Thought for January 31st. “WHAT IS HIS NAME?”

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

    We have now moved on to read about the dramatic life of Moses.  Exodus Ch. 3 is about his special encounter with God at the burning bush. For 40 years he had been living as a shepherd in Midian after fleeing from Pharaoh after his killing of an Egyptian became known.    Now ‘the angel of God appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush” [v.2]   We notice this is “the” specific angel that represents the Almighty; the rest of the chapter is written as if God himself is speaking. 

“Then the LORD (Yahweh) said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt … Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel out of Egypt.” [v.7,10] 

    What intrigued us is the question Moses puts to God. “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you and they ask me ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”   Now why would Moses expect the people to ask the name of the God of their fathers?     Well the word ‘name’ in certain contexts means reputation – such as when David ‘made himself a name’ (2 Samuel 8 v.13) and in some contexts in modern versions is translated it as ‘became famous’ and similar. Moses anticipates his generation of Israelites, will know little about the God of their forefathers and will want to know about his reputation.  All their lives they had been surrounded by the religious attitudes of the Egyptians and the legends about their Gods, Osiris, Mont, etc. 

    God answers Moses by saying, “I AM who I AM”.   How is that an answer?  We note the footnote in the ESV and RSV versions give the alternative of “I will be what I will be”   This is better, it directly relates to YAHWEH, which as the ESV footnote, states ‘is here connected with the verb hayah “to be”.    So God is saying, he is a God who becomes, he will establish his reputation by what he is going to do, not by legends of the past.  

    We will see, as we read the Old Testament that this point is made quite frequently, for example, Isaiah 63 v.14 “so you led your people (through Moses) to make for yourself a glorious name”  Those who follow the God of the Bible are expected to make for themselves a name, that is, a reputation that is pleasing to God – and in the climax of the ages, when his kingdom rules throughout the earth, God will give them a “new name” [Rev. 3 v.12]

Thought for January 30th. “THE CREATION WAS SUBJECTED TO FUTILITY”

Todays readings.. Exodus 1&2, Psalm 53, 54&55, Romans 7&8

Today we read ch. 7 & 8 in Romans.  We see them as two of the most meaningful – but also the most challenging chapters in the Bible.  We also read David’s Psalms 53 to 55.  

Psalm 53 is so appropriate for today, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’  They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good.” [v.1]

“God looks down from heaven … to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.” But “they have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. ” [v.2,3]

Yet the next verse speaks of “my people” as those affected by this – so God still has “people” on the earth who in some sense ‘belong’ to him. The last verse is fascinating!  ” Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!  When God restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.” We can see these words as both a plea – and a prayer – for today. Oh the wonder when God acts!  Surely the restoration has started – we have witnessed this in our lifetime. 

Back in Romans, Paul is particularly thought provoking when he writes, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. ” [8 v.18]  This is a verse we need to ‘cement’ into our minds when the increasing evil in this world threatens to ‘push’ us off the ‘narrow way.”  

Paul’s next verses are the most thought provoking. ” For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.   For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption.”  

This corruption is to be seen on two levels – the moral corruption that is swamping our world – following in the footsteps of Adam and Eve – but also the ‘curse’ on nature that God put on Adam.  He told him, “cursed is the ground because of you … thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you …” [Gen. 3 v.17,18]    

As a final thought we again pick up Paul’s point, ” the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed” and part of that revealing is surely the removal of the “futility” to which “creation was subjected.” 

Thought for January 29th. “ARE WE TO CONTINUE IN SIN THAT GRACE MAY ABOUND”


    Today’s Chapters 5 & 6 of Romans contain a great abundance of food for thought.  We could not fail to pick up the continuing message of the wonder of God’s grace, God’s readiness to be merciful – and that the gift of grace was continually there.  Believers cannot earn salvation – as the Jewish Priests thought they were doing, and were blind to the sin of pride in the process. 

    But then arises the most important question – we know we are justified by grace, and as a result accepted as in a right position before God because of our faith, so does it really matter if we keep on sinning? Sadly, some who claim to follow Christ claim it does not matter, ‘Once saved, always saved’ is their slogan – but that is not what the Scripture says.

   Paul answers the question we have used in our heading today (which is from the first verse of Ch. 6) by stating, “By no means!  How can we who have died to sin still live in it?” [v.2]. He writes, we “walk in newness of life” after we have been “buried with him by baptism” [v.4]. In this “newness of life” there will be times when we stumble and we will see in chapter 7 that Paul at times wrestled unsuccessfully with his human weaknesses (v.18-25).  

This causes him to declare, “wretched man that I am” [v.24] but note the marvellous climax to his thoughts he develops in Chapter 8, it is a mistake to read one chapter without the other.

   There is a fascinating parallel to our thoughts in our Psalms reading (51) which is David’s incredible Psalm of contrition after his sin with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah. This shows that genuine contrition from the heart will be recognised by God, and the prophet told David – “The LORD also has put away your sin” [2 Sam. 12 v.13].  

But that does not mean that there are no consequences to be suffered: this was certainly so in David’s case.  But there was a good consequence too!  David came closer to God, and the words that he then wrote (and this is not the only Psalm treating this matter) have been an encouragement to countless God-fearing men and women in the 2,900 years since then.   

However, note the blunt warning in Hebrews 10 about the consequences “if we go on sinning deliberately” (v.26) after coming to know God and accepting his salvation. A return to a godless way of life means we have “outraged the spirit of grace” [v.29] . Reading and meditating on God’s word every day lays a firm  foundation to “continue in newness of life.” 

Thought for January 28th. “NO ONE SEEKS FOR GOD”

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

            Today we read of how Joseph’s father and brothers and their families came to live in Egypt.  This created the situation in which they would grow into a nation and God would raise up Moses and Aaron to lead them out of Egypt. He would then give them his laws at Sinai: but their faith would then falter and they would wander in the wilderness and that generation would die.

           In a sense the world today is ‘wandering’ in the wilderness of unbelief – and part of our Psalm (50) today in a sense, describes this wandering! How appropriate are the words in v.17 & 18, “For you hate discipline, and you cast my words behind you … you keep company with adulterers.”  Verse 22 challenges such people, “”Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart … ”  Much of our world today deserves to be torn apart.The last verse is outstanding – as an exhortation to us! “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”  Our thanksgiving must be genuine – the outpouring of our hearts.

            A fitting conclusion to our thoughts is the way in which the Apostle Paul quotes from the Psalms in today’s chapters in Romans.  In ch, 3 v.10-12 we read, “as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless …”  

Paul is quoting this, primarily to the Jews!  He asks them “Are we Jews any better off?” [v.9]  They must not look down on the Romans, they must not forget how their Lord condemned their religious leaders, they were no better than them.   In our world “no one seeks for God” What of us?  Are we sure we do – in a fully committed way? In ch. 4 we are told “that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness.” [v.9]  Abraham showed his faith by his actions – when “no one” around him sought “for God” when he lived in Ur. (Gen. 15 v.7)  May we follow Abraham’s example – and therefore lay claim to being “his offspring” spiritually.

             In conclusion let us take special note of v. 12 & 13, and “walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham ….through the righteousness of faith”   Let us “seek(s) for God” in the same way. 

Thought for January 27th. “WHY SHOULD I FEAR IN TIMES OF TROUBLE”

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

    The above words are in the opening verse of today’s Psalm 49. This is a little surprising seeing this is the Hymn Book of Israel, so it was a message, in those days, and today, for all people. It is a powerful message!  It is a blunt message!  It contains some very pointed questions, especially for today. 

    “Why should I fear in times of trouble” [v.5], but as times of trouble multiply with destructive floods, fearsome fires, terrible earthquakes, etc., those with no relationship with God do fear!! It includes “rich and poor together” [v.2].   There are also “those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches” and “cheat” others [v.5,6].

    Now note what the Psalmist observes next! “Truly no man can … give to God the price of his life … that he should live forever … even the wise die … and leave their wealth to others. Their graves are their homes forever.” [v.7,9,11]  This blunt but true view of human life is summed up in v.12 & 13 “Man in his pomp will not remain; he is like the beasts that perish.  

This is the path of those who have foolish confidence.”  But the Psalmist has true confidence arising   from  his faith in God.   But God “will ransom my soul from the power of the grave for he will receive me” [v.15].  This is in contrast to the last verse of the Psalm, “Man in his pomp, yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish.”   We are in no better situation than the animals if we do not establish a true relationship with God.  The Psalmist’s hope, in this case David, was well expressed in Psalm 17 we read earlier this month. “As for me” he says to God “I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness” [v,15] 

    We read the same thing today in Paul’s message to the Romans, he preached the same hope, a time for awaking from death when God “will render to each one according to his works” to these “he will give eternal life” [Ch. 2.v.6,7] It will be when “God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” [v.16]  

May all those who know Christ and as a result have a daily relationship with him remember the words in Hebrews 4 v.16 that “no creature is hidden from his (God’s) sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him  to whom we must give account” .

Thought for January 26th. “A VERY PRESENT HELP IN TROUBLE”

Todays readings.. Genesis 42&43, Psalm 46,47&48, Matthew 28

Today we completed reading the gospel of Matthew with its’ account of the resurrection.  We especially noted its’ conclusion that they were “to make disciples of all nations” – and only in our generation is this being completed.  The outward proof of conversion is baptism. (v.19) But we must make sure our heart has genuinely experienced conversion.   

Our chapters in Genesis tells us of the second journey into Egypt by the brothers of Joseph, this time Benjamin is with them and the scene is set for a drama to unfold as we will read tomorrow.   

But our hearts were most affected by the three Psalms we read (46-48)! The 47th and 48th Psalms describe God’s kingdom in action, Psalm 48 starts, “Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised in the city of our God! …. the joy of all the earth … the city of the great King.”  But we let our minds dwell – in awe – on Psalm 46 – and its application to our world today – and its inspiration to those who still believe in – and – most particularly – have a relationship with God.    “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved … the sea,  though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble … The nations rage, the kingdoms totter … ” [v.1,2, 6]  

  But true and faithful believers will hear the words, ” Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth …” [v.8,9] This is the climax to the ‘history’ of godless humans – those who have convinced themselves there is no God.  Once again we are reminded that there are just two ways – the broad and narrow – one leads to wonder – the other to disaster.  

Let us makes sure the final words of this Psalm are fully embraced within our hearts and minds. “”Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!’  The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress”  Let us especially be ready to know and feel this  – that our God and his Son are “a very present help in trouble.”

Thought for January 25th. “HIS BLOOD BE ON US”

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

    If anyone dies an unnatural death, there is always an effort to find whether anyone is to blame. As we read the trial of Jesus Christ we see the determination of his enemies to have him put to death.  “They all said, ‘let him be crucified’” to which Pilate responded, “Why, what evil has he done?” [Matt. 27 v.22,23] 

They never answered his question, because there was no answer they could give!  By combining the different Gospel records we see the weakness of Pilate.  He gave up trying to administer justice and “took water and washed his hands before the crowds, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.’ And all the people answered, ‘His blood be on us and on our children.’” [v.24,25] 

     At that point they were willing to take all the blame for rejecting Jesus!  Now we move the scene of events forward a few months; Jesus had risen from the dead and for 40 days appeared to and consorts with those who believe in him, on one occasion to “more than 500 brothers at one time” [1 Cor.15 v.6]   These believers, especially the immediate disciples, become a powerful influence in Jerusalem with their bold preaching – further empowered by the Holy Spirit the 12 had been given after his ascension.

    The Jewish leaders and their supporters are powerless – they forget what they had told Pilate about Christ’s blood being upon them and their children and they arrest the disciples and “set them before the council” saying, “you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” [Acts 5 v.28]  

    But the decision was made, the deed was done, Jerusalem is doomed – remember how Jesus wept over it. Today we are surrounded by people who are determined to believe there is no God, or who, recognising the need for some spiritual influence in their lives, do little more than preach the second commandment that ‘you should love your neighbour as yourself.’  For them Jesus will have died in vain, his blood is upon them. 

 Is it clear to God what you believe? It is vital we live in a way that shows we believe that Jesus died for us that we might have eternal life. This world  is doomed, like Jerusalem was doomed, we cannot avoid making a decision as to where we stand; no decision means we stand with those who said, “His blood be upon us.”

Thought for January 24th. “UNTIL THAT DAY WHEN …”

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

            Our Matthew reading (ch. 26) recounts the agonies of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and his prayers.  “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as you will.” [v.39]. Jesus made his “will” conform to his Father’s will.  And what of our “will”?

             Peter was to later write of how Christ, in his commitment to his Father’s will “suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” [1 Pet. 2 v.21]

              Before Jesus and his disciples went into the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus directed them to prepare for a Passover meal on “the first day of unleavened bread” (v.17)  

Then we read, “Now as they were eating Jesus took bread …”  – next “he took the cup …” [v.26-27] and spoke of a “covenant … for many for the forgiveness of sins” [v.28] The disciples must have been perplexed at his words, but there is no indication they asked him to explain.

        But this takes our minds forward to meditate on the record in Acts 2 and the events on the day of Pentecost and “the breaking of bread” [v.42] that then followed.  With what intense meaning would the disciples and all who had just been baptised have taken part!  We presume the disciples would earlier have done so after his resurrection and ascension, although there is no record of this – we meditate on the intensity of meaning as they did!  How does it compare with ours?   

          The disciple would also remember that their Master said, after the command to “Drink, all of you” that he then said, “I will not drink again  of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”[v.29].  This event is beyond our comprehension – just as what was about to happen then was beyond theirs.

           Could someone like the Apostle Paul grasp the wonder to come?  Take note of his words in 1 Corinthians.  “‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him – these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the deep things of God.” [2 v.9,10]

            But for us “until that day when …” our faith is turned to sight and the Spirit which is “the powers of the age to come.” [Heb. 6 v.5] is poured out on the faithful who will reign with him – may we be like the Thessalonians whose “faith is growing abundantly”   [2 Thess. 1 v.3] live each day to create more and more oil for our lamps (from His word) as this world becomes an ever darker place.  What an utter contrast the “light” will be. 

Thought for January 23rd. “YOU KNOW NEITHER THE DAY, NOR THE HOUR”

Todays readings.. Genesis 38, Psalm 41,42&43, Matthew 25

             Today we have 3 parables in our chapter (25) in Matthew which all convey fundamentally the same lesson. The fact that there are three shows how extremely important the message is. Those who read the Bible regularly will know them well; we must beware of knowing them too well, lest the message loses its power to stir our conscience.

     The first one is of the 10 virgins; half are called “wise.”  What made them “wise” as they waited in the darkness for the cry, “Here is the bridegroom!  Come out to meet him.”  The wise had brought a reserve of oil for their lamps.  What does the oil represent?  Our conclusion is – it represents “faith”, how terrible to have run short of or completely out of faith when the midnight cry is heard. 

Faith cannot be second-hand, it cannot be replenished  in a moment. 

     The second parable is about talents the Master gives to his servants to use while he is away.  They represent, we suggest, the abilities and opportunities to represent the Master in his absence.  

The final parable is of sheep and goats and of “his glorious throne” when the Master returns. Then, and only then, will it be made plain for all to see which are sheep and which are goats – in the Middle East they look very similar.  The goats will be blind to their failings, “Lord” they will say “when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?” [v.44]  

And he will say, “Truly … as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”[v.45]     Put as simply as possible – this is telling us – we are either Christ-centred – or self-centred. 

      We must ask ourselves – am I labouring effectively in his vineyard – or not.  It seems to many of our age group (as great grandparents) that the Lord is delaying his coming – but the reason is that the final ingathering is not yet quite complete (see Luke 14 v.22-23 “still there is room. And the Master said, ‘Go out to the highways and  hedges … that my house may be filled”) 

      So let Christ’s challenging words at the end of his parable about the virgins ‘illuminate’ our minds “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day not the hour” This request is more important than ever – for the storm clouds illuminating human helplessness are greater than ever – and the wise virgins need to be together whenever they can.  But what are they to “watch” for?  

We will read tomorrow of Jesus in the garden with his disciples and his request, “…watch with me … Watch and pray …the spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak.”” [ch.26 v.40,41]  Meditate on the kind of watching Jesus was referring to.

Thought for January 22nd. “AS THE LIGHTNING COMES ….”

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

What a fascinating set of readings we have today, but the chapter in Matthew is intensely thought provoking and ended up dominating our thoughts.  Jesus made awesome predictions about the future as “he sat with them (the disciples)  on the Mount of Olives” [v.3] The bulk of his predictions related to the destruction of the Temple – and this occurred about 40 years later.  But the teachings of Jesus on the mount then go beyond that time to when he will  return to earth. It will be dramatic; “as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” [v.27] 

It will be an utterly dramatic time; there will be a final time of tribulation, and then, said Jesus, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man … and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” [v.29,30]  

How literal are these words? We hesitate to be dogmatic, but it would be foolish to ‘spiritualize’ them away!?

The most wonderful (and awe-inspiring) are the words of  Jesus, as far as believers are concerned, are in v.31 which tells us that ” he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds …” .   Jesus likens the time to –  “the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” [v.37-39] 

Thankfully, after that flood, God promised “”I will never again curse the ground because of man … as I have done.  While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”[Gen. 8 v.21, 22].  Wonderful – and we are experiencing this blessing – but so few these days thank the Creator for them. 

Finally, look at v.42-44,  “stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming … the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. ” And then, indeed, it will be “as the lightning comes …”  We do not know the day or the hour – but what about the year?  It is now 70 years since Israel became a nation again!