Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Saturday, 26 March 2022:
Exodus 33:1, 2 – “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, “To your offspring I will give it.” I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.’”
Here we see a pattern repeated throughout the Bible – God’s commands us to step out in faith, and He does, through His power, what we could never do without Him. God made a promise to Moses and the Israelites, and God commanded them to act according to that promise, with boldness, complete confidence, and full commitment. When God makes a promise, it is a sure thing – but we must act on that sure thing, and how we act determines not only how much we will actually benefit from that sure thing but also reveals to others what we really think about our God. When we totally commit to God’s promises, we receive the fullness of blessing, and we glorify God to others.
Think about what Jesus said in Matthew about the Kingdom of Heaven – “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44, 45) When you truly believe in the unseen reality of God’s promises and His Sovereignty, you will invest in it fully; in other words, you will commit to it wholeheartedly. If you aren’t willing to ‘sell all that you have,’ to commit wholeheartedly, you won’t be able to buy the field with the hidden treasure or the pearl of great value.
- Luke 16:13 — 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.
- 1 Corinthians 10:21 — You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.
- 2 Corinthians 6:14 — Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?
- James 4:4 — You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God
- Luke 11:23 — Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
- Revelations 3:15, 16 — I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.
- Joshua 24:15 — And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
Jesus’ parables about the Kingdom of Heaven address faith, wholehearted commitment, and trust; they aren’t suggesting we earn or buy our way into heaven or that we earn God’s love. Our salvation and our sanctification are both a gift from God. When God offers a gift, it is free, but you must take it in order to possess it. God offers the free gift of salvation through faith in Christ, but a person must take it. Likewise, God offers you sanctification and blessings through obedience to Him, but you must have faith to cross through your metaphorical ‘Red Sea’ or ‘Jordon River,’ day by day, in loving, confidence and fully committed obedience to experience the fullness of His promises – “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:10, 11) Through it all, God does not remove the challenges, He uses them for your development into Christ-like character, your ultimate benefit, and for His glory. “Go up from here… to the [place] of which I swore… [and] I will send an angel before you….” Pray to God He will give you the faith to trust and obey today and every day, and step out in the faith you know you have – “For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)
- Hebrews 11:6 – “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
Psalm 34 – “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all…. Affliction will slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.”
The Bible is more than clear, afflictions in this life will be many, even for the righteous – and Jesus said, even more for the righteous – “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted….” (2 Timothy 3:12) “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
The difference for the Christian is our perspective on afflictions, our strength through afflictions, our response to afflictions, and the outcome of our afflictions:
Our perspective on afflictions: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:28-29)
- Philippians 3:10 — “…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death….”
- Psalm 119:67 — Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Your word.
- Isaiah 48:10 — Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
- Psalm 119:75 — I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are righteous, And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.
Our strength through afflictions: “My soul makes its boast in the Lord.” (Psalm 34:2)
- Psalm 46:1-3 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
- Isaiah 43:2 — When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
- Proverbs 18:10 — The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and are safe.
- Nehemiah 8:10 — Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
- Isaiah 41:10 — 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.
- Exodus 15:2 — The Lord is my strength and my song; he has given me victory. This is my God, and I will praise him– my father’s God, and I will exalt him!
- 2 Corinthians 1:4 — …who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
Our response to afflictions: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
- 1 Thessalonians 1:6 — And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,
- Romans 5:3–4 — “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”
- Psalm 34:1b–3 — “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together!”
The outcome of our afflictions: “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12)
- 2 Corinthians 4:8 — We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair….
- Proverbs 24:16 — for the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.
- 2 Corinthians 4:17 — For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison….
- James 1:2-4 — Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Proverbs 26 – Today’s proverbs warn us against fools, sluggards, liars, and gossips. The warning is not only to protect us from others but also to protect us from ourselves. Christians must guard themselves against such behavior.
Proverbs 26:4, 5 – “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.”
These verses apparently contradict each other, though we know they don’t. They are written together intentionally and likely mean we should seek to counter the foolishness of others, for their sake, while being very careful not to act foolish ourselves in the process. Don’t stoop to their level or parrot their behavior. Don’t lose sight of your mission of reconciliation, of bringing them closer to Jesus through your words and deeds. If your words, tone, mannerisms, and behavior aren’t leading them towards Jesus, you are being foolish too.
You have an obligation to hold others accountable for their sin, but don’t stoop down to their level when rebuking them. Listen empathetically, don’t get emotional, and don’t seek self-justification. In love, speak the truth from God’s word, and don’t lose sight of the goal of reconciliation, bringing them closer to Jesus in some way. When you let self get in the way of your rebuke, you lose your moral authority and have become a ‘judge’ rather than a juror. Don’t judge the person or seek to be the punisher — judge the action and seek to free the person trapped in sin.
Proverbs 26:6-10 – “Whoever sends a message by the hand of a fool cuts off his own feet and drinks violence. Like a lame man’s legs, which hang useless, is a proverb in the mouth of fools. Like one who binds the stone in the sling is one who gives honor to a fool. Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of fools. Like an archer who wounds everyone is one who hires a passing fool or drunkard.”
A fool given a message will either fail to deliver the message or will transmit the message in a way that was never intended, causing enmity rather than peace and healing. The Bible says, “God, through Christ, reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation… entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20) We must be very careful not to be foolish messengers who fail to deliver the Gospel or who deliver the message in a way never intended by Jesus. We are responsible to God for not only what we say (or don’t say) but also how we say it. You cannot be a faithful ambassador for Christ if you are representing yourself in any way. It’s not about you.
Proverbs 26:7 – “Like a lame man’s legs, which hang useless, is a proverb in the mouth of fools.”
Knowing God’s word is not the same as understanding God’s word. The Bible says that the fool can’t understand God’s word (Psalm 92:6). Fools are those who do not really seek the fear of the Lord or true wisdom (Proverbs 1:7); they are scoffers, arrogant and prideful (Proverbs 1:22; 21:24); they are self-righteous and wise in their own eyes (Pro 12:15; 18:2; 28:26) Many fools are well-versed in the Bible but lack wisdom and only cause division vice reconciliation.
Fools are prideful. You cannot approach God’s word with pride.
Don’t be a lame messenger for Jesus by being foolish in your dealings with others.
Wisdom is knowledge rightly applied. Many have knowledge but don’t know how to apply it because their hearts are not right. Many use the Bible in a self-serving manner rather than a God-centered way.
Knowledge is no good to a person who doesn’t have the discipline to consistently apply that knowledge. Again, wisdom is knowledge rightly applied.
Knowing the words of Jesus is pointless if you are not ready to follow Jesus, which requires first that you deny self. You will act upon what you really believe to be true.
Fools often know the word but won’t do the word. They may claim to be Christian but are guided by their own fears/desires and the teachings of the world rather than Him.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 26 Mar 22: Today, trust and obey, “for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” (Exodus 33) Don’t be surprised by afflictions. Don’t misinterpret your afflictions. Pray for a godly perspective on your afflictions, God’s strength through your afflictions, faith, hope, confidence, peace and joy through your afflictions, and that you would glorify God to others through your response to afflictions. Also, remember that God doesn’t want us to go through afflictions alone but wants us to be supported by other Christians. Going through afflictions is a time to draw closer to God and His people, not further away. (Psalm 34)