Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 26 February 2023:
Nehemiah 9:1-5 – …the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth on their heads. And the Israelites separated themselves from all foreigners and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers.
God’s word inspired repentance which inspired God’s people to separate from the world’s influence and to praise God publicly and collectively. Confession and repentance leads God’s people to adjust their lives to remove sin and to truly worship.
Nehemiah 9:6-8 — You are the Lord, you alone…. You are the Lord, the God….
True repentance causes you to acknowledge the holiness, righteousness and sovereignty of God. Repentance enables you to see life’s events in the right context and changes your understanding of everything.
Nehemiah 9:6-35 – “You are the LORD, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you….
God has revealed His character in very real ways throughout history; He has always remained faithful and remains faithful today.
Nehemiah 9:38 — “Because of all this we make a firm covenant in writing; on the sealed document are the names of our princes, our Levites, and our priests.”
Revival requires a definitive commitment to follow and obey God and to pursue an ever-increasing love relationship with Him.
Nehemiah 9 – …and you have kept your promise, for you are righteous…. Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly.
God is always faithful though His people are not. God does not leave for forsake His people, though they leave and forsake Him.
Psalm 23:1 – The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
If the Lord is truly your Shepherd, you shall not want because He will conform your desires to His will and make you satisfied with His provision.
Psalm 24:3, 4 – Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart….
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8) However, our intimacy with God depends on our response to God. Sin separates us from God. The more we desire to fellowship with God, the more we will desire to remove from our lives the sins He abhors, the sins for which Christ died on the Cross to pay. And the closer we get to our Holy God, the more obvious even our smallest sins become, the more we will truly desire “clean hands and a pure heart,” (purity, to live faithfully in thought, word and deed). In genuine worship, today’s psalmist is overwhelmed by the holiness of God and truly desires to be in fellowship (unity) with Him — True Christians are never casual or complacent with sin – “Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God. Keep my statutes and do them; I am the Lord who sanctifies you…. You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine…. for I, the Lord, who sanctify you, am holy. (Leviticus 20:7, 8; Leviticus 20:26; Leviticus 21:8)
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11) “And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” (1 John 1:4) Jesus said that “eternal life,” is to “know” Him. Here the word “know” refers to the sort of intimate, personal and experiential knowledge intended between a husband and wife – “The two shall become one.” This is perfect unity in love, heart, soul, mind, and strength. In genuine fidelity and unity with Christ, we experience fullness of joy. Today, the psalmist says those who seek to approach holy God as holy “will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah.” (Psalm 24:5, 6)
Today, the psalmist prays to God in concert with how Jesus instructed His disciples to pray — “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9, 10) ‘Lord, in accordance with your sovereign holiness, your faithfulness, and your justice, mercy and grace, may we honor you by serving you and glorifying you on earth as instruments of your will.’ To do otherwise would be to “trample underfoot the Son of God, and [to] profane the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and [to] outrage the Spirit of grace.” (Hebrews 10:29)
How will you seek to approach your sovereign, holy God today and in the days to come?
- Deuteronomy 6:5 — You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
- 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.”
- 1 John 5:3 — For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
- James 4:8 — Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
- 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 — For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;
- Colossians 3:5 — Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
- 1 John 2:15-17 — 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. 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. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
- Ephesians 5:1-3 — Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.
- Romans 8:29 — For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
- Isaiah 55:7 — Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
- 1 John 1:9 — If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
“Your Shepherd knows your every need. He knows you will grow weary in your pilgrimage with Him. He knows there are times when you need rest. Your Shepherd knows just what you need to be refreshed. At times you need to lie in lush meadows or beside quiet streams. Sometimes you need to be held by your Shepherd. At other times you need to enjoy the pleasures the Shepherd provides. The Shepherd will not always replenish you in the same way; His response to you will always perfectly correspond to your present need.
As you follow your Shepherd there will be times when your soul becomes exhausted, perhaps because of trials you are experiencing or temptations you are resisting. The persecution you face or the burdens you are carrying for others may be wearing you down. You may be weary from the discipline the Shepherd has brought upon you. There will be times when you feel you can go no further in your Christian pilgrimage. Your Shepherd knows when you have reached this point, and He always has a remedy!
There are many ways He can strengthen you: through His word, through others, or through your circumstances. He knows what you need even better than you do.
Have you grown weary? Does your soul need to be refreshed?
Don’t attempt to recover on your own. Only God knows how to heal and rejuvenate a soul (Isa. 40:28-31; Matt. 11:28-30). He will do it perfectly, sometimes in surprising ways. Ask Him to restore you, and then be prepared to respond to what He does next.
As a child of God you are never alone! Your Shepherd is with you at all times. You never have to call Him into your situation. You never have to wonder where He is. You never have to fear that if things become too difficult, He will abandon you.
He goes before you; He walks beside you; He comes behind you. He protects you securely. Just as He sees every sparrow and knows every hair that is on your head, so His gaze is constantly upon you (Luke 12:6-7). Even when you cannot see Him, He always keeps His eyes upon you. He comforts you with His strong presence in times of sorrow and grief. He leads you through the valley of the shadow of death. He does not necessarily lead you around the valley as you might wish. There are times when your Shepherd knows that the only way to get you where He wants to take you is to lead you down the path that passes through the dark valley. Yet, at those times He walks closely with you, reassuring you throughout the journey that He still loves you and is with you. It is during those times that you experience His love and compassion in a deeper dimension than you ever have before.
You never need to fear evil. As intimidating as evil can be, there is nothing you will ever face that intimidates your Shepherd. He is seen it all and soundly defeated every form of wickedness. Evil never catches Him by surprise. Your Shepherd is always prepared and knows exactly when and where you will experience difficulty. Place your absolute trust in your Good Shepherd that He will protect you and demonstrate His love for you through the darkest valley.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
Psalm 23:6 – Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.
With God, even the ‘bad’ things that happen to us are ultimately good because God will use them for greater purposes we cannot even imagine. However, with the non-believer, even the ‘good’ things that happen to them will ultimately turn out to be curses because every step taken by the unbeliever is just one step closer to ultimate destruction.
Psalm 24:6 – Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.
Seeking the Lord involves the pursuit of increasingly “clean hands and a pure heart.” It is like ascending a mountain, getting a little higher each day.
Proverbs 26:9 – “Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of fools.”
A foolish Christian can hurt people with God’s word.
People often use God’s word inappropriately to justify their foolish thinking, decisions, and behavior. People also tend to use God’s word for self-justification in arguments with others. When rebuking others with God’s word, be careful to check your motives — are you really representing Jesus or just seeking to defend your own self-interests.
Those who foolishly handle God’s word are more harm than good. The fool approaches God’s word from a self-centered perspective. Listen carefully, and you will see that “me” is at the center of their presentation rather than “He.” Be very careful not to use God’s word to validate your own selfishness or self-righteousness. The Bible used carelessly can be very hurtful.
The Bible can be used improperly if not used in the Spirit. Bible knowledge is not Bible wisdom. Wisdom is knowledge rightly applied.
People often use God’s word inappropriately to justify their foolish thinking, decisions, and behavior.
Proverbs 26:11 – Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.
Do not continually repeat your sins of the past.
Proverbs 26:12 — Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Fools think they know better than God’s word.
Proverbs 26:23-28 – Like the glaze covering an earthen vessel are fervent lips with an evil heart. Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips and harbors deceit in his heart; when he speaks graciously, believe him not, for there are seven abominations in his heart; though his hatred be covered with deception, his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly. Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling. A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin.
God wants us to see past a person’s words to understand their heart and motives. The Bible says that no person can ever completely understand another person’s heart or motives, but we can judge the fruit of their lives, and we can also be enlightened by the Spirit which knows every person’s heart.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 26 February 2023:
Today consider your wants. Where do your wants signal a lack of contentment with the provision of the Good Shepherd? (Psalm 23:1) Pray that God will give you “clean hands and a pure heart,” then, with full confidence in God’s fidelity, grace and mercy, and with full confidence in the power of the Holy Spirit which empowers you, step out in faith and remove from your life all of the things (thoughts, words, deeds, idols, etc.) you know are not worthy to be in the presence of your sovereign and holy God who dwells within you. Every aspect of your life is a display of your love and respect for God.