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

23 November 2021

Proverbs 25:15

Through patience a ruler can be persuaded,
    and a gentle tongue can break a bone.

Water, with patience, will quietly break a rock. A wise person, with patience, speaking softly can win over the minds of others and thus accomplish his will. How does he accomplish this?

As a patient man, he takes the time to observe and to listen. He takes the time to understand the person he persuades. We may waste many words arguing our point, not having realized that the argument we are making has no relevance to the hearer. We also, in our haste, unknowingly work against ourselves, because we are actually offending our hearer.

The patient man also understands the power of the soft tongue. Words spoken softly may take longer to achieve their affect, but they have the advantage of softening the resolve of the hearer. If you speak to me loudly or harshly, you cause me to raise my defenses against you. Even if what you say is right, I want you to be wrong. But if you speak to me softly, I will give you a hearing, and though I reject your counsel then, I am inclined to mull over what you have said and to be open when you patiently choose the time to speak to me again.

Patience and a soft tongue make a powerful combination. Think about this the next time you want to “make your point” by fussing at whomever you are frustrated with. It is not the intensity of your emotion that will win someone over, but rather the patient, soft word spoken with wisdom and in love.

 

Psalm 112

Praise the Lord.[b]

Blessed are those who fear the Lord,
    who find great delight in his commands.

Their children will be mighty in the land;
    the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in their houses,
    and their righteousness endures forever.
Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
    for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.
Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely,
    who conduct their affairs with justice.

Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
    they will be remembered forever.
They will have no fear of bad news;
    their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;
    in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.
They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor,
    their righteousness endures forever;
    their horn[c] will be lifted high in honor.

10 The wicked will see and be vexed,
    they will gnash their teeth and waste away;
    the longings of the wicked will come to nothing.

22 November 2021

Proverbs 25:14

Like clouds and wind without rain
    is one who boasts of gifts never given.

The day is hot, as it has been for weeks. There has been no rain. A breeze picks up; you look into the sky and see clouds coming, dark clouds. Finally, rain is on the way. The clouds are now overhead; already it feels cooler and you can smell the moisture. But the clouds pass on, the sun returns, and your hopes are dashed. So is the feeling when someone makes a promise that he does not keep. It would be better to make no promises.

What kind of cloud are you? When you say that you will provide help to someone, do you follow through? When you promise to make an event, can you be depended upon to keep your word? When you boast of what you can give or do, are you boasting of what you really have or are capable of doing?

What will you be today? Will you bring rain to a thirsty soul? Will you say the kind word needed? Will you bring a gift that lifts a sad spirit? Will you be the rain cloud that the Lord sends which does bring the needed rain, or will you pass over leaving hopes unrealized?

We all have our different gifts. Some can give more than others. But if we promise only what we do have, and if we carry through on our promise, then we can all be the refreshing rain that our neighbors need.

 

Psalm 111

Praise the Lord.[b]

I will extol the Lord with all my heart
    in the council of the upright and in the assembly.

Great are the works of the Lord;
    they are pondered by all who delight in them.
Glorious and majestic are his deeds,
    and his righteousness endures forever.
He has caused his wonders to be remembered;
    the Lord is gracious and compassionate.
He provides food for those who fear him;
    he remembers his covenant forever.

He has shown his people the power of his works,
    giving them the lands of other nations.
The works of his hands are faithful and just;
    all his precepts are trustworthy.
They are established for ever and ever,
    enacted in faithfulness and uprightness.
He provided redemption for his people;
    he ordained his covenant forever—
    holy and awesome is his name.

10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    all who follow his precepts have good understanding.
    To him belongs eternal praise.

20 November 2021

Matthew 7:13-20

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

True and False Prophets

15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

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

19 November 2021

Proverbs 25:13

Like a snow-cooled drink at harvest time
    is a trustworthy messenger to the one who sends him;
    he refreshes the spirit of his master.

Here the key term is “faithful.” The messenger is faithful by delivering a true rendering of the message and by representing his masters favorably. A poor messenger distorts the message either through inaccuracy of what he conveys or by a presentation that dishonors those he represents.

How good of a messenger are you for your Lord? Do you faithfully impart his message? Do you use Scripture well in its context or do you distort it by poor interpretation or application? To both believer and unbeliever, are you conscientious in conveying what Scripture says and only says?

How well do you represent your Lord? Do you convey Scripture accurately, only to distort it by your careless behavior? When you speak of the love of God, do you also convey that love by your life? When you deliver the message that God is holy, do you demonstrate your own concern to be holy?

You are a messenger. You cannot escape being such if you are a disciple of Christ. Pray that you will be one who is faithful in word and deed, one who blesses your Lord as the cold of snow refreshes the soul.

 

Psalm 110

The Lord says to my lord:[a]

“Sit at my right hand
    until I make your enemies
    a footstool for your feet.”

The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying,
    “Rule in the midst of your enemies!”
Your troops will be willing
    on your day of battle.
Arrayed in holy splendor,
    your young men will come to you
    like dew from the morning’s womb.[b]

The Lord has sworn
    and will not change his mind:
“You are a priest forever,
    in the order of Melchizedek.”

The Lord is at your right hand[c];
    he will crush kings on the day of his wrath.
He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead
    and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.
He will drink from a brook along the way,[d]
    and so he will lift his head high.

18 November 2021

Proverbs 25:12

Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold
    is the rebuke of a wise judge to a listening ear.

The key term here is “listening.” Let the reprover be wise, but if the listener is not listening, then it will be to no avail, except in the future to serve as a reproach for not heeding. Most of us, most of the time, do not listen well to reproof. We quickly judge the reprover to be mean or ignorant, certainly not sensitive to our feelings.

Response to reproof shows the condition of our heart. For if we desire above all else to be pleasing to God and to be following his will, then we will welcome any reproof that alerts us to our error and puts us back on the right track. If, as we traveled to our destination, someone yelled to us we were going the wrong way, we would thank him for saving us from a great inconvenience. How then should we react when someone points out a moral or spiritual error?

But how stubborn we can be! We will reject the reproof of person after person, even elder after elder, claiming all the while we are right before God. We alone know what God is saying. Be aware. Some day we must appear before God, and he will ask where are the gold rings and ornaments he graciously sent to us through our brothers and sisters. Learn now to listen and to value wise reproof.

 

Psalm 109

My God, whom I praise,
    do not remain silent,
for people who are wicked and deceitful
    have opened their mouths against me;
    they have spoken against me with lying tongues.
With words of hatred they surround me;
    they attack me without cause.
In return for my friendship they accuse me,
    but I am a man of prayer.
They repay me evil for good,
    and hatred for my friendship.

Appoint someone evil to oppose my enemy;
    let an accuser stand at his right hand.
When he is tried, let him be found guilty,
    and may his prayers condemn him.
May his days be few;
    may another take his place of leadership.
May his children be fatherless
    and his wife a widow.
10 May his children be wandering beggars;
    may they be driven[a] from their ruined homes.
11 May a creditor seize all he has;
    may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor.
12 May no one extend kindness to him
    or take pity on his fatherless children.
13 May his descendants be cut off,
    their names blotted out from the next generation.
14 May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the Lord;
    may the sin of his mother never be blotted out.
15 May their sins always remain before the Lord,
    that he may blot out their name from the earth.

16 For he never thought of doing a kindness,
    but hounded to death the poor
    and the needy and the brokenhearted.
17 He loved to pronounce a curse—
    may it come back on him.
He found no pleasure in blessing—
    may it be far from him.
18 He wore cursing as his garment;
    it entered into his body like water,
    into his bones like oil.
19 May it be like a cloak wrapped about him,
    like a belt tied forever around him.
20 May this be the Lord’s payment to my accusers,
    to those who speak evil of me.

21 But you, Sovereign Lord,
    help me for your name’s sake;
    out of the goodness of your love, deliver me.
22 For I am poor and needy,
    and my heart is wounded within me.
23 I fade away like an evening shadow;
    I am shaken off like a locust.
24 My knees give way from fasting;
    my body is thin and gaunt.
25 I am an object of scorn to my accusers;
    when they see me, they shake their heads.

26 Help me, Lord my God;
    save me according to your unfailing love.
27 Let them know that it is your hand,
    that you, Lord, have done it.
28 While they curse, may you bless;
    may those who attack me be put to shame,
    but may your servant rejoice.
29 May my accusers be clothed with disgrace
    and wrapped in shame as in a cloak.

30 With my mouth I will greatly extol the Lord;
    in the great throng of worshipers I will praise him.
31 For he stands at the right hand of the needy,
    to save their lives from those who would condemn them.

17 November 2021

Proverbs 25:11

Like apples[b] of gold in settings of silver
    is a ruling rightly given.

The key term is “fitly.” A word can be spoken with the intent to bless but ends up being like a curse. One can speak with the intent to heal, but instead wounds. One can say a word for peace and produce turmoil.

The word must be “fitly” spoken. It matters what word is chosen. It also matters how the word is spoken – whether softly or harshly. It must be spoken at the right time – either immediately or delayed. How then does one know what or how or when? The way that anyone applies his craft –  through observation. What does a medical doctor do when you come in with a complaint? He examines you. He listens to you explain your symptoms. Then he determines the treatment. The same is true of the car mechanic and the new coach of the football team and the salesperson. If they are good in what they do, they listen and observe well, before they act.

So it is necessary for the person speaking a word fitly. He listens and observes the person and the circumstances surrounding the person, and then he speaks the word needed that becomes like apples of gold in a setting of silver. Its value and beauty are understood. How fitting will your words be today?

 

Psalm 108

My heart, O God, is steadfast;
    I will sing and make music with all my soul.
Awake, harp and lyre!
    I will awaken the dawn.
I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
    I will sing of you among the peoples.
For great is your love, higher than the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
    let your glory be over all the earth.

Save us and help us with your right hand,
    that those you love may be delivered.
God has spoken from his sanctuary:
    “In triumph I will parcel out Shechem
    and measure off the Valley of Sukkoth.
Gilead is mine, Manasseh is mine;
    Ephraim is my helmet,
    Judah is my scepter.
Moab is my washbasin,
    on Edom I toss my sandal;
    over Philistia I shout in triumph.”

10 Who will bring me to the fortified city?
    Who will lead me to Edom?
11 Is it not you, God, you who have rejected us
    and no longer go out with our armies?
12 Give us aid against the enemy,
    for human help is worthless.
13 With God we will gain the victory,
    and he will trample down our enemies.

16 November 2021

Proverbs 25:7b-10

What you have seen with your eyes
    do not bring[a] hastily to court,
for what will you do in the end
    if your neighbor puts you to shame?

If you take your neighbor to court,
    do not betray another’s confidence,
10 or the one who hears it may shame you
    and the charge against you will stand.

This counsel is similar to that of Jesus’ in Matthew 18:15: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”

Being quick to bring a charge against your neighbor whether in court or to anyone else is foolish for several reasons. For one, you may be wrong in your charge. You did not see what you thought you saw. You did not know the extenuating circumstances. As a result, you are guilty of bringing false charges and losing the trust and goodwill of your neighbor and those whom you told. Another reason, and the one which Jesus points out, is that you should give your neighbor opportunity to repent. By going to him privately, you provide a way for him to confess his sin and deal with it appropriately, so that he becomes grateful to you. Not only do you help him to repent, but you win your neighbor over to be a brother or sister.

Being quick to bring charges demonstrates a spirit contrary to Galatians 6:1: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” There may be a time for charges to be presented, but we should not be hasty to get to them. And then, there are times in which we should overlook what we see. We should not overlook crime, but as weak sinners we would do well to show sympathy and commit our fellow sinners to prayer and to God’s dealings. Galatians 6:7 says, “God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” No one is getting away with anything.

Let us be thankful that Jesus, who easily could have brought charges against us, became instead our Redeemer and is now our Advocate against the evil one who does bring charges. Let us learn from him the spirit of mercy.

 

Psalm 107

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

Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—
    those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,
those he gathered from the lands,
    from east and west, from north and south.[a]

Some wandered in desert wastelands,
    finding no way to a city where they could settle.
They were hungry and thirsty,
    and their lives ebbed away.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
He led them by a straight way
    to a city where they could settle.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
for he satisfies the thirsty
    and fills the hungry with good things.

10 Some sat in darkness, in utter darkness,
    prisoners suffering in iron chains,
11 because they rebelled against God’s commands
    and despised the plans of the Most High.
12 So he subjected them to bitter labor;
    they stumbled, and there was no one to help.
13 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he saved them from their distress.
14 He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness,
    and broke away their chains.
15 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
16 for he breaks down gates of bronze
    and cuts through bars of iron.

17 Some became fools through their rebellious ways
    and suffered affliction because of their iniquities.
18 They loathed all food
    and drew near the gates of death.
19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he saved them from their distress.
20 He sent out his word and healed them;
    he rescued them from the grave.
21 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for mankind.
22 Let them sacrifice thank offerings
    and tell of his works with songs of joy.

23 Some went out on the sea in ships;
    they were merchants on the mighty waters.
24 They saw the works of the Lord,
    his wonderful deeds in the deep.
25 For he spoke and stirred up a tempest
    that lifted high the waves.
26 They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths;
    in their peril their courage melted away.
27 They reeled and staggered like drunkards;
    they were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he brought them out of their distress.
29 He stilled the storm to a whisper;
    the waves of the sea[b] were hushed.
30 They were glad when it grew calm,
    and he guided them to their desired haven.
31 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for mankind.
32 Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people
    and praise him in the council of the elders.

33 He turned rivers into a desert,
    flowing springs into thirsty ground,
34 and fruitful land into a salt waste,
    because of the wickedness of those who lived there.
35 He turned the desert into pools of water
    and the parched ground into flowing springs;
36 there he brought the hungry to live,
    and they founded a city where they could settle.
37 They sowed fields and planted vineyards
    that yielded a fruitful harvest;
38 he blessed them, and their numbers greatly increased,
    and he did not let their herds diminish.

39 Then their numbers decreased, and they were humbled
    by oppression, calamity and sorrow;
40 he who pours contempt on nobles
    made them wander in a trackless waste.
41 But he lifted the needy out of their affliction
    and increased their families like flocks.
42 The upright see and rejoice,
    but all the wicked shut their mouths.

43 Let the one who is wise heed these things
    and ponder the loving deeds of the Lord.

15 November 2021

Proverbs 25:6-7

Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence,
    and do not claim a place among his great men;
it is better for him to say to you, “Come up here,”
    than for him to humiliate you before his nobles.

Let’s turn to Jesus for application of this proverb:

Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:7-11).

 

Psalm 106

Praise the Lord.[a]

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

Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord
    or fully declare his praise?
Blessed are those who act justly,
    who always do what is right.

Remember me, Lord, when you show favor to your people,
    come to my aid when you save them,
that I may enjoy the prosperity of your chosen ones,
    that I may share in the joy of your nation
    and join your inheritance in giving praise.

We have sinned, even as our ancestors did;
    we have done wrong and acted wickedly.
When our ancestors were in Egypt,
    they gave no thought to your miracles;
they did not remember your many kindnesses,
    and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea.[b]
Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
    to make his mighty power known.
He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up;
    he led them through the depths as through a desert.
10 He saved them from the hand of the foe;
    from the hand of the enemy he redeemed them.
11 The waters covered their adversaries;
    not one of them survived.
12 Then they believed his promises
    and sang his praise.

13 But they soon forgot what he had done
    and did not wait for his plan to unfold.
14 In the desert they gave in to their craving;
    in the wilderness they put God to the test.
15 So he gave them what they asked for,
    but sent a wasting disease among them.

16 In the camp they grew envious of Moses
    and of Aaron, who was consecrated to the Lord.
17 The earth opened up and swallowed Dathan;
    it buried the company of Abiram.
18 Fire blazed among their followers;
    a flame consumed the wicked.
19 At Horeb they made a calf
    and worshiped an idol cast from metal.
20 They exchanged their glorious God
    for an image of a bull, which eats grass.
21 They forgot the God who saved them,
    who had done great things in Egypt,
22 miracles in the land of Ham
    and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.
23 So he said he would destroy them—
    had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him
    to keep his wrath from destroying them.

24 Then they despised the pleasant land;
    they did not believe his promise.
25 They grumbled in their tents
    and did not obey the Lord.
26 So he swore to them with uplifted hand
    that he would make them fall in the wilderness,
27 make their descendants fall among the nations
    and scatter them throughout the lands.

28 They yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor
    and ate sacrifices offered to lifeless gods;
29 they aroused the Lord’s anger by their wicked deeds,
    and a plague broke out among them.
30 But Phinehas stood up and intervened,
    and the plague was checked.
31 This was credited to him as righteousness
    for endless generations to come.
32 By the waters of Meribah they angered the Lord,
    and trouble came to Moses because of them;
33 for they rebelled against the Spirit of God,
    and rash words came from Moses’ lips.[c]

34 They did not destroy the peoples
    as the Lord had commanded them,
35 but they mingled with the nations
    and adopted their customs.
36 They worshiped their idols,
    which became a snare to them.
37 They sacrificed their sons
    and their daughters to false gods.
38 They shed innocent blood,
    the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
    and the land was desecrated by their blood.
39 They defiled themselves by what they did;
    by their deeds they prostituted themselves.

40 Therefore the Lord was angry with his people
    and abhorred his inheritance.
41 He gave them into the hands of the nations,
    and their foes ruled over them.
42 Their enemies oppressed them
    and subjected them to their power.
43 Many times he delivered them,
    but they were bent on rebellion
    and they wasted away in their sin.
44 Yet he took note of their distress
    when he heard their cry;
45 for their sake he remembered his covenant
    and out of his great love he relented.
46 He caused all who held them captive
    to show them mercy.

47 Save us, Lord our God,
    and gather us from the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name
    and glory in your praise.

48 Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
    from everlasting to everlasting.

Let all the people say, “Amen!”

Praise the Lord.

13 November 2021

Matthew 7:1-12

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Ask, Seek, Knock

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Prayer: Almighty God You have built Your Church on the foundation of apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the head corner stone; give us grace to follow their doctrine and godly lives that with them and all Your saints we may worship You for ever through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

12 November 2021

Proverbs 25:4-5

Remove the dross from the silver,
    and a silversmith can produce a vessel;
remove wicked officials from the king’s presence,
    and his throne will be established through righteousness.

The metaphor is apt in two ways. First, the matter of the dross being gone. Without the dross, the smith has pure silver and with that material something beautiful can be crafted. So for the king. With the wicked away from him – that is, wicked counselors and others near the throne trying to influence him – he is able to craft policies that produce something of value. Leaders have often found this the case. When advisors who are looking out for their own welfare are gone, wise decisions become easy to make. And when the employee or student, who is poisoning the atmosphere leaves, then the workplace or class environment becomes productive and good-spirited.

But the metaphor leads us also to consider how the dross is removed. It is through a “fiery” process. The smith cannot take a cloth and rub it away. He has to expose the dross and the silver to the fire. So it is with the selfish advisor and the poor worker or student. The process of removing such a person requires wisdom and steadfastness to see the process of removal through, and usually it does not happen without pain. What keeps the leader steadfast is his eye on the goal, just as Jesus was able to endure his suffering because his eye on the “joy that was before him” (cf. Hebrews 12:2).

But another understanding of this proverb comes from 1 Peter 1:6-7, which speaks of our faith being tested by fire. Sometimes the wicked dross that needs removal is the dross of our own hearts. We think work is such a terrible place or school an awful place. We complain about everyone else about us, not realizing that the real problem is within our own hearts. It is when that dross is removed that we will truly be established in righteousness.

 

Psalm 105

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
    make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
    tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Look to the Lord and his strength;
    seek his face always.

Remember the wonders he has done,
    his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
you his servants, the descendants of Abraham,
    his chosen ones, the children of Jacob.
He is the Lord our God;
    his judgments are in all the earth.

He remembers his covenant forever,
    the promise he made, for a thousand generations,
the covenant he made with Abraham,
    the oath he swore to Isaac.
10 He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree,
    to Israel as an everlasting covenant:
11 “To you I will give the land of Canaan
    as the portion you will inherit.”

12 When they were but few in number,
    few indeed, and strangers in it,
13 they wandered from nation to nation,
    from one kingdom to another.
14 He allowed no one to oppress them;
    for their sake he rebuked kings:
15 “Do not touch my anointed ones;
    do my prophets no harm.”

16 He called down famine on the land
    and destroyed all their supplies of food;
17 and he sent a man before them—
    Joseph, sold as a slave.
18 They bruised his feet with shackles,
    his neck was put in irons,
19 till what he foretold came to pass,
    till the word of the Lord proved him true.
20 The king sent and released him,
    the ruler of peoples set him free.
21 He made him master of his household,
    ruler over all he possessed,
22 to instruct his princes as he pleased
    and teach his elders wisdom.

23 Then Israel entered Egypt;
    Jacob resided as a foreigner in the land of Ham.
24 The Lord made his people very fruitful;
    he made them too numerous for their foes,
25 whose hearts he turned to hate his people,
    to conspire against his servants.
26 He sent Moses his servant,
    and Aaron, whom he had chosen.
27 They performed his signs among them,
    his wonders in the land of Ham.
28 He sent darkness and made the land dark—
    for had they not rebelled against his words?
29 He turned their waters into blood,
    causing their fish to die.
30 Their land teemed with frogs,
    which went up into the bedrooms of their rulers.
31 He spoke, and there came swarms of flies,
    and gnats throughout their country.
32 He turned their rain into hail,
    with lightning throughout their land;
33 he struck down their vines and fig trees
    and shattered the trees of their country.
34 He spoke, and the locusts came,
    grasshoppers without number;
35 they ate up every green thing in their land,
    ate up the produce of their soil.
36 Then he struck down all the firstborn in their land,
    the firstfruits of all their manhood.
37 He brought out Israel, laden with silver and gold,
    and from among their tribes no one faltered.
38 Egypt was glad when they left,
    because dread of Israel had fallen on them.

39 He spread out a cloud as a covering,
    and a fire to give light at night.
40 They asked, and he brought them quail;
    he fed them well with the bread of heaven.
41 He opened the rock, and water gushed out;
    it flowed like a river in the desert.

42 For he remembered his holy promise
    given to his servant Abraham.
43 He brought out his people with rejoicing,
    his chosen ones with shouts of joy;
44 he gave them the lands of the nations,
    and they fell heir to what others had toiled for—
45 that they might keep his precepts
    and observe his laws.

Praise the Lord.[a]

11 November 2021

Proverbs 25:3

As the heavens are high and the earth is deep,
    so the hearts of kings are unsearchable.

The mistake of the diner who dives into his food is that he thinks he understands the ruler. He thinks the ruler offers the food merely out of friendship, not realizing that the ruler is using the meal as a test of the diner’s character.

The point of our proverb is that kings do what they do out of calculation. They are not free with their hearts. That would be dangerous for them. They speak and act with design, as did Solomon when he pretended he would split a baby in two. And so it is with persons in position of responsibility. The greater the responsibility, the more careful they will be in speech and conduct. They are not being malicious; they are being cognizant that what they say and do have far-reaching implications.

This is a message to us, on the other hand, not to exert our energies in “out-calculating” the ruler. Act on what you know to be right, not what you think will endear your “ruler” to you. If an employee, then do your work well as unto the Lord. If a student, act likewise. It is the Lord whom you are to be concerned with pleasing, and he has made clear what is appropriate speech and conduct.

 

Psalm 104

Praise the Lord, my soul.

Lord my God, you are very great;
    you are clothed with splendor and majesty.

The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment;
    he stretches out the heavens like a tent
    and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot
    and rides on the wings of the wind.
He makes winds his messengers,[a]
    flames of fire his servants.

He set the earth on its foundations;
    it can never be moved.
You covered it with the watery depths as with a garment;
    the waters stood above the mountains.
But at your rebuke the waters fled,
    at the sound of your thunder they took to flight;
they flowed over the mountains,
    they went down into the valleys,
    to the place you assigned for them.
You set a boundary they cannot cross;
    never again will they cover the earth.

10 He makes springs pour water into the ravines;
    it flows between the mountains.
11 They give water to all the beasts of the field;
    the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
12 The birds of the sky nest by the waters;
    they sing among the branches.
13 He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;
    the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work.
14 He makes grass grow for the cattle,
    and plants for people to cultivate—
    bringing forth food from the earth:
15 wine that gladdens human hearts,
    oil to make their faces shine,
    and bread that sustains their hearts.
16 The trees of the Lord are well watered,
    the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
17 There the birds make their nests;
    the stork has its home in the junipers.
18 The high mountains belong to the wild goats;
    the crags are a refuge for the hyrax.

19 He made the moon to mark the seasons,
    and the sun knows when to go down.
20 You bring darkness, it becomes night,
    and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
21 The lions roar for their prey
    and seek their food from God.
22 The sun rises, and they steal away;
    they return and lie down in their dens.
23 Then people go out to their work,
    to their labor until evening.

24 How many are your works, Lord!
    In wisdom you made them all;
    the earth is full of your creatures.
25 There is the sea, vast and spacious,
    teeming with creatures beyond number—
    living things both large and small.
26 There the ships go to and fro,
    and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.

27 All creatures look to you
    to give them their food at the proper time.
28 When you give it to them,
    they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
    they are satisfied with good things.
29 When you hide your face,
    they are terrified;
when you take away their breath,
    they die and return to the dust.
30 When you send your Spirit,
    they are created,
    and you renew the face of the ground.

31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
    may the Lord rejoice in his works—
32 he who looks at the earth, and it trembles,
    who touches the mountains, and they smoke.

33 I will sing to the Lord all my life;
    I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him,
    as I rejoice in the Lord.
35 But may sinners vanish from the earth
    and the wicked be no more.

Praise the Lord, my soul.

Praise the Lord.[b]

10 November 2021

Proverbs 25:1-2

These are more proverbs of Solomon, compiled by the men of Hezekiah king of Judah:

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter;
    to search out a matter is the glory of kings.

God in his glory transcends the ability of man to know all his ways. He must come down to man to reveal even a part of his nature and his will. His glory is impressed upon us because of his mystery. Even as we grow in knowledge of him, we are filled all the more with wonder as we realize how little we know. One great wonder is God’s knowledge. He knows all things. He does not search out knowledge as we do. When Scripture applies such language to God, it is not meaning that he must learn what he does not know, but rather is impressing upon us that we and nothing can escape God. Such is his glory.

For the king, and anyone placed in a position of authority, his glory is displayed not in what he conceals but in his ability and zeal to know what is taking place under his rule. The wicked conceal their wicked behavior. It is the task of the righteous king to find them out. The oppressed suffer without help; it is the king’s role to see them and come to their aid. It is the glory of the king to find good people and place them in responsible positions. It is the king’s glory to search out what is good and bring it to light.

Before the king can act, he must know. And to know, he must search. Are you searching? Are you looking to know what is going on about you so that you can act responsibly? Are you searching for what is true, what is honorable? Are you searching for what is wicked so you can avoid it yourself and act to thwart it? It is the glory of everyone to be a searcher. What will you learn today?

 

Psalm 103

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all the oppressed.

He made known his ways to Moses,
    his deeds to the people of Israel:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
    he remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass,
    they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
    and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
    the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
    and his righteousness with their children’s children—
18 with those who keep his covenant
    and remember to obey his precepts.

19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
    and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Praise the Lord, you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his bidding,
    who obey his word.
21 Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
    you his servants who do his will.
22 Praise the Lord, all his works
    everywhere in his dominion.

Praise the Lord, my soul.

9 November 2021

Proverbs 24:30-34

I went past the field of a sluggard,
    past the vineyard of someone who has no sense;
31 thorns had come up everywhere,
    the ground was covered with weeds,
    and the stone wall was in ruins.
32 I applied my heart to what I observed
    and learned a lesson from what I saw:
33 A little sleep, a little slumber,
    a little folding of the hands to rest—
34 and poverty will come on you like a thief
    and scarcity like an armed man.

The “little sleep” and “little slumber” and “little folding of the hands to rest” end up being the primary activities of the sluggard. He does not tell himself that he will loaf and do no work. He thinks to himself that he will work, and very hard, but first just a little rest. Or better yet, “I think I will watch TV for just a few minutes, just to relax for a moment.”

We see such workers in the workplace. He comes in late. When he does come in, he needs time to settle in. He likes to chat. He glances at his email before he gets started in his work. There’s a funny article he’s found. He looks at the day’s work and comments on how much he has to do. They need to hire more workers. How can they expect one person to do all he has to do? The previous employers he worked for had the same unreasonable expectations, as did the employers before. In fact, he has had the unfortunate luck of always working for unreasonable bosses.

What describes you? Are you known for the consistent, good work you do, whether it be in the workplace or home or school? Or are you “plagued” with people having too many expectations? Circumstances do play in, to be sure. But more often than not, the work you produce or fail to produce has more to do with your attitude than anything else. The little breaks you take add up to more than you realize. And these breaks may be the real reason you fail to get the promotion or make the grade. Examine yourself before you blame your circumstances.

 

Psalm 102

Hear my prayer, Lord;
    let my cry for help come to you.
Do not hide your face from me
    when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me;
    when I call, answer me quickly.

For my days vanish like smoke;
    my bones burn like glowing embers.
My heart is blighted and withered like grass;
    I forget to eat my food.
In my distress I groan aloud
    and am reduced to skin and bones.
I am like a desert owl,
    like an owl among the ruins.
I lie awake; I have become
    like a bird alone on a roof.
All day long my enemies taunt me;
    those who rail against me use my name as a curse.
For I eat ashes as my food
    and mingle my drink with tears
10 because of your great wrath,
    for you have taken me up and thrown me aside.
11 My days are like the evening shadow;
    I wither away like grass.

12 But you, Lord, sit enthroned forever;
    your renown endures through all generations.
13 You will arise and have compassion on Zion,
    for it is time to show favor to her;
    the appointed time has come.
14 For her stones are dear to your servants;
    her very dust moves them to pity.
15 The nations will fear the name of the Lord,
    all the kings of the earth will revere your glory.
16 For the Lord will rebuild Zion
    and appear in his glory.
17 He will respond to the prayer of the destitute;
    he will not despise their plea.

18 Let this be written for a future generation,
    that a people not yet created may praise the Lord:
19 “The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high,
    from heaven he viewed the earth,
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners
    and release those condemned to death.”
21 So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion
    and his praise in Jerusalem
22 when the peoples and the kingdoms
    assemble to worship the Lord.

23 In the course of my life[b] he broke my strength;
    he cut short my days.
24 So I said:
“Do not take me away, my God, in the midst of my days;
    your years go on through all generations.
25 In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
    and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you remain;
    they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them
    and they will be discarded.
27 But you remain the same,
    and your years will never end.
28 The children of your servants will live in your presence;
    their descendants will be established before you.”

8 November 2021

Proverbs 24:28-29

Do not testify against your neighbor without cause—
    would you use your lips to mislead?
29 Do not say, “I’ll do to them as they have done to me;
    I’ll pay them back for what they did.”

Here is where the Christian is to be distinguished. It is the natural reaction to get even with the person who has harmed us. We say to ourselves that we are only seeking what is fair. Our neighbor is only getting what is coming to him. This seems just.

We should seek justice… for others. For ourselves, we are to be concerned only with the welfare of our neighbor and return his wrong behavior with the kind that will bear witness to the gospel. For our hope is to be the salvation of our enemy. That is why Jesus taught the following:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

“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. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:38-48).

This is hard teaching to live out. But nevertheless, it is what our Lord teaches. To live such a life today is what will honor him.

 

Psalm 101

I will sing of your love and justice;
    to you, Lord, I will sing praise.
I will be careful to lead a blameless life—
    when will you come to me?

I will conduct the affairs of my house
    with a blameless heart.
I will not look with approval
    on anything that is vile.

I hate what faithless people do;
    I will have no part in it.
The perverse of heart shall be far from me;
    I will have nothing to do with what is evil.

Whoever slanders their neighbor in secret,
    I will put to silence;
whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart,
    I will not tolerate.

My eyes will be on the faithful in the land,
    that they may dwell with me;
the one whose walk is blameless
    will minister to me.

No one who practices deceit
    will dwell in my house;
no one who speaks falsely
    will stand in my presence.

Every morning I will put to silence
    all the wicked in the land;
I will cut off every evildoer
    from the city of the Lord.

6 November 2021

Matthew 6:25-34

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Prayer: Stir up Lord, the wills of Your faithful people, that they may produce plentifully the fruit of good works, and receive from You a plentiful reward; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

5 November 2021

Proverbs 24:27

Put your outdoor work in order
    and get your fields ready;
    after that, build your house.

Before building your house, see to it that you are providing the income necessary to afford and maintain it. Before marrying and creating a household, get everything ready to support a family. Do not let your dreams and ambition carry your emotions and move you to setting up a home to support, when you have yet to make preparation for that support. Take the time to get the education needed, to develop the necessary skills, to put your finances in order, and to earn an income.

Are you eager to serve the Lord in his kingdom? Then take the necessary time to prepare yourself well. Eager to be serving, many of the Lord’s servants fall by the wayside or never serve to their potential because they were quick to build the house before getting ready in the field. Marriages and families have suffered because the man and woman were too eager to get married before good preparation – be it education, financially, or preparing themselves to sustain an intimate, complex relationship. They quickly fall into debt; the husband is unable to get the job necessary to provide for the “house” they have built; both are unequipped to handle the pressures that come with marriage and raising a family.

Prepare. Prepare each morning the day before you. Prepare your heart before the Lord before you go out into the field or take care of your home. After that, begin building.

 

Psalm 100

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
    Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his[a];
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.

4 November 2021

Proverbs 24:23-26

These also are sayings of the wise:

To show partiality in judging is not good:
24 Whoever says to the guilty, “You are innocent,”
    will be cursed by peoples and denounced by nations.
25 But it will go well with those who convict the guilty,
    and rich blessing will come on them.

26 An honest answer
    is like a kiss on the lips.

Partiality in judging happens because of fear or greed. There is fear of repercussions by the wicked. They are often powerful and usually ruthless. There is danger in opposing them. There is greed for the bribe offered by the wicked. Being a “friend” of the wicked can lead to wealth and high position.

But the proverb is right. If it is known that a judge rules in favor of the wicked, he is usually maligned by the public. He may get his money and secure his safety, but he loses the blessing of a good name. He may save his body, but lose his soul – both figuratively and literally. He helps to spread cynicism and discouragement in the population. Others lose faith in the justice system and many give in to corruption. The wicked only sink further into their wickedness, since they go unchecked and their belief that there is no one good is reinforced.

It is in such a climate that an honest answer is like a kiss on the lips. Like the kiss that refreshes and delights, so an honest answer refreshes and delights the soul. “There is someone honest, someone who will speak the truth and face the cost. If so, there must be some good in this world. And if one person can speak honestly, then I can as well.” And so, just as partiality poisons the environment, so honesty can restore it.

What will you do today – poison or refresh the people around you? Will your speech be as a dagger or a kiss?

 

Psalm 99

The Lord reigns,
    let the nations tremble;
he sits enthroned between the cherubim,
    let the earth shake.
Great is the Lord in Zion;
    he is exalted over all the nations.
Let them praise your great and awesome name—
    he is holy.

The King is mighty, he loves justice—
    you have established equity;
in Jacob you have done
    what is just and right.
Exalt the Lord our God
    and worship at his footstool;
    he is holy.

Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
    Samuel was among those who called on his name;
they called on the Lord
    and he answered them.
He spoke to them from the pillar of cloud;
    they kept his statutes and the decrees he gave them.

Lord our God,
    you answered them;
you were to Israel a forgiving God,
    though you punished their misdeeds.[a]
Exalt the Lord our God
    and worship at his holy mountain,
    for the Lord our God is holy.

3 November 2021

Proverbs 24:21-22

Fear the Lord and the king, my son,
    and do not join with rebellious officials,
22 for those two will send sudden destruction on them,
    and who knows what calamities they can bring?

It is our tendency to separate the authority of the Lord from that of the king (person in position over us). The “king” could be our President or mayor or boss or teacher or parent – anyone who has responsibility for us. We are quick to point out the deficiencies of the “king,” claiming that we follow only God. And so we neglect the tendency of Scripture to equate obedience to earthly authority with that of obedience to God. Read Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2. Consider the scriptural principal that we are to respect positions of authority in whatever circumstance that may be – parent to child, official to citizen, master to servant, husband to wife. Certainly there are many in authority who abuse their position, and they will be held accountable to God. But we are not to be quick to reject the authority of others who have been duly placed in their positions.

Apply this to church. Everyone who joins a church is happy to say that he will abide by the authority of the church leaders. But let the moment come when elders hold a person to account for his actions, and he will quickly reject their “presumption.” He must be faithful to God and reject the counsel of the elders who are God’s undershepherds responsible for the flock. The same pattern follows in the workplace and school and other areas. We know best. We know what God wants. It is up to us to stand against appointed leaders.

Take to heart the final warning: “Who knows the ruin that will come from them both?” People have gone from job to job, from church to church, even from marriage to marriage because everyone else is being unreasonable; no one else seems to understand what they alone can see. Fear the Lord and the king, the person placed in authority over you. If indeed that person is wrong, then all the more fear the Lord who is in control. Ultimately, the question is a matter of trust. Will we trust the Lord to have placed certain people over us for our ultimate good? Will we take the time to examine our hearts and discover what our Lord would have us learn about ourselves?

 

Psalm 98

Sing to the Lord a new song,
    for he has done marvelous things;
his right hand and his holy arm
    have worked salvation for him.
The Lord has made his salvation known
    and revealed his righteousness to the nations.
He has remembered his love
    and his faithfulness to Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen
    the salvation of our God.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,
    burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the Lord with the harp,
    with the harp and the sound of singing,
with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—
    shout for joy before the Lord, the King.

Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
    the world, and all who live in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
    let the mountains sing together for joy;
let them sing before the Lord,
    for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
    and the peoples with equity.

2 November 2021

Proverbs 24:19-20

Do not fret because of evildoers
    or be envious of the wicked,
20 for the evildoer has no future hope,
    and the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out.

It is proper to concern ourselves with seeing that justice is carried out and that the oppressed are protected. In such a spirit we are to concern ourselves with thwarting the deeds of the wicked. However, we are not to live with jealousy of the wicked or with general anxiety about them. It is good to see a wicked person brought to justice, but understand that the real justice takes place before the throne of God who rules with perfect knowledge and power.

No one is getting away with anything. The wicked are digging their own graves and sealing their own doom. God sees all; more to the point, God is working out all things for his glory to be displayed in his justice and in his mercy. All persons will receive what he has ordained and in such a way that all mouths will be silenced at the time of their hearing before the Almighty Judge. All knees will bow before the King.

Nothing can stop that inevitable conclusion. Certainly no wicked creature can thwart God’s purposes. They, who spent their lives mocking their Creator; they, who believed they were outwitting the Law, will find their “lamps” put out. They have no future, i.e. no future of blessing. They will wish they had no existence, that they had never been born. Keep this in mind the next time you fret over the way the wicked seem to be winning and prospering. And pray for their souls.

 

Psalm 97

The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad;
    let the distant shores rejoice.
Clouds and thick darkness surround him;
    righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire goes before him
    and consumes his foes on every side.
His lightning lights up the world;
    the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
    before the Lord of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his righteousness,
    and all peoples see his glory.

All who worship images are put to shame,
    those who boast in idols—
    worship him, all you gods!

Zion hears and rejoices
    and the villages of Judah are glad
    because of your judgments, Lord.
For you, Lord, are the Most High over all the earth;
    you are exalted far above all gods.
10 Let those who love the Lord hate evil,
    for he guards the lives of his faithful ones
    and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
11 Light shines[a] on the righteous
    and joy on the upright in heart.
12 Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous,
    and praise his holy name.

1 November 2021

Proverbs 24:17-18

Do not gloat when your enemy falls;
    when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice,
18 or the Lord will see and disapprove
    and turn his wrath away from them.

This proverb seems to contradict other Scripture that speaks of rejoicing in one’s victory over enemies. Indeed, doesn’t the very desire for justice require joy over the downfall of wicked enemies?

We recognize the attitude of God here, especially if we are parents of more than one child. We ourselves, after punishing one child, will turn to the other and rebuke him for gloating over the offending sibling. And that is what this proverb is about – gloating over another’s downfall. In movies, when the bad guy gets “what’s coming to him,” his devious plans are not merely foiled, but he suffers a humiliating or especially horrible death. The producers know that the audience is not contented with evil being checked or the innocent being vindicated. The wicked must suffer. That is what will fill the audience with satisfaction. The audience must be able to gloat.

And that is what we want in real life. We want the driver who swerved in front of us to be pulled over immediately so we can gloat over him. (We wouldn’t even mind if he had a wreck.) We want whoever offends us to be humbled, not because we desire the welfare of their soul but because we want to gloat. It is right to desire justice; but we too often confuse such a desire with our sinful desire for personal vengeance. Our attitude for justice is found precisely in our attitude toward the wicked. Do we rejoice over their downfall or do we mourn that they would not repent? Justice must come, and we should rejoice over justice. But we should mourn the soul that is lost.

We forget that we too are sinners deserving God’s wrath. God’s displeasure could easily and rightly be turned against us, if it were not for our Lord, who instead of gloating over his enemies (us), gave himself for us and made us God’s children.

 

Psalm 96

Sing to the Lord a new song;
    sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
    proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
    his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
    he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the nations are idols,
    but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
    strength and glory are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
    bring an offering and come into his courts.
Worship the Lord in the splendor of his[a] holiness;
    tremble before him, all the earth.
10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.”
    The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved;
    he will judge the peoples with equity.

11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
    let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
    let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
13 Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes,
    he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
    and the peoples in his faithfulness.

30 October 2021

Matthew 6:19-24

“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, our refuge and strength, the only God; hear the earnest prayers of Your church, and those things we ask for faithfully, grant we may surely obtain; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

29 October 2021

Proverbs 24:15-16

Do not lurk like a thief near the house of the righteous,
    do not plunder their dwelling place;
16 for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again,
    but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.

This proverb takes a twist. Instead of counseling against committing violence against the righteous as a moral issue, he addresses it from a standpoint of practicality. Conventional thought is that preying upon the righteous is easy work. The righteous are naive; they do not strike back; they tend to believe the best in people. Who better to take advantage of?

The righteous might seem easy prey, but they also prove themselves to be resilient. They may fall down, but they rise again. Why do they? The proverbs equate righteousness with wisdom. Thus they have the wisdom necessary to carry on. And they are not as naive as they may seem. A common mistake of the wicked is to believe that courtesy and generosity are symptomatic of naiveté, when instead they actually signify confidence. The righteous have not put their hope in possessions. Thus to lose such things does not undo them. The wicked, on the other hand, do put their faith in material possession and earthly power; thus to lose such things completely undermines their confidence. They miscalculate what is of real value; they underestimate the strength of others who are unlike them.

But the underlying cause of the righteous’ resilience, and the wicked’s lack thereof, is God. The Lord protects and delivers the righteous. He attacks the wicked. Never take God out of the equation. With such a perspective, David won victory over Goliath: “Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God… The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:36-37).

As with David, there is more than meets the eye with the righteous. Even more so, the Lord is their deliverer.

 

Psalm 95

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
    let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
    and extol him with music and song.

For the Lord is the great God,
    the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
    and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
    and his hands formed the dry land.

Come, let us bow down in worship,
    let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
for he is our God
    and we are the people of his pasture,
    the flock under his care.

Today, if only you would hear his voice,
“Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,[a]
    as you did that day at Massah[b] in the wilderness,
where your ancestors tested me;
    they tried me, though they had seen what I did.
10 For forty years I was angry with that generation;
    I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray,
    and they have not known my ways.’
11 So I declared on oath in my anger,
    ‘They shall never enter my rest.’”

28 October 2021

Proverbs 24:13-14

Eat honey, my son, for it is good;
    honey from the comb is sweet to your taste.
14 Know also that wisdom is like honey for you:
    If you find it, there is a future hope for you,
    and your hope will not be cut off.

We tend to contrast wisdom with pleasure. The wise man avoids pleasures so that he might pursue righteousness or keep his head to make good decisions. But wisdom lies really in choosing true pleasure. Wisdom itself is pleasure, and the wise man will not part from it, not so much out of self-discipline and denial, but because he has tasted the honey and likes it.

He reads the “classics” and writings that typically take effort to comprehend fully, not so much to improve his mind but because they engage his mind. What we regard as an effort to be “above the rest” is simply his ability to delight in what we will not make the effort to understand. Our tendency is to go with whatever immediately catches our attention. That is why the mass media uses constantly changing images. It knows that we will press the remote quickly to another channel the moment we are bored. And we are bored when we have to use mental energy to grasp what we are seeing or hearing or reading.

Like the child who develops a fuller taste for foods as he grows up, so we could do the same if we would develop our minds. What may seem to be tedious at the beginning becomes a pleasure that tastes like honey.

 

Psalm 94

The Lord is a God who avenges.
    O God who avenges, shine forth.
Rise up, Judge of the earth;
    pay back to the proud what they deserve.
How long, Lord, will the wicked,
    how long will the wicked be jubilant?

They pour out arrogant words;
    all the evildoers are full of boasting.
They crush your people, Lord;
    they oppress your inheritance.
They slay the widow and the foreigner;
    they murder the fatherless.
They say, “The Lord does not see;
    the God of Jacob takes no notice.”

Take notice, you senseless ones among the people;
    you fools, when will you become wise?
Does he who fashioned the ear not hear?
    Does he who formed the eye not see?
10 Does he who disciplines nations not punish?
    Does he who teaches mankind lack knowledge?
11 The Lord knows all human plans;
    he knows that they are futile.

12 Blessed is the one you discipline, Lord,
    the one you teach from your law;
13 you grant them relief from days of trouble,
    till a pit is dug for the wicked.
14 For the Lord will not reject his people;
    he will never forsake his inheritance.
15 Judgment will again be founded on righteousness,
    and all the upright in heart will follow it.

16 Who will rise up for me against the wicked?
    Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?
17 Unless the Lord had given me help,
    I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.
18 When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
    your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
19 When anxiety was great within me,
    your consolation brought me joy.

20 Can a corrupt throne be allied with you—
    a throne that brings on misery by its decrees?
21 The wicked band together against the righteous
    and condemn the innocent to death.
22 But the Lord has become my fortress,
    and my God the rock in whom I take refuge.
23 He will repay them for their sins
    and destroy them for their wickedness;
    the Lord our God will destroy them.

27 October 2021

Proverbs 24:10-12

If you falter in a time of trouble,
    how small is your strength!
11 Rescue those being led away to death;
    hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
    does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
    Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?

What a sobering text! We are to be judged not only by the bad we do, but by the good we fail to do. Even more sobering, we will be judged by the One who knows fully our hearts which we daily hide from ourselves. “I didn’t know,” we may say. But God sees that we did not want to know.

This teaching is invasive. It searches out every place of our hearts. What would happen if we honestly looked about us and saw those “who are being taken away to death”? Who would we see? What would we do about it? How would we “hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter”? Who are stumbling to physical slaughter? Who are stumbling to spiritual slaughter? Who are physically beaten? Who are emotionally being broken? What would we see if we saw “slaughter” through the eyes of God? What would we see if we saw our own hearts as he does?

He saw sheep stumbling to slaughter and gave up his Son to hold them back. What do we give up?

 

Psalm 93

The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty;
    the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength;
    indeed, the world is established, firm and secure.
Your throne was established long ago;
    you are from all eternity.

The seas have lifted up, Lord,
    the seas have lifted up their voice;
    the seas have lifted up their pounding waves.
Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,
    mightier than the breakers of the sea—
    the Lord on high is mighty.

Your statutes, Lord, stand firm;
    holiness adorns your house
    for endless days.