Psalm 64 Whether a child or an adult, we are easily hurt by another’s words, which aim at the heart. We quote this ditty when challenged: “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.” But we know that is not true. Words hurt or words edify. David knew this all too well as he notes that his enemy ‘sharpens their tongues like swords; they aim their arrows, a slanderous charge.’
Words either edify or tear down. Words lift, and praise or words seek to destroy. Jesus said that the things that come out of the mouth originate in the heart. James reminds us that our tongue cannot be subdued; it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it, we bless the Lord and Father, and with it, we curse people made in God’s image. Men face this problem. Perhaps that is why David challenged himself with these words: I will put a muzzle over my mouth, and again I will watch what I say for once words are said, they cannot be retrieved. But, also like David, we become impatient, wanting to speak our minds.
We would do well to memorize and apply Ephesians 4:29 “You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it would give grace to those who hear.”
1Samuel 25 to 28 Today’s COVID-19 is yesterday’s Nabal’s. Today many who go to the market but find the shelves bare and the person in front of you has the last package of toilet paper. Tempers rise, and the next thing you witness is a free-for-all in words and actions. This is Nabal to a ‘t.’
Sometimes God sets out to protect his own even when they
don’t think they need it. While David is caring for Nabal’s sheep, the fool
Nabal cares only for his roll of ‘tp.’ He is a fool and selfish. Nabal refuses to bless David for caring for
his sheep. When David’s men return with
a ‘no’ answer, he makes a rash vow to rid the planet of Nabal just because he
wouldn’t share. That is when God steps in sends in His cavalry in the most
unexpected form: Abigail, who is “wise and beautiful.” She had planned for such
a time as this and quickly prepared dinner for David and his men. While David
is grumbling about Nabal, God is preparing a feast to humble him. It was
Abigail’s plea that opened his eyes.
Back home, Nabal is
feasting on his foolish response. But, God did not forget, and Abigail wisely
said nothing until Nabal was sober. In the morning, Abigail tells Nabal that
she provided dinner for David and his crew. Like Eli, Nabal had a stroke; dying
ten days later. He had plenty to share, but it was his wife that got the glory.
There are lessons for us: share while you have plenty, be
careful of your words; you may have to eat them. God uses the most unexpected
person or persons to humble us when we fail to consult him.
Exodus 32 Do you have trouble waiting–especially for God to act, to speak, or “fill in the blank?”
Do you become impatient? Do you want to wait, but circumstances take over, and you decide to take matters into your own hands? The Israelites had just said, ‘we will obey.’ Yet when a test came into their lives to wait, their commitment was shallow. When the people “saw” that Moses still had not returned, they made a decision: Moses’ God wasn’t working on their time table. It won’t be the last time these Israelites have a problem with waiting. They became impatient with Samuel and said you are old and your sons don’t follow, so appoint us a king. King David’s prayer life reveals that he must have had trouble with waiting too, for he wrote three times for God to help him in ‘waiting.’ [Ps 17:14; 37:7, 62:5]
Why do we have a problem with waiting? We misperceive time. The drama of leaving Egypt was still fresh in their minds, and they were anxious to get to the Promised Land, yet God knew that they needed the skill of waiting because time had always been determined for them. Now they were being tested to see if their commitment was real. Sometimes as we wait, we yearn for routine, and we get bored. Without a routine, we get lazy, and we become discontented; we lack a commitment to the cause. Like the Israelites, we do not have perseverance. We think we have the plan all figured out, and we want God to do it ‘now.’ One author put it this way; Waiting reveals the best and the worst in us and also reveals our lack of understanding that God doesn’t work on our time table.
Are you having trouble waiting? Cultivate this skill through prayerful meditation and study.
Families then and now have conflicts. “Cinderella” Hagar ran away from Sarah and on her way met “El Roi” the God who sees. He found her in the wilderness and revealed His plan to her. Returning to Sarah as “El Roi” said, all went well—that is for 13 yrs. Then God opened Sarah’s womb and she brought forth her own son named Isaac. At a great feast on the day Isaac was weaned, Hagar’s child, Ishmael, began to mock and Sarah convinced Abraham to cast Ishmael and Hagar from the home. Early one morning Abraham did just that.
Why did wealthy Abraham only give Hagar a skin of water and some food? Why did he not give them a donkey to carry supplies? Why no servant to be with them? We have lots of questions but the scripture is silent. Maybe you wrestle with God when you face situations like this. Try turning back to Deut 29:29 “the secret things belong to God and those that are revealed belong to us to understand.” (author paraphrase). Just at that moment in time Hagar again met “El Roi.” When we find ourselves in circumstances that are perplexing, God will meet us where we are just as he did Hagar. He may close one door but open another.
You may be like Hagar wondering what God is doing. Wherever you are, remember He is a promise keeper! We may not understand all that He is doing but He will be with us to show us the next step to take. Hagar found water and a wife for Ishmael and His promises came true.
Genesis 16 to 19 I love the story of little Cinderella. By no fault of her own, she was treated unrighteously by her wicked stepmother and stepsisters. Her life was one of drudgery day in and day out. Her fairy godmother came and gave her a reprieve for one night and in the end, she was loved by the prince who searched for her when she fled the ball at midnight. In our reading today, we find a true Cinderella named Hagar.
It all began when Abraham didn’t trust God; went to Egypt, and bought a slave girl for Sarah. Sarah, in many ways, resembles Cinderella’s wicked stepmother in attitude and character. Impatient Sarah decided it was too hard to wait for God to give her a child and convinced Abraham to impregnate Hagar according to the custom of the culture. We wonder how long Sarah had to nag before Abraham fulfilled that order.
When Hagar obeyed and then conceived, guess what? Sarah became disenchanted and despised her and began to treat her harshly. There was no fairy godmother, no pumpkin carriage, no glass slipper, no Prince Charming, and no ball to attend. Instead, day after day Hagar worked with no relief and so she ran away. This is where God steps in and the gospel is presented.
Hagar is a picture of us before salvation. God saw her condition, heard her plea and promised that He would multiply her descendants. She responded, “The God who sees–SEESme.” Yes, like Cinderella, she returned to the dust and ashes but now she knew that God cared for her and her unborn child.
At one time we were slaves of the unrighteous wicked Satan. We may have run away from the “wicked stepmother” but God sees beyond our circumstances to what will be. He sent His beloved Son to walk with us through those circumstances. Even though we might not be able to change those, we can trust that Jesus died that we might be saved from our sins and live a life that is full and rewarding.
Are you Cinderella? Trust God to be with you. Hagar’s story is the gospel message in a nutshell.
Gen 6 to 9 The story of Noah presents some serious challenges to the thinking of today that our planet is doomed and will self-destruct in six years. Enter into our story righteous and blameless Noah. God chose to save him and his family from the destruction he had planned because the wickedness of man was very great on the earth. In fact, every inclination of the thoughts of their minds was evil—ALL THE TIME! While Noah was blameless, God was patient. He delayed the destruction for some time and in that time righteous Noah built an Ark for the preservation of animal life along with himself and family.
God did indeed flood the earth and when Noah emerged the earth had been restored. God established a covenant with Noah that promised that He would never again curse and destroy the earth because of man’s sin—even though men are evil from childhood on. We are the recipients of that promise.
“While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, And cold and heat, And summer and winter, And day and night Shall not cease.” [Gen. 8:22]
Why does God remain so patient? “The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some regard slowness, but is being patient toward you, because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” [2Pet 3]
So while God has promised to do His part what about us? God has left the earth in our care. Are we taking care of the earth? Are we repentant when we sin? Are we blameless as Noah? These are questions we need to be asking.
James reminded his readers about two kinds of wisdom, earthly and heavenly. Wisdom requires not just input of facts but also the practical outworking of that in us for many reasons such as being the shepherds, the ones who live out Christ to and before others.
Paul has spent the greater part of this letter to the Romans with the “facts.” Now he wants his beloved readers to demonstrate the truth of those “facts.” It takes great perseverance to live out the “facts.” Because of that Paul begins chapter 15 with these words: “But we who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak.” But why and how do we accomplish that? We investigate how Jesus did as he served the disciples for over 3 yrs. He patiently helped them to learn that both Jews and Gentiles were deserving of faith that leads to salvation. He taught them that to be blessed means that you seek opportunities to serve as He did for Peter’s mother or as He provided both physical and spiritual food to those in need for the 5000. In these ways, he saw their weaknesses and He provided strength.
But we are still left to answer the question of why. The clue is found in vs 6 “together you may with one voice glorify meaning to bring praise and honor to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Who in your sphere of influence needs strengthening? How will you assist them? Start today.
Some trust in chariots and others in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. [Psa 20:7]
There were no newspapers, no Instagram, no Facebook, no cellphones— only miles and miles of desert sand. Ezekiel’s fellow captives had some serious questions.
Why are we here? What is happening in Jerusalem 900 miles away?
God used Ezekiel to dramatize the news as He revealed it. God in his mercy wanted them to know how He saw their lives. He wanted them to repent. Over and over Ezekiel spoke these words in their ears: “I the Lord have spoken” or “then they will know that I am the Lord.” and more importantly: I have not forgotten you.
He wanted them to trust Him—even if they didn’t understand. Back in Jerusalem, they had worshiped idols on the mountain tops and yes even in the homes and the temple. Because He loved them He sent them prophets to warn them: do not trust in these idols, they will fail you—but the words fell on deaf ears. Now in the plains outside Babylon, Ezekiel asks:
Where are your idols now? Did they save you? Do you have them now?
Idols rust and decay, but this one truth remains; God loves yesterday as He does today and will tomorrow. He will use whatever means He considers best so that we might return to Him and repent.
The question remains: Do you trust in chariots (idols) or in Him?
Ezekiel was told to pay attention, watch closely, and listen carefully and Jeremiah echoed those words! He reminded them that they were standing at the crossroads and must decide; God’s way or the world’s way. He also reminded them that the ways of their forefathers who chose the ‘good way’ or the ‘right way,’ they were now calling old fashioned. Like many even today the glitz and glamor outweigh the prudent and wise ways of God.
The nation was standing at the crossroads of life. They must consider their path—there is the narrow way that leads to God or the wide path that leads to destruction. A funny but true story of a prophet teaches that principle.
Balaam refused to listen to his donkey that had been empowered by God to speak. Balaam was both deaf and blind to the wisdom of the donkey until the angel opened his eyes when the donkey was in a narrow place with nowhere to turn. This story illustrates that if we fail to follow God’s way we may too find ourselves in a narrow place with nowhere to turn. Jeremiah is saying to his people and to us: Ask where the path is that leads to blessing and follow it.
Smart advice: Don’t be stubborn like the prophet but choose God’s way. Remember the words of Proverbs: The one who wanders from the way of wisdom will end up in the company of the departed.
Psalm 60 Taking time to just read and meditate unearths many questions. Why is David writing this? Who is against him? Where did this happen? Why is Edom mentioned? To unearth all of this we need to backtrack to 2Samuel 8. It is here that we read: Perhaps while Israel was at war with the Arameans, the Edomites seized the opportunity to invade Israel and proceeded toward Israel as far as the Valley of Salt (a.k.a. the Dead Sea.) There is a lesson here for us; when we are busy doing God’s work, the enemy seizes the opportunity to surreptitiously enter our space.
Evidently, David feels like God has rejected them but he isn’t sure why. He begs for restoration! He begs for the land to be repaired! He begs God to deliver them by His power so that they might be safe! It is as if we are reading today’s headlines for there are many who are begging for help and restoration; perhaps even you.
Abruptly in the middle, God speaks. I will be the conqueror over Israel’s enemies, not you. This is another lesson for us; when we face enemies God will restore, repair and deliver because He is the triumphant warrior for His children. And that my friend is why “rabbit trailing” through the scriptures encourages us to hang in there when life is tough and questions abound. God is the answer! He is our triumphant warrior!