The previously mentioned beatitude, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” leads us straight to the next one: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Since we now realize that any of our good qualities … Continue reading
God will never reject anyone who trusts in Him. Here we have a prayer of someone who comes to God with his fears. As it is written in the psalms, “When I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.” He asks that God will rescue him from those who are deceitful and wicked. He is oppressed by his enemy.
With this prayer he displays a clear understanding of the merciful character of God. He understands that righteousness and justice are the foundations of God’s rule, but he also knows his God is merciful.
This knowledge and understanding of God makes it easy for him to plead his case before God. There is no hesitation. Let this inspire us to leave vengeance in the hands of God and not to go about concocting our own schemes to get back at those who have hurt us.
He does not come before the throne of mercy claiming to be an innocent man. He has his own faults. He is appealing to God’s righteousness and not his own. With this understanding he makes his case against his enemies. When we are in need of God’s help let no enemy ever tell us that we do not ‘deserve’ God’s help. None of us deserve anything from God’s hands since we have all sinned and fallen short of His glory. If God could only help perfect people, who would qualify?
He prays boldly for deliverance from his enemy. He acknowledged that God is his strength. He says, “You are God my stronghold…” He is not relying on the arm of flesh. He did not run to people for deliverance, but straight to the throne of his God.
When we are distressed by all kinds of problems, we feel as we are hurled into darkness. We may become so overwhelmed that we can no longer think clearly. We may be so enveloped by our problems that we see no way out. As a solution to this condition, the psalmist prays that God will send forth His light. He knows this Light will lead him back into the presence and fellowship of his God.
Sometimes, we may feel darkness surrounding even our prayer life. It feels lifeless. We no longer sense the closeness of the Lord as we do at other times. We feel as if our prayers hit the ceiling. This may also represent a spiritual darkness which may become unbearable to the one who loves the Lord’s nearness.
When we find ourselves in these various situations of darkness, may we learn to pray, “Send me your light…” Amen. Then we will be able to see clearly our way out of the darkness.
Most importantly, we should never forget that when we pray like this we are in fact calling on the guidance of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself who said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
Scripture Reference: Matthew 21:28-32
Jesus never satisfied idle curiosity, but He was always very receptive to the questions of the sincere truth seekers. He was hostile towards hypocrisy, while being tender and merciful towards sinners, readily answering their questions.
For the most part, the religious leaders rejected Him and His teachings. They attempted to brush Him aside as either insignificant or a crazed madman. However, as time went on and Jesus grew in popularity among the crowds, they could no longer ignore Him. In fact, they soon felt threatened by His power and authority. They questioned His authority to His face, tried to trick Him with sly questions and spied on Him every opportunity they had.
It was shortly after they questioned His authority that He started to address them quite directly through a series of parables. They got the reference to themselves in these stories and wanted all the more to get rid of Him. One of those parables was the parable of the two sons.
He starts to relate the parable, interestingly enough, by asking them a question: “What do you think?” It will be their own words, eventually, which will condemn them. A father, He says, had two sons. He asked the one to be of service to him, but the son refused. However, he later repented of his disobedience and did as the father asked. The father asked the second son the same question, and this good boy said yes immediately. But, he never got around to fulfilling his promise to his father. So, asks Jesus, who was ultimately obedient to the father? “First son,” was their reply.
It was the one who appeared resolute in his disobedience who eventually did as his father requested. And Jesus then shows them how this relates to them. The first son signified the ‘sinners’ they looked down upon. The second son were representative of them –the religious leaders –who with their ramrod stiff religious rectitude rejected the way of life John the Baptist came to show them. John did not do religion like they did it and they refused to see that he was sent by God. They did not believe him. Even after they saw the preaching of John resulting in the changed lives of those very sinners they sneered at, they still refused to see the work of God in action. They still refused to believe.
So, says Jesus, those who think they are better than others because of their own religious works; those who think that God can work through no one but through their church; those who think that rites and rituals are more important than changed lives lived out daily as a testimony to the power of God, these are the ones who may think they will enter the kingdom of God. But these are the ones who will be left out in the dark, and those very people they looked down on, they are the ones who will be welcomed in His kingdom. Why? Because they never came to Him resting on their own merits, but remained humble enough to allow the word to change them.
- Ignoring Some Stuff and Looking for the Right Stuff (jesuscarriesme.com)
- There Is No Middle Ground with Jesus (resources.wcrossing.org)
One would think that a person who ‘gives freely‘ may eventually come to poverty. However, we often see the exact opposite happening. Why do the generous gain more? I think the answer lies in this verse below. It is in response to generosity that God gives the following promise:
And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. (2 Corinthians 9:8) NLT
This does not mean we give because God will now ‘owe’ us something. We give freely because we love Him and love for God inevitably evokes love for people. There is no man more generous than a man in love. So it is for us spiritually as well. Because of our overwhelming love for Him, we are inspired to generosity. Not because we expect anything in return, but because we want to do it.
We must understand that ‘giving freely‘ does not mean giving irresponsibly. It is a well thought-through and prayed-over decision for the believer. Paul wrote that a man who does not care for his own family is worse than an unbeliever. This means, of course, that we have to ensure we have our priorities straight before we give freely. We cannot give while our own families are suffering want.
For a believer, then, giving is not a mindless and reckless exercise. As we are led by the Spirit in everything else, we are also blessed to be led by the Spirit in our giving. Praying that God will guide our steps in this regard, will bring rewards for us and our children and happiness and gratitude in the hearts of those who receive.
God knows who needs what and He knows exactly when they need it. By trusting Him to show us where and how we may give, we can be assured that our giving will never lead us to poverty. As freely as Jesus moved through His days, tending to needs as He met them on His way, so we may move freely and trust the Lord will guide us those who need our help. We cannot help everyone, but God will show us the ones He decided we could help. Remember also that giving must never be a religious exercise. Scripture teaches that God loves a cheerful giver, not someone giving out of compulsion.
You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” 2 Corinthians 9:7 NLT
To ‘withhold unduly‘ refers to failure to pay debts. When we owe someone, even if the money is still in our hands, it is strictly speaking not our money. It belongs to another and if we use it for any other purpose than to pay the person, we are actually stealing that money. We have gone back on our word. Jesus taught us that our ‘yes’ must be yes and our ‘no’ remain no. Anything other than this, He says, comes from the evil one. In other words, if we owe a person money and we have that money, anything that suggests we should put it to other use, is not from God, but from His enemy. The enemy knows that we will forfeit blessings, not for ourselves alone but also for our children, if we fail to pay our debts. We will ruin our reputation, our credibility, our integrity and above all our witness for Christ. By submitting to his suggestions we may find short term pleasure in that money, but it will have lasting consequences. It is no wonder then, that the proverb says the one who withholds unduly will come to poverty.
The Bible calls the act of giving a ‘grace’. Grace is God’s power to do the right thing. May we be given more and more grace to excel in giving.
But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. (2 Corinthians 8:7)
Scripture Reference: Isaiah 41:9-13
There are many beautiful promises in the Bible, but for me these stand out in a special way. God makes these promises to Christ –the chosen Servant. He is the Chosen One and all those who believe in Him are chosen by God. Although these promises are given to Christ, they become ‘yes’ and ‘amen’ for all those who are in Him.
I took you from the ends of the earth,
from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’
There is an allusion to “every tribe and tongue” who are called of God (the ends of the earth). There are no geographical boundaries. God is calling to these chosen ones and urging them to continue trusting Him. This should keep their eyes fixed on Him for their future. They are inseparably joined to Him and He will never leave them nor forsake them.
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
God gives these promises to His people who are in this world but not of it. They may be in dire need and surrounded on every side by their strong and crafty enemies. God reassures them that no obstacle is too great for Him. He will remove everything that attempts to separate Him from His own. Nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
With tenderness He exhorts us not to fear. He is with us. He will strengthen us. When we are about to fall, He upholds us. This is even more reason not to cultivate desires of revenge against those who hurt us. We can be assured that for all their attempts, we will not stumble and God will deal with them in His own time and way. Why, He will even turn their bad intentions around for good so that we are developed by them and not destroyed by them. ‘Do not be dismayed‘, He says. Keep going and keep your eyes on your powerful God who is mighty to save. He preserves us. He gives us power. If He is for us who can be against us?
He says He is with us. What precisely does that entail? When God says He is ‘with‘ us it is a promise of His presence, His power –everywhere. It is a promise of Him supporting us, helping us, preserving us, observing us, granting grace to us, guarding us, supplying us, comforting us, encouraging us, loving us and removing the ‘impossible’ obstacles from us!
For I am the Lord your God
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
I will help you.
These promises are ours only because of the selfless life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Let us give Him all the praise!
I said, “Have mercy on me, Lord; heal me, for I have sinned against you.” (Psalm 41:4)
Jesus placed His followers under no delusion when He said, “In this world you will have trouble…” But, as was His habit, He followed up truth with comfort and added, “But take heart. I have overcome the world.“
As followers of Christ, we are not guaranteed freedom from the ills that fill this world we live in. We are not exempt from illness, financial distress, grief and family issues. However, Jesus promised that for every problem that can arise, He already has the solution. He has overcome the world and all its troubles.
Going through tough times allows us to become tender towards the struggles of others. No one can empathize with your troubling situation more than someone who has been through similar circumstances. As believers we are empowered, through grace, to be tenderhearted towards one another. Our own troubles often contribute greatly to this ability.
It must be added that troubles don’t work tenderness towards others in everyone. Some are hardened and become cynical because of their problems. It is only by grace that our troubles tenderize us and not harden us.
We can’t help all the troubles that come our way, but, we have to acknowledge, that many of our troubles are a result of our sin. For those who love the Lord, there is nothing so distressing as the possibility of sinning against such a loving and gracious God. Habitual sin results in a myriad of other troubles and often escalates into more sin to try and defend and cover the original sin. And sin also affects our physical well-being. “Sin and suffering are inevitable companions,” writes Charles Spurgeon.
But, there is power in the blood of Christ. His blood has the power to cleanse our guilty consciences. There is forgiveness for repentant sinners through the power of His Name. True repentance acknowledges that sin is firstly committed against God. This is how David understood his sin. He also knew though, that His grace is enough to cover his iniquities.
Notice how David prays for healing not because he is innocent, but because he has sinned. Mercy is not for the innocent. This is quite a contrast compared to the prayer of the self-righteous who believe God ‘owes’ them something because they had been oh-so-good; they had been doing this, that and the other thing for God and now they are entitled to His help.
As David prays for mercy because of his sin, he is not applying to justice for if he had to pray for justice, how could he stand before a holy God? He appeals to God’s mercy. He acknowledges that he sinned against his God. He does not try to hide it, cover it, downplay it, or excuse his sin. He is honest in his appeal for mercy. This is the kind of prayer that will guarantee an answer from God. He gives grace to the humble.
Finally, may we always remember that Jesus has been tempted in every way just as we have, but without sinning. In other words, He can perfectly relate to our humanity –to our weaknesses and our temptations and our troubles. It is for this reason that we are invited to come boldly to the throne to find grace in our time of need. We do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses. We may pray for mercy, not because we are innocent, but for the very reason of our guilt.
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
Here we have the fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9. It appeared, however, that those most acquainted with Scripture at that time, had forgotten all about this prophecy. They disdained His humble ways. Jesus appears in meekness, not majesty. But they loved ostentatious displays of importance. Jesus, however, didn’t do thing their way.
It is said that there were three paths over the Mount of Olives towards Jerusalem. These were the hollow between two crests of the hill on the northern side, over the summit of the Mount and finally between the Mount of Olives and the Hill of Offence. This route was shorter but more difficult.
It is believed that it is between the Mount and the Hill of Offence that Jesus advanced towards Jerusalem. He chose the difficult way (and in my opinion symbolic of the offence of mankind He will bear on the Cross) to reach His destination. By now they had passed Jericho, the distance between the two towns being about 31 km (19 miles).
The crowds celebrate Him here as the Messiah. They sing from Psalm 118 –a psalm which marks the celebration of the the reign of the Messiah. On the tenth day of the Passover the Passover lamb should be set aside for the special Passover meal. It is on this tenth day of the fourteen day Passover period that Jesus was publicly set aside for the special purpose as being God’s very own Passover lamb who will be sacrificed for the sins of the whole world.
Normally, during that time, the arrival of royalty into a town was marked by heralds, the sounding of trumpets and stately chariots, but none of these things accompanied the entrance of our Lord into the city He loved so much. We know, however, that God promised that all the things lacking at this entrance will abundantly be made up when He returns in all His glory with all His holy angels. Then His entrance will be magnificent. Then He will come in Majesty!
However, for this entrance, there were no drawn-out preparations. It appeared to be rather impulsive as He asked His disciples to secure the use of a donkey and her colt for the event. Great men used horses, but our Lord, the greatest of all men, merely asked His disciples to fetch a donkey and her colt. Donkeys are slow and not elegant as horses are. He could have summoned even an angel to carry Him through the gates of Jerusalem, but in meekness, He asked for a colt –He who rides upon the clouds of heaven! It was not even His own colt. He borrowed it.
Jesus was famous that day. The crowds spread their clothes before Him on the ground as He entered (remember that all clothes were handmade and expensive then and considered very valuable). They cut down palm branches and laid it before Him, lifting Him up as a conqueror. He knew that this same crowd shouting Hosannas today will cry, ‘Crucify him!’ not long after. Yet, He graciously accepted their adoration. And just as graciously did He accept their rejection.
When we look for material majesty by which to judge a person, we are in danger of missing Christ operating through the meek and lowly. May we keep our eyes on the right things; focused on His return when there will be, on that Day, the kind of majesty we cannot begin to imagine.
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3:2)
Be sure of this: The wicked will not go unpunished, but those who are righteous will go free. (Proverbs 11:21)
This proverb brings both comfort and discomfort. It brings comfort for those who love righteousness and yet see so little of it around them and who detest wickedness yet see so much of it go unpunished in this world.
It brings discomfort to those who know deep in their hearts that their wicked deeds will have to be accounted for in one way or another. Their consciences bear testimony to this. Perhaps there are those who have become so wicked and twisted that they have altogether silenced the voice of their conscience, but even they know that in their hearts there is no real peace, even if it appears they are getting away with the wrong thing.
Even if they should laugh about the apparent success of their wicked deeds, their laughter is always mixed with unrest in their hearts. They don’t know that real joy that comes from the peace that only Christ can give to those who have placed their faith in Him and have received His righteousness.
There can be no real peace in the absence of righteousness. Those who believe in Christ will know the true freedom that only He can give. They will be set free, for their sins have been atoned for. The word of the Lord stands firm forever and therefore we can be sure of the fulfillment of this promise.
We know that the freedom is never completely free. Someone had to pay a price for others to be free. How can we go free then? We have all sinned. And since we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, who can be called righteous besides the only Righteous One? The answer is this:
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life…God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. (Romans 3:23-25a, 26b NLT)
- Christ Changes Everything – Forget the Past – You Have a New Future (darrellcreswell.wordpress.com)
- Five Ways to Earn Deceptive Wages (thoughtsonscripture.com)
- Never Give Up Hope (thoughtsonscripture.com)
Scripture Reference: Isaiah 40:3
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
In the ancient Eastern world it was customary to prepare the way for the arrival of the prince by sending specially selected men ahead to ensure the way is clear where the prince would travel. This was especially done when the ruler would travel through barren and inhospitable areas.
When Isaiah speaks of preparing the way for the Lord, he is alluding to this custom. One could say that Christ was on His way to a barren and inhospitable region. “For His own did not receive Him.” The one that would prepare the way for the Prince of all princes was John the Baptist.
The meaning is even deeper when one considers that through this ‘preparing the way’ God was also preparing the hearts of the chosen ones by the work of His Spirit so that they will be receptive to the message of Redemption in Christ Jesus.
Everything was prepared meticulously for when the ‘time has fully come’. The political arena was perfectly staged as was the hearts of men, those who would embrace Him and those who would oppose Him. Now, when God arrived in the form of a humble servant, everything was fully accomplished to fulfill His promise.
Nothing about who God is or what He says or what He does is ever random. On the surface, that may appear to be the case for many, but when we look closer, even at the mathematical precision with which this entire universe operates, it is abundantly clear that everything has been perfectly planned and with the most incredible attention to detail.
This applies also to our individual lives. We may be going through some things that appear to be useless suffering with no real goal in sight, but we can only look at how God has done everything in the past –how carefully He planned every single detail –to know that He is intensely interested and involved in every single detail of our lives.
I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. (Psalm 40:1)
God has enough power to help the weakest among us. He has enough grace the help the unworthiest human being if he trusts in Him. Psalm 40 is also a remarkable prophecy about the Savior and His sacrifice. The author of Hebrews quoted from this psalm as if it were the words of Christ Himself, when he wrote about Christ offering Himself as the better sacrifice (Hebrew 10:5)
Here David was going through a dark time riddled with doubts, but he continued waiting, hoping and praying. In the Hebrew, the sense here is not of an isolated incidence of waiting, but of a continuous waiting in which he persevered. He stuck to waiting for a long time. He kept on praying even when it appeared his prayers were not being answered. He was not disappointed. He expected his help from no other source, and he was indeed rewarded.
He turned to me and heard my cry.
This is confirmation that those who wait patiently on God do not wait in vain. Looking at Jesus, our ultimate example, we will notice that impatience didn’t linger in His heart nor flow over His lips, even as He endured the agonies of the Cross and the period of time which lead up to that event. He displayed patience perfected. In this, He was giving us an example of how our conduct should be when we go through the trials of life.
The hope that God gives us allows us to keep steady in our walk and conduct. David soon found his darkness give way to the light of God’s joy and peace. Daily we experience the provision and grace of God. His mercies are new every morning. Let us patiently wait on Him even if it appears He is not listening to our prayers right now. Like David, we will certainly be rewarded.
- Persevering While Waiting, Evans Olang (magnifyhisword.wordpress.com)
Scripture Reference: Matthew 20:20-28
Prior to this incident, Jesus shared with His disciples the trials awaiting Him in Jerusalem. He told them how He will be killed by the church leaders and comforted them by sharing also His ultimate victory over death.
Recognizing that Jesus will be lifted up to a high position following these events, it appears that the mother of the sons of Zebedee saw in these words an opportunity to promote her sons to a level above the rest of the disciples. A desire to be better and higher than others is a sin rooted in pride.
She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”
Jesus put the truth to her plainly saying she has no idea what she is asking for. There can be no glory without pain. As humans we want all the glory but none of the pain required to achieve it. He refers to it as drinking a cup. It reminds me of drinking bad tasting medicine. It’s terrible, but the only way to achieve your goal of getting better.
The most arrogant among men have had no experience of this cup. They never knew the Cross and what a price He paid to achieve what we now enjoy under His grace. If they did know the Cross, there would be no room for pride and arrogance in their hearts as the closer we come to Christ, the more we are humbled by what He endured on our behalf.
There are few things that cause as much trouble between brothers and sisters than grandiose ideas of personal greatness. The rest of the disciples were indignant when they heard this request. James summed it up perfectly when put his finger on what causes quarrels between believers. He speaks also of selfish ambition and calls it the ‘wisdom’ of the world, which really is no wisdom at all, but folly.
What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure. (James 4:1-3 NLT)
But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. (James 3:14-16 NLT)
The world teaches us that greatness is measured by the number of people serving us. Jesus teaches us that greatness is measured by the number of people we serve. It is humility, not pride, that makes us great in the sight of God. Jesus was our perfect example in humility, as He was in everything else required of us.
Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
- Living in the Light (upliftingchrist.wordpress.com)
- Is there anything wrong with being a “character”? (mww1954.wordpress.com)
- Focus More on Eternal Glory Than on Temporary Suffering (jesuscarriesme.com)