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

25 October 2021

Proverbs 24:7

Wisdom is too high for fools;
    in the assembly at the gate they must not open their mouths.

The image here is that of men sitting at the gate of a city. This is where the elders of the town gather to discuss the Law and judge disputes. The fool does not join in because he cannot follow the discussion. He cannot comprehend their logic. It is not that they use esoteric words, but that he does not know how to reason and so cannot follow their reasoning. Though they are discussing practical application of the Law, they may as well be speaking of deep mysteries, as far as he is concerned.

This is a growing problem today. Young people are growing up learning to read words without comprehending what is being said. They cannot follow a continual line of argument. The constant exposure and movement of images have added to the problem of deliberate reasoning. This can be seen this in TV and movies in comparison to older shows. The camera angle and focus move much more often. We cannot tolerate a still camera. We lose our focus on what is being communicated.

This affects our whole society. As politicians already know, their task is not to use logic well, but to evoke feelings that make the hearers think they are hearing good reasoning. Sermons are made shorter because hearers cannot listen to a sustained discourse for a long period unless the sermon is propped with changing visual images.

We have the capacity to reason well, but with media relying on emotional manipulation to communicate and the education system dumbing down what is being taught, we are becoming fools unable to comprehend wise discourse. If only we would then be silent at the gate. Instead, we are taught to open our mouths more loudly so that folly can be heard by all.

 

Psalm 91

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he[b] loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

23 October 2021

Matthew 6:19-24

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,[a] your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy,[b] your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Prayer: Lord, keep Your family the church steadfast in faith and love, that through Your protection it may be free from all harm, and may devoutly serve You in good works to the glory of Your name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

22 October 2021

Proverbs 24:5-6

The wise prevail through great power,
    and those who have knowledge muster their strength.
Surely you need guidance to wage war,
    and victory is won through many advisers.

The first half of the proverb seems to be extolling individual wisdom. The wise man alone is full of strength. But the latter half unveils more about wisdom. The true wise person seeks wise counsel. Wisdom leans on wisdom. A wise person knows that he alone does not have all wisdom. He knows his limits. He values others who see what he cannot see. He is not hampered by pride that refuses to acknowledge what others may possess and he lacks.

This is a primary reason that the wise achieve victory over those who are stronger. Unhampered by pride, they can think through carefully what is the best action to take. They are not weighed down by petty disputes and jealousies. Wise counselors think what is best for the one receiving their counsel. Wise rulers listen humbly to wise counsel and act accordingly.

How are you guided – by what appeals to your ego or what presents clear, scriptural truth in light of the real circumstances? From whom do you seek counsel – from those known for wisdom or from those you can count on to take your side and flatter you? If you want to be strong, then humbly seek the wise counsel of those wiser than yourself. Out of such humility one finds wisdom and becomes strong.

 

Psalm 90

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
    throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born
    or you brought forth the whole world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You turn people back to dust,
    saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.”
A thousand years in your sight
    are like a day that has just gone by,
    or like a watch in the night.
Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—
    they are like the new grass of the morning:
In the morning it springs up new,
    but by evening it is dry and withered.

We are consumed by your anger
    and terrified by your indignation.
You have set our iniquities before you,
    our secret sins in the light of your presence.
All our days pass away under your wrath;
    we finish our years with a moan.
10 Our days may come to seventy years,
    or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
    for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
11 If only we knew the power of your anger!
    Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due.
12 Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

13 Relent, Lord! How long will it be?
    Have compassion on your servants.
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
    that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    for as many years as we have seen trouble.
16 May your deeds be shown to your servants,
    your splendor to their children.

17 May the favor[a] of the Lord our God rest on us;
    establish the work of our hands for us—
    yes, establish the work of our hands.

21 October 2021

Proverbs 24:3-4

By wisdom a house is built,
    and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled
    with rare and beautiful treasures.

How is the house of your life being built? Does it have a sturdy foundation composed of the wisdom from God’s Word, or does it wobble on the weak foundation of secular culture? Who has established your code of conduct, your foundational principles of the way things should be – God’s Word or the secular media? And don’t think that can be measured by how conservative or liberal your political views may be. The most conservative person politically can be the one most off the mark about the gospel.

How are you filling your rooms – with what is meaningful or what is superficially pleasing? With what has long-term value or what fits the momentary fad? Or are your rooms bare because you do not do anything to fill it with memories?

We are all called to do something with our lives. Some of us may be materially rich and some of us poor. Some of us may have many abilities, some of us few. But we are all called to build homes. And we need wisdom. If rich, we need wisdom on how not to be wasteful; if we are poor, we need wisdom on how to make the most of what we have. The rich fool thinks whatever is expensive must be good; the poor fool excuses himself from doing anything because of what he lacks.

Seek wisdom. Pray for it. Study it in God’s Word. Learn from others who have it. For it is not as you grow in wealth that you will prosper, nor even as you grow in information. It is how you grow in wisdom that you become a wise builder.

 

Psalm 89

I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever;
    with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known
    through all generations.
I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
    that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself.
You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
    I have sworn to David my servant,
‘I will establish your line forever
    and make your throne firm through all generations.’”[c]

The heavens praise your wonders, Lord,
    your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones.
For who in the skies above can compare with the Lord?
    Who is like the Lord among the heavenly beings?
In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared;
    he is more awesome than all who surround him.
Who is like you, Lord God Almighty?
    You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.

You rule over the surging sea;
    when its waves mount up, you still them.
10 You crushed Rahab like one of the slain;
    with your strong arm you scattered your enemies.
11 The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth;
    you founded the world and all that is in it.
12 You created the north and the south;
    Tabor and Hermon sing for joy at your name.
13 Your arm is endowed with power;
    your hand is strong, your right hand exalted.

14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;
    love and faithfulness go before you.
15 Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you,
    who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.
16 They rejoice in your name all day long;
    they celebrate your righteousness.
17 For you are their glory and strength,
    and by your favor you exalt our horn.[d]
18 Indeed, our shield[e] belongs to the Lord,
    our king to the Holy One of Israel.

19 Once you spoke in a vision,
    to your faithful people you said:
“I have bestowed strength on a warrior;
    I have raised up a young man from among the people.
20 I have found David my servant;
    with my sacred oil I have anointed him.
21 My hand will sustain him;
    surely my arm will strengthen him.
22 The enemy will not get the better of him;
    the wicked will not oppress him.
23 I will crush his foes before him
    and strike down his adversaries.
24 My faithful love will be with him,
    and through my name his horn[f] will be exalted.
25 I will set his hand over the sea,
    his right hand over the rivers.
26 He will call out to me, ‘You are my Father,
    my God, the Rock my Savior.’
27 And I will appoint him to be my firstborn,
    the most exalted of the kings of the earth.
28 I will maintain my love to him forever,
    and my covenant with him will never fail.
29 I will establish his line forever,
    his throne as long as the heavens endure.

30 “If his sons forsake my law
    and do not follow my statutes,
31 if they violate my decrees
    and fail to keep my commands,
32 I will punish their sin with the rod,
    their iniquity with flogging;
33 but I will not take my love from him,
    nor will I ever betray my faithfulness.
34 I will not violate my covenant
    or alter what my lips have uttered.
35 Once for all, I have sworn by my holiness—
    and I will not lie to David—
36 that his line will continue forever
    and his throne endure before me like the sun;
37 it will be established forever like the moon,
    the faithful witness in the sky.”

38 But you have rejected, you have spurned,
    you have been very angry with your anointed one.
39 You have renounced the covenant with your servant
    and have defiled his crown in the dust.
40 You have broken through all his walls
    and reduced his strongholds to ruins.
41 All who pass by have plundered him;
    he has become the scorn of his neighbors.
42 You have exalted the right hand of his foes;
    you have made all his enemies rejoice.
43 Indeed, you have turned back the edge of his sword
    and have not supported him in battle.
44 You have put an end to his splendor
    and cast his throne to the ground.
45 You have cut short the days of his youth;
    you have covered him with a mantle of shame.

46 How long, Lord? Will you hide yourself forever?
    How long will your wrath burn like fire?
47 Remember how fleeting is my life.
    For what futility you have created all humanity!
48 Who can live and not see death,
    or who can escape the power of the grave?
49 Lord, where is your former great love,
    which in your faithfulness you swore to David?
50 Remember, Lord, how your servant has[g] been mocked,
    how I bear in my heart the taunts of all the nations,
51 the taunts with which your enemies, Lord, have mocked,
    with which they have mocked every step of your anointed one.

52 Praise be to the Lord forever!
Amen and Amen.

20 October 2021

Proverbs 24:1-2

Do not envy the wicked,
    do not desire their company;
for their hearts plot violence,
    and their lips talk about making trouble.

Sometimes we are envious of the wicked. They seem to prosper. They seem to be happy and contented. They have traits that seem admirable – daring, decisive, even generous at times. Some even rise to the status of heroes and legends.

But don’t forget what they are about – trouble, violence. They are wrong-doers. It is easy to be daring and decisive without a conscience. It is easy to be generous as an oppressor and possessing riches that one can maintain through stealing from others. It is easy to be kind to some people while ruthless with others.

And remember what it is to become the friend of evil men. You move yourself into the position of owing the duties of friendship as they define it. You are expected to do them favors – from hiding them from the law or helping them to break the law. They scheme trouble – not trouble to get into, but trouble to cause for others, and they have no troubled conscience about you getting caught in those troubles.

Do not envy the wicked, but rather delight in the path of righteousness and in the Righteous One who acts only for your good.

 

Psalm 88

Lord, you are the God who saves me;
    day and night I cry out to you.
May my prayer come before you;
    turn your ear to my cry.

I am overwhelmed with troubles
    and my life draws near to death.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
    I am like one without strength.
I am set apart with the dead,
    like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more,
    who are cut off from your care.

You have put me in the lowest pit,
    in the darkest depths.
Your wrath lies heavily on me;
    you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.[d]
You have taken from me my closest friends
    and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape;
    my eyes are dim with grief.

I call to you, Lord, every day;
    I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you show your wonders to the dead?
    Do their spirits rise up and praise you?
11 Is your love declared in the grave,
    your faithfulness in Destruction[e]?
12 Are your wonders known in the place of darkness,
    or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?

13 But I cry to you for help, Lord;
    in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 Why, Lord, do you reject me
    and hide your face from me?

15 From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;
    I have borne your terrors and am in despair.
16 Your wrath has swept over me;
    your terrors have destroyed me.
17 All day long they surround me like a flood;
    they have completely engulfed me.
18 You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
    darkness is my closest friend.

19 October 2021

Proverbs 23:29-35

Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
    Who has strife? Who has complaints?
    Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes?
30 Those who linger over wine,
    who go to sample bowls of mixed wine.
31 Do not gaze at wine when it is red,
    when it sparkles in the cup,
    when it goes down smoothly!
32 In the end it bites like a snake
    and poisons like a viper.
33 Your eyes will see strange sights,
    and your mind will imagine confusing things.
34 You will be like one sleeping on the high seas,
    lying on top of the rigging.
35 “They hit me,” you will say, “but I’m not hurt!
    They beat me, but I don’t feel it!
When will I wake up
    so I can find another drink?”

The key in understanding this teaching lies in the phrases “Who has wounds without cause?” and “they struck me…but I was not hurt.” Inebriation creates delusion. The deeper the inebriation the deeper the delusion and more frightening it turns. It exaggerates experience; it brings out one’s fears. These verses describe a nightmare. Even then, one might think that the experience would waken a person to his senses. He will say to himself, “I’ll never do that again.” But instead, he wants another drink.

This is the way it is with worldly pleasures. They make their appeal to our senses, giving us the feeling of being in control. They then remove our self-control and take us over. So is the way of drinking, of drugs, of illicit sex, of gambling and anything that draws us from pleasure in our God.

“I must have…” Is there anything in your life for which you would say these words? Then beware. Already delusion is affecting you. Esau thought he must have a bowl of stew. Achan thought he must have silver. Amnon thought he must have his sister Tamar.

The Lord is the only whom you must have. Without him, we have nothing; with him we have all that we need. Without him we live in a delusion; with him we see clearly the way things are and what we truly have.

 

Psalm 87

He has founded his city on the holy mountain.
The Lord loves the gates of Zion
    more than all the other dwellings of Jacob.

Glorious things are said of you,
    city of God:[a]
“I will record Rahab[b] and Babylon
    among those who acknowledge me—
Philistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush[c]
    and will say, ‘This one was born in Zion.’”[d]
Indeed, of Zion it will be said,
    “This one and that one were born in her,
    and the Most High himself will establish her.”
The Lord will write in the register of the peoples:
    “This one was born in Zion.”

As they make music they will sing,
    “All my fountains are in you.”

18 October 2021

Proverbs 23:26-28

My son, give me your heart
    and let your eyes delight in my ways,
27 for an adulterous woman is a deep pit,
    and a wayward wife is a narrow well.
28 Like a bandit she lies in wait
    and multiplies the unfaithful among men.

Understand the motivation of the prostitute – it is to get your money. That is all she is about and nothing else. She wants your money and as much as she can get. The pleasures she gives, and makes believe that she receives, are merely a scheme to take money. And it works. You will come back. You will defy the principles you hold dear. You will risk the loss of your closest relationships and the respect of those you respect the most. You will risk disease. And all the while you will give your money, even going into debt. You will become a traitor to your faith, your spouse, your friends, even to yourself. And you will continue to give your money to the one who has ruined you.

So it is with other worldly pleasures. Beware of anything that leads you to live a double life while it takes your money. Understand that all these pleasures are given out for one purpose – to take your money. The prostitute does not enter her line of work out of the desire to give pleasure. She does so because it is good money. The casinos do not exist for people’s pleasure. They exist to take money. Prostitutes and casino owners do not go to bed at night satisfied with how happy they have made others. If they go to bed happy, it is from counting their profits made off of you and which they have entrapped you to keep giving.

What a contrast to our God. People turn away from him because he is “demanding.” And yet he is the only one who truly gives with our happiness in mind. He gave to us while we were his enemies and he continues to give to us as his children. He will top it all off with eternal glory. He turns our very giving into receiving, for we find the very act of giving to be a blessing. He will give to you throughout today. He will only do what is for your good. He will turn suffering into wellbeing. You will always be in his thoughts; your good will always be his plan. Why become a traitor to such a God? It is wrong and it is also foolishness. Why get caught in a trap where you must always be spending more money to get your fleeting pleasures, when you can buy the everlasting pleasures of God without any cost?

 

Psalm 86

Hear me, Lord, and answer me,
    for I am poor and needy.
Guard my life, for I am faithful to you;
    save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord,
    for I call to you all day long.
Bring joy to your servant, Lord,
    for I put my trust in you.

You, Lord, are forgiving and good,
    abounding in love to all who call to you.
Hear my prayer, Lord;
    listen to my cry for mercy.
When I am in distress, I call to you,
    because you answer me.

Among the gods there is none like you, Lord;
    no deeds can compare with yours.
All the nations you have made
    will come and worship before you, Lord;
    they will bring glory to your name.
10 For you are great and do marvelous deeds;
    you alone are God.

11 Teach me your way, Lord,
    that I may rely on your faithfulness;
give me an undivided heart,
    that I may fear your name.
12 I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart;
    I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your love toward me;
    you have delivered me from the depths,
    from the realm of the dead.

14 Arrogant foes are attacking me, O God;
    ruthless people are trying to kill me—
    they have no regard for you.
15 But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
    slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
16 Turn to me and have mercy on me;
    show your strength in behalf of your servant;
save me, because I serve you
    just as my mother did.
17 Give me a sign of your goodness,
    that my enemies may see it and be put to shame,
    for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

16 October 2021

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,[a]
    but deliver us from the evil one.[b]

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Prayer: Grant we pray merciful Lord, to Your faithful people pardon and peace and that they may be cleansed from all their sins, and serve You with a quiet mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

15 October 2021

Proverbs 23:22-25

Listen to your father, who gave you life,
    and do not despise your mother when she is old.
23 Buy the truth and do not sell it—
    wisdom, instruction and insight as well.
24 The father of a righteous child has great joy;
    a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him.
25 May your father and mother rejoice;
    may she who gave you birth be joyful!

What is the special bond of parent to child? The bestowing of life. The proverb begins and ends with this observation. Is there any greater, more significant act than to bring another life into the world? Is there any other human bond that is more sacred than that of parent-child, as a result?

What do parents want for their children? Certainly they desire success and happiness, but more so, they want their children to have noble traits, which begins with wisdom and the desire to be instructed. With such, he will acquire what he needs for life, but more to the point, he will become a person of worthy character. For parents understand that they cannot control the future of their children. They cannot guarantee good things will happen. And so their hope to instill good values that will equip their children to handle the circumstances of life and to be worthy people.

So you want to honor your parents? Then buy truth and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding. But that is not what your parents want? Then do not forget your heavenly Father. This is what he wants, for true wisdom and knowledge come from him and glorify him. And he, after all, is the true giver of life – physically and spiritually. May he rejoice in the wisdom you learn and impart today.

 

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.

14 October 2021

Proverbs 23:19-21

Listen, my son, and be wise,
    and set your heart on the right path:
20 Do not join those who drink too much wine
    or gorge themselves on meat,
21 for drunkards and gluttons become poor,
    and drowsiness clothes them in rags.

Be not among – that is, do not be as one of them. Be wise and direct your heart; do not follow your heart. Do you want to be your own decision maker? Then be it now while you can. Choose to follow the way of righteousness now. For once you choose to be among the drunkards and gluttons, you will find your will to choose gone. Drunkards do not choose to remain drunkards. They do not choose to lose their willpower and destroy all their relationships. They do not choose to be fired and to end up sick on the street. The same holds true for gluttons. They do not choose to keep eating and destroy their health. They do not choose to be sated with food or other forms of pleasure. They cannot give up what they thought they would not want to give up. They find themselves slaves to what they thought was serving them.

Be wise now. Direct your heart now. Choose now while you still can.

 

Psalm 84

How lovely is your dwelling place,
    Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
    for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
    and the swallow a nest for herself,
    where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
    Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
    they are ever praising you.[c]

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
    whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
    they make it a place of springs;
    the autumn rains also cover it with pools.[d]
They go from strength to strength,
    till each appears before God in Zion.

Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty;
    listen to me, God of Jacob.
Look on our shield,[e] O God;
    look with favor on your anointed one.

10 Better is one day in your courts
    than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
    than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
    the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
    from those whose walk is blameless.

12 Lord Almighty,
    blessed is the one who trusts in you.

13 October 2021

Proverbs 23:17-18

Do not let your heart envy sinners,
    but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord.
18 There is surely a future hope for you,
    and your hope will not be cut off.

It is easy to envy sinners. Consider what they have. They may sin without guilt. They may even recast sin as good and natural. They have no commands to obey. They have no responsibility for their neighbor. The only responsibility they have is what they place upon themselves, which they may remove at any time. They may give thought to their pleasure without considering anyone else, including an omniscient God who watches them. They can make life to be the way they want it to be.

Believers, on the other hand, are saddled with the two great commands to love God with all that one has and to love one’s neighbor as oneself. We cannot do anything without taking these commands into account. We live in the world, but are not allowed to be of the world, which greatly complicates our lives. Furthermore, we have an omniscient God whom we know will judge us.

What do we get in return? We are given a sure future; we have a secure hope of eternal joy and even glory, living in the presence of our God. But if we are perceptive enough, we will see that our hope lies not only in the promise of God about the future, but in the present blessings of today. Blessed is the man now who walks in the path of righteousness because his life now is filled with purpose. Now he is a blessing to others. Now he is rendering profitable service to his Lord. Now he is filled with the Holy Spirit, knows God as his Father, and experiences the blessings found in his Redeemer. It is because we glimpse present glory that we can feel in our hearts the future glory and know that our hope will not be cut off.

 

Psalm 83

O God, do not remain silent;
    do not turn a deaf ear,
    do not stand aloof, O God.
See how your enemies growl,
    how your foes rear their heads.
With cunning they conspire against your people;
    they plot against those you cherish.
“Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation,
    so that Israel’s name is remembered no more.”

With one mind they plot together;
    they form an alliance against you—
the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites,
    of Moab and the Hagrites,
Byblos, Ammon and Amalek,
    Philistia, with the people of Tyre.
Even Assyria has joined them
    to reinforce Lot’s descendants.[b]

Do to them as you did to Midian,
    as you did to Sisera and Jabin at the river Kishon,
10 who perished at Endor
    and became like dung on the ground.
11 Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb,
    all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna,
12 who said, “Let us take possession
    of the pasturelands of God.”

13 Make them like tumbleweed, my God,
    like chaff before the wind.
14 As fire consumes the forest
    or a flame sets the mountains ablaze,
15 so pursue them with your tempest
    and terrify them with your storm.
16 Cover their faces with shame, Lord,
    so that they will seek your name.

17 May they ever be ashamed and dismayed;
    may they perish in disgrace.
18 Let them know that you, whose name is the Lord
    that you alone are the Most High over all the earth.

12 October 2021

Proverbs 23:15-16

My son, if your heart is wise,
    then my heart will be glad indeed;
16 my inmost being will rejoice
    when your lips speak what is right.

So speaks a father, and so concurs a mother. Parents want what they perceive is good for their children. Most want their children not to suffer and to succeed in life in the various forms that success is measured. Mostly, they want their children to be happy. They may differ with their children about what makes up happiness or how to attain it. But to see their children content and happy contributes to their own happiness.

This proverb gets under the surface of outward happiness to what really matters to most parents – to have a child who is wise. It is the goal of the parent to guide a child to maturity, to discern between right and wrong, to make wise choices regarding friends, to apply oneself in education, to be dependable, to take a career that is fulfilling and provides for one’s needs, to choose a good spouse should one marry, and to wisely raise good children should children be granted.

 
The parent cannot disconnect his or her happiness from his child. He will grieve over a child’s foolishness and rejoice over the child’s wisdom. That is how it should be, for that is the natural relationship God has established between parent and child. We are connected to our children and to our parents. We cannot control others, but we can care about honoring our parents through our own pursuit of wisdom and about blessing our children through teaching and modeling wisdom. And we can honor our Father through pursuing the wisdom he has revealed in his Word and living out the “foolishness” of the Gospel.

 

Psalm 82

God presides in the great assembly;
    he renders judgment among the “gods”:

“How long will you[a] defend the unjust
    and show partiality to the wicked?[b]
Defend the weak and the fatherless;
    uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
    deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

“The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing.
    They walk about in darkness;
    all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

“I said, ‘You are “gods”;
    you are all sons of the Most High.’
But you will die like mere mortals;
    you will fall like every other ruler.”

Rise up, O God, judge the earth,
    for all the nations are your inheritance.

11 October 2021

Proverbs 23:13-14

Do not withhold discipline from a child;
    if you punish them with the rod, they will not die.
14 Punish them with the rod
    and save them from death.

“Do not withhold discipline” implies that discipline is a necessity for the health of the child. To withhold discipline is to withhold care; it is to shirk one’s responsibility to provide for the welfare, in this case, of one’s child. To withhold discipline signals that the parent either does not truly care for the wellbeing of his child or that he is too fearful to carry through on what is right.

It is heartless not to let one’s child experience repercussion for his sin. It is cowardly to avoid setting and enforcing rules of behavior. No adult has ever thanked parents for failing to discipline or for not setting boundaries.

Parents can abuse and too often even good parents mishandle discipline. Thus, parents are to continually examine themselves. But they nevertheless cannot escape their responsibility before God. They must be the ones with an eye to the future, something their children cannot see.

And they must be willing to accept discipline themselves. Do they accept discipline from authorities – government, the workplace, the church? All who have some measure of authority have the same responsibility to exercise discipline. We are all willing, so we say, to accept the discipline of the Lord, but we rarely are willing to accept the Lord’s discipline that is meted out through his human instruments. If you expect your children to accept your discipline, let them see you model how that is done.

 

Psalm 81

Sing for joy to God our strength;
    shout aloud to the God of Jacob!
Begin the music, strike the timbrel,
    play the melodious harp and lyre.

Sound the ram’s horn at the New Moon,
    and when the moon is full, on the day of our festival;
this is a decree for Israel,
    an ordinance of the God of Jacob.
When God went out against Egypt,
    he established it as a statute for Joseph.

I heard an unknown voice say:

“I removed the burden from their shoulders;
    their hands were set free from the basket.
In your distress you called and I rescued you,
    I answered you out of a thundercloud;
    I tested you at the waters of Meribah.[c]
Hear me, my people, and I will warn you—
    if you would only listen to me, Israel!
You shall have no foreign god among you;
    you shall not worship any god other than me.
10 I am the Lord your God,
    who brought you up out of Egypt.
Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.

11 “But my people would not listen to me;
    Israel would not submit to me.
12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts
    to follow their own devices.

13 “If my people would only listen to me,
    if Israel would only follow my ways,
14 how quickly I would subdue their enemies
    and turn my hand against their foes!
15 Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him,
    and their punishment would last forever.
16 But you would be fed with the finest of wheat;
    with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

9 October 2021

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house[a] to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion,
    a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
    will never be put to shame.”[b]

Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,

“The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone,”[c]

and,

“A stone that causes people to stumble
    and a rock that makes them fall.”[d]

They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.

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. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Prayer: Almighty and merciful God, of Your generous goodness keep us from everything that may hurt us, that we may be ready in body and soul cheerfully to carry out whatever You want us to do; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

8 October 2021

Proverbs 23:12

Apply your heart to instruction
    and your ears to words of knowledge.

This is a good proverb to heed in a culture which teaches that the one thing we can trust is our heart.

“Go with your heart.”
“What does your heart tell you?”
“Follow your heart.”

Movies, TV, and the pop music industry (the real instruction institutions of our society) invariably teach that the heart is to be trusted over anyone and anything, especially in times of crisis. By listening to the heart, we will know when to go against conventional wisdom and when to defy the instructions even of the people we respect and love the most. The heart is supposedly the place of instinct, of innate knowledge.

For the Bible, the heart needs instruction just like the mind, indeed, more so. As Jesus said, “Out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts” (Matthew 15:19). Due to the fall, the heart loves sin. The heart “feels good” about the things God hates. Consider the bigoted mind that hates others of different races. Such a person acts on what his heart feels right. Even the wicked oppress the weak out of what feels right. They despise the weak and don’t understand why others do not as well.

Thus the heart needs instruction as to what is right and wrong. And more. For instruction, as essential as it is, cannot change the heart. The proverb says to apply your heart to instruction. There’s the rub. You must first desire instruction, and that takes a heart change. Where then is your hope? It is in God’s Spirit who can change your heart. Pray for such a work, and don’t fool yourself into thinking that because you have been regenerated by the Spirit, all the work needed has been done. The toughest case is the Christian who thinks by virtue of being Christian his heart is all right. Sanctification – the process of cleansing the heart from all sin – is a lifetime work. Start each morning praying for that work to continue in your heart, applying it to instruction.

 

Psalm 80

Hear us, Shepherd of Israel,
    you who lead Joseph like a flock.
You who sit enthroned between the cherubim,
    shine forth before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh.
Awaken your might;
    come and save us.

Restore us, O God;
    make your face shine on us,
    that we may be saved.

How long, Lord God Almighty,
    will your anger smolder
    against the prayers of your people?
You have fed them with the bread of tears;
    you have made them drink tears by the bowlful.
You have made us an object of derision[b] to our neighbors,
    and our enemies mock us.

Restore us, God Almighty;
    make your face shine on us,
    that we may be saved.

You transplanted a vine from Egypt;
    you drove out the nations and planted it.
You cleared the ground for it,
    and it took root and filled the land.
10 The mountains were covered with its shade,
    the mighty cedars with its branches.
11 Its branches reached as far as the Sea,[c]
    its shoots as far as the River.[d]

12 Why have you broken down its walls
    so that all who pass by pick its grapes?
13 Boars from the forest ravage it,
    and insects from the fields feed on it.
14 Return to us, God Almighty!
    Look down from heaven and see!
Watch over this vine,
15     the root your right hand has planted,
    the son[e] you have raised up for yourself.

16 Your vine is cut down, it is burned with fire;
    at your rebuke your people perish.
17 Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand,
    the son of man you have raised up for yourself.
18 Then we will not turn away from you;
    revive us, and we will call on your name.

19 Restore us, Lord God Almighty;
    make your face shine on us,
    that we may be saved.

7 October 2021

Proverbs 23:10-11

Do not move an ancient boundary stone
    or encroach on the fields of the fatherless,
11 for their Defender is strong;
    he will take up their case against you.

The wicked prey upon the weak and defenceless precisely because there seems to be little risk in doing so. They have little to no influence with the powers-to-be; they have no money to “buy” justice. They have no kin – at least kin who can do anything – to stand up for them.

But such persons do have an advocate to plead their cause, an advocate who never loses his case. Their advocate is their Redeemer who buys them, thus making their property his own. The crimes committed against them are crimes committed against him.

Judgment will be rendered against all perpetrators. Almost all will experience judgment in their earthly life; all will experience complete judgment after death. It is this second death that the Redeemer said to fear the most. However terrible the loss of physical life may be, it is the casting of a soul into hell that is the great horror, a judgment from which the wicked cannot escape.

The only hope of such escape is to recognize that one is poor and an orphan. It is to acknowledge that you are the neediest of all and the most wicked of all. For to make such confession now will result not in judgment, but in being bought by your Redeemer. Confess now. Repent now. By acknowledging that you are fatherless, you will find your Father and know your Redeemer.

 

Psalm 79

O God, the nations have invaded your inheritance;
    they have defiled your holy temple,
    they have reduced Jerusalem to rubble.
They have left the dead bodies of your servants
    as food for the birds of the sky,
    the flesh of your own people for the animals of the wild.
They have poured out blood like water
    all around Jerusalem,
    and there is no one to bury the dead.
We are objects of contempt to our neighbors,
    of scorn and derision to those around us.

How long, Lord? Will you be angry forever?
    How long will your jealousy burn like fire?
Pour out your wrath on the nations
    that do not acknowledge you,
on the kingdoms
    that do not call on your name;
for they have devoured Jacob
    and devastated his homeland.

Do not hold against us the sins of past generations;
    may your mercy come quickly to meet us,
    for we are in desperate need.
Help us, God our Savior,
    for the glory of your name;
deliver us and forgive our sins
    for your name’s sake.
10 Why should the nations say,
    “Where is their God?”

Before our eyes, make known among the nations
    that you avenge the outpoured blood of your servants.
11 May the groans of the prisoners come before you;
    with your strong arm preserve those condemned to die.
12 Pay back into the laps of our neighbors seven times
    the contempt they have hurled at you, Lord.
13 Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture,
    will praise you forever;
from generation to generation
    we will proclaim your praise.

6 October 2021

Proverbs 23:9

Do not speak to fools,
    for they will scorn your prudent words.

This proverb repeats a recurring theme. A fool is a fool, not because he has yet to be taught wisdom but because he despises wisdom. His problem is not that he lacks education. Indeed, there are many well-educated fools. Nor is his problem a mere lack of understanding to be solved by someone patiently reasoning with him. He despises wisdom. He is offended by it.

The love of wisdom requires a greater interest in truth than in self, which the fool cannot give up. The irony is that his interest in himself works against him, as he regularly makes choices that make his condition worse. But he cannot see that. He cannot see what others see clearly because he cannot get outside himself to look. He certainly cannot put himself in the place of others and see from their perspective. He can only view others from his own self-interest perspective. Thus, what you might say to his benefit, he interprets as you acting from your self-interest.

How then will the fool ever learn? Experientially, he is more likely to learn through facing the consequences of his actions – receiving punishment, experiencing poverty or physical pain through his own abuse, seeing the pain he has inflicted on others, etc. Where reason fails, painful consequences can sometimes succeed. If not, they can at least curb behavior and restrain the fool to a degree.

He may never learn. He will never learn unless the Holy Spirit works in him to affect a change. After all, that is the only reason we turned from our foolishness to receiving the gospel.

 

Psalm 78

My people, hear my teaching;
    listen to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth with a parable;
    I will utter hidden things, things from of old—
things we have heard and known,
    things our ancestors have told us.
We will not hide them from their descendants;
    we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
    his power, and the wonders he has done.
He decreed statutes for Jacob
    and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our ancestors
    to teach their children,
so the next generation would know them,
    even the children yet to be born,
    and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God
    and would not forget his deeds
    but would keep his commands.
They would not be like their ancestors—
    a stubborn and rebellious generation,
whose hearts were not loyal to God,
    whose spirits were not faithful to him.

The men of Ephraim, though armed with bows,
    turned back on the day of battle;
10 they did not keep God’s covenant
    and refused to live by his law.
11 They forgot what he had done,
    the wonders he had shown them.
12 He did miracles in the sight of their ancestors
    in the land of Egypt, in the region of Zoan.
13 He divided the sea and led them through;
    he made the water stand up like a wall.
14 He guided them with the cloud by day
    and with light from the fire all night.
15 He split the rocks in the wilderness
    and gave them water as abundant as the seas;
16 he brought streams out of a rocky crag
    and made water flow down like rivers.

17 But they continued to sin against him,
    rebelling in the wilderness against the Most High.
18 They willfully put God to the test
    by demanding the food they craved.
19 They spoke against God;
    they said, “Can God really
    spread a table in the wilderness?
20 True, he struck the rock,
    and water gushed out,
    streams flowed abundantly,
but can he also give us bread?
    Can he supply meat for his people?”
21 When the Lord heard them, he was furious;
    his fire broke out against Jacob,
    and his wrath rose against Israel,
22 for they did not believe in God
    or trust in his deliverance.
23 Yet he gave a command to the skies above
    and opened the doors of the heavens;
24 he rained down manna for the people to eat,
    he gave them the grain of heaven.
25 Human beings ate the bread of angels;
    he sent them all the food they could eat.
26 He let loose the east wind from the heavens
    and by his power made the south wind blow.
27 He rained meat down on them like dust,
    birds like sand on the seashore.
28 He made them come down inside their camp,
    all around their tents.
29 They ate till they were gorged—
    he had given them what they craved.
30 But before they turned from what they craved,
    even while the food was still in their mouths,
31 God’s anger rose against them;
    he put to death the sturdiest among them,
    cutting down the young men of Israel.

32 In spite of all this, they kept on sinning;
    in spite of his wonders, they did not believe.
33 So he ended their days in futility
    and their years in terror.
34 Whenever God slew them, they would seek him;
    they eagerly turned to him again.
35 They remembered that God was their Rock,
    that God Most High was their Redeemer.
36 But then they would flatter him with their mouths,
    lying to him with their tongues;
37 their hearts were not loyal to him,
    they were not faithful to his covenant.
38 Yet he was merciful;
    he forgave their iniquities
    and did not destroy them.
Time after time he restrained his anger
    and did not stir up his full wrath.
39 He remembered that they were but flesh,
    a passing breeze that does not return.

40 How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness
    and grieved him in the wasteland!
41 Again and again they put God to the test;
    they vexed the Holy One of Israel.
42 They did not remember his power—
    the day he redeemed them from the oppressor,
43 the day he displayed his signs in Egypt,
    his wonders in the region of Zoan.
44 He turned their river into blood;
    they could not drink from their streams.
45 He sent swarms of flies that devoured them,
    and frogs that devastated them.
46 He gave their crops to the grasshopper,
    their produce to the locust.
47 He destroyed their vines with hail
    and their sycamore-figs with sleet.
48 He gave over their cattle to the hail,
    their livestock to bolts of lightning.
49 He unleashed against them his hot anger,
    his wrath, indignation and hostility—
    a band of destroying angels.
50 He prepared a path for his anger;
    he did not spare them from death
    but gave them over to the plague.
51 He struck down all the firstborn of Egypt,
    the firstfruits of manhood in the tents of Ham.
52 But he brought his people out like a flock;
    he led them like sheep through the wilderness.
53 He guided them safely, so they were unafraid;
    but the sea engulfed their enemies.
54 And so he brought them to the border of his holy land,
    to the hill country his right hand had taken.
55 He drove out nations before them
    and allotted their lands to them as an inheritance;
    he settled the tribes of Israel in their homes.

56 But they put God to the test
    and rebelled against the Most High;
    they did not keep his statutes.
57 Like their ancestors they were disloyal and faithless,
    as unreliable as a faulty bow.
58 They angered him with their high places;
    they aroused his jealousy with their idols.
59 When God heard them, he was furious;
    he rejected Israel completely.
60 He abandoned the tabernacle of Shiloh,
    the tent he had set up among humans.
61 He sent the ark of his might into captivity,
    his splendor into the hands of the enemy.
62 He gave his people over to the sword;
    he was furious with his inheritance.
63 Fire consumed their young men,
    and their young women had no wedding songs;
64 their priests were put to the sword,
    and their widows could not weep.

65 Then the Lord awoke as from sleep,
    as a warrior wakes from the stupor of wine.
66 He beat back his enemies;
    he put them to everlasting shame.
67 Then he rejected the tents of Joseph,
    he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim;
68 but he chose the tribe of Judah,
    Mount Zion, which he loved.
69 He built his sanctuary like the heights,
    like the earth that he established forever.
70 He chose David his servant
    and took him from the sheep pens;
71 from tending the sheep he brought him
    to be the shepherd of his people Jacob,
    of Israel his inheritance.
72 And David shepherded them with integrity of heart;
    with skillful hands he led them.

5 October 2021

Proverbs 23:6-8

Do not eat the food of a begrudging host,
    do not crave his delicacies;
for he is the kind of person
    who is always thinking about the cost.[b]
“Eat and drink,” he says to you,
    but his heart is not with you.
You will vomit up the little you have eaten
    and will have wasted your compliments.

We come back to the table of verses 1-3. The host, be he a ruler or not, is also observing you. He gives the impression of being generous but is not. He is calculating how much you are costing him. He says to eat and drink, but he is taking note of how much you actually are. He is seething that you are taking him at his word. He thinks you should know better, or else he is risking (in his mind) that you are worth the investment. For that is how he perceives you – a risk investment. He is hoping that his “generosity” will pay off and that he will get back from you more than he has had to put out.

Perhaps you will prove to be a good investment and end up doing favors that you find you cannot get out of. Perhaps you will be a poor investment, thinking that mere expressions of appreciation are enough, only to find you are no longer welcome in his house.

How do you know whether a man is truly generous or inwardly stingy and calculating? You have to do your own share of observation. You cannot let displays of wealth blind you. Observe the man. Observe the way he is with his servants, with his family. Are those who are constantly around him happy and at ease? Are they generous? A truly generous man will rub off on those around him, just as a truly stingy man will do so.

Be discerning. This is what all the proverbs are about. Look beyond yourself and pay attention to what is going on around you. Be a good listener and a good observer. Don’t let delicacies cloud your seeing and impair your hearing. Don’t let sensual pleasures befuddle your discernment. See through to the giver. Observe him. From him judge whether the delicacies are to be truly enjoyed or turned away. It is the giver, not the delicacies who makes the feast.

 

Psalm 77

I cried out to God for help;
    I cried out to God to hear me.
When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
    at night I stretched out untiring hands,
    and I would not be comforted.

I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
    I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.[b]
You kept my eyes from closing;
    I was too troubled to speak.
I thought about the former days,
    the years of long ago;
I remembered my songs in the night.
    My heart meditated and my spirit asked:

“Will the Lord reject forever?
    Will he never show his favor again?
Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
    Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
    Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”

10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
    the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
    yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
12 I will consider all your works
    and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

13 Your ways, God, are holy.
    What god is as great as our God?
14 You are the God who performs miracles;
    you display your power among the peoples.
15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
    the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.

16 The waters saw you, God,
    the waters saw you and writhed;
    the very depths were convulsed.
17 The clouds poured down water,
    the heavens resounded with thunder;
    your arrows flashed back and forth.
18 Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
    your lightning lit up the world;
    the earth trembled and quaked.
19 Your path led through the sea,
    your way through the mighty waters,
    though your footprints were not seen.

20 You led your people like a flock
    by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

4 October 2021

Proverbs 23:4-5

Do not wear yourself out to get rich;
    do not trust your own cleverness.
Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone,
    for they will surely sprout wings
    and fly off to the sky like an eagle.

Is it wrong to desire to be wealthy? It is wrong if wealth is the objective for working. Work is good. Managing your money well so that your assets grow is good. You ought to aim for financial security. You ought to think ahead so as to provide for your retirement and not be a burden to others if possible. You ought to provide for your family.

But wealth itself should not be your object. Why? The reason given here is its transitory nature. Wealth can be lost and, indeed, is likely to be lost if you have single-mindedly worked towards it. It is one thing to become wealthy out of wise, thrifty handling of your money; it is another because you have figured out some get-rich scheme. It is one thing to become wealthy because of a devotion to the product you are producing or the service you are providing; it is another because you are only devoted to stuffing your own pockets. It is one thing to become wealthy because you have treated others fairly; it is another because you used people as means to your advantage.

The lust for wealth skewers our values. And if we are on the outside of the wealthy circle trying to get in, our tendency will be to take unethical means to get inside. Keep in perspective what really matters for happiness. It is not wealth. It is not being with the “in” crowd. It is in doing work that itself is fulfilling. It is in providing properly for your family. It is in honoring the Lord. This is where true, lasting happiness comes that does not fly off.

 

Psalm 76

God is renowned in Judah;
    in Israel his name is great.
His tent is in Salem,
    his dwelling place in Zion.
There he broke the flashing arrows,
    the shields and the swords, the weapons of war.[b]

You are radiant with light,
    more majestic than mountains rich with game.
The valiant lie plundered,
    they sleep their last sleep;
not one of the warriors
    can lift his hands.
At your rebuke, God of Jacob,
    both horse and chariot lie still.

It is you alone who are to be feared.
    Who can stand before you when you are angry?
From heaven you pronounced judgment,
    and the land feared and was quiet—
when you, God, rose up to judge,
    to save all the afflicted of the land.
10 Surely your wrath against mankind brings you praise,
    and the survivors of your wrath are restrained.[c]

11 Make vows to the Lord your God and fulfill them;
    let all the neighboring lands
    bring gifts to the One to be feared.
12 He breaks the spirit of rulers;
    he is feared by the kings of the earth.

2 October 2021

Matthew 8:23-27

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Prayer: Lord God, because without You we are not able to please You; mercifully grant that Your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

1 October 2021

Proverbs 23:1-3

When you sit to dine with a ruler,
    note well whata] is before you,
and put a knife to your throat
    if you are given to gluttony.
Do not crave his delicacies,
    for that food is deceptive.

These verses open a section that goes through verse 8, presenting the scenario of a person being brought into the circle of the higher class. It seems the teacher disapproves of enjoying good fortune. What he is really addressing is how moving up to a “higher” class or entering into an “inner ring” can blind us to realities that accompany this seemingly better life.

Why be so careful at the dinner table of a person of higher rank? For one thing, you are being watched and judged. However friendly the “ruler” might seem, however much he may seem to want you to feel at home, he is watching and judging your behavior. You are not sitting among old friends who accept you as you are. You are sitting among persons who are still determining if you are worthy of being with them. You have to strike a careful balance – showing due appreciation without getting too excited, appreciating good food without over indulging.

Another thing to be careful of is what will be expected of you afterwards. Once you accept the hospitality of the “ruler,” you are now in his debt. He may be expecting favors from you later. All the more, you need to watch that you do not over indulge in his generosity.

How good it is to sit at our Ruler’s table of the most precious food – the bread and the wine that represent the body and the blood of Jesus Christ. How good it is to know that there are no strings attached. At this table is where our Ruler communicates that we are fully accepted.

 

Psalm 75

We praise you, God,
    we praise you, for your Name is near;
    people tell of your wonderful deeds.

You say, “I choose the appointed time;
    it is I who judge with equity.
When the earth and all its people quake,
    it is I who hold its pillars firm.[b]
To the arrogant I say, ‘Boast no more,’
    and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up your horns.[c]
Do not lift your horns against heaven;
    do not speak so defiantly.’”

No one from the east or the west
    or from the desert can exalt themselves.
It is God who judges:
    He brings one down, he exalts another.
In the hand of the Lord is a cup
    full of foaming wine mixed with spices;
he pours it out, and all the wicked of the earth
    drink it down to its very dregs.

As for me, I will declare this forever;
    I will sing praise to the God of Jacob,
10 who says, “I will cut off the horns of all the wicked,
    but the horns of the righteous will be lifted up.”

30 September 2021

Proverbs 22:29

Do you see someone skilled in their work?
    They will serve before kings;
    they will not serve before officials of low rank.

Skill is admired. Whether it be skill with one’s hands and one’s mind; whether it be artistic work or that of the laborer, a person of skill is admired especially by his peers. It is they who will bring him before “kings” for recognition.

The skillful person not only has the skill but delights in using it. That is what separates him from others. Such delight compels him to perfect his craft. He is dedicated to his work because the very work itself (perhaps even more than the finished product) gives him pleasure. The tragedy for many persons of skill is letting the recognition of “kings” divert their attention to fame and thus lose their focus and pleasure in their work. They become more interested in being known for their skill than in exercising their skill.

The proverb is not dismissing recognition. It is presenting recognition as a reward for skill. But remember – it is the skill, not promotion that leads him before the kings. Keep attentive to what you do well. For some day you will stand before the King to present your work. Take pleasure in that work now; take joy in the ability given you now to serve your King.

 

Psalm 74

O God, why have you rejected us forever?
    Why does your anger smolder against the sheep of your pasture?
Remember the nation you purchased long ago,
    the people of your inheritance, whom you redeemed—
    Mount Zion, where you dwelt.
Turn your steps toward these everlasting ruins,
    all this destruction the enemy has brought on the sanctuary.

Your foes roared in the place where you met with us;
    they set up their standards as signs.
They behaved like men wielding axes
    to cut through a thicket of trees.
They smashed all the carved paneling
    with their axes and hatchets.
They burned your sanctuary to the ground;
    they defiled the dwelling place of your Name.
They said in their hearts, “We will crush them completely!”
    They burned every place where God was worshiped in the land.

We are given no signs from God;
    no prophets are left,
    and none of us knows how long this will be.
10 How long will the enemy mock you, God?
    Will the foe revile your name forever?
11 Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?
    Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them!

12 But God is my King from long ago;
    he brings salvation on the earth.

13 It was you who split open the sea by your power;
    you broke the heads of the monster in the waters.
14 It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan
    and gave it as food to the creatures of the desert.
15 It was you who opened up springs and streams;
    you dried up the ever-flowing rivers.
16 The day is yours, and yours also the night;
    you established the sun and moon.
17 It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth;
    you made both summer and winter.

18 Remember how the enemy has mocked you, Lord,
    how foolish people have reviled your name.
19 Do not hand over the life of your dove to wild beasts;
    do not forget the lives of your afflicted people forever.
20 Have regard for your covenant,
    because haunts of violence fill the dark places of the land.
21 Do not let the oppressed retreat in disgrace;
    may the poor and needy praise your name.
22 Rise up, O God, and defend your cause;
    remember how fools mock you all day long.
23 Do not ignore the clamor of your adversaries,
    the uproar of your enemies, which rises continually.

29 September 2021

Proverbs 22:28

Do not move an ancient boundary stone
    set up by your ancestors.

This refers to the property lines marking the property belonging to a family. Its application is that we are to honor all contracts and agreements made before us. We do not move property lines; we do not revise contracts – i.e. not without appropriate agreements. An appropriate agreement is not merely a legal one, but one in which we are assuring fairness for the other party.

It means that we take responsibility for the agreements that our fathers and grandfathers and great-grandfathers made. As citizens, we take responsibility for the agreements made by our government both past and present. So do we as members of a church. So do we as members of God’s kingdom.

Consider some of the ancient landmarks set by Christ – turn the other cheek, do unto others what you would have them do unto you, go the extra mile. Such agreements we inherited when we took our inheritance. We may not revise the lines; we may not add conditional clauses. As our fathers accepted these lines, so must we, knowing as they did the property awaiting us in heaven.

 

Psalm 73

Surely God is good to Israel,
    to those who are pure in heart.

But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
    I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant
    when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

They have no struggles;
    their bodies are healthy and strong.[a]
They are free from common human burdens;
    they are not plagued by human ills.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
    they clothe themselves with violence.
From their callous hearts comes iniquity[b];
    their evil imaginations have no limits.
They scoff, and speak with malice;
    with arrogance they threaten oppression.
Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
    and their tongues take possession of the earth.
10 Therefore their people turn to them
    and drink up waters in abundance.[c]
11 They say, “How would God know?
    Does the Most High know anything?”

12 This is what the wicked are like—
    always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.

13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
    and have washed my hands in innocence.
14 All day long I have been afflicted,
    and every morning brings new punishments.

15 If I had spoken out like that,
    I would have betrayed your children.
16 When I tried to understand all this,
    it troubled me deeply
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
    then I understood their final destiny.

18 Surely you place them on slippery ground;
    you cast them down to ruin.
19 How suddenly are they destroyed,
    completely swept away by terrors!
20 They are like a dream when one awakes;
    when you arise, Lord,
    you will despise them as fantasies.

21 When my heart was grieved
    and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant;
    I was a brute beast before you.

23 Yet I am always with you;
    you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever.

27 Those who are far from you will perish;
    you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
28 But as for me, it is good to be near God.
    I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
    I will tell of all your deeds.

28 September 2021

Proverbs 22:26-27

Do not be one who shakes hands in pledge
    or puts up security for debts;
27 if you lack the means to pay,
    your very bed will be snatched from under you.

The proverbs are quick to encourage generosity. They are also quick to discourage foolishness. It is generous to give and to give sacrificially. It is foolish to tie oneself to another man’s questionable ability to handle his money properly.

The very fact that a person needs another signer means something about him carries risk. Perhaps he simply has yet to build a credit history. Perhaps his credit history is poor. Perhaps he does not have sufficient equity to cover a loss. Whatever the case, there is risk. You should decide beforehand whether or not you can sufficiently cover the risk. If you decide that you can, you should already in your mind treat the co-signing as a gift given. If the other person comes through and you lose no money, then that is an added bonus.

Lending your name and property as security as a risk that you cannot afford, but that you do out of loyalty or guilt, helps no one. You put yourself in a worrisome position. Even should the other person come through, you meanwhile are anxious. If he does not come through, if he is late in coming through, there will be inevitable tension in your relationship and likely a break in it. Then there is the very real financial loss. If you are married and if you have children, your loss becomes theirs.

Again, it is not giving generously that is the issue here. It is committing to something that you have no control over – the ability of your neighbor making good on what he has committed to – that is the issue. Do not make commitments that, should they cause financial loss, you are not willing to accept such loss gracefully.

Remember, the Gospel is about giving treasure away. It is not about making loans that remain valuable to you and which will bring harm if not repaid.

 

Psalm 72

Endow the king with your justice, O God,
    the royal son with your righteousness.
May he judge your people in righteousness,
    your afflicted ones with justice.

May the mountains bring prosperity to the people,
    the hills the fruit of righteousness.
May he defend the afflicted among the people
    and save the children of the needy;
    may he crush the oppressor.
May he endure[a] as long as the sun,
    as long as the moon, through all generations.
May he be like rain falling on a mown field,
    like showers watering the earth.
In his days may the righteous flourish
    and prosperity abound till the moon is no more.

May he rule from sea to sea
    and from the River[b] to the ends of the earth.
May the desert tribes bow before him
    and his enemies lick the dust.
10 May the kings of Tarshish and of distant shores
    bring tribute to him.
May the kings of Sheba and Seba
    present him gifts.
11 May all kings bow down to him
    and all nations serve him.

12 For he will deliver the needy who cry out,
    the afflicted who have no one to help.
13 He will take pity on the weak and the needy
    and save the needy from death.
14 He will rescue them from oppression and violence,
    for precious is their blood in his sight.

15 Long may he live!
    May gold from Sheba be given him.
May people ever pray for him
    and bless him all day long.
16 May grain abound throughout the land;
    on the tops of the hills may it sway.
May the crops flourish like Lebanon
    and thrive[c] like the grass of the field.
17 May his name endure forever;
    may it continue as long as the sun.

Then all nations will be blessed through him,[d]
    and they will call him blessed.

18 Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel,
    who alone does marvelous deeds.
19 Praise be to his glorious name forever;
    may the whole earth be filled with his glory.
Amen and Amen.

20 This concludes the prayers of David son of Jesse.