Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 23 September 18:
1. Isaiah 38:1 — “Set your house in order, for you shall die.” God’s plan for you includes a time to die, but that is not the end of His plan for you. Contrary to what the world, the flesh, and the devil tell us, physical death is not the worst thing that can happen; in fact, the Bible says that for a Christian, to die is gain. Part of our testimony to the world will be how we approach the reality of death as was the testimony of so many in the Bible: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – “If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17, 18); Job — “Though he slay me, I will hope in him….” (Job 13:15); David — “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers….” (Acts 13:36); Jesus — “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42) Many live in denial with little regard for the reality of their inevitable death. Christians should live as this is their last day to serve God on earth and prepared for eternity with Him in Heaven, making the most of every opportunity to love God and others. Fear of death can cause us to sin greatly by undermining what would bring God the greatest glory and which would ultimately be best for us and others. The worst thing that can happen isn’t that we die but rather that we dishonor God in disobedience and doubt of His perfect love, faithfulness, and grace; hence the saying, “Death before dishonor!” It was time for Hezekiah to die, but his flesh got the best of him, and he begged for more time. God gave him 15 more years which Hezekiah used to dishonor God, to give birth to one of the Bible’s most terrible kings, and to set the conditions for his nation’s demise. Your loving God knows when it is the perfect time for you to die and to join Him in Heaven.
2. Isaiah 38:5 – “Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life.” As stated above, these were the worst 15 years of Hezekiah’s life – he betrayed his country, and fathered one of the nation’s most evil kings. These added years of life were worse than the death God had originally planned for Him. Foundational to our faith is understanding that God works all things, including death, together for good in ways we can’t understand. When we are experiencing God’s blessing, it is easy to believe that God knows what is best. But when God allows sickness and sorrow in our lives, we may be tempted to question His wisdom. The Lord told King Hezekiah that his life was coming to an end. God advised him to prepare himself for death and to plan to turn over the kingdom. Instead, Hezekiah pled for his life, begging God to spare him from death (Isa. 38:3). God loved the righteous Hezekiah and, in His grace, granted him an additional fifteen years to live, not simply to give Hezekiah what He wanted but rather to reveal truth to Hezekiah and to others through Hezekiah. Those fifteen years would prove that God’s wisdom far exceeds human wisdom. During those added years, Manasseh was born, and he eventually succeeded Hezekiah as king of Judah. Manasseh, who reigned for fifty-five years, was the evilest king ever to rule over Judah (2 Kings 21:1). Manasseh encouraged the worship of idolatry throughout the nation. He passed his own son through fire according to the abominable practices of idolatry. He shed much innocent blood during his reign; every part of the nation suffered from his cruelty. Manasseh’s wickedness provoked God to anger, but Manasseh ignored God’s warning (2 Kings 21:16; 2 Chron. 33:10). All these hardships were caused by Manasseh, a king who would never have been born if Hezekiah had accepted God’s will for his life! Furthermore, Hezekiah’s extended reign led to Judah’s eventual defeat by the Babylonians (2 Kings 20:12-20). So much suffering resulted from Hezekiah’s unwillingness to accept God’s will for him. God knows what is best. Whether your circumstances are easy or difficult, you can completely trust His guidance.
3. Isaiah 39:7, 8 – “’And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’ Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.’ For he thought, ‘There will be peace and security in my days.’” In his pride, Hezekiah set the stage for the kingdom’s destruction, but when he learns of the inevitable consequences, his response reveals his selfish, self-centered heart. This once noble, courageous, god-fearing king has now become totally self-absorbed, only concerned about his own glory and his own security, caring little for his family or for anyone else who depends upon him. This is a Biblical warning to the reader. It is not how you start that matters, it is how you finish.
4. Proverbs 23:1-3 — “When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food.” Many promise wealth and comfort with hidden agendas designed to gain control over you or your wealth production capacity.
5. Proverbs 23:12 – “Apply your heart to instruction and your ear to words of knowledge.” God says you show trust in Him by studying His word and then applying His word. Study is essential, but study without application is only knowledge that puffs up. We love others through application.
6. Proverbs 23:13, 14 — “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.” The home is the school house of character development, and parental discipline is a critical part of the development process. The way parents discipline their children should serve as a model for children to understand how God disciplines His children.
7. Proverbs 23:17 — “Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the LORD all the day.” The Bible describes envy as one of the most dangerous of emotions. It involves resentment over the wealth, blessings, talents, good fortune, or achievements of another. The envious person feels a deep sense of injustice that can only be directed at God who provides all things to all people. This verse points out that envy is a deep spiritual sin which tempts you to rebel in your tantrum against God. Be very careful not to be envious of others, but rather be thankful for what God is doing in your life to bless you.
8. Proverbs 23:20 — “Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat….” The Bible compare gluttons with drunkards, people who eat too much with people who drink too much. While many churches address sins associated with alcohol, statistics show that evangelical Christians are fatter as a group than the unbelieving population, and obesity is one of the top three leading causes of death in America. Both gluttony and drunkenness reveal a lack of self-control; self-control is one of the fruits of the spirit. So, these conditions are spiritual conditions which require repentance. Don’t turn to Jenny Craig to solve that diet problem; turn to God and examine your heart.
9. Proverbs 23:24 – “The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him.” Family life should bring joy.
10. Proverbs 23:26-27 – “My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways. For a prostitute is a deep pit; an adulteress is a narrow well.” A young person’s sexual sin can ruin their future, though their passions blind them from this long-view.
11. Psalm 110:1 – “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’” Jesus used this verse to explain that David too waited for the Messiah, Jesus. David understood something about Jesus and looked forward to His coming. In Luke 20:41-44, Jesus uses Psalm 110 to reveal Himself as the Messiah.
12. Psalm 110:3 — “Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours.” Psalm 110:3 which is labeled “a Psalm of David” is actually a prophesy of the reign of Jesus Christ. In Luke 20, Jesus pointed out that this Psalm refers to him, his Son-ship, and his Kingship — the Jews had missed the message of this Psalm. Jesus, who proclaimed “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand…. The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel,” reminds every one of the words of Psalm 110 – “I make your enemies your footstool.” As we have discussed in previous readings, God’s Elect will reign on earth with Jesus upon His return (1 Corinthians 6, Revelation 20), and Psalm 110:3 gives another clue as to how events will occur – “the dew of your youth will be yours.” This statement can also be interpreted, “your young men will come to you like dew.” This coincides with what is prophesied in Micah 5 concerning “the Ruler… born in Bethlehem” — “Then the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many peoples like dew from the Lord, like showers on the grass, which delay not for a man nor wait for the children of man. And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the nations, in the midst of many peoples, like a lion among the beasts of the forest, like a young lion among the flocks of sheep, which, when it goes through, treads down and tears in pieces, and there is none to deliver. Your hand shall be lifted up over your adversaries, and all your enemies shall be cut off.” (Micah 5:7-9) These are the people who have diligently obeyed their King and have gone throughout the world, to every Nation, making disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey all of God’s commands; advancing the Kingdom of God one heart at a time; preparing people across the globe for the return of Jesus; this is a global, spiritual insurgency, treading down and tearing to pieces the forces of darkness and the strongholds of evil. The “Christian Soldier” is in a battle every day, but not a physical battle but rather a spiritual battle – “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:5, 6) We are to live as “Ambassadors for Christ” and as a “Kingdom of Priests” in the midst of the kingdoms of men, not in timidity but as lions, destroying strongholds through divine power and the authority of Christ. We have been given our mission orders by Jesus himself:
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
with the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
forward into battle see his banners go!
At the sign of triumph Satan’s host doth flee;
on then, Christian soldiers, on to victory!
Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of praise;
brothers, lift your voices, loud your anthems raise.
Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.
We are not divided, all one body we,
one in hope and doctrine, one in charity.
Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
but the church of Jesus constant will remain.
Gates of hell can never gainst that church prevail;
we have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.
Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng,
blend with ours your voices in the triumph song.
Glory, laud, and honor unto Christ the King,
this through countless ages men and angels sing.
13. Psalm 110:4 — “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews reveal that this priesthood of Melchizedek points to Jesus.
14. Psalm 111:1 – “Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.” Will you do this at church today?
15. Psalm 111:10 — “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” This phrase is repeated several times in the Bible for a reason. God is the source of all wisdom; the world’s wisdom is foolishness to God. All wisdom is founded on the Sovereignty of God. Any “knowledge” that does not start with that fundamental truth is a deception and a lie. Today, many say that science and faith are at odds. However, that is false. The word science comes from the Latin “scientia,” meaning “knowledge.” According to Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, the definition of science is “knowledge attained through study or practice,” or “knowledge covering general truths of the operation of general laws, esp. as obtained and tested through scientific method [and] concerned with the physical world.” The Bible says that nature reveals the truth of God; so, science will naturally point to the reality, truth, and Sovereignty of God. However, popular, politically biased “science” seeks to eliminate God, and therefore becomes, at its foundation, a destructive lie. Case in point: the theory of evolution taught is schools has its foundation in Charles Darwin’s publication “On the Origin of Species.” This publication refutes God’s truth. This lie had consequences which are revealed in the rest of the title of the original publication: “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.” This ‘scientific’ lie fueled the concept of “Favoured Races” which led to previously unimaginable atrocities in Nazi Germany. Where is scientific deception taking us today? Where could we have gone if we relied on honest science that accepts the truths of God? What wonderful things might we have discovered, created, and cured had we not worked so hard to keep God out of the equation? We can only speculate.
16. Psalm 111:2 — “Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.” Those who delight in the LORD study Him. Your study reveals your love.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 23 Sep 18: Is there a limit to your trust in, fidelity to, and obedience to God? Is there a place where self wins out? Do you love the blessing of God more than God Himself? Satan believed Job had a limit, and God allowed Satan to test Job. Hezekiah did great things but, as we read today, had a definite limit to his fidelity to God. The Bible says that Jesus was faithful to the cross — “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8) Today, consider your limit – is your fidelity conditional? If God took everything away from you, would you love Him more and more, would you trust Him more and more, would you obey Him regardless? Pray that God will increase your fidelity and give you a heart for Him and not simply for what He can provide.