Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Saturday, 10 December 2022:
1 Chronicles 5:1 — … he was the firstborn, but because he defiled his father’s couch, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel, so that he could not be enrolled as the oldest son.
Sin may be forgiven, but the consequences often remain and impact generations. Also, when a person commits a crime, he can turn to the Lord and receive forgiveness; however, God’s forgiveness does not remove a person’s responsibility to make restitution to others. If a person steals property and repents, he still needs to return the property (and make payment for the personal offense). If a murderer repents, he must still face the justice system. The responsibility for restitution remains whether or not victims are aware of the offense. The requirements for restitution also remain whether or not damages were intentional or accidental. Many Christians attempt to use grace as an excuse to avoid the responsibility of restitution, but grace should compel restitution and the desire for reconciliation whenever possible. The Old Testament established specific guidance for restitution, provided below. In the New Testament, Zacchaeus demonstrates restitution as a response to grace in Luke 19.
- Exodus 22:1-14 — If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep. If a thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him, but if the sun has risen on him, there shall be bloodguilt for him. He shall surely pay. If he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. If the stolen beast is found alive in his possession, whether it is an ox or a donkey or a sheep, he shall pay double. “If a man causes a field or vineyard to be grazed over, or lets his beast loose and it feeds in another man’s field, he shall make restitution from the best in his own field and in his own vineyard. “If fire breaks out and catches in thorns so that the stacked grain or the standing grain or the field is consumed, he who started the fire shall make full restitution. “If a man gives to his neighbor money or goods to keep safe, and it is stolen from the man’s house, then, if the thief is found, he shall pay double. If the thief is not found, the owner of the house shall come near to God to show whether or not he has put his hand to his neighbor’s property. For every breach of trust, whether it is for an ox, for a donkey, for a sheep, for a cloak, or for any kind of lost thing, of which one says, ‘This is it,’ the case of both parties shall come before God. The one whom God condemns shall pay double to his neighbor. “If a man gives to his neighbor a donkey or an ox or a sheep or any beast to keep safe, and it dies or is injured or is driven away, without anyone seeing it, an oath by the Lord shall be between them both to see whether or not he has put his hand to his neighbor’s property. The owner shall accept the oath, and he shall not make restitution. But if it is stolen from him, he shall make restitution to its owner. If it is torn by beasts, let him bring it as evidence. He shall not make restitution for what has been torn. “If a man borrows anything of his neighbor, and it is injured or dies, the owner not being with it, he shall make full restitution. If the owner was with it, he shall not make restitution; if it was hired, it came for its hiring fee.
- Leviticus 6:2-5 — If anyone sins and commits a breach of faith against the Lord by deceiving his neighbor in a matter of deposit or security, or through robbery, or if he has oppressed his neighbor or has found something lost and lied about it, swearing falsely—in any of all the things that people do and sin thereby— if he has sinned and has realized his guilt and will restore what he took by robbery or what he got by oppression or the deposit that was committed to him or the lost thing that he found or anything about which he has sworn falsely, he shall restore it in full and shall add a fifth to it, and give it to him to whom it belongs on the day he realizes his guilt.
1 Chronicles 5:18-22 — The Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh were skilled at warfare, but the Bible says that the reason they prevailed is because they cried out to The LORD and trusted Him. God controls all outcomes.
1 Chronicles 5:20 – …the Hagrites and all who were with them were given into their hands, for they cried out to God in the battle, and he granted their urgent plea because they trusted in him.
God helps those who cry to him and have faith that He can and will help them.
1 Chronicles 5:25, 26 — But they broke faith with the God of their fathers, and whored after the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them. So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria….
God turned Pul’s heart against the members of the half-tribe of Manasseh because they broke faith with God. Manasseh was mighty only while with God, and powerless when being disciplined by God. Notice also verse 26 says Pul also defeated and exiled the Reubenites and the Gadites, though only Manasseh is called out for breaking faith. It would appear that infidelity started with Manasseh and either spread to other tribes or at least impacted other tribes. Our American tradition is people are free to do whatever they want as long as it doesn’t prevent others from doing what they want, but everyone’s decisions eventually impact everyone else. Also, we see in these verses that God stirs hearts for His purposes. Have you prayed for God to work in the hearts of those who have troubled you or others you care about?
Psalm 142:2 – I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him.
If you are going to complain, complain to God and to no one else.
Psalm 142:3 — When my spirit faints within me, you know my way!
No matter what you are going through, God knows your situation and will take care of you.
Psalm 142:4 – …there is none who takes notice of me.
When you feel completely alone, God is there for you, the only One who can truly love you unconditionally, the only One who will never abandon you, the only one you can really count on, the only One you really need. Walk with Him through trials, growing closer to Him every day. Trust Him completely.
Proverbs 10:3 – Does it seem good to you to oppress, to despise the work of your hands and favor the designs of the wicked?
Results in life come from God.
Proverbs 10:4, 5 – A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.
God’s word calls you to be as productive as you can, while you can, so that when you can’t produce you have something to sustain your needs and the needs of those who depend upon you.
Proverbs mostly provides principles, fundamental truths, rather than tactics or specifics on what to do in a given situation. With experience and with the leading of the Holy Spirit, we learn to apply the principles to our daily lives. One of my favorite Bible principles is the “Principle of the Farm”: Success in life comes from regular disciplined, daily effort. You reap what you sow, but not as much as you sow (harvests are bigger than seeds, and consequences are bigger than actions) and not when you sow (harvests take time and so do consequences or results). A farmer cannot expect to reap a bumper crop by being lazy for three months and then “cramming” to catch up. Similarly, the greatest successes in life are built slowly and deliberately through focused, consistent, high-quality efforts on a daily basis.
Success is built upon the most basic building block of time — the day. Success comes not from sudden, sporadic bursts of activity but through the cumulative effect of disciplined, daily effort. Today, it seems like many people want instant wealth, wisdom, health, and success. They want the rewards of life, but don’t really want to put forth the effort and creativity it actually takes to become successful. But the Bible will tell you that there are no shortcuts in life. The Principle of the Farm applies to our spiritual growth as well.
For a time, Christians wore WWJD (What would Jesus Do) bracelets, T-shirts, etc. with the good intentions of remembering to act like Jesus in challenging situations, but this Christian fad too often reflected a “get rich quick” spiritual mentality that set many Christians up for failure and disappointment. The idea was, when a situation arose, the bracelet or other visible item would remind the Christian to ask themselves, “What would Jesus do?”, and then the Christian, having been reminded, would follow Jesus’ example in the situation. However, more often than not, when the Christian failed to do what Jesus would have done, they would only walk away disappointed and frustrated. What happened? Well, in part, they didn’t consider closely enough what Jesus actually did – he spent a lifetime in diligent study, prayer, and obedient application preparing for the moment – countless hours with early mornings and late nights, sitting at the feet of elders, memorizing Scriptures, praying, observing the world from God’s perspective, getting out and about walking with God, meditating (the Biblical way, not the Buddha way).
As Gen Mattis said when asked how he knew what to do in a critical situation during Operation Enduring Freedom, “I spent 33 years preparing for that decision which took me 30 seconds to make.” Why is it that successful people are so decisive, able to make rapid and sound decisions? Because they come to the point of decision fully prepared. We, with good intentions, because of shallow teaching, can dress the part of a Christian but fail to behave like a Christian. I can learn to act just like a professional football player and buy all the gear; I can talk and walk like a professional football player, and I can hang out with professional football players, but that doesn’t make me ready for the Super Bowl.
In my spiritual life, If I want to even earn a place on the bench, I have to train. I have to do the work of a true disciple. I have to study, pray, meditate, memorize, rehearse, practice, and get dirty through daily application. Discipleship is the watering hole where God selects His “Gideon’s army.” Today’s Proverbs readings say, “The wage of the righteous leads to life, the gain of the wicked to sin. Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life (Proverbs 10:16, 17).” The payment for the righteous comes through daily diligence and discipline, heeding instruction (that comes from the Bible) while on the “path to life,” a journey that takes time. It is many inglorious days that leads to glorious moments. Take time this morning to consider what Jesus actually did to be ready for Satan’s temptations in the desert, the challenges of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the woman at the well, the beggars, the adulterous woman, Pontius Pilate, the cross. What Would Jesus Do with each quiet morning and night when no one was around? Are you willing to do the work of a true disciple?
Proverbs 10:8 – The wise of heart will receive commandments, but a babbling fool will come to ruin.
God’s commands are not complicated or hard to understand. Those who debate about them or attempt to redefine them through sophisticated arguments are seeking ways to justify rebellion against God.
Proverbs 10:12 — Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.
We have been given the mission of reconciliation. This involves covering over all offenses with love, bearing the burden of others’ sins as a gift of grace and an act of worship before the Lord.
Proverbs 10:19 — When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.
When your feel slighted, offended, and emotional, hold your tongue.
Proverbs 10:20 – The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the heart of the wicked is of little worth.
What you say reveals what is in your heart.
Proverbs 10:22 – The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.
God’s commands are intended for you to have complete joy on earth (see John 15). We should obey God because we love Him, not merely to receive blessings for ourselves. However, obeying God does promote His blessings with no added sorrows. Trouble comes with wealth achieved outside of God’s will.
Proverbs 10:25 – When the tempest passes, the wicked is no more, but the righteous is established forever.
The storms of life hit everyone, but the godly stand firm on the Rock, Jesus.
Proverbs 10:29 – The way of the Lord is a stronghold to the blameless, but destruction to evildoers.
God’s will is unyielding and results in blessings or curses depending on how a person responds to it. God wants us to choose blessings.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 10 December 2022: Work on your attitude towards others today. Search your heart for unloving feelings — hatred, animosity, un-forgiveness, resentment, etc. Don’t just keep the peace with others when you don’t have peace in your heart, and don’t blame the offender for your unloving feelings. Change your heart by drawing nearer to Jesus and by employing the “mind of Christ” which you already have available to you (1 Corinthians 2:16). Be “controlled by the love of Christ”, seeing others as Jesus sees them, in need of reconciliation. Forget about yourself and focus on being an Ambassador for Christ to the offender. (see 2 Corinthians 5). Burry the offense in love. (Proverbs 10:12, 18)