Healing for Sin-sick Souls

Sin causes pain and death, but the sinless Lord Jesus Christ’s pain and death resulted in a full and final cure for the iniquity of His people.

Today’s Reading

Jeremiah 7-8; First Timothy 2

Selected Verses

 For the wound of the daughter of my people is my heart wounded;
I mourn, and dismay has taken hold on me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of the daughter of my people not been restored? Jeremiah 8:21-22

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. First Timothy 2:5-6

Reflections

Jeremiah was in grief over the sin of Judah. He had a message. It was from God. It was true, but it gave him no joy. He had to proclaim to the people their sin and failure. No wonder people called him “the weeping prophet.” Sin has painful consequences for unrepentant sinners, but also for those who love them and can only watch them spiraling down into judgment. Jeremiah loved his fellow countrymen. He could call them to God, but he could not heal them when they refused to listen. In those days, Gilead was an area east of the Jordan known for its medicinal products. [1]  The prophet longed for some balm or ointment to cure the sinful populace.

I remember an old spiritual we sang in my childhood. The refrain is:

There is a balm in Gilead
to make the wounded whole,
there is a balm in Gilead
to heal the sin-sick soul.

Amen! Paul had the happy work of proclaiming that there is healing in our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the One who gave Himself as a ransom. Our High Priest Jesus is the mediator between God and men. He took our sin upon Himself, dying on the cross, rising again, sending forth the Apostles to spread the news, and ascending to the right hand of God. Jesus cures not merely the physical body but the “sin-sick soul.”  Jeremiah longed to find such souls. But he found hard hearts, unreceptive to his diagnosis of their need.

Think about it

If you are sin-sick, find healing in Jesus who gave Himself for such as you.  [See Mark 10:45; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 1:18, 19].

[1]  Reformation Study Bible, note on Jeremiah 8:22, page 1276

Salvation Belongs to the LORD

God is sovereign over salvation. He uses means, such as gospel preaching but also works directly opening the hearts of His own so they hear and believe.

Today’s Reading

Psalms 1-3; Acts 16:1-15

Selected Verses

Salvation belongs to the Lord; your blessing be on your people! Psalm 3:8

One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.  Acts 16:14-15

Reflections

The Psalmist was in dire straits. According to the title of Psalm 3, David wrote this during his exile from Jerusalem while his son, Absalom, briefly overthrew his father’s kingdom. David turned to God in the crisis, recognizing that only the Lord could save him. “Salvation belongs to the LORD,” he affirms. Absalom had skillfully won over the people of Israel to support him. David fled Jerusalem. But it seemed inevitable that David would be assassinated and Absalom would take firm control of the kingdom.

Yet, “salvation belongs to the LORD.” David held to that truth, and, against all odds, Absalom listened to David’s planted advisor, Hushai who purposely gave him bad advice. Absalom followed it, and died in the ensuing battle (2 Samuel 17-18). God saved David’s life and kingdom. The odds set by probability cannot limit God.

Lydia was a worshiper of God, a Gentile woman who believed in the God of Israel and the moral law of Moses without adopting the dietary and ceremonial laws. Luke tells us that the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul said. Without the intervention of the Holy Spirit, neither a Lydia nor anyone else is able to hear and believe the gospel (Jeremiah 13:23; John 6:44, 65; Romans 9:16; 1 Corinthians 2:14; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 2 Timothy 1:9-10).  God saved Lydia spiritually. [1]

Think about it

God saves kings and Gentile women, like David and Lydia. How does the truth that “salvation belongs to the Lord” affect your prayer life and your daily confidence in Him? Can you lie down and sleep, knowing the Lord will sustain you? Trust Him when in danger for He saves.  Proclaim the gospel to others knowing that God opens hearts as He wills and saves lost people.

[1] The Reformation Study Bible notes p. 1945

Fleeing to Satan? Really?

Who would flee to Satan?  If you think no one would ever consciously do that, read on.  It is done every day by those who reject the Incarnate Son of God.

Today’s Reading

Second Chronicles 34-36; John 19:1-22

Selected Verses

And they burned the house of God and broke down the wall of Jerusalem and burned all its palaces with fire and destroyed all its precious vessels.  He took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and to his sons until the establishment of the kingdom of Persia,  to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.   2 Chronicles 36:19-21

They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”  So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.  John 19:15-16

Reflections

When people attempt to flee from God, they always flee to something else.

The margin notes in the Reformation Study Bible helpfully point out that at Jesus’ trial, the chief priests in their eagerness to rid themselves of Jesus Christ confessed to being loyal to Caesar.  In other words, they forsook their professed allegiance to the Lord God as their ruler (Psalms 24; 47).  God alone is ruler over all the nations and peoples of the earth.  He alone is worthy of worship and praise.  But the chief priests, in rejecting Christ, enthroned Caesar in their hearts and minds.  Such was the level of their sin.

The people of Judah had also forsaken their God, despite the brief return to some level of faithfulness under the reign of Josiah.  In fleeing from God, even by failing to honor one of His laws like the keeping of the Sabbath, they turned to other gods and other laws.  God through Jeremiah told them they would pay for their negligence of the Sabbaths.  They would have forced Sabbath-keeping during their seventy years of exile.  This was the indictment against Judah that resulted in their captivity in Babylon.

Think about it

Keep your heart with all vigilance (Proverbs 4:23) for those who abandon the Lord do not move to a neutral position spiritually and theologically, but they actually flee into the arms of Satan.

Learning to Trust the Love of God

The path of God may take us through pain, suffering, and death, but never away from His love and compassion. Will we trust Him?

Today’s Reading

First Chronicles 26-27; John 11:18-46

Selected Verses

And Obed-edom had sons: Shemaiah the firstborn, Jehozabad the second, Joah the third, Sachar the fourth, Nethanel the fifth, Ammiel the sixth, Issachar the seventh, Peullethai the eighth, for God blessed him.  1 Chronicles 26:4

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.  And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”  Jesus wept.  So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”  John 11:33-36

Reflections

Today’s reading in 1 Chronicles includes long lists of names, yet, as we have seen before, there are treasures to be found in these lists.  One example is the comment about Obed-edom,  “God blessed him.”  The note in my Reformation Study Bible (page 626) helped me remember that Obed-edom was the man who took care of the ark of the covenant for three months after a mishandling of it had resulted in death (1 Chronicles 13:13-14; 2 Samuel 6:10-11).  Now we pick up with this same Obed-edom and learn that God’s blessing included eight sons who served as gatekeepers.

What image do you have of the Man Jesus?  Is He too cool and calm to ever show grief or sadness?  Is He always upbeat, joyful, and in total control?  Think again. John 11 does not give us that picture.  When Jesus arrived at Bethany, the home of Martha and Mary, He was deeply moved and troubled by what He saw there: a distraught family, friends seeking to console them, and everyone grieving.  His love and compassion for the sisters and the friends of Lazarus expressed itself in tears that flowed.  Isn’t it curious that Jesus knew He would raise Lazarus from the dead in a few minutes, but for the moment He entered into the agony of the bereaved family and felt their suffering?

Think about it

God’s plan for the lives of Obed-edom and Lazarus took them in different paths centuries apart from each other but always under the providential care of the Lord who reigns over all things.  Praise Him who does not overlook the loving and careful service of Obed-edom. Neither will He forget your service for Him. Take comfort in this. The Lord who cared for Lazurus’ family knows and cares for you who are His.  He is the resurrection and the life.  Fear not.  His plan is good and ends with His victory.  Meanwhile, walk on by faith and keep learning to trust the love of God.

Mercy for Limping Cross Bearers

Can we ever hope to be accepted by a holy God?  Not on the basis of our perfect lives but there is acceptance for believers in the One who is Perfect.

Today’s Reading

I Samuel 15-16; Luke 14:25-35

Selected Verses

And Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you. For you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.” I Samuel 15:26

Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:27

Reflections

God is merciful, but that quality must not be allowed to eclipse His holiness.

Saul persisted in disregarding the commands of God.  In the battle with the Amalekites, he spared the king and the better animals rather than carry out the orders given by God through Samuel.  When confronted by Samuel, Saul shifted the blame to the people, making his sin even worse by failure to own up to his responsibility.  He showed his lack of heart toward God by referring to the Lord as “your” (Samuel’s) God.

Jesus called people to follow Him and to be His disciples, but He was not so desperate for followers that they could come on their own terms.  He told them they must hate their relatives and even their own lives if they would follow Him.[1]  Those who follow Christ carry their cross, ready to die for Him at any time.  This would not be an easy road and one ought to count the cost before setting out.

Think about it

But is there no mercy and grace for our failure and sin?  Yes, of course there is. Jesus showed mercy and grace to Peter who denied Him at the time of His arrest.  Are disciples of Jesus in danger of rejection with no appeal for forgiveness?  No.  The Lord is forgiving and His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).  But remember Whom you serve.  He is perfectly holy and we need to take seriously our walk with Him.

Christian brother or sister, learn from Saul who barely confessed his sin after repeated promptings by Samuel.  Confess sin fully.  Receive mercy and grace to go on.  You get a fresh start each day.  Jesus paid for your sins.  Believe Him and keep limping on carrying your cross.

[1] “[Jesus] teaches that being His disciple means loving Him so unreservedly that all other loves seem to be hatred by comparison.”  Reformation Study Bible page 1818

Watchfulness: good and bad

Jesus said be watchful for His return.  Moses warned against a bad watchfulness that leads to sinful disobedience.  Do you know the difference?

Today’s reading

Deuteronomy 14-16; Mark 13:14-37

Selected Verses

Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, “The seventh year, the year of release is near,” and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the Lord against you, and you be guilty of sin.  Deuteronomy 15:9

And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.  And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.  Mark 13:26-27

Reflections

One of the functions of God’s word is to warn His people to obey Him and not look for creative ways to avoid doing right.

In ancient Israel, God instructed His people in how they were to manage their economy so that there would be no poverty among them.  God made provisions for addressing those in need. But the Lord knew their hearts.  He warned them against trying to evade their responsibilities.  If the year of release were near, a loan would be almost an outright gift.[1]  He warned them not to take into account the coming year of release, as they were considering the needs of their poor brother.  One might be tempted to ignore the appeal of the needy, but the Lord would hear his cry and bring judgment on the neglectful, unresponsive relative.

In Jesus’ teaching about the coming time of tribulation, He also warned people to be watchful, but for a different reason.  The coming of the Son of Man in power and glory is certain but the time is unknown.  In contrast, the years of release or of Jubilee came predictably every seven years or every 49 years. There is a godly watchfulness and an unrighteous watchfulness.

Think about it

Believers should live each day as if the Lord could come.  We ought not to think that today does not matter because final judgment seems to be delayed.  Neither ought we to neglect our duties in this world because we are convinced the Lord will be here within hours.  We are called to be watchful in a good way not calculating so as to disobey.

Do the things God has called you to do today.  When He comes you will be glad you did.

[1] See note in the Reformation Study Bible, page 275

A Warning about Causing People to Sin


God will not overlook the evil of causing others, especially His people and little children, to sin.  Here is a serious warning to heed.

Today’s reading

Numbers 30-31; Mark 9:30-50

Selected Verses

 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Avenge the people of Israel on the Midianites. Afterward you shall be gathered to your people.”  So Moses spoke to the people, saying, “Arm men from among you for the war, that they may go against Midian to execute the Lord’s vengeance on Midian.

Numbers 31:1-3

Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.

Mark 9:42

Reflections

God’s final assignment to Moses was to bring judgment on the Midianites for the way they had seduced the Israelites into sin.  Indeed, as we saw in our March 1 reading, the Israelites paid a severe price for their foolish sin, but now God sends Moses to repay their tempters for causing His people to sin.

The disciples were beginning to show their true colors as the thought of Jesus’ death dawned on them.  They began to jockey for positions of leadership and wanted to curtail any would-be competitors that they had not authorized.  In a forceful statement, Jesus warned them of the danger of defiling little ones who believe in Him.  The Reformation Study Bible note explains that the phrase “little ones” may refer either to children or to those who are “insignificant believers.”  So the warning has broad application.  The disciples saw those who were not following them as insignificant and worthy of rebuke (Mark 9:38).

Think about it

Who are the little ones in your life? Are they children? Are they just the so-called insignificant believers? Remember that God holds them in high esteem.  He gave His Son for their salvation. Beware of causing others to sin who look up to you either because of your age or status. Treat them all as children of the King for, as believers, that is what they are.  If you have failed in this regard, repent of all known sin, confess to God and those offended.  Seek the Lord’s grace and forgiveness through Christ.  God has promised: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” 1 John 1:9.

Trusting the Bible

Today’s reading:

Matthew 12:15-13:46

My Selection:

 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:

 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
    my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
    and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
 He will not quarrel or cry aloud,
    nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
 a bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;
 and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”  Matthew 12:17-21

One of the reasons I trust the Bible is that the unity of the message can only be explained by the presence of an eternal God who revealed that message to His prophets and apostles from Moses to John.

Trust the Bible

Matthew makes many connections with the Old Testament and the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Jesus fulfills hundreds of prophecies written centuries before His birth. One of those prophecies given by Isaiah said that the Messiah would bring justice to victory.  How reassuring it is to have confidence that our Lord has triumphed over Satan.  The serpent’s head was crushed. Trust the Bible. The coming of God’s kingdom is assured. In Christ He has brought justice to victory for Jews and Gentiles worldwide.

For more reflections on today’s reading, see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

 

 

Minor Prophets are Profitable

Today we begin our readings in the minor prophets, the 12 relatively short books that come at the end of our Old Testament in the standard English versions used by most evangelicals and protestants.  The books are not in chronological order so it is helpful to consult the notes in a good study Bible or Bible handbook.  See my resources for Bible readers tab here for suggestions.

Saturday, September 17, 2016 Love so Amazing, so Divine

Reading: Hosea 1:1-5:15

My selection:

“And the Lord said to me, ‘Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins’”  Hosea 3:1

Sunday, September 18, 2016   How we look to God

Reading: Hosea 6:1-11:12

My selection:

“Like grapes in the wilderness,
I found Israel.
“Like the first fruit on the fig tree
in its first season,
I saw your fathers.
“But they came to Baal-peor
and consecrated themselves to the thing of shame,
and became detestable like the thing they loved” Hosea 9:10.

Keep reading.  You will find the profits here are not minor at all.  See you again on Monday.

[For reflections on these passages, see the corresponding readings in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].

[Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.]

April 16-17, 2016 Weekend readings

Saturday, April 16 reading: 1 Kings 2:13-4:19 “Prayer that Pleases God”

Sunday April 17 reading: 1 Kings 4:20-7:12 “The Golden Age of the Kingdom”

Have a great weekend.  See you again on Monday!cropped-563356_2863573884517_835129688_n.jpg

[For more reflections on these passages see the corresponding readings in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days].