Together, we serve
to know Christ
and to make Christ known
for the glory of God

31 July 2021

1 Peter 2:9

 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Prayer: Let Your merciful ears, Lord God, be open to the prayers of Your people; and that they may obtain their requests, make them to ask such things as will please You; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

30 July 2021

Proverbs 21:8

The way of the guilty is devious,
    but the conduct of the innocent is upright.

What is within us will come out in our behavior. The guilty’s way will be crooked; the conduct of the pure will show in their very demeanor – standing upright with a clear conscience. The guilty must lurk about, hiding in the shadows, checking their backs, slipping across from side to side of the road, never walking down the middle. The pure walk straight and tall. They have nothing to hide and are not planning wicked deeds.

What a difference there is for the two types. One sleeps peacefully at night; the other tosses and turns in worry. One looks his neighbor in the face; the other averts his eyes. One walks with a sense of purpose and confidence; the other slinks about wary of his enemies. One is moved by the mercy of God, desiring to please him; the other despises God, wanting to escape him.

Being pure in heart is understanding that it is Christ who makes us righteous before God; it is the Holy Spirit sanctifying us; it is the mercy of God that makes it all happen. With that kind of knowledge, we will find walking straight and standing upright more natural to do.

 

Psalm 30

I will exalt you, Lord,
    for you lifted me out of the depths
    and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
Lord my God, I called to you for help,
    and you healed me.
You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
    you spared me from going down to the pit.

Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people;
    praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
    but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
    but rejoicing comes in the morning.

When I felt secure, I said,
    “I will never be shaken.”
Lord, when you favored me,
    you made my royal mountain[c] stand firm;
but when you hid your face,
    I was dismayed.

To you, Lord, I called;
    to the Lord I cried for mercy:
“What is gained if I am silenced,
    if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
    Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
10 Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me;
    Lord, be my help.”

11 You turned my wailing into dancing;
    you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
12 that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
    Lord my God, I will praise you forever.

29 July 2021

Proverbs 21:7

The violence of the wicked will drag them away,
    for they refuse to do what is right.

As we have learned in other proverbs, the wicked bring on themselves their own destruction. They suffer the consequences of their own violence. It is easy enough to see how they create trouble for themselves, but the consequence is that they place themselves under the judgment of God who will not be mocked and will see that justice is carried out.

Note here the real problem of the wicked. It is not that they do not know what is just, but that they refuse to do what is just. Compare this proverb to Romans 1:18: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”

Before we apply this proverb to our neighbor, let us look at ourselves. Romans goes on to say that such persons are without excuse because what can be known about God is made plain through natural revelation. But we have the special revelation of Scripture, and we have within us the Holy Spirit to open our minds to the truth. Will God excuse our sin because we did not know better? Will he accept that we ever act in ignorance?

Give praise to God that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for our sin would not only be held against us, but our guilt would weigh upon even more heavily because of our lack of excuse. Every day we are living testimonies of the unfathomable mercy of God and of the inestimable power of Christ’s work on the cross.

Psalm 29

Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly beings,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
    worship the Lord in the splendor of his[a] holiness.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
    the God of glory thunders,
    the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
    the voice of the Lord is majestic.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
    the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon leap like a calf,
    Sirion[b] like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord strikes
    with flashes of lightning.
The voice of the Lord shakes the desert;
    the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord twists the oaks[c]
    and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
    the Lord is enthroned as King forever.
11 The Lord gives strength to his people;
    the Lord blesses his people with peace.

28 July 2021

Proverbs 21:6

A fortune made by a lying tongue
    is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare.[a]

The liar thinks he is setting a snare or escaping it by lying. To gain treasure he thinks he escapes like a fleeting vapor. He tells his lies in order to snatch the treasure. But he is merely setting up his own snare and insuring that his treasure will escape. Ask the white collar executives in jail now because of their deception how much good their lying did them. Ask those who are bankrupt how much good cheating did for them.

The shocking surprise is that most of them will rue that they did not do a good enough job lying. Even now while lying in their snares they are mulling over how they should have covered their tracks better. That is the way of the fool. He does not learn from his consequences – especially the liar. Is there a more difficult pattern of behavior to break than that of lying? It is easy to do, and when it becomes so engrained as to be instinct, it is difficult to break.

All the more reason then to confess this sin now if it has you in its grasp. Husbands lying to wives, employees lying to supervisors, students lying to teachers… And all to gain treasure – affection, promotion, good grades. Break the habit now, for it will only grow more difficult and the snares will multiply.

How do you break the habit? By desiring true treasure – the grace of God – and by trusting in the one whose promise is not fleeting – God. How do you get to God? Through the one who has never lied and is truth personified – Jesus Christ.

 

Psalm 28

To you, Lord, I call;
    you are my Rock,
    do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if you remain silent,
    I will be like those who go down to the pit.
Hear my cry for mercy
    as I call to you for help,
as I lift up my hands
    toward your Most Holy Place.

Do not drag me away with the wicked,
    with those who do evil,
who speak cordially with their neighbors
    but harbor malice in their hearts.
Repay them for their deeds
    and for their evil work;
repay them for what their hands have done
    and bring back on them what they deserve.

Because they have no regard for the deeds of the Lord
    and what his hands have done,
he will tear them down
    and never build them up again.

Praise be to the Lord,
    for he has heard my cry for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
    my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
    and with my song I praise him.

The Lord is the strength of his people,
    a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.
Save your people and bless your inheritance;
    be their shepherd and carry them forever.

27 July 2021

Proverbs 21:5

The plans of the diligent lead to profit
    as surely as haste leads to poverty.

This is a practical proverb to guide you today. It could make the difference between an action that leads to long-term blessing or long-term regret. Like a beautiful house built on poor land, many options look appealing but hide disastrous consequences. Many ideas seemed good “at the time,” but proved to be foolish as time went on. Remember verse 2: “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes.” All the more reason then to prayerfully study, seek counsel, and plan. Many couples who come to me with troubled marriages are those who hastily married. Their passion at the time made marriage seem right and easy. How many people have switched jobs on impulse or moved to another town because at the moment they felt restless, only to become even more miserable?

Impulse is not necessarily bad and can provide a healthy spice in our routine. There are times when “the Spirit moves” and we should act. But when acting on impulse becomes the routine way of making decisions, we are setting ourselves up for disaster. We will make bad decisions, and we will earn a reputation of not being trustworthy. There are persons who master diligent planning in the workplace, but let their emotions lead them in their personal lives. It is a mistake to treat family and friends as workplace projects for diligent planning; but it is a greater mistake to “wing it” in choosing a life-long mate, keeping a marriage vibrant, and raising a family.

When we think about it, we reveal how important anything is to us by the careful thought we give to it. Whatever grabs our interest is what we will plan to get, keep, and nurture. What has your interest now?

 

Psalm 27

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
    of whom shall I be afraid?

When the wicked advance against me
    to devour[a] me,
it is my enemies and my foes
    who will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me,
    my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
    even then I will be confident.

One thing I ask from the Lord,
    this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble
    he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
    and set me high upon a rock.

Then my head will be exalted
    above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
    I will sing and make music to the Lord.

Hear my voice when I call, Lord;
    be merciful to me and answer me.
My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
    Your face, Lord, I will seek.
Do not hide your face from me,
    do not turn your servant away in anger;
    you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
    God my Savior.
10 Though my father and mother forsake me,
    the Lord will receive me.
11 Teach me your way, Lord;
    lead me in a straight path
    because of my oppressors.
12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
    for false witnesses rise up against me,
    spouting malicious accusations.

13 I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.

26 July 2021

Proverbs 21:4

Haughty eyes and a proud heart—
    the unplowed field of the wicked—produce sin.

Scripture makes clear God’s displeasure of pride which is the root sin of the wicked. They will not humble themselves before God. This is played out in various ways, most notably through the violence committed against others.

The proverb reveals how pride mars their perspective on reality. Pride is the lamp by which the wicked see what is outside themselves. What do they see? They see people to despise who don’t measure up to their distorted standards. Conversely, they see others to admire who in reality model arrogance and wickedness. A notable author whose works are rife with licentious sex visited a city noted for its licentiousness. Whereas most people would see the obvious vulgarity, broken lives, and despicable behavior, he saw it as the ideal city. Compare this proverb to verse 2: “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes…” The proud wicked believe they are acting in accord to what is right in their own eyes which see by the lamp of haughtiness and pride.

All the more then humble yourself before the Lord. The Christian, too, is guilty of pride when he views his neighbor with haughty eyes, like the Pharisee looked upon the publican. We are easily proud that we see what our unbelieving neighbors do not. We act with great surprise that they do not see what we do. Why can’t they understand the gospel? Why can’t they know what is right from wrong? The answer is that they are no different from us. Without the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts providing the lamp of God’s truth, we would not “get it” either. And even with the Spirit within us, we still see too much with distortion out of our own pride. Indeed, we have less excuse than our unbelieving neighbor for our pride.

 

Psalm 26

Vindicate me, Lord,
    for I have led a blameless life;
I have trusted in the Lord
    and have not faltered.
Test me, Lord, and try me,
    examine my heart and my mind;
for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love
    and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness.

I do not sit with the deceitful,
    nor do I associate with hypocrites.
I abhor the assembly of evildoers
    and refuse to sit with the wicked.
I wash my hands in innocence,
    and go about your altar, Lord,
proclaiming aloud your praise
    and telling of all your wonderful deeds.

Lord, I love the house where you live,
    the place where your glory dwells.
Do not take away my soul along with sinners,
    my life with those who are bloodthirsty,
10 in whose hands are wicked schemes,
    whose right hands are full of bribes.
11 I lead a blameless life;
    deliver me and be merciful to me.

12 My feet stand on level ground;
    in the great congregation I will praise the Lord.

24 July 2021

Matthew 4

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[b]

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[c]

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[d]

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’[e]

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

 

Jesus Begins to Preach

12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— 14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:

15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
    the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
    Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people living in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
    a light has dawned.”[f]

17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

 

Jesus Calls His First Disciples

18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.

21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

 

Jesus Heals the Sick

23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. 25 Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis,[g] Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.

Prayer: Grant us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always such things as are right, that we who cannot do anything that is good without You, may by You be able to live according to Your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

23 July 2021

Proverbs 21:3

To do what is right and just
    is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.

For commentary, read these other scriptures:

“When you come to appear before me,
who has required of you this trampling of my courts?
Bring no more vain offerings;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations–
I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
When you spread out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil, learn to do good;
seek justice, correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:12-17).

“With what shall I come before the LORD,
and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:6-8)

 

Psalm 25

In you, Lord my God,
    I put my trust.

I trust in you;
    do not let me be put to shame,
    nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one who hopes in you
    will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those
    who are treacherous without cause.

Show me your ways, Lord,
    teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are God my Savior,
    and my hope is in you all day long.
Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
    for they are from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth
    and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
    for you, Lord, are good.

Good and upright is the Lord;
    therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
He guides the humble in what is right
    and teaches them his way.
10 All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful
    toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.
11 For the sake of your name, Lord,
    forgive my iniquity, though it is great.

12 Who, then, are those who fear the Lord?
    He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.[b]
13 They will spend their days in prosperity,
    and their descendants will inherit the land.
14 The Lord confides in those who fear him;
    he makes his covenant known to them.
15 My eyes are ever on the Lord,
    for only he will release my feet from the snare.

16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
    for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 Relieve the troubles of my heart
    and free me from my anguish.
18 Look on my affliction and my distress
    and take away all my sins.
19 See how numerous are my enemies
    and how fiercely they hate me!

20 Guard my life and rescue me;
    do not let me be put to shame,
    for I take refuge in you.
21 May integrity and uprightness protect me,
    because my hope, Lord,[c] is in you.

22 Deliver Israel, O God,
    from all their troubles!

22 July 2021

Proverbs 21:2

A person may think their own ways are right,
    but the Lord weighs the heart.

Note two insights in this proverb in relation to a Christian. First, a Christian will defend his behavior either through using scripture for justification or by appealing to conscience. There is the husband who defended being critical of his wife by appealing to Ephesians 5:25-27, which refers to Christ has sanctifying the church. Likewise, Christians have defended rude behavior as being bold for Christ and zealous for truth. In every case, the person believes he is doing what is right. In his own eyes, he is being faithful to God.

Second, the Lord weighs the heart. He weighs the heart, not the action. He weighs the true motive of the Christian, not what the Christian thinks is his motive. The mistake of the Christian is to believe that he looks within his own heart with clear sight. That is precisely what we are weakest at doing. We cannot weigh our own heart. Only God can do so.

What is the practical input of this reality – that we see a favorably distorted view of ourselves and only the Lord weighs with accuracy the heart? It should make us humble. It should make us slow to make judgment of others, especially to make unfavorable judgments of others in relation to ourselves. We should be zealous to study God’s Word so that it shines a light on our hearts. We should never be quick to defend our hearts, knowing that we may very well be wrong. Even when we may be accurate about what we do see in ourselves, we never do know the full picture. Again, only the Lord weighs truly the heart.

Finally, it should lead us to rely wholly on the mercy of God. If God were to measure out justice according to what he weighs in our hearts, we would all perish. God weighs and then he measures out to us according to his mercy. Have you thanked him today for such mercy?

 

Psalm 24

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
    the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it on the seas
    and established it on the waters.

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
    Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
    who does not trust in an idol
    or swear by a false god.[a]

They will receive blessing from the Lord
    and vindication from God their Savior.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
    who seek your face, God of Jacob.[b][c]

Lift up your heads, you gates;
    be lifted up, you ancient doors,
    that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
    The Lord strong and mighty,
    the Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, you gates;
    lift them up, you ancient doors,
    that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is he, this King of glory?
    The Lord Almighty—
    he is the King of glory.

21 July 2021

Proverbs 21:1

In the Lord’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water
    that he channels toward all who please him.

As a farmer irrigates his fields by creating canals to control the direction of the water, so the Lord provides for the fields of the earth by directing the hearts of rulers. Whether these rulers may be righteous or wicked, devout or profane, they nevertheless serve the deeper purposes of God. So it was with Pharaoh, Cyrus, and Artaxerxes. This was the lesson that Nebuchadnezzar learned. However events may appear to be occurring; however mighty the wicked may appear to be and the righteous appear not to be, understand that the very heart of everyone is in the hand of the Lord.

Thus, when you must appear before a “ruler” in your life, pray for God to direct his heart. God is not like us who must hope that by acting one way, he can get a ruler to act as he wants. God controls the very heart. He is not dependent on outside influence. It is amusing to hear a pray-er give God counsel about how to get someone to do his will. Instead of bidding God to do what he deems is necessary, we will advise God as to what events are necessary to take place. We let God know that “the only way to get Bob to change is to…” God merely needs to change the heart, impossible for us but simple for him.

Pray for God to do his will, without giving advice on how to accomplish it. And trust God to do his will. Just as we do not have the wisdom to give God counsel, neither have we the discernment to understand all the ways his will is being carried out. It is not necessary for us to understand all of God’s ways. We need merely to be like the child who trusts his father to know what is best and do what is best. We need to know that not only the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, but that we are held in the palm of his hand.

 

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

20 July 2021

Proverbs 20:30

Blows and wounds scrub away evil,
    and beatings purge the inmost being.

Blows that come from one who loves you and hates the sin that binds you are essential for your welfare. It is right to be concerned with abuse, but it is as deadly to be denied the chastisement that awakens you to your sin and spurs you to action. It is deadly to be denied love that will not tolerate your sinking into the pit. So the loving parent will inflict punishment on his child to train him in the way of righteousness, however much pain the parent endures to do so.

So it is with our heavenly Father who loves us perfectly. Because he is good and because he loves us thoroughly, he will send the blows that cleanse away evil and makes clean our innermost parts. He will not be satisfied with our half-hearted righteousness and our superficiality. He will not tolerate our disease however contented we may be. He will carry to completion the good work he began in us, whether or not we want further progress.

If you should think that his blows are too hard, that it is bringing death instead of healing, remember the Cross where our Lord “was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

 

Psalm 22

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me,
    so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
    by night, but I find no rest.[b]

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
    you are the one Israel praises.[c]
In you our ancestors put their trust;
    they trusted and you delivered them.
To you they cried out and were saved;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
    they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
    “let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
    since he delights in him.”

Yet you brought me out of the womb;
    you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
10 From birth I was cast on you;
    from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

11 Do not be far from me,
    for trouble is near
    and there is no one to help.

12 Many bulls surround me;
    strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13 Roaring lions that tear their prey
    open their mouths wide against me.
14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
    it has melted within me.
15 My mouth[d] is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
    you lay me in the dust of death.

16 Dogs surround me,
    a pack of villains encircles me;
    they pierce[e] my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display;
    people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them
    and cast lots for my garment.

19 But you, Lord, do not be far from me.
    You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
20 Deliver me from the sword,
    my precious life from the power of the dogs.
21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
    save me from the horns of the wild oxen.

22 I will declare your name to my people;
    in the assembly I will praise you.
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
    Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or scorned
    the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
    but has listened to his cry for help.

25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
    before those who fear you[f] I will fulfill my vows.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek the Lord will praise him—
    may your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth
    will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    will bow down before him,
28 for dominion belongs to the Lord
    and he rules over the nations.

29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
    all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
    those who cannot keep themselves alive.
30 Posterity will serve him;
    future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness,
    declaring to a people yet unborn:
    He has done it!

19 July 2021

Proverbs 20:29

The glory of young men is their strength,
    gray hair the splendor of the old.

There is glory and joy in being young. It is good to be young and strong, and the young should delight in what their youthfulness gives them strength to do. They have vitality; they are idealistic. They act with passion. They are able to move mountains by their strength.

And there is glory and joy in old age. It is good to be older and wise through experience, and the “old” should delight in what their knowledge gives them wisdom to do. They have calmness; they are discerning. They act with patience. They are able to move mountains by their wisdom.

Whatever your age, delight in it. Neither be anxious to grow older nor wistful to be young again. Your days are laid out by your Lord and now is the best time in which to live. Do not live waiting for tomorrow, nor live wishing for yesterday to return. Live today; use whatever gift your age has given you; and delight in the Lord for what he has given you now.

 

Psalm 21

The king rejoices in your strength, Lord.
    How great is his joy in the victories you give!

You have granted him his heart’s desire
    and have not withheld the request of his lips.b]
You came to greet him with rich blessings
    and placed a crown of pure gold on his head.
He asked you for life, and you gave it to him—
    length of days, for ever and ever.
Through the victories you gave, his glory is great;
    you have bestowed on him splendor and majesty.
Surely you have granted him unending blessings
    and made him glad with the joy of your presence.
For the king trusts in the Lord;
    through the unfailing love of the Most High
    he will not be shaken.

Your hand will lay hold on all your enemies;
    your right hand will seize your foes.
When you appear for battle,
    you will burn them up as in a blazing furnace.
The Lord will swallow them up in his wrath,
    and his fire will consume them.
10 You will destroy their descendants from the earth,
    their posterity from mankind.
11 Though they plot evil against you
    and devise wicked schemes, they cannot succeed.
12 You will make them turn their backs
    when you aim at them with drawn bow.

13 Be exalted in your strength, Lord;
    we will sing and praise your might.

17 July 2021

Matthew 3

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.’”[a]

John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

11 “I baptize you with[b] water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with[c] the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

 

The Baptism of Jesus

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Prayer: Almighty God, whose never failing power governs all things in heaven and earth: we humbly ask You to put away from us all things hurtful, and to give us those things that are good for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

16 July 2021

Proverbs 20:28

Love and faithfulness keep a king safe;
    through love his throne is made secure.

This is certainly a different perspective from the world’s understanding. What preserves a king or anyone else in a position of power is power. Also needed are shrewdness, the willingness to eliminate the competition, a large ego to fuel the drive for fame and power. Even if a kinder view is taken, it would be expected that wisdom and knowledge would be the protecting forces. Love and faithfulness are good but can be so easily taken advantage of.

Consider what this proverb presents. However powerful the wicked king may be, what must he always be concerned with? Protecting himself. But then so do good kings, King David being a case in point. Most of his psalms include some reference to his enemies who were out to get him. On the other hand, it was his steadfast love and faithfulness to his people that helped provide his protection. Even when his own son turned against him, many remained on his side and provided the help needed to win his battle.

Furthermore, he did not unnecessarily create enemies. The wicked king’s greatest enemies are those he betrayed. It is broken love, broken trust that stirs up wrath. It is love that remains true and faithfulness that is steady through all circumstances that stirs up devotion. When it comes to battle, better to have soldiers fighting out of devotion to their ruler than those disillusioned by their ruler.

It is steadfast love and faithfulness by which our Lord rules and thus has won our devotion. Though we have stumbled and failed, he remains true to his word. All the more then we desire to please him. You start today knowing that whatever befalls, your King will love you with a steadfast love; he will remain faithful to his promises. Does not such knowledge stir in you a zeal to stand by him?

 

Psalm 20

May the Lord answer you when you are in distress;
    may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
May he send you help from the sanctuary
    and grant you support from Zion.
May he remember all your sacrifices
    and accept your burnt offerings.[b]
May he give you the desire of your heart
    and make all your plans succeed.
May we shout for joy over your victory
    and lift up our banners in the name of our God.

May the Lord grant all your requests.

Now this I know:
    The Lord gives victory to his anointed.
He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary
    with the victorious power of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
    but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They are brought to their knees and fall,
    but we rise up and stand firm.
Lord, give victory to the king!
    Answer us when we call!

15 July 2021

Proverbs 20:27

The human spirit isa] the lamp of the Lord
    that sheds light on one’s inmost being.

This is our conscience which bears witness that the law of God is written on our hearts (Romans 2:15). God has placed within all of us – those inhabited by God’s Spirit and those who are not – his inner moral compass, or, as this proverb notes, his inner moral lamp that searches our thoughts and actions. This is why everyone is without excuse in their rejection of God’s law. We all know better, however much we may protest to the contrary.

Such a truth puts into perspective those who are most “moral.” Their very interest in doing what is right betrays the fact that they know there is a God who requires righteousness; and yet they cannot bring themselves to acknowledge his existence; or if they believe he exists, then to acknowledge his rights over them; or if they believe he has such rights, then to believe in him as he demands – through Jesus Christ; or if they profess to believe in Christ, they nevertheless do not acknowledge is true work on the cross – to save sinners like them who cannot save themselves.

And then there are those of us who profess all these things about God and about Christ; who acknowledge our dependence upon our Lord and love for him; who profess obedience to him, but will not expose our darkest corners to God’s lamp. We fear too much what we will see. And so we will look at the sin we can “handle,” and congratulate ourselves for being severe with our sin.

Use the lamp for its purpose – to fully examine yourself. And use your inner lamp with that greater lamp – the Word of God – so that you might examine all your innermost parts with the clearest light. Are you afraid of what you will see? You will nothing that God does not know already exists. He sees you completely and loves you completely. Your spirit will find nothing that his Spirit has not already exposed. And that same Spirit is already at work within you to bring cleansing and light and hope.

 

Psalm 19

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice[b] goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
    It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
    like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
    and makes its circuit to the other;
    nothing is deprived of its warmth.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
    making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
    giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
    giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure,
    enduring forever.
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
    and all of them are righteous.

10 They are more precious than gold,
    than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
    than honey from the honeycomb.
11 By them your servant is warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward.
12 But who can discern their own errors?
    Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins;
    may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
    innocent of great transgression.

14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
    be pleasing in your sight,
    Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

14 July 2021

Proverbs 20:26

A wise king winnows out the wicked;
    he drives the threshing wheel over them.

The wise king is able, first, to discern between the wicked and the righteous (or innocent). Secondly, he is able then to act against the wicked in judgment. Many rulers exercise power but do so indiscriminately, harming both wicked and righteous; indeed, many rulers are especially brutal against the righteous. And there are rulers who know who ought be punished, but they lack the power or willingness to act. A wise king is able to do both – discern and act; for it takes wisdom to know how to act in such a way as to carry out due punishment and not be overthrown.

How wise are you in whatever authority capacity you might have – a job supervisor, teacher, parent, or other such position? Do you discern wisely? Do you discern how to act? A wise king does not bemoan how difficult his responsibility is. He uses his energy to consider how to act in wisdom. He studies wisdom. He gathers around him wise counsel. He turns to God and prays for wisdom. He studies the Scriptures for wisdom.

And he puts his own life under the Lordship of his wise King – Jesus Christ. He lays his heart before this wise king, willing to be chastened, zealous to please, and fully trusting for saving mercy. May the Lord grant you such wisdom today.

 

Psalm 18

I love you, Lord, my strength.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
    my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield[b] and the horn[c] of my salvation, my stronghold.

I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
    and I have been saved from my enemies.
The cords of death entangled me;
    the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
The cords of the grave coiled around me;
    the snares of death confronted me.

In my distress I called to the Lord;
    I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
    my cry came before him, into his ears.
The earth trembled and quaked,
    and the foundations of the mountains shook;
    they trembled because he was angry.
Smoke rose from his nostrils;
    consuming fire came from his mouth,
    burning coals blazed out of it.
He parted the heavens and came down;
    dark clouds were under his feet.
10 He mounted the cherubim and flew;
    he soared on the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—
    the dark rain clouds of the sky.
12 Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced,
    with hailstones and bolts of lightning.
13 The Lord thundered from heaven;
    the voice of the Most High resounded.[d]
14 He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy,
    with great bolts of lightning he routed them.
15 The valleys of the sea were exposed
    and the foundations of the earth laid bare
at your rebuke, Lord,
    at the blast of breath from your nostrils.

16 He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
    he drew me out of deep waters.
17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
    from my foes, who were too strong for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
    but the Lord was my support.
19 He brought me out into a spacious place;
    he rescued me because he delighted in me.

20 The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness;
    according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.
21 For I have kept the ways of the Lord;
    I am not guilty of turning from my God.
22 All his laws are before me;
    I have not turned away from his decrees.
23 I have been blameless before him
    and have kept myself from sin.
24 The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
    according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.

25 To the faithful you show yourself faithful,
    to the blameless you show yourself blameless,
26 to the pure you show yourself pure,
    but to the devious you show yourself shrewd.
27 You save the humble
    but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.
28 You, Lord, keep my lamp burning;
    my God turns my darkness into light.
29 With your help I can advance against a troop[e];
    with my God I can scale a wall.

30 As for God, his way is perfect:
    The Lord’s word is flawless;
    he shields all who take refuge in him.
31 For who is God besides the Lord?
    And who is the Rock except our God?
32 It is God who arms me with strength
    and keeps my way secure.
33 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
    he causes me to stand on the heights.
34 He trains my hands for battle;
    my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
35 You make your saving help my shield,
    and your right hand sustains me;
    your help has made me great.
36 You provide a broad path for my feet,
    so that my ankles do not give way.

37 I pursued my enemies and overtook them;
    I did not turn back till they were destroyed.
38 I crushed them so that they could not rise;
    they fell beneath my feet.
39 You armed me with strength for battle;
    you humbled my adversaries before me.
40 You made my enemies turn their backs in flight,
    and I destroyed my foes.
41 They cried for help, but there was no one to save them—
    to the Lord, but he did not answer.
42 I beat them as fine as windblown dust;
    I trampled them[f] like mud in the streets.
43 You have delivered me from the attacks of the people;
    you have made me the head of nations.
People I did not know now serve me,
44     foreigners cower before me;
    as soon as they hear of me, they obey me.
45 They all lose heart;
    they come trembling from their strongholds.

46 The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock!
    Exalted be God my Savior!
47 He is the God who avenges me,
    who subdues nations under me,
48     who saves me from my enemies.
You exalted me above my foes;
    from a violent man you rescued me.
49 Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
    I will sing the praises of your name.

50 He gives his king great victories;
    he shows unfailing love to his anointed,
    to David and to his descendants forever.

13 July 2021

Proverbs 20:25

It is a trap to dedicate something rashly
    and only later to consider one’s vows.

Be cautious in making vows. Be cautious saying that you will set something apart for God. Be cautious because God takes seriously your word. He will hold you accountable for what you say.

Because we are only as good as our word, our words should be carefully chosen and few in number. Making a vow requires the following:

It requires humility. We too often make vows out of pride. We overestimate our ability and determination. Like Peter, we are quick to vow allegiance where we really need to be pleading for mercy.

It requires discernment. We should be able to count to cost accurately and our assets accurately before committing.

It requires a calm spirit. Again, vows are often made in the heat of the moment, in being caught up in emotion. We are more likely to carry through what we decide to do while calm.

It requires leaning upon God’s Spirit. We can only fulfill what the Spirit gives us the wisdom and strength to do. We should only carry out what we know the Spirit is leading us to do. We can do nothing of ourselves; we can do all things through the Spirit of Christ.

Finally, we are to rest and find our hope in the vow our Lord made for us – to be our sacrifice, to assure for us the salvation to which we were elected. Our hope rests not in the seriousness by which we have made our vow to God to surrender everything to him, but in Christ’s vow to surrender everything. He carried out his vow and will continue to carry out his promise to safeguard us until the day of his coming.

 

Psalm 17

Hear me, Lord, my plea is just;
    listen to my cry.
Hear my prayer—
    it does not rise from deceitful lips.
Let my vindication come from you;
    may your eyes see what is right.

Though you probe my heart,
    though you examine me at night and test me,
you will find that I have planned no evil;
    my mouth has not transgressed.
Though people tried to bribe me,
    I have kept myself from the ways of the violent
    through what your lips have commanded.
My steps have held to your paths;
    my feet have not stumbled.

I call on you, my God, for you will answer me;
    turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.
Show me the wonders of your great love,
    you who save by your right hand
    those who take refuge in you from their foes.
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
    hide me in the shadow of your wings
from the wicked who are out to destroy me,
    from my mortal enemies who surround me.

10 They close up their callous hearts,
    and their mouths speak with arrogance.
11 They have tracked me down, they now surround me,
    with eyes alert, to throw me to the ground.
12 They are like a lion hungry for prey,
    like a fierce lion crouching in cover.

13 Rise up, Lord, confront them, bring them down;
    with your sword rescue me from the wicked.
14 By your hand save me from such people, Lord,
    from those of this world whose reward is in this life.
May what you have stored up for the wicked fill their bellies;
    may their children gorge themselves on it,
    and may there be leftovers for their little ones.

15 As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face;
    when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.

12 July 2021

Proverbs 20:24

A person’s steps are directed by the Lord.
    How then can anyone understand their own way?

How can a man understand his way apart from the Lord who works all things for his glory and purposes? The secular philosopher, despite his intellectual prowess, takes the wrong first “step” in his contemplation as he tries to understand his way. One may build insight upon insight, but if the foundation is not the Word of God, it is but a make-believe building.

Our own lesson as Christians is to accept that the mystery of God’s secret counsels and his way of ordering man’s steps is beyond our ability to understand. How is it that we will make our decisions today about the steps we take and every step will serve God’s purpose? How is it that today we will ponder how to answer someone, what weighty decision to make and then later look back and acknowledge God’s purpose in what took place?

Even then we will not have full insight. It is good to explore the ways of God and of man. But it is critical to do so in humility; even more so to do it in trust – trust that God is good and in control. If you are tempted to doubt, then look to the Cross; for there is the mystery of election and freedom, of wrath and mercy, of violence and justice, of sin and love; there is the mystery of God’s way that is higher than ours as the heavens are higher than the earth.

 

Psalm 16

Keep me safe, my God,
    for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
    apart from you I have no good thing.”
I say of the holy people who are in the land,
    “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
    I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods
    or take up their names on my lips.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
    you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
    even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    nor will you let your faithful[b] one see decay.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

10 July 2021

Matthew 2

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magia] from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’b]

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

 

The Escape to Egypt

13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”c]

16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

18 “A voice is heard in Ramah,
    weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
    and refusing to be comforted,
    because they are no more.”d]

 

The Return to Nazareth

19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”

21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.

Prayer: God our Father, You have prepared for those who love You such good things as pass man’s understanding: pour into our hearts such love towards You, that we, loving You above all things, may obtain Your promises which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

9 July 2021

Proverbs 20:23

The Lord detests differing weights,
    and dishonest scales do not please him.

Just thirteen verses before there is an almost identical proverb: “Unequal weights and unequal measures are both alike an abomination to the Lord.” Perhaps the repetition is to reinforce the seriousness which God attaches to cheating.

Consider this proverb with the one preceding it: “Do not say, “I will repay evil'” wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you.” Have you been cheated by unequal weights and false scales? Wait on the Lord. You see how he regards such offenses. He will deliver you. Justice will be carried out in exact measure to the offense of the crime.

Do not take matters into your own hands by trying to “out-cheat” the one who has done you wrong. Do not try to even the playing field. The cheater will eventually be exposed. Even if he is not exposed as timely as you desire, know that God sees all and works all for your good. The cheater will receive his due reward.

Your focus needs only to be on doing what is right and honest. Do not act in reaction to evil doers; act in response to your righteous Judge and Lord who desires to see righteousness displayed in your life.

 

Psalm 15

Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
    Who may live on your holy mountain?

The one whose walk is blameless,
    who does what is righteous,
    who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
    who does no wrong to a neighbor,
    and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
    but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
    and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
    who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things
    will never be shaken.

8 July 2021

Proverbs 20:22

Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!”
    Wait for the Lord, and he will avenge you.

The sense here is not about bringing the wicked to justice, which we are to promote. It is about exacting our personal revenge. This is a proverb for the worker outmaneuvered unjustly for a job promotion. It is for the student who is beat out for an award because of another student cheating. It is for all of us in our daily experiences of being slighted and taken advantage of.

Wait for the Lord. Wait for the Lord because vengeance belongs to him. And it belongs to him because any offense is an offense against him. He alone is the judge, and offense against him is infinitely more serious than offense against us.

Wait for the Lord because he will exact the proper measure at the proper time. We will not. We inevitably sin in our attempt at retribution, and thus end up in the same position as our offenders.

Wait for the Lord for your own peace of mind. Your offender gains even more advantage by your fretting and scheming. You have lost not only the goal the offender won, but your contentment as well. Waiting for the Lord means putting the matter, including the results, in his hands and not worrying about the outcome. That is not only victory but the best kind of payback – not letting your offender take away your peace and joy.

Wait for the Lord for the sake of your relationship with the Lord. How can you learn to trust him if you will not wait on him? How can you learn contentment without waiting on him in all circumstances? How can you experience his working in you and around you if you do not wait for him? Wait for the Lord.

 

Psalm 14

The fool[a] says in his heart,
    “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
    there is no one who does good.

The Lord looks down from heaven
    on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
    any who seek God.
All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
    there is no one who does good,
    not even one.

Do all these evildoers know nothing?

They devour my people as though eating bread;
    they never call on the Lord.
But there they are, overwhelmed with dread,
    for God is present in the company of the righteous.
You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor,
    but the Lord is their refuge.

Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
    When the Lord restores his people,
    let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!

7 July 2021

Proverbs 20:21

An inheritance claimed too soon
    will not be blessed at the end.

Sudden wealth, whether it be through inheritance or willing the lottery or some scheme, as often as not creates trouble. Wealth, as with power and fame, carries its own dangers of corrupting the owner and creating anxiety over its protection. Jesus noted how difficult it was for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Sudden wealth brings with it further troubles. Because it does not come from the fruit of his labor, the recipient does not measure its true cost. Not knowing what it takes to earn the wealth, he also does not know how to maintain it. He either becomes overly protective of it or too loose with it. It is difficult to be wise with something gained without wisdom.

But wisdom is needed for the affect one’s wealth has on others. The suddenly wealthy person discovers friends and relatives he did not know he had; he also finds that the ones he has known change in the way they treat him. He is regarded more highly. He is praised and befriended by many. Pride rushes into his head which inevitably leads to his downfall. But these friends and relatives are not merely infatuated with him; they want a share in his wealth and do their own scheming to get it. There are others who now resent him for his luck. Why should he get the inheritance? What did he do to earn it? And so troubles come from them.

We all dream of what it would be like to come into sudden wealth, to be surprised by the uncle we did not know existed but who left his money to us. Let us dream, rather, of what it would be like to see the fruit of our labors. Let us be stirred on not by winning the lottery, but by the steady progress and fruit that comes from wise planning and diligent labor.

But then do dream and do give thanks for the one inheritance that has come without labor and quite surprisingly. Dream of that inheritance that awaits us in heaven, given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ, protected by God the Father, and for which even we are protected by the Holy Spirit. Is it not wondrous that the greatest inheritance is the one most secure and the only one in which the more we dream of it and value it, the more blessed and productive we become. Read about it 1 Peter 1:3-9.

 

Psalm 13

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

6 July 2021

Proverbs 20:20

If someone curses their father or mother,
    their lamp will be snuffed out in pitch darkness.

Should this proverb be interpreted to mean if a child curses his good father or mother? Certainly the Scriptures instruct fathers and mothers to be good, and the premise in Proverbs is that fathers and mothers have wisdom that their children should heed. Even so, it is the specific family bond that is stressed. It is wrong to curse anyone, but to send curses in the way of one’s parents is especially appalling. Indeed, it is regarded here as sacrilege.

The special nature of bond between parent and child is recognized by everyone. The reason there is much dysfunction in families is because offense between parent and child (particularly parent against child) carries more significant impact. Scripture understands this; Scripture teaches it should be so. A parent is not a mere provider for the child until he reaches adulthood. “Father,” “Mother,” carries with that name a profound bond.

So what is your regard for your father and mother, be they living or dead? Whoever you are reading this, you have your own context in thinking about this. You may have had a wonderful relationship with your parents or a terrible one. Even so, it is vital that you recognize the peculiar relationship of a parent to a child. You may know others who are like a father or mother to you; others who may legally have taken that role. You should of course show them due deference. But if you struggle about your feelings towards your biological parents, even so, do not fall into the sin of cursing them. You do not have to excuse their sin or deny their offense. You do not have to conjure up loving feelings. But still, for your own sake, do not fall into the pit of bitterness that leaves you desiring judgment to fall upon your parents. They must answer to their own sins before God. Your curses are not needed for them to get their due. But your prayers are needed for the hope of the Spirit’s work in their hearts.

Is this not what the gospel is about – bringing hope to those who do not deserve it? It was for his crucifiers that Jesus asked his Father for forgiveness. It was for his enemies that God sent his Son to die. If the gospel has penetrated your heart, then forgiveness (not curses) is what will come forth. You cannot change your parents; you cannot create new feelings; but you can offer the blessing and forgiveness in Christ to your parents that have been given to you.

 

Psalm 12

Help, Lord, for no one is faithful anymore;
    those who are loyal have vanished from the human race.
Everyone lies to their neighbor;
    they flatter with their lips
    but harbor deception in their hearts.

May the Lord silence all flattering lips
    and every boastful tongue—
those who say,
    “By our tongues we will prevail;
    our own lips will defend us—who is lord over us?”

“Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan,
    I will now arise,” says the Lord.
    “I will protect them from those who malign them.”
And the words of the Lord are flawless,
    like silver purified in a crucible,
    like gold[c] refined seven times.

You, Lord, will keep the needy safe
    and will protect us forever from the wicked,
who freely strut about
    when what is vile is honored by the human race.

5 July 2021

Proverbs 20:19

A gossip betrays a confidence;
    so avoid anyone who talks too much.

Be a realist when it comes to confiding in certain people. The proverb does not advise that we be careful how we tell something confidential to a babbler. We are not given tips on how to assure that the babbler will not reveal our secrets. We are simply to stay away from him. We are to keep our secrets to ourselves when in his presence.

The motive of the babbler is irrelevant. He may want to hurt you or even think he is helping you. The result is the same. Information that should not have been passed on was and will cause hurt. Do not try to reform the babbler by entrusting him with private information; don’t try to come up with ways to make him keep your confidence. Keep silent.

You will find this simple counsel very helpful in the workplace, home, church, and other areas where there is a web of relationships. You cannot control what others say, but you can control what you say. You can also control avoiding situations that lead to compromise. If you are in a room where gossip is being spoken, excuse yourself and leave the room. Again, focus on what you can control and avoid what you cannot.

 

Psalm 11

In the Lord I take refuge.
    How then can you say to me:
    “Flee like a bird to your mountain.
For look, the wicked bend their bows;
    they set their arrows against the strings
to shoot from the shadows
    at the upright in heart.
When the foundations are being destroyed,
    what can the righteous do?”

The Lord is in his holy temple;
    the Lord is on his heavenly throne.
He observes everyone on earth;
    his eyes examine them.
The Lord examines the righteous,
    but the wicked, those who love violence,
    he hates with a passion.
On the wicked he will rain
    fiery coals and burning sulfur;
    a scorching wind will be their lot.

For the Lord is righteous,
    he loves justice;
    the upright will see his face.