Thought for March 26th. “WHEN I WAS A SON …”

Today’s readings.. Numbers 7, proverbs 4, Luke 18

Solomon in today’s chapter in the Proverbs reflects on how his father taught him.  “When I was a son with my father … he taught me and said to me, Let your heart hold fast to my words; keep my commandments and live; get wisdom.”  [Proverbs 4 v.3-5]    Interesting word “insight” – the chapter started with, “Hear, O son a father’s instructions and be attentive, that you may gain insight” [v.1] 

Other modern versions render it as gaining “good sense” – looking “inside” a matter.   How do you do that?   How deeply do you think through decisions, weigh up all the pros and cons?  Where do you get your “scales” from so you can weigh up your decisions?   Do you consider God’s principles – or are you totally motivated by human desires?  

“Hear my son,” Solomon continues, “and accept my words that the years of your life may be many” [v.10]   He adds, “be attentive to my words …. Keep them within your heart … keep your heart with all diligence for from it flow the springs of life … ponder the path of your feet then all your ways will be sure” [v.20,21,23,26] 

So Solomon listened to his father David and before David died he appointed him king. [1 Kings 2 v.1-4].  It is likely too that Solomon was taught by his mother as most think that the reference to “King Lemuel” in Proverbs 31, is a code name for Solomon himself.  

But the tragedy is that Solomon in his old age failed to prepare his son Rehoboam for the kingship, nor is there any indication that he had a wife who played her part in training the next generation.  Remember, in drawing lessons from the Bible we are instructed just as much by the failures, as by the successes.   

So many take little notice of instructions and only look at them when they find what they have bought is not working properly, if at all.  But that approach is fatal in human relations, when they break down they are extremely difficult to repair.  

Of course, the relationship that matters above all else is our relationship with God and with His Son.  We call, or should call, God “Our Father”   Does our heart fully embrace the wonder of the fact that we are a Son (or a daughter) of the living, all seeing Creator of all that exists?  Reading His word every day is an essential part of developing that relationship to its wonderful fullness. .   

Thought for March 25th. “THE LORD BLESS YOU AND KEEP YOU”

Today’s readings.. Numbers 6, Proverbs 3, Luke 17

    We are reading in Numbers how the establishment of Israel as an organised nation is now complete.  It had been just over a year since they escaped from Egypt; the 10 commandments and other laws had been given, the tabernacle made and erected and is now ready for use. The priesthood has been appointed, led by Aaron. 

    Our chapter today (6) concludes in a very significant way.  “The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,

    The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”

    This was a very special blessing: they were about to celebrate the Passover of their deliverance a second time and then head for the promised land – the land promised to their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 

     Read the words of this blessing again, encouraging words to stimulate positive thought that the LORD is with you.  It is a most interesting phrase to: “make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you”.  David makes reference to this no less than 7 times in his Psalms.  Moses, we know, “knew God face to face” [Deut.34 v.10,] a relationship specially created by their 40 days together on the mountain top.  

    Our heavenly Father seeks a personal relationship with us through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” [John 14 v.9]  Jesus represented the Father who himself “dwells in unapproachable light, whom no-one has ever seen or can see.” [1 Tim. 6 v.16].      We normally sing these words in seeking the LORD’s blessing at a baptism.  They have intense meaning to illustrate the wonder of the relationship God invites us to have with him. 

We must remember them throughout our lives, being conscious of the way so many of the people of Israel failed to be conscious of them when they faced challenges in the wilderness – how well are we coping with our wilderness?

Thought for March 24th. ” … WATCHING OVER THE WAY OF HIS SAINTS”

Today’s readings.. Numbers 5, Proverbs 2, Luke 16

            The 2nd chapter of Proverbs is one of the most thought provoking in the entire book.  Meditate on the sequence of ‘ifs’ in the first 4 verses. “IF you receive my words … IF you call out for insight and … understanding …. IF you seek it like silver and search for it … then you will find …”   What will you find if you have tried to do this?  

The answer in v.5 is, “then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.” That is, experience a state of awe in your mind as you start to grasp the enormity of what the Creator must be in his existence and actions!  This is far different from an academic understanding of the nature of God, even from a scriptural perspective.  

A truly seeking person must  develop “the knowledge of God,” that is, a knowing insight into what God is – it is ‘seeing’ and as a result possessing an overwhelming vision of  that which overwhelms normal human thinking.

    When the LORD first spoke to Job, after all Job’s reasoning with his friends, God says, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” [38 v.2] It is the “knowledge” Solomon is speaking of in our Proverbs reading. Job confesses, “I have uttered what I did not understand, things to wonderful for me, which I did not know … but now mine eye sees you” [42 v.3, 5] 

Notice how Paul expresses it; “having the eyes of our hearts enlightened that you may know …” [Eph. 1 v.18]   So, in our Proverbs chapter Solomon wants us to experience the awe of seeing God and then to be ready to grasp the relationship  we can have with God, as Job ultimately did!  

    We read “the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding … he is a shield to those who walk in integrity watching over the way of his saints” [v.6,8]

    So, if we seek in this way then “wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul”[v.10]; furthermore, “ … understanding will guard you, delivering you from the way of evil, from men (and women) of perverted speech … who rejoice in doing evil … who are devious in their ways.” [v.11-15].  

Today we encounter such people more than ever, also those who have no spiritual strength to fight off these influences,  so we need to be conscious every day that our Lord is “watching over the way of his saints” looking for them to find more and more of “the knowledge of God.”  

 Reading and meditating on God’s word every day lays the foundation for that consciousness.

Thought for March 23rd. “FOOLS DESPISE WISDOM & INSTRUCTION”

Today’s readings … Numbers 4, Proverbs 1, Luke 15  

     Today we start reading “the proverbs of Solomon” [v.1] and the key verse that jumps out at our eyes is “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” [v.7].  

    Our minds should be filled with awe as to all that God must be!! The plea of Solomon is, “”Hear my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.” [v.8]  The acceptance and absorption into our minds of such teaching and instruction is like wearing “a graceful garland” – yet today how many parents are able and willing to teach true wisdom to their children?  If they are able and willing – their children are surrounded by counter influences – but the need for “wisdom and instruction” has never been greater.

      The message contains a strong warning about the ‘opposite’ to true wisdom, the attitude of those who have no time for God – so the blunt warning is made, “if sinners entice you do not consent” [v.10].  

Virtually no one thinks of themselves as being a ‘sinner’ these days, sin is an obsolete word!  But there is no middle course; the book of Proverbs makes this plain, if you are not on God’s side seeking his will and guidance in making your pathway in life, you are against him.  

    Wisdom is personified and “cries aloud” – at the same time “scoffers delight in their scoffing.” [v.20,22]  But ‘wisdom’ says, “If you turn at my reproof, behold I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you” [v.23] and we can see that God’s Spirit has led to the Bible being written and preserved and our daily feeding on God’s word will guide our lives. 

    The chapter fittingly concludes, “the complacency of fools destroys them, but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” 

Thought for March 22nd. “WILL THOSE WHO ARE SAVED BE FEW?”

Today’s readings.. Numbers 3, Psalm 148-150, Luke 13-14.

Today’s chapters in Luke are full of challenging parables.  They really challenge us to understand and act on a particular message, what Jesus said when someone asked, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” [13 v.23] The question leads Jesus to talk about the “narrow door” [v.24].  We recall on another occasion he spoke about the “narrow gate” [Matt.7:13-14] when he said, “the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”  

Luke records Jesus as saying, “Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” [v.24]   Why will they not be able? Why does God not make it wide and easy?  Does he not want all people to be saved?   If the answer is “Yes” – we must ask ourselves, ‘ Saved – on whose terms?’  Ours or God’s? 

We may want to buy a house or a car?  Who sets the terms?   But salvation is so very different, a life changing difference! 

Jesus goes on to tell of a house, the door of which is “shut”!  Many are knocking and “saying, Lord, open to us, then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from. Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.” [v.25]

So because we hear Jesus preached about and read God’s Bible, and even share in a communion meal, can we ask for the right to come in this house?  But the text continues with Jesus once again saying, “But he will say, ‘I tell you I do not know where you come from.” [v.26,27]  He implies, they never had a relationship with him.

In Luke 14, we also read today, there is a situation where, they reclined with Jesus at a meal table, and someone said, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God” [14 v.15].   We then read how Jesus commented on those who had (to them) more important things to do in their lives than to come to God’s banquet.  

They gave first place to being involved with their family and businesses!   It is far from “easy” to be a true follower of Jesus.  No one will “deserve” to be in his kingdom; it will only be by grace!  And who deserves his grace? But that is another subject!

Thought for March 21st. “HIS GREATNESS IS UNSEARCHABLE”

Today’s readings.. Numbers 2, Psalm 145-147, Luke 12

We are coming to the end of reading the Psalms.  David’s perceptions and praise of God appears to reach ever greater proportions.  Psalm 145 starts, “I will extol you, my God and King … Every day I will bless you and praise your name …”  Let us start each day by saying a ‘blessing’ and thanksgiving to our God and his Son, our “king.”  

Verse 3 states, “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.” We recall David’s Psalm we read earlier this month, “Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and forevermore!  From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised!  The LORD is high above all nations … ” [113 v.2-4]   

Surely a vision of the kingdom when the whole world will be utterly astonished to recognise that “his greatness is unsearchable.” 

Back in today’s Psalm, verse 9 tells us ” The LORD is good to all” but his goodness as well as his greatness in all that exists is not recognised today, the world has become totally blind.  But the time is coming (How soon now?) when “They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power …” [v.11] 

There was a degree of “glory” in David’s kingdom which reached its’ fullness when Solomon reigned.  But surely v.11-13 applies to the soon coming kingdom which will “make known to the children of men your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendour of your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom …”

Finally, in today’s chapter 12 in Luke’s gospel, Jesus is recorded as saying, ” “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom…. Provide for yourselves … treasure in the heavens … where your treasure is, there will your heart be also….  Stay dressed for action … waiting for (our) master to come home … ” [v.32-36]  And when he does, then we will fully and wonderfully realise that “his (Father’s) greatness is unsearchable.” 

Thought for March 20th. “BLESSED RATHER ARE THOSE WHO …”

Today’s readings.. Numbers 1, Psalm 143-144, Luke 11

     Very soon we will be reading the Proverbs of Solomon.  We thought of this when we saw the reference Jesus made to Solomon in today’s chapter 11 of Luke’s gospel.  He made reference to the accounts in the Old Testament of the wisdom from God that Solomon received and how, such as the queen of Sheba, “came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon” [v.31]. But, said Jesus, “behold something greater than Solomon is here.”

    Jesus was very popular and sought after – but was it for a good spiritual reason?  “When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, ‘This generation is an evil generation …” [v.29]   And our generation?  When “a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed” he responded by saying, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it.” [v.27,28]

    So many people want something physical to look at to ‘worship’  It is tragic that idol worship practices have made their way into much of Christianity, this has been specially evident in all the publicity about the Pope – from time to time.  And how Cardinals can misbehave!  

In contrast, how many want to hear the word of God and keep it!  Today, when it is so easy to read it (or hear it read) how rarely is the opportunity taken!

     Jesus said, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” [John 9 v.5].  The light continues in God’s word!  In today’s chapter, did you notice how Jesus states, “after lighting a lamp (no-one) puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.” [v.33]  Jesus then warns, “be careful lest the light in you be darkness” [v.35]  Or, becomes darkness!  We turn on a light to make use of it!

     God’s word gives light to our world, but it is no use seeing the light if we are not going to make use of it.  Beware lest the Bible becomes an ‘ornament’ on the bookshelf that we are pleased to have, but, could it become, or maybe already is for some, little better than having an image of Mary!?  

Oh no, but think, although, we make use of it on Sunday to take with us and turn up the readings – but is that all?  Do we only eat food one day of the week?  Our minds need constant good food – even more so today with so much junk food around!  May we all loudly hear (in our hearts) the words of Jesus, “Blessed rather are those who hear (read) the word of God and keep it”.

Thought for March 19th. “WHEN MY SPIRIT FAINTS … THEN YOU KNOW MY WAY”

Today’s readings.. Leviticus 27, Psalm 140-142, Luke 10

     In contrast to the wonderful spiritual perceptions of Psalm 139 which we read yesterday, today we have a Psalm which is, in some ways, the opposite. The superscription at the start says it was a prayer of David when he was in a cave. Twice David was in great peril hiding in caves; once when he fled from the King of Gath and the second when he was hiding from Saul at Engedi. Imagine being totally on your own, hiding.   In such circumstances you are totally perplexed as to what to do next, your “spirit faints.”

    David writes, “I cry out to the LORD … I plead for mercy to the LORD … I tell my trouble before him.  When my spirit faintswithin me, you know my way!” [Psa. 142 v.1-3]   God knew his way – yet David had lost sight of this and laments, “no refuge remains for me; no one cares for my soul.” [v.4].   

In the next verse David seeks to regain his vision, “I cry out to you, O LORD; I say, ‘You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.’ Attend to my cry, for I am brought very low!” [v.5,6]   

Such is our human nature that while we can at times climb to spiritual heights – and then, in times of distress, lose sight of the wonder that our Lord Jesus and our Heavenly Father should always be our portion, our refuge so that when we are cast down and our “spirit faints” within us we can say to God, “you know my way.” 

     Our reading in Luke today also provides a useful lesson; it is the failure of the people of Capernaum to appreciate the wonder of “the mighty works” that had been done there.  In a sense, this city had been “exalted to heaven” [Luke 10 v.15] because of what they had witnessed. Jesus means that this experience should have caused great repentance and humility. 

But it didn’t, so Jesus says, “You shall be brought down to Hades (the grave)” [v.15].  Today clever scientists are discovering more and more of the incredible wonders of creation – yet they explain them all away as evolution! We can see the comparison!  

They, and all who agree with them, will suffer the same fate as Capernaum!  Let us open our hearts as we read God’s word every day and be “exalted to heaven” – seeing the meaning of life from a heavenly perspective.   What wonders await those who do and who “know (Christ’s) way”  – and how soon now will that be evident to the whole world – but nearly all are scoffers. God’s way will become evident –but too late for them.!

Thought for March 18th. “FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE”

Today’s readings… Leviticus 26, Psalm 137-139, Luke 9

             I remember playing searchlights as a boy. Beams of light would sweep across the yard from our torches as we played some war or spy game.

     We were reminded of this by our reading of Psalm 139 today. “Oh LORD you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up … you search out my path” [Psalm 139:1-3]. But David realizes that God’s power to “see” extends far beyond what we do physically. We read, “you discern my thoughts from afar … even before a word is on my tongue …” [Psalm 139:4]

     In the language young people use today, they would describe as ‘awesome’ the thought that God knows our thoughts before we even put them into words. That really is a searchlight on the mind. We cannot limit the meaning to David personally. BUT there is even more than this in what he writes, a wonderful inspiration by God! We read, “For you formed my inward parts , you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made … your eyes saw my unformed substance.” [Psalm 139:13,14,16].

     Today, clever men have unravelled some of the secrets of DNA and the human genome. David was inspired to write 3,000 years ago of his “unformed substance,” i.e DNA.

      Finally, the word ‘SEARCH’ occurs again at the climax of the Psalm, Search me O God, and know my heart, try me and know my thoughts … and lead me in the way everlasting.” [Psalm 139:23,24] Would I, would you, want to sense God’s searchlight on your thoughts? If the answer is “No”  then should it not also be ‘No’ to the question as to whether we want to led by God in the way everlasting?

Thought for March 17th. GOD’S PRINCIPLES – THE JUBILEE YEAR

Today’s readings.. Leviticus 25, Psalm 135-136, Luke 8

     Today’s readings in Leviticus 25 are the words of the LORD about how the nation is to function when they settle into the Promised Land.

     First there are laws to see that they treat the land properly so that the soil continues to yield its increase. They were work the land for 6 years “but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD” [Leviticus 25:4] This policy of ploughing a field for 6 years and letting it rest on the 7th made good sense. The soil could rejuvenate. It is only in recent generations that farmers have been able to use lots of extra chemical fertilisers to increase land productivity. But at the same time they have made mistakes, and in trying to make the land too productive, some have ruined it.

    The chapter goes on to tell us that after 7 cycles or 7, making 49 years, the 50th year was to be a Jubilee Year, a very special year when “each of you shall return to his property” 

[Leviticus 25:13] God said, “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity for the land is mine.” [Leviticus 25:23]

     When they arrive in the promised land, as we will read in May, the land will be divided by Joshua into territories for each tribe. Each of these territories are then divided again into the ownership of families within the tribe, and then again to heads of households and individuals. If land was sold because of some urgent need, this was only until the next Jubilee Year. We read of various laws designed to help those who became poor. It is summed up in verse 46 “you shall not rule over one another ruthlessly” [Leviticus 25:46]

            The law was very good, but the people often were not, and did not put it into practice very well. 

God’s messages through the prophets often address this failure. In Isaiah we read, “Woe to those who join house to house and add field to field”   [Isaiah 5:8] The whole spirit of capitalism as practiced in much of the world now is wrong; it cultivates a spirit of greed in building up more and more wealth. But God’s principle for Israel was, “the land is mine”  they were the tenants to whom he had let it out. Surely the same will apply in the Kingdom of God. When, new week we come to Luke 18, take special note of Luke 18:25