Monday, 30 November 2015

The search for wisdom

The search for wisdom may begin for us with the question, “What does the book of Proverbs teach us about wisdom?”, but it must not end there. While it is important to learn what the Old Testament has to say to us, we should not allow ourselves to get trapped in the Old Testament so that we fail to look beyond the first stage of God’s revelation and see the fullness of God’s revelation – our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2).
The book of Proverbs encourages us to search for wisdom. In our search for wisdom, we find that we are led beyond the book of Proverbs. We read what the New Testament says to us – “you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). We are to led to “Christ” who is “the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24). Christ leads us beyond “man’s wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:25). Whatever else may be said about wisdom, there is one thing that we must always say, “Christ Jesus … has become for us wisdom from God” (1 Corinthians 1:30).
We do learn about wisdom as we read the book of Proverbs – but there is more to learn than the book of Proverbs, on its own, is able to teach us. In the book of Proverbs, we read of “Wisdom” calling out to us (Proverbs 1:20-21). In the Gospels, Jesus speaks to us. He tells us that He is “the Truth” (John 14:6). He tells us that He is “the Light” (John 8:12). We seek understanding. We seek enlightenment. We find these things in Jesus. We are truly wise when we build our life on Christ (Matthew 7:24-27).
When, in the book of Proverbs, we read the words, “Get wisdom” (Proverbs 4:7), we must follow where our search for wisdom leads us. For us, “Get wisdom” means more than it meant for the writer of the book of Proverbs. It means, “Come to Christ and receive salvation.”
Whatever we may learn about wisdom from the book of Proverbs, this is only the beginning of our search. From there, we look to Jesus and we see that in Him are “‘all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ (Colossians 2:3) – all that we need for salvation, sanctification and service.

The Glory Of The Lord

Exodus 24:1-27:21
“The glory of the Lord” (Exodus 24:16-17) – God is to be glorified in all that we do. Symbolic of God’s glory is the frequent reference to “gold” or “pure gold.” God’s glory is to shine brightly among God’s people. If God is to be glorified among us, if our lives are to be like “pure gold”, we must be like “pure virgin olive oil”, keeping our “lamps” burning for Him (Exodus 27:20-21). God will not be glorified if we are not looking to Him to keep our lamps burning for Him – “Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning”, “Shine, Jesus, shine. Fill this land with the Father’s glory. Blaze, Spirit, blaze. Set our hearts on fire … ” The blessing we read about here is not simply for those who are already God’s people. It is also for those who will be reached for Christ and won for Him, as the Lord’s people rise to the challenge of carrying Christ to “this land” and to “the nations.”

Sunday, 29 November 2015

My Saviour and my God

  * "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God ... He is my Saviour and my God ... my Rock" (Psalm 42:2,5,8).
The living God is our Saviour and our Rock. When we come to Him, our life can never the same again. We were lost. Now, we've been found. We were falling apart. Now, we're standing on the solid Rock.
 * "Why are you discouraged, my soul? Why are you so restless? Put your hope in God, because I will still praise Him. He is my Saviour and my God" (Psalm 42:11; 43:5).
These two verses are the same as each other. Some things are worth repeating. We need to hear them over and over again. We get discouraged. Our heads go down. We get restless. We're being pulled in different directions. The pull of the world seems so strong. Does this kind of thing happen now and again? No! It's happening all the time. There's never a time when we don't need to hear the words, "Put your hope in God." There's never a time when we no longer need to hear the call to return to the Lord and start praising Him again. What do we find when we return to the Lord? This is what we find - "He is my Saviour and my God."

Life Is A Rollercoaster.

Exodus 31:1-33:23
The history of Israel is like a rollercoaster ride. It’s full of highs and lows. We read of the Lord giving His Word to Moses (Exodus 31:18). This is followed by the people rebelling against God (Exodus 32:1). The sin of the people is very greater. The mercy of God is even greater. He shows mercy to those whop have rebelled against Him. He continues to speak His Word of grace – “My presence will go with you, and I will give you peace” (Exodus 33:14). Often, we feel like God won’t want to have anything more to do with us. God is the God of grace. He is also the God of glory. He reveals His glory to us (Exodus 33:18-22. His full glory is too much for us. He gives us a glimpse of His glory. He gives us enough to create in us a thirst for more of His glory. He doesn’t give us so much that we are overwhelmed by His glory.  What we have is grace and glory together. When His glory seems too much for us, His grace breaks in and assures us that we belong to Him. He shows us that His glory is the glory of His love, the greatest love of all.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

The Fruitless Life? or The Fruitful Life?

"The Lord spoke His Word through the prophet Haggai" (Haggai 1:1). The prophet is only the messenger. It is the Lord who speaks His Word. God's Word challenges our way of thinking and our way of living. We say, "Everything is okay." God says, "Everything is not okay." There is a problem. God says to us, "Carefully consider your ways" (Haggai 1:5). Our way of thinking and living is self-centred. It should be God-centred (Haggai 1:4). When we respond to God's Word, He says to us, "I am with you" (Haggai 1:13). We are not left to do the work in our own strength. He gives us the strength that we need.
First, the Lord speaks to Haggai (Haggai 2:1). Then, Haggai speaks for God (Haggai 2:2). "The faithful few who returned from Babylon" (Haggai 2:2) - Even if we are few, let us remain faithful. God calls us to "be strong" (Haggai 2:4). He says to us, "Work, because I am with you" (Haggai 2:4). He gives us His strength. He calls us to use His strength in His service. God looks beyond what we are in ourselves. He looks on to what we will become through His strength. He says to us, "Is there any seed left in the barn? The vines, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree still haven't produced" - This is the fruitless life, the life that is lived in our own strength. "But from now on, I will bless you" - This is the fruitful life, the life that is lived in the strength of the Lord. For the work of the Lord to be established, there needs to be the tearing down of the work of man - "I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of nations. I will overthrow chariots and their riders, and the horses will fall along with their riders" (Haggai 2:22). When the work of Satan is torn down, the work of the Lord begins - "a new creation. All things have passed away. All things have become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Friday, 27 November 2015

From Rebellion To Righteousness

"This is the Word that the Lord spoke to Zephaniah" (Zephaniah 1:1). Straightaway, our attention is drawn away from the prophet to the Lord - "The Lord spoke His Word" (Zephaniah 1:1). How are we to hear the Word of the Lord? - "Be silent in the presence of the Almighty Lord" (Zephaniah 1:7). How can we hear what the Lord is saying to us, if we're too busy speaking? We must listen to God, if we are to hear what He is saying to us. What we hear from the Lord may not be what we want to hear. It will be what we need to hear. He speaks to us His Word of judgment so that we might see ourselves as sinners and come to Him for salvation.
"Search for the Lord, all you humble people in the land... " (Zephaniah 2:2). Even when the people have wandered away, far from God, and the land has become deeply affected by ungodly and unrighteous ways of thinking and living, God continues to call the people to return to Him and enter into His blessing.
The Lord is "righteous" (Zephaniah 3:5). His people are "rebellious" (Zephaniah 3:1). The people were not served well by their "prophets" and "priests" (Zephaniah 3:4). Could this situation be turned around? Could the people be led back from rebellion to righteousness? From the human side, there is no returning to the Lord. The human side is not all that there is. There is God - and He refuses to give up on His people: "Then I will give all people pure lips to worship the Lord and to serve Him with one purpose" (Zephaniah 3:9). To His people, God says, "I will remove your arrogance" (Zephaniah 3:11). Rebellious people can be changed by God's saving grace. How many will return to the Lord? - God speaks about "a faithful few" (Zephaniah 3:12-13). "They will seek refuge in the Name of the Lord" (Zephaniah 3:12). Any good thing in us has come from the Lord, When we consider all that the Lord has done for us, we are to worship Him - "Sing happily, people of Zion... " (Zephaniah 3:14). What reasons do we have for singing praise to the Lord? - "The Lord has reversed the judgments against you. He has forced out your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is with you" (Zephaniah 3:15). We rejoice in the Lord, and He takes delight in us - "He... celebrates over you with shouts of joy" (Zephaniah 3:17).

Thursday, 26 November 2015

The Joy Of The Lord

"Let the righteous rejoice in the Lord" (Psalm 64:10). Lord, You give us joy - true joy, lasting joy. This is Your joy. It's not just a passing emotion. It's more than a feeling that doesn't last very long. Your joy changes us. It gives us the strength to live as "a new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Putting God First

God calls us to follow “the way of righteous people” (Psalm 1:6). He directs our attention to His “Son”, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ (Psalm 2:7). He promises blessing to those who “take refuge ... In Him” (Psalm 2:12). There is much opposition: “O Lord, look how my enemies have increased! Many are attacking me. Many are saying about me, ‘Even with God on his side, he won’t be victorious’” (Psalm 3:1-2). We need not be afraid of these enemies - “Victory belongs to the Lord! ... You, O Lord, are a shield that surrounds me” (Psalm 3:8,3).

God's Word Of Grace - And His Word Of Warning

Exodus 34:1-35
Moses received the Word from the Lord. He brought God’s Word to the people. With God’s Word of grace – “the Lord, a compassionate and merciful God …”, there is also His Word of warning – “He never lets the guilty go unpunished … ” (Exodus 34:6-7). Hearing God’s Word of warning, together with His Word of grace, Moses pleads with God for mercy – “Lord, please go with us … ” (Exodus 34:9). The Lord promises to give His blessing – “I’m making My promise again.” This promise of His blessing is accompanied by His call to obedience – “Do everything that I command today” (Exodus 34:11). When Moses came, from God’s presence, to the people, his “face was shining” (Exodus 34:30,35). This was a sign of the power of the Spirit – filling Him, giving Him strength, equipping Him for the work of ministry,

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

We Need The Power Of The Holy Spirit.

“The Spirit of God came upon him” (Numbers 24:2).
There needs to be empowering by the Spirit of God. Without His power, our words will never speak to people as the Word of the living God. With His power, everything changes. It is His power that carries home His Word to the hearts of our hearers.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

The Greatest Love Of All - The Love Of God

Love, given by God, is not returned by His people. “When Israel was a child, I loved him” (Hosea 11:1), “The more  I called them, the further they went away” (Hosea 11:2). “I was one who taught the people of Ephraim to walk. I took them by the hand” - This is the love of God, “But they didn’t realize that I had healed them” (Hosea 11:3) - This is the ingratitude of God’s people. “I led them with cords of human kindness, with ropes of love” (Hosea 11:4) - Again, we see the love of God. “They have refused to return to Me” (Hosea 11:5) - Again, we see the people of God, turning away from the God of their salvation. How deep is their rebellion against God - “My people are determined to turn away from Me” (Hosea 11:7). How deep is His continuing love for them - “How can I give you up, Ephraim?” (Hosea 11:8). What a great contrast there is between God and man: “I am God, not a human” (Hosea 11:9). He is so much greater than we are. His love is so much greater than our sin. The Word of God is honest and forthright about our sin - “Ephraim surrounds Me with deceit. Judah rebels against God” (Hosea 11:12) - but is doesn’t end there. It speaks also about the faithfulness of God. This is the great thought with which Hosea 12 ends. Judah’s rebellion is “against the Holy One who is faithful” (Hosea 11:12).
“I spoke to the prophets and gave them many visions. I taught lessons through the prophets ... The Lord used a prophet to bring the people of Israel out of Egypt. He used the prophet to take care of them” (Hosea 12:10,13). The ministry of the prophets was very important. It doesn’t begin with speaking to men. It begins with hearing from God. The question, “What does the Lord have to say to me?” comes before the question, “What will I say to the people?” When we listen to what the Lord is saying to us, we will have “power with God” (Hosea 12:3) - power to speak His Word in a way that will bring glory to Him and people to Him.
“You are against Me, your Helper” (Hosea 13:9). God is our Helper. This is grace. How does He help us? He is our “Saviour” (Hosea 13:4). “You are against Me.” This is ingratitude. It’s not only disobedience of a command. It’s rejection of a love, the greatest love of all, the love of God. If we do not turn to the Lord to save us, we will turn to someone else, someone who will not be able to save us - “Where, now, is your king, the one who is supposed to save you?” (Hosea 13:10). What does God say about others who claim to bring salvation to us? This is what He says: “There is no saviour except Me" (Hosea 13:4). It is the Lord alone who “frees us from the power of the grave” (Hosea 13:14) and “gives us “the opportunity to live again” (Hosea 13;13).
“Return to the Lord your God ... Return to the Lord” (Hosea 14:1-2). Who is the God to whom we return? He is the God who loves us. He is the God who says, “I will love them freely” (Hosea 14:4). God’s love for us is His free gift to us. He does not love us because He has to love us. There is nothing about us that compels God to love us. He is the God of love. He is the God who chooses love. He is the God who chooses us. What wonderful promises of love He gives to us. In Hosea 14:4-5, God says, “I will.” He says this four times. In Hosea 14:5-7, He says, “They will.” He says this nine times. “They will” follows “I will.” The blessings are given to us. They come to us from the Lord. When we realize how much we have been blessed by the Lord, this leads us to make a fuller commitment of our lives to the Lord, turning from our evil ways - “The people of Ephraim will have nothing more to do with idols” (Hosea 14:8) - and turning to the good ways of the Lord - “The Lord’s ways are right. Righteous people live by them” (Hosea 14:9).

Monday, 23 November 2015

The Lord - My Rock

“To You, Lord, I call; You are my Rock” (Psalm 28:1).
“I’ve anchored in Jesus, the storms of life I’ll brave,
I’ve anchored in Jesus, I fear no wind or wave.
I’ve anchored in Jesus, for He hath power to save,
I’ve anchored to the Rock of Ages” (Lewi­s E. Jones).

Sunday, 22 November 2015

The Anointing

Leviticus 8:1-9:24
Aaron was anointed with “the anointing oil”, set apart or “dedicated” to the Lord for “holy duties” (Leviticus 8:12,30). Anointed by the Lord and dedicated to Him, “Aaron and his sons did everything the Lord commanded, through Moses” (Leviticus 8:36). Concerning the Lord’s commands, “Moses said, ‘The Lord has commanded you to offer these sacrifices so that you may see the Lord’s glory'” (Leviticus 9:6). Together with Moses, Aaron was obedient to God, bringing the blessing of God to the people – “Then the Lord’s glory appeared to all the people” (Leviticus 9:23). The principles of God’s blessing are still the same. We need the anointing of the Holy Spirit. He calls us to obedience. This is the way of receiving God’s blessing. This is the way in which the glory of God comes down upon the people of God. We receive God’s blessing when the Holy Spirit comes down upon us in His mighty power.

Friday, 20 November 2015

God's Word Of Love - For The Preacher And The People

"The Lord spoke the Word to Micah" (Micah 1:1).  The Word is given to the prophet. This is where true prophecy begins. It begins with God. It does not come from the mind of the prophet. It is given to him by the Lord. In this revelation, given by God to the prophet, there is "the Word" and "the vision." God speaks to us. He draws near to us. Jesus is God's "Word" to us. He is more than the words spoken to us. He is "the Word made flesh" (John 1:1,14). To "all" people, God says, "Listen ... Pay attention" (Micah 1:2). What does God say to us? He speaks "against" us (Micah 1:2). Do we need to hear this? Yes! We do. The Word that is spoken against us prepares us for the Good News of God's love. The more seriously we take the Word that is spoken against us, the more we will give thanks to God for His love. We will rejoice in this - His love reaches us in our sin and triumphs over our sin.
"The Lord will lead the people" (Micah 2:13). These are precious words. Whatever happens in our life, we must hold on to this: "The Lord will lead the people." Whatever happens to us - good things or bad things, we must not lose sight of the Lord. In the good times, let us trust Him to keep us, walking in His way, praising Him, even when we don't understand what's going on in our lives. He is there with us, every step of the way. He loves us - always and forever.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

A Message From The Lord

Three times, in the first verse of Obadiah, the divine origin of Obadiah's message is emphasized - "This is what the Almighty Lord says ... We heard a message from the Lord. A messenger was sent ..." (Obadiah, verse 10).  The final verse   places the emphasis on the divine outcome of the prophetic message: "The Kingdom will belong to the Lord" (Obadiah, verse 21). What is the way in which the Lord leads us from the beginning of our faith to the completion of our faith? - It's the way of holiness (Obadiah, verse 17). God is calling us to be holy. He's calling us to walk with Him in holiness of life.

Monday, 16 November 2015

A New Direction In Life

Amos begins with a humble description of himself - "one of the sheep farmers" (Amos 1:1). Being a prophet of God has nothing to do with  what we are in ourselves. It's all about God. It's all about His grace and His call. Looking after sheep - This is such an apt description of the ministry of a pastor. "The Lord roars from Zion" (Amos 1:2). These words make us think of a lion. This could be terrifying for sheep. Think of the lion - Aslan - from "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" (C S Lewis). It's a picture of Christ. His voice is more than a roar. It's the voice of love. The "roar" speaks of authority. The greatest authority is the authority of love. How does the Lord command our respect? He loves us. As we learn to appreciate His love, we learn to love Him. Our love for Him is inspired by His love for us. As we learn to love Him, our obedience to Him increases in strength. "The Lord has said this" (Amos 1:15). The prophet's voice is to be an echo of the Lord's voice. We speak because God has spoken.
"I brought you out of Egypt..." (Amos 2:10-11). God had done great things for His people. Sadly, this is followed by "You made the Nazirites drink wine. You commanded the prophets to stop prophesying." God has been good to us. How are we reacting to His love? Are we being changed by His love? His love is not only a gift to be received. It's a power to make us more like Him.
Privilege and responsibility (Amos 3:2). "The Almighty Lord has spoken. Who can keep from prophesying?" (Amos 3:8). God's Word is not to go in one ear and out the other ear. It's to change us. It's to equip us for living as His people and being His witnesses.
"And still you didn't return to Me, declares the Lord" (Amos 4:8-11). What does God say to people who keep on refusing to return to Him? This is what He says: "Prepare to meet your God" (Amos 4:12).
"Search for Me and live! ... Search for Me and live!" (Amos 5:4,6). Life can be tuned around. This isn't something that we can do for ourselves. It must done for us by the Lord. "Search for good instead of evil so that you may live" (Amos 5:14). The Lord gives us a new direction in life. When we read of the call to conversion, we must remember that we cannot answer this call in our own strength. The strength that we need must be given to us by the Lord.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Moral Living - Grounded In Spiritual Worship

Leviticus 19:1-37
Again and again, we read the words, “I am the Lord your God”, or, more simply, “I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:3-4,10,12,14,16,18,25,28,30-32,34,36-37). The whole point of this is that our moral practice is grounded in our spiritual worship (Romans 12:1).

Friday, 13 November 2015

Redeemed By The Lord, Let Us Serve Him.

Leviticus 25:1-55

This chapter is full of the Lord’s instructions concerning the Jubilee to be celebrated by Israel. Why was it so important for Israel to hear and obey the Word of the Lord? – “The Israelites belong to Me as servants. They are My servants. I brought them out of Egypt. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 25:55). This is still the foundation of our call to obedience. The Lord, who calls us to obedience, has first called us to belong to Him through redemption. He has redeemed us. We belong to Him. We will serve Him.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Holiness - In Every Part Of Our Life

Leviticus 27:1-34
The underlying theme of this final chapter is giving ourselves to the Lord to belong to Him, to be dedicated to Him, to be set apart for Him, to be holy. Such dedication to the Lord is to affect the whole of our life. We learn this from the variety of details in this chapter. There must be no turning back from following the Lord. Those who turn back do so at great cost. They become spiritually dead through their disobedience to the Lord. Let us keep up our dedication to the Lord.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Travelling Towards God's Future

“a sin offering … an atonement … clean” (Leviticus 12:8).
We read the words of the book of Leviticus. We feel like we’re out of our depth. We don’t really know what to make all of this. We read about ” a sin offering.” We read about “an atonement.”We read about being made “clean.” We read all of this, and the light begins to shine. It’s the light of Jesus, our Saviour. We think of Him. We think of His death upon the Cross. We know that He died for us. We know that He loves us – and we rejoice in His love. Do we need to understand all that there is in the book of Leviticus? No! We catch a glimpse of Jesus – and His “sin offering.” Our hearts are filled with joy, as we think of His “atonement.” This a new beginning for us – “the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).     It’s a new beginning. We’re set free from our past. We’re set free for God’s future.
What is God’s future? What great plan does He have for us? – This is what He says to us, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high” (Leviticus 26:13).
What God has done for us in the past is not all that He will do for us. We must never forget what He has done for us in the past. the Exodus from Egypt was a great event. It was an event of salvation. The death of our Saviour was an even greater event. this is the event of our salvation. without His death for us, we could never be saved. he took our place. He died our death. He took our sin upon Himself. He died that we might have life – the new life of those who have received the forgiveness of their sins, the eternal life which will be filled with joy forevermore. Following our entry into this new life and before our entry into God’s everlasting Kingdom, there is a journey that each of us must make. It will be a different journey for each of us. We must make our own journey. My journey will not be your journey. Your journey will not be my journey. In my journey, I am not alone. In your journey, you are not alone. The Lord is with you. The Lord is with me.
What kind of journey will it be? It will be a hard road. How hard? In what way will it be hard? No-one really knows. We know that there will be “enemies” – but we know that the Lord has given us his promise: “When they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them … I am the Lord their God” (Leviticus 26:44).
What a great promise this is! We have many enemies – but there is one enemy who is more determined than all of the rest of them, put together. Our great enemy is Satan. God’s Word teaches us that Satan is a determined enemy. It also teaches us that he’s a defeated enemy. we look at Satan – and we look at Jesus. We see what Satan is trying to do to us. We look at what Jesus has done for us. At the Cross, we learn that Jesus has succeeded – and we learn that Satan has failed. Jesus has triumphed over Satan. Can we doubt that Jesus’ victory over Satan will be a complete victory? Can we doubt that Satan’s defeat will be a total defeat? At the Cross, we catch a glimpse of the final victory. In our hearts, we know that God’s Word is true: “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Monday, 9 November 2015

Can Things Be Turned Around?

In Ezekiel 26, we find an awesome Word of judgment, spoken against the city of Tyre. The Word, spoken by God through His prophet, is uncompromising - “Tyre, you famous city, you have been destroyed” (Ezekiel 26:17). The effect of Tyre’s fall is described: “Your defeat will make the people, who live by the coast, tremble. Your end will terrify the islands in the sea” (Ezekiel 26:18). This is the fear of the Lord. We become aware that it’s a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. The Gospel tells us about the hands that were nailed to the Cross for us, so that we might pass from judgment to salvation, through faith in Jesus Christ.
This is a continuation of the Word of judgment, which began in Ezekiel 26. How final are the words at the end of Ezekiel 27: “You have come to a terrible end, and you will never exist again” (Ezekiel 27:36). This is the bad news concerning all of us. We are sinners. We are under God’s judgment. Our only hope is the God of grace and mercy. He has made Himself known to us as the One, who can turn everything around for us. He does through His Son, Jesus Christ.
God’s judgment on Tyre - This theme continues on from Ezekiel 26 - 27. The emphasis is on His judgment on the king - “the ruler of Tyre” (Ezekiel 28:1). Here, we look beyond “the ruler of Tyre.” We may look on from him to Satan. Like the king of Tyre, Satan will also “come to a terrible end” (Ezekiel 28:19). In Ezekiel 28:20-24, we have a prophecy of judgment on Sidon. In Ezekiel 28:25-26, we have a message of hope for God’s people, Israel - “they will know that I am the Lord their God” (Ezekiel 28:26).

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Listen To God. Learn From Him. Live For Him.

Numbers 1:1-4:49
God spoke, Israel obeyed (Numbers 1:1,54). This is the constant pattern of the life of faith – hearing and obeying the Word of God. The names of God’s people differ from place to place. The pattern of their life remains the same. This pattern is also emphasized in Numbers 2, which begins with God speaking (Numbers 2:1) and ends with the people obeying (Numbers 2:34). This pattern is repeated in Numbers 3-4, which begin with God’s Word (Numbers 3:1; Numbers 4:1) and end with our obedience (Numbers 3:51; Numbers 4:49). In Numbers, we read so much that is unfamiliar to us. We must learn to look for the Word that comes to us, in our time, as a Word from the Lord who is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Hear and obey. Listen to what God is saying. Do what He has said.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Our Rebellion, God's Redemption

Speaking through the prophet, God uses very colourful sexual imagery to describe Israel’s relationship with Himself and her revolt against Him. The last word, in Ezekiel 16, is not, however, a word concerning the rebellion of Israel against the Lord. It is the message of redemption - the forgiveness of sins (Ezekiel 16:63).
“I am the Lord ... I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will do it” (Ezekiel 17:24). In His Word, God tells us who He is and what He has done for us. He is the God who loves us. He has shown us His love in the death of His Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
What a contrast there is between God’s salvation and man’s sin. God brought His people out of Egypt and into the promised land. They rebelled against Him and refused to listen to Him (Ezekiel 20:6-8). God had not given up on His people. He would draw them to Himself. He would make them His instrument of blessing to the nations (Ezekiel 20:40-44).
In Ezekiel 21 - 22, words concerning God’s holy judgment against sin are awesome. He does not take sin lightly. He takes sin very seriously. As we realize the seriousness with which He looks upon sin, we are called to repentance. We are called to return to the Lord, in sincerity and truth.

Friday, 6 November 2015

"The Lord’s Spirit came to me and told me to say ... Listen to the Word of the Lord.”

“The Lord’s glory rose from the angels” (Ezekiel 10:4); “The Spirit lifted me” (Ezekiel 11:1 - These prophecies of Ezekiel bring us into the presence of God. “the sound of the Almighty God when He speaks” (Ezekiel 10:5); “The Lord’s Spirit came to me and told me to say” (Ezekiel 11:5) - When we are in the Lord’s presence, He speaks His Word to us. He speaks to us, so that we might speak for Him. “The Spirit lifted me up” (Ezekiel 11:24); “The Lord spoke His Word to me” (Ezekiel 12:1) - The Word and the Spirit belong together. The Spirit inspires the Word. The Word expresses the mind of the Spirit. “This is the divine revelation” (Ezekiel 12:10); “This is what the Almighty Lord says, Everything that I say will no longer be delayed. Whatever I say will happen, declares the Almighty Lord” (Ezekiel 12:28). Through His Word and His Spirit, the Almighty Lord is leading us on to His future. He is lifting us up to glory - His heavenly and eternal glory.
“Listen to the Word of the Lord” (Ezekiel 13:2). We must not “follow our own ideas” (Ezekiel 13:3). “Change the way you think and act” (Ezekiel 14:6). We are changed, as we pay attention to what the Lord has to say to us. What is the alternative to turning to the Lord, listening to Him and being changed by Him? We turn from Him, and our lives become a “wasteland” (Jeremiah 15:8). The message of the prophet, Ezekiel, comes as a call to choose - Turn to the Lord and be saved, or turn from Him and be lost.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Our Sin? or God's Blessing?

Numbers  5:1-6:27
We must take sin seriously. It can lead to a withdrawal of God’s blessing. This is the important and challenging message of Numbers 5. We must not lose sight of God’s purpose for our lives. We are to be “dedicated to the Lord” (Numbers 6:6). It is God’s intention to bless. In His love for us, He continues to speak to us His Word. His promise of blessing is still His Word to us. It is a Word which never ceases to be relevant to His people: “The Lord will bless you and watch over you. The Lord will smile on you and be kind to you. The Lord will look on you with favour and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Life under the sun? or Life in the Son?

Life “under the sun” is depressing (Ecclesiastes 1:3,9,14). When life is seen in an earthbound way, with nothing above and beyond it, there is no hope, no glimmer of light. The preacher is not saying that this is the only way we can look at life. He is saying that this way of thinking about life is a dead-end street. He is inviting us to see the meaninglessness of a life that is no more than life “under the sun.” He shows us the hopelessness of life “under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:17,20,22). We can never be satisfied by life “under the sun.” There is always a sense of something more. This dissatisfaction, this longing for something more, comes from God: “He has put a sense of eternity in people’s minds” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Life “under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 4:1,3) offers nothing to those who are searching for a real sense of meaning, purpose and direction.There is an emptiness at the heart of life “under the sun.” Attempting to find something more, through our own efforts, is a never-ending task, a fruitless exercise - “trying to catch the wind” (Ecclesiastes 4:6,8). We need more than life “under the sun.”. We need life in the Son. We need the One who came from above - Jesus Christ, our Saviour. He alone can bring something different into our life. He brings something lasting - eternal life (1 John 5:11-12). As we read Ecclesiastes in the context of the whole of Scripture, our thoughts turn towards another life, a better life - life in the Son. This is a life that is filled with glorious, heavenly, eternal hope. Without God, life is hopeless.With Him, life becomes hopeful. By placing before us these two very different ways of life - life without God and life with God, Ecclesiastes invites us to choose. We are to choose life - the life that comes from above, the abundant life, which is the gift of God’s grace to all who put their faith in Jesus Christ (John 10:10). When we receive life in the Son, our life is transformed. It is transformed by the life of Christ - new life, eternal life.
The book of Ecclesiastes is one of the books of Wisdom. Much of it reads like the wisdom of the writer, as he reflects on his life. There is, however, another dimension in this book. There is God. We are encouraged to see our life in the light of God: “God is in heaven and you are on earth” (Ecclesiastes 5:2). The call to “fear God” (Ecclesiastes 5:7) lies at the heart of this book. This is more than human wisdom. This is the wisdom that comes from above. It’s the wisdom of God. This wisdom comes to us from divine revelation. True wisdom always recognizes that God is at the centre of life. There are times when this book seems to be the writer’s own practical philosophy of life. Sometimes, it seems like God isn’t in his thoughts. In chapter 6, God is only mentioned in verse 2. We should not, however, ignore the fact that he recognizes the reality of God. It is one thing to mention God only occasionally. It is something else when we ignore Him altogether.  The fact that Ecclesiastes (the Preacher) does not have ready-made answers for every question does not mean that he is not listening for the word of the Lord. It does mean that he recognizes that the answers lie with the Lord - not with ourselves. This is what he means when he says, “God is in heaven and you are on earth” (Ecclesiastes 5:2). Our wisdom is limited. Sometimes, we are wise - but we are not always wise. True wisdom comes from God. As we seek Him, we find that He gives His wisdom to us. It comes to us in and through Christ, who is “the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:30). As we look at our life, we are to “consider what God has done” (Ecclesiastes 7:13). When we look at the good things in our lives, we must not forget to say,”this is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 5:19). True wisdom is given to us when we recognize that God is the living God, the God who has done great things for us, the God of our salvation. Recognizing that He is the living God, the God of revelation, doesn’t mean that we’ll understand everything. Throughout our life on earth, there will be matters which are beyond our understanding. We must be content to put our trust in the Lord, with this simple confession of faith: “As for God - His way is perfect.” This is the point the Preacher makes in Ecclesiastes 8:16-17. This is a call for humility. It’s based on the fact that only God understands all things. We must learn to content ourselves with trusting in His wisdom, even we don’t understand all that He’s doing.
* As we learn to trust Him, He teaches us that the quality of our life - learning to live according to His purpose for us - is more important that the quantity of our years - living for a long time without really understanding what our life is all about, without coming to know the true joy that He alone can give to us (Ecclesiastes 5:3-6).
* As we learn to trust the Lord, He teaches us that “patience is better than pride” (Ecclesiastes 7:8). We learn to stop acting like we know it all. He teaches us to say, “God loves me. He knows what’s best for me. He will not fail me - even when I fail Him. He gives me His peace and His joy - even when I don’t really understand much of what’s going on in my life.”
* When we are learning to walk with God, He teaches us that it’s better to seek God-centred holiness - “God made mankind upright” - rather than self-centred happiness - “men have gone in search of many schemes” (Ecclesiastes 7:19).
* As we seek to put the Lord first in our lives, He teaches us that His way, for us, is not the way of seeking “power” for ourselves (Ecclesiastes 8:4,8). We’re not to assert ourselves - ‘I did it my way.’ We’re to submit to Him - “Not my will, but Yours be done.”
The Lord is leading us beyond our own human “power” to achieve our human ambitions. He’s showing us His way. As we walk in His way, we learn that there’s a greater power  - the power of the Holy Spirit. His power is at work in us - to give us a real sense of meaning, purpose and direction: less of ourselves and more of the Lord.
We are to “pay more attention to calm words from wise people” (Ecclesiastes 9:17). This combination of calmness and wisdom is highlighted also in James - “the wisdom that comes from above is first of all pure. Then it is peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good deeds, impartial and sincere.” This description of wisdom is followed by these words of comment: “A harvest that has God’s approval comes from the peace planted by peacemakers” (James 3:17-18). In Ecclesiastes 10:2, the wise person and the fool are contrasted - “A wise person’s heart leads the right way. The heart of a fool leads the wrong way.” At the heart of the call to wisdom, there is the call to remember our Creator (Ecclesiastes 12:1-6). How are we to remember our Creator? - “Fear God and keep His commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

The coming Saviour and the coming Kingdom

Isaiah 10 speaks of a divine judgment, in which the only “survivors” will be those who “depend on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 10:20). Isaiah 11 contains a Messianic prophecy. These are words, which point forward to our Saviour, Jesus Christ. They are words of the coming Kingdom (Isaiah 11:1-10). Isaiah 12 contains a hymn of praise to God: “I will praise You, O Lord” (Isaiah 12:1), which is followed by a call to praise God – “Praise the Lord …” (Isaiah 12:4-6). This is a short chapter. It only has six verses. Its words are very precious. We can come to these words, again and again, and experience the fulfilment of the Lord’s precious promise: “With joy you will draw water from the springs of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3). This is the “living water”, which is Christ Himself.