WEEK 22, Day 1, Monday, 30 May 2022


Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 30 May 2022:

Numbers 31:15, 16 – “Moses said to them, ‘Have you let all the women live? Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the Lord.’”

God’s commands for total annihilation of Israel’s enemies in the Bible seem extreme and heartless, but God knew these totally corrupt, perverted cultures would negatively influence His people (at a time when the nation was very vulnerable), threaten their holiness, and eventually destroy them. While we tend to value the temporal life above all else, God values the eternal lives of all generations.

Our reaction to God’s wrath is to say it is unjust or unloving; however, justice would demand full accountability for all sin, and a God who would ignore the demands of justice would not be loving. When God punishes or condemns, He is not defying justice but rather withholding mercy and grace, which is His Sovereign right. We get offended when God, who is completely sovereign, holy, righteous, and loving, does not show mercy. We sometimes lose sight of mankind’s depravity and guilt before God (and the destructiveness of sin upon generations) and ask how a loving God could allow certain people to receive the penalty of death, instead of asking why a just and holy God allows anyone to live at all. We tend to think mercy and grace is something He owes us, and when we don’t receive mercy or grace, we think Him to be unjust. Justice is us getting what we deserve; mercy is us not getting what we deserve; and grace is God giving us what we don’t deserve. It is God’s prerogative, in His righteousness, to provide mercy – not giving someone what they deserve. When He doesn’t give mercy, He remains Just and Righteous.

“God is free to show mercy to whomever He will. In other words, mercy is not something that can be demanded. Mercy that is obligated is not mercy. We can never merit mercy from our Creator.

“True, mercy is not justice, but it is not injustice either. Consider two categories: justice and nonjustice. Everything that is not justice falls under the category of nonjustice, including mercy and injustice. Whether a person receives mercy or injustice, he has not received justice. But note that mercy and injustice are not equivalent. If a leader shows mercy and pardons one convicted criminal and not another, he has not dealt with the nonpardoned individual unjustly. The one not pardoned still deserves his sentence. He is not being treated unjustly if the sentence stands; he is simply not receiving clemency. In passing over some for salvation, God is still dealing with them justly because they have earned their condemnation.

Ultimately, in the case of the one to whom God shows mercy, justice is still done. The elect are as worthy of condemnation as the reprobate, but Christ bore the condemnation of the elect in their place (2 Cor. 5:21). The Lord’s predestination of mercy for some also includes the predestination of justice, for He predestined Christ’s atonement to pay for the sins of His elect (Acts 4:27–28). Because Christ atoned fully for believers, God does not demand that we atone for our sin.” (Ligonier Ministries)

2 Corinthians 2:7 –“So you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.”

We must hold people accountable but with the goal of restoring them, not destroying them.

2 Corinthians 2:14-17 — But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.

Paul was very troubled by the problems within the church at Corinth. So, he had sent Titus there to check-up on them. However, Paul was so concerned, he couldn’t wait for Titus any longer, and he left his fruitful ministry work in Troas to meet up with Titus in Macedonia. We will read later in chapter 7, that while in Macedonia, Paul continued to face many struggles – “For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within.” (2 Corinthians 7:5) But Paul gives thanks to God for the experience and uses two metaphors to describe it: a “triumphal procession,” an emanating smell (fragrance and aroma). What does he mean by these metaphors?

“Christ always leads us in triumphal procession.” The Greek word used here for “lead in triumphal procession” is thriambeuō, which some versions translate as, “causes us to triumph,” but which actually refers to the practice of Roman generals victorious in battle who would lead and parade through the streets their plunder and prisoners for all to see as a testimony to the conqueror’s victory. The reader of Paul’s day would instantly understand the reference, having likely witnessed such a parade. Previously Paul wrote, “For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings.” (1 Corinthians 4:9) As Paul faced tremendous hardships, he not only reminds us that Christ has already triumphed, but he also reminds us that as we face hardships as His previously conquered foes, we glorify Him and demonstrate His power in our weakness – “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10) Paul was eager to play his small role to proclaim the glory of the Victorious King as He was being led not to death but rather to eternal life.

  • Romans 6:22 — But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God.

“…and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.” The imagery here is perhaps both the Roman victory parade and the fragrance of alter sacrifices to God. “As a part of the celebration, the Romans would burn fragrances on altars, filling the entire city with a pleasant aroma. Even those who could not witness the triumphal procession could hear the victory music and smell the pleasing incense. Everyone would know that their army had been victorious. The special fragrance came to symbolize victory to anyone who smelled it.” (Henry T. Blackaby) Paul would also have the aroma of Christ in mind here: “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:2) Jesus “offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins.” (Hebrews 10:12) Now, “we are the aroma of Christ” as “living sacrifices” to Him. (Romans 12:1)

“Paul used this vivid imagery to describe the effect that Christians should have in the world. According to Paul, God permeates our lives with the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, our lives should demonstrate to others that Christ is victorious. As unbelievers observe our lives, they should become aware of the victorious power of Christ. As other Christians witness the victory Christ gives us over our sin, they can rejoice in the triumph of their Lord and gain confidence that Christ will bring victory in their lives as well.

The most compelling evidence that Christ is alive and triumphant is His activity in the lives of His people. It is a privilege to be the fragrance of Christ by which others learn of God’s life-changing power over sin. Y our life ought to be convincing proof that God continues to work powerfully in the lives of His people.” (Henry T. Blackaby)

We spread the fragrance of the knowledge of God wherever we go when we proclaim the Gospel in word and deed to others. In order to spread the Gospel, God might send us to places we never intended or desired to go. When we suffer in our service to the Lord, we share in the sufferings of Christ, and it too is a fragrant offering, pleasing to the Lord. Paul had joy in his hardships because he knew his labor in the Lord was not in vain. Do you?

“For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” Paul recognized that he was fulfilling his role as “the aroma of Christ,” spreading the “fragrance of the knowledge of God,” whether people accepted it or not. When you spray perfume in a room, everyone smells it. Likewise, God calls us to live lives that reveal Christ to everyone. Paul understood that not everyone who heard his message would believe. He simply shared the Gospel with everyone and left the results to God. We too must share the Gospel with everyone we can, and trust God with the outcomes.

Today, be the aroma of Christ, and spread the fragrance of the knowledge of God wherever you go.

“For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God.” (2 Corinthians 2:17)

A genuine Christian’s desire is to serve Christ as an Ambassador, despite great expense and personal sacrifice. Paul demonstrated his sincerity by giving his all (eventually his life) to share the Gospel. Paul was willing to sacrifice all he had for the Gospel. What are you willing to sacrifice for the Gospel?

Some people use God’s word for personal gain. Many have peddled it. Christianity has proven highly marketable. More and more, people are being directed towards books about the Bible rather than the Bible itself, all for a price. A quick online search of some popular Christian names will reveal them to be some of the wealthiest people on earth. The wealthy pastor or preacher stands in stark contrast to the example given by Jesus. “You received without paying; give without pay.” (Matthew 10:8)

In many other ways, people approach God’s word from a self-centered perspective in hopes of getting what they want. Many read God’s word as a self-help book in order to live happy, comfortable, successful lives. However, God’s word is not intended to merely teach you principles but rather to lead you to the Person of Jesus, to guide you into a very real and personal relationship. Jesus explained, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3) Eternal life is not knowing “about” God; it is knowing God in real relationship. It is not about receiving blessings from God but rather about receiving the blessing of God’s presence. God did not introduce you to concepts; He introduced you to Christ. The power of your testimony is that you bear witness to the reality of Jesus Christ, and the evidence of your genuine encounter with the Living God is apparent in how you have responded to that encounter. You cannot bear witness to what you do not know or haven’t experienced. You won’t be truly transformed by what you haven’t experienced and aren’t experiencing daily. Yes, God’s word, being truth, does, if followed, offer paradigms and principles that can drastically improve anyone’s life, even a non-believer. Yes, you can repackage God’s word, market it, and make some money. However, if you stop at principles and simply knowing ‘about’ God rather than becoming truly intimate with God, you have missed the prize and joy of eternal life, and you might be leading others to a superficial form of religion. What has inspired so many martyrs over the centuries? It wasn’t a story they read, it was a Person they knew. Jesus explained that God’s word is essential in our walk with God, but the power comes from the Spirit of God working through His word. Seek the Living God with all your heart, nothing else. Don’t view the Bible as a supernatural success book. See the Bible as your conversation with God to build your relationship with Jesus.

  • Matthew 22:29 — But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.
  • Jeremiah 29:13 — You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
  • John 4:29 — “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?”
  • Matthew 11:28 — Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
  • Luke 9:23 — And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
  • Romans 15:13 — May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
  • 1 Corinthians 4:20 — For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:7 — But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 30 May 22: Approach those who offend you with the intent to lead them to Jesus. Remember, your mission given by God is one of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 2:7)

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