Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 31 July 2022:
Joshua 23:10 – “One man of you puts to flight a thousand, since it is the LORD your God who fights for you, just as he promised you.”
Physical power is no match for spiritual power. The power of God makes all other power meaningless.
Joshua 23:11 – “Be very careful, therefore, to love the LORD your God.”
Your relationship with God is your strength and your purpose. Be very careful not to let sin get between you and God.
Joshua 23:14 — “And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed.”
Joshua’s dying wish was that none of his people would fall away from the Lord.
Psalm 86:3-5 — “Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to you all day long. Bring joy to your servant, for to you O Lord, I lift up my soul. You are a forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you.”
The Old Testament shows us a pattern of repentance in the lives of God’s people and the joy that comes from living by grace. God was at work in the hearts of His people to draw them to Him and to His word. Genuine repentance and appreciation for God’s amazing grace would inspire in God’s people a great passion for His word. For example, in the Book of Nehemiah, we see that God’s people were willing to listen “attentively” to the Book of the Law for hours. Likewise, we see in Psalm 86:11 David’s eagerness to learn God’s “way” from God’s word. Convicted by God’s word, the people were driven to godly sorrow. This was not “worldly sorrow” which is self-centered and produces tears of self-pity having experienced the consequences of sin. This was godly sorrow that recognized that God’s love had been treated lightly and that behind their disobedience was a problem with their hearts. There was no excuse making or blame-shifting, only honest self-examination that produced tears of true humility. In fact, so great was their sorrow that the people had to be calmed down. The people had to be reminded of God’s mercy and grace that David speaks of in Psalm 86 – “I will praise you O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me for the depths of the grave…. You, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Turn to me and have mercy on me; grant your strength to your servant and save the son of your maidservant.” Recognizing his “poor and needy” state before the Lord, David trusts in the Lord (Psalm 86:2) to forgive him, to give him strength (86:16) and to build in him an “undivided heart” as David continues to “walk in [God’s] truth” (Psalm 86:11). In continual repentance, David rejoices in God’s love. When the Levites explained the nature of God’s love to the people, “Then all the people went away… to celebrate with great joy because they now understood the words that had been made known to them (Nehemiah 8:12).”
Psalm 86:7 – “In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me.”
The more you pray to God and see His faithfulness in response, the more confident you become in prayer and in God’s protection.
Psalm 86:11 – “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.”
Knowing the word of God is essential, but it is not sufficient – you also need the power of the Holy Spirit to teach you to walk in the word and to walk in unity with Jesus. Disobedience to God’s word grieves the Holy Spirit, quenches the Holy Spirit in your life, and causes you to get out of step with the Holy Spirit. In disobedience, you could have the whole Bible memorized and still be powerless and joyless. Don’t let continued sin rob you of the blessings God intends for you.
- John 14:26 — But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
- John 20:22 — And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
- Acts 2:38 — And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
- Acts 5:32 — And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” [who obey Him]
- Acts 7:51 — “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.
- Ephesians 4:30 — And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
- Galatians 5:25 — If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:19 — Do not quench the Spirit.
Psalm 86:11-13 — Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
David earnestly prayed not only for the ability to understand God’s word but also for a heart that desired to obey God’s word in love and thankfulness, not simply to receive blessings from God but to be united with God. David desired a heart that was united with God’s heart (Compare with John 17:17-23), and his desire was that he would joyfully obey and glorify God with his whole heart. David desired that His words and deeds would be the outpouring, or fruit, of a genuine love for God. David explains his motivation – “For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.” Today’s verses reveal why David is known as “a man after God’s own heart.” (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22) He wasn’t merely seeking God’s blessings, He was seeking God Himself, to know Him intimately. To be truly one with Him. Do you share David’s prayer and Jesus’ prayer for you recorded in John 17?
- Luke 10:27 — And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
- 1 John 5:3 — For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
Luke 10:27, the Greatest Commandment, explains that how much you love the Lord is revealed by how you treat others. How well you love God and others is determined first by a heart and soul which longs for God, and then through actions (using your strength to love) which are guided by the diligent study of God’s word (using your mind to love); and 1 John 5:3 reveals that the more we grow in genuine love for God, the less we view His commands to sacrificially love others as burdensome.
Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments (John 14:15),” and he charged his disciples to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19, 20) Obedience is the product of love which must be enabled by God but which is also be learned through study and application of God’s word as a life-long labor of love. To obey God’s word and to teach others to obey God’s word, you must understand God’s word. Bible study is an essential Christian discipline, and the Bible says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) However, Bible knowledge is not the same as Bible understanding, and information is not transformation. You must know the Bible through diligent study, but only through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit (John 3:1-14; 1 Corinthians 2:14) and through Bible application (experience and practice) can you grow to understand what you only previously ‘knew’ intellectually. Wisdom, knowledge rightly applied, comes from God – “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.” (Proverbs 2:6-8). God gives us wisdom as we prayerfully step out in faith with the knowledge we have while the Holy Spirit coaches us into true understanding.
Knowledge and understanding are essential, but you must also have the heart to do what you know, and only through a heart of love can you become what you do, transforming virtues into character (who you really are inside). Some people will do what is right because they are scared not to or because they are seeking recognition or a reward (fear and pride); and some people will do what is right because they know they should (duty). Ultimately, however, fear, pride and duty can’t contain a person’s passions, nor are these motivations a foundation for genuine relationship. Only love endures, transforms and unites. Do you want a person to treat you well because she is scared not to, because she is hoping to get something from you, or because she knows she should; or do you want her to treat you well because she really wants to from the heart? Which motivation endures through all circumstances? Which motivation produces joy, peace, thankfulness and oneness? Fear, pride and duty are burdensome, heavy loads because what you do wars against what you really want to do inside; your actions contradict who you really are. Love delights in obedience and service because your actions agree with your heart –
- Matthew 11:28, 29 — 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.
Wisdom comes from God, but so does love. To grow in wisdom and love, we must grow closer to God who is the Source of both. (John 15) The aim of our Bible study, Bible application, and prayer must not be behavior modification alone or simply to receive the blessings of God; it must be unity with Jesus, truly knowing Him more and more and growing in our love for Him; and we must trust that the One who saved us, through His initiative and power rather than ours, and though we didn’t deserve it, will likewise sanctify us (transform us to Christ-like character) as we abide in Him.
Psalm 86:12-13 – “I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.”
You should be thankful in all circumstances because you know that nothing can separate you from the love of Christ and that He works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
Proverbs 31:1 — “An oracle that his mother taught him…”
A wise mother desperately wants her son to find a wise, godly wife. A wise mother carefully instructs her children on God’s plan for marriage.
Proverbs 31:6-7 – “Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.”
Various forms of escapism are for the weak and not appropriate for a Christian who faces the responsibilities and opportunities God has set before them with courage and strength. Some turn to drink, others turn to food, still others turn to entertainment, and there are many other ways people seek to avoid responsibility. Christians seek wholehearted devotion, practicing the disciplines of discipleship.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 31 July 22: Abide in Christ in Christ today as the branch is connected to the vine, and bear the fruit of love which naturally emanates from that relationship.