Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 2 January 2023:
1 Chronicles 28:4 — Yet the Lord God of Israel chose me….
1 Chronicles 28:20 — Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.
1 Chronicles 29:14 — For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you….
1 Chronicles 29:18, 19 — O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you. Grant to Solomon my son a whole heart that he may keep your commandments, your testimonies, and your statutes, performing all, and that he may build the palace for which I have made provision.
A key point which jumps out from the readings today is that God does it all, not us; and it is all about Him and not about us. God chose us and empowered us to fulfill His purposes for His glory, and He remains faithful even though we often don’t. Our salvation rests secure in His perfect love for us, rather than our imperfect love for Him, though His will for us is that we grow to love Him wholeheartedly and faithfully as we were created to do, producing the fruit of His Spirit in our lives which is love. There is absolutely nothing we can give to Him that He hasn’t first given to us, and it is He who gives us the ability to believe in Him and to love Him –
- Ephesians 2:8-10 — For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
- 1 John 4:19 — We love because he first loved us.
- 1 Corinthians 15:10 — But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 — Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
Not only does our ability to obey come from Him, but so does our desire to obey. (1 Chronicles 29:18, 19; Philippians 2:13) We ultimately do what we really want to do, and it is God who gives us a heart to want Him over everything else and the desire to obey Him in love. Love is the fruit of the Spirit, not human will. The key is to seek Him, walk with Him, rest in Him, and trust in Him. It is all about our relationship with Him, and communication is essential to any relationship. Pray earnestly for a greater heart for Him, remain in His word, and seek Him throughout the day rather than chasing the things of this world. If what you want today is not Him and His will, ask God to change your wants. Likewise, the Bible says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3) If you don’t honestly consider others more significant than yourself, pray that God would change your heart, and then step into your relationships with the confidence that “He will surely do it.” Pray that God would give you a heart that truly desires nothing more than “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10, 11)
- Psalm 37:4 — Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
- Mark 9:29 — And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
- Matthew 6:9-10 — Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
- John 17:22, 23 — The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
Here is a short video overview of Matthew 1-13: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Dv4-n6OYGI
Matthew 1:1-17 – …the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
The Bible is full of long genealogies which are often hard to read and may seem to have little value to us today, but in fact, they are very important to understand as they reveal much about God’s will, ways, and plan. For example, the genealogies should remind us that God places people in specific times and places throughout history for great purposes they don’t understand and which may take generations to fulfill. God has you right where He wants you for purposes you cannot see but will be revealed over time. Also, God shows us that He uses all sorts of people, all sinners (with the exception of Jesus), to complete His perfect plan. Note that Jesus’ genealogy includes a long list of very imperfect people including liars, adulterers, murderers, and prostitutes. God can and will use you. No matter what you have done, God calls you to repent, accept His forgiveness, and dedicate the rest of your life to serving Him for His purposes. God has a great plan for your life, but it is not about you, it is about Him. Serve Him wholeheartedly and fulfill your purpose in life.
Matthew 1:19 – And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.
Not much is written in the Bible about Joseph, but here we see a glimpse into his character. His fiancé turning up pregnant out of wedlock would have been emotionally and socially devastating to him. By the law, he could have had her publicly stoned, at least ostracized; however, he demonstrated mercy and grace and sought rather to resolve the matter quietly. What do you do when people hurt you terribly? Joseph, a “just man,” demonstrated justice, mercy, and grace by being prepared to hold Mary accountable to the law but in a way that sought to maintain her dignity and her future. Do you seek to protect those who hurt you terribly?
Matthew 1:20 – But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
Note that the Holy Spirit did not speak to Joseph until after Joseph chose to treat Mary with mercy and grace. When you are faithful with the little things, day to day, at the moment, then the Holy Spirit will reveal to you more, things you cannot understand on your own.
Matthew 1:24 – When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife.
To obey God, Joseph had to do what defied all human reason. Throughout the Bible this year, God will remind us that our thoughts are very far from His thoughts and that we cannot trust our own understanding or desires, nor can we trust “common sense.” We must walk by the Spirit, not by intellect.
The defining attribute of Joseph’s character was obedience. Joseph was used mightily by God, but at a tremendous personal cost. God’s plan for Joseph’s life would change his life forever, taking from Joseph his dreams for a normal marriage and a normal life, bringing Joseph no honor before men of his day. Marital engagements in those days usually lasted for about a year while the husband built a home for the wife, adjoined to the father-in-law’s house. There could be no hiding Mary’s unplanned pregnancy. One can only imagine what would be said within the community about Joseph’s wife. Yet, Joseph displays a character trait that is evident throughout what little is written about him, he was obedient. “He did as… the Lord commanded him,” apparently without hesitation. Joseph not only obeyed God, but he also respected the civil authorities (as God commands), which is why Jesus was born in a manger, because Joseph was dragging his extremely pregnant wife “from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem” to take part in the census in accordance with Caesar Augustus’ decree. (Luke 2) Joseph could be trusted to do the right thing, regardless the personal cost; perhaps this is why he was chosen by God for the incredible task of serving as the earthly parent of Jesus.
Joseph’s obedience stands in stark contrast to what we all know about the disobedience of Adam and Eve which brought sin into the world. Our readings in Matthew today continue one of the constant themes of the Bible which began in Genesis and is summarized in Proverbs 29:18 – “blessed is he who keeps the law.” God’s word reveals God’s will which is aligned to God’s character and to all that He has created. There is a natural cause and effect relationship between God’s laws and our obedience or disobedience. God created both the ethical laws of life and the natural, or scientific laws of life, from which unchanging life principles come. God is unchanging as are His laws, which are like the operating code (of a computer for example) which directs how everything works, sin being a virus (like a computer virus), which disrupts and destroys. God’s ethical laws and principles are just as dependable as the laws of nature – consequences are predictable.
After all of his days, having done and seen it all, after having acquired unmatched wisdom and wealth, and after permanently and catastrophically damaged the kingdom of Israel due to his sin, Solomon concluded, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13) Jesus took it even further as stated that if we really love him, we will obey his commandments. John added, if you really love God, you will obey His commandments and it won’t feel burdensome to you. (1 John 5:3)
Obedience is essential to love, not only to loving God but also to loving others. God is Love and the only source of true love; obedience brings us into harmony with him and enables us to truly love, not like the world loves by rather with agape (wholehearted, unconditional, selfless, undying) love. (Colossians 3:14) Disobedience is ALWAYS unloving and in violation of God’s Greatest Commandment to love. Our level of obedience reveals the level of our faith, hope, and love. Of course, it only takes a split-second of self-examination to realize that we haven’t been “perfected in love,” but our endeavor is to, while in the confidence and freedom of grace, “pursue righteousness.” As we begin a new year, recommit to honoring God through your obedience. Obedience is key to our walk with God. Joseph did not hesitate in his obedience – he acted immediately. If God has put on your heart to do something, do it immediately – this is so very important. If God is convicting you right now to forgive someone, minister to someone’s needs, call someone, etc. Stop what you were doing or planning to do and, instead, obey God first.
- 2 John 1:6 — And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.
- 1 John 5:2, 3 — By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
- 1 John 3:18 — Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
- 1 John 2:5 — but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him:
- 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,
- James 2:8 — If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.
- Hebrews 1:9 — You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”
- 2 Timothy 2:22 — So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
- 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.
- Romans 12:9 — Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
- John 15:9, 10 — As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
- John 14:15 — “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
- John 14:21 — Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”
- John 14:23 — Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 2 January 2023: Seek the Lord with all your heart today so the more you know Him, the more you will naturally desire to obey Him in all things and the less obedience will be difficult for you or feel burdensome. Love doesn’t just make obedience easy (a “no-brainer”), it makes obedience desirable even when it is painful. Pray that God will help you see Him and His love for you so clearly obedience no longer becomes what you must do but rather what you desire to do with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
- “Day by day, dear Lord, of thee three things I pray: to see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly, day by day.” (Richard, Bishop of Chichester, 1253)
- 1 John 5:3 — For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
- Philippians 2:1-11 — So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
- Hebrews 12:1-2 — Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 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.