The Everlasting Arms

What or who are you leaning on for support?  We can learn from two notable biblical figures who found the only eternal foundation: the arms of God.

Today’s reading

Deuteronomy 33-34; Luke 1:24-56

Selected Verses

There is none like God, O Jeshurun,
who rides through the heavens to your help,
through the skies in his majesty.
 The eternal God is your dwelling place,
and underneath are the everlasting arms.
And he thrust out the enemy before you
and said, “Destroy.”  Deuteronomy 33:26-27

 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;  Luke 1:51

Reflections

Both Moses and Mary express awe and reverence for the power and faithfulness of God.

Moses, in today’s reading, pronounces blessings on the tribes of Israel as he knows the time of his death is drawing near.  Rather than express anger and disappointment that he has been denied entrance into the Promised Land, Moses takes the opportunity to give glory to God.  His words of praise are both true and inspiring.

Moses could speak with the perspective of a man who for 120 years had seen the power of God in his life.  God saved him at birth, protected him from prosecution for murder, watched over him during his exile, called him at a burning bush, gave him victory over the Egyptians, and guided him through the wilderness to the border of the Promised Land.  Moses knew God.  God had been faithful and God had been powerful on Moses’ behalf.  What better way for Moses to say goodbye than to lift words of praise to God?

Mary, the young virgin engaged to Joseph, faced a completely unexpected life.  Suddenly, the angel Gabriel broke into her world announcing what was to become of her.  She would be the mother of the Son of God.  Mary’s response is one of bewilderment which turns to submission and praise to God.  She, like Moses, revels in thoughts of the powerful arm of God.  God is able to do the impossible.  God is going to do all His will.  He turns the world right side up.

Think about it

How have you already seen God’s power and faithfulness in your life? How do you need to remember God’s power today?  “Do not be afraid,” the angel said to Mary (Luke 1:30).  He is the God whose arm is strong and everlasting.  Trust Him today. Underneath you are the everlasting arms.

Strengthened in God

Today’s reading: 1 Samuel 28:1-31:13

As we saw yesterday, David had been anointed king of Israel, but the coronation was delayed.  Meanwhile, David learned how to trust God and to strengthen himself in God even when all hope seemed lost.

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

Can Failure be God’s Will?

March 26, 2016  Can Failure be God’s Will?

Today’s reading: Judges 20:1-Ruth 1:22

Mother Teresa is attributed with this saying, “God does not require that we be successful only that we be faithful.”   I agree with this thought, yet in God’s eyes faithfulness to Him is true success.  In this reading we find that God led His people to war three times and they failed the first two.  No reason was given.

Teresa was right in warning us not to assume that faithfulness will always result in what we commonly call success.

Yes, failure is sometimes God’s will for us.  Jesus’ death looked like failure, at first.  Think about it.

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

God’s Faithfulness to His Covenant and People

Today’s reading: Joshua 19:32-21:45

We can count on God to fulfill all His promises to us. Our Savior has triumphed over Satan and won the victory. The place Jesus is preparing for us is in His Father’s house. Keep trusting Him to see you through and bring you home.

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

God Uses Sin for Good

Today’s reading: Joshua 10:1-12:24

How much time have you wasted lamenting your sin and past mistakes? In today’s reading, we have an example of the proper way to look at past sin which has been confessed and forgiven. The foolish treaty which Israel made with the Gibeonites was used by God for a good purpose, the defeat of the pagan kings of the Promised Land.

How should we deal with sin? Repent, confess, trust God for forgiveness, live with the consequences, move on, but watch Him use it in unforeseen ways for good in your life.

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

A Call for Endurance

God calls His people to endurance, by faith, even in the most severe of trials, because His promises are sure and His power is invincible.

Today’s reading: Habakkuk 1-3; Revelation 14

18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
19 God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places. Habakkuk 3:18-19

12 Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.

13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” Revelation 14:12-13

Down through the ages, the saints of God have been called to live by faith in His word. Often they have had to stand under intense opposition and persecution.

Habakkuk was perplexed about the spiritual state of Judah. Why did God seem to ignore the injustice and corruption in the nation? God responded that He would send the Chaldeans to discipline Judah. That answer drove Habakkuk to even greater confusion. How could God use such a wicked people to discipline His own people who while sinful were not nearly so evil as the Chaldeans? The Lord explained that when He was finished using the Chaldeans to discipline Judah, He would then turn His wrath on them, too.

Habakkuk gets it. He concludes with a psalm of praise and commitment to God. The prophet says he will trust God and rejoice in Him no matter what. Now that is an example of faith!

In Revelation, God gives John a picture of the things to come. There will be great trials. The saints must respond to the call to endure with obedience and steadfast faith in Jesus. Once that is over, they will be received into eternal rest where their deeds in this world will be remembered.

Walk in faith and obedience, my brother and sister. The time will come soon when the stress and pressure of this world will be over. Our reward is certain, so endure.

Tribulation, then Restoration

Tribulation is real, but it is not the end for God’s people.

Today’s reading: Amos 7-9; Revelation 7

15 I will plant them on their land,
and they shall never again be uprooted
out of the land that I have given them,”
says the Lord your God.                                                                  Amos 9:15

13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.                             Revelation 7:13-14

The prophet Amos had a gloomy message for Israel. He himself was touched by what he was saying. “O Lord God, please forgive! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!” he cries out again and again (7:2b). But God relents and promises that all these dire warnings will not be final. There is a day of restoration and joy ahead. It will be permanent. There will be lasting prosperity and security.

Given the depth of sin and failure on the part of Israel, how is this blessing possible?

The answer is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God whose blood atones for the sin of God’s elect. They wash their robes in it. Those filthy robes are made white. They endure the pain and suffering of the great tribulation and though, as Amos admitted, they are small, yet they stand.

Do not be surprised if you suffer for a time. Some of it, we bring on ourselves by our sin and some of it is merely the sufferings of Christ that His people must bear. In the end, there is restoration. Be strong in the Lord, because tribulation is real but it is not the end.

Safe in the Lions’ Den

God shows His power in the apparently impossible and hopeless crises of His faithful children who have even been found safe in the lions’ den.

Today’s reading: Daniel 5-6; 1 John 4

26 I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel,

for he is the living God,
enduring forever;
his kingdom shall never be destroyed,
and his dominion shall be to the end.
27 He delivers and rescues;
he works signs and wonders
in heaven and on earth,
he who has saved Daniel
from the power of the lions.”

28 So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.                                                                                                   Daniel 6:26-28

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.                                                                      1 John 4:4

God’s people down through history have been tested and oppressed by evil forces in this world as was predicted in Genesis 3:15. They are not always delivered from those trials, but, by God’s grace and power, they remain faithful to Him and are never overcome by them. [See also The Grand Narrative].

Daniel was set up by political opponents to be trapped in a dilemma. He resolved not to compromise his faith but to trust God to see him through the consequences of maintaining his practice of prayer. He was protected through a night in the lions’ den. King Darius saw the power of God and decreed that all should tremble and fear before Him.

John’s readers in the first century and beyond were reassured of God’s power in the face of opposing spiritual forces in the world. He called them “little children” perhaps because of his tender love for them but, probably, also because they were not spiritual giants. Nevertheless, he said they had overcome the false prophets, also called the spirit of antichrist and the spirit of error.  Unlike those in the world, these little children did not listen to the false spirits.

Daniel prospered under the pagan kings. Those John addressed were victorious against the forces of spiritual darkness. Not all who are faithful prosper in this world, but all who are faithful know God’s faithfulness and the ultimate deliverance of what Darius called the kingdom that shall never be destroyed. Stay faithful and confident. You are safe in the lions’ den.

Glory Revealed

History shows the ongoing conflict between Christ and Satan, but, it will culminate in glory revealed.

Today’s reading: Ezekiel 38-39; 1 Peter 4

23 So I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord.  Ezekiel 38:23

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 1 Peter 4:12-14

Israel and Judah were casualties in the cosmic battle of good and evil. As God’s people they suffered for their sin and idolatry, but they would not ultimately be lost because God had chosen them for Himself. He promised to do a new thing with them, make a new covenant with them, and restore them. Here Ezekiel warns the enemy ruler, Gog of the destruction which is coming upon him and his forces. God will show His greatness and His holiness and make Himself known to them.

In short, God would be glorified before the seemingly invincible forces of evil. What an encouragement to the exiles in the Babylonian captivity, far from Jerusalem.

Peter, too, assures the suffering believers of his day that God is not unaware of their plight. They suffer with Christ. They do not suffer as a means of discipline for their sin but rather as a means to show the power and grace of God. Blessing will be theirs, but, first, there is a time of trial to endure. While they are not suffering for sin but for Christ, they do have God’s presence with them and assurance that their suffering will produce the purification of their faith (1 Peter 1:6-7).

There will come a day when God’s glory will be fully revealed and His judgment will be finalized. Those who have suffered malign for Him will be rewarded with vindication and their growth in purity of faith will bring glory to Christ.

Do you suffer for Christ today? Peter says be sure you suffer for Him and not for your sin. Meanwhile, entrust your soul to your faithful Creator because the day of glory revealed is coming.

 

 

The Good, New Days

The destruction of Jerusalem brought inconsolable grief, a deep longing for the good, old days, but God had something new and far better planned.

Today’s reading: Lamentations 3-5; Hebrews 8

21 Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored!
Renew our days as of old—
22 unless you have utterly rejected us,
and you remain exceedingly angry with us. Lamentations 5:21-22

6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. Hebrews 8:6-7

The writer of Lamentations pours out his grief for Jerusalem, which lies in ruins. The best he can imagine is some kind of return to the wonderful days of peace and prosperity, maybe the reign of Solomon when Israel was one kingdom, rich in wealth, politically dominant, free from oppressors.  Ah, to return to those days again!

But Jeremiah had already prophesied that there would be a new covenant, not like the old one to which the people were unfaithful. [See Jeremiah 31:31-34.] The writer to the Hebrews reminds his readers that the new covenant made the old one obsolete. The good, old days were not so good, after all. The old covenant only served to show the sinful condition of the nation and the need for a better covenant, a better priest, and a better sacrifice. That is exactly what God did through Christ.

In the midst of difficult and trying times, it is easy to look back to some past era that seems to have been better. Resist that temptation and let go of the longing for some golden age of yesteryear. God, in Jesus Christ, has brought us a whole new covenant that far exceeds anything ever known. Pray that we may be faithful and live in anticipation of that day when His kingdom fully comes and all things are made new.