The world we live in is out of control; humanly speaking. At times we cannot bear to watch the news. The headlines are filled with lies, threats, and hate. We must be careful not to forget that God is in control. It is easy to get our eyes off the Lord.
In Psalm 3, David is going through some tough times. His son was seeking to murder him, and people were losing confidence in him. Most of us would curl up in a ball if faced with such things. Not David! The Bible tells of another time, in 1 Samuel 30:6, when his world was crumbling about him; yet David encouraged himself in the LORD.
We all experience days when life seems too hectic, too depressing or too overwhelming. Days where we did not want to get out of bed. Some of us, to be honest, have hoped for the end. Instead of attending our own pity/poor me party, we should be encouraging ourselves in the Lord.
Listen to David’s plight, “LORD, How are they increased that trouble me! Many are they that rise up against me. Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah” (Psalm 3:1-2).
We may think it is easier said than done. However, it can be done if we apply the right formula (follow the directions if you will). David followed Scriptural guidelines to invoke God’s help.
The first step is to recognize who God truly is. “But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; My glory, and the lifter up of mine head” (Psalm 3:3). God tells us to fear not…He is our shield (Genesis 15:1). If God be for us who can be against us (Rom. 8:31)?
The second step is to realize that it is Him, and Him alone, that
can help us. Nothing on earth will work. Only God can be the soother of a troubled heart. In Ps. 5:1-3 we read of David directing his cares to the Caretaker:
Give ear to my words, O Lord, Consider my meditation. Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: For unto thee will I pray. My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; In the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.
David realized Who to turn to. Is our voice among those that cry out to Him each morning?
The last step is to relax in His protection. “I will both lay
me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety” (Ps. 4:8). We need to relax in the comfort of God’s Word (Philip. 4:6). When we relax in God, we will truly experience Heavenly peace. There is nothing like it and only then can we truly say that it is well with our soul.
It must have been the most miserable night’s sleep. The day before, Joshua, the nation’s leader, announced an alarming investigation. Sadly, the day before thirty-six men had died in battle as Israel fought with an inferior opponent. The nation was heaving with remorse.
Sanctify yourselves against to morrow: for thus saith the Lord God of Israel, There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you. (Joshua 7:13)
All evening long, he had an opportunity to come clean and repent. Can you imagine as he wonders if he hid his stolen souvenirs well enough? Can you relate to the sweaty palms as he replays the smuggling effort over in his mind? Who could have seen him? It was a flawless operation, right? Joshua must have been bluffing!
Achan must have never realized when Joshua said three times “which the Lord shall take,” he was clearly indicating the Lord would capture the offender. The word “take” is the same word in Proverbs 5:22, “His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, And he shall be holden with the cords of his sins.” Paul explained it, “For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Galatians 6:8).
How much serenity can a stash of silver offer? How much comfort can a pillow of gold promise? Yet we allow the sweet “stolen waters” in our lives tranquilize our conscience. Instead of allowing the pleasures of this world to allure us, we should pursue the One whose right-hand offers “pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:11).
Take the world, but give me Jesus—
All its joys are but a name;
But His love abideth ever,
Thru eternal years the same.
It’s part of sibling life. Often the older child tries to push the buttons of their younger sibling in order to get a reaction. Several years ago, our son was afflicting his sister with his adolescent annoyance. She almost vented her frustration at him, but instead, she looked to the ones who could intercede on her behalf—Mom and Dad. Our advice to her, “Just ignore him. He’s trying to get a reaction, so if you don’t give it to him, then he’ll probably stop.” Without missing a beat, she turned to her brother and with the enunciation of a two or three-year-old she cried out, “IGNORE!” It was not what we had in mind, but it has been a humorous memory ever since.
In Genesis 4, a keyword surfaces as two brothers approach God with their offerings. Abel brought the firstfruits of his flock. This means his offering was the first blessing from God. It was the fattest which was a sign of tremendous honor. His brother, Cain also brings an offering, however, without the same level of distinction as his brother’s. God’s recognition of those offerings tells the complete story. “And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect” (Genesis 4:4-5).
Focus on the word respect. It is actually a relatively rare word in the Old Testament. It simply means “to gaze upon; pay attention.” The inverse of this word would be simply “to ignore.” Think of a time you were ignored while waiting for some customer service. Or maybe a friend or a family member ignored you in public because of a recent tiff. What was your reaction? More than likely you were…well, look at Cain: “And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.” Analyze that emotion for a moment. Why would you be “wroth” when you’ve been ignored? You feel it’s unjust. “Don’t they know who I am!” You feel the other person is to blame. You feel your perspective wasn’t given a fair hearing. It’s one thing to have that feeling when you’re waiting for customer service, but it’s entirely something else when we have this feeling opposite of God.
God knows how it feels to be ignored. Look ahead in Isaiah’s prophecy where God scolds his people, “Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; And…look not unto the Holy One of Israel, Neither seek the Lord” (Isaiah 31:1)! For every time people have not “respected” God, He has faithfully extended the hand of hope.
Who are we to judge God? “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted” (Genesis 4:7)? It is our responsibility to align with God’s expectations. Have you ignored God? More than likely, you have felt He has “hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” What’s the cause? “Your iniquities have separated between you and your God” (Isaiah 59:2). Once you have “respect” unto God, He will have respect unto the offerings of your life.
As we turn the page on a new year, many of us have taken at least a few minutes to think about some things about ourselves that we’d like to improve upon this year. Whether it be a bulging waistline, bad habit or besetting sin; many of us, as well as many other Americans, have set some sort of goal to better ourselves in those particular areas.
These “New Year Resolutions” were the topic of a news report last week in which the reporter interviewed several “on the street” as to what their individual resolutions were. One particular young woman stood out as being the most “moral” of the group, saying she wanted to be “much nicer to people this year because there is so much hate in the world.” This is certainly a noble goal and one that we should all strive for in our individual lives.
However, our reading this morning reminds us of the type of people we really truly are. Though man in and of his own strength can occasionally conjure up some temporary form of goodness, Romans 3 reminds us of our true spiritual condition. In verses 10-14 we read, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable, there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit, the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:”
Here we are reminded of our true condition, sinners with a heart driven to rebel against God. Left to ourselves we would never seek after God or His righteousness. Our only hope for true goodness and righteousness is found in having a relationship with the Righteous One, Jesus Christ. Paul summarizes this wonderful truth in verse 26, “To declare, I say, as this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”
So while we take a few minutes to think about ways to improve ourselves in 2018, may we be reminded of the inadequacy of ourselves and our need to depend upon God for both salvation and genuine change in our lives.
Would you buy a puzzle from the thrift store? I’ve often wondered why they sell puzzles. It is possible all of the pieces are still present, but what are the chances one out of 500 pieces have gone missing? I’m sure they don’t employee full-time puzzle solvers at Goodwill to account for every piece. Could it be the puzzle was given to the thrift store because no one has done the puzzle in ages? And could it be it hasn’t been completed because a decade ago one or more pieces disappeared? I submit to you it is highly likely!
There are few things more frustrating than to invest hours of your valuable time assembling a puzzle only to find it is missing pieces. Would you risk $1 for an incomplete picture?
God was willing to stake everything on one of His masterpieces. At least five times in the first two chapters of Job “integrity” is mentioned. When you see the word “perfect” and “integrity” you are looking at the same root word in the original language.
There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil…there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil…and still he holdeth fast his integrity…Dost thou still retain thine integrity? (Job 1:1, 8; 2:3, 9)
The word integrity comes from the Latin integer which means “whole, complete, untouched.” Trophies are awarded to those who exhibit excellence and integrity. For example, the Heisman awards a college football “player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.” The world is looking for complete, through-and-through individuals. It is interesting how often when there is someone of integrity, they attempt to dig up dirt on them so they can bring them down to their level.
In the reality of life, Job pursued excellence with integrity, and God knew it. The beautiful way James picks up this idea of completeness indicates integrity is formed by trials.
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:2-4)
You too can be integrous, complete, untouched, but the demonstration and development of such qualities occur through trials. Do you have the integrity of a thrift store puzzle? Would you allow God to complete your life? Would you allow Him to fill in the pieces which are missing so you can be His masterpiece?
The law of the Lord is perfect…Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: For the end of that man is peace. (Psalm 19:7; 37:37)