5/24/18 “The Blessed Man” (Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 1-2)

 

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2).

The book of Psalms is the largest and perhaps the most widely used book of the Bible. Psalms is filled with encouragement for daily living. In the Psalms one finds songs and prayers offered by those who are seeking to serve God. Furthermore, in the Psalms we see a mixture of feelings that are going on in the hearts of God’s servants to which we can relate. These feelings are freely expressed to God, whether they are feelings of praise and joy for God’s greatness and actions on the person’s behalf, or whether they are emotions expressing discouragement and frustration welling up in the heart of a child of God as the circumstances of life weigh him or her down. As we read these feelings expressed to God, it is encouraging to know that God will listen to us not only when our hearts are full of love for Him, but also when our hearts are struggling with doubt and sadness.

In Psalm 1 we find the description of the “Blessed Man”. God in His infinite wisdom describes to us the man who will find great blessing. In the opening verses above, as God tells us about the “Blessed Man”, first God informs us what this man does not do to find blessing in life. He does not find blessing by seeking after the approval of others. He does not “walk”, “stand”, or “sit” among the ungodly. Notice the steady progression of one becoming more comfortable with those who practice sinful behavior in that first verse of Psalm 1. First the person walks with the ungodly, then he stands among them, and finally he settles among them by sitting with them. As a result of seeking the world’s approval, the psalmist tells us what will be the result of those who follow this path: “The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous” (Psalm 1:4-5). Those who pursue this path will not find stability in this life because, like chaff that is blown away as wheat is being winnowed, so they will never find true blessing and peace by pleasing the world about them. More importantly, they will have to face God’s disapproval in the Judgment because they have pursued a course completely contrary to God’s Will for them (2 Corinthians 5:10; John 12:48).

This is not to say that a child of God will not have any contact with people in the world, for we must, especially so that we can influence them to come to know Christ (1 Corinthians 5:10; Mark 16:15-16). What it clearly says is the “Blessed Man” doesn’t seek approval from the world. Instead the “Blessed Man” delights in the “law of the Lord” and meditates upon it “day and night”. This man loves God’s Word. He thinks upon it all the time. He heart isn’t distracted by seeking the approval of the world or weighed down by the cares of life because his focus is upon God and His Word. As a result, this man will be richly blessed: “He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper” (Psalm 1:3). The picture God paints for us is this man will be healthy and flourishing. He will be greatly blessed because he made that critical choice to seek God’s approval by setting his heart on God direction found in God’s Word!

Today, I will make that critical choice to not seek the world’s approval, but God’s. I will set my heart and mind on loving and following God and His law so that God may enable me to become “The Blessed Man” who enjoys the full and abundant life for those who are Christ’s (John 10:10)!

“For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish” (Psalm 1:6).

5/23/18 “Humbling Myself before God” (Daily Bible Reading: Job 39-42)

 

“Then Job answered the Lord and said: ‘I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, “Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?” Therefore, I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, “I will question you, and you shall answer Me.”  I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore, I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes’” (Job 42:1-6).

After Elihu finishes his rebuke of Job and his attempt to help Job regain a proper perspective, God speaks to Job. “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me’” (Job 38:1-3). In the midst of his horrific suffering, Job had boldly stated how he wanted to present his case to God. Earlier Job had proudly said, “Oh, that I had one to hear me! Here is my mark. Oh, that the Almighty would answer me, that my Prosecutor had written a book! Surely, I would carry it on my shoulder, and bind it on me like a crown; I would declare to Him the number of my steps; like a prince I would approach Him” (Job 31:35-37). Job had wanted to “have his day in court with God”. Now God was going to let him have it!

As God speaks to Job, He challenges Job’s understanding of things. In his efforts to justify himself and his righteousness, Job seemed to have forgotten there is much he doesn’t understand. Because he listened to his friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar who attempted to answer for God and claimed that Job was being chastened by God for some sin he had committed, Job had begun to think God had brought all this evil upon Job and taken away his justice (Job 19:21; 27:2). In his limited understanding, Job did not realize it was Satan who had brought all this evil upon him in the devil’s effort to turn Job from following God (Job 1:9-11; 2:4-5). In his partial knowledge of things, Job did not realize God was on Job’s side, viewed Job favorably and said about Job “there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8; 2:3).

As God challenges Job’s understanding of things, God ask Job a series of questions that utterly dumbfound Job. For example, God says, “"Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone” (Job 38:4-6). Again, God says, “"Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it” (Job 40:2).

As the opening verses above indicate, after hearing God’s rebuke of him, Job is greatly humbled. He also adds, “"Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth. Once I have spoken, but I will not answer; Yes, twice, but I will proceed no further” (Job 40:4-5).

As I consider these things I am reminded God’s greatness and my weakness. In the midst of great suffering, one can lose that perspective. God went on to bless Job immensely (Job 42:10-17). Job is a great example for us to follow on how did persevere through great suffering (James 5:11). I am amazed at how he did it! Yes, he had lost his perspective, but God helped him to regain it. Today, I will strive to keep myself humble before God and say continually of Him, “How Great Thou Art”!

“Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” (I Peter 5:6).

5/22/18 “Consider the Wondrous Works of God” (Daily Bible Reading: Job 35-38)

 

“Listen to this, O Job; stand still and consider the wondrous works of God. Do you know when God dispatches them, and causes the light of His cloud to shine? Do you know how the clouds are balanced, those wondrous works of Him who is perfect in knowledge?” (Job 37:14-16)

Elihu had been filled with wrath because Job had justified himself rather than God (Job 32:2). Elihu appears to have believed in the midst of his great suffering Job was losing his perspective on who he was and who God was. By Job’s statements, Elihu perceived Job was arguing, as do many wicked people, there is no profit in serving God. Elihu states, “What man is like Job, who drinks scorn like water, who goes in company with the workers of iniquity, and walks with wicked men? For he has said, 'It profits a man nothing that he should delight in God’” (Job 34:7-9).

Elihu feels the need to defend God’s character against Job’s statements and show Job why he should “delight in God” even in the midst of his affliction. Elihu states, “"Therefore listen to me, you men of understanding: Far be it from God to do wickedness, and from the Almighty to commit iniquity. For He repays man according to his work and makes man to find a reward according to his way. Surely God will never do wickedly, nor will the Almighty pervert justice” (Job 34:10-12).

Unlike Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar who had the audacity to try to speak for God and say Job’s suffering was the result of God’s chastening of Job for his sins, Elihu does not feel the need to try to put himself in God’s shoes and speak for God. Elihu doesn’t accuse Job of having committed great sin. In fact, Elihu desires to justify Job against these false charges by Job’s 3 friends: “"Give ear, Job, listen to me; Hold your peace, and I will speak. If you have anything to say, answer me; speak, for I desire to justify you” (Job 33:31-32). However, while Elihu doesn’t accuse Job of committing great evil, he will not stand idly by and listen to Job accuse God of unrighteousness and injustice!

Through much of his speech Elihu will focus on God and His wonderful works. Elihu speaks of how God knows everything that is happening: “"For His eyes are on the ways of man, and He sees all his steps. There is no darkness, nor shadow of death where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves” (Job 34:21-22). He speaks of God’s might and His justice: “"Behold, God is mighty, but despises no one; He is mighty in strength of understanding. He does not preserve the life of the wicked but gives justice to the oppressed” (Job 36:5-6). Elihu also reminds Job that the ways of God are far beyond our ability to comprehend: “"Behold, God is great, and we do not know Him; nor can the number of His years be discovered. For He draws up drops of water, which distill as rain from the mist, which the clouds drop down and pour abundantly on man. Indeed, can anyone understand the spreading of clouds, the thunder from His canopy?” (Job 36:26-29).

I believe there is some great wisdom in these words of Elihu, I can apply to my life. When I or someone I care about is suffering and we are facing the temptation to think God has forgotten us and is not treating us fair, we need to stop and meditate on all the wonderful works of God (i.e. God’s might, justice, His all-seeing eye). We need to remember the simple truth that God’s ways are so far greater than our ability to comprehend. Today, when facing the temptation to think God has forgotten me, I will strive to consider all the wonderful works of God!

“As for the Almighty, we cannot find Him; He is excellent in power, in judgment and abundant justice; He does not oppress. Therefore, men fear Him; He shows no partiality to any who are wise of heart" (Job 37:23-24).

5/21/18 “Justifying Myself Instead of God?” (Daily Bible Reading: Job 31-34)

“So, these three men ceased answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. Then the wrath of Elihu, the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, was aroused against Job; his wrath was aroused because he justified himself rather than God. Also, against his three friends his wrath was aroused, because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job” (Job 32:1-3).

While Job and his 3 friends have been arguing as to the reason Job was enduring all of the suffering he was experiencing, a younger man Elihu has been sitting on the sidelines observing all of these things. As the opening verses suggest, Elihu was becoming filled with wrath as he was listening to them. He was so full of wrath he felt like he was going to burst: “For I am full of words; the spirit within me compels me. Indeed, my belly is like wine that has no vent; it is ready to burst like new wineskins. I will speak, that I may find relief; I must open my lips and answer” (Job 32:18-20).

Was there a good reason for Elihu to be filled with wrath? I believe there was. He felt wrath because Job’s 3 friends found no answer, yet they condemned Job (Job 32:3). His wrath was kindled against Job because Job “justified himself rather than God” (Job 32:2). Whether or not Job had actually done so, Elihu felt Job was losing perspective as he was enduring his suffering. Elihu believed Job was more focused on showing his own righteousness, instead of proclaiming God righteousness.

I believe many of Job’s earlier statements show that he was flirting dangerously close to saying God was not righteous in His treatment of Job: “As God lives, who has taken away my justice, and the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter” (Job 27:2). He accused God of taking away his justice. Job even began to feel like God was opposing him: "I cry out to You, but You do not answer me; I stand up, and You regard me. But You have become cruel to me; with the strength of Your hand You oppose me” (Job 30:20-21). In spite of what he felt God was doing to him, Job said he would maintain his righteousness: “My righteousness I hold fast and will not let it go; my heart shall not reproach me as long as I live” (Job 27:6).

The question becomes: Why did Job want to maintain his righteousness, when he believed God had “taken away his justice” and began “opposing him”? I would suggest that Job was losing perspective. His focus began to be on justifying himself before God. Like all of us, his focus should have been on glorifying God even in the midst of his trial. Job’s focus became on justifying and glorifying himself!

I realize what I am saying may sound cruel to a man like Job who had suffered so much. I am not trying to be cold or unsympathetic to Job’s plight. He suffered immensely. I can’t even begin to imagine his suffering. My point is when we go through suffering there is a strong temptation to forget about all of God’s goodness towards us. Our focus can become upon ourselves and our suffering, and we can begin to fail to remember all the good things God has done for us. We can forget His love for us in sacrificing His own Son for our sins (John 3:16). We can overlook how he provides for our daily needs (Matt. 6:25-30). In our afflictions we can fail to remember all the spiritual blessings we have in Christ, such as forgiveness of sins, the privilege of prayer, the fellowship of our brothers and sisters in Christ, the guidance God gives us through His Word, and the peace we can enjoy when we place our faith and trust in Him (Ephesians 1:3). Today, I will strive to glorify God in whatever state I find myself and not try to justify myself!

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16)”.

5/20/18 “Crying Out For Justice” (Daily Bible Reading: Job 28-30)

 

“Surely, He would not stretch out His hand against a heap of ruins, if they cry out when He destroys it. Have I not wept for him who was in trouble? Has not my soul grieved for the poor? But when I looked for good, evil came to me; and when I waited for light, then came darkness. My heart is in turmoil and cannot rest; days of affliction confront me. I go about mourning, but not in the sun; I stand up in the assembly and cry out for help” (Job 30:24-28).

As Job finishes his discussion with his three friends, to God he says, “"I cry out to You, but You do not answer me; I stand up, and You regard me. But You have become cruel to me; with the strength of Your hand You oppose me. You lift me up to the wind and cause me to ride on it; You spoil my success. For I know that You will bring me to death, and to the house appointed for all living” (Job 30:20-23). Job had been searching for God to give him answers as to why all these terrible things have happened to him, but God has been silent. Job doesn’t understand it has been Satan who has been attacking him in an effort to turn Job from following God (Job 1:9-11; 2:4-5). Job believes his death is near and God will soon bring him to the “house appointed for all living (i.e. the grave).

As the opening verses above indicate, what appears to distress Job the most is the apparent injustice of all that has happened to him. What Job’s friends thought was Job had committed some great sin and God in His justice was punishing Job. They thought Job wanted to escape God’s justice for his supposed sin! In fact, Job welcomed God’s justice! Job said, “"If my heart has been enticed by a woman, or if I have lurked at my neighbor's door, then let my wife grind for another, and let others bow down over her. For that would be wickedness; yes, it would be iniquity deserving of judgment (Job 31:9-11). Job wasn’t trying to run from God’s judgment; He was desperately searching for it: “Let me be weighed on honest scales, that God may know my integrity” (Job 31:6).

In what Job thought would be his final words to his friends before he died, he cries out that after he dies, justice would occur, and Job would be shown to have been faithful to God. Job was at the point he did not think he would get justice in this life. He hoped justice would occur following his death.

Justice doesn’t always occur in this life. The babies who are murdered by abortion don’t get justice in this life. The people who die in terrorist bombings don’t get to see their murderers convicted in a court of law while they are still alive. God’s people cry out for justice even after they are dead: “When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed” (Revelation 6:9-11).

Today, I acknowledge God’s justice doesn’t always happen on my timetable. Like Job, this can create a lot of frustration in me if I allow it. I believe with all my heart God is just (Romans 3:25-26) and He will execute judgment one day for all men (Matthew 25:31-46). Today, I will strive to live in such a way that I will welcome that Day of Judgment and not want to run from it!

“Therefore, we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:9-10).

5/19/18 “The Mere Edges of God’s Ways” (Daily Bible Reading: Job 25-27)

 

“He drew a circular horizon on the face of the waters, at the boundary of light and darkness. The pillars of heaven tremble and are astonished at His rebuke. He stirs up the sea with His power, and by His understanding He breaks up the storm. By His Spirit He adorned the heavens; His hand pierced the fleeing serpent. Indeed, these are the mere edges of His ways, and how small a whisper we hear of Him! But the thunder of His power who can understand?" (Job 26:13-14).

As Job’s three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar finish us their vain efforts to convince Job he was being chastened by God for some wrong he had done, Bildad implies Job just doesn’t understand God and His power. Bildad says, “How then can man be righteous before God? Or how can he be pure who is born of a woman? If even the moon does not shine, and the stars are not pure in His sight, how much less man, who is a maggot, and a son of man, who is a worm?" (Job 25:4-6).

Just as his friends had been wrong thinking Job was being chastened by God for some sin he had committed, so now they were also wrong in thinking Job did not understand God and His power. Job understood God’s supremacy very well. Job stated, “Sheol is naked before Him, and Destruction has no covering. He stretches out the north over empty space; He hangs the earth on nothing. He binds up the water in His thick clouds, yet the clouds are not broken under it” (Job 26:6-8). Job was well aware of not only God’s power, but also of God’s presence and His ability to see all things. As the opening verses above indicate, Job realizes God’s awesome power is seen throughout His creation, but these are the “mere edges of His ways”. Observing such displays in God’s creation is simply a “small whisper” of what could be heard of God’s great might. One would have a difficult time in comprehending the true “thunder” of God’s power (Job 26:13-14).

I would suggest that part of what sustained Job through his adversity was his understanding of God’s great power. He had faith in God’s great might and believed God was fully aware of everything by which Job was being afflicted. Nothing was hidden from God’s eyes. However, what Job struggled to comprehend was, since God was aware of everything that was happening to Job and had the power to help Job, why wasn’t God helping him?

In fact, Job felt like God was using His power against Job: “"But He is unique, and who can make Him change? And whatever His soul desires, that He does. For He performs what is appointed for me, and many such things are with Him. Therefore, I am terrified at His presence; when I consider this, I am afraid of Him. For God made my heart weak, and the Almighty terrifies me” (Job 23:13-16). Because Job could not understand how God was using His power, Job assumed God was using His power against Job and not for Job. Job increased his misery by making this false assumption!

Today, I will appreciate that my God is an Awesome God who has great power. Even though I do not always see how He is using His power to help me; nonetheless, I will trust in His power to sustain me. I will not fall into Satan’s trap to think God’s is using His Might to harm me but will remember God’s purposes are to help me to remain faithful to Him and He will use His might to help me do this!

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:3-6).

5/18/18 “Where Are You God?” (Daily Bible Reading: Job 22-24)

 

"Look, I go forward, but He is not there, and backward, but I cannot perceive Him; When He works on the left hand, I cannot behold Him; when He turns to the right hand, I cannot see Him. But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot has held fast to His steps; I have kept His way and not turned aside” (Job 23:8-11).

As Job continues to struggle with the pain of the heartache of having lost his children, his health and his possessions, he still has to bear listening to the wild accusations of his friends who have wrongfully concluded that Job suffering is the result of God’s chastening him for his sins. Job’s friend Eliphaz says, “"Is it because of your fear of Him that He corrects you, and enters into judgment with you? Is not your wickedness great, and your iniquity without end? For you have taken pledges from your brother for no reason and stripped the naked of their clothing. You have not given the weary water to drink, and you have withheld bread from the hungry” (Job 22:4-7). Without any basis for doing so, he charges Job with taking advantage of other’s misfortune and refusing to help the poor.

I can only imagine how distressing it had to be for Job to hear such things from his “friends”. While Job continues to endure all that he is facing, he describes himself as groping about searching for answers. As the opening verses above indicate, he searches forward, backward, to the left, and to the right and cannot find God (Job 23:8-9). He is trying desperately to see how God is working on his behalf to assist him through this terrible crisis. Not only is he unable to figure out how God is supporting him through these events, he cannot even find God at all. He feels abandoned by God!

I can look back on my life and see multiple times when I believed God worked on my behalf. For example, many years ago when I was in the Navy I had fallen away from God and missed most church services. After a while, I repented and made a commitment to start attending every church service I could. I showed up at church on a Wednesday night. On this particular night, I met a girl at church named Sharon. December 15, 2017 was our 29th anniversary. I believe God worked on my behalf to provide for me a godly wife to encourage me to keep faithful to the Lord.

When we have gone through a particular trial and been delivered from it, many times we are able to look back through the eye of faith and understand how God helped us. What is very difficult is being able to see God’s efforts on our behalf while we are in the midst of the trial. Often when in the midst of a trial, I feel like Job. I search trying to see how God is working for me to help me through the adversity I am facing. Unfortunately, often not only do I not see how God is trying to support me through the trial, I don’t see God at all. Like Job I feel a strong temptation to feel abandoned by God!

To Job’s great credit, even though he did not see how God was helping him, nor was he able to find God at all, Job was determined to remain true to God during the storm he was enduring: “But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot has held fast to His steps; I have kept His way and not turned aside” (Job 23:10-11). Today, I will strive to follow Job’s example and remain true to God whenever I cannot see either Him or cannot grasp how he is assisting me when I am facing adversity. Like Job, I pray I may come forth as gold!

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7).

5/17/18 “Clinging On To Hope When at the End of the Rope” (Daily Bible Reading: Job 18-21)

 

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25-26).

As Job copes with the loss of his possessions, his children, his health and the futile efforts of his 3 friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar to explain why all these horrific events have happened to Job, he reaches a very low point. He accuses God of bringing all these things upon him: “Know then that God has wronged me and has surrounded me with His net. If I cry out concerning wrong, I am not heard. If I cry aloud, there is no justice. He has fenced up my way, so that I cannot pass; and He has set darkness in my paths. He has stripped me of my glory and taken the crown from my head. He breaks me down on every side, and I am gone; my hope He has uprooted like a tree. He has also kindled His wrath against me, and He counts me as one of His enemies” (Job 19:6-11).

Job could not have been more wrong! God had not done this to him. God did not count Job as “one of His enemies” (Job 19:11). God looked upon Job as “His servant” and “and that there was “none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man” (Job 1:8; 2:3). These terrible tragedies which Job had experienced were a result of Satan’s efforts to get Job to turn from following after God (Job 1:9-11; 2:4-5). As the above verses suggest, Satan was getting close to succeeding in getting Job to turn from God. In the midst of his great pain, Job was forgetting that God was on his side and was nearing the breaking point. He was getting dangerously close to fulfilling Satan’s wish to get Job to curse God to His face (Job 1:11; 2:5). Job was at the end of his rope!

Job is extremely confused. I feel great sympathy for Job as I read these verses. The pain he felt must have seemed unbearable to him. His friends who had come to mourn with him and comfort him (Job 2:11) were now hurling accusations against him. God was not giving him any answers. He must have felt all alone! How could Job continue to go on?

Throughout the book of Job, we see Job struggling to find reasons to continue to hope. He says, “What strength do I have, that I should hope? And what is my end, that I should prolong my life?” (Job 6:11). Later he adds, “"Oh, that You would hide me in the grave, that You would conceal me until Your wrath is past, that You would appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait, till my change comes” (Job 14:13-14). At times, Job feels there is simply no more hope: “If I wait for the grave as my house, if I make my bed in the darkness, if I say to corruption, 'You are my father,' and to the worm, 'You are my mother and my sister,' where then is my hope? As for my hope, who can see it?” (Job 17:13-15).

It is interesting that God doesn’t intervene and speak to Job as he struggles with these feelings of hopelessness. It must have been hard for God to hear his faithful servant Job accuse Him of becoming Job’s enemy! God bears with Job and all of his mixed emotions. Yet, as Job goes through his trial, he gains hope: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25-26).

There are some lessons that can only be learned by going through adversity. Today, I rejoice that God bears with me when I struggle with mixed feelings in the midst of trials. It is through these trials I can grow closer to Him! When I feel I am at the end of my rope, it is then I must cling to my hope!

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4).

5/16/18 “Comforting the Fainthearted” (Daily Bible Reading: Job 15-17)

 

“Then Job answered and said: ‘I have heard many such things; Miserable comforters are you all! Shall words of wind have an end? Or what provokes you that you answer? I also could speak as you do, if your soul were in my soul's place. I could heap up words against you and shake my head at you; But I would strengthen you with my mouth, and the comfort of my lips would relieve your grief’” (Job 16:1-5).

Job’s friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar had come to see Job for the purposes of mourning with him and to comfort him (Job 2:11). For the first seven days following their arrival they did a good job of this as they wept with him and did not speak a word (Job 2:12-13). However, after Job opened his mouth and began to express his confusion as to why this was happening to him and complain wishing he had never been born (Job 3:1-26), each of his friends in order made the mistake of trying to place themselves in God’s shoes and explain to Job why this was happening to him.

God’s shoes were much too big for them to fill and their understanding of what was happening to Job was incorrect. They thought what was happening to Job was because of his own sin, when, in fact, these things were happening because of Satan’s attempts to turn Job from following God (Job 1:9-11; 2:4-5). Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar believed the loss of Job’s possessions, his children, and his health were a reflection God was displeased with Job and was chastening him. Nothing could be further from the truth. God was not upset at Job. God’s view of Job was “…there is no like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8; 2:3).

As he begins his second round of his futile effort to explain to Job what was happening to him, Eliphaz, in his frustration with Job’s unwillingness to agree with him, begins to attack Job personally: “Yes, you cast off fear, and restrain prayer before God. For your iniquity teaches your mouth, and you choose the tongue of the crafty” (Job 15:4-5). He then accuses Job of acting defiantly and stubbornly resisting God (Job 15:20, 25-26). Though he had initially come to mourn with and to comfort Job, Eliphaz now finds himself attacking and accusing his friend of being a wicked man!

No wonder, as the opening verses above show, Job describes his friends as being “miserable comforters”. They have made Job feel worse, not better. Job describes his broken heart: “"My spirit is broken, my days are extinguished, the grave is ready for me” (Job 17:1). Job was not looking for friends to flatter him: “He who speaks flattery to his friends, even the eyes of his children will fail” (Job 17:5); but his friends judging him added to his misery: “My friends scorn me; my eyes pour out tears to God” (Job 16:20). He desired to have friends who would support him through his hour of trial: “Oh, that one might plead for a man with God, as a man pleads for his neighbor!” (Job 16:21).  

Those who are going through pain and heartache need our love, support, and encouragement. During these times of agony, planting thoughts of God’s possible judgment on them will only create more pain. As they go through such trials they need to be reminded of God’s love for them. No wonder the apostle Paul said, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). A great way of supporting our loved ones during hard times is to simply weep with them. Today, I will strive to not speak words of God’s possible judgment upon those who are suffering, but only words of encouragement as I seek to support them in their hour of trial!

“Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

5/15/18 “Searching Out the Deep Things of God” (Daily Bible Reading: Job 11-14)

 

"Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than heaven--what can you do? Deeper than Sheol--what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea” (Job 11:7-9).

These words were spoken by Job’s friend Zophar as Zophar attempted to answer why all these terrible things had happened to Job. Zophar had already listened to Eliphaz’s and Bildad’s attempts to explain to Job why Job had experienced the loss of his possessions, his children, and his own health (Job 4:1-5:27; 8:1-22). Their basic line of reasoning was: God had brought these things upon Job to chasten Job because Job had sinned. Zophar had also heard Job’s defense of himself that he was not an unrepentant sinner but had striven to live a righteous and blameless life (Job 9:20-21).

Now Zophar will vainly attempt to explain why these things have happened to Job. Zophar says how he wishes God would speak to Job (Job 11:5). Since God will not speak, Zophar foolishly decides he will speak for God. As he does so he tells Job: “Know therefore that God exacts from you less than your iniquity deserves” (Job 11:6). He brutally tells Job that he actually deserves to be punished for his sins more severely than just losing his possessions, his children, and his own health! Of course, none of this is true. Job was not being punished for his sins. Satan had done all these terrible things to Job in his attempt to turn Job away from following God (Job 1:9-12; 2:4-6). God esteemed Job, viewed Job as blameless and upright, and said there was “none like him on the earth” (Job 1:8; 2:3).

As the opening verses above suggest, Zophar asks if Job can search out the deep things of God (Job 11:7). This is a great truth! Zophar tries to apply this truth to Job, but he should have applied it to himself. He should not be trying to search out the answers that only God knew. Zophar should have been humble enough to realize his limitations in being able to give an explanation as to why these things had happened to Job. He should have simply said something like this: “Job, I don’t know why this has happened to you. There are some things only God knows. But I know that God loves you and I love you. I want you to know that and I am here to support you as your friend.”

However, Zophar failed to hold his tongue and uttered things he would regret saying. God will later rebuke Zophar and his friends for trying to answer for God: “And so it was, after the Lord had spoken these words to Job, that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, ‘My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has’” (Job 42:7).

I learn a great lesson here: There are some things I am never going to know or understand during my time on this earth. Job understood he didn’t know everything, nor could he. Of God, Job said, “He uncovers deep things out of darkness, and brings the shadow of death to light” (Job 12:22). While Job misunderstood and thought God was doing this to him for some reason not known to him, he is determined to walk in faith in God. Job says, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him…” (Job 13:15). Today, I will accept I cannot always know why different things happen to me. I choose simply to rejoice that God loves me as I go through these things and I will strive to walk not by sight understanding everything there is to know, but by faith trusting in God and His care for me!

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?’ ‘Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?’ For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:33-36).

5/14/18 “Contending With God” (Daily Bible Reading: Job 8-10)

 

“Then Job answered and said: Truly I know it is so, but how can a man be righteous before God? If one wished to contend with Him, he could not answer Him one time out of a thousand. God is wise in heart and mighty in strength. Who has hardened himself against Him and prospered?’” (Job 9:1-4)

James writes, “Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord--that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful” (James 5:11). Job had to persevere through the loss of his possessions, his children, and his health. He also had to endure his friends, who had initially come to comfort him (Job 2:11-13) but were now adding to his misery as they tried in vain to answer why these things had happened to Job.

Job’s friend Bildad, like his friend Eliphaz had earlier done (Job 4:7-9; 5:17), implies Job was suffering because he was being chastened by God for his sins. Bildad says, “Does God subvert judgment? Or does the Almighty pervert justice? If your sons have sinned against Him, He has cast them away for their transgression. If you would earnestly seek God and make your supplication to the Almighty, if you were pure and upright, surely now He would awake for you, and prosper your rightful dwelling place” (Job 8:3-6).

I can only imagine how excruciating it must have been to hear from his “friend” the subtle implication that God killed Job’s sons because of their transgressions. Moreover, it must have been painful for Job to hear his friends suggest God was not awakening to help Job because Job was not “pure and upright”. The problem with Job’s friends is they felt compelled to attempt to answer why all these things had happened to Job. The problem with Job is he began to listen to their line of reasoning and frustrate himself as he questioned why God would chasten him when he had striven to live a righteous and blameless life (Job 9:20-21). God wasn’t chastening Job. These things had happened to him because Satan was trying to turn Job against God (Job 2:4-5; 1:12, 18-19)! Much like when we go through trials today, Job had no way of knowing why he was going through this terrible ordeal.

No wonder Job so often expresses his frustration such as when he says, “My soul loathes my life; I will give free course to my complaint, I will speak in the bitterness of my soul. I will say to God, 'Do not condemn me; show me why You contend with me’” (Job 10:1-2). In his frustration, Job begins to look at God as contending against him, rather than God being there to support him. In his frantic attempt to find the answers about why all this had happened to him Job speaks about having his day in court with God (Job 9:14-19). Job brought a lot of additional misery to himself as he began to view God as his Adversary to be contended against, instead of his Friend who could comfort him!

I learn from this an important lesson: When bad things happen to me, don’t assume it is because of God’s chastening of me for some sin I have committed. Today, when I go through trials I will not assume these things are God’s chastening of me. My trials I face may be for some other reasons which I may never know during my time on this earth. I may have to wait till I get to heaven before I know why I experienced some of the trials I did on this earth. As I go through these challenges, I do not want to view God as my Adversary whom I want to contend with in court. I will strive to view God as my Friend who can comfort, encourage, and strengthen me to face and endure the trials of life!

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Psalm 27:13-14).

5/13/18 “The Patience to Listen” (Daily Bible Reading: Job 4-7)

 

“Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said: If one attempts a word with you, will you become weary? But who can withhold himself from speaking? Surely you have instructed many, and you have strengthened weak hands. Your words have upheld him who was stumbling, and you have strengthened the feeble knees; but now it comes upon you, and you are weary; it touches you, and you are troubled’” (Job 4:1-5).

Eliphaz and his other 2 friends, Bildad and Zophar came to comfort their friend Job in his hour of adversity (Job 2:11). To their astonishment when they come to see Job, they did not even recognize him because the boils that covered him from the sole of his feet to the crown of his head (Job 2:7, 12). Following their arrival, for seven days they simply sit with him not saying a word because they saw that his grief was great (Job 2:13).

However, after listening to Job complain about his misery and how he wished he had never been born (Job 3:2-26), Eliphaz feels compelled to speak up. As the opening verses above indicate, he says he cannot withhold himself from speaking (Job 4:2). He tells Job about a dream he had (Job 4:12-21). In this vision, he hears a voice saying, “Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker?” (Job 4:17).

Eliphaz feels that this dream must be a message from God and that He wants to tell it to Job. The problem is Eliphaz then begins to jump to conclusions and make false assumptions as to why all this is happening to Job. Eliphaz asserts that God must be correcting Job for some sin Job had committed. He states, "Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; therefore, do not despise the chastening of the Almighty. For He bruises, but He binds up; He wounds, but His hands make whole” (Job 5:17-18). It is hard to believe, but Eliphaz concludes Job should feel “happy” about the things which have happened to him, because God is trying to correct Job for the error of his ways. Can you imagine how Job must have felt upon hearing these words from his “friend”?

Moreover, Eliphaz declares that Job will live a long and prosperous life and have more offspring if he will turn from his sin which he believes is the reason Job is suffering so: “You shall also know that your descendants shall be many, and your offspring like the grass of the earth. You shall come to the grave at a full age, as a sheaf of grain ripens in its season” (Job 5:25-26). Eliphaz is absolutely certain in his conclusions to which he has jumped: “Behold, this we have searched out; It is true. Hear it and know for yourself” (Job 5:27).

As I read these words of Eliphaz I am amazed at how wrong he was. Job had not sinned (Job 1:22; 2:10). God still viewed Job as blameless and upright (Job 2:3). What was happening to Job was a result of Satan afflicting Job, not of God chastening Job! However, before I am too quick to point out Eliphaz’s faults, I need to look at myself. How often do I attempt to suggest that I know the reason things are happening to other people or even to myself? How quick I am to jump to conclusions and assert that I know the answer to the problems in people’s lives before I really even have a proper grasp on the facts. Praise God that he has revealed these words of Eliphaz to us so that we may learn to listen to others and not be quick to jump to conclusions. Today, I will strive to be a better listener and less of a “conclusion jumper”!

“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19)

5/12/18 “Why Is This Happening to Me?” (Daily Bible Reading: Job 2-3)

 

“Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, and whom God has hedged in? For my sighing comes before I eat, and my groanings pour out like water. For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me. I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, for trouble comes” (Job 3:23-26).

God had allowed Satan to touch all that Job had (Job 1:12). As he did so, Satan took Job’s possessions such as his oxen, donkeys, sheep, and camels. He also killed many of Job’s servants (Job 1:13-17). Satan also took Job’s precious children whom Job had led in worship to God (Job 1:5, 18). By great faith in God, Job bore the tragic news by worshipping God and saying, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:20-21).

God now allows Satan to touch Job himself, but not to take Job’s life (Job 2:6). As Satan does so, he afflicts Job with “painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head” (Job. 2:7). Job is in such misery the only way he can get some relief is to scrape himself with a potsherd as he sits in the midst of ashes (Job 2:8). His affliction is so bad that when his three friends come to visit him they can’t even recognize him (Job 2:12)! Job’s wife is so discouraged by the loss of her children and what she sees happening to her husband, that her faith is weakened as she says to Job, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9). Job has even lost the support and encouragement he might have expected to receive from his wife.

As Job somehow tries to cope with what is happening to him, he begins by wishing he was never born: “May the day perish on which I was born, And the night in which it was said, 'A male child is conceived’” (Job 3:3). Again, he adds, “"Why did I not die at birth? Why did I not perish when I came from the womb?” (Job 3:11). He longs for the peace that death can bring: “Why is light given to him who is in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, who long for death, but it does not come, and search for it more than hidden treasures; who rejoice exceedingly, and are glad when they can find the grave?” (Job 3:20-22). As the opening verses above indicate, the thing Job dreaded most has come upon him. He is so miserable he can’t get a moments rest and relief (Job 3:25-26).

I am greatly humbled as I read these verses about Job. His pain and sorrow is incredible. I am thankful that the Scriptures describe in detail his feelings. I believe in His infinite wisdom, God revealed to us these feelings of Job to help us deal with our own pain when we are struggling with our own misery during times of hardship. As Job expresses his pain, God doesn’t jump in and tell him to be quiet. God doesn’t interrupt Job and try to correct Job. God allows Job to express the pain in his heart! Although, as we will learn later in the book of Job, God will correct Job with regard to some things he is thinking and saying, now was not the time to do so. At this time, God knew that Job just needed someone to listen to him. God’s shoulders were big enough to handle Job’s burden.

This assures me that God is big enough to let me describe to Him the mixed feelings I have when I am in misery and struggling with feelings of great despair. It also tells me that God understand me and others who struggle at times with depression. God doesn’t condemn Job for his feelings of sadness and despair. He just listens! Today, I will praise God for his willingness to listen to me when I am struggling with dark feelings and when I question, “Why is this happening to me?”

Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).

5/11/18 “A Bad Day for a Good Man” (Daily Bible Reading: Esther 9-Job 1)

 

“Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: ‘Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord’” (Job 1:20-21).

Job was a man who had been greatly blessed by God who had given him a wife, 7 sons, and 3 daughters (Job 1:1-2). He had vast riches and was described as “the greatest of all the people of the East” (Job 1:3). He led his family in worship to God (Job 1:4). Of Job, God said, “…there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8).

However, in the first chapter of the book of Job we also see Satan coming before God after wandering to and fro on the earth seeking whom he may devour (Job 1:6-7; I Peter 5:8). God asks Satan if he has considered Job. Satan accuses Job of only serving God because God has protected him from pain (Job 1:8-11). Initially, God will permit Job to be tested by allowing Satan to harm everything near and dear to Job (e.g. his possessions and his family), but not touch Job himself (Job 1:12). On a later occasion, God will allow Satan to harm Job himself, but not take Job’s life (Job 2:6).

What happens to Job as Satan attacks him was devastating. Initially, Job hears a messenger who tells him the Sabeans have come and destroyed all his oxen, donkeys, and even killed his servants who were with them (Job 1:14-15). Before this report is fully made to him, another messenger comes to him and tells him how “fire of God” fell from heaven and destroyed his sheep and more of his servants (Job 1:16). Again, before all the details of this report are described to him, another servant comes and informs him the Chaldeans have taken all his camels and killed more of his servants (Job 1:17). Finally, even before this report is finished, another messenger informs him how a “great wind” came and destroyed the house where all his children were and killed them (Job 1:18-19).

I cannot even imagine the “shock and awe” Job must have felt. He heard four devastating reports one after another. He did not even have a moment to digest the impact of each report before more shattering news was brought to him. It is understandable why he would tear his robe, shave his head and fall to the ground as he heard the news (Job 1:20). But what made Job such a unique man, whom God said “there was none like him” (Job 1:8), was what he did next. The next thing he did was to worship God and say, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

I wish I could be certain that I would react as did Job if I were faced with such a calamity. I pray that I may never have to face what he faced. God does not spare us from having to experience the tragedies of life. Too often we ask the wrong question when faced with tragedy by saying, “Why is God letting this happen to me?” when we should be thinking, “God must think a lot of me to allow Satan to do this to me. How can I seek God’s help to enable me bear this tragedy?” As we will see throughout the book of Job, it was a struggle for Job to bear this tragedy, but his initial response of seeking to worship God was an admirable one for us to follow when faced with heartbreaks in our own lives. Today, I will strive to seek God’s help and strength when I face life’s tragedies.

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7).

5/10/18 “A Bad Day for an Evil Man” (Daily Bible Reading: Esther 6-8)

 

“Then the king said to Haman, ‘Hurry, take the robe and the horse, as you have suggested, and do so for Mordecai the Jew who sits within the king's gate! Leave nothing undone of all that you have spoken.’ So, Haman took the robe and the horse, arrayed Mordecai and led him on horseback through the city square, and proclaimed before him, ‘Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor!’” (Esther 6:10-11).

Haman had plotted to destroy all of the Jews of Esther’s day because her cousin Mordecai had refused to bow down before him (Esther 3:1-15). Even though it involved risking her life, Esther approached the king to plead for herself and her people. But instead of immediately pleading with the king, Esther invites the king and Haman to a banquet (Esther 5:1-5). During this banquet, Esther invites the two of them to return to another banquet she is giving the next day (Esther 5:6-9).

As he joyfully departs from the banquet, Haman’s joy is turned to rage when he sees Mordecai at the king’s gate (Esther 5:9). He goes home and brags to his friends and his wife about his riches and the power he now holds. However, he tells them that this “avails him nothing so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate” (Esther 5:13). His wife and friends suggest that, before Haman goes to the banquet Esther is having the next day, a gallows be made upon which to hang Mordecai (Esther 5:14). He follows their suggestion and plans to ask the king to hang Mordecai the next day.

However, an interesting thing happens that night. The king has insomnia and in order to be put to sleep, he has someone read some records of the chronicles to him. It just so happens that the particular record they read has to do with when Mordecai had uncovered an earlier plot by two of the king’s eunuchs to murder the king (Esther 6:1-2, cf. 2:21-23). The king asks, “What honor or dignity has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?” (Esther 6:3). As he finds out that nothing has been done for Mordecai, Haman walks into the court prepared to request that the king hang Mordecai upon the gallows he has just made (Esther 6:4-5).

The king asks Haman, “What shall be done for the man whom the king delights to honor?” Haman, thinking the king must want to honor him, suggests that the king should have one of his princes lead the man through the streets wearing a robe the king has worn, riding on one of the king’s horses, and proclaim “Thus shall be done to the man whom the king delights to honor” (Esther 6:7-9). As the opening verses indicate, the king tells Haman “What a great idea!” and has Haman go and do this for Mordecai (Esther 6:10-11). As he returns to complain to his family and friends about his bad day, Haman is called to the banquet Esther has prepared. During this second banquet, Esther will reveal her identity, plead for herself and her people, and point out the evil which Haman has done. The king then has Haman hung on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai (Esther 6:12-10).

To say the least, Haman had a bad day! His evil plots had come back on himself. As I read these chapters I am reminded: “The wicked plots against the just, and gnashes at him with his teeth. The Lord laughs at him, for He sees that his day is coming” (Psalm 37:12-13). Haman’s day had come! Today, I will rejoice that I serve a just God who rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked!

“Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. Cease from anger and forsake wrath; do not fret--it only causes harm. For evildoers shall be cut off; but those who wait on the Lord, they shall inherit the earth” (Psalm 37:7-9).

5/9/18 “Faith to See the Possibilities” (Daily Bible Reading: Esther 2-5)

 

“…Mordecai told them to answer Esther: ‘Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king's palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?’" (Esther 4:13-14).

Esther was a Jew who had become queen over the mighty empire of Persia after she had won the king’s heart during an effort by the Persian King to find one to take the place of Queen Vashti. The king was unaware of Esther’s Jewish ancestry (Esther 2:10). She had been raised by her cousin Mordecai who himself had faithfully served the king of Persia, sat within his gate, and even uncovered a plot on the king’s life (Esther 2:21-23).

However, now the Jewish people were facing extermination because of an evil plot of another of the king’s servants, Haman. Mordecai had refused to bow down to Haman which enraged Haman (Esther 3:1-5). Not only did Haman want to kill Mordecai for this, but he decided to destroy all the Jewish people (Esther 3:6). He persuaded the king and offered to pay the expenses to destroy the Jewish people on the 13th day of the 12th month of that year (Esther 3:7-13). Mordecai and the Jews were distressed when they heard of the fate that awaited them in just 11 months (Esther 3:14-4:3).

Esther inquires of Mordecai for the reason he is so upset (Esther 4:4-7). Mordecai tells her about Haman’s wicked plot against the Jewish people and requested Esther’s help to influence the king to help her people (Esther 4:8-9). However, Esther faces her own challenges. She is not allowed to go into the inner court of the king to make a request unless the king holds out his scepter to her. If she attempts to do this without his holding out his scepter, the penalty she will face is death. Furthermore, she is unsure of where she stands regarding the king’s favor because he has not called upon her in the past 30 days (Esther 4:8-11)!

The opening verses above are Mordecai’s response to Esther. He lets her know that all because she is the queen, she is still a Jew and subject to Haman’s plot. She will not escape. However, through the eye of faith, Mordecai suggests that perhaps this is the reason God, in His Providence, has placed her in the position of queen. As queen she has the opportunity to save her people (Esther 4:13-14). To her credit Esther, after requesting Mordecai to have all the Jews fast and pray on her behalf, musters up the courage to go to the inner court and stand hoping the king will hold out his scepter to her. If he does not, the penalty is death. As it turns out, the king does hold out his scepter to her (Esther 4:15-5:2). After inviting both the king and Haman to a couple of feasts she has prepared, she tells the king about Haman’s plot, and saves her people by the king giving the Jews the opportunity to defend themselves (Esther 5:3-8; 7:1-6; 8:1-17).

As I consider these events in the life of Esther, I ask myself: “Why has God put me in the different roles I have in my life?” For example, I have roles as a father, husband, insurance agent, and a member at my church. Why has God put me in these roles? Esther, was in the role of Queen of Persia, but needed Mordecai to challenge her to consider why God had placed her in this position. Mordecai suggested she was in this role to fulfill a greater purpose which was to save her people. Today, I will look through the eye of faith to see the possibilities of how God can use me in the different roles I have to glorify Him!

“By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so, you will be My disciples” (John 15:8).

5/8/18 “Do I Rule My Anger or Does My Anger Rule Me?” (Daily Bible Reading: Nehemiah 12-Esther 1)

 

“On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus, to bring Queen Vashti before the king, wearing her royal crown, in order to show her beauty to the people and the officials, for she was beautiful to behold. But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king's command brought by his eunuchs; therefore, the king was furious, and his anger burned within him” (Esther 1:10-12).

The book of Esther is a great study in the Providence of God (i.e. how God provides for His people and goes about to accomplish His purposes). It is the story of a young Jewish girl who will become Queen of the Persia and save her people from the evil plots of a wicked man named Haman.

The first chapter of the book speaks of how events transpired causing the need for a new queen for the empire. King Ahasuerus ruled the vast kingdom of the Medes and Persians which stretched from India to Ethiopia (Esther 1:1). During the 3rd year of his reign he throws a huge feast for all his officials (Esther 1:2-8). As the above verses indicate, on the 7th day of this great feast, when he appears to be drunk (i.e. “the heart of the king was merry with wine”, Esther 1:10), the king wants to show off the beauty of his wife, Queen Vashti, to his invited guests. However, there is a problem: The queen refuses to come out and be paraded before these men (Esther 1:10-12a).

How does the king react? He could have reacted by simply saying, “Oh well, I guess I’ll find some other way to entertain my guests”. But instead, he becomes “furious, and his anger burned within him” (Esther 1:12b). Not only does he become angry, but now he seeks advice from his friends, who were also probably drunk, as to what should be done (Esther 1:13-15). His friends make a mountain out of a molehill and say, “Queen Vashti has not only wronged the king, but also all the princes, and all the people who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. For the queen's behavior will become known to all women, so that they will despise their husbands in their eyes…” (Esther 1:16-17). They act like this one event is going to lead to all the wives throughout the entire empire disrespecting their husbands. Their advice is to remove Vashti from being queen and that a new queen should be sought to take her place (Esther 1:19). Because of their own insecurity, they deemed necessary that the king issue a decree throughout the empire that all wives should honor their husbands (Esther 1:20-22). The king follows this advice.

“After these things, when the wrath of King Ahasuerus subsided, he remembered Vashti, what she had done, and what had been decreed against her” (Esther 2:1). Following his feast when the wine wears off, it appears the king comes to his senses. It appears he now misses Vashti and what he had done to her. However, the damage had already been done by his fit of anger. Although a new queen will be sought for him, it will take approximately 4 years before Esther will become his bride (cf. Esther 1:3; 2:16-17). His uncontrolled anger had created a lot of problems for himself!

As I consider the actions of this king, I think about the hurt both to myself and those around me when I fail to keep my anger under control. God’s Word emphasizes the importance of keeping our anger under control: “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32) Today, I will seek God’s strength to keep my anger in check!

 “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).

5/7/18 “Breaking Down the Barriers around Our Hearts” (Daily Bible Reading: Nehemiah 8-11)

 

“So, Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law” (Nehemiah 8:2-3).

After completing the rebuilding of the walls around Jerusalem (Nehemiah 6:15), Nehemiah leads the children of Israel, over which he governs (Nehemiah 8:9), in an even more important work. God’s people had just erected walls around Jerusalem for its defense and security, but His people needed break down the barriers around their hearts which they had erected over the years in resisting God’s guidance. This was the reason they had went into Babylonian captivity: “Yet for many years You had patience with them and testified against them by Your Spirit in Your prophets. Yet they would not listen; therefore, You gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands” (Nehemiah 9:30).

Immediately following the tasks of constructing the city walls, Nehemiah turns his attention to the task of addressing the spiritual needs of the children of Israel. The people of Israel are gathered together, a platform of wood is built, and Ezra the scribe stands upon it to read to the people the Word of God (Nehemiah 8:1-4). The leaders and the Levites help the people to understand the Law of God: “So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense and helped them to understand the reading” (Nehemiah 8:8). When the people hear God’s Word, they struggle with being grieved because they know that in the past they have not kept it. However, Nehemiah encourages them not to be full of grief over past sins, but rather to be filled with joy considering what the future holds for them if they will walk in God’s ways: “"Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:10; cf. 8:9, 11).

Great things happen following God’s people hearing the Law of God: (1) They celebrate the Feast of booths (Nehemiah 8:14-18), (2) they confess their sins and the sins of their fathers (Nehemiah 9:1-3), (3) they recall God’s faithfulness in His dealings with His people (Nehemiah 9:4-37), and (4) the leaders lead the people into entering into a covenant to follow God’s Word (Nehemiah 10:1-39). Notice what they say they are going to do: “"And because of all this, we make a sure covenant, and write it; our leaders, our Levites, and our priests seal it" (Nehemiah 9:38). The leaders are going to put their seal on a document indicating their commitment to keep God’s Word!

As I consider the actions of Nehemiah and the people of Israel on this occasion, I ask myself: “Would I be willing to sign a document saying I will follow all of God’s Word?” If you are like me, some parts of God’s Word are easier for me to follow than other parts. Do I find myself erecting barriers against following certain parts of the Law of God because of the challenges I face in trying to follow it? To find true joy, I have to be willing to submit to all of God’s Will for me: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil” (Proverbs 3:5-7). Today, I rejoice over God’s willingness to guide my steps as I move forward in the journey of life. I will strive to break down any barriers around my heart in resisting His Will for me!

“You are my portion, O Lord; I have said that I would keep Your words. I entreated Your favor with my whole heart; Be merciful to me according to Your word” (Psalm 119:57-58).

5/6/18 “Pray Without Ceasing” (Daily Bible Reading: Nehemiah 5-7)

 

“For this reason, he was hired, that I should be afraid and act that way and sin, so that they might have cause for an evil report, that they might reproach me. My God, remember Tobiah and Sanballat, according to these their works, and the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who would have made me afraid. So, the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days” (Nehemiah 6:13-15).

Nehemiah who had served as the King of Persia’s cupbearer had returned to Jerusalem to lead the people in rebuilding the walls around the city (Nehemiah 2:5-11). God’s people there were in great distress because without city walls the city lay defenseless from attacks from the enemies which surrounded them (Nehemiah 1:3). Nehemiah faced many challenges from the enemies of God’s people. His adversaries: (1) had accused him of attempting to rebel against the king (Nehemiah 2:19), (2) ridiculed the Israelites for their efforts (Nehemiah 4:3), (3) threatened to attack them as they worked on rebuilding the wall (Nehemiah 4:7-8), and (4) even plotted to kill Nehemiah himself (Nehemiah 6:1-14).

How was it that Nehemiah had prevailed from all of these threats he faced? He relied on God through the power of prayer! It is interesting to note throughout the book of Nehemiah how Nehemiah took all the challenges he faced to God in prayer. When he hears of the distress his people are under because the walls had been destroyed, Nehemiah prays to God about it (Nehemiah 1:4-11). When the King of Persia asks him what he wanted to request of him, Nehemiah prays to God at that very moment before giving the king his answer (Nehemiah 2:4). When facing the threats of his enemies, Nehemiah calls for God’s help to defeat them: “Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads and give them as plunder to a land of captivity” (Nehemiah 4:4; cf. 6:14)! In addition, when his adversaries tried to make him afraid, Nehemiah cried out to God, “Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands” (Nehemiah 6:9). Regarding all his labors he had done on behalf of his people, Nehemiah asked for God’s favor to be upon him: “Remember me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people” (Nehemiah 5:19).

Because he was such a man of prayer, it is of no surprise we observe Nehemiah, throughout the book, seeing God’s hand at work in his life. After returning to the Promised Land, Nehemiah tells his brethren of how “the hand of my God” had been upon him (Nehemiah 2:18). After confronting his adversaries, he told them: “The God of heaven Himself will prosper us” (Nehemiah 2:20). Regarding the plots of his enemies against him, Nehemiah speaks of how God had “brought their plot to nothing (Nehemiah 4:15). Because of his close prayer life with God, Nehemiah was able to perceive that those who attempted to deceive him were not actually sent to him by God (Nehemiah 6:12).

I find great encouragement regarding the power of prayer when I observe the life of Nehemiah. He is a great example of what it means to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). As I observe his life, I learn that I can better see God’s hand at work in my own life when I am staying continually connected to God by praying to Him throughout the day. I rejoice that God encourages me to communicate to Him. He encourages me to be persistent in prayer (Luke 18:1-8). Today, I will strive to grow in being more consistent in my prayer life and to “pray without ceasing”!

“As for me, I will call upon God, and the Lord shall save me. Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice” (Psalm 55:16-17).

5/5/18 “Taking up The Cause God’s People” (Daily Bible Reading: Nehemiah 2-4)

 

“Then the king said to me, ‘What do you request?’ So, I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, ‘If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers' tombs, that I may rebuild it’” (Nehemiah 2:4-5).

Nehemiah was an Israelite who lived in Persia during the captivity of God’s people. He held a prestigious role in serving as the king’s cupbearer (Nehemiah 1:11). One of his brethren, Hanani, had come from his homeland of Judah and told Nehemiah how things were going in his native land: “The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire” (Nehemiah 1:2-3). In ancient times, city walls were essential for the defense of the city. Without these walls the people of the city would constantly live in fear of being attacked from their enemies.

How did Nehemiah react when he heard the news? He could have simply said, “I can’t worry about this. I have more important duties to do such as serving the king”. Nehemiah did not react this way, but rather he chose to share in the distresses of his people. “So, it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 1:4). As he prays to God, Nehemiah expresses his understanding that these terrible things which have happened to his nation were because of their unfaithfulness to God; yet, he pleads with God to remember His Word concerning how God would bless his people if they would turn back to Him and repent (Nehemiah 1:5-10). He also asks the Lord to give him favor in the sight of the king as Nehemiah brings up the cause of his people before the king (Nehemiah 1:11).

As the opening verses above indicate, Nehemiah makes his request before the king and the king lets him go to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls (Nehemiah 2:1-11). After he arrives in Jerusalem, at night Nehemiah surveys the ruins of the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:12-16). Following this, he then encourages his brethren to begin the work: “And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king's words that he had spoken to me. So, they said, ‘Let us rise up and build.’ Then they set their hands to this good work (Nehemiah 2:18). The Israelites join together and, in spite of the opposition they faced, they begin to make major progress in completing the walls around Jerusalem: “So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work” (Nehemiah 4:6).

This great work was done because one man, Nehemiah, chose to take up the cause of God’s people. He could have said he was too busy with other matters to do so, but he did not. He knew what was happening to God’s people was a cause for which it was worthy for him to fight. Today, most everyone takes up some kind of cause for which to fight. For example, some take up the cause to fight a disease such as cancer, while others take up different political causes like standing up for the rights of unborn babies. These are causes for which it is important to fight. However, as I think about the causes for which I stand, Nehemiah’s actions give pause for me to think: “Are all the causes for which I fight worth the time I invest in them? Today, I will follow Nehemiah’s example and make sure I am taking time to fight for the causes of God and His people by promoting God’s Will, encouraging others, and showing love to God’s people who strive to walk in the paths of righteousness!

“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).