As I mentioned last month, I am having some health issues that are making doing the blog on a consistent basis difficult. As I also mentioned, I am enjoying watching the wildlife in our backyard, especially the hummingbirds.
It occurred to me that they are a microcosm of Christian behavior, at least in one respect – their approach to and consumption of the sweet nectar in the feeder.
Some of the birds swoop in, have a peek, and they fly off.
.Others approach the feeder cautiously, and dip their bill into the flower to get the sugar water they so dearly love, never stopping to sit on the perch.
Then there are those who sit on the perch and drink from the flower getting some more of the wonderful nectar in the feeder. But, they don’t hand around!
Others, will sit on the perch, take a drink,, look around, and then dip their bill back into the feeder to get more of the nectar that they dearly love. One drink simply is not enough for them.
As I watched the hummingbirds, I thought about how I go about receiving God’s Word.
Do I hover around the Word, never getting into it or receiving it from His hands?
Do I get a taste of it from the sermon on Sunday morning but then never follow up on it or think about it until the next Sunday?
Do I read the Bible sometimes during the week, getting something from it but not meditating on it or really understanding what I am reading?
Or, do I sit on the porch (or perch), reading the Word each day and meditating on what it says? Do I think about it and talk about it with other Christians? Do I then go back to the Word for more because I can’t get enough of God and His promises, His covenants, His blessing, His instruction?
What about you?
Perhaps we can learn from our tiny friends that drinking deeply the sweet nectar from the Spirit is the best way to learn God’s Word.
Lord, forgive me when I have given Your Word a passing glance, the minimal attention or the momentary response when hearing a sermon. May I meditate on Your Word daily, not just because You tell me to but because I long to be close to You, because You are my God!
We were reading the book of Jonah in the Old Testament recently, and I was convicted about attitudes.
We all know the story of Jonah, the recalcitrant prophet. God told him to go to the city of Nineveh to tell of God’s glory and mercy. Nineveh was an enemy of Israel, so Jonah took the boat to Tarshish, in the opposite direction from Nineveh. Of course, he ultimately did get to Nineveh via the great fish that vomited him up onto its shores.
At this point, he proclaimed the word that the Lord had given him and then he left. The king and all the people repented of their sin and the Lord had mercy and did not destroy them, as He was going to do. Jonah succeeded! Now, read the concluding chapter of the book:
But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
And the LORD said, “Do you do well to be angry?” [“Is it right for you to be angry?” NKJV]
Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city.
Now the LORD God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered.
When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”
But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.”
And the LORD said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”
Jonah 4:1-11 (ESV)
Jonah was angry with God because the people of Nineveh were going to be given mercy since they repented of their sin and humbled themselves before God. His message was received and the people appropriately reacted to it. But Jonah was angry. He didn’t want “those people” forgiven. He didn’t want “those people” to receive God’s mercy. He didn’t want “those people” to survive God’s wrath! He was angry. He was so angry, he asked God to kill him because he just didn’t want to live anymore.
Then God addressed the ultimate issue for Jonah, by sending a tree and a worm. The plant grew up and gave Jonah shade in the hot sun, and Jonah was happy. Then a worm attacked the plant and it withered, so when the sun was high in the heaven and scorching heat was upon Jonah, he was angry, again. So angry, he once again asked God to kill him because he just didn’t want to live anymore.
God pointed out that Jonah had pity on the plant which was here today and gone tomorrow. Then God got to the crux of the issue — “should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons”.
What is the point of the story for us in 2020? We are in the same position as Jonah. We don’t know God’s plan for us or for our world. We understand that ultimately Jesus will return and claim His people and His kingdom, but that is at the end. We are in the middle. In Isaiah we read:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV)
God had mercy on Nineveh even though they were enemies of Jonah and the Israelites. Jonah had to learn the lesson of submission. He didn’t know why God granted mercy to Nineveh. We don’t know why we are going through the difficult times facing us, individually, as families, as communities, as a nation, and as the world. But, we know that God is in control. He is fully aware of the trials that each one has, and He wants us to be submissive, to call upon Him, to submit to the tasks that He outlines for us. He wants us to do His will, even while we are stuck in the COVID19 morass.
Are you angry? Or are you submissive? Does God need to put you in the belly of the great fish to calm you down so that you can do what He has asked? Are you angry even when you have succeeded in the task?
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. … Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
James 4:7. 10 (NKJV)
Rather than being angry, submit to God, Beloved. He will lift you up!
Father, forgive me when I have been so entrenched in my own agenda that I have been unable to see what You want me to do. Forgive me when I have run in the opposite direction from the direction You wanted me to go. Forgive me when I have become angry at Your direction. Cleanse my heart and let me see Your working in my life and in the world around me. May I submit to Your will even when I don’t understand it. You are my God and I am Your child.
It seems that in our modern culture, there is an emphasis on volume. Music is no longer melodic and soothing (I’m old school, sure enough), but rather it is ear-splitting loud with lyrics that are almost unintelligible to the listener. Even country music has transformed from the acoustic guitar to electronics along with bands and a variety of drums.
Sounds, loud sounds, are found in nature as this world was created by our Almighty God. Indeed, Scripture frequently references God using thunder to get his message across, and anyone who has been in a thunderstorm, with the cloud above their house, knows the fierce sound and shaking that occurs with thunder. Consider these verses:
Then Moses stretched out his staff toward heaven, and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down to the earth. And the LORD rained hail upon the land of Egypt.
And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder.
David, a man who tended sheep and was a warrior, who was outside and saw the handiwork of God often, said this:
The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth thunder; your arrows flashed on every side. The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook.
We understand thunder and loud crashes and sometimes it terrifies us. But there is a flip side to God’s loud creation, and that is Silence.
Currently, we are in the midst of a show shower. Likely, it won’t amount to much accumulation, but it is positively beautiful to watch as it falls from the sky and covers the ground.
This blessing, in the form of small white flakes, comes, not with blasting thunder, but in silent beauty descending from the sky.
In First Kings, we have the record of God speaking with Elijah who had just confronted King Ahab and Jezebel. God understood that Elijah was exhausted and deflated from his work, and God came to him.
And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; [but] the LORD [was] not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; [but] the LORD [was] not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; [but] the LORD [was] not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
1 Kings 19:11-12 KJV
God came to Elijah in a still, small voice. Oh yes, God can shout louder than our ears could withstand, but He comes to His servants, often, in a still small voice. A voice which we will miss if we only pay attention to the cacophony of sound constantly around us. We must retreat and be quiet, be still!
God has even directed His people to be silent before Him. In Exodus, Moses told the people to be silent and watch as God brought about their salvation from the Egyptians.
And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
David understood this concept of being still before God. In Psalm 46:10, God tells him:
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
Be still – know that God is with you. Be still – know that God loves you. Be still — know that God will fight for you. Be still – hear His still small voice in your heart, mind and soul.
The command to “be still” is not the same as “do nothing.” The command does not mean that we sit down in a comfy chair and just relax while God does everything. He is not your manservant nor is He going to do that which He has called you to do.
Remember, God’s Son, Jesus, left heaven and His eternal relationship with the Father to come to earth and do that which we could not do, save us from our sin. Jesus did not come to earth, do some miracles and then just rest on his laurels … “I healed the leper so I don’t have to do anything else today!” No, He was busy doing God’s will, all of it, every day and every moment. Even when He was a youth, He went into the temple “to do His Father’s business.” Luke 2:49.
Beloved, let the beauty of falling snow remind you that there is beauty in silence. Be silent before the Lord and let Him fill you with His voice and His love, with His direction and His grace. Be silent and know that He is God.
Father, I too often run around “doing good things for You” and forget that I need to send time listening to You, hearing Your still small voice. Forgive me when I don’t block out the loud sounds of materialism, commercialism, greed, consumerism, violence, entertainment media seeking my attention, distractions from the cell phone … everything that takes the place of listening to Your voice. Calm my heart and help me hear You.
I believe that I have commented, at least once in this site, that we live in a heavily wooded area, and we have LEAVES to rake up in the fall. Actually, we pull a leaf vacuum behind our lawn tractor and it shreds the leaves into little pieces which we then take to the street for the city to pick up.
The leaves in the front yard are handled that way. The leaves in the backyard, however, are mulched in the same way but they are put into the woods in the back yard rather than trucking them down to the street.
This year was somewhat unique because virtually all of the leaves hanging from the trees fell before the pickup date. Also, we had very little rain so the leaves were not wet making their removal less difficult. The result was this huge pile of shredded leaves.
In short, this year we had a bumper crop of leaves, a condition which is testified to by the size of the pile along the street.
This year, therefore, was also unique insofar as I resulted in a situation seldom seen by us — a “leaf-free” yard.
(Please, if you are a horticulturalist, don’t inspect the yard too closely! It is, in many areas, also a “grass-free” zone! That’s probably fodder for a future post!)
The point of the story is a simple one – the ability to have all of the leaves removed from the yard provides us with an opportunity to have a clean slate in the front yard. Now, we can do what is needed to improve the grass quality, to plant flowers for the spring, to do many things that the plethora of leaves prevented us from doing in the past.
This new year also provides us with a clean slate. A new year and a new decade – 2020. If the Lord wills, we will have 365 days ahead of us to do things differently than we have done before. I’m not necessarily talking about making resolutions –those things are extremely fragile and I usually break them within the first couple of weeks of the new year.
I’m talking about making new habits that will bring spiritual growth, that will increase our love for our Lord and Savior. We can use this new year to check on our heart … so, how is yours?
Lisa Allen in her devotion 4 Habits of a Healthy Heart, dated September 15, 2014, suggests these habits that will produce a healthy heart:
We should develop a heart for God.
We should develop heart to heart relationships with other Christians.
We should open the eyes of our heart as we go through our day.
We should appreciate the uniqueness of our heart.
First, when we develop a heart for God, we will make time to read His Word daily. I’m not talking about reading the single verse in the Upper Room and then ignoring scripture the rest of the day. I’m talking about spending time with God and meditating on the truths found in His Word. This will give us godly wisdom and will prepare us to meet the hazards and challenges of daily life. David said:
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
David says scripture is a light for us. But, it spreads no light if our Bible is only on our nightstand or shut up on a shelf without being read!
Second, we should develop heart to heart relationships with others in the Christian community. We can develop this when we worship with people weekly, when we fellowship with them in small group Bible studies or Sunday School, when we eat together at the communion table or at a potluck meal. We read in Acts 2:42:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
At our church, every other month we have a specific women’s ministry event, such as a game night, craft event, a church-wide picnic, spring and fall retreats and a Christmas brunch. Participation in these activities enable women to meet each other in an informal, fun way so that we can develop healthy relationships that can encourage our spiritual growth. We can’t pray for other’s needs if we don’t know them! Be sure not to get so busy that you don’t have time to worship with others, to fellowship with others and to pray for others!
Third, allow God to open the eyes of your heart to see others as God sees them. When we spend time with God each day, we begin to see others through God’s eyes. We will notice their gifts and talents, their passions and their fears.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
We can encourage others as they develop their gifts and their strengths. This will allow us to reach out to the world, and not limit our interaction with the Christians we see in church on Sunday!
Fourth, recognize that you are a unique creation by God. Just as there are no two identical snowflakes, there is no one else just like you.
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. O LORD, you have searched me and known me!You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. … 13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. … 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
Psalm 139:1-5, 13, 16
God knows you intimately because He created you with a unique heart, mind and soul. You are a creation by God with skills and abilities that you should put to use in God’s kingdom work. Yes, nurture your marriage and care for the family, but also take time to invest in activities that reflect your own passion and ability. If you are a leader, volunteer to lead a Sunday School class or Bible study. If you want to learn to do something, take a course at a nearby school or take a class on-line.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Don’t forget that a necessary component of having a healthy heart for the Lord is to find ways to express your own gifts. God created you for His purposes and He gave you the abilities to do His work through His Holy Spirit. Be God’s hands and feet in this world by ministering as Jesus did. Take your focus off of yourself and your problems by redirecting your focus to serving others!
Make 2020 a new year with a clean slate and work toward developing a healthy heart. The clutter of the old year and its leaves have been removed … the new year is here with a clean slate on which you need to put your imprint. Make it one that glorifies our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
Father, I pray that I would take this time to develop a heart for You by reading Your Word faithfully, not out of a sense of obligation but out of love for Your Word. I pray that I would take this year and fellowship with other Christians so that I can encourage them and receive strength from them as well. I pray that I would see others as You see them, people who are lost in sin and need a Savior, and I pray that I would introduce them to Jesus through the power of Your Holy Spirit. Thank You for making me a unique individual, with gifts and talents granted by You for use in Your kingdom. May I use whatever gifts you have given me so that Your name will be glorified throughout the world.
I have heard it said that some people “live to eat” and others “eat to live”. We have two dogs who represent these two concepts.
Cuddles loves to eat – in fact the trainer who worked with us when the girls were brought home from the animal shelter said, and I quote: “I have never seen a dog that was so food-centric as Cuddles!” If you want her to do anything, you need to give her a treat, preferably before AND after her obedience.
In this picture of the two of them “sitting pretty”, Cuddles is in the foreground and you can see that she has to sit with her rear legs spread apart to keep her balance.
On the other hand, Snickers, despite her candy-bar-name, eats her food but she is not hankering for a treat every time we turn around. You can see that her rear legs are at right angles to her body. She does not have to sit “side-saddle” like her younger sister does.
In short, the difference between the girls is that Cuddles lives to eat and Snickers eats to live.
Since both my husband and I are overweight, I am not going to point to us as examples of this concept. Rather, I want to think about what we consume from Scripture. Do we eat to live, that is only eat from Scripture a sufficient amount to gain our fire insurance from hell, or do we live to eat, that is feast on the truths of Scripture and come again and again to the Word for more food for our spiritual souls’ growth and development?
The Bible talks about eating in many places. In the very first book of the Bible God tells Adam that he can eat of every tree in the Garden of Eden, except for one. (Genesis 2:16-17) After their disobedience, Adam and Eve were ejected from the Garden and they had to work for their food ever after.
In Exodus we read of the meal of unleavened bread and bitter herbs which preceded the visitation from the angel of death. After the exodus from Egypt, the Israelites wandered in the wilderness and God sent manna and then quail for them to eat.
David puts God’s provision like this:
Yet he commanded the skies above and opened the doors of heaven, and he rained down on them manna to eat and gave them the grain of heaven. Man ate of the bread of the angels; he sent them food in abundance. He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens, and by his power he led out the south wind; he rained meat on them like dust, winged birds like the sand of the seas; he let them fall in the midst of their camp, all around their dwellings. And they ate and were well filled, for he gave them what they craved.
The New Testament talks of food as well. For example, Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding feast. (John 2) Jesus fed thousands as He taught them along the seaside. (Mark 8.)
In 1 Corinthians 6 we find Paul’s instruction regarding eating the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of His death for our sins. Some call this feast Communion and others Eucharist, but the essence is that we are celebrating the marvelous work of our Lord and His sacrifice for us.
Paul has strong words for the people in the Corinthian church. He wrote:
But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?
1 Corinthians 3:1-3
The writer of Hebrews expresses this same idea in this way:
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
We know from our own experience that babies take milk and then, at some point in their infancy, they move up to some diluted cereal such as infant oatmeal. Then comes soft food and, upon reaching childhood, they can eat regular food, starting with soft meats and them ultimately moving up to steak! Meat comes with maturity.
What does this solid food look like? Paul tells us, it is the food in Scripture that we read with our power of discernment trained by constant practice, to do what? To distinguish good from evil.
Do you know when the preacher’s doctrine is faulty? You know it when you have read the Scripture, studied and have discernment from constant exposure to the Word of God. Then you can tell good teaching from the faulty teaching.
So, beloved, when it comes to spiritual food, are you satisfied with milk? Or, do you long for solid food, for the meat not just the milk? Do you read the Word of God for yourself? Do you study with others so that you can practice your discerning powers and so identify both the good and the bad. Do you ask the Holy Spirit to guide your thinking and open your eyes and your mind to the truths and riches that are found in the Word of God?
From a spiritual perspective, the question is: Are you Snickers or Cuddles? Do you eat to live, or do you live to eat. Oh, that we would be spiritually overweight with the rich meat of Scripture.
Father, forgive me when I have been satisfied to skim the surface of Your Word, when I have been lazy and have not studied Your Word to uncover the truths and precepts that You want me to have. Enable me to feast on the meat of Your Word through Your Holy Spirit, I pray.
When we were traveling in Alaska, we came to the train crossing outside Girdwood, Alaska. The side of the building had a very conspicuous warning, pictured here.
It tells the reader to always expect a train at this crossing and to stay off the tracks, stay away from the tracks, and stay alive! It certainly cannot be more pointed.
But, likely, even though it was placed there with those explicit terms, people still failed to heed the warning given. The temptation to try to outrun the train, or to cut in front of an oncoming locomotive is just too strong to resist. Hence the warning’s final phrase, “Stay Alive!”.
As Christians, we are told that we should warn others of their sin and of their need for a Savior. In Proverbs 11:30 (ESV) we read:
“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise.”
The New International Version of this verse reads:
“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives.”
Proverbs 11:30 NIV
In considering the second part of this verse and the winning of souls for our Lord, Matthew Henry says that the wise are more than merely righteous. Rather, they are trees of knowledge which is not forbidden but by which the wise man communicates wisdom to others. The purpose of this witness is to win souls for the Lord. In Daniel 12:3 we read that the wise turn many to righteousness, and this is the same thing that is referred to in Proverbs 11:30. Matthew Henry concludes the thoughts about this verse with these words:
“Those that would win souls have need of wisdom to know how to deal with them; and those that do win souls show that they are wise.”
But we should be aware that winning souls comes with a warning. God spoke to Ezekiel advising that he should tell the house of Israel the words that he receives from the Lord. In directing this, He includes a warning for failure to do that which He directs:
“And at the end of seven days, the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul. Again, if a righteous person turns from his righteousness and commits injustice, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die. Because you have not warned him, he shall die for his sin, and his righteous deeds that he has done shall not be remembered, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the righteous person not to sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning, and you will have delivered your soul.””
John Calvin discusses these verses in his commentary and makes this statement:
Nothing is more precious to God than souls which he has created after his own image, and of which he is both the Redeemer and Father. Since, therefore, our souls and their salvation are so dear to God, hence we infer, how anxiously Prophets and all pastors ought to discharge their duties; for it is just as if God were to commit souls to their care, under this condition of rendering an account of each. Nor is it sufficient to admonish one and another, for unless they had endeavored to recall all from destruction to life and salvation, we hear what God here pronounces. Hence, also, Paul uses this expression, woe is me if I preach not the gospel, for a necessity is laid upon me.(1 Corinthians 9:16. – “For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!)
We have been called by our Lord to “make disciples”. This involves teaching and telling them of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We cannot “save” anyone, we can only point to our Lord Jesus. The Holy Spirit will impress upon them the need for their salvation. We “merely” have the assignment to tell the good news and then live it out as a day to day witness of the Lord’s grace, mercy and love.
So, let us take our duties as Christians seriously. Let us not flippantly allow others to do our witnessing for us – we should be, like Paul, compelled to tell others the good news.
“but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,”
1 Peter 3:15 ESV
When we speak to others, we each do it in our own winsome way, but we must always be prepared to give an answer to those who ask us of our Savior. We must warn others of the danger to which they are exposed, but we must do so with gentleness, respect and an awareness that we are following our Lord’s directive, not our own agenda.Continue reading →
A brief look around will reveal that we have a multitude of churches and many of them look very unlike each other!
There are awe-inspiring cathedrals with vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows, while offering worshipers a place for singing, prayer and contemplation..
Some churches are much simpler, far less ornate; some are centuries old and others are of newer vintage. Building style is irrelevant. These, too, offer worshipers a place for singing, prayer and contemplation. In short, the question is whether the focus is on God as the one being worshiped or on the worshiper as a consumer or customer.
“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.“
Sometimes things go on in church that are inconsistent with God’s instructions for worship. When the priests were selling animals in the temple at Jerusalem, Jesus was angry and overturned their tables and scattered the animals, saying:
“It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
Jesus was quoting from the prophet Isaiah who wrote these words centuries earlier:
“And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant–these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”
Do rules matter? Yes, God’s rules matter. An example of this is found in 1 Chronicles when David, with incredibly good intentions, sent to have the ark returned to Jerusalem. When he did not follow the rules, disaster struck.
“Then Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel.”
Here we read that the priests were to be from the tribe of Levi, and the priests were the ones who were to carry the ark of the Lord. Certain priests were to carry the ark on poles so that no one would ever touch the ark. (Exodus 25:10 et seq.) It was holy because God was there, and God had established the way for it to be transported safely.
“And four wagons and eight oxen he gave to the sons of Merari, according to their service, under the direction of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest.
But to the sons of Kohath he gave none, because they were charged with the service of the holy things that had to be carried on the shoulder.”
The sons of Merari received wagons and oxen for use in their service as priests in the tabernacle of God, and Uzzah was one of Merari’s sons. He, therefore, had the cart and oxen ready for use in temple service. But reading the very next verse in Numbers 7 reveals that the sons of Kohath did not get a cart or oxen because they were to care for the things of God that had to be carried on their shoulders, like the ark of the covenant.
“So David assembled all Israel from the Nile of Egypt to Lebo-hamath, to bring the ark of God from Kiriath-jearim. And David and all Israel went up to Baalah, that is, to Kiriath-jearim that belongs to Judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD who sits enthroned above the cherubim. And they carried the ark of God on a new cart, from the house of Abinadab, and Uzzah and Ahio were driving the cart. “And David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might, with song and lyres and harps and tambourines and cymbals and trumpets. And when they came to the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzzah put out his hand to take hold of the ark, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he put out his hand to the ark, and he died there before God.”
1 Chronicles 13:5-10
Uzzah tried to do something good in that he was steadying the ark so it would not fall when the oxen stumbled, but the ark of God was to be carried on the priests shoulders by using the poles permanently affixed to the ark. It was not to be put on a cart pulled by oxen. Uzzah disobeyed God’s rule and he died, immediately, on the spot, without any appeal or delay.
God’s rules matter. God’s justice mandates that His rules be followed, if for no other reason than He is God and He said so! Even human parents look at their children and say “Because I said so!” That’s all the reason the young child needs to have to obey what his/her parent directed. And it is all that we need when we consider whether we should follow God’s rules … choosing not to do so is SIN and that carries serious consequences.
David learned the lesson. After leaving the ark for three months at the home of Obed-Edom, David summoned the priests and ordered them to bring the ark to Jerusalem.. However, this time he used Levites who were commissioned to carry the ark on poles … he did it in accordance with God’s rules.
“Then David summoned the priests Zadok and Abiathar, and the Levites Uriel, Asaiah, Joel, Shemaiah, Eliel, and Amminadab, and said to them, “You are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites. Consecrate yourselves, you and your brothers, so that you may bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel, to the place that I have prepared for it. Because you did not carry it the first time, the LORD our God broke out against us, because we did not seek him according to the rule. So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the LORD, the God of Israel.”
1 Chronicles 15:11-14
The ark was successfully carried by the priests and came to rest at the place David had prepared for it. God’s rules are to be followed.
Worship is, by definition, not about you or me! Rather, it is about God. In Deuteronomy 6:5, Moses wrote:
“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
This was reiterated by Jesus when He called it the great and first commandment:
“Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”
How do you see worship? Is it a time for you to boast in your pride of position of power, or in your ability to financially support the church? While you are in the service are you thinking about all the things you could be during the hour you sat in worship? Is it a time when you walk out of the service thinking that you didn’t get anything out of being there that day?
Or is it a time when you worship God with your heart, your soul, your mind and your strength? Is your focus on God and your relationship with Him? Is your desire to praise Him for who He is, for His attributes and character?
Rules matter. I pray that we will return to worship God in the way that He has directed. God’s commandments are not suggestions nor are they optional. Follow them and live. Worship Him in spirit and in truth, and love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
Father, forgive me when I have failed to worship You as You desire. Help me to focus on You and Your Word throughout my day as I worship You in my life.
No one likes chores. No one likes duties that are not thought of as fun and chores, almost by definition, are not fun.
Talk to any child raised on a farm and they will tell you of chores and hard work, even before going to school for the day! (We remember the Little House on the Prairie television series showing farm life in bygone days.)
Learning how to work is simply something that must be done. Confucius said: “The father who does not teach his son his duties is equally guilty as the son who neglects them.”
The Jewish Tamud, Kiddushin 29a, outlines the responsibilities of a Jewish father to his son. The father was obligated to circumcise his son, to redeem him if he is the firstborn, to teach him Torah, to find him a wife, and to teach him a trade.
The parent was to teach the child a trade, thereby enabling the child to become a productive member of society who was able to support himself as an adult and, prayerfully, have a wife and children to propagate the family line. All of this was in question though if the child could not be employed in a trade so that he could earn a wage to accomplish these goals.
Clearly, working was seen as an important part of one’s life. Indeed, Paul wrote some very stern words:
“For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.”
2 Thessalonians 3:10
Scripture says that God worked when He created the universe.
“And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”
Then, shortly after these two verses, we read that Adam was to work in the garden.
“The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”
What was Adam’s job? How did he “work it”?
“Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.”
Adam had the incredible job of naming all the animals and birds.
Of course, we know that sin entered the world while Adam and Eve were in the garden and our first parents were expelled therefrom. At that point, work was no longer merely tending the plants and animals. Rather, it became exceedingly difficult.
“And to Adam he [God] said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.””
So, perhaps our angst about work is the continuation of the rebellion that began in the Garden. Perhaps our resentment for having to work is simply a modern description of an ancient condition – perhaps it is nothing other than sin, disobedience to God, rejecting God’s plan and inserting ourselves into God’s place so that we believe we are the master of our own universe.
How do we see these things correctly? Solomon noted:
“Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil–this is the gift of God.”
Matthew Henry said of this verse:
Life is God’s gift, and he has appointed us the number of the days of our life (Job 14:5); let us therefore spend those days in serving the Lord our God with joyfulness and gladness of heart. We must not do the business of our calling as a drudgery, and make ourselves slaves to it, but we must rejoice in our labour, not grasp at more business than we can go through without perplexity and disquiet but take a pleasure in the calling wherein God has put us, and go on in the business of it with cheerfulness.
So why do we have such difficulty with chores and work? Why is “work” almost a forbidden dirty word in our culture today?
Perhaps we need to confess our sin, our rebellion, our rejection of God’s order and realign our vision to be consistent with God’s viewpoint. Work is something that we must have to thrive, both from a financial standpoint but also from a psychological and emotional standpoint. We need to accomplish things during our day, and those things are especially blessed if they are in line with God’s directives for us.
Father, forgive me when I have seen work as drudgery or as something to run away from. Enable me to see my life’s work through your eyes, as a means of glorifying You and of spreading the Good News of the Gospel of Your Son to those around me.
When I was a young girl, we sang a song in our church titled “Trust and Obey”. It is an old hymn that is not sung very often “now-a-days”. But the other day I was thinking of trust, and that hymn came to mind.
Trust. It is a word that we hear often today in the phrase “Just trust me!” But what is trust? And should we just go around trusting everyone? If not, who or what is worthy of our trust?
The Merriam Webster Dictionary says that trust is assured reliance on the character, ability, strength or truth of someone or something.
One example of trust is sitting in a chair. When I lower myself into a chair, I trust that it will hold me and that it will not crumble under my weight. If I sit on a little plastic chair in the toddler nursery at church, it is likely that it will break and I will be on the floor – in other words it was not something in which I should have placed my trust. The object of my trust was unable to accomplish that which I expected. In other words, the object of your trust is important!
When we see a parent tossing a baby in the air, with the child laughing and squealing in delight, only to then be caught by the parent, we see an excellent example of trust. The child is not fearful that he will fall to the ground – his parent is there to catch him. The child relies on the parent totally: that, too, is trust.
When our young grandson had not yet learned to swim, he was fearful of jumping in the water. While he did not want to plunge into the unknown, his father was there with open arms, hands ready to greet him in the water. But for his trust in is father, he would have satisfied himself with running around the edge of the pool and would never have gone in to experience the thrill of swimming.
Scripture speaks of trust often. In fact, the word “trust” is used in the Psalms 35 times.
“Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will act.”
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”
“I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.””
Proverbs speaks of trusting.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”
And the prophet Isaiah extols God as he speaks of his trust in Him.
“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.“
Scripture also makes clear that the object of your trust is important. In other words, does whatever you put your trust in merit your trust, is it trustworthy? Some things are not, even though they may appear strong and invincible.
“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”
“Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail.”
Both the Psalmist and the prophet warn that some things simply are not trustworthy. This is in comparison to the Lord, Who is totally trustworthy. What God says He will do, will, in fact, be accomplished. When God says that He will keep His children in His hand, nothing will be able to take us out of His hand. God’s promises are true and sure, and they will come to pass in His time and at His good pleasure.
“Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.”
So, who or what do you trust? Are you trusting in your strength and power, the modern equivalent of chariots and horses? Are you trusting in your wealth and position, your title or your education? Are you trusting in your good works or your charitable activities? Nothing in this world is worthy of your trust for eternity because nothing in this world is eternal. Rather, trust in the LORD. He is worthy of your trust. He is strong and powerful so that you will find your trust is not misplaced when it is in Him.
Hear the hymn “Trust and Obey” as presented by Don Moen in this beautiful rendition complete with lyrics and picturesque scenery.
Father, forgive me when I have taken my eyes off Jesus and misplaced my trust in my own strength or activities. Forgive me when I have relied on material things for security when You are the only true security in this world now and for eternity. Forgive me when I have failed to trust and obey, two words that are so easy to say but sometimes to difficult to accomplish. Enable me, through Your Spirit, to do Your will as a trust and obey Your voice today.