WEEK 34, Day 7, Sunday, 28 August 2022

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 28 August 2022:

1 Samuel 2:12 — Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the LORD.

A person’s character and worthiness is defined by their relationship with God.

1 Samuel 2:22, 23 — Now Eli was very old, and he kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting. And he said to them, “Why do you do such things?”

Though Eli’s sons were sinning in unimaginable ways, Eli only scolded them without holding them accountable. Proverbs 19:18 says, “Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death.” Eli’s failure to discipline his sons led to their deaths.

1 Samuel 2:26 — Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the LORD and also with man.

Compare this verse with Luke 2:52: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” God’s people are meant to have strong vertical and horizontal relationships (loving relationships with God and others – The Great Commandment), having been given the mission of reconciliation. Your relationships with others is a reflection of your relationship with God.

1 Samuel 2:29 — Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded for my dwelling, and honor your sons above me.

When Eli chose not to hold his son’s accountable and chose to accommodate sin, he chose his sons and conflict avoidance over God and His holiness, which was appointed to him to uphold. When you overlook sin in order to maintain relationships, you dishonor God, bring dishonor to yourself any hurt others.

1 Samuel 2:30 — Therefore the LORD, the God of Israel, declares: “I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever,” but now the LORD declares: “Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.”

God does not bestow honor upon those who dishonor Him and are by default dishonorable. The New Testament confirms this:

- Revelation 2:5 -- Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.  If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

- Revelation 2:16 -- Therefore repent.  If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.

- Revelation 2:22 -- Behold, I will throw…those who commit adultery…into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works.

- Revelation 3:1-3 -- I know your works.  You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.  Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.  Remember, then, what you received and heard.  Keep it, and repent.  If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.

- Revelation 3:15-19 -- I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot.  Would that you were either cold or hot!  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.  For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.  Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

From Henry T. Blackaby — One of the many truths of the kingdom of God is that if we will honor God, He will honor us. If, however, we dare to treat Him disrespectfully, we will also be treated as least in His kingdom. The initiative rests with us. Our response to God determines His response to us.

Eli had been the priest of Israel for many years, and he knew the standards for righteous living that God required. Yet Eli faced a dilemma, for his sons were living in direct opposition to God. As their father, Eli had to decide whom he would honor. He could not defer to his immoral and ungodly sons and also exalt the God he served. By default, Eli chose to honor his sons, for he did not insist that their behavior conform to God’s standards. Eli would have pleaded that he still loved God but that he simply could not bring honor to God with his family. Yet God viewed Eli’s behavior differently (1 Sam. 3:13-14). Eli revealed his own heart when he failed to honor God before the people of Israel by the way he dealt with his sons. This is why God punished Eli and his sons severely (1 Sam. 4:17-18).

God is not pleased if you praise Him at church but not at your workplace. It is not acceptable for you to revere God when you are with other Christians but not in your school or neighborhood. He expects you to honor Him completely, with your words, with your actions, with your life. If you honor Him, He will honor you.

Psalm 99:1 — The LORD reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!

When was the last time God’s Holy Sovereignty caused you to tremble and quake? In the Book of James, the Bible says that even the demons believe in Jesus and “shudder.” Many Christians do not even display a demon level of faith. Knowledge of Jesus should overwhelm you with His holiness and drive you to your knees in powerful worship – knowledge of Jesus is life changing and causes you to see everyone and everything completely differently. Pray for this level of knowledge of Jesus.

Psalm 99:4 — The King in his might loves justice. You have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.

Today the Bible reminds us of what God loves – justice. This verse provides context to the remainder of Psalm 99 where God’s relationship with His servants is described: “They called to the Lord, and he answered them…. they kept his testimonies and the statute that he gave them. O Lord our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings. Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the Lord our God is holy!” (Psalm 99:7-9) They called to the Lord with humble and repentant hearts, and God answered them. But then it describes God’s expectation of obedience while His servants walked in grace. With forgiveness also came punishment and discipline because God is not only a merciful God, He remains a just God, and His intent is that His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven as He restores people back to their calling as His image bearers, His agents of grace. The phrase “but an avenger of their wrongdoings” is translated in other versions as “though you punished their misdeeds.” Modern Christianity often describes a mercy/grace only God who cares little about sin, and sin is downplayed as merely the natural human response to victimization or chemical imbalances – “God understands and doesn’t judge us for our sins,” they say. But the Bible calls sin, “sin” and says that God punishes His children for it, though in a merciful way. See for yourself if this message does not come through loud and clear in the Bible, though not so loudly in churches anymore. J To Job’s misguided friend Eliphaz the Temanite, God said, “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” And in Proverbs we read, “Will he not repay man according to his work?” (Proverbs 24:12) Of course some will argue that these are Old Testament verses and that they no longer apply to us, but the New Testament reconfirms time and time again that God still loves justice and punishes even His forgiven children for their transgressions, though not eternally — “But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world…. My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it…. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” (1 Corinthians 11:32; Hebrews 12:5-11; Revelation 3:19)

1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” This verse seems to apply that God’s love takes away all punishment, but you have to consider this verse in context to John’s whole message: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3) To be “perfected in love” is to be perfectly obedient in love, a condition that removes any fear of punishment. Until that state, “do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.” Also, “do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof.” (Proverbs 3:11)

The end of Psalm 99 gives us our most important reminder: “Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the Lord our God is holy!” The main problem with the church in America today is that we have forgotten that, first and foremost, “God is holy!” We make light of sin because we make light of the holiness of God – His only attribute that is repeated three times in the Bible for highest emphasis – “Holy, Holy, Holy”! (Revelation 4:8) The only other word repeated three times in the Bible for emphasis is, “woe, woe, woe,” for those who don’t honor the holiness of God, repent, and put their faith in Jesus. (Revelation 8:13) To appeal to the world, we have downplayed the Holiness of God and the sinfulness of man; as a result, complacency has crept into the church. When we make light of sin, which demands the wrath of God and eternal damnation, we marginalize the urgent demand for salvation through Jesus Christ. The Good News is good news in context to the bad news – all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and the wages of this sin is eternal death.

Imagine just one day on earth where there was no justice at all – it would be hell on earth. Christians, as preservative salt on earth who seek justice, not just by proclaiming God’s just position on every issue but primarily by bringing others to a relationship with Jesus where they can understand and appreciate justice as well as mercy and grace. The Bible says that justice comes only from God, not from men. The only hope for justice on earth is corporate repentance and revival.

Proverbs 28:1 — The righteous are bold as a lion.

Faith in your position as Christ’s Ambassador makes you naturally bold. A lack of boldness is an indicator of a lack of faith. God wants you to be bold.

Proverbs 28:5 — Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it completely.

God is the source of justice. Those who do not know God cannot administer justice. Secular leaders will lead unjustly. Justice is only administered by those who fear the LORD.

Proverbs 28:7 — The one who keeps the law is a son with understanding, but a companion of gluttons shames his father.

Gluttony is shameful. Lawlessness and gluttony both reveal a lack of self-control. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5), not the product of intellect or human will.

Proverbs 28:8 – Whoever multiplies his wealth by interest and profit gathers it for him who is generous to the poor.

God does not want His people to get wealthy from charging interest. God wants his people to gain wealth through industriousness, adding value, not by redistributing wealth from the weak to the strong.

Proverbs 28:9 — If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.

Sin hinders prayer. God does not honor the prayers of those who reject His law.

“The late Norman Vincent Peale tells about a time when, as a young boy, he was intrigued by smoking. One day he found a cigar so he went to an alley behind his house and lit it up. He says the cigar did not taste very good, but it made him feel grown-up. That is, until he saw his father enter the alley. Quickly Norman Vincent Peale put the cigar behind his back and tried to act casual. Desperately trying to divert his father’s attention he pointed to a billboard at the corner advertising the circus coming to town. ‘Can we please go the circus when it comes to town?’ he asked. Norman Vincent Peale says his father taught him a lesson he never forgot, ‘Son,’ his father answered quietly but firmly, ‘never make a petition while you’re trying to hide the smoldering evidence of disobedience.’ How can we expect God to answer prayers when we are living in disobedience and unconfessed sin.”

Proverbs 28:13 — Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.

Open confession is required for repentance and reconciliation. Genuine confession and repentance are critical to your relationship with God. You cannot and will not fix what you aren’t willing to be honest about, honest first with yourself and then with others. Hiding transgressions from others is an act of fear, pride, and self-centeredness. When you are honest about your sinfulness, you are then in a position to proclaim the grace of Jesus. You will stop lifting yourself up before others and will start lifting up Jesus instead.

Proverbs 28:20 – A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.

Success in life is the product of fidelity to God, not the result of hard work to pursue or own goals and objectives.

Proverbs 28:21 — To show partiality is not good, but for a piece of bread a man will do wrong.

Everyone must be held accountable, but we must consider the circumstances that led someone to sin. Circumstances don’t excuse sin but may contribute to it. Justice is giving people what they deserve. Mercy is not giving people what they deserve, and grace is giving people what they don’t deserve. God balances perfectly justice, mercy, and grace. We must seek from God the wisdom to do the same.

Proverbs 28:25, 26 – A greedy man stirs up strife, but the one who trusts in the Lord will be enriched. Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.

You will either trust in the LORD or in yourself. What you decide will determine the outcome of your life. Fools always think they have it all figured out, or can figure it out, and don’t need God.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 28 August 2022: Pray for an ever-increasing and life-changing relationship with the person of Jesus for yourselves and for others. Seek as your top priority today to draw closer to Jesus and to draw others closer to Jesus. (See the notes above)

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