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for the glory of God

Devotions

22 January 2022

Psalm 85

You, Lord, showed favor to your land;
    you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
You forgave the iniquity of your people
    and covered all their sins.b]
You set aside all your wrath
    and turned from your fierce anger.

Restore us again, God our Savior,
    and put away your displeasure toward us.
Will you be angry with us forever?
    Will you prolong your anger through all generations?
Will you not revive us again,
    that your people may rejoice in you?
Show us your unfailing love, Lord,
    and grant us your salvation.

I will listen to what God the Lord says;
    he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—
    but let them not turn to folly.
Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,
    that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Love and faithfulness meet together;
    righteousness and peace kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
    and righteousness looks down from heaven.
12 The Lord will indeed give what is good,
    and our land will yield its harvest.
13 Righteousness goes before him
    and prepares the way for his steps.

Prayer: Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully look on our weakness; and in all our dangers and difficulties stretch our Your right hand to help and defend us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

21 January 2022

Proverbs 27:7

One who is full loathes honey from the comb,
    but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.

In the extremes of life, everything we experience takes on an extreme flavor. When we are full, we despise what we normally enjoy; when we are hungry, we relish what we typically would reject as bitter. The need dictates the experience.

The one who is full has no one to blame but himself. He makes himself full by giving into his impulses. Because he cannot resist the honey, he satiates himself until he loathes the honey he craved. The who is hungry finds sweetness in what is normally is bitter because his body craves nourishment. His taste buds acclimate to the bitter in order to satisfy the hunger.

Neither state is good. Though the satiated person has only himself to blame and the hungry person perhaps has circumstances to fault, neither are in good positions. It is better that the hungry person obtains nourishing food, and it is good to be able to enjoy honey. And it is better not to be overly stimulated and satiated with rich food. What is most desirable is disciplined enjoyment of what one earns. It is best to work for one’s food and obtain the sweet, and then to enjoy it in a measured manner that keeps the sweet from turning bitter.

Thus, the proverb cautions against the philosophy of eat, drink, and be merry that leads to bitterness, and that of the sluggard whose laziness leaves him ever hungry.

 

19 January 2022

Proverbs 27:5

Better is open rebuke
    than hidden love.

Open rebuke is painful and shameful. It is difficult enough to receive rebuke well, but to receive such in the presence of others naturally leads to shame. We then want to defend ourselves and especially prove the rebuker wrong. Whether we are able to or not, we no longer trust him or regard him as a friend.

But as painful as such an incident may be, even worse is to withhold love, to keep it hidden. Hidden love does not shame or offend; it discourages. It does not shock; it quietly demoralizes. Open rebuke, as painful as it may be to receive, can awaken us to what has been lacking or offensive in us. It can spur us to change that is good. Hidden love reinforces our faults because it is love that motivates us to good. Hidden love is offensive, for it is a lie. To love someone and keep that love hidden is deception.

 

How then does one display love? God gives the model. He showed his love by sending his Son to be an atoning sacrifice for us. Christ showed his love to the Father by willingly obeying. Jesus has told us that we show love to him by obeying his commandments. We know that the Father delights in our worship. And so then, we learn to show our love to one another – when we gladly make sacrifices for one another; when we listen to one another and do what matters for the other; when we praise one another. And even when we rebuke (privately) each other for the other’s good. Love is to be displayed, as God displays his love to and for us.

 

18 January 2022

Proverbs 27:4

Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming,
    but who can stand before jealousy?

A person can be jealous about us. He is jealous of our good fortune – the money we earn, our popularity, whatever it is that he perceives we have and he wants. In that jealousy, he becomes our enemy, or, rather, makes us the enemy. We have what he does not, and he will act, not merely to attain what we have, but to take it from us. Indeed, more important than getting what we have is to see that we lose it. He wants us to feel the loss that he feels.

A person can also be jealous for us. He wants us, and he does not want to share. He is resentful of the attention others show us. Nor does he want us sharing. He cannot abide us being friendly towards others. He certainly cannot abide us loving others. He would rather us feel his pain than be happy with others.

How dangerous then is such a person. An angry man loses his anger when his attention is diverted to other things. Cruel wrath often is not personal. We experience harm while we are in its way, but it will pass. The jealous man, though, is obsessed with the person about whom or for whom he is jealous. His happiness is tied up in the fortune of the person with whom he is obsessed.

We are in danger of becoming that jealous person if our joy is not found in God alone. For as much as we love God, then as much will we rejoice in the fortune of others, especially in their standing with our Lord. Because the love of God is so satisfying, we cannot be jealous of what others have. Jealousy, the lack of it, is a good measure of our satisfaction with God.

 

17 January 2022

Proverbs 27:3

Stone is heavy and sand a burden,
    but a fool’s provocation is heavier than both.

It is odd how much a fool’s provocation weighs upon us. We may exhaust ourselves carrying stone or moving sand. But we may put either down whenever we desire; we can then rest and recoup. But the provocation of a fool weighs upon us and we cannot lay it down. Indeed, the weight only seems to grow.

Perhaps someone has taunted us; perhaps has teased us; perhaps has simply acted foolish in front of us. We cannot get it out of our minds. We keep thinking about it. We begin to fume about it. Perhaps something was said that has an element of truth, and we argue in our minds about it. Perhaps we were embarrassed. The problem is that we cannot get it out of our minds.

How do we get rid of such a weight? The simple answer is to turn it over to God. But how is that done? Through prayer of course, but specifically through Scripture informed prayer. To get the words of the fool out of our minds, we need to fill our minds with the words of God. All Scripture is good to read, but especially effective is to read that which speaks of the character and works of God. If we turn our minds to the praise of God, then there is not room to carry the provocation of a fool.

 

15 January 2022

Prayer: Almighty and everlasting God, ruler of all things in heaven and earth, mercifully hear the prayers of Your people, and grant us Your peace all the days of our life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

14 January 2022

Proverbs 27:2

Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth;
    an outsider, and not your own lips.

“See what I have done!” That is a cute phrase from a young child. We smile and respond how impressed we are. But as one grows older the cute phrase becomes increasingly irritating to hear. We judge the speaker to be immature at best or egotistical. When the self-praise is patently off base, we consider the speaker to be delusional, and he is scorned as a fool. When the self-praise actually has merit, then all the more that praise is resented as being prideful and arrogant. Whatever may be the case, self-praise reveals a character that is self-centered.

But the same praise, when it is spoken by others, not only is acceptable but regarded as the right thing to do. “See what he has done!” That is an apt phrase from an objective outsider. We don’t merely concur with the words; we find them pleasing to be spoken. We want to join in on the praise. We will even urge the recipient of the phrase not to be modest.

But what if the praise does not come? That is the egotist’s real worry. What if others do not notice his accomplishments? Or perhaps they do notice, but are not the type to give praise? How then will others take notice? How will he get his due acclaim?

That very line of thinking reveals the small-mindedness and self-centeredness of the thinker. It reveals that his accomplishments are little more than attention getters. He has not strived to achieve great things, but to achieve greatness. He has not performed for love of the game or love of the deed or love for others, but for the acknowledgement of others. The irony is that his very attempt at gaining praise through his self-praise causes him to lose the admiration he would have likely received. His very zeal to make himself admired destroys his goal.

Christians, of all people, should have little concern about being praised, not because praise is bad, but because of what lies before us – “an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). Is that not enough to satisfy?

 

Psalm 150

raise the Lord.[a]

Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
    praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
    praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
    praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
    praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.

This comes to the end of the reading of the whole Bible. The Proverbs devotion will still continue until the end of Proverbs 30. There are many Bible reading resources available online should you wish to continue reading through the Scriptures.

13 January 2022

Proverbs 27:1

Do not boast about tomorrow,
    for you do not know what a day may bring.

James provides a good commentary for this proverb: 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”— 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. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil (James 4:13-16).

The sooner we grasp how little control we have of the future, then the better prepared we will be for it. We become flustered and lose our temper because our plans are interrupted. If we know that tomorrow is in God’s hands and not ours, we will then be better prepared for what will actually take place, whether or not it goes according to our plans.

It is good to make plans; but understand that our plans are nothing more than that – plans. We are not God whose plans are fixed. Nor do we want them to be. For we lack God’s knowledge and his goodness. Do not boast about tomorrow. It is the humble attitude to take, as well as a wise attitude that will lead to contentment and to true readiness.

 

Psalm 149

Praise the Lord.[a]

Sing to the Lord a new song,
    his praise in the assembly of his faithful people.

Let Israel rejoice in their Maker;
    let the people of Zion be glad in their King.
Let them praise his name with dancing
    and make music to him with timbrel and harp.
For the Lord takes delight in his people;
    he crowns the humble with victory.
Let his faithful people rejoice in this honor
    and sing for joy on their beds.

May the praise of God be in their mouths
    and a double-edged sword in their hands,
to inflict vengeance on the nations
    and punishment on the peoples,
to bind their kings with fetters,
    their nobles with shackles of iron,
to carry out the sentence written against them—
    this is the glory of all his faithful people.

Praise the Lord.

12 January 2022

Proverbs 26:28

A lying tongue hates those it hurts,
    and a flattering mouth works ruin.

The lying tongue and the flattering mouth – weapons of deception – are the true revealers of the heart. The liar may consciously despise his victim or regards the victim indifferently; so the flatterer. He has one aim – his advancement. He may want money or power or pleasure. Whatever the case, he will lie and flatter for that one goal. He is single-minded.

And he is a hater whose real love is to ruin others. Deny as he might, his very lying reveals his heart as a hater. He hates his neighbor. Most of all, he hates God. Like his father Satan, his character is expressed through his deception.

Such a person cannot be happy with mere advancement of his own situation. He must see that others experience disappointment. He delights not only in their being deceived, but by their misery over the deception. Ruin – the ruin of others – is what satisfies their inner craving.

How comforting it is to know the intent and the power of our Father who is Truth, who intends on building us up even to glory, and who will not fail. The world is filled with lying tongues, but it is also under the sovereign control of our God who cannot be deceived, who is advancing his kingdom, who is turning liars into truth-bearers, even us. There is one who seeks our ruin; but there is a greater One within us who seeks our victory and will attain it.

 

Psalm 148

Praise the Lord.[a]

Praise the Lord from the heavens;
    praise him in the heights above.
Praise him, all his angels;
    praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
Praise him, sun and moon;
    praise him, all you shining stars.
Praise him, you highest heavens
    and you waters above the skies.

Let them praise the name of the Lord,
    for at his command they were created,
and he established them for ever and ever—
    he issued a decree that will never pass away.

Praise the Lord from the earth,
    you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
    stormy winds that do his bidding,
you mountains and all hills,
    fruit trees and all cedars,
10 wild animals and all cattle,
    small creatures and flying birds,
11 kings of the earth and all nations,
    you princes and all rulers on earth,
12 young men and women,
    old men and children.

13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
    for his name alone is exalted;
    his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
14 And he has raised up for his people a horn,[b]
    the praise of all his faithful servants,
    of Israel, the people close to his heart.

Praise the Lord.

11 January 2022

Proverbs 26:27

Whoever digs a pit will fall into it;
    if someone rolls a stone, it will roll back on them.

He who starts trouble will get caught up in his own making. Typically he underestimates the response of others. He expects them to cower when they instead get angry. He expects them to get upset when instead they remain cool. He may be good at pit digging or stone rolling, but he is poor in calculating the human heart. He may anticipate the initial reaction, but he does not think further. He does not anticipate how the victim will eventually retaliate.

Nor does he consider the One who is watching his every step and who will see that justice is done. Understand that, however large the pit may be that the wicked digs, there is a greater, more terrible pit that awaits him. However large the stone may be that he sends rolling, there is a greater stone that will crush him. For his own good, he will hopefully fall into his own pit and be hurt by his own stone so that he might be brought to his senses.

Pray for the wicked to now say, “What have I done?” Pray for the wicked to come now to his senses, look beyond his little pit, and see how his mischief will engulf himself. Pray now for the wicked to repent as we have done for our own wickedness.

 

Psalm 147

Praise the Lord.[a]

How good it is to sing praises to our God,
    how pleasant and fitting to praise him!

The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
    he gathers the exiles of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars
    and calls them each by name.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
    his understanding has no limit.
The Lord sustains the humble
    but casts the wicked to the ground.

Sing to the Lord with grateful praise;
    make music to our God on the harp.

He covers the sky with clouds;
    he supplies the earth with rain
    and makes grass grow on the hills.
He provides food for the cattle
    and for the young ravens when they call.

10 His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
    nor his delight in the legs of the warrior;
11 the Lord delights in those who fear him,
    who put their hope in his unfailing love.

12 Extol the Lord, Jerusalem;
    praise your God, Zion.

13 He strengthens the bars of your gates
    and blesses your people within you.
14 He grants peace to your borders
    and satisfies you with the finest of wheat.

15 He sends his command to the earth;
    his word runs swiftly.
16 He spreads the snow like wool
    and scatters the frost like ashes.
17 He hurls down his hail like pebbles.
    Who can withstand his icy blast?
18 He sends his word and melts them;
    he stirs up his breezes, and the waters flow.

19 He has revealed his word to Jacob,
    his laws and decrees to Israel.
20 He has done this for no other nation;
    they do not know his laws.[b]

Praise the Lord.

10 January 2022

Proverbs 26:24-26

Enemies disguise themselves with their lips,
    but in their hearts they harbor deceit.
25 Though their speech is charming, do not believe them,
    for seven abominations fill their hearts.
26 Their malice may be concealed by deception,
    but their wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.

Let’s follow the train of thought. There is the type of person who, though he in truth is hateful, he covers it up by speaking graciously. He is the illustration of verse 23’s “the glaze covering an earthen vessel.” This phenomenon is seen on all levels: the entertainer who tells his audience he loves them, while he actually despises them; the politician who speaks admiringly of his constituents whom he regards as fools; the hired worker or salesperson who behaves respectfully to the one controlling his paycheck and yet is filled with envy; the “friend” who wants to be considered “one of the guys” but can barely tolerate the same.

We are not to believe him because of the condition of his heart. It is the heart that must be dealt with. Knowing how to speak graciously does not signify a good heart. It signifies merely cleverness. Indeed, to speak graciously to those whom one hates signifies a wickedness that goes deeper than that of the man who does not hide his hate.

The third point is that a person’s hatred will be revealed. Hatred will come out. Indeed, if one gives time to observation, a hateful heart is detectable. Like a movie set of a town made up of facades that shake or fall when buffeted by wind, so the “gracious” facade of the hateful heart is shaken and revealed. It takes effort to keep up appearances, and even then it is difficult to coordinate the artificial words with the artificial mannerisms. The hateful person is merely reading lines.

What then are we to do? Be on our guard. Don’t be taken in. But all the more befriend such a person. Most persons like that believe they are doing what everyone else is doing. They do not believe in a true loving heart. Perhaps you will be the one to prove that not all is a disguise.

 

Psalm 146

Praise the Lord.[a]

Praise the Lord, my soul.

I will praise the Lord all my life;
    I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
Do not put your trust in princes,
    in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
    on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God.

He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
    the sea, and everything in them—
    he remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
    and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
    the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
    the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the foreigner
    and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
    but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

10 The Lord reigns forever,
    your God, O Zion, for all generations.

Praise the Lord.

8 January 2022

Prayer: Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of Your people who call upon You; and grant that we may understand and know what things we ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to perform them; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

7 January 2022

Proverbs 26:23

Like a coating of silver dross on earthenware
    are fervent[a] lips with an evil heart.

In a way, the glaze hides what is underneath while giving the appearance of revealing its inner makeup. We can see the clay, but the glaze covers over the imperfections and causes the clay to have a shine that it really does not possess of itself. In the same way, we may use our lips to deceive what is underneath.


Some speak fervently with the intention of covering up their evil. Others speak fervently merely out of their nature. In both cases, the fervency does not measure the sincerity of their hearts. It is not speech that ultimately reveals the heart. It is the long-term obedience in both speech and action that provide the best test. And that obedience is not a mere performance of duty, but one that bears the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Look at their fruit – the fruit born in them and the fruit of their lives, i.e. the impact on others around them. Fervency is not bad; just don’t use it to measure the heart.

 

Psalm 145

I will exalt you, my God the King;
    I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will praise you
    and extol your name for ever and ever.

Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
    his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another;
    they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
    and I will meditate on your wonderful works.[b]
They tell of the power of your awesome works—
    and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
    and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
    slow to anger and rich in love.

The Lord is good to all;
    he has compassion on all he has made.
10 All your works praise you, Lord;
    your faithful people extol you.
11 They tell of the glory of your kingdom
    and speak of your might,
12 so that all people may know of your mighty acts
    and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and your dominion endures through all generations.

The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
    and faithful in all he does.[c]
14 The Lord upholds all who fall
    and lifts up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food at the proper time.
16 You open your hand
    and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways
    and faithful in all he does.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
    he hears their cry and saves them.
20 The Lord watches over all who love him,
    but all the wicked he will destroy.

21 My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.
    Let every creature praise his holy name
    for ever and ever.

6 January 2022

Proverbs 26:22

The words of a gossip are like choice morsels;
    they go down to the inmost parts.

Simply put, we enjoy gossip. That is the reason it spreads easily and quickly. We enjoy receiving it, and we enjoy passing it on. When we receive news that excites us, our natural inclination is to share the excitement. News about someone else’s discomfort somehow arouses our interest to hear and “share.” As Christians, we mask our sinful interest by telling ourselves we are interested out of Christian concern.

The whispering of gossip, notwithstanding “Christian concern,” typically adds to the pain of the person or trouble to the situation that is being whispered about. Word gets back to the person, filling them with same and stirring up anger. More “solutions” are offered to the problem situation, creating more complexity to deal with.


What is the solution to whispering gossip? Proverb 26:20 has already given it. Stop whispering. Don’t go on a diet of whispering. Go on a fast. It may be difficult at first. But as the person discovers, who seriously cuts out foods that seem sweet but are harmful, the very denial opens up the taste buds to more natural, enjoyable tastes.

 

Psalm 144

Praise be to the Lord my Rock,
    who trains my hands for war,
    my fingers for battle.
He is my loving God and my fortress,
    my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield, in whom I take refuge,
    who subdues peoples[a] under me.

Lord, what are human beings that you care for them,
    mere mortals that you think of them?
They are like a breath;
    their days are like a fleeting shadow.

Part your heavens, Lord, and come down;
    touch the mountains, so that they smoke.
Send forth lightning and scatter the enemy;
    shoot your arrows and rout them.
Reach down your hand from on high;
    deliver me and rescue me
from the mighty waters,
    from the hands of foreigners
whose mouths are full of lies,
    whose right hands are deceitful.

I will sing a new song to you, my God;
    on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you,
10 to the One who gives victory to kings,
    who delivers his servant David.

From the deadly sword 11 deliver me;
    rescue me from the hands of foreigners
whose mouths are full of lies,
    whose right hands are deceitful.

12 Then our sons in their youth
    will be like well-nurtured plants,
and our daughters will be like pillars
    carved to adorn a palace.
13 Our barns will be filled
    with every kind of provision.
Our sheep will increase by thousands,
    by tens of thousands in our fields;
14     our oxen will draw heavy loads.[b]
There will be no breaching of walls,
    no going into captivity,
    no cry of distress in our streets.
15 Blessed is the people of whom this is true;
    blessed is the people whose God is the Lord.

5 January 2022

Proverbs 26:21

As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire,
    so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife.

It is the quarreling spirit that kindles the fire. Tempers flare guaranteeing that trouble, not peace or understanding, will be the result.

“All I said was…”
“I don’t know why he should be so bothered…”
“All I wanted to know was…”

These are the words of the person supposedly baffled as to why others are taking offense. He considers superficially his words, but not his tone of voice, his facial expressions, and whatever other signals that he is giving about his anger.

“I was caught off guard.”
“I was upset at the time.”
“I didn’t know he would take it that way.”
“If you knew what he had said to me.”

These are the superficial excuses of the offender. And they are the excuses that reveal his heart. For he does not grieve over the mischief and harm he has caused, but rather over the grief he is receiving.

And so the years go on without him ever learning, continually stirring the pot, and wondering why everybody else overreacts to him. Meanwhile, others leave the ministry he is engaged in or the small group he attends; meanwhile, peace in the church is troubled because of the things he has said and the division over what to do about him. So is the sad and mischievous life of the quarrelsome person. Watch your own heart. It is easier than one thinks to fall into such a pattern through disappointments and bitterness. Being quarrelsome is easy to do; it is the simple matter of letting one’s guard down. It is being a person of peace that requires diligence, that requires attention to the peace of God given in Christ. The error of the quarrelsome person is that he is attentive to his perceived offenses rather than to the grace of God.

 

Psalm 143

Lord, hear my prayer,
    listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness
    come to my relief.
Do not bring your servant into judgment,
    for no one living is righteous before you.
The enemy pursues me,
    he crushes me to the ground;
he makes me dwell in the darkness
    like those long dead.
So my spirit grows faint within me;
    my heart within me is dismayed.
I remember the days of long ago;
    I meditate on all your works
    and consider what your hands have done.
I spread out my hands to you;
    I thirst for you like a parched land.[a]

Answer me quickly, Lord;
    my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
    or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
    for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
    for to you I entrust my life.
Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,
    for I hide myself in you.
10 Teach me to do your will,
    for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
    lead me on level ground.

11 For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life;
    in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.
12 In your unfailing love, silence my enemies;
    destroy all my foes,
    for I am your servant.

4 January 2022

Proverbs 26:20

Without wood a fire goes out;
    without a gossip a quarrel dies down.

There is great power in talk. It only takes a few words to create a fire. A few words can enrage, humiliate, scandalize, create dissension. A few words can break up friendships and loyalties, cast suspicion on people of integrity. A few words can spread trouble like winds spreading a wildfire.

In like manner, there is great power in silence. The spark that needs the wind to turn into flames dies out. The fire that has begun burns itself out. All you have to do is not spread the words. Such inaction is effective, not only because you are not a conduit, but because you set the tone for others to follow. The whisperer loses his boldness when you do not respond. The excitement of gossip loses its energy when you do not join in.

There is a thrill to spreading gossip that needs others to join in. Refuse to join and you ruin the “fun” of the other gossipers. Don’t become a whisperer. Your very inaction will make you a powerful firefighter.

 

Psalm 142

I cry aloud to the Lord;
    I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.
I pour out before him my complaint;
    before him I tell my trouble.

When my spirit grows faint within me,
    it is you who watch over my way.
In the path where I walk
    people have hidden a snare for me.
Look and see, there is no one at my right hand;
    no one is concerned for me.
I have no refuge;
    no one cares for my life.

I cry to you, Lord;
    I say, “You are my refuge,
    my portion in the land of the living.”

Listen to my cry,
    for I am in desperate need;
rescue me from those who pursue me,
    for they are too strong for me.
Set me free from my prison,
    that I may praise your name.
Then the righteous will gather about me
    because of your goodness to me.

3 January 2022

Proverb 26:18-19

Like a maniac shooting
    flaming arrows of death
19 is one who deceives their neighbor
    and says, “I was only joking!”

“It was just a joke.” And so we excuse all manner of mean-spirited behavior and speech. We ridicule a person, and then when it is found out and he takes offense, we reply, “I was only joking.” We play a prank that humiliates its victim, and when his feelings are hurt, we reply, “It was just a joke. Through the “joke” we say all manner of denigrating words and play demeaning tricks, but because it was a joke, then we are excused.

There may be a place for practical jokes and facetious humor, but we should be careful of using denigrating humor. And what we need to be careful of is not so much that the person receiving it can handle it, but our real motive in using it. Many a “joking” remark is made from deep-seated resentment or from arrogance. Many a practical joke has the very real intent of humiliating the victim, or at least shows a lack of regard for him.

We use the joke to hide behind real intent, oftentimes hiding from ourselves our intent. And so we need to ask before we quickly play the joke, what is our purpose. Is it to produce merriment for everyone, including the recipient, or is it to merely get a laugh for ourselves at someone’s expense? We too easily claim the former, not admitting even to ourselves the latter. But the result typically reveals the motive. When the result is that of a firebrand being hurled, our motive needs to be examined. For either we did want to hurt or shame, or we are guilty of lacking regard for the victim.

 

Psalm 141

I call to you, Lord, come quickly to me;
    hear me when I call to you.
May my prayer be set before you like incense;
    may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.

Set a guard over my mouth, Lord;
    keep watch over the door of my lips.
Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil
    so that I take part in wicked deeds
along with those who are evildoers;
    do not let me eat their delicacies.

Let a righteous man strike me—that is a kindness;
    let him rebuke me—that is oil on my head.
My head will not refuse it,
    for my prayer will still be against the deeds of evildoers.

Their rulers will be thrown down from the cliffs,
    and the wicked will learn that my words were well spoken.
They will say, “As one plows and breaks up the earth,
    so our bones have been scattered at the mouth of the grave.”

But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign Lord;
    in you I take refuge—do not give me over to death.
Keep me safe from the traps set by evildoers,
    from the snares they have laid for me.
10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
    while I pass by in safety.

1 January 2022

Prayer: Almighty God, You have given us Your only Son to take our nature upon Him and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin: grant that we, being born again and made Your children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by Your Holy Spirit; through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

31 December 2021

Proverbs 26:17

Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears
    is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own.

As a dog will turn on and snap at whoever tries such a move, so will the quarrelers turn on whoever tries to “help.” Helping is what we think we are doing when we involve ourselves. Isn’t that what Christians are to do, especially when other Christians are quarrelling? Are we not to be peacemakers?

To be peacemakers, we must exercise wisdom. And the first step in wisdom is to discern when and when not to get involved. We need to discern when our involvement is true help or being meddlesome. Often our involvement only stirs the pot for a number of reasons. For one thing, we step into the middle without understanding. We don’t understand the real cause of the argument, mistaking what they are fighting about as being the real issue, when it is much deeper. We get involved often when we have heard only one side of the story, not knowing that it is distorted. We get involved without being asked and thus earning resentment from both parties. Until they are ready for intercession, any attempt – especially any blundering attempt – will only aggravate them more.

We get involve for the wrong reasons. We overestimate our own ability, meddling in a matter that is beyond our skill. We tell ourselves we want to help, when we really want to be acknowledged for our help. Then we get offended when our help is not welcomed or acknowledged. We get involved with arrogance, believing that we know better than the quarrelers, that they are foolish or at least know less than we. Such arrogance and naivety is quickly seen and rejected.

When then do we get involved? Pray for wisdom and for the right opportunity. The Lord will lead. We can ask if our help is wanted, and do not be offended if it is turned down. The key is to pray and to observe well, biding our time.

 

Psalm 140

Rescue me, Lord, from evildoers;
    protect me from the violent,
who devise evil plans in their hearts
    and stir up war every day.
They make their tongues as sharp as a serpent’s;
    the poison of vipers is on their lips.[b]

Keep me safe, Lord, from the hands of the wicked;
    protect me from the violent,
    who devise ways to trip my feet.
The arrogant have hidden a snare for me;
    they have spread out the cords of their net
    and have set traps for me along my path.

I say to the Lord, “You are my God.”
    Hear, Lord, my cry for mercy.
Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer,
    you shield my head in the day of battle.
Do not grant the wicked their desires, Lord;
    do not let their plans succeed.

Those who surround me proudly rear their heads;
    may the mischief of their lips engulf them.
10 May burning coals fall on them;
    may they be thrown into the fire,
    into miry pits, never to rise.
11 May slanderers not be established in the land;
    may disaster hunt down the violent.

12 I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor
    and upholds the cause of the needy.
13 Surely the righteous will praise your name,
    and the upright will live in your presence.

30 December 2021

Proverbs 26:16

A sluggard is wiser in his own eyes
    than seven people who answer discreetly.

Oh so true! The sluggard is not lazy because he lacks instruction, but because he will not receive it. And he does not argue that he refuses to be instructed, but that no one understands him. He would be happy to listen to someone who understands him. Of course, by understanding he means accepts his own view of himself. He can receive the same counsel by seven different persons at different times and still not see or agree with them.

This is the catch-22 of helping the sluggard and the fool. They will listen only to those who accept their view of the world and of themselves. Therefore, reasoning has little value. What is required is discipline, of which a number of proverbs have already spoken.

And so the pattern to deal with the sluggard and the fool is to first try reasoning, then move to discipline. Do not frustrate yourself trying to reason over and over. Do not create more trouble by giving him chance after chance to reform himself. Speak the truth in love; give reasoning the first try; then move to consistent discipline. And do not give in until his behavior actually changes. Such an approach to the sluggard is the best hope for him. Until he bears consequences for his actions, he will not change his perspective; and until he changes his perspective, he will not change his behavior.

 

Psalm 139

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
    Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
    your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
    and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
    I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

29 December 2021

Proverbs 26:15

A sluggard buries his hand in the dish;
    he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth.

The sluggard finds it wearisome to do the most basic of tasks that nourish him. He is “so tired.” His problem is not depression, nor is it a physiological illness, both of which can plague any of us. What the sluggard lacks is motivation. Nothing inspires him; nothing brings pleasure except sleep. The most creative thing he is able to do is come up with excuses for why he does nothing.

In the previous proverb we spoke of his lacking discipline, of giving in to an extreme – in this case, sleeping. He has the same problem of the workaholic – unable to discipline himself to keep a balance. Another way of looking at his problem is his unwillingness to “make an effort.” Each day we must make the effort to go about our daily tasks. We make the effort because we are motivated to accomplish something. Our primary motivation is to provide for ourselves. We eat, ultimately, to live. We work to buy what we eat. We think it necessary for survival to have family and friends. Thus, we cultivate relationships and work to provide for our family. The list can go on and become quite complex, but the bottom line is that we must be motivated for whatever we do. The sluggard lacks basic motivation.

We must be careful not to fall into the same rut. The higher and worthier our motivation, the greater work we will do and the greater pleasure we will experience. As life falls into a routine in which we forget our reasons for doing what we do, we slide almost imperceptibly into the life of a sluggard. And the day comes when the most basic of tasks become a burden.

Do not forget the one motivation that is to guide every day of your life. It is wrapped up in why you exist. It is to glorify God. And every small, routine task serves that purpose if you remember why you exist and take delight in that purpose of glorifying God. You can only delight in that purpose if you delight in the God you are to glorify. The sluggard has no love. If you are growing weary of living each day, check if you have not forgotten the love of God that first gave you joy and meaning.

 

Psalm 138

I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart;
    before the “gods” I will sing your praise.
I will bow down toward your holy temple
    and will praise your name
    for your unfailing love and your faithfulness,
for you have so exalted your solemn decree
    that it surpasses your fame.
When I called, you answered me;
    you greatly emboldened me.

May all the kings of the earth praise you, Lord,
    when they hear what you have decreed.
May they sing of the ways of the Lord,
    for the glory of the Lord is great.

Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly;
    though lofty, he sees them from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
    you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;
    with your right hand you save me.
The Lord will vindicate me;
    your love, Lord, endures forever—
    do not abandon the works of your hands.

28 December 2021

Proverbs 26:14

As a door turns on its hinges,
    so a sluggard turns on his bed.

There is one form of action a sluggard does well; he turns his body smoothly to the other side in bed. He has got sleeping down pat. Indeed, sleeping is the one activity that he does not have to be cajoled to do. It is his instinct, in his blood.

That instinct is in all of us and is a good instinct. It is sleep that rejuvenates our body for activity. Many people do not get enough sleep through too much activity. Sleep is good, but like with most things, too much of a good thing is bad for us.

The problem of the sluggard is that he is an extremist. He does not practice moderation. He is no different from the alcoholic or workaholic or anyone else obsessed with one activity. His happens to be sleeping. And he must discipline himself like everyone else to practice moderation. Everyone who over engages in an activity does so because he likes it. It is a pleasure he cannot control even when it brings bad consequences. Sleeping can be addictive. So can lying on the couch watching TV. So can any form of goofing off. Taking a break is an activity to control.

How disciplined are you? Do you get enough sleep, but not too much sleep? Do you work hard, but take the necessary breaks (though not too many) to rejuvenate your body? Self-discipline is needed to keep a healthy balance. What do you need to be disciplined about?

 

Psalm 137

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
    when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars
    we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
    our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
    they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

How can we sing the songs of the Lord
    while in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
    may my right hand forget its skill.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
    if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
    my highest joy.

Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did
    on the day Jerusalem fell.
“Tear it down,” they cried,
    “tear it down to its foundations!”
Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,
    happy is the one who repays you
    according to what you have done to us.
Happy is the one who seizes your infants
    and dashes them against the rocks.

27 December 2021

Proverbs 26:13

A sluggard says, “There’s a lion in the road,
    a fierce lion roaming the streets!”

And so he stays home instead of going to work. And so the excuses never end.

“The weather looks bad; I might catch cold.”
“I’m not feeling well; I should save my energy.”
“The traffic is too bad to go out in.”
“I might miss a phone call for a better job.”
“I think there is a terrorist alert.”

And the number one remark: “I’ll start tomorrow.”

The difference between the good worker and the sluggard has nothing to do with circumstances and everything to do with attitude. The good worker will overcome obstacles to get to work; the sluggard will use any excuse for an obstacle. The good worker applies himself to whatever is the task; the sluggard is always looking for the “right fit.” The good worker makes the most of his circumstances; the sluggard is always complaining of bad luck. The good worker works his way up to better positions; the sluggard seems to always have supervisors who show favoritism to other workers. The good worker is thankful for the work he has; the sluggard is never thankful. The good worker takes pride in the work he does; the sluggard takes pride only in getting paid for little work.

In truth, the “lion in the streets” is very real for the sluggard. The “lion” is a job.

 

Psalm 136

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.

to him who alone does great wonders,
His love endures forever.
who by his understanding made the heavens,
His love endures forever.
who spread out the earth upon the waters,
His love endures forever.
who made the great lights—
His love endures forever.
the sun to govern the day,
His love endures forever.
the moon and stars to govern the night;
His love endures forever.

10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt
His love endures forever.
11 and brought Israel out from among them
His love endures forever.
12 with a mighty hand and outstretched arm;
His love endures forever.

13 to him who divided the Red Sea[a] asunder
His love endures forever.
14 and brought Israel through the midst of it,
His love endures forever.
15 but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea;
His love endures forever.

16 to him who led his people through the wilderness;
His love endures forever.

17 to him who struck down great kings,
His love endures forever.
18 and killed mighty kings—
His love endures forever.
19 Sihon king of the Amorites
His love endures forever.
20 and Og king of Bashan—
His love endures forever.
21 and gave their land as an inheritance,
His love endures forever.
22 an inheritance to his servant Israel.
His love endures forever.

23 He remembered us in our low estate
His love endures forever.
24 and freed us from our enemies.
His love endures forever.
25 He gives food to every creature.
His love endures forever.

26 Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His love endures forever.

25 December 2021

Luke 2:21-40

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

Jesus Presented in the Temple

22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”[b]), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”[c]

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss[d] your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”

33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.[e] She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

Prayer: Almighty God, You have given us Your only Son to take our nature upon Him and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin: grant that we, being born again and made Your children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by Your Holy Spirit; through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.