Stop and Consider

Does the biblical claim that God is our Creator to Whom we owe our lives and praise thrill you or irritate you?  Stop and consider who and what we are.

Today’s Reading

Job 35-37; Acts 14

Selected Verses

Hear this, O Job;
stop and consider the wondrous works of God.  Job 37:14

In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways.  Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.  Acts 14:16-17

Reflections

God’s glory is set forth in splendor in His creation.  The Psalmist wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge” (Psalm 19:1-2).  This is a truth as old as time and hard to ignore.  Yet Paul wrote that the unrighteous suppress the obvious truth of God and exchange the truth for a lie (Romans 1:18-25).

Elihu, in his monologue before Job, calls on him to “stop and consider the wondrous works of God.”  Elihu spoke truth displayed in the earliest event of biblical history: Creation.  He may have lacked love and compassion for his suffering friend, but we cannot accuse him of a falsehood at this point.

Paul brings up a similar declaration in his speech to the crowd at Lystra.  He credits God with all the blessings that they had experienced of rains and fruitful seasons, of food and gladness which brought satisfaction to their hearts.  He starts where they are human beings, just like himself, who have received far more than they deserve.

Think about it

God’s power and deity in the things He has made and the blessings He sends is clearly evident. Yet those who refuse to acknowledge Him as God are only angered or irritated by these reminders.  Fallen mankind, apart from God, likes to think that he is the captain of his soul and the master of his fate.  The claims of the Bible refute that view.  But stop and consider that,  “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).   If you believe, be sure your praises go to Him often.  He is worthy of all our adoration, all day, every day.  If you doubt this, stop and consider.

In the beginning

Today’s reading:

Genesis 1-2; Matthew 1

Select verses

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Genesis 1:31

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  Matthew 1:21

Reflections

As you read today, consider the God of creation presented in Genesis 1-2.  He shows His care for the universe and for Man.  The Creator makes the first human couple in His image with an implied purpose to reflect His glory. He gives them a very good world with meaningful work.

When we turn to Matthew, it’s obvious that something has gone wrong with the world.  Sin has intruded into the life of the first humans. The birth of Jesus is surrounded with scandal as his mother, Mary, turns up pregnant.  Her husband-to-be, Joseph, knows he could not be the father.  He would not shame her publicly, but he was about to divorce her when an angel appeared to him. The angel tells him that Mary’s baby, a son, was conceived not by any immorality of Mary but by the power of the Holy Spirit.  The pregnancy is miraculous. Moreover, Mary’s son will save His people from their sins.

More to come

Tomorrow we will learn in Genesis how sin entered into human history making necessary a Savior. For now please note that in Matthew 1 there are four mothers mentioned in the genealogy, besides Mary.  We will meet them all later in our Old Testament readings and learn details of their lives that show the grace of God to each one of them.  Even in the lineage of Jesus there was a need for deliverance from the ravages of sin.

The God of the Bible is one of power, love, and justice.  His Word shows the urgency of understanding how He has acted to create us and to save from the devastation of sin all those who trust in Him. Before we finish, we will see that He will restore all things and establish a new heavens and earth in which righteousness dwells forever (2 Peter 3:13).

Think about it

How would greater trust in Him change your outlook right now?

Seize the Day

Today’s reading: Numbers 32:1-33:56

James 4:14b says, “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” Life is brief but not insignificant for God has breathed life into Man and He calls us to account for what He has given us. Seize the day.

[For more reflections on this passage see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

God’s Ownership of His People

Today’s reading: Leviticus 23:26-25:55

If God owns you, how can you maximize your availability to Him?

For more reflections on this passage see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days.

NOTE: Your thoughtful comments and respectful criticisms are welcome below. Please allow a day or two for approval to see your reply on-line.

Humility before God

It behooves every human being to learn humility before God. One nation learned the hard way.

Today’s reading: Ezekiel 27-28; James 4

Because you make your heart
like the heart of a god,
therefore, behold, I will bring foreigners upon you,
the most ruthless of the nations;
and they shall draw their swords against the beauty of your wisdom
and defile your splendor.                                                    Ezekiel 28:6b-7

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”                                                                                   James 4:13-15

The prophet Ezekiel spoke for the Creator God, the God of all flesh. So he addressed the neighboring nations of Judah, like Tyre. God indicted Tyre for her arrogance and pride. She was prosperous and presumptuous. Tyre boasted of her greatness, her wealth, and her beauty. She elevated herself and brought on the judgment of God.

James warned his readers of the same danger on a personal level. Some were guilty of a total lack of humility before God. They set goals and made their plans and schedules as if they controlled their own destinies, as if they were immortal, unstoppable. Where is the recognition that we are all no more than “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes?”

In centuries past, godly people routinely wrote D.V. in their correspondence when making plans. “I will come to see you by New Years, D.V.” I googled “D.V.” to see what came up. On the third page of hits, I found a list of 50 possible options for D.V., things like Darth Vader, Death Valley, and Desktop Virtualization. Obviously, none of these were what the Puritans had in mind.About 35th in the list was “Deo Volente (Latin for ‘Lord willing’).” Yeah, that’s it.

In our society, few know Latin and too few know the Lord who reigns and has the final say-so over our lives. I don’t think the folks in ancient Tyre used D.V in their correspondence and neither do we, but, even if you don’t write it or say it, my fellow mist, remember to keep it in your mind and heart as you make plans. Always seek to maintain humility before God.

Fleeing Idols

The Creator God rules over all things, including us, human beings. We are called to honor and submit to Him willingly and be blessed, but, if we will not, to suffer the consequences.

Today’s reading: Jeremiah 17-19; 1 Timothy 6

5 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.                                                           Jeremiah 18:5-6

…he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.               1 Timothy 6:15b-16

God reveals Himself in Scripture, but His revelation is not exhaustive due to the limitations of human language. In today’s readings, God compares Himself to a potter and His people to a lump of clay. Then in Paul’s letter to Timothy lofty language is used to describe Him. These descriptions are true, but, of necessity, are only able to capture partially all the majesty and splendor of the Holy, Eternal God.

As the One who created us, God is our God. We owe Him our allegiance, our obedience, our submission, our honor, and our worship. His Word should be our command. The Lord showed Jeremiah that He had rights over Israel in the same way a potter has rights over a lump of clay to make out of her whatever seemed good to him. But Israel was rebellious and embraced false gods and served them, totally disregarding their true and living God. They would pay the price by defeat before their enemies.

Paul’s words about God are set in the context of warnings about the dangers of loving money and seeking to be rich. The Apostle urges his young disciple, Timothy, to flee these dangers, to pursue godly qualities, to fight the good fight of faith, and to live a blameless life. Why? Christ will return, He who is King of kings and Lord of lords. He alone is immortal. He “dwells in unapproachable light.”

We, too, owe our God everything we are and have. He is our potter and we His clay. He is worthy of every exclamation of praise and every act of humble service that we can offer to Him. Praise Him. Love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. In so doing, you will be fleeing the idols of money and pleasure.

The Meaning and Purpose of Life

In God, we find that our lives are not a result of random molecules coming together, but we are the result of His eternal decrees. We have meaning and purpose that transcends this world and results in glory.

Today’s reading: Jeremiah 1-2; 2 Thessalonians 2

Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the Lord said to me,

“Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’;
for to all to whom I send you, you shall go,
and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Jeremiah 1:4-7

13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14

Jeremiah heard God speak to him, but the message took some time to sink in. God told Jeremiah that he formed him in the womb, but even before that, God knew him and consecrated him (ie. set him apart for a designated purpose). What purpose? To be a prophet to the nations. Jeremiah offered two excuses: his age and his lack of speaking ability. God answered his excuses promising to send him. Jeremiah had no authority from a human point of view. He lacked maturity and experience. But he needed neither because God was sending him. Secondly, God would tell him what to say. Jeremiah did not need to write powerful communiques to the people. He only needed to report the messages God gave him.

Paul had a similar view of the work of God in the lives of the Thessalonians. Like Jeremiah, they were chosen by God and set apart by the Spirit. When they heard the gospel, they believed it and were saved. God had called them through the gospel and they responded. The ultimate result of this would be that they would obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Many today hold a worldview that sees our lives as essentially a result of a random evolutionary process. There is no accountability and no limitation, but then there is no purpose and no meaning. If you know you have been called by God, set apart by Him as a recipient of His mercy, grace, and love, forgiven, and adopted as His child to serve Him, rejoice. Give yourself fully to Him. Glory awaits us.

Why Nothing is Going Wrong

Ultimately, nothing is going wrong, because Jesus Christ is the Redeemer of all things, including us who believe in Him.

Today’s reading: Isaiah 41-42; Colossians 1

1Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations. Isaiah 42:1

19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.  Colossians 1:19-20

Yesterday, I said “everything is going wrong” and tried to summarize the cause. But there is more to the story. Nothing is going wrong, because all things are under God’s control and all things will culminate according to His plan and will.

Isaiah wrote to Judah and Israel, the divided kingdom, where it seemed that their existence was hanging by a thread. He has called Israel “His servant” (41:9), but what a flaky servant she is! She cannot be trusted to be faithful to the Lord. She is quickly drawn away to idols. She is blind to her own calling and history (42:18-25). What does God do? He chooses a new servant. Well, He is not really new because we learn He is the Son of God, the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.

This chosen servant has the Spirit of God upon him. He will bring justice to the nations. He will not wear out or be discouraged before accomplishing His work in the earth. How gracious of God to find Someone to do what Israel could not or would not do!

Paul writes much about Jesus, showing who He is and what He has done (see also Ephesians 2-3). Paul prays that the Colossians will grasp the truth about Jesus, because it is through His suffering on the cross that He has made peace and reconciled all things to Himself. Through Christ we “have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (vs. 14).

While it is important to recognize the trends and problems of our society today and do what we can to forestall corruption, it is even more important to recognize that God is not intimidated or frustrated by anything. Jesus will not grow faint or be discouraged before accomplishing His work of redemption in the earth. Should we? Take heart. Ultimately, nothing is going wrong.

 

The Grand Narrative

The plans of God for His people will be completed with certainty.

Today’s reading: Isaiah 24-26; Ephesians 4

1 O Lord, you are my God;
I will exalt you; I will praise your name,
for you have done wonderful things,
plans formed of old, faithful and sure. Isaiah 25:1

15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Ephesians 4:15-16

The “grand narrative” of the Bible, as Sinclair Ferguson calls it, was planned by God from eternity past. [1] We can summarize it by the terms: creation, corruption, conflict, and consummation. As Isaiah expressed it, these are “plans formed of old, faithful and sure.” Nothing that has happened, is happening, or will happen catches God by surprise. He is the Author of all of human history. He has planned it and His plans are sure to be completed.

Isaiah observes the chaos of the times, anticipates the coming judgment, but also promises that God will swallow up death forever, wipe away tears from all faces, and keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Him (Isaiah 25: 8; 26:3). “Trust in the Lord forever,” writes Isaiah, “for the Lord God is an everlasting rock” (26:4).

Paul, too, has the big picture in view as he exhorts the Ephesians to live in the unity of the Spirit of God. What has God done for them? He has sent them apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers to equip them for His service. Why? God has done this so that they may grow in unity and maturity in Christ. These two objectives go together.

We, indeed, still live in the middle period of the grand narrative which began with corruption (Genesis 3:1-13) and continues with conflict (Genesis 3:15), but Jesus Christ has come announcing that “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). He told His disciples to pray that the Kingdom would come, so we know there is more to come (Matthew 6:10).

As you look at the ongoing corruption and conflict of this world, do you lose sight of the Kingdom and forget that God’s plans are being perfectly fulfilled and that they will be completed? Trust in the Lord, as Isaiah said. Seek unity and maturity, as Paul admonished. God’s grand narrative is unfolding and He will be glorified in His blessed people.

[1] Sinclair Ferguson, From the Mouth of God: Trusting, Reading, and Applying the Bible, Edinburgh, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1982, 2014, p. 76

The Purposes of God

God’s purposes include all nations, all peoples, and all times and result in the exaltation of Jesus Christ as Lord of all.

Today’s reading: Isaiah 22-23; Ephesians 3

8 Who has purposed this
against Tyre, the bestower of crowns,
whose merchants were princes,
whose traders were the honored of the earth?
9 The Lord of hosts has purposed it,
to defile the pompous pride of all glory,
to dishonor all the honored of the earth. Isaiah 23:8-9

11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. Ephesians 3:11-12

It is not hard to see that the Bible reveals God who is over all the earth, over all mankind. It is true that He chose Abraham and made a covenant with him and his descendants, but even that covenant included all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:3).

Through Isaiah (and other prophets) God gave warnings and instructions to the Gentile nations around Israel and Judah. Today we read about God’s purposes to bring down the pomposity of Tyre and Sidon. They were proud in their successes, congratulating themselves for their victories and prosperity with no thought for God.

What concern did the God of Israel have for Tyre and Sidon? The same concern He had for all the families of the earth. Their prideful arrogance offended Him, but also drew His mercy and grace as He purposed that His Son would be the Savior of the world, including those from Tyre and Sidon and a thousand other tribes and nations that would come and go through human history.

The mystery of God’s purpose was revealed to Paul and the other apostles and, through their writings, it was revealed to us.  God was working out His plan for the fullness of time “to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:10). This was Paul’s calling, to announce this mystery, the uniting of all in Christ. Jews and Gentiles in Christ are now one with God and with each other. Paul prays that his readers in Ephesus (and beyond) may grasp “the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” and that they “may be filled with all the fullness of God” (3:19).

Press on to know God’s glorious purposes through Jesus Christ. We have only scratched the surface on the eternal purposes of God.