear the Lord, yet I wonder if we truly do…. Jesus shared some strong words for the hypocrisy of “religious” people:

Luke 12:1-5 (NIV)

1 Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak to His disciples, saying: “First of all, be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 3 What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. 4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him.”

What is the application for us? Our worship of the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ should be in Spirit and in Truth! (Cf. John 4:23-25) Indeed, holy fear, awe, and reverence for God, whether genuine or insincere, will be manifested in our behavior and conduct. It should be authentic and without hypocrisy. As Paul wrote: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a person sows, that he will also reap.” (Cf. Galatians 6:7) Likewise, we find a similar admonition from James:

James 3:13-17 (NIV)

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.

Well, I hope your thoughts are stirred; and I pray that each of us will spend some time in meditation to focus on what it means to “fear” God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom for this life. Through wisdom we gain understanding of the awesome majesty, power, and holiness of God. Yes, we come to know His Will … as revealed through His commandments. And then, submission and obedience will ultimately be our expression of love for Him. As Solomon concluded: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.” (Cf. Ecclesiastes 12:13)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Let The World Know….

Isaiah 12:4 (NIV)

In that day you will say: “Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done, and proclaim that His name is exalted.

Our verse today connects well with our previous look at Psalm 33.  So let’s look at the full context:

Isaiah 12:1-6 (NIV)

1 In that day you will say: “I will praise you, Lord. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me. Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord Himself, is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.” With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. In that day you will say: “Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done, and proclaim that His name is exalted. Sing to the Lord, for He has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”

What beautiful words the prophet has declared for us! And these words are from the breath and lips of God … foretelling our faith in His salvation and proclaiming the praise His people will have in their hearts “in that day.”  So I asked myself, “What day?”  “When will these things be or come to pass?”  So I decided to read what preceded this song of praise and turned back to Isaiah 11.  And then my spirit began to tremble within my heart as I read the prophetic word concerning Jesus … the root of Jesse:

Isaiah 11:1-5; 10-12 (NIV)

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord— and He will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what He sees with His eyes, or decide by what He hears with His ears; but with righteousness He will judge the needy, with justice He will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth; with the breath of his lips He will slay the wicked. (Cf. Revelation 1:16; 19:15) Righteousness will be His belt and faithfulness the sash around His waist.

10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to Him, and His resting place will be glorious. 11 In that day the Lord will reach out His hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of His people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the Mediterranean. 12 He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; He will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.

Oh, how I find great encouragement in the Word of God!  The light and truth of His Word instills peace within me. It inspires praise from the depths of my inner being.  So, yes, I want to sing to the Lord, for He has done glorious things.  I want to join with His people and let this be known to all the world. Yes, I will shout and sing for joy because Jesus is the Holy One of Israel and He is with us!  Let His Name be exalted in all the earth! And “that day”?  I believe “that day” is here … that day is now.  Today is the day of salvation….

Isaiah 49:7-9 (NIV)

This is what the Lord says— the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel—to Him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers: “Kings will see you and stand up, princes will see and bow down, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.” This is what the Lord says: “In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Prayer of Moses

Psalm 90:2, 4 (NIV)

Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.

I always love reading the Psalms!  So many provide comfort and a time of wonderful meditation. Others, Like Psalm 90, challenge our perspective and perception of God.  This particular Psalm is titled: A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.  I think it is important to have this in mind to provide more context for the theology presented and the language used.

Psalm 90

A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You turn people back to dust, saying, “Return, O children of men.”
A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.
Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death— they are like the new grass of the morning:
In the morning it springs up new, but by evening it is dry and withered.

We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation.
You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.
All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan.
10 Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
11 If only we knew the power of your anger! Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due Your Name.
12 Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

13 Relent, Lord! How long will it be? Have compassion on your servants.
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble.
16 May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children.

17 May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.

So we see in the Psalm, in this Prayer of Moses, the holiness, majesty, and sovereignty of God contrasted with the sinfulness, weakness, and mortality of man.  Yet, within this contrast we find the anticipation of compassion … the assurance of unfailing love … and the restoration of personal relationship with the Lord God.  I see this prayer as a call to understand that Father God is the Creator … and we are the created … His children.  And how we enter relationship with God is predicated upon a humble spirit that respects, honors, and reverences Him.  That we can even have an intimate relationship with God has been ordained by Him in the first place. Why? Because He created us in His image … so that we might have the capacity to know Him.

A focus on Verses 8-12 afford us a great opportunity to gain perspective. Our days here on earth are limited; and this knowledge in itself should lead us to wisdom. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His precepts have good understanding. To Him belongs eternal praise.” (Cf. Psalm 111:10) It has been the rebellion of His children that has evoked His anger … His wrath.  Both of these terms convey the emotions that we would feel under the same circumstances. Indeed, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Cf. Proverbs 9:10) And this Prayer of Moses leads us to these conclusions that King David and King Solomon share in their inspired writings.

Well, a different Psalm … with a solemn message for us to consider … is what we might need to hear.  I will finish with this thought:

Deuteronomy 31:14-30 (NIV)

14 The Lord said to Moses, “Now the day of your death is near. Call Joshua and present yourselves at the tent of meeting, where I will commission him.” So Moses and Joshua came and presented themselves at the tent of meeting. 15 Then the Lord appeared at the tent in a pillar of cloud, and the cloud stood over the entrance to the tent. 16 And the Lord said to Moses: “You are going to rest with your ancestors, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them. 17 And in that day I will become angry with them and forsake them; I will hide my face from them, and they will be destroyed. Many disasters and calamities will come on them, and in that day they will ask, ‘Have not these disasters come on us because our God is not with us?’ 18 And I will certainly hide my face in that day because of all their wickedness in turning to other gods.

19 “Now write down this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it, so that it may be a witness for me against them20 When I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, the land I promised on oath to their ancestors, and when they eat their fill and thrive, they will turn to other gods and worship them, rejecting me and breaking my covenant. 21 And when many disasters and calamities come on them, this song will testify against them, because it will not be forgotten by their descendants. I know what they are disposed to do, even before I bring them into the land I promised them on oath.” 22 So Moses wrote down this song that day and taught it to the Israelites.

23 The Lord gave this command to Joshua son of Nun: “Be strong and courageous, for you will bring the Israelites into the land I promised them on oath, and I myself will be with you.” 24 After Moses finished writing in a book the words of this law from beginning to end, 25 he gave this command to the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord: 26 “Take this Book of the Law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God. There it will remain as a witness against you27 For I know how rebellious and stiff-necked you are. If you have been rebellious against the Lord while I am still alive and with you, how much more will you rebel after I die! 28 Assemble before me all the elders of your tribes and all your officials, so that I can speak these words in their hearing and call the heavens and the earth to testify against them. 29 For I know that after my death you are sure to become utterly corrupt and to turn from the way I have commanded you. In the latter days, disaster will fall on you because you will do evil in the sight of the Lord and arouse His anger by what your hands have made.”

 The Song of Moses

30 And Moses recited the words of this song from beginning to end in the hearing of the whole assembly of Israel:  (You will have to turn to Deuteronomy 32 to read The Song of Moses).

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

All is Yours

1 Chronicles 29:11 (NIV)

Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.

I really love the praise and exaltation recorded in this verse … although I have not read 1 Chronicles in quite some time.  So, I am now motivated to do so!  As always, I believe we should consider our verse within the surrounding context in order to understand what is being communicated.  The theme of Chapter 29 is the gathering of resources necessary for the building of the temple of God.  King David addresses the people and relates how he has accumulated from the natural resources and treasuries of Israel (tax dollars) a large sum (i.e. “all my resources”) for its construction.  David then shares that on his own accord, he is additionally giving of his personal wealth for the project. Then David asks, “Who is willing to consecrate themselves to the Lord today?  In our modern vernacular, “Who else is willing to put some skin in the game … to ante up … to make an investment … and to show their devotion to God in such a tangible way?” Then the leaders of families; officers of tribes; commanders and officials gave “willingly” of their financial resources for the work of the temple of God. (Verse 6) In fact, the response of leadership was so massive that the people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord. And King David praised their generosity as well! (Verse 9) So, we read the praise and exaltation that David offered to God:

1 Chronicles 29:10-13 (NIV)

10 David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, “Praise be to you, Lord, the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.
11 Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.
12 
Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.
13 Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.

To me, this offering of praise and thanksgiving to God is a beautiful testament to the hearts of the leaders and the people who acknowledge the benevolence and blessing of God over their lives.  David recognizes and proclaims the greatness and majesty of God … His sovereign ownership of all that He created … and that all we have comes from Him.  With heartfelt emotion and conviction, David continued in his oration before the people:

1 Chronicles 29:14-20 (NIV)

14 “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. 15 We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. 16 Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you. 17 I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you. 18 Lord, the God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you. 19 And give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, statutes and decrees and to do everything to build the palatial structure for which I have provided.” 20 Then David said to the whole assembly, “Praise the Lord your God.” So they all praised the Lord, the God of their fathers; they bowed down, prostrating themselves before the Lord and the king.

Oh, that we would embrace this mindset and that it would overtake us in this generation! I see an application to be applied to our own hearts as we endeavor to build the true tabernacle … the Body of Christ.  As Paul instructed, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you together are that temple.” (Cf. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17) For we are the temple of the living God. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 6:16) Indeed, this affirmation that we as individual believers form the temple of God is found in most of the epistles written by Paul.  As he wrote to the church in Ephesus:

Ephesians 2:19-22 (NIV)

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of His household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In Him (Jesus) the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.

1 Peter 2:4-6 (NIV)

As you come to Him (Jesus), the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to Him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house (a temple of the Spirit) to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.” (Quoting Isaiah 28:16) Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” (Quoting Psalm 118:22) and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” (Quoting Isaiah 8:14)

So here is an application that I see.

King David charged the people to build the temple of God for which he had made provision.  He amassed the resources, and inspired the people to give of their time, treasure, and talents.  The purpose was to bring the Kingdom of God into reality in his generation.  Likewise, King Jesus, became the foundation … the chief cornerstone … of the everlasting temple of God.  He, too, made provision in that He gave the resources of His light, His wisdom, His teachings, His words, His miracles, His sanctification, His grace, His peace, and His love that surpasses all knowledge.  Indeed, His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. (Cf. 2 Peter 1:3) And Jesus charged His disciples and followers to give of their time, treasure, and talents to build a living temple in which God dwells by His Spirit. Yes, Jesus has provided everything we need to do the work of building together. The purpose is to bring the Kingdom of God into reality … even now in our generation!

So I join with King David to ask: “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this?” Perhaps the more relevant question is: “Do we recognize and affirm within our souls that all things come from God, and we simply return to Him that which is His own?” I believe that most significant point (in light of our knowledge of God) is our “willingness” to give of ourselves … just as David did … just as Jesus gave of Himself. As Paul urged, “In view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Cf. Romans 12:1) Does not giving reflect the integrity of our hearts and the genuineness of our faith? So a question I believe each one of us should ask ourselves each morning is: “Am I willing to consecrate myself to the Lord today?” I challenge each of us to consider how the giving of our time, treasure, and talents to the temple of God … the Body of Christ … demonstrates our faith. Want to be bold and courageous!?! Ask yourself, “Is the generosity of what I offer to the temple of God – praiseworthy?”

I want to leave us there to reflect….

In my meditation, my thoughts are these: My body belongs to the One who created it.  My life belongs to the One who ordained it.  All that I have was given by the One who provided it. Everything I am belongs to a gracious, loving, kind, compassionate, generous, and faithful God! Whatever I give to God is nothing more than a portion of the all He has given me.  Should I not also be generous in the offering of my life because of His grace? “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Cf. Romans 8:32) Oh, my thoughts have returned to exaltation … to praise and thanksgiving to Him who has given us all things.  I want to join King David … but in my generation:

Revelation 4:8-11 (NIV)

Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.” Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: 11“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

Revelation 5:11-13 (NIV)

11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strengthand honor and glory and praise!” 13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

Revelation 7:12 (NIV)

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!

God is the “Why”

Romans 11:13 (NIV)

How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out!

When we looked at Psalm 103 last week, we talked about the mysteries of God … what we can know of God … and what remains unknown.  Here Paul emphasizes the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out!  Yes, there is a vast wealth of knowledge that we as humans … as created beings … will not ever be able to attain. Yet, that point should not be a hindrance to faith.  To me, it is the unknowable things we are able to observe and experience as living beings that draw us to our Creator.  It is our ability to comprehend that God knows infinitely more that makes us unique … that drives our quest as human beings to pursue knowledge and understanding of created things … that draws our attention to Him.  Indeed, it is the unknowable that builds the foundation of faith.  Here are some additional Scriptures for us to consider:

Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Romans 8:24 (NIV)

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?

1 Corinthians 2:7-10 (NIV)

No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”– the things God has prepared for those who love Him— 10 these are the things God has revealed to us by His Spirit.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (NIV)

17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

So what is important to know? I would like to encourage all of us to seek wisdom and knowledge as King Solomon did.  These are the things God desires us to know:

Proverbs 2:1-8 (NIV)

1My son (or daughter), if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding— indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds success in store for the upright, He is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for He guards the course of the just and protects the way of His faithful ones.

Proverbs 9:10 (NIV)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

You see, if we really want to know more … if we truly desire wisdom and knowledge … we should focus ourselves on the fear of the Lord!  The fear of the Lord is deep reverence for Him.  And that deep reverence issues from knowing that God is the Creator of all things.  Despite all the advances of astrophysics and quantum theory and the like; the expanse of the universe and all the formations and motions and phenomenon are still a mystery as to origin and perpetuation.  Despite all the advances of medical science, our own formation into being inside the womb is still essentially unknowable. Oh we might know HOW the processes sequence to form a human being, but we do not know WHY those processes work. I submit that God the Father … the Creator … is the WHY! The WHY of the I AM Designer is hidden from us.  It is our knowledge of the HOW that intrigues us to search deeper for the WHY!  I hope that I am articulating this in a comprehensible manner….

What I believe is that God is more concerned with human knowledge of Him and a desire to have an intimate relationship with Him than whether we understand the how all “being” came into existence.  We will never know the answer to that question … because we are not God.  We are created.  Created for His pleasure.  Created to have relationship with Him … with one another … and yes … with creation itself.  The writer of Hebrews reminds us that “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Cf. Hebrews 11:6) Perhaps, this is why the Prophet Isaiah admonished: “Seek the Lord while He may be found;   call on Him while He is near.” (Cf. Isaiah 55:6) And as Paul preached to the Athenians:

Acts 17:22-28 (NIV)

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. 24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything. Rather, He Himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are His offspring.’”

Again, I think that what Moses wrote is sufficient for us to apply: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” What God HAS revealed is sufficient for us to know Him … His nature … His character … His will … and to enable us to follow His law. (Cf. Deuteronomy 29:29) As Peter wrote: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” (Cf. 2 Peter 1:3) Indeed, there is enough knowledge to know that God exists and that He loves us! And we can trust that knowledge when we believe in Jesus … the One He sent … the exact representation of His being. (Cf. Hebrews 1:3) Maybe this will afford new meaning and insight to a final thought I had: “ Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Cf. Matthew 6:33)

So Now You Know ….

Have a Blessed Day!

Where Do I Stand

Job 23:10-11

But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold. My feet have closely followed His steps; I have kept to His way without turning aside.

I read this verse and I had to pause for some self-examination. Surely God knows everything!  It’s a given that He knows the way I take.  And I pondered, “Will I come forth as gold when I am tested? Will I persevere under trial? Just how close do my feet follow in His steps?  Have I consistently, faithfully kept my steps from turning aside?”  The final question … when I asked the question … is could I have answered or responded confidently like Job? Then I thought, maybe I should just read the entire Chapter 23.  So when I did, the answers to my questions seemed further away. My inquiry took me on a journey that I will share with you; and I apologize for the length, but perhaps, it will resonate with you at the conclusion. I do encourage you to read Job 23 in order to understand what Job was feeling and questioning in the midst of his own predicament and suffering.

Understandably, there are some theological points to challenge us in this passage and the entire book. As Job continues to complain about the personal suffering he is enduring … the unfairness and injustice of it … it appears that Job begins to consider the possibility that his complaint to God could be a form of rebellion (sin) in itself. Why? Because Job is in essence asserting that God has been unjust or unrighteous with him in this situation.  God has inflicted or allowed the infliction of severe pain, unrelenting distress, and great physical anguish. Job believes the “punishment” is unexpected … unbearable … and undeserved. Yet, Job also knows that neither injustice nor unrighteousness could come from the heart or nature of a loving God. To accuse God of doing wrong is … well … wrong itself. Like all of us, Job wants desperately to understand what God is doing … why He allows righteous people to be afflicted … why He permits bad things to happen to good people.  Indeed, this is an ongoing theological question that has been difficult to resolve with our limited human perspective or reasoning.

Many of us might assert that we live righteous lives … Christian lives … and perhaps even contend that our “goodness” should inoculate us from hardship in life. Yet, the experience of Job demonstrates that the absence of suffering will not necessarily be the case. So, if we should become bitter at God over the afflictions and hardships we encounter or experience during the course of life, what does that “response” convey about our own attitudes toward God? Like Job, our concept and knowledge of God is incomplete. We only know in part. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 13:9) His ways are higher than our ways … and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. (Cf. Isaiah 55:9) And frankly, our knowledge of ourselves can be inaccurate as well.  As the Prophet Jeremiah observed, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it? I, the Lord, search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” (Cf. Jeremiah 17:9-10) And yet, David reflects that God, in His great mercy, does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. (Cf. Psalm 103:10) Both points are valid and add to the theological tension we must consider….

I am drawn to Psalm 139, where David meditates on the intimate knowledge that God possesses of each of us.  It is difficult to even comprehend how God knows each one of us individually; personally; deeply; and yet, still loves us so passionately.  Though knowing the holiness and righteousness of God … knowing that he and each person falls short of His perfection … David still trusted and embraced the love of God when he prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Cf. Psalm 139:23-24) I think this is what Job was doing as He desperately attempted to figure out the “reason” for the cascades of misfortune that had befallen him.  Job had followed the rules. He had lived blamelessly. Job contended that he has done nothing wrong … or at least nothing that should have deserved the loss of everything – short of his life itself. But then, I was reminded of the story about the rich young ruler:

Matthew 19:16-22 (NKJV)

16 Now behold, one came and said to Jesus, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” 17 So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to Him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, “‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ 19 ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” 20 The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect (complete), go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

The young ruler claimed a righteousness like that of Job. He had kept all the commandments! Yet, Jesus exposed a deeper issue … a heart issue … that the young man had not considered. Jesus revealed that in his heart, the young man was not “spiritually” where God wanted him to be. The young ruler trusted in himself and his own outward goodness … not realizing that his spirit was focused inward and filled with pride. Perhaps he mistakenly supposed that his riches sustained his life rather than the God who created him. Indeed, more “refining” was needed if the man wanted to have intimate relationship with God.  And as Job observed in his discourse, “God is unique, and who can make Him change? And whatever His soul desires, that He does. For He performs what is appointed for me, and many such things are with Him. Therefore I am terrified at His presence; when I consider this, I am afraid of Him.” (Cf. Job 23:13-15) Job knew that he was missing something … that He lacked full knowledge of what God desired. Job had maintained his integrity before God, and I don’t believe that Job was self-deceived about his own righteousness … though his so-called friends had tried to convince him as much. Yet, it appears there was something more God desired of Job or wanted to accomplish in Job. And it eluded Job until God later confronted him and revealed Himself.  I encourage you to read Job Chapters 38-42. Here is an excerpt to give see where I’m headed with this study:

Job 40:1-8 (NIV)

The Lord said to Job:

“Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer Him!” Then Job answered the Lord: “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer— twice, but I will say no more.” Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm: “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?

Perhaps there is a deeper “refining” process that transcends our attempts and abilities to “keep” the moral commandments of God.  And that might be the point we should note. As hard as we might endeavor to be obedient to the commands of God in our flesh, we still lack what is more desired by God – the transformation of our hearts through faith, hope, and love.  Through faith we discover and embrace the love of God; and through love, obedience is accomplished.  But faith in our works … in our own accomplishments … is quite misguided. And I believe this is what “righteous” Job learned through his experience. As Isaiah would later declare: “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” (Cf. Isaiah 64:6) And Paul later affirmed, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Cf. Romans 3:23) So, while I think we should all keep a healthy perspective of ourselves, I sense we need to consider that the afflictions and injustices that we encounter in life might not always be associated with sin or God’s righteous judgment of our sin.  Maybe God permits what humans might view as “injustice” to accomplish the greater purposes of faith, hope, and love!

John 9:1-3 (NKJV)

1 Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

One might consider that God was “unjust” to allow this man to be born blind. Now, think about all the birth “defects” that have occurred among the human population. Is God unloving or unjust to allow these things to occur to the innocent?  Yet, these “permitted” situations provide a great context for faith, hope, and love to be accomplished within us. Would we learn compassion for one another if our bodies were perfect and never ill? Would we learn to love one another in the absence of physical deformities or infirmities? If Job had never suffered in the manner he did, would he have sought to know God as deeply as he ultimately did? Think about the final outcome of this blind man’s life. His physical blindness was reversed and healed; but the greater result was that the work of God was revealed! As Jesus declared, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” (Cf. John 6:29) Think about the final outcome of Job’s life. God blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning…. (Cf. Job 42:12) Oh, there is an “outcome” that God desires for each of us … something deeper … more personal … more intimate! There is a desire for us to believe Him!  There is a desire for us to be holy, just as He is holy! (Cf. 1 Peter 1:15-16) There is a calling for us to be conformed to image of His Son! (Cf. Romans 8:29) What God desires in us requires FAITH!

I think the Book of Job provides us with great insight into the complexity of faith and its vital role for fellowship with God. It supports the theological foundation of what Paul would later posit: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:8-9) As a possible contemporary of Job, Abraham embodied the power of faith to accomplish what God desires in his people. Regarding the faith of Abraham, Paul wrote: “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness.” (Cf. Romans 4:2-3) Likewise, Paul notes in Romans 4:5-8 how David understood the imputed righteousness of God: “But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.” Here Paul is quoting from Psalm 32:1-2.

So, why is this important? Because the truth of the Gospel is found through faith! As Paul declared, “ I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Cf. Habakkuk 2:4) This truth has been revealed in Job … in Abraham … in David … and in those mentioned in the Hall of Faith (Cf. Hebrews 11).  If you will take time to read their stories, you will discover what those who “lived by faith” also had to endure all types of suffering in their lives! And you will observe what their faith produced during and through times of incredible testing and trials.  You will see, “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Cf. Hebrews 11:39-40) That something better was Jesus Christ – His Son! This is what Paul brings to our attention:

Romans 4:18-25 (NIV)

18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” (Cf. Genesis 15:5) 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised. 22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

When we think about the possible injustices that God has allowed in our world … in the lives of His people … there is one great injustice that He ordained that stands out in my mind. For God made Jesus, who know no sin, to be sin for us – so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21) Was it unfair of God … to sacrifice Himself for the world?  Was it unjust of Him … to determine that the justice we deserve would be borne by His only begotten Son?

Hebrews 5:5-10 (NIV)

In the same way, Christ did not take on Himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to Him, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.” (Quote is from Psalm 2:7) And He says in another place, “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” (Quote is from Psalm 110:4) During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission. Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Isaiah 53

1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him; nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces He was despised, and we held Him in low esteem. Surely, He took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted.
But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter; and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth. From confinement and judgment He was taken away. Yet who of His generation protested? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people He was punished. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death, though He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. 10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer, and though the Lord makes His life an offering for sin, He will see His offspring and prolong His days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in His hand. 11 After He has suffered, He will see the fruit of His suffering and be satisfied; by His knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and He will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will give Him a portion among the great, and He will divide the spoils with the strong, because He poured out His life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Let these passages sink deep into your spirit for a moment. Let them unearth every thought you might have about any personal unfairness or injustice you have experienced.  Whatever you are going through … whatever you are experiencing … whatever hardship or affliction or suffering or despair of life … I want to encourage you to seek God in fervent prayer today. In His body, Jesus experienced every form of human suffering. He knows firsthand the intensity of your physical or emotional pain! He knows what you are enduring! He knows where you are! Oh, His light may reveal the presence of sin within your heart for you to confess; but I believe there may be something far greater that He desires to do in your life.  Allowing suffering may just be the “refining” work that He is doing for your faith – your precious faith that is of greater worth than gold! There may be a special work that God has chosen to reveal in you … so that others will receive the fruit of your suffering.  You may be closer to the image of Jesus than you realize! Perhaps this is why Paul declared, “I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death. (Cf. Philippians 3:10) For God is producing a faith in you and me that understands righteousness is imputed and not earned … that salvation is received because of who He is and not because of what we have done.  Yes, He is filling you and me with a faith to know His grace is sufficient … with a faith that can be harnessed to move mountains … to do the impossible! You and I may not see the final outcome of what God is doing in and through our lives, but I am certain that we should trust Him and His great love for us as we travel along this journey of faith….

1 Peter 1:3-9 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealedThough you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

We are not able to choose the method or circumstances by which God determines to cultivate and refine our faith in Him.  But we know that His will is for faith to be formed and to grow within us so that it may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed! Without faith, it is impossible to please God. (Cf. Hebrews 11:6) Our faith must be genuine … it must be sincere.  So, I believe God will work (as His sovereignty determines) to bring each of us to an authentic faith … as we look to Jesus, the author and finisher of faith. (Cf. Hebrews 12:2) For Jesus will distribute (just as He determines), the gifts of faith for the benefit and common good of all. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11) Because it is faith that will advance His Kingdom, it is through faith that we are equipped for works of service, so that the Body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Cf. Ephesians 4:12-13)

So, I have come to believe that the Book of Job ultimately teaches us the purposes of faith … its role in hope … and its fulfillment in love. As Paul would later explain: “12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:12-13) If you have read this far, I appreciate your hanging with me on this side excursion into the topic of suffering.  I hope it has presented some ideas for you to ponder … or better still … encouraged you to dig deeper into the Word to discover more for yourself. (Cf. Acts 17:11) Regardless, if you are experiencing deep anguish in body or soul, I pray you will know in your inmost being that God is there with you.  He is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 1:3) May you and I, along with Job, in faith proclaim: “I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end He will stand on the earth.  And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God – whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes behold, and not another.  How my heart yearns within me! (Cf. Job 19:25-27)

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!