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

21 December 2021

Proverbs 26:9

Like a thornbush in a drunkard’s hand
    is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.

Whether we visualize a thorn pressing into the hand of a drunkard or of a drunkard wielding a thorn branch, the reaction is “Ouch!” So is the reaction of hearing a fool speak a proverb. What comes out of a wise person’s mouth sounding profound and noble comes out like the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard from a fool’s mouth.

Why is this? For one, the fool obviously does not keep the proverb and so the irony is felt. The fool is not quite like the hypocrite who knows that he does not live what he preaches. The fool thinks he is wise. He thinks he truly models the proverb he speaks. He would agree with all the previous proverbs of this chapter, hoping that fools would heed them.

Another reason for the “pain” of hearing a fool speak a proverb is that he invariably misapplies it. He is like the sluggard who delights in quoting Jesus’ remark not to worry about tomorrow, or like the greedy person quoting Jesus, “Ask, and it will be given to you.” It is such abuse of wise teachings that is painful to hear.

Let us then be careful ourselves when we quote Scripture. It is better to have nothing to say than to take God’s truth and turn it into a false teaching.

 

Psalm 132

Lord, remember David
    and all his self-denial.

He swore an oath to the Lord,
    he made a vow to the Mighty One of Jacob:
“I will not enter my house
    or go to my bed,
I will allow no sleep to my eyes
    or slumber to my eyelids,
till I find a place for the Lord,
    a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.”

We heard it in Ephrathah,
    we came upon it in the fields of Jaar:[a]
“Let us go to his dwelling place,
    let us worship at his footstool, saying,
‘Arise, Lord, and come to your resting place,
    you and the ark of your might.
May your priests be clothed with your righteousness;
    may your faithful people sing for joy.’”

10 For the sake of your servant David,
    do not reject your anointed one.

11 The Lord swore an oath to David,
    a sure oath he will not revoke:
“One of your own descendants
    I will place on your throne.
12 If your sons keep my covenant
    and the statutes I teach them,
then their sons will sit
    on your throne for ever and ever.”

13 For the Lord has chosen Zion,
    he has desired it for his dwelling, saying,
14 “This is my resting place for ever and ever;
    here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it.
15 I will bless her with abundant provisions;
    her poor I will satisfy with food.
16 I will clothe her priests with salvation,
    and her faithful people will ever sing for joy.

17 “Here I will make a horn[b] grow for David
    and set up a lamp for my anointed one.
18 I will clothe his enemies with shame,
    but his head will be adorned with a radiant crown.”

20 December 2021

Proverbs 26:8

Like tying a stone in a sling
    is the giving of honor to a fool.

It is of no purpose to bind a stone in a sling. The very purpose of a sling is to hurl a stone. It makes no sense. Nor does it make sense to honor a fool, at least not to honor him for his very foolishness.

We live in a society that seems to make a point of honoring fools. Making outrageous, offensive remarks or performing the same sort of stunts earns accolades. Our society confuses offensive and foolish behavior with freedom and creativity. The clown is upheld for making his mark.

Society plays the fool just as the person who binds the stone in the sling. Gaining attention is the honor a fool most craves. It makes little difference whether the givers sincerely honor him or think they are having the last laugh. They play into the fool’s hands.

Understand this principle the next time you are tempted to respond to foolish behavior or speech. The media thrives on controversy. Of greater importance than being respected is to garner attention, and no threat is greater to its wellbeing than to be ignored. The same is true of all fools. You may honor or mock them; what they fear most of all is being ignored.

 

Psalm 131

My heart is not proud, Lord,
    my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
    or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
    I am like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child I am content.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord
    both now and forevermore.

18 December 2021

Luke 2:1-20

 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Prayer: Raise up Your great power, Lord, and come among us to save us; that, although through our sins we are handicapped in running the race that is set before us, Your plentiful grace and mercy may help and deliver us; through the sufficiency of Your Son our Lord, to whom with You and the Holy Spirit be honour and glory, now and for ever. Amen. 

17 December 2021

Proverbs 26:7

Like the useless legs of one who is lame
    is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.

Like a man given a tool for which he has neither knowledge nor skill to use, so is the rational proverb for a fool. He does not know what to do with the knowledge. Indeed, he is likely to twist the proverb to mean the opposite of what it teaches. The problem of the fool is not that he is rebellious and refuses to learn, but that he is delusional about truth. He cannot see what others so clearly see.

Why he is that way is another matter. Some are born with mental deficiencies and cannot process accurately the world around them. Others are made foolish. They are raised in ignorance and taught wrongly. Then others make themselves foolish by rejecting submission to God. As Romans 1:21 states, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

What then can be done for such fools? Foremost is to pray for them. Ultimately, it is not their minds that need educating, but their hearts that need transformation. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. But we are to use discernment in communicating with them. That includes knowing when not to speak. It includes processing what the fool is able to handle and thinking through how to communicate. Simply speaking the truth may not be the answer. Sometimes you may have to speak “according to his folly”; at other times you may need to speak sternly against his folly.

The bottom line is to avoid the mistake of the fool which is to speak without thinking clearly. You need to be in control of your heart and mind; you need to be observant. You need to let the proverb you have learned to settle in your soul, so that you are not merely passing on a proverb but letting it pass through you.

 

Psalm 130

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
    Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
    to my cry for mercy.

If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
    Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
    so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
    for with the Lord is unfailing love
    and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
    from all their sins.

16 December 2021

Proverbs 26:6

Sending a message by the hands of a fool
    is like cutting off one’s feet or drinking poison.

This is graphic imagery, to say the least. It gives a clue about the message. This is not a message about remembering to take the shirts by the cleaners. It is of great import. Perhaps it is a message to an enemy about reconciliation. Perhaps two friends are at odds, and one friend is sending a message confessing his sin. Perhaps the message is from a military officer to another, giving vital news about the enemy’s position, or of one general trying to set terms for surrender to another general.

The list, of course, can go on. The point is that the import of a message is not to be entrusted to someone known to be foolish. He may lose the message. He may distort the message. He may arrive too late. He has earned a reputation for not being trustworthy. The fool never understands this. It does not occur to him that he has established such a pattern. He is eager to volunteer for the job without thinking of how to carry out the job or what the consequences may be. And as such, he is most dangerous.

It was through trustworthy men that God sent his own messages. It was through the most trustworthy of all that he sent his greatest message. Indeed, the Messenger was the Message. Ironically, he was regarded the fool. Just as ironically, this Messenger would send out his own messengers with the same valuable Message, and they also would be regarded as fools, even as we today are so regarded.

 

Psalm 129

“They have greatly oppressed me from my youth,”
    let Israel say;
“they have greatly oppressed me from my youth,
    but they have not gained the victory over me.
Plowmen have plowed my back
    and made their furrows long.
But the Lord is righteous;
    he has cut me free from the cords of the wicked.”

May all who hate Zion
    be turned back in shame.
May they be like grass on the roof,
    which withers before it can grow;
a reaper cannot fill his hands with it,
    nor one who gathers fill his arms.
May those who pass by not say to them,
    “The blessing of the Lord be on you;
    we bless you in the name of the Lord.”

15 December 2021

Proverbs 26:4-5

Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
    or you yourself will be just like him.
Answer a fool according to his folly,
    or he will be wise in his own eyes.

Here are two proverbs side by side contradicting each other. Which is correct? Both, depending upon the situation. When the proverb says, “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself,” it means do not lose your own wit because a fool got under your skin and caused you to act irrationally. The second proverb is speaking of keeping your wit and thinking through how to answer the fool. Sometimes it may be to the advantage to use the terms and rationale of the fool (for in his mind he is being rational) to lead him to reason.

The Apostle Paul keeps his wit and uses two different tactics in speaking to the Corinthians. Here were Christians foolishly puffed up by their spiritual gifts. They thought the manifestation of gifts meant they had arrived spiritually, literally. They were wise above all others, including Paul.

How does Paul address their delusion? He first denounces their folly by reminding them where they came from, declaring that the gospel of the cross is folly to the world that true believers must accept, and that such a folly of the cross is what he declares to be true wisdom (1 Corinthian 1:17ff). In his second letter, in response to the Corinthians continuing to pit “super-apostles” against him, he compares himself favorably against them (2 Corinthians 11:11ff). He is embarrassed even as he does so, but he believes it is necessary to use their terms to show their foolishness.

Paul uses discernment to advance his arguments, sometimes directly denouncing folly, sometimes even using folly to denounce folly! The mark of the real fool is that he has no discernment and thus blunders with his speech. The wise person turns even the speech of a fool into a tool for teaching.

 

Psalm 128

Blessed are all who fear the Lord,
    who walk in obedience to him.
You will eat the fruit of your labor;
    blessings and prosperity will be yours.
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
    within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
    around your table.
Yes, this will be the blessing
    for the man who fears the Lord.

May the Lord bless you from Zion;
    may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
    all the days of your life.
May you live to see your children’s children—
    peace be on Israel.

14 December 2021

Proverbs 26:3

A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey,
    and a rod for the backs of fools!

What do all three have in common? They need physical force to do what is needed. It is of no good to reason with a horse or a donkey about the direction it should take. Likewise, a fool does not listen to reason. He needs to be prodded. In particular, he needs to be disciplined in order to act the right way.

The fool is not necessarily wicked, nor even rebellious. He is, well…foolish. He does not recognize the signals that everyone else sees, and so he acts foolishly in front of others. He thinks he is being suave when he is really making a monkey of himself. He thinks he is especially discerning when he is most delusional. Subtle suggestions do not register with him. Even direct statements have little effect because he thinks you are the one who doesn’t get it. Thus, discipline comes in. He is rewarded when he does right, and punished when he does wrong. Hopefully in time he will, through enforcing right behavior, learn to do what is right.

And so God patiently disciplines us. Each day we act foolishly. Each day he disciplines. Each day we go our own way. Each day he pushes us in the right way or cuts off our stray paths to get us back on the right one. “Why, why?” we keep asking, like the fool who does not understand why he must be disciplined. “Can’t God see?” we ask, like the fool who wonders why no one sees what he can so easily see.

 

Psalm 127

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise early
    and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
    for he grants sleep to[a] those he loves.

Children are a heritage from the Lord,
    offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
    are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
    whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
    when they contend with their opponents in court.

13 December 2021

Proverbs 26:2

Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow,
    an undeserved curse does not come to rest.

Picture the small birds flitting about – up and down, back and forth, quickly darting from one direction to the next. So is the curse sent out without valid cause. It does not harm the intended victim. Thus, we should not superstitiously fear the curse of anyone sent our way. In particular we are not to fear the curse of Satan who certainly does desire our damnation. Remember who is your Advocate, Christ Jesus himself. Remember in whose hands you belong – God the Father. Remember who inhabits you – the Holy Spirit.

Nor then are we to blame our troubles on the curse of another. The troubles we face in life are mostly of our own making. We need to own up to that. Much of the troubles we face are those common to everyone else. We have not been singled out. The one curse that we can say with certainty has hit us directly is the curse of the Fall, making us sinners and the victims of sin. We don’t need “special curses” to make life troubled. This one curse is enough to do the job.

Be thankful today and filled with awe, meditating upon our Lord who deserved no curse, yet took the Curse of the Fall upon himself, experiencing its full condemnation. Curses aimed at us may dart about missing us because he took the direct hit.

 

Psalm 126

When the Lord restored the fortunes of[a] Zion,
    we were like those who dreamed.[b]
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
    our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
    “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
    and we are filled with joy.

Restore our fortunes,[c] Lord,
    like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow with tears
    will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
    carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
    carrying sheaves with them.

11 December 2021

Luke 1:26-56

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be calledb] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Mary Visits Elizabeth

39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

Mary’s Song

46 And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”

56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

 

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, at Your first coming You sent Your messenger to prepare the way before You: grant that the ministers and stewards of Your faith may likewise make ready Your way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the ways of righteousness, that at Your second coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people in Your sight; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen. 

10 December 2021

Proverbs 26:1

Like snow in summer or rain in harvest,
    honor is not fitting for a fool.

There is a season for everything but never honor for a fool. Perhaps a society can be best understood accordingly. Who receives adoration and for what purpose? Consider a society that rates individuality above all other traits. What is more likely to set apart a person’s “individuality” than foolish behavior? In sports it is the “bad boy” who wins fame through his notoriety; likewise in entertainment. For that matter, so it happens in every strata of life. The fool gets his share of disapproval, but he gets with it an equal or greater share of praise from adoring fans who not merely excuse his behavior, but praise him precisely for it.

All the more reason then to praise the wise, to praise the good, to praise those persons least likely to garner attention. All the more reason to praise our Lord, the epitome of all that is good, wise, and holy. Especially praise him for the last quality, as well as any who bear such a mark. Holiness is distained by the world, unless the world first distorts the trait to its own liking. Praise those whom the world distains as prudish, as fanatical, as intolerant. Remember, we who follow the world will be counted as foolish. If our faith is counted as reasonable, even exemplary, to the world, then it is time to examine our hearts to see if we have not slipped into foolishness.

 

Psalm 125

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
    which cannot be shaken but endures forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
    so the Lord surrounds his people
    both now and forevermore.

The scepter of the wicked will not remain
    over the land allotted to the righteous,
for then the righteous might use
    their hands to do evil.

Lord, do good to those who are good,
    to those who are upright in heart.
But those who turn to crooked ways
    the Lord will banish with the evildoers.

Peace be on Israel.

9 December 2021

Proverbs 25:28

Like a city whose walls are broken through
    is a person who lacks self-control.

Lack of self-control renders a person defenseless. It is self-control that allows him to keep his wits about him. Self-control gives him the discernment to know what to do and what to say. Lack of self-control gives him over to his emotions so that he acts blindly and exposes his vulnerable side. Lack of self-control leads him to actions that will result in retribution or injury.

We blame our lack of self-control on outside forces – on another person who enraged us or on circumstances that were impossible to deal with. But the very term “self-control” belies the cause being outside. Our problem is not with being unable to control outside forces but the inside force of our hearts.

The sad truth is that we cannot fully control our hearts. Some of us are more successful than others in controlling our expressions; some of us have learned patience. But the kind of self-control needed to guard our sinful passions is not ours to claim. We must look to the Holy Spirit to guard our hearts. We must pray daily to the Lord to keep us from straying. Good intentions will not give us the self-control needed. Only the transforming power of the Holy Spirit can do that kind of work.

Pray today for self-control. You don’t know what will happen, and it is certain that your Adversary will try to bring out your sinful passions. Pray for protection by the Holy Spirit and that he will give to you the strength at the time needed to exercise control and to turn what could have been meant for evil into something that brought about good.

 

Psalm 124

If the Lord had not been on our side—
    let Israel say—
if the Lord had not been on our side
    when people attacked us,
they would have swallowed us alive
    when their anger flared against us;
the flood would have engulfed us,
    the torrent would have swept over us,
the raging waters
    would have swept us away.

Praise be to the Lord,
    who has not let us be torn by their teeth.
We have escaped like a bird
    from the fowler’s snare;
the snare has been broken,
    and we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

8 December 2021

Proverbs 25:27

It is not good to eat too much honey,
    nor is it honorable to search out matters that are too deep.

Like Winnie the Pooh who ends up too fat and a sticky mess from eating much honey, so is the person who seeks his own glory – his ego becomes bloated and his life becomes a mess. Unlike Pooh who has friends to help him, the vain-glorious person loses his friends.

People obtain glory not because of seeking glory itself but out of striving for a noble cause or a far-reaching goal. Those who do strive for glory itself and have the misfortune of obtaining it will experience the devastation of finding such glory a small and bitter possession. It is the deed itself that is fulfilling; it is the competition itself that exhilarates. And should one obtain recognition for one’s accomplishments, it will still be remembering the deed itself that will be the reward. The Super Bowl quarterback looks back not on the act of receiving the trophy but of throwing the touchdown pass.

Take delight in what you are doing, not in the recognition you hope to receive. By doing so, you will find pleasure each day, and you are likely to get the added benefit of being recognized. The glory is more likely to come to those whose attention is on the present – on what they are doing now. So it is for us in serving our Lord. Focus on the service you are given the privilege to do. Delight in what he permits you to do for his glory. What will come, and often when you least expect it, is the glory of being recognized for your service. And ultimately you will receive the everlasting glory when your Lord returns. Let that knowledge take you through the times of feeling under appreciated. Your time will come when the Lord himself will acknowledge you. If you want the hours and days and weeks to pass more quickly until that time, then focus on the joy of serving now. Lose yourself in the present deed and the time for glory will quickly and suddenly come.

 

Psalm 123

I lift up my eyes to you,
    to you who sit enthroned in heaven.
As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master,
    as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
    till he shows us his mercy.

Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us,
    for we have endured no end of contempt.
We have endured no end
    of ridicule from the arrogant,
    of contempt from the proud.

7 December 2021

Proverbs 25:26

Like a muddied spring or a polluted well
    are the righteous who give way to the wicked.

You are hot and thirsty. You hear the splashing of water; you look ahead and see the fountain. Eager to splash the water on your face and drink, you run up to it only to find it polluted. The disappointment is great. What held such promise has proven to be false. So it is with the righteous who give in to wickedness, who compromise with the wicked.

We know what to expect from a mud hole. It is the fountain, the spring that had held out hope to us and then dashed our expectations. All the more reason then for us, who are righteous in Christ, to strive to be the spring of fresh water for our neighbors. They see in us the Spirit of Christ. They hear us speak of the Living Water of the gospel and testify that we drink of it and that it has made all the difference in us. Then we need to remain true.

We may not use the excuse of our unbelieving neighbors. We cannot excuse bad behavior on being tired or having a bad day. We cannot “get even” when harmed. We cannot retaliate. We cannot appeal to what anyone or anything has done to us as an excuse for our muddy behavior. For we are to be springs of water to the thirsty and fountains for the weary. If they come to us and find us polluted in their time of need, then we muddy the very gospel we boast of.

Because you do not know what this day will hold and who will be watching and needing you to be fresh water, pray for the Spirit to keep you clean throughout this day. Many are weary and thirsty, and it may very well be you they look to for the Living Water.

 

Psalm 122

I rejoiced with those who said to me,
    “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
Our feet are standing
    in your gates, Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is built like a city
    that is closely compacted together.
That is where the tribes go up—
    the tribes of the Lord
to praise the name of the Lord
    according to the statute given to Israel.
There stand the thrones for judgment,
    the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
    “May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
    and security within your citadels.”
For the sake of my family and friends,
    I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
    I will seek your prosperity.

6 December 2021

Proverbs 25:25

Like cold water to a weary soul
    is good news from a distant land.

The letter or email or the phone call from a loved one or about a loved one – that good news from a “far country” is indeed like cold water to a thirsty soul. Sometimes we don’t realize how thirsty we were until we get the communication.

What news do you have and to whom? To whom can you give a cup of cold water? Is there someone you can take time today to write or email or phone and give the good news of your greeting? Pray now about this. Ask the Lord to place someone on your heart now and determine to send your good news.

Or maybe your recipient is your neighbor with whom you have communicated very little. You can live close to someone and yet be at a distance. Perhaps today is the day of sending good news of your friendship.

Maybe the recipient needs to be a loved one in your own house who needs to hear the good news of your love, and you are unaware of how distant you have been.

Perhaps the good news you need to be sending is the good news of the gospel. Is there someone you have withheld it from? Is there someone who needs to hear your story? For we are the recipients of good news from a far country. Our Lord left heaven and traveled to us to deliver the good news of salvation. He has sent the Holy Spirit to us to carry this news into our hearts, and it indeed has refreshed us. Let us also determine to be messengers of such good news.

 

Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

4 December 2021

Luke 1:5-25 & 57-66

 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.

Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”


When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.

59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”

61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”

62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.

Prayer: Blessed Lord, You have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn and absorb them, that, encouraged and supported by Your holy Word, we may clasp and not let go the joyful hope of everlasting life, which You have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen. 

3 December 2021

Proverbs 25:24

Better to live on a corner of the roof
    than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.

Some wives are quarrelsome by temperament. They are quick to find fault in anyone. Their husbands have the unfortunate position of being the closest target. Other wives grow quarrelsome out of unfulfilled expectations. The men they expected to be wise, loving, and godly husbands fail to meet those expectations. And so they begin to complain.

Whatever the situation, the reality is that complaining is not effective. A husband is not reinvigorated to repair the house or to lead family devotions because he has been berated. What then for the wife? First, the wife needs to examine herself. Is she doing her job of being a helpmeet who encourages and supports her husband? Secondly, she needs to examine what really bothers her. Is she primarily concerned for the welfare of her husband and his relationship with God, or is she primarily put out that he is not fulfilling her personal expectations? Thirdly, she needs to examine her own relationship with God. Like Martha who was impatient with Jesus for not making Mary help her, so it is easy to become impatient with God for not making one’s husband more responsive. Fourthly, she needs to exercise wisdom. Many proverbs, such as verses 11-15 in the same chapter, teach the necessity of speaking “fitly” so as to be effective. And the consistent theme is that it is the “soft” speech that is more likely to get the result intended.

The quarrelsome tongue drives away; the soft tongue draws near. The berating tongue steels the resolve of the other not to change; the soft tongue will break through that resolve. But the key is patience. Will you, can you patiently win over your husband?

 

Psalm 120

I call on the Lord in my distress,
    and he answers me.
Save me, Lord,
    from lying lips
    and from deceitful tongues.

What will he do to you,
    and what more besides,
    you deceitful tongue?
He will punish you with a warrior’s sharp arrows,
    with burning coals of the broom bush.

Woe to me that I dwell in Meshek,
    that I live among the tents of Kedar!
Too long have I lived
    among those who hate peace.
I am for peace;
    but when I speak, they are for war.

2 December 2021

Proverbs 25:23

Like a north wind that brings unexpected rain
    is a sly tongue—which provokes a horrified look.

The backbiting tongue is the tongue that speaks behind another person’s back. It is the negative remark, the insinuating comment that inevitably reaches the ears of the subject, striking him in the way that the north wind strikes with cold, biting rain.

Such a tongue is easy to wield, so easy we are unaware that we are guilty of speaking in such a way. A quick comment to another person, maybe in terms of a joke – however it is done, the word gets back to the subject of the remark, who responds with “angry looks.”

It is possible for someone to be over-easily offended, but you need to ask yourself if there is a pattern of people getting offended with you. If you periodically get angry looks or angry remarks, perhaps the problem is not that you are around overly sensitive people, but you are unnecessarily offending.

Again, the backbiting tongue is not so much a calculating tongue. The offender is not so much trying to be offensive, as he is letting his natural reactions be made known. The backbiter does not exercise control over his tongue. Well, actually he does exercise enough control to save his comment for a third party. But he feels he must tell someone, like a person having to hold his breath until he can get outside; he “has” to let it out.

If you must let it out, then let out your thoughts to God. Then be willing to listen to what God has to say. You might get angry looks back from him, but at least they will be for your chastisement.

 

Psalm 119

Blessed are those whose ways are blameless,
    who walk according to the law of the Lord.
Blessed are those who keep his statutes
    and seek him with all their heart—
they do no wrong
    but follow his ways.
You have laid down precepts
    that are to be fully obeyed.
Oh, that my ways were steadfast
    in obeying your decrees!
Then I would not be put to shame
    when I consider all your commands.
I will praise you with an upright heart
    as I learn your righteous laws.
I will obey your decrees;
    do not utterly forsake me.

ב Beth

How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
    By living according to your word.
10 I seek you with all my heart;
    do not let me stray from your commands.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart
    that I might not sin against you.
12 Praise be to you, Lord;
    teach me your decrees.
13 With my lips I recount
    all the laws that come from your mouth.
14 I rejoice in following your statutes
    as one rejoices in great riches.
15 I meditate on your precepts
    and consider your ways.
16 I delight in your decrees;
    I will not neglect your word.

ג Gimel

17 Be good to your servant while I live,
    that I may obey your word.
18 Open my eyes that I may see
    wonderful things in your law.
19 I am a stranger on earth;
    do not hide your commands from me.
20 My soul is consumed with longing
    for your laws at all times.
21 You rebuke the arrogant, who are accursed,
    those who stray from your commands.
22 Remove from me their scorn and contempt,
    for I keep your statutes.
23 Though rulers sit together and slander me,
    your servant will meditate on your decrees.
24 Your statutes are my delight;
    they are my counselors.

ד Daleth

25 I am laid low in the dust;
    preserve my life according to your word.
26 I gave an account of my ways and you answered me;
    teach me your decrees.
27 Cause me to understand the way of your precepts,
    that I may meditate on your wonderful deeds.
28 My soul is weary with sorrow;
    strengthen me according to your word.
29 Keep me from deceitful ways;
    be gracious to me and teach me your law.
30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
    I have set my heart on your laws.
31 I hold fast to your statutes, Lord;
    do not let me be put to shame.
32 I run in the path of your commands,
    for you have broadened my understanding.

ה He

33 Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees,
    that I may follow it to the end.[b]
34 Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law
    and obey it with all my heart.
35 Direct me in the path of your commands,
    for there I find delight.
36 Turn my heart toward your statutes
    and not toward selfish gain.
37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
    preserve my life according to your word.[c]
38 Fulfill your promise to your servant,
    so that you may be feared.
39 Take away the disgrace I dread,
    for your laws are good.
40 How I long for your precepts!
    In your righteousness preserve my life.

ו Waw

41 May your unfailing love come to me, Lord,
    your salvation, according to your promise;
42 then I can answer anyone who taunts me,
    for I trust in your word.
43 Never take your word of truth from my mouth,
    for I have put my hope in your laws.
44 I will always obey your law,
    for ever and ever.
45 I will walk about in freedom,
    for I have sought out your precepts.
46 I will speak of your statutes before kings
    and will not be put to shame,
47 for I delight in your commands
    because I love them.
48 I reach out for your commands, which I love,
    that I may meditate on your decrees.

ז Zayin

49 Remember your word to your servant,
    for you have given me hope.
50 My comfort in my suffering is this:
    Your promise preserves my life.
51 The arrogant mock me unmercifully,
    but I do not turn from your law.
52 I remember, Lord, your ancient laws,
    and I find comfort in them.
53 Indignation grips me because of the wicked,
    who have forsaken your law.
54 Your decrees are the theme of my song
    wherever I lodge.
55 In the night, Lord, I remember your name,
    that I may keep your law.
56 This has been my practice:
    I obey your precepts.

ח Heth

57 You are my portion, Lord;
    I have promised to obey your words.
58 I have sought your face with all my heart;
    be gracious to me according to your promise.
59 I have considered my ways
    and have turned my steps to your statutes.
60 I will hasten and not delay
    to obey your commands.
61 Though the wicked bind me with ropes,
    I will not forget your law.
62 At midnight I rise to give you thanks
    for your righteous laws.
63 I am a friend to all who fear you,
    to all who follow your precepts.
64 The earth is filled with your love, Lord;
    teach me your decrees.

ט Teth

65 Do good to your servant
    according to your word, Lord.
66 Teach me knowledge and good judgment,
    for I trust your commands.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray,
    but now I obey your word.
68 You are good, and what you do is good;
    teach me your decrees.
69 Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies,
    I keep your precepts with all my heart.
70 Their hearts are callous and unfeeling,
    but I delight in your law.
71 It was good for me to be afflicted
    so that I might learn your decrees.
72 The law from your mouth is more precious to me
    than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.

י Yodh

73 Your hands made me and formed me;
    give me understanding to learn your commands.
74 May those who fear you rejoice when they see me,
    for I have put my hope in your word.
75 I know, Lord, that your laws are righteous,
    and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
76 May your unfailing love be my comfort,
    according to your promise to your servant.
77 Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
    for your law is my delight.
78 May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause;
    but I will meditate on your precepts.
79 May those who fear you turn to me,
    those who understand your statutes.
80 May I wholeheartedly follow your decrees,
    that I may not be put to shame.

כ Kaph

81 My soul faints with longing for your salvation,
    but I have put my hope in your word.
82 My eyes fail, looking for your promise;
    I say, “When will you comfort me?”
83 Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke,
    I do not forget your decrees.
84 How long must your servant wait?
    When will you punish my persecutors?
85 The arrogant dig pits to trap me,
    contrary to your law.
86 All your commands are trustworthy;
    help me, for I am being persecuted without cause.
87 They almost wiped me from the earth,
    but I have not forsaken your precepts.
88 In your unfailing love preserve my life,
    that I may obey the statutes of your mouth.

ל Lamedh

89 Your word, Lord, is eternal;
    it stands firm in the heavens.
90 Your faithfulness continues through all generations;
    you established the earth, and it endures.
91 Your laws endure to this day,
    for all things serve you.
92 If your law had not been my delight,
    I would have perished in my affliction.
93 I will never forget your precepts,
    for by them you have preserved my life.
94 Save me, for I am yours;
    I have sought out your precepts.
95 The wicked are waiting to destroy me,
    but I will ponder your statutes.
96 To all perfection I see a limit,
    but your commands are boundless.

מ Mem

97 Oh, how I love your law!
    I meditate on it all day long.
98 Your commands are always with me
    and make me wiser than my enemies.
99 I have more insight than all my teachers,
    for I meditate on your statutes.
100 I have more understanding than the elders,
    for I obey your precepts.
101 I have kept my feet from every evil path
    so that I might obey your word.
102 I have not departed from your laws,
    for you yourself have taught me.
103 How sweet are your words to my taste,
    sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 I gain understanding from your precepts;
    therefore I hate every wrong path.

נ Nun

105 Your word is a lamp for my feet,
    a light on my path.
106 I have taken an oath and confirmed it,
    that I will follow your righteous laws.
107 I have suffered much;
    preserve my life, Lord, according to your word.
108 Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth,
    and teach me your laws.
109 Though I constantly take my life in my hands,
    I will not forget your law.
110 The wicked have set a snare for me,
    but I have not strayed from your precepts.
111 Your statutes are my heritage forever;
    they are the joy of my heart.
112 My heart is set on keeping your decrees
    to the very end.[d]

ס Samekh

113 I hate double-minded people,
    but I love your law.
114 You are my refuge and my shield;
    I have put my hope in your word.
115 Away from me, you evildoers,
    that I may keep the commands of my God!
116 Sustain me, my God, according to your promise, and I will live;
    do not let my hopes be dashed.
117 Uphold me, and I will be delivered;
    I will always have regard for your decrees.
118 You reject all who stray from your decrees,
    for their delusions come to nothing.
119 All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross;
    therefore I love your statutes.
120 My flesh trembles in fear of you;
    I stand in awe of your laws.

ע Ayin

121 I have done what is righteous and just;
    do not leave me to my oppressors.
122 Ensure your servant’s well-being;
    do not let the arrogant oppress me.
123 My eyes fail, looking for your salvation,
    looking for your righteous promise.
124 Deal with your servant according to your love
    and teach me your decrees.
125 I am your servant; give me discernment
    that I may understand your statutes.
126 It is time for you to act, Lord;
    your law is being broken.
127 Because I love your commands
    more than gold, more than pure gold,
128 and because I consider all your precepts right,
    I hate every wrong path.

פ Pe

129 Your statutes are wonderful;
    therefore I obey them.
130 The unfolding of your words gives light;
    it gives understanding to the simple.
131 I open my mouth and pant,
    longing for your commands.
132 Turn to me and have mercy on me,
    as you always do to those who love your name.
133 Direct my footsteps according to your word;
    let no sin rule over me.
134 Redeem me from human oppression,
    that I may obey your precepts.
135 Make your face shine on your servant
    and teach me your decrees.
136 Streams of tears flow from my eyes,
    for your law is not obeyed.

צ Tsadhe

137 You are righteous, Lord,
    and your laws are right.
138 The statutes you have laid down are righteous;
    they are fully trustworthy.
139 My zeal wears me out,
    for my enemies ignore your words.
140 Your promises have been thoroughly tested,
    and your servant loves them.
141 Though I am lowly and despised,
    I do not forget your precepts.
142 Your righteousness is everlasting
    and your law is true.
143 Trouble and distress have come upon me,
    but your commands give me delight.
144 Your statutes are always righteous;
    give me understanding that I may live.

ק Qoph

145 I call with all my heart; answer me, Lord,
    and I will obey your decrees.
146 I call out to you; save me
    and I will keep your statutes.
147 I rise before dawn and cry for help;
    I have put my hope in your word.
148 My eyes stay open through the watches of the night,
    that I may meditate on your promises.
149 Hear my voice in accordance with your love;
    preserve my life, Lord, according to your laws.
150 Those who devise wicked schemes are near,
    but they are far from your law.
151 Yet you are near, Lord,
    and all your commands are true.
152 Long ago I learned from your statutes
    that you established them to last forever.

ר Resh

153 Look on my suffering and deliver me,
    for I have not forgotten your law.
154 Defend my cause and redeem me;
    preserve my life according to your promise.
155 Salvation is far from the wicked,
    for they do not seek out your decrees.
156 Your compassion, Lord, is great;
    preserve my life according to your laws.
157 Many are the foes who persecute me,
    but I have not turned from your statutes.
158 I look on the faithless with loathing,
    for they do not obey your word.
159 See how I love your precepts;
    preserve my life, Lord, in accordance with your love.
160 All your words are true;
    all your righteous laws are eternal.

ש Sin and Shin

161 Rulers persecute me without cause,
    but my heart trembles at your word.
162 I rejoice in your promise
    like one who finds great spoil.
163 I hate and detest falsehood
    but I love your law.
164 Seven times a day I praise you
    for your righteous laws.
165 Great peace have those who love your law,
    and nothing can make them stumble.
166 I wait for your salvation, Lord,
    and I follow your commands.
167 I obey your statutes,
    for I love them greatly.
168 I obey your precepts and your statutes,
    for all my ways are known to you.

ת Taw

169 May my cry come before you, Lord;
    give me understanding according to your word.
170 May my supplication come before you;
    deliver me according to your promise.
171 May my lips overflow with praise,
    for you teach me your decrees.
172 May my tongue sing of your word,
    for all your commands are righteous.
173 May your hand be ready to help me,
    for I have chosen your precepts.
174 I long for your salvation, Lord,
    and your law gives me delight.
175 Let me live that I may praise you,
    and may your laws sustain me.
176 I have strayed like a lost sheep.
    Seek your servant,
    for I have not forgotten your commands.

1 December 2021

Proverbs 25:21-22

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
    if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
22 In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head,
    and the Lord will reward you.

Here is the Apostle Paul’s application:

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them… Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:14-21).

Our goal in all circumstances is to glorify God. When we are ill-treated, our thought should be to glorify God. How do we do so? We bless those who treat us ill. We pray for them. We do good deeds for them.

Our good deeds are likely to have a positive impact, causing our “enemy” to repent of his bad behavior and change his ways toward us. He will feel our good deeds as burning coals of shame. “But what if he does not change?” That is the Lord’s concern. He is the judge of hearts and the changer of hearts. He will see that justice is carried out, whether or not he allows us to see how that justice is played out.

We flock to Rambo style movies where the “good” hero gets vengeance through violence. Our model for vengeance is to overcome evil with good. As Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45).

Jesus, not Rambo, is our model, thank goodness. For he overcame our evil with his good. His “burning coals” on our head changed our hearts. And we who were his enemies became his brothers and sisters.

 

Psalm 118

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.

Let Israel say:
    “His love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say:
    “His love endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord say:
    “His love endures forever.”

When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord;
    he brought me into a spacious place.
The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?
The Lord is with me; he is my helper.
    I look in triumph on my enemies.

It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in humans.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in princes.
10 All the nations surrounded me,
    but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
11 They surrounded me on every side,
    but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
12 They swarmed around me like bees,
    but they were consumed as quickly as burning thorns;
    in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
13 I was pushed back and about to fall,
    but the Lord helped me.
14 The Lord is my strength and my defense[a];
    he has become my salvation.

15 Shouts of joy and victory
    resound in the tents of the righteous:
“The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!
16     The Lord’s right hand is lifted high;
    the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!”
17 I will not die but live,
    and will proclaim what the Lord has done.
18 The Lord has chastened me severely,
    but he has not given me over to death.
19 Open for me the gates of the righteous;
    I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord
    through which the righteous may enter.
21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
    you have become my salvation.

22 The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
23 the Lord has done this,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 The Lord has done it this very day;
    let us rejoice today and be glad.

25 Lord, save us!
    Lord, grant us success!

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
    From the house of the Lord we bless you.[b]
27 The Lord is God,
    and he has made his light shine on us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
    up[c] to the horns of the altar.

28 You are my God, and I will praise you;
    you are my God, and I will exalt you.

29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.

30 November 2021

Proverbs 25:20

Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day,
    or like vinegar poured on a wound,
    is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.

Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart
is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day,
and like vinegar on soda.

“By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion”
(Psalm 137:1).

There is a time to mourn. There is a time when it is appropriate to grieve. The religion of Scripture is not one that condemns or even tries to escape sorrow. We live in a fallen world and grief is the natural and appropriate response to the trials it brings.

“On the willows there
we hung up our lyres.
For there our captors
required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!'”
(Psalm 137:2-3).

There is a time for grief, and when friends insist upon happy feelings they become our tormentors. They take off our coats, leaving us exposed to the raw cold. They hope to arouse us out of our pain, but only intensify the turmoil as vinegar on soda.

What are we to do when our neighbor mourns? Mourn with him. There is a time when mourning needs to end, but before we can insist upon that, we must earn the right to lift someone out of his doldrums. We must mourn with him. And we cannot mourn until we ourselves have felt our own sorrow.

There are worse things than not being happy. It is worse not to feel sorrow when a love is lost; it is worse not to connect with another’s pain. It is worse to expend energy trying to avoid every risk of pain. The reason that avoiding pain at all costs is worse is because it deadens the joy of the hope to come.

“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
‘The Lord has done great things for them.’
The Lord has done great things for us;
we are glad”
(Psalm 126:1-3).

It is good to feel sorrow precisely because sorrow is not the final emotion. It is not sorrow, even when we feel it, that defines our life. It is joy, not the happy feeling of shutting out our sad thoughts, but the deep, real, everlasting joy of the hope that is in us, the hope secured upon a dreadful cross, that breaks through even now as the sun’s rays through the clouds, that will come down out of heaven in full splendor and end all sorrow. Until that time, do not be afraid to grieve and to mourn with those who mourn.

 

Psalm 117

Praise the Lord, all you nations;
    extol him, all you peoples.
For great is his love toward us,
    and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.

Praise the Lord.[a]

29 November 2021

Proverbs 25:19

Like a broken tooth or a lame foot
    is reliance on the unfaithful in a time of trouble.

We must trust others. Walking down the street, we trust drivers not to swerve into us. Ordering our food, we trust the cook not to contaminate our dish. Unconscious trusting is necessary simply to go through an ordinary day. We raise the trust level as we consciously are aware of the role others play. Thus the laborer trusts his supervisor to give directives that will not lead to injury. The employee trusts his employer not to fire him without cause. Likewise, the employer and supervisor trust their workers to do their best and not undermine them.

But these common day experiences still require a measure of alertness. It is imprudent to walk down a street when you see cars swerving dangerously. You ought not to eat in a restaurant that has been cited for food poisoning. Employers and employees may take advantage of one another.

Where alertness is most needed is where the risks are greatest – putting your savings into the hands of an investor; following counsel about your future; giving your heart to another. Pay attention to the person you are trusting. Learn his reputation. It is the gift of treacherous persons to appear trustworthy. All the more reason then to learn his past.

The world is dangerous and we must be wary of whom we trust. But all the more reason to give thanks to God that the greatest risk of all – the welfare of our souls – is placed in the most trustworthy of hands – God the Father (John 10:29). He who controls our destiny is the one who will always do what is best and see that all things work out for our good (Romans 8:28). The world is dangerous, but the Creator and Ruler of the world is good and sovereign. We may not be able to know who and when to trust, but we can always trust the one who holds us in his hands.

 

Psalm 116

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
    he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
    I will call on him as long as I live.

The cords of death entangled me,
    the anguish of the grave came over me;
    I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
    Lord, save me!”

The Lord is gracious and righteous;
    our God is full of compassion.
The Lord protects the unwary;
    when I was brought low, he saved me.

Return to your rest, my soul,
    for the Lord has been good to you.

For you, Lord, have delivered me from death,
    my eyes from tears,
    my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the Lord
    in the land of the living.

10 I trusted in the Lord when I said,
    “I am greatly afflicted”;
11 in my alarm I said,
    “Everyone is a liar.”

12 What shall I return to the Lord
    for all his goodness to me?

13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
    and call on the name of the Lord.
14 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people.

15 Precious in the sight of the Lord
    is the death of his faithful servants.
16 Truly I am your servant, Lord;
    I serve you just as my mother did;
    you have freed me from my chains.

17 I will sacrifice a thank offering to you
    and call on the name of the Lord.
18 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people,
19 in the courts of the house of the Lord
    in your midst, Jerusalem.

Praise the Lord.[a]

27 November 2021

Matthew 7:21-27

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

The Wise and Foolish Builders

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Prayer: Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness and put on the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which Your Son Jesus Christ came among us in great humility; that on the last day, when He comes again in His glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through Him who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

26 November 2021

Proverbs 25:18

Like a club or a sword or a sharp arrow
    is one who gives false testimony against a neighbor.

Note God’s standard of justice. To slander another person is equal to striking him with a weapon. To lie with the intent to damage a neighbor is an act of violence. Think about this the next time you are tempted to exaggerate the truth or fail to tell the whole truth.

Like the effect of a weapon, the damage lingers and may be permanent. The lie spreads and the neighbor’s reputation cannot be reclaimed. Or if it is, the damage against his well-being has already been made.

Consider the term “false witness.” It infers that you are a witness and as such to be trusted. This is not passing on gossip. It is making a claim that you witnessed the deed or the evidence. How much more then will you be held accountable before God.

“But he lied about me!” All the more reason not to resort to the same tactic and thus lend credence to his slander. All the more reason to carefully speak the truth, even speak the truth in love to the honor of Christ whom you represent. Remember that God sees and knows perfectly all that takes place, even the motives of the heart. It is for him to justify. Our responsibility is to be a true witness for the cause of Christ.

 

Psalm 115

Not to us, Lord, not to us
    but to your name be the glory,
    because of your love and faithfulness.

Why do the nations say,
    “Where is their God?”
Our God is in heaven;
    he does whatever pleases him.
But their idols are silver and gold,
    made by human hands.
They have mouths, but cannot speak,
    eyes, but cannot see.
They have ears, but cannot hear,
    noses, but cannot smell.
They have hands, but cannot feel,
    feet, but cannot walk,
    nor can they utter a sound with their throats.
Those who make them will be like them,
    and so will all who trust in them.

All you Israelites, trust in the Lord
    he is their help and shield.
10 House of Aaron, trust in the Lord
    he is their help and shield.
11 You who fear him, trust in the Lord
    he is their help and shield.

12 The Lord remembers us and will bless us:
    He will bless his people Israel,
    he will bless the house of Aaron,
13 he will bless those who fear the Lord
    small and great alike.

14 May the Lord cause you to flourish,
    both you and your children.
15 May you be blessed by the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

16 The highest heavens belong to the Lord,
    but the earth he has given to mankind.
17 It is not the dead who praise the Lord,
    those who go down to the place of silence;
18 it is we who extol the Lord,
    both now and forevermore.

Praise the Lord.[a]

25 November 2021

Proverbs 25:17

Seldom set foot in your neighbor’s house—
    too much of you, and they will hate you.

A common mistake in social relations is to presume too much upon courtesy and neighborliness. A good neighbor will be courteous and friendly. But that does not mean he desires to have the kind of close friendship which allows us to step into his house at all occasions. A colleague may be friendly with us, but that does not mean that he welcomes us to stop into his office or at his desk frequently to chat.

There are relational boundaries which an observant person sees and respects. Even in close friendships there are still boundaries, and we are to respect them. That is how we build trust and develop closer friendships. If I know you will respect my boundaries, I am more likely to remove them for you. If I see you crossing over them, I will keep myself at more of a distance.

A friendship is not measured by how often one may “step into the house” of a neighbor. Rather, it is measured by the blessing of the time that friends are together. Like the person in the previous proverb who gets sick from too much honey, so a friendship may sicken from over exposure. A healthy friendship allows space between friends so that when they are together the time is savored.

 

Psalm 114

When Israel came out of Egypt,
    Jacob from a people of foreign tongue,
Judah became God’s sanctuary,
    Israel his dominion.

The sea looked and fled,
    the Jordan turned back;
the mountains leaped like rams,
    the hills like lambs.

Why was it, sea, that you fled?
    Why, Jordan, did you turn back?
Why, mountains, did you leap like rams,
    you hills, like lambs?

Tremble, earth, at the presence of the Lord,
    at the presence of the God of Jacob,
who turned the rock into a pool,
    the hard rock into springs of water.

24 November 2021

Proverbs 25:16

If you find honey, eat just enough—
    too much of it, and you will vomit.

The lesson is “moderation in all things.” Apply this to food. What are you eating now, not because you need it, but because you cannot restrain yourself? Honey is healthy food until you eat too much of it. And as with any food, eating too much of anything will cause your body to react. The result is that the very thing that was good and which gave pleasure turned into an enemy against your health and pleasure.

There is a purpose for exercising restraint, which is precisely to enhance pleasure, not reduce it. The person who learns to savor food by not overeating enjoys much more the eating experience. To indulge in food is to deny ourselves the full enjoyment of food.

This lesson applies to every experience. The more we indulge, the less we savor. The more repetitive an experience, the less satisfying it becomes. And worse, the experience takes control of us, forcing us to insist upon more while receiving less satisfaction.

If you have found “honey,” take delight in it and restrain how much you eat. Enjoy it fully by not getting bloated by it. Then it will give you further delight in your memory and the next time you taste. Learn to savor your experiences by measuring your intake. It will heighten your senses and enrich your memories.

 

Psalm 113

Praise the Lord.[a]

Praise the Lord, you his servants;
    praise the name of the Lord.
Let the name of the Lord be praised,
    both now and forevermore.
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
    the name of the Lord is to be praised.

The Lord is exalted over all the nations,
    his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the Lord our God,
    the One who sits enthroned on high,
who stoops down to look
    on the heavens and the earth?

He raises the poor from the dust
    and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes,
    with the princes of his people.
He settles the childless woman in her home
    as a happy mother of children.

Praise the Lord.