Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 9 January 2022:
Genesis 7:1 — “Then the LORD said to Noah, ‘Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation.’”
The children of Noah faced a significant decision. They lived in a world where everyone blatantly disregarded God. Wickedness was the norm. No one would have condemned Noah’s sons for living evil lives like the rest of society—no one except their father. In a world rampant with ungodly attitudes and every form of wicked behavior, they were fortunate to be Noah’s sons. When their father invited them to spend the next hundred years building an ark in obedience to a word from God, Noah’s sons had to choose whether to believe those around them or to trust their father. They chose to join their father. What a wonderful testimony of Noah’s godly influence in his home! How fortunate for Shem, Ham, and Japheth that their father refused to compromise his integrity, even though everyone else in his society had done so. Your life has an influence on those around you as well. Your spouse and your children are profoundly affected by your choices. Your coworkers, your neighbors, and your friends will all be impacted by your life. As the world tries to persuade people to follow its standard, your life should stand in stark contrast as an example of a righteous person. Your life should convince those around you of the wisdom of following God. Do not underestimate the positive effect that your obedience will have upon those close to you. (Henry T. Blackaby)
Genesis 7:5 – “And Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him.”
Noah’s key attribute was unconditional obedience. The Christian life demands unconditional obedience as God directs us down paths we never intended to go. Obedience is not required just in the ‘big’ things but especially in the small things as we strive for holiness. Every small decision you make both reveals your character and shapes your character, for better or for worse. Obedience is a product of faith that also strengthens our faith for the future.
Genesis 7:13 — “On the very same day Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark.”
The Christian life is a life of leadership, guiding others in God’s will. Leadership starts with those closest to you. Christians serve God in relationships, not in isolation. We have a responsibility to serve as Christ’s Ambassador in the lives of those around us. A leader knows the way and shows the way. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life….” A true leader is closely following Jesus and directing others towards Him. Fortunately for Noah’s family, Noah was walking with God, and his family were willing to follow Noah against all practical reason.
Genesis 7:16 – “And the Lord shut him in.”
Noah did all that God commanded, but God completed the work in a way only He could enable. God demands that we work diligently for His purposes, but He works beyond our abilities to glorify Himself. The Christian life trusts in and depends upon the power of God. God’s path will be impossible for us to walk in our own strength, though we are called to press forward with all our might in faith that we do not labor in vein. Our dependence in God, which requires faith, reveals the power of God in our lives, both to ourselves and to those around us. It does not take faith to do what we already know we are capable of doing.
Psalm 2:10-12 — Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
In concert with our other readings this week, Psalm 2 reminds us that God’s message to a rebellious world, the Gospel message, our message to a rebellious world, begins with a call to repentance. Today the psalmist proclaims to the nations, ‘Be wise (understand your situation, your total depravity and enmity with The Holy, Sovereign God), be warned (of God’s wrath against you), serve (repent, surrender, and submit to God’s righteous sovereignty) … and then rejoice (in the Good News of God’s grace through Jesus), but with continuous trembling (awe and reverence for God).’ Compare the psalmist’s message with John the Baptist’s in Matthew 3 — “In those days John the Baptist came preaching…, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” As with the psalmists’ proclamation, John’s call to repentance was no light-hearted casual announcement – it was a dire, urgent warning – “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance…. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire…. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
In Matthew 4, Jesus similarly began His ministry with a call for repentance – “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’…. And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.” (Matthew 4:17, 23) The Gospel message always begins with God’s demand for repentance. The most awful news imaginable (God’s looming, wrathful judgment against sinners) reveals the magnitude of the Good News, God’s unmerited grace upon the repentant sinner who trusts in Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately, in our generation, the call to repentance seems to have been reduced to a whisper, and the Good News is presented more as ‘other news’. “In our attempts to make the Gospel palatable to non-believers, we sometimes promise all the benefits of heaven without demanding repentance. Thus we have celebrities who ‘love Jesus’ while reveling in immodesty and immorality, and many others who think themselves to be saved even though they never darken the door of a church or love their neighbors.” (Tabletalk Magazine)
Our call for repentance must involve boldly and directly countering culture, addressing the specifically relevant social issues of our day, exposing sin with the light of God’s word, while proclaiming salvation through Christ alone (the most socially offensive part of our message). As an example, John the Baptist boldly proclaimed Christ, while specifically, directly, and publicly challenging Herod’s unrepentant sexual sin – a relevant social issue of his day. For the latter, John the Baptist was beheaded. (Matthew 14; Mark 6) When we counter our culture and address current social issues in light of the Gospel and for the sake of the Gospel message of repentance, we serve as Christ’s ambassadors, bearing witness to the truth of man’s depravity and total dependence on His grace:
– John 18:37, 38 – “Then Pilate said to him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.’ Pilate said to him, ‘What is truth?’”
When we challenge culture and social norms, we enter into the great 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.” (2 Corinthians 10:4, 5)
If you are questioning why the world is increasingly becoming a dark place, question instead why the Church has lost much of its brightness, since darkness cannot overcome light. I think our readings point out that it is because we have neglected to “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” The bookends of “rejoicing” are “fear” and “trembling.” I’m afraid we have made light of God’s holiness and have failed to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” When we fail to stand in reverent awe of God, truly amazed by His grace, our motivation to serve and rejoice wanes, as does our eagerness and urgency to share The Good News. With Psalm 2:11 in mind, reconsider Jesus’ words from Matthew 5:13-16 – “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Psalm 3:8 – “Salvation belongs to the Lord.” People place their hope in many different things.
Some place their hope in politicians, others in finances, others in friends and family; but hope, peace, and security are ultimately found only in Jesus. Build your house on the rock of Jesus. Everything else is shifting sand.
Proverbs 9:10 — The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding
There is a difference between knowledge and wisdom. The world is full of very knowledgeable people but very few are truly wise, possessing understanding. Knowledge is knowing what is; wisdom is understanding what to do about it – how to rightly apply knowledge. As someone once said, “You can teach a monkey how to shoot a gun, but you can’t teach a monkey when it’s right to shoot a gun.” Just as it would be very dangerous to give a monkey a gun, so it is very dangerous to have knowledge without wisdom. As C.S. Lewis said, “Education without values seems rather to make man a more clever devil.” To rightly apply knowledge you must first start with “knowledge of the Holy One” —knowing the Truth of God. With a knowledge of God, His Holiness, His Righteousness, His Perfection, His Power, His Love, His Mercy, His Grace, you will stand in total awe, reverence, adoration, and submission before Him (fear of the Lord), seeking above all else, to do what is pleasing to Him, the Creator and Sovereign LORD. In submission to the LORD, guided by the Word of God and the counsel of the Holy Spirit, you can rightly apply knowledge.
– John 14:6 — Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
The wise aren’t guided by feelings, emotion, intuition, or shifting popular opinion but are rather guided by “fear of the Lord” and obedience to the word of God. Contrary to the teachings of popular culture, the Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it (Jeremiah 17:9)?” Though many have knowledge, Romans 1 says that “men… suppress the truth by their wickedness.” God declares, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8, 9).” Therefore, Proverbs says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones (Proverbs 3:5-8).” Wisdom is not something we can develop within ourselves, it can only be given to us by God. In fact Proverbs says that wisdom was among the first of God’s creations (Proverbs 8:22). Wisdom can only come from God — “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him (James 1:5).”
The Bible contrasts wisdom and foolishness like this: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’ (Psalm 14:1a).” The opposite of fearing the Lord (which is the foundation of wisdom) is denying the Lord. Foolishness is not a lack of intelligence, it is a lack of reverence for God. The obvious fool is the atheist who arrogantly claims that there is no God, but when believers (Christians) choose to disobey God (denying His Lordship in their lives at that moment of choice), they are acting foolishly. For example, the Christian might have knowledge that sex outside of marriage comes with very harmful consequences; wisdom would obey God’s commands related to sex, but foolishness would succumb to emotion and selfish desire. Ultimately, the Bible says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows (Galatians 6:7).”
Finally, it is important to note that you can have knowledge without wisdom, but the opposite is not true. Christians are absolutely not anti-intellectual. As we continue to read through the Bible, you will see countless verses related to the value of obtaining knowledge. It is popular today for atheists to claim that Christianity is opposed to science. Nothing could be further from the truth as long as we are talking about true science which is a system of knowledge dealing with demonstrable facts related to the physical world. The Bible points out that God is revealed through nature; so, an honest study of nature would only further reveal the wonders of God. What Christians reject is false science, or pseudo-science – un-provable hypotheses, based on atheism, taught as “truth” in the name of science.
– 1 Corinthian 1:18-31 — For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) — 9 Jan 22: Today, “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.”