Thought for January 31st

Todays readings.. Exodus 3&4, Psalm 56&57, Romans 9

“THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED”

     Our readings today – in Exodus and Romans tie in together in their reference to the exaltation of Moses, now ready, in God’s sight, to serve him after 40 years of preparation “in the land of Midian.”  Moses is now a meek and humble man (Numbers 12 v.3) – God can now use him

    Paul’s points in our Roman’s chapter (9) are illuminating: first, he states how God “says to Moses, ‘’I will have mercy on whom I have mercy… So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who has mercy.’” [v.15,16] In our Exodus reading yesterday we saw how God could not use Moses’ own “will and exertion” [2 v.11-15].  Paul then drives home the lesson that we cannot deserve, i.e. ‘earn’ God’s blessing by our own efforts.
All God’s blessings are an expression of God’s mercy.
This is parallel to talking about God’s grace; therefore it is really saddening today when so many talk and write glibly about ‘grace’ as though it is an ever-flowing factor that they can be certain about – regardless of how they behave,

              Paul next makes the point that “Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth’”. [v.17]   This is not the proclamation of God’s actual name as an intellectual understanding, but of God’s reputation – that was about to be established by what he did.  We will read of this in the next few days; the dramatic deliverance from Egypt of the descendants of Jacob.

              In relation to this, look carefully at our reading in Exodus 3  where God’s name is given as , “I will be what I will be” [v.14 – as shown in the ESV footnote] Primarily, this means God will ‘make’ his name, that is, his reputation, by what is about to happen – “This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.” [v.15].   Their deliverance from Egypt became a ‘memorial’ which all generations would look back to – as a foundation for their confidence in God.  Thus, when we come to read Psalm 135 and its praises to the LORD we will see the full significance in v.8-13 of the LORD’s name and “renown.”  It is fully expressed in Isaiah 63 v.11-14 how you God “led your people to make for yourself a glorious name.”  Daniel makes the same point in his impassioned prayer (9 v.15)

              In the same way we look back to the sacrifice and resurrection of our Savior – and how God made for himself the name of ‘Father.’  This was not so in the Old Testament. We are privileged to call God   ‘Father’ – but how many “hallow” that name when they say the Lord’s Prayer?  Do we? 

              It is just as vital to ask; how many are striving to make a ‘name’ for themselves which Christ will “remember” when the time comes for him to “confess’ what those in his service have achieved according to the “talents” given to them?  Think about what Jesus says in Rev. 3 v.5, “The one who conquers (him/herself!) … I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.”    

Our ‘name” i.e., reputation, Christ will “confess” – will be achieved by you and I in various ways; for example, to quote James 1 v.27, “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

Thought for January 30th

Todays readings… Exodus 1&2, Psalm 53-55, Romans 7&8

“WE WAIT EAGERLY FOR” 

Paul’s letter to the Romans contains some of the most meaningful and thought provoking words in Scripture. It is extremely challenging to read it and embrace all its’ points in our minds.  Maybe, more than any other book in the Bible, this book calls for our diligent and meditative study.  But this is the challenge of the whole Bible, it is not at all like a school text book that you go through in a year’s study and then leave on the shelf for occasional reference.  God’s word is designed by him for our lifelong reading and reflection.

Paul had been brought up under the Law of Moses with all its rules and regulations.  He had been zealous for the Law, but, as a result of his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus, he had, with God’s help through the Spirit, applied his mind to the new reality of eternal things – especially – to a personal relationship to his Saviour.

The Law of Moses was a Law for Israel as a nation. This Law had been superseded by a situation in which each individual needed to develop a personal relationship with their Saviour the Lord Jesus and with his Father – and through him – is now ‘Our Father.’  

Paul writes, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  For the creation waits with eager longing …” [8 v.18,19]  This sense of eagerness is felt by all those who see the emptiness in so much of what people enjoy today:  But it is all “creation” that waits for the removal of the curse imposed in Eden.  We learn in Genesis how God said to Adam “cursed is the ground because of you” [Gen. 3 v.17]  Paul goes on to say we “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons (& daughters), the redemption of our bodies” [v.23]   How true is the word eagerly – especially as we grow older and our minds and bodies feel the effects.   

  Those who find this life satisfying and enjoyable will not genuinely “wait eagerly” for that which is going to replace it. But for many in the world this life offers little that is enjoyable – so they are often in a far more spiritually acceptable frame of mind before God. Finally, let us all read carefully and prayerfully the last 8 verses (31-39) of Romans ch 8.

Thought for January 29th

Todays readings.. Genesis 48-50, Psalm 51&52, Romans 5&6

IN WHICH GOD DELIGHTS IN 

The readings today all challenge us to think and meditate on their application to ourselves.  Much personal meditation is called for.  Genesis 48 contains Jacob’s reflections at the end of his life, his relationship with “the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day” [v.15]. 

Psalm 51 contains David’s outpourings of remorse over his failures, pleading, “according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions” [v.1] saying to God, “Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart” [v.6] The secret heart is the hidden heart David had not been conscious of, which was in desperate need of repair. The Hebrew implies this.

Today we would probably talk about inner integrity.  The central point is that we fail to truly sense how God sees how we think, as well as hearing what we say.

This is the point Paul has been making in writing to the Romans “if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness … you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself?  While you preach against stealing, do you steal? [2 v.19,21]  The Jews lacked wisdom in their inward being; their knowledge of God was in the head, but not in the heart.

“The Jews”, writes Paul, “were entrusted with the oracles of God” [3 v.2].   Many, especially their leaders, were proud of this.  But Paul asks, “Are we Jews any better off? 

No, not at all”, he answers, “all … are under sin, as it is written, ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God … there is no fear (awe) of God before their eyes” [v.9,10,18] 

Paul is quoting this from David’s Psalms (14 & 36), how appropriate!   It is essential that we train our hearts into ways of thinking in which God delights in – and we can only do that if we are totally conscious of his all seeing eye.  This is the pivot on which living by faith revolves.

Thought for January 28th

Todays readings… Genesis 46&47, Psalm 50, Romans 3&4

“CLAIMING TO BE WISE, THEY BECAME …”   

Yesterday we started reading Paul’s letter to the Romans.  It contains so much that is relevant to life today.  Paul writes of how humans, “claiming to be wise, they became fools” [Ch.1 v.22]   

He says, “what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them” [v.19]   He says, “his invisible attributes …. have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” [v.20]   In other words, although God himself cannot be seen by human eyes, the evidence of his existence should be plain to humans because of all the remarkable things which he has created.  

Paul continues, “they became futile in their thinking and their foolish heart was darkened.” [v.21]   The foolishness of those days, which still continues among some nations, is to believe God is represented in animals, such as Elephants, and to worship them.

But today, throughout what we call the Western world, so many who are “claiming to be wise”believe there is no God of any kind, that everything that exists in some unknowable way – created itself!  This was possible, they strangely reason, if we allow enough millions and billions of years, through an endless series of “accidents.” 

Yet the more humans discover the wonders of the world in which they live, the more incredible they finds it to be, all the wonders of DNA being one of the recent examples.  As a result, the more foolish their words in “claiming to be wise” appear to be!  Marvellous designs – but no designer!!

The tragedy is that, having convinced themselves there is no God, the words of Paul which follow are even more true today than ever before.  He wrote “and since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice … haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless … “ [v.28-31] 

There is much more in this chapter including a condemnation of homosexuality; as things that humans do when they have no knowledge or belief in the one and only God.  It is becoming clearer that there is no middle road, we either believe or we do not – and if we believe, we must not be half hearted about it.  

When the Kingdom is established, may our king say to us as Pharaoh said to Joseph, “there is none so discerning and wise as you are.” [Gen. 41 v.39]  But for the present we must heed Paul’s warning in Romans, “Never be wise in your own sight.” [12 v.16]

Thought for January 27th

Todays readings.. Genesis 44&45, Psalm 49, Romans 1&2

“WHY SHOULD I FEAR IN TIME OF TROUBLE”

            How challenging for us is the ungodliness that surrounds us. It has some degree of attraction for us in our fleshly weaknesses.  Our Psalm 49 today begins, “Hear this, all peoples! Give ear, all inhabitants of the world, both low and high, rich and poor together!”    How few can “hear” God’s message to them today!

            Verse 5 jumps out at us and challenges us to remember and keep repeating what we read here! “Why should I fear in times of trouble, when … iniquity … surrounds me …”  We are surrounded by iniquity more than ever. Such are the ways of life that almost no one has any thought of their being an all-seeing God who has his eyes of the earth and the people he created.

             The next verse asks about “those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches?” What is described as their future? The Psalmist is inspired to write “no man can … give to God the price of his life … that he should live on forever …” [v.7,8] 

            In v,12 we pick up a heart-challenging declaration, “Man in his pomp will not remain; he is like the beasts that perish.”  But this is a description of a certain path – called elsewhere as the wide way!  Earlier this month we read the words of Jesus that “the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.” [Matt. 7 v.13]

            However – back in Psalm 49 the Psalmist declares (and invites his readers to sing)“God will ransom my soul from the power of the grave for he will receive me.”[v.15]  All who have this hope in their hearts, those who are true committed believers in God and his word should ask themselves, as we read (and quoted) in v. 5, “Why should I fear in times of trouble?” We should recall what we read yesterday at the start of Psalm 46, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in troubleTherefore we will not fear though the earth gives way ….”

Thought for January 26th

Todays readings…Genesis 42&43, Psalm 46-48, Matthew 28

“GOD IS OUR REFUGE AND STRENGTH” 

     Just as parts of the Psalms, such as  22 v.1 and 16 v,10,11 foreshadowed events and sayings in the mortal life of our Lord, so Psalms 46 and 47 we read today can be seen as portraying the awesome events at and after the time of his second coming.   The overview of those events which these Psalms provide, show how vital it will be for us to possess and “to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end … imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” [Heb.6 v.11,12] 

      The opening of Psalm 46 should be memorized and become part of our daily thoughts; “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way … though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble …” [v.1-3] “The nations rage, the kingdoms totter …” [v.6]  But in the midst of this awesome upheaval , “… the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High (is seen) … God will help her when morning dawns.” [v.4,5]

      Until that dawning, the darkness of human depravity and folly will dominate life on earth.  But with the dawning to a new day which the return of Christ will bring will come a sober reflection on God’s judgments:  Come behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth, He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth …” [v.8,9]  How wonderful!  How awesome!   But as it becomes more and more evident that God’s judgments are starting today how vital it will be that “God is our refuge and strength”  and for us to “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations …” [v.10]

     At that time, may we, by God’s grace, be part of the action described in Psalm 47 “ Clap your hands, all peoples!  Shout to God with loud songs of joy!  For the LORD, the Most High is to be feared, a great king over the earth.  He subdued peoples under us, and nations …” [v.1-3]   If God is truly our refuge now – then, by his grace, that will be our experience.    

Thouught for January 25th

Todays readings .. Genesis 41, Psalm 45, Matthew 27

“THEREFORE NATIONS WILL PRAISE YOU FOREVER …” 

The above quotation is found in the final verse of today’s Psalm 45.  The whole Psalm is an awesome heart challenging description of the kingdom – and of Jesus – saying that “grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever.” [v.2] What awesomely prophetic verses follow!  “Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one, in your splendour and majesty!” [v.3]  And what a vision of the divine action to come upon the earth (and how soon now!)

We read on [v.4] “In your majesty ride out victoriously for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness …”  Those 3 words, truth, meekness and righteousness “will cause your name to be remembered in all generations; therefore nations will praise you forever and ever.” [v.17]

This “praise” is something the nations will have to learn!  What a learning curve that will be, how awesome the start of the kingdom will be! We are told in v. 5 “Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; the peoples fall under you.”  We call to mind God’s words through Isaiah in his words about “the latter days” in ch. 2, that He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples … “ [v.4]. We sense from this that the “nations will” learn topraise you forever.”  There is no solution for “disputes” today!

Back in Psalm 45 we read that, as a result of the king’s “arrows (being) sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; (so that) the peoples fall under you.” [v.5]- what an awesome period that will be!  But we then note the declaration is, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The sceptre of your kingdom is a sceptre of uprightness”.  So Jesus is seen as “God”!? The next verse gives us the explanation, that becauseyou have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness … ”

Finally let us call to mind how Paul describes the climax in his 1st letter to the Corinthians, he tells us that Jesus “must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For ‘God has put all things in subjection under his feet.’ But when it says, ‘all things are put in subjection,’ it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.” [15 v.25-28] And “therefore nations will praise you forever.”

Thought for January 24th

Todays readings… Genesis 39&40, Psalm 44, Matthew 26

“THE LORD CAUSED ALL THAT HE DID TO SUCCEED”

    There is a lot of ‘food for thought’ in today’s account in Genesis of the experience of young Joseph after he was sold as a slave into Egypt by his jealous brothers. We need to take careful note of the several references to the LORD’s involvement in his life.  Verse 2 (of Ch. 39) tells us “The LORD was with Joseph and he became a successful man.”   Then the next verse; the LORD caused all that he did to succeed in his hands.”

    Now we do not think Joseph realized this at the time, but looking back on the events he sensed this must have been so.  Can we similarly look back and see how, in some circumstances, in a remarkable way, “all things work together for good” [Romans 8 v.28] in the unfolding of some, if not many, circumstances and events in our lives? 

    Joseph “was handsome in form and appearance” [v.6] and today people in the world would see this as a great blessing!  However, it can result in a real testing time for those who are committed to serving God and putting him ‘first’ in their lives: it may not be a blessing at all! 

Now note Joseph’s words to the woman, his Master’s wife, who is trying to seduce him.  “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God.” [v.9].   The greater sin in giving in to her attempts at seduction would have been against God, in breaking the laws of behaviour God had laid down for those who have committed their lives to serve their Marker.   As we live today in a world where so few have this consciousness we may well encounter more and more situations that challenge our conscience; so how great is our need to have an active conscience! We specially Paul’s comment in Acts 24 v.16, “I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.”

    Finally, we notice the outcome after Joseph was unjustly thrown into prison after the false accusations of this woman. “But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” [v.21].  That opening quote again!  The LORD caused all that he did to succeed.” The lesson?  All things continue to work together for our ultimate good, through all circumstances, however difficult, when we commit ourselves to put the LORD first in all the paths we tread.

Thought for January 23rd

Todays readings ..Genesis 38, Psalm 41-43, Matthew 25

“MY SOUL THIRSTS FOR GOD”

          Today’s Psalm 42 has this particularly challenging verse, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” [v.2]  We linked this verse in with the two parables we read today in Matthew Ch. 25.  There is first a parable of 10 virgins waiting for the bridegroom to arrive, but half of them are foolish and do not bring enough oil (of faith?) and the door is shut on them and they are left outside (v.1-10)

            The second somewhat parallel parable is of servants who are entrusted with portions of their Master’s property while he is away.  When he returns they are called to appear before him.  Those who have been conscientious are naturally ready when their Master re-appears, they have been thirsting for him to come.  These receive commendation and are told “Enter into the joy of your Master [v.23]. Their thirsty soul was satisfied.

             However, there is a servant who is described as “slothful” [v.26] who is barred from entry and the point is made by Jesus, “To everyone who has will more be given and he will have an abundance.  But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”[v.29]

               We now look again at Psalm 42 where we read another important question – and the answer to it! “Why are you cast down, O my soul, why are you in turmoil within me?  Hope in God; for I shall again praise him …” [v.5].   This thought leads to the Psalmist’s recognition that “by day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.”  [v.8]   The Psalmist learnt that the Lord will quench our thirst now if we truly drink from his word every day.  We will have ample oil in our lamps and will be ready to appear before him with joy.   This world is “a dry and weary land where there is no water” [Psalm 63 v.1] except for “the water of life” [Rev. 21 v.6] that is only to be found, here and now, in God’s word.

Thought for January 22nd

Todays readings.. Genesis 37, Psalm 39&40, Matthew 24

SUN, MOON & STARS                                                                                                                                                                          

    In both our Genesis and Matthew readings today we have reference to the sun, moon and stars – and in neither case are they to be understood in a literal sense.  The context makes this evident. 

In Genesis Joseph has a dream and tells his parents and brothers about it.  “Behold I have dreamed a dream.  Behold the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me” [37 v.9]  His father has no doubt as to what the dream symbolises and says, “ ‘Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?’ And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind” [v.10-11].

Our minds move forward to the time of Mary and how she kept the sayings about Jesus in mind in her heart. (Luke 2 v.19, 51)   The jealousy of Joseph’s brothers is the trigger that creates a sequence of events that leads to the fulfilment of this dream – this is yet another example of how God weaves in the actions prompted by human nature, to bring about his purpose. It is also the way he oversees the character building of those he is calling to serve him.

               In Matthew 24 Jesus says the sun, moon and stars will be a sign of his coming.  The time of great tribulation comes to an end when “the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken” [v.29]

While we should not exclude a possible application in some physical sense, the saying would appear to have an application to a total crisis and collapse of the earth’s ruling power; and certainly the various ruling powers are, to a degree, in disarray at the moment.    The “earth  (i.e. the people on earth) will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect …” [v.30-31]  

    As we see various governments in the world experiencing more and more dysfunction and the people dissatisfied with their leaders – 2018 is developing more and more as a crisis year.  As the year progresses our eyes may be drawn to the Middle East – but the lack of good  financial foundations may be a major factor with the rulers, the sun, moon and stars, not knowing how to cope.  People and nations worship money instead of God; we must not be like the foolish virgins we will read about tomorrow: let us be ready to bow down and praise our Lord.