Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Joel: Deliverance from God

LINK: Joel 2:18-3:21

by Katrina
(with the help of Dr. Charles Feinberg from his book The Minor Prophets)

We left off yesterday with a call to repentance. We begin today with God's promise of deliverance. God never fails to hear even the faintest cry of the penitent heart. He forgives. He restores. He blesses.

One day God will pour out His Spirit upon all Israel. There will be salvation and physical deliverance. You may recognize these verses as ones quoted by Peter at Pentecost. There is a connection between this passage and Acts 2, but if you read both passages carefully, you'll see that Joel's prophecy wasn't fulfilled in Acts. Peter used the prophecy of Joel as an illustration of what was happening that day. It's like Peter saw that if God could do what He did at the day of Pentecost, then surely God would one day fulfill the prophecy of Joel in Israel.

In chapter three we read that not only will God restore Judah and Jerusalem, but He will also judge the nations. When the Lord returns, the nations will be gathered together and judged by Him. Jesus seems to be describing these events in Matthew 25:31-46.

Joel concludes with a description of great blessings on Judah. Even the mountains and hills, usually not the most productive land, will flourish. The brooks will flow with water even to the valley of Shittim, which is usually a rather dry place. Egypt and Edom will be desolate as punishment for their mistreatment of God's people. But Judah and Jerusalem will last forever. God's people will remain.

I love how God is so disposed to hearing our cries, accepting our repentance, and blessing us despite our sinful nature. It's like He is always keeping an ear toward His children, hoping to catch the faintest sound of repentance. And He is quick to forgive us. Do you remember how God described Himself to Moses as He passed by him in a cloud? -- "The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin" (Exodus 34:6ff).

Praise the Lord today for His forgiveness. You might meditate on Psalm 32 as you do so.

What a blessing it is, Lord, to have my sin forgiven!! It's indescribable! You forgive me and make me clean. When I continue in my sin without confessing and repenting of it, I am miserable. But as soon as I come to You with a heart full of repentance, You hear me and forgive. I rejoice in Your forgiveness! Through the blood of Jesus, amen.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Joel: Desolation from God

LINK: Joel 1:1 - 2:17

by Katrina
(with the help of Dr. Charles Feinberg from his book The Minor Prophets)


In yesterday's reading of 2 Chronicles 24 (included in Saturday's post), we saw Joash forsaking the Lord after the death of Jehoiada. The people abandoned the Lord (v 18), and God sent prophets to them to bring them back to the Lord. Though these prophets testified against them, the people of Judah refused to listen (v 19). One of these prophets was most likely Joel.

The theme of the book of Joel is "The Day of Jehovah," or "The Day of the Lord." The term "day of the Lord" is typically used to refer to a time of judgment from God. It can refer to a variety of historical and prophetical events but almost always refers to calamitous judgment.

The book of Joel begins with a call for attention. Joel says that this is something big. Nothing like this has happened in known memory of these people. And he tells the people to be sure to tell their children and grandchildren of these events, so it will be passed down from generation to generation. Joel wants them to understand that his forthcoming prophecy is a very important message. Don't miss it!

Chapter one is Joel's description of a terrible plague of locusts and its effect on the land. Four successive swarms of locusts sweep through the land devouring every bit of vegetation on the way. The destruction is complete. There are many historical accounts of such devastation by locusts in many parts of the world.

The locusts are represented by a picture of an invading army that completely destroys the nation. This calls for great weeping and mourning. The worship of God at the temple is affected. There are no sacrifices for the people to offer. Joel tells the people to declare a time of fasting and prayer. They must cry out to the Lord for help.

This judgment, this destruction, has come from God and extends beyond the land itself. All the animals, as well as men, will suffer from it.

Chapter two begins with a call to sound the alarm, for The Day of Jehovah was at hand. Great doom and judgment is imminent. Beginning in verse two and continuing through verse 11, Joel describes an army invasion that will destroy the land. It is described like a war machine, an unstoppable power, a force that destroys everything in its path.

So Joel calls the people to repentance (v 12-17).

What does repentance look like? The Lord tells us, "Return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping, and mourning. And rend your hearts and not your garments. Now return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness, and relenting of evil."

They have been going their own way, so if they are going to repent, they must change their direction to return to God. An important part of repentance is the realization that one is going a direction contrary to God. He is going away from God. His ways are against God. So repentance begins with the understanding that "my ways" are contrary to "God's ways" and I am the one who must change.

But this can't be a half-hearted return to God. It must be with a whole heart. A truly repentant heart does not say, "I repent of this sin and that sin, but I want to keep this other sin a bit longer." No, that is not whole-hearted repentance, and partial repentance isn't really repentance at all. As long as we intentionally keep that one sin, we are still going in our own direction.

Such full repentance is commonly accompanied by weeping. The realization of our own sinfulness in light of God's holiness causes us to mourn. We can be consumed with repenting to the point we don't even eat but stay focused for period of time on this repentance. Our hearts break because of our sin. That's what Joel means by "rend your hearts." Rending our garments would be an outward display of repentance. God isn't interested in outward displays; He is interested in the heart!

Who is this God to whom we must repent? He is a gracious and compassionate God. He is slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. He is a God who relents when His people repent.

Is God showing you an area of sin in your life? Meditate on Joel 2:12-17 today and whole-heartedly turn back to God.

Heavenly Father, you are truly a loving father who chastises your children. You don't chastise us without reason, though, but do it to bring us to repentance. We praise you that your desire is for our repentance and restoration rather than our destruction. When we repent, you meet us with great compassion. You do not get angry but show us great love and kindness. Thank you for your great love for us. Thank you for your grace and compassion that you lavish on us. Thank you for bringing us to a point of repentance so we can turn from sin and go your way instead. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Psalms 91 & 92

by Becky

LINK: Psalm 91


Have you read this psalm? I mean really read it? Have you pondered the images? If not do it now.

Let me deal with the elephant in the living room before going on!

Does this psalm mean that those who trust in the Lord will be kept from dying in battle (v. 7) or dying of disease or being harmed by evil (v. 10)? Does it mean that all who take refuge in God will live a long life (v. 16)?

I don’t think so.

First, the Scriptures themselves contradict that. Psalm 34 says this, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers them out of them all.” We will have afflictions and we will be delivered out of each of them.. Hebrews 11 lists not only those who were delivered by God in miraculous ways in this life, but also those who suffered because of their faith and were delivered through death.

Did you know that Satan quoted this psalm (vv. 11-12) when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness? He took Jesus up to the highest point of the Temple and said, “If you are the Son of God jump off! Doesn’t it say in the Scriptures, ‘that He will send His angels to protect you concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. They will hold you up with there hands to keep you from even hitting your foot on a stone.’?” (Matthew 4:6) Satan tested Jesus by twisting the the purpose of the words of the psalm to suit his own ends.

Look at Jesus. He trusted his Father perfectly and yet he suffered. He had a crown of thorns put on His head. He had nails pounded into His hands and feet. He died an early and painful death. He, himself, told His followers this paradox, “They will put some of you to death…. Yet not a hair of your head will perish.” (Luke 21: 16-18)

So we see from the context of the whole of God’s counsel that there is an unspoken qualification to this psalm, one that those who shelter in the Most High should understand. Derek Kidner put it this way: “This is a statement of exact, sweeping providence, not a charm against adversity… What it does assure us is that nothing can touch God’s servant but by God’s leave.” Wow.

What we have here in Psalm 91 is better than some “charm” that will keep us from ever being hurt! We have a promise that no matter what harm touches us, God is right there with us and it is part of His purpose for us. He will remain with us. Nothing can separate us from Him! His design is good and sometimes it includes suffering. If I abide or dwell in Him, though, I am safe.

What am I to do? I am to trust the Lord, to shelter in Him, to dwell so close to Him that it’s as if I’m in His shadow. I am to cling to the truth of His faithfulness – that faithfulness is my protection!

Can God deliver us from all harm? Can He keep us from suffering or disease? Of course He can.

Does He sometimes allow us to suffer, though? Does His design for us sometimes include physical pain or early death? Yes.

But no matter what, whether we are miraculously delivered by Him from what harms us or whether we are kept safe in Him in the midst of what harms us – He is with us! He is in charge. He won’t leave us. What a wonderful promise. All we need to do is dwell in Him and trust Him.

My husband and I have experienced the truth of this psalm during the past six months. In October Jerry was in a motorcycle accident – clear day, empty road, and a truck driver that didn’t see him until after he hit him. Jerry lost part of his left foot, and had multiple other injuries to his legs and pelvis and hip. It has been a long hard road since then, and my husband is my hero! Did that accident take God by surprise? Nope. Could God have prevented the accident? Of course He could have. But for some reason He didn’t. That’s where our trust comes in. He is God. We aren’t. We belong to Him. We have discerned His love and faithfulness, though, in ways we never did before the accident. We have experienced the truth of what the Lord tells us in this psalm: “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name… I will be with them in trouble.” (vv. 14-15)

(John Piper has a chapter devoted to Psalm 91 in his book Taste and See. The chapter was a great help to me in writing this. That’swhere the quote from Derek Kidner came from.)

LINK: Psalm 92

I’ve spent so many words on Psalm 91 that I will try to keep this entry shorter! But it’s hard because this psalm is so rich. It makes me want to sing!

So here are two things to take away (because these are what I took away with me!):

1. It is good to have a grateful heart! Do you think about and speak of God’s lovingkindness in the morning and His faithfulness at night (v 2)? How often I take those two traits of His for granted. Ponder those.

2. The righteous (that’s you and me if we trust in Jesus’ death for us) flourish like trees planted in a place that where they are well-watered and cared for. Get this: we “will still yield fruit in old age; we shall be full of sap and very green!” Wow. What a promise.

I don’t know about you, but at age 54 I am so thankful that though I am outwardly aging, I am inwardly being renewed by God’s Spirit (2 Corinthians 4). If I dwell in God, He will make sure that I continue to flourish. I will bear fruit!

I have seen this personally, too. I have been blessed with parents who are believers and who are now in their 80’s. They continue to grow in the Lord. They continue to be used by God and bear fruit even in old age. They are green!


Thank-you, Lord, that we are reminded by both these psalms to dwell in You. You are our shelter, our fortress, our refuge. You are the one who waters us and nurtures us so that we bear fruit. Help us to trust you no matter what. Thank you for your promise that nothing can separate us from your love: "neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, netiher the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8: 38-39) Amen.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

2 Chronicles 19-20: Jehoshaphat, part 2

LINK: 2 Chronicles 19-20

by Katrina

Chapter 19 begins with Jehoshaphat being chastised by God for participating with Ahab in the battle against Ramoth-Gilead. "Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD, and so bring wrath on yourself from the Lord?"

Jehoshaphat continued his efforts to spread God's law to all the people of Judah. He went out among the people and talked with them about the Lord and the law. By doing so, he brought many people in the land back to a right relationship with the Lord. He also appointed judges throughout the land and instructed them to judge very carefully and righteously before God.

Chapter 20 tells of another battle. This time the Moabites, Ammonites and some Meunites were joining forces in a plan to attack Judah. When Jehoshaphat received word of the impending enemy attack, he understood the danger his country was in. He turned to God and led the people to do likewise. God sent a message to the king and the people, "Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God's." The Lord gave them instructions and assured them that he would take care of this battle for Judah. They never even had to fight, but God orchestrated the victory for them. They praised the Lord, and the surrounding nations feared the Lord and did not attack again while Jehoshaphat was king.

The chapter closes by briefly mentioning an alliance that Jehoshaphat made with Ahaziah king of Israel. God did not approve of this alliance and destroyed the work that the alliance accomplished.

When Jehoshaphat received word of the enemy invasion about to come, he immediately "turned his attention to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah." He publicly sought the help of God to deliver his nation from these enemies. I love God's answer to Jehoshaphat's prayer: "Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God's . . . " Then God gave them instructions to go out as for battle, but they would not fight at all. He assured them, "Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out to face them, for the Lord is with you." The Levites then led in praise to the Lord - loud praise. They praised the Lord as if he had already accomplished what he just promised.

The next morning, they carried out the instructions of the Lord with Jehoshaphat reminding them, "Listen to me, O Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, put your trust in the Lord your God, and you will be established. Put your trust in His prophets and succeed." Then Jehoshaphat told the "worship leaders" to "give thanks to the Lord, for His lovingkindness is everlasting." While the people praised God, the Lord set ambushes against their enemies and destroyed them completely. All the people of Judah had to do was take three days to gather the spoils! Then they blessed the Lord and returned to Jerusalem with joy.

Wow! What an example of the faith of God's people and the faithfulness of God! As believers, we do not fight in physical battles such as this. Paul tell us in Ephesians 6:12, "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." Our enemies are formidable to us. But we are not left to fight the battle on our own. God equips us with his armor so we can stand firm against Satan's attacks. We need to be like Jehoshaphat and quickly turn our attention to seek the Lord. Maybe we need to fast at times, and we always need to pray. As we worship God, he works on our behalf. So, when the enemy attacks in your life, put on the armor God gives you (Eph 6:10-18), put your trust in the Lord, sing praise to him, and obey him. For the true battle is a spiritual one, and the battle is won when God is glorified.

Lord, help us to remember that our battles are the little battles in the larger war for your glory. The ultimate purpose of everything is to glorify your name. We recognize that by ourselves we are powerless against the enemy Satan. But you equip us to fight the battles we encounter in this life. You fight for us. You win the victories. And we share in the "spoils." Teach us to fight these spiritual battles in such a way that brings you glory. We praise you for your lovingkindness toward us, for your protection over us, and that the battle is yours, not ours to fight! We trust in you that all will be done for your glory, amen.

Monday, April 20, 2009

2 Chronicles 17-18: Jehoshaphat, part 1

LINK: 2 Chronicles 17-18
Parallel Passage: 1 Kings 22

by Katrina

Jehoshaphat reigned as king of Judah 873-848 B.C.

In chapter 17 we begin reading about Jehoshaphat's reign as king. He strengthened his position militarily in the cities which his father Asa had captured. He built fortresses and large storehouses in various places around Judah. And he developed a large army. The neighboring countries that surrounded Judah feared Jehoshaphat because they were afraid of the God Jehoshaphat served. The author makes it clear that the reason Jehoshaphat was so successful as king was because the Lord was with him. Jehoshaphat followed David's example and did not worship idols, specifically the Baals which were the object of worship in and around Israel and Judah. Not only that, but Jehoshaphat took great pride in God's law and actively removed the objects of idol worship in Judah. Then he went one step further: He sent officials out to the cities of Judah, with God's word in their hands, to teach all the people the law of the Lord.

Chapter 18 tell of Jehoshophat's interactions with Ahab the king of Israel. Jehoshophat allied himself with Ahab by the marriage of his son Jehoram to one of Ahab's (and Jezebel's) daughters. When he was visiting Ahab some years later, Ahab asked him to join in his military effort against Ramoth-Gilead. Jehoshaphat agreed to do it, and most of this chapter tells about the prophets that they consulted and what happened during that battle. Many of the Lord's prophets in Israel no longer spoke the words of the Lord because they feared Ahab more than they feared the Lord. One prophet, Micaiah, however, only spoke what God said. Ahab never liked to hear from Micaiah. Those who are against the Lord rarely want to hear what the Lord has to say!

The vision that the Lord gave Micaiah is a very interesting account of God's dealings with man and orchestrating events on the earth. From this account we learn that God sometimes uses the spirit world to affect the human world on the earth. You'll remember that in the case of Job, Satan (a spirit) himself came to God making accusations, and God allowed Satan to do certain things to Job. In this case, God sends an evil spirit to entice Ahab to go into battle. Ahab had led a very corrupt life that was very much against God, and this battle was to be his end. Not long ago, we touched on the sovereignty of God, and this is another excellent example of God's control over the events on earth. The hearts of kings, such as Ahab, are in God's hands.

Jehoshophat didn't simply keep the law himself and obey the Lord himself. He also sent the law out all over the land with the specific purpose of teaching it to everyone in the country he ruled. Micaiah was a man who boldly spoke the word of the Lord, even though he knew his audience wouldn't be pleased with the message. In contrast to Jehoshaphat and Micaiah, Ahab stifled the word of the Lord and imprisoned God's true messenger. Ahab lived in the darkness and refused to allow the light of God to shine in his presence. Many of God's prophets were not brave and obedient as Micaiah was and no longer spoke the word of the Lord in Ahab's presence for fear of his reaction to them.

I got to thinking -- Which on of these four examples am I most like?
  1. Jehoshaphat, who obeyed the Lord and wanted to spread God's word around to everyone he could influence
  2. Micaiah, who spoke boldly the word of the Lord even though he knew the king did not want to hear what he had to say
  3. Ahab, who chose to live a life of sin and tried to block God out of his life
  4. The other prophets, who didn't trust the Lord over their fear of the king, so changed the message of the Lord to try to please the audience
Personally, I'm not as bold as Micaiah, and I don't speak God's word much around those who don't want to hear it. I am much more like Jehoshaphat in that I love to teach God's word. If someone shows even the slightest interest, I am more than willing to show them what God says in his word.

Unfortunately, there are many like Ahab and the other prophets around - even in the church. Many preachers "water down" the message of the gospel because they are more interested in pleasing their audience than in pleasing and obeying God by giving his true message.

Many live in darkness, and they will never see the light of the gospel unless those who have the light "shine" it to them.

What about you? Which of these are you most like?

Lord, you are the source of light and you have chosen to shine that light among men through Jesus. Teach us to shine like lights in this world and to share the light of Jesus with many others. Help us to be like Jehoshaphat and Micaiah who boldly taught and proclaimed your word, even to those who did not want to hear it. The fear of man is a snare to us; help us remember always to fear only you, and thereby live in obedience to you. Let your word go forth through us to be spread around the world. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

2 Chronicles 11 - Rehoboam Temporarily Follows the Lord

LINK: 2 Chronicles 11

by Katrina

Rehoboam began to gather his army to take the northern tribes back from Jeroboam by force, but God sent the prophet Shemaiah to tell him not to fight against Jeroboam. So the nation was split permanently - the tribes of Judah & Benjamin became the kingdom of Judah under Rehoboam, and the other ten tribes became the kingdom of Israel under Jeroboam. And Rehoboam strengthened the cities on his borders, so he would be able to hold Benjamin & Judah if they were attacked by other nations. These cities were on the west, south, and east borders; not on the north, where Israel was.

Jeroboam's land did not contain the temple of the Lord, since it was in Jerusalem, so he established worship of calves in various places around his kingdom and appointed men (not Levites) to serve as priests. So Jeroboam led the people of Israel into idolatry, the key event that will lead to the destruction of Israel. His 18 successors will do likewise, and not a single king of Israel will love and serve the Lord.

Rehoboam, on the other hand, listened to the Lord and obeyed him for three years. Many of the priests and Levites who were living in the northern kingdom left their land and property and went to Jerusalem so they could continue to serve as priests of the Lord. Others of the tribes of Israel "who set their hearts on seeking the LORD God of Israel," followed the priests and Levites to Jerusalem where they could sacrifice to the LORD.

I want to be one who sets my heart on seeking the Lord, and not just for three years (or any other limited amount of time). How about you?

Lord, we are surrounded by those who do not love you, do not seek you, do not serve you. Let us not give in to the pressure to conform to those around us but to allow you to transform our hearts and minds so that we continually seek you with a whole heart. Encourage our hearts through other believers and your Holy Spirit. Teach us to walk in your ways, so that our hearts and minds may be fully set on you. In Jesus' name, amen.

Monday, April 13, 2009

2 Chronicles 10 - Kindom Division

LINK: 2 Chronicles 10
Parallel passage: 1 Kings 12

by Katrina

Upon Solomon's death in 931 B.C., his son Rehoboam was to become king. So Rehoboam went to Shechem for his coronation. There, he was confronted by Jeroboam.

Who was Jeroboam? He was an Ephraimite who had rebelled against Solomon and had therefore been sent by Solomon to oversee the forced labor in Egypt (1 Kings 11:26-28). As Jeroboam was traveling, the prophet Ahijah met him and told him that the kingdom would be torn in two and he would become king over Israel. God would preserve Judah and Jerusalem for David's descendants to reign on the throne there (1 Kings 11:29-39). Because of this prophecy, Solomon wanted to put Jeroboam to death, so Jeroboam took refuge in Egypt until Solomon's death (1 Kings 11:40).

Now that Solomon died and his son is about to begin reigning, Jeroboam left Egypt and returned to Israel. He asked Rehoboam to reduce the labor of the people of Israel. Rehoboam sought the advice of the wise elders of Israel as well as of his young, inexperienced, and foolish friends. He rejected the wisdom of the elders and chose to follow the foolish advice of his friends. He would not reduce the labor of the people, but would increase their labor.

Jeroboam took this opportunity to lead a rebellion of the ten northern tribes and establish the kingdom of Israel as a separate nation. And so a new nation of Israel was born out of rebellion and continued throughout its entire history to live in rebellion against the house of David and against God.

"So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of events from God that the LORD might establish His word, which He spoke through Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat" (v 15, emphasis added).

This reminds me of Pharoah. "Then the LORD said to Moses, 'Pharoah will not listen to you, so that My wonders will be multiplied in the land of Egypt.' And Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh; yet the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he did not let the sons of Israel go out of his land" (Exodus 11:9-10, emphasis added).

Proverbs 21:1 says, "The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes." And Proverbs 16:9 says, "The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps."

These verses speak of the sovereignty of God. He has complete control over a situation, even when it doesn't appear that way in our view.

The sovereignty of God is a comfort for those of us who are believers. Romans 8:28 tell us that God uses his sovereignty for our good. "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Take some time today to worship God, praising him for his sovereignty over all things.

Lord, you are a great and powerful God. You control all that happens. You are also a very loving God and in your love for us, provide all things for our benefit. We don't always see or understand how it works, and sometimes we can't see the benefit, but it gives us comfort to know that you are in control. Only an omnipotent and omniscient God could be a sovereign God. You are all these things, and we worship you. Amen.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Proverbs 26 - Negative Relationships

LINK: Proverbs 26

Proverbs 26 continues along the same lines as Proverbs 25. The topics included are:
  • fools (26:1-12)
  • sluggards (26:13-16)
  • gossips (26:17-28)
These verses give wisdom for dealing with those negative kinds of people in our lives.

Fool - (1) It is not fitting to show them honor, rather, they need discipline. (2) Fools spout curses without cause and waste the wisdom of proverbs. (3) Don't waste your time arguing with a fool, but give him the answer his foolishness deserves. (4) Do not trust a fool to carry out anything important task for you. (5) Do not give honor to a fool. (6) A fool does the same thing over and over again even though it's a stupid thing to do. (7) Even with how bad foolishness is, self-pumped pride is even worse!

Sluggard - (1) A sluggard doesn't want to get out of bed. (2) He's too lazy even to feed himself. (3) A lazy man talks like he knows everything. He thinks he's pretty smart.

Gossips - (1) Jumping into other people's arguments is both stupid and dangerous! (2) There are those who behave foolishly or wrongly, then act like it's a joke. These people do not make good friends! (3) Those who gossip fan the flames of contention. (4) Yet many people enjoy the little morsels of gossip they can get. (5) People who hate others often try to cover their true feelings over with smooth talk, but their wickedness will eventually be revealed. (6) In the end, no one gets away with evil done to another person. God will see to that!

I find it very frustrating to try to deal with these kinds of people. You can't say anything to them, because they won't listen. When I encounter people like this, I just have to put extra effort into checking my own heart to make sure I'm not making things worse. And I have to pray a lot, not only for God to search my own heart, but also that he help me respond properly to these people.

Do you have a fool, a lazy person, or a gossip to deal with in your life? Meditate on these passages and search your own heart to examine your responses to these people. Seek God's direction in how you should or should not relate with them.

Father, teach us to respond to those negative people in our lives in a way that is pleasing to you. We want you to be honored in our relationships with others as much as it is possible from our end. Let your word transform our hearts and minds so we can live in obedience to you. In Jesus' name, amen.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Proverbs 25 - Wise Relationships

LINK: Proverbs 25

Proverbs 25-29 are proverbs of Solomon that were compiled long after Solomon died, by King Hezekiah's men. Hezekiah was one of the eight godly kings to reign on the throne in the Kingdom of Judah. He apparently wanted to learn from Solomon's wisdom, unlike most of the kings who ignored God's word.

These proverbs are grouped together topically. Subjects covered in chapter 25 are:
  • kings (or other people with much authority) and relating with them (25:1-7)
  • relating with neighbors and friends (25:8-20)
  • dealing with enemies (25:21-24)
  • self (25:25-28)


There are four basic principles here about kings. (1) Kings will search out matters that affect them or their kingdom. (2) On the other hand, a wise king does not reveal his own heart and mind to others. (3) A king who refuses to participate in wickedness will establish his rule as being one of righteousness. (4) In the event that you have the opportunity to come before a king, be humble!

There are several principles on how to treat friends and neighbors. (1) Do not be quick to argue. (2) Do not reveal things that friends have spoken to you in confidence. (3) A wise friend says the right things at the right time in the right way. (4) A good friend is faithful but does not boast. (5) Don't overstay your welcome at a friend's house. (6) And never bear false witness.

Enemies - Treat them with kindness. If an enemy is hungry or thirsty, help him. The Lord will reward you.

Self - (1) It is refreshing to hear good news from those who live far away. (2) A righteous man will give up the argument when appropriate. (3) Practice self-control. (4) Be humble.

Think about how you relate with these different people in your life. Based on Solomon's advice given here, are there some adjustments you need to make? Out of these, I think my biggest weakness is not being willing to "give up the argument." In my humanness, I want to have the last word, insisting that I am right, proving my point . . . . even if it's just in my own head. (I don't actually argue much with anyone, but the argument might still be there in my heart.) It takes humility to give up the argument.

Lord, teach us your wisdom. Search our hearts today and reveal to us any things we need to change. We want our hearts and minds to be pleasing to you in all things, all areas of life. Thank you for this great wisdom you have given us through Solomon's words! Help us to learn to apply it to our lives. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Psalm 88 - A Struggler's Sad Psalm

LINK: Psalm 88

Update: Psalm 88 is attached to 1 Chronicles 24 & 25 post for the second round of Bible Book Club. 


This is a new author in the book of Psalms: Heman. We read about him in 1 Chronicles 15:19; 16:41-42; 25:1, 6. He was a singer who sounded aloud the trumpets, lyres, harps, and cymbals of bronze along with Asaph, another author in this book. What talent!

This psalm is often called one of the saddest psalms in the whole Psalter. It is a petition to be saved from death and is the heart's cry of one who has suffered constantly. Most psalmists express hopeful expectation of God's deliverance after they pour out their heart but not this one. The psalter wants the Lord of His salvation to deliver him from death because he is unable to declare His glory if he is dead (1, 9b-12).

This poem is written in a Hebrew structure of three four-line stanzas (vv. 3-5, 6-9a, 9b-12) surrounded by two two-line prayers. Appended to this is an additional four-line stanza in which the psalmist summarizes that his present troubled condition is one he has had his whole life.


This sounds so much like the story of Job; but even Job had a good life before and after his affliction. This poor guy sounds like things have always been really bad. My heart aches for him.

Heman suffered intensely, but He still continued to pray to the "God of [his] salvation." How unlike today where people turn their back on God when things go wrong. We recently watched a Mark Twain documentary by Ken Burns. After the death of one of his family members, the scholars said, "Twain ceased to believe in a benevolent God." While I have compassion for Mark Twain's loss, I don't get that sort of mentality. The reality is that life is not always happy and without sorrow and always involves loss, but it does not mean that our God has forsaken us nor ceased to be a benevolent God.

We can learn so much from Heman's psalm when our lives are filled with overwhelming sorrow. Here is a summary of what we can learn that is adapted from Be Worshipful by Warren Wiersbe:

Come to the Lord by Faith (vv. 1-2) - Heman comes to the "God of [his] salvation" and continues to address Him as His LORD throughout his prayer (vv. 1,9,13,14). Weirsbe says, "No matter how we feel and no matter how impossible our circumstances, we can always come to the Lord with our burdens."

Tell the Lord How You Feel (vv. 3-9) - Heman didn't sugar-coat it. Life was hard, and he was completely transparent with the Lord about his problems. We can be this way with God. It is not disrespectful to do so. Pour out your heart!

Defend Your Cause Before the Lord (vv. 10-14) - Hamen's argument is that his death will rob God of an opportunity to demonstrate His power and glory. He couldn't serve God in death. Could he? Keep praying transparently to God and pleading your case before Him.

Wait for the Lord's Answer (vv. 15-18) - This guy's pain was like Job's only more prolonged! He continued to wait and pray though. What an example of perseverance! Persevere in your trial, dear friend. God is good and will hear your pleas in the darkest times of life.

"Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him" (Job 13:5).

"I would have despaired unless I had believed that
........... I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
Be strong, and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord" (Psalm 27:13-14).


If you are struggling, come to Him, tell Him how you really feel, defend your cause, and wait for His answer. Ask others to pray for you too.


Lord, You are the the God of our salvation, and we worship You in our struggle. We acknowledge that You are good and know what is best for us. Sometimes we do not understand why You have allowed us to struggle, but we trust in Your unfailing love. Help us to be strong through the sorrowful, struggling seasons of our life and to wait on Your perfect timing for deliverance. We ask this in Jesus' name, amen.