Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 19 August 18:
1. Job 27:1-6 — “As God lives…, as long as my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils, my lips will not speak falsehood, and my tongue will not utter deceit…. till I die I will not put away my integrity from me. I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go; my heart does not reproach me for any of my days.” The most important thing to Job was his integrity — being truly integrated (completely united as one) with God. Above all else, Job did not want his life to disintegrate (dis-INTEGRATE — to break apart from God). Job paid a heavy, heavy price for his integrity, but he refused to surrender it, the one thing he had left that was truly his, something no one could take away from him, a treasure more valuable than gold and silver. Remember, it was his integrity that made him the target of Satan in the first place – “And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?’” (Job 1:8) Satan thought he could break Job through life crisis. Job believed that, with enough pressure, Job would disintegrate by denying his faith and compromising his fidelity to God. However, Job, being a man of unmatched character, refused to let circumstances define him. He refused to play the victim, to make excuses for personal failure. Regardless of what others did or said to him, regardless of what troubles befell him, regardless how unfairly he felt he was being treated, he remained resolute and faithful. Destitute, abandoned, lying in filth, covered in festers and boils, Job remained the richest, mightiest, proudest, strongest man on the planet – he had what no one could ever buy, a treasure that eluded all around him, a treasure that can never be stolen, only given away – integrity and wisdom in the Lord. Job ends today’s exchange with these words: “‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.’” The treasure of wisdom is found in the God-centered heart. The Bible says to guard the treasure within your heart “above all else,” a heavenly treasure “where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Proverbs 4; Matthew 6:24) Today’s Psalms say that God “loathes” people who are careless with their invaluable treasure – “They are a people who go astray in their heart.” (Psalm 95:10) How much is your integrity, your fidelity to God, worth to you? What does it take for you to give it away? No one can take it.
2. Job 28:18, 20, 23, 28 — “The price of wisdom is above pearls…. ‘From where, then, does wisdom come? And where is the place of understanding…? God understands the way to it, and he knows its place…. Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.’” In his tremendous pain, Job could not understand why God was allowing him to suffer – it made not sense to him and seemed unfair. But Job did not trust in his own understanding but rather “waited upon the Lord.” Job describes the incredible efforts men commit to pulling precious metals and stones from the earth to obtain wealth, and he points out that even if men valued wisdom enough to search for it with the same level of commitment (which they don’t), true wisdom could not be found through human capabilities alone – it must be given by God. “God understands the way to it, and he knows its place…. And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.’” (vs. 23, 28) Job understood that true wisdom can only come from God; it cannot be found by man’s efforts apart from God’s word and His enabling. The Bible tells us to diligently seek wisdom, but not from our own intellect but from God Himself. A big part of wisdom is simply remaining faithful and obedient to God’s clear word when you don’t understand the why behind it – trusting and obeying. Proverbs 18:2, 4 reminds us that everyone thinks they have wisdom, and everyone has an opinion about what is true, but among the oceans of words that have been spoken in the name of truth, words of wisdom are but a bubbling brook. Wisdom can be found from God’s word through the Holy Spirit, and today’s Psalms warn, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts (Psalm 95:8).” Concerning those who don’t live by God’s word, but rather substitute it for the “wisdom” of men, “They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways (Psalm 95:10).”
– Proverbs 3:1-8 — My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.
3. Proverbs 19:1 – “Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.” Riches aren’t the measure of your success but rather the quality of your character, your Christlikeness, your unity with Christ, your integration (integrity) with Christ.
4. Proverbs 19:2 – “Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.” You can be sincerely and enthusiastically wrong and go headlong into destruction.
5. Proverbs 19:3 – “When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord.” Don’t blame God when you reap the consequence of your own bad decisions.
6. Proverbs 19:4 – “Wealth brings many new friends, but a poor man is deserted by his friend.” Friendship based on personal benefit is not really friendship.
7. Proverbs 19:7 – “All a poor man’s brothers hate him; how much more do his friends go far from him!” Your poverty, despair, and trials can be a great filter to separate your real friends from your fair-weather friends. What sort of friend are you?
8. Proverbs 19:11 – “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” Patience is a mark of wisdom.
9. Proverbs 19:13 – “A foolish son is ruin to his father, and a wife’s quarreling is a continual dripping of rain.” The quality of family life is critical. Your house should be a sanctuary. Fathers have a responsibility to preserve the sanctuary.
10. Proverbs 19:14 – “House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.” Only God can change the heart of a spouse. God uses marriage as a school-house for Christian character development, united two very imperfect people so that they can learn to deny self, carry their respective crosses in the relationship, and following Jesus together. Remember, Jesus never quit on Judas, even in complete betrayal. God hates divorce.
11. Proverbs 19:18 – “Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death.” External discipline is a wall of protection for those who lack internal discipline, giving them a hope for the future. If you love someone who lacks internal discipline, you must protect them with rebukes.
12. Proverbs 19:20 – “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.” A wise person is humble enough to accept rebukes and discipline and the protection that comes with them.
13. Proverbs 19:21 – “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” If what you are doing is not what God intends, you are wasting your time and energy. If you find yourself harried, stressed out, and resentful, you are likely doing something God never asked you to do. Most people are struggling to build a life for themselves while God intends us to live our lives solely for Him, having denied ourselves. The psalmist warns, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Psalm 127:1) The problem is that we don’t like the house God is building because in that house we are but servants, the lowest of the low. We are like the disciples who come to the dinner table fighting over who will get the best seat and who will be served first while Jesus prepares to wash feet (John 13:1-15). Today, Jesus says, “let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.” (Luke 22:26) In God’s economy, the person who serves selflessly, lovingly, without complaint and without seeking any recognition is the prominent one in the Kingdom. We Christians like to refer to ourselves as servants, but we are seldom content with being treated as servants! Pride and fear tend to take over. But the true measure of character is selflessness. Jesus said, “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Luke 16:13) You cannot serve God and others while serving your own self-interest. Pride and fear seem to be the two primary motivators for selfishness – we want credit in order to feel important, and we fight for our own self-interest because, deep down inside, we don’t really believe that God will provide if we walk the selfless, humble, servant walk. Therefore, we seek first our own kingdom rather than the Kingdom of God. If we are not careful, even our service to God can become a prideful thing and our security blanket. Jesus also said, “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” (Luke 17:10) Pray that God will help you eliminate pride and fear within your heart. Pray that God will teach you selflessness. Stop jockeying for position, rest in the peace of the Lord.
– Psalm 84:10 — For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
– Ecclesiastes 7:29 — See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.
– Ecclesiastes 12:12-13 — My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.
– Matthew 11:28-30 — Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
– Luke 12:22-34 — And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
14. Proverbs 19:22 – “What is desired in a man is steadfast love, and a poor man is better than a liar.” All relationships are based on trust which depends on fidelity. Are you faithful? Be “Semper Fidelis Coram Deo” – Always Faithful In The Presence of God.
15. Proverbs 19:24 – “The sluggard buries his hand in the dish and will not even bring it back to his mouth.” Some people simply won’t take the good advice and help you offer just as some people will reject the perfect Love of God.
16. Proverbs 19:25 – “Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence; reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge.” The wise don’t need pain to learn obedience. Animals are trained with beatings and treats, but godly people accept the gentle instruction of the spirit.
17. Proverbs 19:27 – “Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.” Never will you lack the requirement for daily Bible study, prayer, and Christian fellowship.
18. Proverbs 19:29 – “Condemnation is ready for scoffers, and beating for the backs of fools.” If you are taking a beating, you may be getting persecuted, or you may be a fool. Many fools claim persecution when they are really receiving prosecution.
19. Psalm 95:1 – “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!” When was the last time your joy in the LORD caused you to shout aloud?
20. Psalm 95:6 – “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!” Worship is motivated by thanksgiving and awe.
21. Psalm 95:7, 8 – “For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts….” God will speak to you today in subtle ways – do not harden your heart. Disobedience comes from a hardened heart. Do what God has put upon your heart. Remember, partial obedience is disobedience. Delayed obedience is also disobedience.
22. Psalm 96:3 – “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” Will you declare the glory of God today?
23. Psalm 96:7 – “Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!” God wants you to worship as a family.
24. Psalm 96:10, 11 – “Say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity. Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it. Let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness.’” God is merciful, but He is also just. Only God understands how to rightfully apply justice, mercy, and grace – how He does this is beyond our comprehension. We all seem to want God to administer justice to those who hurt us, but we want God to show us mercy when we hurt others. We suffer the injustices of the world, but we know that only God’s mercy creates the opportunity for injustice to even occur, since He hasn’t already condemned us in his wrath. Ultimately, God will bring justice, and all of creation will rejoice in His justice. But today, we rejoice in and proclaim His mercy and grace, while we hope (trust) in the final revelation of His justice. As instruments of God’s mercy and grace, we have been called to a ministry of suffering while we serve as ambassadors to an unjust world. And Peter warns us to not lose perspective and to have both patience as well as a sense of urgency, understanding that the Lord delays in His coming for the sake of sinners, but His return is imminent: 2 Peter 3:9-12 – “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” Be gratefully patient in your suffering but be ardent in your evangelism.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 19 Aug 18: Today, declare the glory, righteousness, and faithfulness of God to as many as possible today. (Psalm 96)