Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Outstanding Love, Overwhelming Victory and Overflowing Peace

"… so outstanding is His love …”(Psalm 103:11)
"… overwhelming victory is ours …” (Romans 8:37).
“The peace of God that passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). This is the overflowing peace of God – The peace of God in our hearts is an overflow from the God of peace, who, in Jesus Christ, has come to live in our hearts.
 * The overflowing peace of God comes to us from the outstanding love of God.
 * The overflowing peace of God comes to us from the overwhelming victory of God.
 – Let us receive the outstanding love of God.
 – Let us rejoice in the overwhelming victory of God.
 – Let us rest in the overflowing peace of God.

God Loves Us. He Calls Us to Be His Faithful People.

Malachi 1:1-2:17  –  God looks upon us in our sin. What does He see? He sees ‘the Wicked Land. He sees ‘a people always under the wrath of the Lord’ (1:4). He looks at what Christ has done for us – ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’; ‘While we were still sinners, Christ died for us’; ‘Christ died for our sins’ (1 Timothy 1:15; Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 15:3). God looks upon us in Christ – and everything is so very different: ‘God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God’ (2 Corinthians 5:21). There, at the Cross of Christ, we hear God’s Word of love – ‘I have loved you’; ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’ (1:2; Jeremiah 31:3).      

Malachi 3:1-4:6  –  God calls us to be His faithful people. He says, ‘Return to Me’. He promises to bless those who return to Him: ‘I will return to you’. God calls us to honour Him with our ‘tithes and offerings: ‘Bring the whole tithe (tenth) into the storehouse…’. When we honour the Lord, He has promised that He will honour us: ‘Those who honour Me, I will honour’. When we honour the Lord with our obedience, He promises that He will honour us with His blessing. He promises to ‘open the windows of heaven and pour down for us an overflowing blessing’. Satan – ‘the devourer’ – will be defeated. We will ‘serve God’. He will take ‘delight’ in us. We will be His ‘treasured possession’ (3:8-12,17-19; 1 Samuel 2:30).     
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An additional note on tithing
After this article was posted, I received an important comment from
Dr Russell Kelly. Rather than posting Dr Kelly’s detailed comment on this blog, I have decided to add my own note. Dr Kelly has discussed, at length, the question, “Should the Church teach Tithing?”. He has reached the conclusion that “Tithing is not a Christian Doctrine”.
Also of interest is Stuart Murray’s book, “Beyond Tithing” (Paternoster Press, 2000). Murray adopts a similar position (though his exposition of Scripture is less detailed than Russ Kelly’s). In his discussion of Malachi 3:8-12, he writes, “Tithing is an important, although somewhat obscure component in the worship life and social legislation of the nation of Israel. Nothing more. … It is not a fundamental principle that can or should be transferred from its Old Testament context into the experience of Christians and churches today.” (p. 88).
I appreciate the work of Russ Kelly and Stuart Murray. I hope that, by adding this note, I have indicated that I am aware of the importance of taking great care in our interpretation of Malachi’s words regarding tithing. Whatever our answer to the question, “Should the Church teach Tithing?”, I hope that all of us will hear the words of Malachi as a call to consecrate ourselves fully to the Lord our God. 
    

“Love Is God” Or “”God Is Love”?

Some people begin with their own idea of “love” and then say, “That’s what God is like.” They may dip into the Bible, reading their favourite passages. They will not take the trouble and make the time for reading the whole Bible. They say, “Why bother putting a lot of time and effort into studying the Bible. We already know what God is like.” They quote the words, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). What they really mean is, “Love is God.” When the Bible says, “God is love”, it doesn’t encourage us to start from our own idea of “love.” It encourages us to begin with God. We learn of Him as we read His Word. As we learn of His love, we learn that it is a holy love. God’s love is a holy love because God is a holy God. The difference between “love is God” and “God is love” cannot be overemphasized. To say “All you need is love. Love is all you need” is not the same as saying, “We need God.” When we say, “We need God”, we will not say, “all you need is love.” We will say, “We need God’s love and we also need His holiness.” Where do we learn of both God’s love and His holiness? – It’s from His Word that we learn of His holy love. We bow before Him in worship, echoing the words of Isaiah 6:3 – “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord … ” We rejoice in the wonder of His love, giving thanks for the great words of Isaiah 6:7 – “Your sin is forgiven.”

The Love Of God

In the beginning, there is love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘Genesis’ means ‘beginning’. These opening verses challenge us to get our priorities right – (a) The priority of God (Genesis 1:1). God comes first. Before anyone else is mentioned, He is there. (b) The priority of God’s Word (Genesis 1:3). God is the first to speak. Before any human word is spoken, there is the Word of the Lord. (c) The priority of God’s Spirit (Genesis 1:2). All was ‘empty’, all was ‘darkness’, yet the ‘Spirit of God’ was at work, and transformation was set in motion. Here, we have God’s priorities, set out in the Bible’s first three verses – Putting God first and listening to His Word, we are to pray for the moving of God’s Spirit, ‘hovering over’ our lives to transform them. For those who make God’s priorities their own, there is a promise of great blessing (Psalm 1:1-2). It is the great blessing of knowing Jesus Christ, our Saviour, as ‘God with us’ (Matthew 1:23).
God speaks, and it is done (Genesis 1:3, 6-7, 11). God is pleased with what He has done (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12). This is the pattern of God’s original creation. It is to be the pattern of our life as a ‘new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). God speaks to us and we say, ‘Your will be done’ (Matthew 6:10). We say, ‘let it be to me according to Your Word’ (Luke 1:38). God looks on such obedience, this ‘walking in the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:16, 22-23), and He sees that it is ‘good’ (Micah 6:8). In these verses we read of the separation of the light and the darkness, the separation of the waters and the dry land, and the fruitfulness of God’s creation. There are lessons for us here. We are to ‘walk in the light’ (1 John 1:7). We are to let the Spirit’s ‘living water’ flow in us (John 7:39-39). Walking in the light, letting the living water flow – this is the way of fruitfulness.
The Bible’s opening chapter is a great hymn of praise, emphasizing that all things have been created for the glory of God (Revelation 4:11). Nothing can be permitted to distract our attention from the Lord. He alone is worthy of worship. The creation of the ‘lights’ makes no reference to the sun and the moon. These were worshipped by neighbouring peoples. They are not gods. They are simply ‘lights’. Our worship is to be given to God alone. The waters teemed with living creatures. The land produced living creatures. Here, we have a picture of life. There is life where the living water of the Spirit is flowing freely among God’s people (Ezekiel 47:5-9). This water brings life to the land (Ezekiel 47:12). Moving with the flow of God’s Spirit, we are to pray that ‘the water of life’ will flow freely ‘for the healing of the nations’ (Revelation 22:2).
We now come to the creation of humanity, male and female. Our creation is described in a distinctive way – created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). We are different from the rest of creation. We have been given dominion over ‘all the earth’ and ‘every living creature’ (Genesis 1:26, 28). We are different from God. He is the Creator. We are His creation. Created in God’s image, we have been created by Him and for Him. Though we have sinned (Genesis 3, Romans 3:23), now – in Jesus Christ – we have begun to live as a new creation (Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:9-10). The Bible teaches us that Jesus Christ is God (John 1:1) and that ‘all things were created by Him and for Him’ (Colossians 1:16). This is the Saviour who is at work in us, enabling us to live as a new creation! Creation has been ‘completed’ (2:1). Salvation will be completed (Philippians 1:6)!
In the end, there will be love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘His love endures for ever’. This is the great message contained in every single verse of this Psalm. It’s a message worth repeating – over and over again! God’s love is an everlasting love – ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’ (Jeremiah 31:3). God’s love is an unfailing love – ‘My unfailing love for you will not be shaken’ (Isaiah 54:10). Let us ‘give thanks’ to God for His love (Psalm 1-3, 26). In His love, the Lord has provided for us ‘an everlasting salvation’. His ‘salvation will last for ever’ (Isaiah 45:17; 51:6). We must not be like those who refuse to love the Lord – ‘Pharaoh… great kings… mighty kings …’ (Psalm 136:15, 17-20). Those who reject God’s love will not receive ‘eternal life’. Their future will be very different – the ‘raging fire that will consume the enemies of God’ (John 3:16-18; Hebrews 10:26-27).
When you see a rainbow, remember there is love, eternal love, the love of God.
Here, we pick up on the words of Genesis 7:16 – ‘the Lord closed the door behind them’. What was going on outside of the ark is contrasted with the haven of salvation inside the ark. What was it that made the ark a place of salvation? – The Lord. What is it that makes Jesus Christ the Source of our salvation? – God has given Him the Name that is above every name, the Name of our salvation (Philippians 2:9-11; Acts 4:12). From the ark, we learn of (a) the one way of salvation – The ark had only one door. Jesus is ‘the Door’ which leads to salvation (John 10:9); (b) the eternal security of salvation – All were safe inside the ark. In Christ there is eternal security (John 10:28); (c) the absolute necessity of salvation – Outside of the ark, there was certain death. Refusal to come to Christ for salvation leads to judgment: ‘How shall we escape…?’(Hebrews 2:3).
Following the flood, we have this simple yet striking declaration: ‘the ground was dry’ (Genesis 8:13). Safe from judgment! This is the message which comes to us from the Cross: ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). The judgment has fallen upon Christ. We are no longer swept away in the judgment. We can stand on solid ground: ‘On Christ the solid Rock I stand’ (Church Hymnary, 411). He is our Support in ‘the whelming flood’. God said to Noah, ‘Come out of the ship’ (Genesis 8:15). We are in Christ. He is the Source of our salvation. God has brought us into Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30). He does not bring us into Christ solely for our own benefit. We are sent out to be fruitful (Genesis 8:17; John 15:16). We are to ‘abide in Christ’. This is the way of fruitfulness (John 15:4-5). We are not sent out alone. Strengthened in ‘the ship’ (in Christ), we step out with Christ and for Him.
‘When you see a rainbow, remember God is love’. The rainbow reminds us of the gracious promise of God (Genesis 9:13-15). If the love of God is revealed in the rainbow, it is more fully revealed in the Cross: ‘We sing the praise of Him who died, of Him who died upon the Cross… upon the Cross we see in shining letters. ‘God is love’, He bears our sins upon the tree. He brings us mercy from above’. When we read the Old Testament stories, we must learn to see their place within the fuller Story, the Story of God’s salvation: ‘I will sing the wondrous Story of the Christ who died for me’. This is the greatest Story of all – ‘the Story of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love,… the Story of wonderful redemption, God’s remedy for sin’. ‘This is our Story. This is our Song, praising our Saviour all the day long’. This is ‘the Story to tell to the nations’ (Church Hymnary, 258, 381, 132; Mission Praise, 59, 744).
Be still and know that there is love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘Be still, and know that I am God…Shout to God with loud songs of joy’ (Psalm 46:10; 47:2). In our worship, there is to be both quiet trust and loud praise. We read the great words: ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble’ (Psalm 46:1). God’s Word brings peace – ‘in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength’. We must not keep God’s blessing to ourselves. We must share it with joy – ‘Sing to the Lord…let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory to the Lord, and declare His praise in the coastlands’ (Isaiah 30:15; 42:10-12). The Lord is to be ‘exalted among the nations’. He is not only ‘our King’. He is ‘the King of all the earth’ (Psalm 46:10; 47:6-7). ‘Father (Jesus/Spirit), we love You. We worship and adore You. Glorify Your Name in all the earth’(Mission Praise, 142).
In Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
Here, we see Abraham in his relationship with the world (Genesis 21:22-34) and his relationship with the Lord (Genesis 22:1-14). Abraham deals honestly and wisely with the pagan king, Abimelech, who acknowledges Abraham’s closeness to God – ‘God is with you in all that you do’ (Genesis 21:22). We are to be honest and wise in our relationship with the world (Romans 12:17; Colossians 4:5; Ephesians 5:15; 1 Peter 2:12). Our relationship with the world is to be grounded in our relationship with God. In the testing of Abraham, we catch a glimpse of ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). Christ is the Lamb whom God will provide (Genesis 22:8). In Genesis 22:14, we read, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided’. On Calvary’s hill, Christ died to bring us to God, so that we might learn to live for Him in this world (1 Peter 3:18; 2:24).
After the renewal of God’s promise (Genesis 22:15-18), Abraham went to Beersheba (Genesis 22:19). He returned to the place where he had ‘called…on the Name of the Lord, the Everlasting God’ (21:33). This is a good ‘place’ to be, the ‘place’ of calling on the Name of the Lord, the Everlasting God. As we read of the death and burial of Sarah, we must remember this: the Lord is the Everlasting God. The death of Sarah took place in God’s time. Her death signified that her work had been done. She had mothered the child of promise. Beyond the death of Sarah, there was the continuing purpose of God. The cave at Machpelah (23:19-20) became the burial place for Sarah, Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Leah. We see the continuity of history, and we thank God for His continuing faithfulness down through the generations.
Our hope of eternal glory comes from love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘Thou wilt show me the path of life; in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore’ (Psalm 16:11). In this earthly life, there are many difficulties. For all of God’s people, there is something better still to come. We must look not only at the things which are happening now. We must look also to the glory which is yet to come. Our hope of eternal glory is based on Christ’s resurrection. David’s words (Psalm 16:8-11) are quoted by Peter in connection with ‘the resurrection of the Christ’ (Acts 2:24-33). ‘Christ has been raised from the dead…at His coming those who belong to Christ…will be raised imperishable’ (1 Corinthians 15:20-23, 52). ‘The Lord is my chosen portion…Therefore my heart is glad’ (Psalm 16:5, 9). Is this your testimony? Choose Christ and be glad.
In the redemption of Israel, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
God had redeemed His people. He was with them, and He was about to reveal His saving power in a mighty way (Exodus 14:13-14). There is judgment as well as salvation (Exodus 14:30). Looking to neither the ‘right’ nor the ‘left’, we must look to the Lord (Exodus 14:21-22). Rejoicing in ‘the great work’ He has done, our faith ‘in the Lord’ grows strong (Exodus 14:31).
God has given us a song to sing. We have a song to sing. It is a song of redemption – God has redeemed His people; a song of thanksgiving – we give thanks for God’s redemption; and a song of hope – we look forward to the complete fulfilment of God’s redemption. This is not only a ‘song of God’s people’. It is also the song of Moses, a personal song. This is worship – not a mere formality, but worship which arises from the depths of Moses’ heart. Deeply moved by the grace and glory of God, Moses pours his heart out to God in worship: (i) He praises the God of grace – ‘my strength… my song… my salvation’ (Exodus 15:2). (ii) He praises the God of glory – God triumphs ‘gloriously’ (Exodus 15:1). His ‘glorious’ power is demonstrated in His ‘glorious’ deeds (Exodus 15:6, 11). (iii) Worshipping this God of grace – the redeeming God (Exodus 15:13) – and glory – the reigning God (Exodus 15:18) – , we say, ‘You are my God, and I will praise You’ (Psalm 118:28). Let us worship God – personally as well as publicly.
In the prophet’s words, we hear the Word of love, eternal love, the love of God.
The Word of God is spoken – ‘Seek the Lord while He may be found…’ (Isaiah 55:6-7). No one seems to be listening. What are we to do? We must remember God’s promise: ‘My Word will not return to Me empty’ (Isaiah 55:11). We do not see all that God is doing. He is doing much more than we realize – ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts…’ (Isaiah 55:8-9). We may be feeling very despondent – ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything’ (Luke 5:5). The Lord still comes to us with His Word of encouragement: ‘You shall go out with joy…’ (Isaiah 55:12). Before there is joy, there may be many tears. When there seems to be nothing but disappointments, we must remember the Lord’s promise: ‘Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy…’ (Psalm 126:5-6). We must not ‘judge before the time…’ (1 Corinthians 4:5).
‘I will praise You, O Lord… God is my Salvation… The Lord is my Strength and my Song…’ (Isaiah 12:1-2). May this be our personal faith – this is what the Lord means to me – and our public testimony – making Christ ‘known among the nations’, telling ‘all the world’ what the Lord has done for us (Isaiah 12: 4-5).
Be wise. Open your heart to love, eternal love, the love of God.
Hoping for ‘good luck’, some people expect good things to happen to them – all the time! God says, ‘Seek wisdom. Be ready for the hard times’. Wisdom comes from God. He speaks to us with words of wisdom (Proverbs 2:6; Proverbs 8:6-8). Wisdom is not only for ‘kings and rulers, princes and nobles’. It is for everyone who loves the Lord (Proverbs 8:15-17). Wisdom calls us to choose good rather than evil, life rather than death (Proverbs 8:13, 35-36; Hebrews 5:14; Deuteronomy 30:19). The way of wisdom is the way of happiness (Proverbs 8:32-34). Our path may not be paved with gold. Wisdom is better than ‘silver, gold and jewels’ (Proverbs 8:10-11). Christ is our Wisdom. Receiving Him, we receive wisdom. Growing in Him, we grow in wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30; 2:6). As you rejoice in Christ, remember: ‘He who wins souls is wise’ (Proverbs 11:30). Don’t keep Wisdom to yourself. Share Christ with others.
In Proverbs 9:5, there is a Gospel invitation: ‘Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed’. We eat bread. We drink wine. We remember our Saviour (Matthew 26: 26-29). ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ (Proverbs 9:10). ‘This sounds so old-fashioned’- so the world tells us. ‘The fear of the Lord’- This is something we must not forget. If we do not fear the Lord, we will forget Him. If we forget Him, we are fools. What is foolishness? Is it a lack of education? No! – It is a lack of obedience. When we do not ‘honour’ God, we are ‘without sense’. ‘Claiming to be wise’, we show that we are ‘fools’. If we are wise, we will keep ‘going straight on the way’, looking always to Jesus Christ who is the true and living Way. He leads us from ‘the depths of hell’ to the heights of heaven (Proverbs 8:13-18; Romans 1:21-22; John 14:2, 6).
In creation and Scripture, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
God reveals Himself in creation and Scripture. He speaks through His created world. He speaks through His written Word. God is always speaking. He is never silent. Through His created world, God is speaking to us – every day, every night. He is showing us His glory (Psalm 19:1-2). He makes us aware of His presence. He whets our appetite for His written Word. The Scriptures lead us to Christ. Through faith in Him, we receive salvation (2 Timothy 3:15). Christ is the high-point of God’s revelation. He is the living Word (John 1:1, 14). The testimony of the Psalmist – ‘The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul’ (7) – becomes real for us through faith in Christ – ‘I came to Jesus…My soul revived and now I live in Him’ (Church Hymnary, 212). Make it real. Come to Christ. Come alive in Him!
Through Christ, God looks upon us with love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘I will look on you with favour’ (Ezekiel 36:9). Through Christ our Saviour, God looks upon us with favour. Here are some words which will help you to rejoice in the ‘wonderful grace of Jesus’ which is ‘greater than all my sin’, the ‘wonderful grace of Jesus’ which ‘reaches me’. ‘Let me introduce you to a friend called Grace. Doesn’t care about your past or your many mistakes. He’ll cover your sins in a warm embrace. Let me introduce to a friend called Grace’. ‘His grace reaches lower than your worst mistake and His love will run further than you can run away’. ‘He believes in lost causes when common sense would just give up. He believes in lost causes and changes people with His love. There’s nobody too far gone, no one beyond His reach. He believes in lost causes ‘cause He believed in me’. Let Jesus be your Joy!
May your soul be lifted up by love, eternal love, the love of God.
Three times, the question is asked, ‘Why are you downcast, O my soul’. Three times, the answer is given, ‘Put your hope in God’. Three times, there is the response of faith: ‘I will yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God (Psalms 42:5, 11; 43:5). Often, we are filled with questions. We must bring our questions to God. We must learn to listen for His answers. The Lord is speaking to us. Are we listening? God speaks to us through His Word. Are we taking time to read His Word? He wants us to come to Him with the prayer, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening’ (1 Samuel 3:8-10). Listen to the Word of the Lord. Let His Word be your Guide: ‘Send forth Your light and Your truth, let them guide me…’ (Psalm 43:5). ‘Deep calls to deep’ (Psalm 42:7) – Let ‘the Spirit’ show you ‘the deep things of God’ (1 Corinthians 2:10).
When the Spirit breathes upon us, we receive love, eternal love, the love of God.
It was ‘a valley of dry bones’ (Ezekiel 37:1-2). Then, the Lord changed everything – ‘I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live’ (Ezekiel 37:5). What a difference the Lord makes! ‘Breathe on me, Breath of God. Fill me with life anew’ (Church Hymnary, 103). What happens when the Spirit of the Lord breathes new life into the Church of God? – ‘The Church that seemed in slumber has now risen from its knees and dry bones are responding with the fruits of new birth’. ‘Holy Spirit, we welcome You. Let the breeze of Your presence flow that Your children here might truly know how to move in the Spirit’s flow… Holy Spirit, we welcome You. Please accomplish in us today some new work of loving grace, we pray. Unreservedly, have Your way. Holy Spirit, we welcome You’ (Mission Praise, 274, 241).
On the Lord’s pathway of victory, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
The Psalmist prays, ‘Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord’ (Psalm 143:9). He is not concerned only about his own welfare. He is concerned about the glory of God: ‘For Your Name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life’ (Psalm 143:11). How does God lead us in victory? How is He glorified in our lives? He brings to us the teaching of His Word - ‘Let the morning bring me Word of Your unfailing love’ (Psalm 143:8). He gives to us the strength of His Spirit – ‘May Your good Spirit lead me in good paths’ (Psalm 143:10). Through His Word and Spirit, God shows us His ‘unfailing love’. He enables us to say, ‘You are my God’, ‘I have put my trust in You’ and ‘I am Your servant’. He ‘shows us the way we should go’. He ‘teaches us to do His will’. He gives us victory over our ‘enemies’ (8, 10, 12).
In the story of God’s salvation, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
In Zephaniah 3, we have a story of sin – Woe to the city of oppressors, rebellious and defiled! She has not obeyed His voice. She has not accepted correction. She has not trusted in the Lord. She has not drawn near to her God’ – and a story of salvation – ‘Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away your punishment. He has turned back your enemy… The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you. He will renew you in His love. He will rejoice over you with singing’ (Zephaniah 3:1-2, 14-17). The story of our sin is full of sadness. The story of God’s salvation fills us with gladness – ‘Rejoice and be glad! The Redeemer has come’ (Mission Praise, 573).
Let us worship God: our response to love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘Exalt the Lord our God… Make a joyful noise to the Lord’ (Psalms 99:5, 9; 98:4, 6; 100:1). We are to worship the Lord with joy. We are to glorify God. We are to enjoy Him. In our worship, we must never forget the holiness of God: ‘He is holy!… The Lord our God is holy!’ (Psalm 99:5, 9). In our worship, we rejoice in the love of God: ‘His steadfast love endures for ever… He has done marvellous things!’ (Psalms 100:5; 98:1). The God of ‘awesome purity’ loves us with the most perfect love of all: ‘No earthly father loves like Thee…’ Let us worship Him with holy fear and heartfelt love: ‘O how I fear Thee, living God, with deepest, tenderest fears… with trembling hope and penitential tears! Yet I may love Thee too, O Lord, Almighty as Thou art, for Thou hast stooped to ask of me the love of my poor heart’ (Church Hymnary, 356).
Living as a new creation: our response to love, eternal love, the love of God.
(a) ‘We know that our old self was crucified’ (Romans 6:6) – What a great thing God has done! He has made you ‘a new creation in Christ’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). (b) ‘Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 6:11) – Believe it. This is what the Lord has done: ‘you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit… the Spirit of God dwells in you… Christ is in you… the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you… His Spirit dwells in you’ (Romans 8:9-11). (c) ‘Yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life’ (Romans 6:13) – Act upon it’. ‘Walk in newness of life’ (Romans 6:4). Live as those whom God has made new. We are ‘not under law but under grace’ (Romans 6:14). Keep your eyes fixed on the Saviour and your obedience will be Gospel obedience and not merely legal obedience.
At the Cross of Christ, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘The Lord is high above all nations… Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high?… Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, who turns the hard rock into springs of water’ (Psalms 113:4-5; 114:7-8). The Lord is greater than we could ever imagine. There is no greatness like the greatness of the Lord. All human greatness cannot even begin to compare with the greatness of God. His greatness is not only the greatness of His power. It is also the greatness of His love. When we sing, ‘How great Thou art’, we sing not only of His power – ‘Thy power throughout the universe displayed’. We sing also of His love – ‘And when I think that God His Son not sparing, sent Him to die – I scarce can take it in, that on the Cross my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin…’(Mission Praise, 506).
In the resurrection of Christ, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
The resurrection declares Christ’s victory over evil, the triumph of His love. There is no need for fear: ‘He has risen’- His ‘perfect love casts out fear’ (Matthew 28:5-6; 1 John 4:18). There has to be a new beginning in faith. First, there was a new beginning ‘in fact – Christ has been raised from the dead’ (1 Corinthians 15:20). Christ has won the victory over the grave. Christ has taken the sting out of death (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). Between the new beginning in faith – making disciples (Matthew 28:19) – and the new beginning in fact – Christ’s resurrection – , there is worship (Matthew 28:9). The fact is not dependent on our feelings. ‘He has risen’ (Matthew 28:6-7) – the fact stands, even when many doubt and few worship (Matthew 28:17). As we worship, we are strengthened in faith, strengthened for our task. We are to invite people to come to the place where ‘they will see’ Jesus (Matthew 28:10). We are to ‘make disciples’ (Matthew 28:19).

Walking in the Light with God

God is calling us to walk in the light with Him.
* He’s calling us to walk with Him in the light of His love.
Go back to Genesis 1:3 – “Let there be light, and there was light.” Go back beyond the created light. Go back to the eternal God – “In the beginning, God” (Genesis 1:1). What do we find when we go back to the eternal God. We find love, eternal love:  “He has loved us with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). This is light of God’s love.
* He’s calling us to walk with Him in the light of His Word.
What is it that brings us out of darkness and into light? It’s the light of God’s Word – “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).
* He’s calling us to walk with Him in the light of His Son.
What a great Saviour we have! Jesus is His Name. He is “the Light of the world” (John 8:12). Let us walk with Jesus – in the light of God’s love, in the light of God’s Word.
* He’s calling us to walk with God in the light of His Kingdom.
What do we see when we look on to the end of time? We see the light of God’s Kingdom: “There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 22:5).
The darkness shall not prevail over us. How can darkness triumph over the light of God – the light of His love, the light of His Word, the light of His Son, the light of His Kingdom?
May God help us to look beyond the conflict. May He give us faith to look on to His victory, to rejoice in Him and be strong in Him.

How do we know that God loves us?

How do we know that God loves us?
‘Christ died for us’(Romans 5:8). This is the greatest demonstration of God’s love for us. How can we doubt God’s love for us when we think of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, dying on the Cross for us as our Saviour? When we think of God’s love for us, we must remember that He calls us to love Him. We are not to take God’s love for granted – ‘God loves me. I can do what I like’. We are to appreciate God’s love – ‘God loves me. I will love Him’. God loves us. Christ died for us. How can we say, ‘I’ll do what I like’? How can we refuse to be changed by His love? ‘Let us examine our ways and turn back to the Lord. Let us open our hearts to God’ (Lamentations 3:40-41).

“O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.”
‘I will exalt You, O Lord’(Psalm 30:1). God is not exalted because we exalt Him. We exalt Him because He is exalted: ‘He is exalted, for ever exalted, and I will praise His Name’(Church Hymnary, 437). How do we come to the point where we say, ‘I will exalt You, O Lord’? We realize our need of Him – ‘when You hid Your face, I was dismayed’(Psalm 30:7). We look to Him for mercy – ‘To You, O Lord, I called; to the Lord, I cried for mercy’(Psalm 30:8). God hears and answers our prayer – ‘You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy’(11). God calls us to worship Him – ‘Sing praises to the Lord, O you His saints, and give thanks to His holy Name’(Psalm 30:4). ‘The joy of the Lord’, His ‘unutterable and exalted joy’, gives us ‘strength’(Nehemiah 8:10; 1 Peter 1:8). We worship God: ‘O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever’(Psalm 30:12).

How are we to be ‘cheerful’ in giving ourselves to the Lord (2 Corinthians 9:7)?
How are we to be confident that ‘God is able to provide us with every blessing in abundance’(2 Corinthians 9:8)? Before we ever think of giving ourselves to God, we must look at all He has given to us. We look away from ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ: ‘You know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ…’(2 Corinthians 8:9). We look at Him, and we say, in our hearts, ‘Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!’(2 Corinthians 9:15). Can our giving to Him even begin to compare with His giving to us? We give to Him as those who have first received from Him. In his giving, we see His love. Our giving expresses our love, our response to His love: ‘We love because He first loved us’(1 John 4:19). Rejoice in His love. Thank Him – for ‘every blessing in abundance’!

Great Difficulties, Triumphant Praise

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).

Prayer And Testimony

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).

Two Types Of People

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?

Our joy is in the Lord.

“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, “Mt soul will find joy in the Lord and be joyful about His salvation” (Psalm 35:9).

Worship The Lord - And Witness For Him.

“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.

Worshipping The Lord

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).

My Shepherd And My Saviour

“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 heavens declare the glory of God ...

“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 Rock Of Our Salvation

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).

Rejoicing In The Lord

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.”

The Sovereign God, The God Of Our Salvation

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).

The Greatness Of God

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.

Resting In The Peace Of God

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).

God calls us to follow “the way of righteous people.”

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).

Monday, 30 March 2015

Lord, we come to You with questions.

Exodus 17:1-18:27
Lord, we come to You with questions. You give us victory. Sometimes, our questions are not answered. Always, You give us the strength that we need to keep on walking with You. Lord, when our life gets busy, help us to take time to pray. When we have so many things to do, help us to find time for listening to what Your Word has to say to us. If we're too busy to pray, we're too busy! Help us, Lord, not to be "worried and upset about many things." Help us not to forget this: "only one thing is needed" - "listening to what Jesus is saying" to us (Luke 10:38-42).

Lord, we come to You in our weakness.

Exodus 6:14-7:24
Lord, we come to You in our weakness. We receive Your strength. In our weakness, we fail. Through Your strength, we shall triumph. When we're stumbling along in weakness, help us to say, with ever-increasing faith, "Our God is marching on to glorious victory."

We think, Lord, of Your redemption, and our hearts are filled with thanksgiving - and hope.

Exodus 15:1-21
We think, Lord, of Your redemption, and our hearts are filled with thanksgiving - and hope. We think - and we thank. we look back on all that You have done for us, and we say, "Thank You, Lord." Give us the spirit of thanksgiving, the attitude of gratitude - and, with it, give us the confidence to face the future, knowing that it is more than our future. It is Your future for us.

Lord, show us our pride - and teach us to humble ourselves before You.

Exodus 7:25-8:32
Lord, show us our pride - and teach us to humble ourselves before You. Show us Your power and teach us to trust You to do great things in and through us.

Often, Lord, we feel trapped - trapped by our sin.

Exodus 12:29-13:16
Often, Lord, we feel trapped - trapped by our sin. We try to break free - but we can't make it happen. Our sin has such a strong hold on us. We wonder, "Is there a way to freedom?" Jesus says, "Yes. There is." He says to us, "I am the Way to freedom." Set us free, Lord, from our self-centredness. May there be less of self and more of You in our lives.

Help us, Lord, to receive Your forgiveness - and to respond to Your call to holy living.

Exodus 11:1-12:28
Help us, Lord, to receive Your forgiveness - and to respond to Your call to holy living. You give to us Your peace. It comes to us with Your gift of forgiveness. You give to us Your power - the power to live for Your glory. May Your peace and Your power equip us for living as Your people.

Touch our hearts, Lord, with Your love.

Exodus 10:1-29
Touch our hearts, Lord, with Your love. So often, our hearts are hard. How can this hardness be broken down? You must do it. We can't do this for ourselves. We can't do this by ourselves. It's Your love that changes us. It's Your love that makes us new. Open our hearts to Your love. Fill our hearts with Your love.

Lord, help us not to rest content with going through the motions of religion.

Exodus 9:1-32
Lord, help us not to rest content with going through the motions of religion. Beyond religion, there is redemption. Beyond ritual, there is reality. May our faith in Jesus, our Saviour, be a real faith, a living faith, a faith that changes us, a faith that brings glory to You.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Let's Listen To What God Has To Say To Us.

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).         

What does God say about Job? - “My servant, Job”

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.

Your Faith Is More Precious Than Gold ...

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.

Holding On To God In The Darkness Of Suffering

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 tose 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 Mist 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 f Job’s suffering” (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.

Look Past The Critics - To The Cross.

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).

The Day Of Salvation Will Come.

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).

In Job 11, we hear from Zophar. So far, so good - That’w 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 yo’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).

Satan can only do what God permits him to do ...I know that my Redeemer lives ...

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.

Search The Scriptures: 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).

Search The Scriptures: 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).     

Search the Scriptures: 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. 

Worship - This must always lie at the heart of the life of God’s people ...

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.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Low points - and high points

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.

We must never lose sight of the eternal dimension of our life.

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.

“If My people ...”

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 Lord’s glory filled the Lord’s Temple.”

“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.

Blessing will only come to us when we give the glory to God.

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.

Everything - For God

“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.

Leadership

“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).

The Lord's Works Needs More Than Human Enthusiasm.

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).       

Teamwork

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).

Satan Spells Trouble ...

“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.”