Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 4 September 2022:
1 Samuel 9:15, 16 — Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed to Samuel: “Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over my people Israel.”
God arranges circumstances and relationships to accomplish His purposes. If God calls you, you need only obey and let Him do the rest.
1 Samuel 9:21 — Am I not a Benjaminite, from the least of the tribes of Israel? And is not my clan the humblest of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then have you spoken to me in this way?
Those chosen by God don’t need political power, social status, prestige, or anything else to accomplish God’s will. Christians can do anything with God’s power as God wills.
Psalm 101:1-4 — I will sing of steadfast love and justice; to you, O Lord, I will make music. I will ponder the way that is blameless. Oh when will you come to me? I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me. A perverse heart shall be far from me; I will know nothing of evil.
The presence of God in our lives, the longing to grow closer to God each day, and the hope we have in Christ’s return should change everything about us, our attitudes, thoughts, actions, focus, desires, and preferences. Our greatest desire should not be merely to receive the blessings of God, rather to increasingly receive Him into our hearts, to know Him, our True Love, more and more each day and make Him known to others more and more each day — “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent…. that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:3, 21)
Today the Psalmist expresses his earnest longing and resolve not to lose focus on the Lord or his God-centered perspective in life; he expresses his desire to remain faithful and joyfully content in his genuine love for the Lord. Since this is a “psalm of David,” we can assume it is written within the context of someone burdened with great responsibilities, someone who understands how easily we can become consumed and troubled by the worries of the world and get out of step with the Spirit. We can learn much from the psalmist’s resolutions:
- “I will sing of steadfast love and justice; to you, O Lord, I will make music.” Trusting in the combination of God’s complete sovereignty and perfect love, resting securely in the righteousness, unfailing love, and provision of our Heavenly Father, despite our circumstances; and trusting in God’s perfect, ultimate justice as we live in a clearly unjust world should create in us an unshakable love, joy, and peace which transcends all human understanding. However, it can be easy for us to become distracted by the worries of the world and start to become crisis-centered rather than Christ-centered. In those times, God calls us to “rejoice,” or ‘joy again.’ In times of crisis, we must pray with thanksgiving and praise the Lord. Praising the Lord, regardless of the day’s challenges, is a choice we make that both proclaims our faith and strengthens our faith in the sovereignty, love, faithfulness, mercy and justice of the Lord. Today and every day, sing out! Praising the Lord in song is not something we should do in church only; it is something we should do continually, an expression of the constant melody in our hearts –
- Ephesians 5:18-20 — …be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
- Psalm 104:33 — I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
- 1 Corinthians 14:15 — What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.
- Acts 16:25 — About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them….
- Psalm 71:8 — My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all the day.
- “I will ponder the way that is blameless.” One of the psalmist’s resolutions was to continually meditate upon the ways of God. We should do the same –
- Joshua 1:8 — This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
- Philippians 4:4-8 — Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
- Psalm 1:2 — But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
- Psalm 119:15, 97 — I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways…. Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.
- “Oh when will you come to me?” Like the psalmist, we should desire, anticipate, and prepare for the coming of the Lord with great enthusiasm –
- Philippians 3:20-21 — But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
- Titus 2:11-14 — For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
- “I will walk with integrity of heart within my house.” Like the psalmist, in our love for the Lord, we should resolve to walk in integrity (truthfulness and wholeness) with the Lord and in public as we glorify Him through our words and deeds. Here, the king makes the point that he cannot rightly lead others if he is not first following God. If we are not following the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Jesus, we are only leading others astray –
- Psalm 25:21 — May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.
- 2 Corinthians 8:21 — For we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.
- Acts 24:16 — So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.
- 1 Peter 2:12 — Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
- 1 Peter 3:10-12 — For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
- Colossians 3:9-10 — Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
- 1 Timothy 1:5 — The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
- “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless.” Follow the psalmist’s example and resolve to disregard everything that is worthless, keeping your focus on the Lord always —
- Psalm 119:37 — Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.
- Hebrews 12:2 — Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
- Matthew 6:22 — “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light….
- Proverbs 21:4 — Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin.
- Matthew 7:3 — Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
- 2 Corinthians 4:18 — As we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
- Psalm 119:18 — Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
- Job 31:1 — I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?
- “I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.” Resolve not to follow the deceptive ways of the world but rather the ways of God –
- Romans 12:9 — Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
- Romans 12:2 — Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
- 1 John 2:16 — For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.
- 1 John 2:15 — Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
- 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.
- “A perverse heart shall be far from me; I will know nothing of evil.” Seek purity in your heart and, again, have nothing to do with evil –
- Matthew 5:8 — “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
- Psalm 119:9 — How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.
- Colossians 3:5 — Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:22 — Abstain from every form of evil.
- Romans 13:14 — But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
- Hebrews 13:18 — Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things.
- 2 Corinthians 7:1 — Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
- 1 Peter 1:22 — Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart….
- 1 Thessalonians 4:3 — For this is the will of God, your sanctification.
Psalm 101 reveals king David’s meditations as he sought to lead his people well and his understanding that he could not live well and lead well unless he loved well, with integrity of heart (truly and wholly). Likewise, how well we live depends on how much we love. The more we appreciate God’s love for us, the more we will love Him; and the more we love Him; the more we will love others. Inversely, as we endeavor to love others, the more we learn to love God and appreciate His love for us – “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him…. “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:16, 1 John 4:12) Jesus said the greatest commandment was, “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.” (Luke 10:27) Today, we see David’s longing and resolve to love from his heart and soul (“Oh when will you come to me…. I will sing of steadfast love”); with all his strength (“I will walk with integrity….”); and with all his mind (“I will ponder…. I will know nothing of evil). What is your resolve today?
Proverbs 4:4-13 — Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live. Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth…. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly… Hear, my son, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many…. Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.
Key to a successful and fulfilling life is remaining in God’s word. To have wisdom, you have to get it from God’s word. This is a lifelong, disciplined effort. But with the discipline of getting wisdom, which is just “the beginning,” comes the even harder discipline of practicing wisdom, right applying knowledge consistently. The Bible warns, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” (James 1:22-25) Much study can be deceptive because it can lead you to believe you have changed or grown by your learning, but information isn’t transformation. Information must become knowledge for you (I understand and remember the “what” and “how”); and knowledge must become understanding (I understand the “why”); any understanding becomes wisdom, when guided by the Holy Spirit, you naturally, passionately, and consistently do the right things, for the right reasons, at the right time, and in the right way, as Jesus would do them. God’s word goes from your head, to your heart, to your hands, and actions eventually become habits, and habits shape your character over time. This takes not only practice, but as James says, “perseverance.” It is a challenging road that few are willing to take. However, the weight of daily discipline is nothing compared to the overwhelming burden of regret later.
Proverbs 4:14, 15 – Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on.
Following God requires turning from evil and will cause you to walk away from the crowd. The Christian life involves choosing a path in life that is 180-out from the path most everyone else is taking. Often you will walk with no one else but God. You cannot follow Jesus and the world. You cannot go two opposite directions at once; if you try to, you will go nowhere.
Proverbs 4:16, 17 – For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong; they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble. For they eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence.
Ungodly people can’t help but cause problems and pain for other people; they can’t control themselves.
Proverbs 4:18, 19 – But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.
Faithful Christians grow more Christ-like every day – the change may be gradual but very apparent. Meanwhile the ungodly remain trapped in their sin. How has God changed you over the years? Some things to consider: How has your forgiving changed? How has your giving changed? How has your attitude and behavior towards your enemies changed? How has your disciple-making changed? How has your self-control changed? How has your peacefulness and thankfulness changed? Are you now a brighter light in the world, a more radiant beacon of God to others around you? Would those around you say that about you?
Proverbs 4:20-21, 23 – My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart…. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
Key to life is protecting your heart from sin; critical to protecting your heart from sin is remaining in God’s word and storing it up in your heart.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Whatever is in the well will come out in the bucket. Said another way, whatever is in the glass, spills out when it is bumped. Said still another way, no good tree bears bad fruit, and no bad tree bears good fruit. What is really in your heart will determine your unguarded response to circumstances as well as the product of your life. Have you ever been in a situation where you lashed out at anger at someone as an immediate response to their behavior and then collected yourself, explaining, “You just caught me at a bad moment…. That’s not who I really am”? The truth is, how you act when you aren’t thinking about it, when you are alone, or when you are stressed, exhausted, hungry, uncomfortable, or lonely is who you really are. Consider what C. S. Lewis had to say on the matter:
“We [must] begin to notice besides our particular sinful act[s], our sinfulness; begin to be alarmed not only about what we do, but about what we are. This may sound rather difficult, so I will try to make it clear from my own case. When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, nine times out of ten the most obvious one is some sin against charity; I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the excuse that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected; I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself. Now that may be an extenuating circumstance as regards those particular acts: they would obviously be worse if they had been deliberate and premeditated. On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in the cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.” (C.S. Lewis)
Above all else guard your heart by reading God’s word and taking it on board – receiving the conviction of the Holy Spirit, examining your heart, and asking God to “deliver [you] form evil” as you resolve to walk in integrity as David did in today’s psalms.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 4 September 2022: Today, meditate upon Psalm 101 and consider how you might resolve to remain focused on the Lord daily to increasingly know Him and make Him known.