The Blessing of Contented Stewardship

Now that it’s summer everyone is asking, “Are you going to travel?” Maybe you’ve saved some money and vacation time and are looking forward to getting away. I’m perfectly content not to travel or take a vacation unless it gets too hot here in South Texas. Then I may load up the dog and hit the road. I never had a big travel bug, but maybe you do and delight in seeing new places or visiting old haunts, family, or friends. Perhaps you also, like me, find yourself learning more about your preferences and motivations through our meditations on the blessings of contentment. We have yet another avenue to “travel on this road”—our contentment as God’s stewards. Employers, management, and business owners expect their employees to earn the right to handle company finances, personnel, and projects. Nannies, chefs, contractors, and others have to earn their positions through their trustworthiness, reputations, skills, and responsible work ethics. However, God gives us stewardship, as his representatives, from the beginning. “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.'” (Genesis 1:28) Then, when we are reborn in Christ, we are given satisfaction from him rather than earning it. The more we learn about and apply biblical stewardship lessons, the more content we become. The more content we are, the more blessed we and others are by our stewardship. As we mature in our stewardship, we get to the point of equanimity with our circumstances and provisions—a real blessing in a turbulent world. I chose the word “equanimity” because it mirrors biblical contentment, to the extent that a worldly benefit can imitate what only God can give. The online dictionary defines equanimity as “a state of psychological stability and composure which is undisturbed by experience of or exposure to emotions, pain, or other phenomena that may cause others to lose the balance of their mind.” Our justified position with Christ and comfort from the Holy Spirit impact our whole persons—our minds, emotions, attitudes, hearts, motivations, and reactions—for what the world might call “psychological” equilibrium—an inferior but desirable condition related to contentment. We can achieve greater contentment by appreciating and enjoying the gift of blessed, satisfied stewardship from God.

God’s Wealthy Blessings

“The world, living for the present, will desire the newer, shinier, bigger, better, more convenient, faster, more enjoyable, more luxurious, and tastier. God offers His children the opportunity to step off the treadmill and rest in Him. ‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect’ (Rom 12:2). Contentment’s primary source is found in God’s perspective on wealth. Knowing what God prizes, as expressed in His word, is a tremendous encouragement to His children as they find themselves in the world, but not of the world. According to the Bible, a number of things are of greater value than gold, i.e., material riches. These treasures include: The souls of people (Matt. 16:26); righteousness (Prov. 16:8); wisdom and understanding (Prov. 16:16); a good name (Prov. 22:1); the law of the Lord (Ps. 19:9-10); integrity (Prov. 19:1); an excellent wife (Prov. 31:10); children (Ps. 127:3, 5); knowing Christ (Phil. 3:7-9); and knowing God (Jer. 9:23-24)…God sees material wealth as a means of advancing His purposes, and on many occasions a lack of material wealth may give rise to and even deepen the qualities that matter most. Some of God’s people may possess wealth, while others may not. In either case, a spirit of contentment delivers God’s people from a preoccupation with wealth.” (1) Not only does spiritual satisfaction rescue us from materialism and consumerism, but it alone is without trials or trouble. “The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.” (Proverbs 10:22) Believers are stewards of God’s rich, spiritual blessings, which come without guilt, regrets, or grief. We are content when we appreciate and enjoy our blessed, equanimous stewardship through Christ. “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” (1  Peter 4:10-11)

Content in All Circumstances

Agur prayed, “Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” (Prov. 30:7-9) “Agur wisely prayed for a middle state, that he might be kept at a distance from temptations; he asked daily bread suited to his station, his family, and his real good. There is a remarkable similarity between this prayer and several clauses of the Lord’s prayer. If we are removed from vanity and lies; if we are interested in the pardoning love of Christ, and have him for our portion; if we walk with God, then we shall have all we can ask or think, as to spiritual things…we may be sure that our heavenly Father will supply all our need, and not suffer us to want anything good for us; and why should we wish for more?” (2) “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!” (Luke 12:27-28) In Proverbs 30:7-9, “Agur deprecates both [wealth and poverty], as having their separate, peculiar, snares and temptations…[so he prays] feed me with food convenient for me; not merely what was agreeable to his palate, suitable to his constitution, and sufficient for nature; nor for him personally, but for his family also; and what was proper and suitable to the condition and circumstances in which he was, and to the rank and quality he held, whether in a more private or in a more public capacity…It seems to be the same which Job calls his ‘necessary food’, and Christ ‘our daily bread:’ it takes in both food and raiment, which having, men should be contented with… desirous he might not be exposed to temptations to evils which so affected the honour and glory of God.” (3)As we embrace God’s rich, spiritual blessings, we find that guilt, regrets, or grief that would otherwise ensnare us is lessened, and we are his blessed, contented stewards.

God’s Good Creation and Provisions

“All that God created is good. On the other hand, the things of this world do not satisfy our deepest longings. Human beings were created to be in a relationship with God. The human soul or spirit longs for this, even when the knowledge of God is suppressed (Rom. 1:21–23). But…the water of the salty sea cannot quench the thirsty man. So also, the material world that surrounds us cannot satisfy the soul’s longing for the ultimate and eternal. The human being, created in the image of God, thirsts for the transcendent…Jesus calls the thirsty to come to him and drink (John 7:37). The one who comes to him will not hunger, the one who believes in him will never thirst (John 6:35).” (4) As God spoke to Israel, he tells us: “The Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him…He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.'” (Isaiah 30:18-21) “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:35, 37) We conquer the world’s temptations through our blessed contentment from God.

Related Scripture: Genesis 24:34-36; 26:12-15; Deuteronomy 8:11-18; 32:1-39; Job 23:12; Psalm 24:1; Proverbs 10:4, 15; Hosea 2:8; Matthew 6:11; Galatians 6:6-10.

Notes:

  1. MacArthur, John. Think Biblically! (Trade Paper), p. 311, Crossway, Kindle Edition.
  2. Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible, Proverbs 30:7-9, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/proverbs-30.html
  3. Gill, John, John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, Proverbs 30: 30:7-9, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/proverbs-30.html
  4. Barcley, William, The Secret of Contentment, Pp. 162-3 , Kindle Edition, P & R Publishing, 2010.

May 26, 2022

The Blessing of Godly Discontentment

As I meditated on this devotion this morning, I felt content and confessed of not being discontented enough with this life.We can enjoy eating good food, watching and playing sporting events, enjoying our children and friends, playing with our dogs on a cool summer’s morning, births, weddings, and much more. I was happily walking my dog by the river when I learned that the husband of a very close friend of mine had died. On the way home from our walk, a driver had on his right turn signal, so I turned onto the road. But the driver didn’t turn and pulled up close behind me. However, then the driver had to quickly switch lanes, to avoid a left highway u-turn, with his right turn signal still blinking. I was then in the throws of discontentment with this world, human nature, and its corruption—with wars, illness, death, floods, droughts, famines, hurricanes—and all the rest, including my sinful inclinations. Because of our sin, we must learn when to be content and when to be discontent for the best life here in Christ. We know that all our earthly pleasures evaporate over time and that the delights of God are eternal. We know that our worldly pleasures and joys are nothing compared to the contentment we have in Christ. But, we have so much trouble living out our holy discontentment to find our true fulfillment in God’s presence, provisions, and promises.

The Vanity of This World

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon opens and closes with this statement: “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2; 12:8) “Literally the word [vanity] means ‘vapor’ and conjures up a picture of something fleeting, ephemeral, and elusive, with different nuances to be ascertained from each context. When applied to human undertakings or the pleasures and joys of earthly life, it indicates that ‘the present form of this world is passing away’ (1 Cor. 7:31); applied to the darker realities of living in a fallen world (e.g., death), it expresses frustration, anger, or sorrow; applied to the Preacher’s search for understanding of all things, it indicates something that remained incomprehensible or inscrutable to him.” (1) Even our human wisdom and intelligence are like vapor that diffuses into the air as human philosophies of life come and go. Every scientific advancement will be nothing but smoke when death arrives at the door. But the delights of God are eternal, found in saving faith in Jesus Christ. On the other side of Solomon’s lamentation is David’s proclamation: “They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.” (Psalms 36:8) “They” refers to “the children of mankind [who] take refuge in the shadow of your wings” (v.7). “David does not use the word satisfaction, but this is what he means when he speaks of the righteous feasting on the ‘abundance’ of God’s house…These verses describe a present and continuous enjoyment of God’s bounties.” (2) Having a holy dissatisfaction with our earthly pleasures is entirely biblical, and helps us appreciate God’s spiritual feasts, and see his hand in our daily providences.

Learning Contentment Through Sanctification

Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians when he had been a Christian for many years. “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13). “It may be said of one who is contented in a Christian way that he is the most contented man in the world, and yet the most unsatisfied man in the world; these two together must needs be mysterious…A man who has learned the art of contentment is the most contented with any low condition that he has in the world, and yet he cannot be satisfied with the enjoyment of all the world…if God should give unto him Kingdoms and Empires, all the world to rule…he would not be satisfied with that…he has a heart quieted under God’s disposal, if he gives him but bread and water. Though he is contented with God in a little, yet those things that would content other men will not content him…When Luther was sent great gifts by Dukes and Princes, he refused them, and he says, ‘I did vehemently protest…’tis not that which will content me’…a gracious heart says, “Lord, do with me what you will for my passage through this world; I will be content with that, but I cannot be content with all the world for my portion.”’ A contented man, though he is most contented with the least things in the world, yet he is the most dissatisfied man that lives in the world.” (4)

Learning Contentment Through Biblical Math

“For a Christian to find true contentment, he must begin to see life and reality in a new way. Contentment is the result of some ‘new math’—adding and subtracting not according to the predominant worldly paradigm but according to biblical teaching…The world and the sinful heart say, ‘If you want true happiness, you need to add things and reduce burdens.’ [Or], sometimes the world says, ‘If you want to find happiness, you must subtract things and live more simply.’ But neither of these approaches is biblical. Scripture teaches a different formula…If we want to learn contentment, we must learn God’s new math…First, contentment comes by addition—namely, not getting rid of the burden of our situation but adding a new one. This seems like a strange proposition. Why would we want to add another burden to our current burden? In fact, our desire is typically to want to be rid of our burdens altogether…In particular, Christians should in a sense bear the burden of their sin. Our sin should grieve us. We should be overwhelmed by its horror and by the fact that every sin is an offense against a holy God…What is the most difficult situation that we face in our lives?…the most troublesome situation of life, according to Scripture, is to be in a state that is displeasing to God. What we should seek to avoid at all costs is not affliction or want. Rather, it is disobedience to God in willful sin. If this is true, then the burden of our sin puts all other burdens in proper perspective…To find contentment we must [also] subtract from desires so that our desires and our circumstances are even and equal. This is the reason that so many who have less than others are content in their circumstances. Having little does not itself produce contentment. Rather, they are content because God has fashioned their hearts to their circumstances.” (5)

Godly Discontent + Eternal Contentment = Transformation and True Communion

When we achieve a holy dissatisfaction with earthly pleasures, we are transformed to desire and rejoice in God’s eternal presence and delights. “The contented Christian is the most contented person in the world; yet he is also the most unsatisfied. He longs to know Christ, to have more intimate knowledge of him, to be conformed to his image, to share in his work. This side of glory, the Christian will never attain what he desires. He will always want more…When God comes and transforms the heart of a sinner, so that he can by faith know God, God gives to him a desire and a longing after himself. The things of this world do not satisfy him. The most glorious riches, the deepest relationships, and the most peaceful landscapes in the world pale in comparison to true communion with the living God. And this communion is what the Christian seeks. He pursues until his thirst is quenched.” (6) Living in a state of spiritual contentment means that when we engage with the world we will frequently be spiritually disappointed. If Jesus wept at Lazarus’s tomb, shouldn’t we also grieve? But God’s presence and promises lift our spirits. My phone conversation with my friend, about her husband’s soul’s peace in Christ encouraged us both. “Jesus was the most contented man who ever lived… We are to feed on the Lamb of God by faith. We are to feast on God as we seek his glory, primarily found in the revelation of himself in his Word. We are to taste and see that he is good as we worship and have fellowship with him.” (7). “Being rooted and grounded in love, may [you] have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)

Related Scripture: Psalm 16:11; 27:4; 42:1-2; Isaiah 25:6-9; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10; Philippians 4:8-9; 1 Timothy 6:6-8; Hebrews 13:5-6.

Notes:

1. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Introduction to Ecclesiastes, Ecc. 1:2, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.

2. Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Psalm 36:8, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.

3. Barcley, William, The Secret of Contentment, page 68, Kindle Edition, P & R Publishing, 2010.

4. Burroughs, Jeremiah, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Kindle Version, 2010.

5. Barcley, The Secret of Contentment, pp. 97-104.

6. Ibid., p. 69

7. Ibid., pp. 165-167

May 19, 2022FUTURE Possible Outline

1. God’s Blessedness—Father, Son,

The Blessing of Christian Contentment (Part 1)

Have you been content lately? Or has your level of satisfaction decreased with the stock market or rising prices of just about everything? Most people, when asked, “How are you?” would probably not say, “I’m content.” We say, “Fine,” which is similar but nondescript and usually means that nothing terrible is happening now. Thesaurus.com lists these synonyms for contentment: complacency, fulfillment, gratification, pleasure, and serenity, among others. (1) As someone living off the interest on my financial investments (including the stock market), I am working on being serene specifically about my financial future and with armed conflicts and their impact on innocent victims. This is an excellent time to meditate on the content God gives us in Christ—the eternal, infinite, unwavering security and peace for our souls. In his book, “The Secret of Contentment,” William Barcley writes: “We should pursue contentment because it is the greatest form of riches. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 6:6 that ‘there is great gain in godliness with contentment.’ In this context, Paul is contrasting the pursuit of worldly riches with the pursuit of contentment. In particular, he focuses our attention on what is really important. In terms of life and death it does not matter how much we have. We brought nothing into the world; we will take nothing out of it (1 Tim. 6:7). Eternity is what matters. The key, then, is not the wealth of our outward state but of our inward state. [Jeremiah] Burroughs writes, ‘Contentment is the duty, glory and excellence of the Christian.'” (2) Job lost everything in life—his home, wealth, and family. “And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.'” (Job 1:21) I wonder how many of us would be able to demonstrate such contentment in his circumstances, even with the help of the Holy Spirit. Scripture has much to say about the believer’s calling to be content, with examples in the Old and New Testaments. Over the following few devotions, we will explore some of those passages using two very helpful resources: William Barcley’s “The Secret of Contentment” and Jeremiah Burroughs’ “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment.”* In this devotion, we will focus on the mystery of contentment and how it blesses us. The next one will explore how Christian contentment leads us to be discontented with the world and how that’s good. I pray that our studies will lead us to detach ourselves from agitation, worry, and misery we experience when we focus on our circumstances.

God’s Purpose and Mysterious Will

The primary passage for our study will focus on what we have in Christ, for God’s praise and glory, according to his purpose. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:3-14) “A contented spirit demonstrates our submission to the sovereign control of God over our lives…A contented spirit accepts whatever God gives. It recognizes that God ordains all things and that he is sovereign over the events of our lives—whether in times of plenty and relative ease or in times of want and hardship.” (3) It’s easy to see this principle at work when we are afflicted with a disease or circumstance beyond our control. It’s equally important, though, when other conditions are at work or when our circumstances don’t change. I wonder why I am content not to travel these days but not always content to be at home. It doesn’t seem to make sense and is often a mystery to me. That is until I remember how I have continually sought God’s will. What should cause me to wonder is my contentment for adventure in my walk with the Lord through much time in Scripture instead of earthly satisfaction from travel. (If you knew me as a twenty-something, you would also be amazed.) In the Ephesians passage, Paul blesses God the Father, who blesses us with Christ’s spiritual, heavenly gospel—God’s revealed will for us. Let’s seek to praise and thank God as we enjoy all of Christ’s gospel blessings—once a mystery to us.

The Mystery of True Contentment

Ephesians 1, verses 3 and 9, reminds us of every blessing from God who makes his mysterious will known to us in the gospel. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places…making known to us the mystery of his will.” “The Gospel, which is a mystery, a hidden mystery, the mystery of God and of Christ, and the mystery of the Gospel…the saints’ union and communion with him, the work of the Spirit of God upon the soul, the calling of the Gentiles, and the conversion of the Jews, the resurrection of the dead, and the change of living saints: and the Gospel is the mystery of the will of God; of his will in saving sinners by Christ…[It] is made known by the ministry of the word, and by the Spirit, as a spirit of wisdom and revelation…the discovery of which is, according to his good pleasure, which he hath purposed in himself…God is the author and giver of all blessings…And the blessings [here] are spiritual, so-called to distinguish them from temporal blessings…all the blessings and sure mercies of the everlasting covenant; all things pertaining to life and godliness, such as justification, peace, pardon, adoption, sanctification, and eternal life: and with these the saints are blessed ‘in heavenly’ places…this phrase may denote the safety of them, being out of the reach of any enemy, sin, Satan, or the world.” (4)  Shall we not praise and thank God as we enjoy all of Christ’s blessings? Doesn’t it sometimes seem a mysterious miracle that we have this contentment at all?

The Mystery and Blessing of Your Gospel

“Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith.” (Romans 16:25-26) “When Paul says ‘my gospel’ he does not mean that the gospel is his as opposed to being ours or someone else’s. The gospel is for anyone who will have it. What ‘my gospel’ actually means is ‘the true gospel,’ as the context makes clear. This true gospel is Paul’s only in the sense that he has appropriated it personally by a faith that involved committing his life to Jesus Christ, and in the sense that he was teaching it. ‘My gospel!’ It would be good if the gospel was possessed by each of us in exactly the same way and as intensely.” (5) “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’—these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.” (1 Corinthians 2:9-12)

Related Scripture: Romans 8:28; 1 Corinthians 2:7; 4:1; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4; Ephesians 2:4-7, 16; 3:10-11, 20-21; 5:32; Colossians 1:26-27; 2 Timothy 1:8-10; 1 Peter 1:3-5; Jude 24-25.

Notes:

  • Barcley, William, “The Secret of Contentment,” Kindle Edition, P & R Publishing, 2010  Burroughs, Jeremiah, “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment,” Kindle Version, 2010.
  1. https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/contentment
  2. Barcley, Ibid, page 40.
  3. Barcley, Ibid, page 46.
  4. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Ephesians 1:3, 9, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/ephesians-1.html
  5. Boice, James, “Boice Expositional Commentary Series,” Romans 16:25-27, Baker Books, Software version, 1998. 

May 12, 2022

The Blessing of Good Days

In January, I asked, will 2022 be a good year for you? We usually compare our good days to our bad days to decide. But that’s not how God works or sees us. He wants us to have good days with him, blessed days. So, now I’m asking, what is your definition of a good day? Is it the lack of interruptions or disruptions? Maybe no worries or anxieties, having your family close by, time with friends, or success at work? The other day our Retirement staff hired a coffee truck for us to have free drinks. I planned to leave my apartment briefly, take GG, go to the truck, and return to continue my Bible studies. But we had to wait. I spent about thirty minutes visiting with my neighbors, who were also enjoying GG. I don’t often see some neighbors, the morning people, except very early if we meet, walking outside. The coffee was delicious. It seems like every day lately, the Lord’s been tweaking my plans. I am beginning to look forward to what he might have in store for me, rather than fear “interruptions.” After seventeen devotions, I am beginning to understand more about what it means to live the good life of being blessed. Every morning I need to spend time in God’s Word to adjust my thinking about life. I don’t study only to prepare; I meditate and investigate to be transformed from the person I am when I wake up in a fallen world—tempted to complain about waiting in line for a delicious coffee. So last week, when the HVAC unit for my apartment burned out, I used the opportunity to help GG learn to be calm around visitors to our apartment. Our maintenance staff provided a portable air conditioner. Then on “coffee truck day,” they came back to repair the HVAC and take care of another item needing fixing—one that needed hours of attention in the apartment. Instead of seeing it all as an inconvenience, I was thankful—the night before, I prayed for both things to be fixed. I’m blessed not only by these provisions. The biggest blessing is knowing that the Lord is in charge of my life and has good plans for me. When my little plans have been diverted, the Lord has shown me how blessed I am. Hopefully, these lessons will impact my future days when life doesn’t seem so good. When we’re walking with the Lord, trying our best to be obedient, and yield to his will, he blesses us with peace, thankfulness, and goodness. And, because we are eternally blessed in Christ, we will strive to bless others, turn away from evil, do good, seek peace and pray.

A Different Kind of “Good” Life

“If we live by God’s standards, we will never quite fit into any human culture. This was true in the empire, where the Christians’ allegiance to Jesus as Lord and refusal to worship the [Roman] emperor could be taken as a sign of dissent. Today, there is always a moral cause, often involving sexual ethics, in which evangelical Christians take the minority view. To the secularist, the Christian position might sound judgmental, intolerant, or bigoted, so we court disfavor…1 Peter 3:8-13 states the norm. A good life allows peace. Whatever we may say about life in an alien culture, under hostile authorities, the greater part of the Christian life concerns the character and disciplines that shape daily actions and our universal responsibilities. So Peter describes the virtues that bless everyone: harmony, sympathy, love, compassion, and humility.” (1) Daniel Doriani is commenting on this passage: “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. ‘Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.'” (1 Peter 3:9-12) “What Peter calls ‘good days’ is roughly what we call happiness. Social scientists have studied happiness for years and have reached consistent conclusions. The poor are generally less happy, but once someone escapes poverty, his or her wealth, career success, and individual liberty add little to happiness. Arduous and constructive challenges are important, but ‘the daily activities most associated with happiness are all social’ things such as a strong marriage and time spent with friends.” (2) Most of us will agree that our best “good” days include conversations with those closest to us— who enjoy speaking about God’s goodness, praying together, giving and seeking guidance and encouragement, and celebrating milestones in our lives. If our days don’t include these, perhaps it’s time to initiate them. The more time we spend discerning God’s blessings, the easier it will be to fulfill our calling to bless those who are evil, do good, seek peace, and pray. 

An Invitation to Spiritual Foodies: Taste God

Peter quotes Psalm 34:11-15 in his admonition to the Christians in the diaspora. “Taste and see that the Lord is good. David calls upon men to stir up their senses, and to bring a palate endued with some capacity of tasting, that God’s goodness may become known to them. His meaning, therefore, is that there is nothing on the part of God to prevent the godly, to whom he particularly speaks in this place, from arriving at the knowledge of his goodness by actual experience…God never disappoints the expectations of those who seek his favor. Our own unbelief is the only impediment which prevents him from satisfying us largely and bountifully with abundance of all good things…David exhorts them to reflect upon the providence of God, and to rest assured that they are safe under his wings.” (3) “Every man desires life, even a natural life; it is more desirable than all things in it; especially a healthful life, without which the blessings and mercies of life cannot be comfortably enjoyed; and still more a life of prosperity; life, with an affluence of good things, and even a long one: though it may be rather that a spiritual life is here meant, and a comfortable one; a life free from the remorses of a guilty conscience, from the fear of hell, damnation, and wrath; from the bondage of the law, and the dread of death; a life of faith on Christ, and communion with him; and a life of sobriety, righteousness, and holiness; and perhaps it may be best of all to understand it of eternal life…[and] that he may see good; there is good to be seen and enjoyed in this life, which if the saints did not believe they should see and enjoy, they would often faint; and this good lies in the participation of the blessings of grace, and in fellowship with Father, Son, and Spirit: but the great and lasting good to be seen and enjoyed is in the world to come, when God shall be all in all, be seen as he is, and the saints shall inherit all things.” (4) 

The Good We Do Extends God’s Blessings

“David is saying that the fear of the Lord is doing right, that is, that it involves obedience [to his Word]. Moreover, since the fear of the Lord is the enjoyment of the Lord, the way to enjoy the Lord, to ‘taste and see that [he] is good,’ is to obey him. One commentator explains this by saying, ‘The good you enjoy goes hand in hand with the good you do. It is an emphasis which answers the suspicion (first aroused in Eden) that outside the will of God, rather than within it, lies enrichment.'” (5) As we meditate on God’s blessings, we begin to pray for Russia’s leaders, drug lords, political opponents, false teachers, abortionists, and proponents of “do what you feel like doing,” to name a few of our “enemies.”  “It is common to long for retaliation in the face of unjust criticism or suffering, but Jesus behaved like the meek lamb of Isaiah 53:7. He could do so because he continued entrusting both himself and those who mistreated him entirely to God, knowing that God is just and will make all things right in the end. Likewise believers, knowing that God judges justly, are able to forgive others and to entrust all judgment and vengeance to God. Every wrong deed in the universe will be either covered by the blood of Christ or repaid justly by God at the final judgment.” (6) Because we are blessed in Christ, we will strive to bless others, turn away from evil, do good, seek peace and pray. “Let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as with a shield.” (Psalms 5:11-12)

Related Scripture: Job 36:7; Proverbs 8:13; Isaiah 53:7-9; Matthew 5:44-45; Luke 6:27-31; Romans 12:14, 18-19; 1 Corinthians 4:12-13; Hebrews 12:3-4.

Notes:

  1. Doriani, Daniel M., “1 Peter—Reformed Expository Commentary,” 1 Peter, p. 125, P & R Publishing, 2014.
  2. Doriani, Ibid, pp. 131-132.
  3. Calvin, John, “Heart Aflame: Daily Readings from Calvin on the Psalms,” Psalm 34, P & R Publishing, 1999.
  4. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Psalm 34:11-15, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms-34.html
  5. Boice, James, “Boice Expositional Commentary Series,” Psalm 34, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
  6. “English Standard Version Study Bible Notes,” 1 Peter 2:23, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.

May 5, 2022

The Blessing of God’s Omniscience

Do you read or watch the news to learn what you don’t know, to uncover new facts? Or to know what other people think of current events? Maybe both? This year, it is estimated that “the entertainment and media market in the U.S. is expected to be worth over 720.38 billion USD.” (1) We like to know what’s happening in our local communities, countries, and the world. Some of us especially like to have hidden facts revealed about ongoing political, crime, or personal dramas. When we were younger, we were more interested in hiding things from our parents and teachers. We warned our new classmates about those teachers who seemed to have “eyes in the backs of their heads,” because we want to hide some of our looks or conduct. These days my challenge is to find that key or thing I “put away in a safe place” and can’t find again, proving how good I am at hiding things from myself. Spiritually, we hide our guilt and shame from ourselves, so we don’t have to see or feel it. We hide our insecurities, fears, doubts, and anxieties as if we won’t be affected by them if we don’t acknowledge them. But deep in our hearts and souls, we want to be loved and known for who we are, without judgment or condemnation. We deal with the conflict between wanting to be known and hiding our faults based on our theology, in large part. If I think my value is wholly in what others think of me, I will be more inclined to put on a good show, leading to their acceptance and appreciation. However, if I put my faith in Christ, knowing that he has already accepted me, I will be more vulnerable and transparent with myself and others. In Christ, instead of being threatened by God’s omniscience of our hearts and minds, it is a blessing that leads us to be more humble, thankful, comforted, and prayerful.

God’s Perfect Knowledge

The first psalm I memorized after coming to faith in Christ is 139. I was changed by reciting David’s words repeatedly, to embrace and enjoy God’s omniscience after decades of running away from myself, my problems, and others. David begins, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether…Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.” (Psalms 139:1-4, 6) “‘Nothing is secret,’ said Jesus, ‘that shall not become known’…We have a God who is omniscient, but his attitude towards us is not that of a prison warden, watching us lest we make a false move. Nor is he trying to behave like a transcendent policeman to spy on us. However, we cannot avoid the fact that God knows us completely, inside and out. He knows every deed that we have ever committed; he knows every thought that has gone through our minds.” (2) As we mature in our Christian faith, we recognize that there are more areas of doubts and fears yet to discover, with God’s help, through the work of the Holy Spirit. Instead of being threatened by God’s perfect knowledge, we find our refuge in it. “For an unsaved person this powerful, pervasive knowledge seems intrusive and frightening, and with good reason. God is the end-time judge with whom we must reckon. Strikingly, the response of the psalmist is not fear. He is not trembling when he thinks of God’s omniscience. On the contrary, he shelters himself in God’s knowledge and marvels at it. For the psalmist, God’s knowledge is not a threat; it is a refuge.” (3) God’s omniscience is personal, specific, and perfect—an incredible blessing.

David’s Delight in God’s Omniscience

“The greatest theologian America has ever produced, Jonathan Edwards, once wrote a sermon entitled ‘Man Naturally God’s Enemy,’ in which he listed the attributes of God that sinful men and women dislike and showed why we dislike them. According to Edwards, all are naturally God’s enemies because of five things: God’s holiness, because we are not holy; God’s omniscience, because he knows we are not holy; God’s omnipotence, because this offends our desire for autonomy; God’s mercy, because it is a holy mercy; and God’s immutability, because God will never be other than he is in these ‘offensive’ attributes. We are not what we ought to be. We are sinners, and whether we admit it openly or not, we know it and develop psychological defense mechanisms…We can hide from others. We can even do a good job of hiding from ourselves. But how do you hide from one before whom ‘all hearts are open, all desires known?’ How do you deal with one of whom it is written, ‘Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account’ (Hebrews 4:13)? But God’s omniscience should comfort us. God knows the worst about us and loves us anyway…It should encourage us to live for God. In Psalm 139, David has been reflecting on the omniscience of God, and it has led him to ask God to help him lead an upright life. He knows that God will do it precisely because God knows him so well. We know very little. We do not even know ourselves, but God knows us…If anyone can ‘lead me in the way everlasting,’ it is God. Moreover, since I know he knows me and wants to help me, I can be encouraged to get on with upright living. [Finally, God’s omniscience] should help us to pray… God’s knowledge of what we need is so perfect that he often answers even before we pray to him. ‘Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear,’ wrote Isaiah (65:24). Who can be terrified by a God who knows and answers us like that?” (4) Why wouldn’t we embrace the blessing of God’s omniscience?

The Importance of God’s Omniscience 

“Why is it important to know that God knows everything? The answer is in two areas. First, we must know that God is omniscient so that we will not be tempted to try to fool him with some exalted portrayal of our own deep devotion or loyalty. If we could, we would try to convince God that we are serious about following him when actually we would be going our own way. We would try to appear good, when we are not; humble, when we are filled with pride…The second area in which knowledge of the omniscience of God is important to us concerns our trust in him. If God did not know everything, if something could at any moment rise up to surprise him, then God could not be trusted…His promises could not be trusted, for he might decide to break or change them on the basis of this new knowledge. He might even change his attitude toward us, for we might surprise him by the sin we commit and thus cause him to look upon us with abhorrence or even apathy. If God does not truly know everything, any of this is possible. On the other hand, if God does know all things both in the past and future, then nothing unforeseen can change him. He has seen the end from the beginning. He has taken all into consideration. Nothing we can ever do will surprise him. Thus, his promises can be believed, and he can be trusted to remain the same in himself and toward us forever.” (5) Christ “‘knew what was in man’ (John 2:25) and knows every minute of every day what is in every person’s heart. He knows our inward thoughts, the secrets of the heart…he knows what their affections are set upon, on earthly or heavenly things; whether there is any light in their understandings, or not; whether their wills are subdued and resigned to the will of God, or not; whether their minds and consciences are defiled, or their hearts are sprinkled from an evil conscience; in short, whether the internal good work of grace is begun upon their souls, or not; and he knows the secret springs of all actions, good and bad; all which prove his true and proper deity, and show him to be a suitable Saviour of sinners, and qualify him to be the Judge of the whole earth.” (6) He humbled himself to mortal life as a man, sacrificed himself on the cross, and was raised to overcome death and sin—to know us, save, and love us abundantly forever. “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Romans 11:33a) “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalms 139:23-24)

Related Scripture: Job 31:4; Psalm 7:9; 17:3; 44:21b; 94:8-11; Jeremiah 12:3; Matthew 9:4a; Luke 8:16; John 2:24-25; Hebrews 4:12-13.

Notes:

  1. https://www.grandviewresearch.com/press-release/us-newspaper-market-analysis
  2. Sproul, R. C., “A Walk with God: An Exposition of Luke’s Gospel,” Luke 8:16, Electronic Book, 2016.
  3. Boice, James, “Boice Expositional Commentary Series,” Psalm 139, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
  4. Boice, Ibid.
  5. Boice, John 17, Ibid.
  6. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” John 2:25, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/John-2.html 

April 28, 2022

The Blessing of Being Chosen to Share God’s Holiness

Does Easter seem like it was weeks ago? But maybe you were singing in the choir, preaching, playing a musical instrument, or helping in some other way for worship. In that case, you probably know it’s only been a few days since we celebrated Jesus’s resurrection from the dead. While many of us have returned to our usual schedules and activities, others will celebrate Ascension Day, forty days after Easter, to celebrate Jesus’s ascension to heaven, to take his place at the right hand of God, the Father. Then, fifty days after Easter comes the celebration of the first Pentecost. And yet shouldn’t we “celebrate” Jesus’s resurrection and ascension, along with the Holy Spirit’s coming every day? What would our lives look like if we celebrated Jesus’s work daily? God generously shares his holiness with us, but we turn aside to the world, self-centered concerns, worries, and earthly disappointments instead, “Spiritual and heavenly blessings are the best blessings; with which we cannot be miserable, and without which we cannot but be so. This was from [God’s] choice of them in Christ, before the foundation of the world, that they should be made holy by separation from sin, being set apart to God, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, in consequence of their election in Christ. All who are chosen to happiness as the end, are chosen to holiness as the means. In love they were predestinated, or fore-ordained, to be adopted as children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, and to be openly admitted to the privileges of that high relation to himself.” (1) The other day I anchored on Psalm 65:4 to begin my studies for this devotion. “Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!” This was the same day my dog, GG, decided to wake me up before the alarm. First, he sat on my leg. I didn’t move, so then he nosed my shoulder. Getting no response, he snuggled me on my neck. When I finally moved a twitch, he kissed me and was on top of me instantly. He wanted to be as close as possible to me for some reason. Isn’t that a picture of how we should respond to God’s love and intimacy—not by cuddling with him but drawing close to Christ through our worship, Bible study, prayers, and fellowship? God blesses us by choosing us to be holy, blameless in Christ, and blessed—happy to dwell in God’s holiness. My prayer for us is to embrace our blessings of God’s election in Christ as we share in his holiness.

God Chose David

“Our communion with [God] must be spiritual, by faith in his word. When we are ready to make this world our home, and to say, it is good to be here, then let us remember our Lord Jesus is not here, he is risen; therefore let our hearts rise, and seek the things that are above. He is risen, as he said. Let us never think that strange which the word of Christ has told us to expect; whether the sufferings of this present time, or the glory that is to be revealed. It may have a good effect upon us, by faith to view the place where the Lord lay, [now empty].” (2) David recognized God’s sovereign choosing of him, as he chooses us to believe. “Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts!” (Ps. 65:4a) David understood that God chose him to be king, but he also realized God’s election to know Him while he was still a young shepherd whose heart longed for fellowship with Him. This was the kind of man the Lord wanted to rule over his people. (See 1 Samuel 16:7, 12.) The Lord created David and gave him a heart that was devoted to God. In a sermon on election James Boice writes, “Election is not the problem some have made it to be. In fact, it is actually a great blessing of the gospel… Election eliminates boasting…[since] salvation is utterly of God…[and] gives assurance of salvation…As Calvin says, ‘If … our faith were not grounded in God’s eternal election, it is certain that Satan might pluck it from us every minute.’ Election leads to holiness…election to salvation and election to holiness go together. They are never separated.” (3)

Called to Share God’s Holiness

God blesses us by choosing us to be blameless in Christ, and blessed—happy to dwell in God’s holiness. It’s lovely to see how David’s faith in the Old Testament reflects God’s good, holy purposes in the New Testament in Christ. “…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” (Ephesians 1:4-7) “To come into communion with God, to this blessedness…It is to approach to him by laying hold on his covenant, setting our best affections upon him, and letting out our desires towards him; it is to converse with him as one we love and value.” (5) “Paul’s praise emphasizes the mediation of Christ for all God’s blessings by repeating that these good things are ours ‘in Christ,’ ‘in the Beloved,’ or ‘in him.’ Spiritual here communicates that the saving gifts of God are conveyed by the Holy Spirit, whose personal presence throughout this age is the guarantee of future heavenly blessings. Hence, these blessings are in heavenly places, since that is the Christian’s future abode in imperishable glory when he is resurrected in a spiritual body through the ‘last Adam,’ the ‘life-giving spirit’…God chose them with the goal that they be holy and blameless before him. This goal is not optional for Christians–it is the purpose of election.” (6)

Holiness Shows Up in Conflicts 

Sanctification is how the Holy Spirit works in us, with our cooperation, to make us more pleasing to God. He gives us the desire to be holy, and we frequently experience this work through our inner conflicts. “In the highest sense [holiness] belongs to God, and to Christians as consecrated to God’s service, and in so far as they are conformed in all things to the will of God. Personal holiness is a work of gradual development. It is carried on under many hindrances, hence the frequent admonitions to watchfulness, prayer, and perseverance.” (4) When we want all the world offers but also want to be the person that God intends, our hearts are divided. But “…the persons whom God has chosen for himself…are brought nigh to him…and through the grace of Christ they have nearness to him, and communion with him.” (7) God blesses us by choosing us to be holy, blameless in Christ, and blessed—happy to dwell in God’s holiness—especially as the solution to our divided hearts and conflicting desires. Isaac Watts wrote an article titled,” ‘The Scale of Blessedness,’ which starts from Psalm 65:4…and launches out into an exploration of the idea of blessedness itself. “Rung by rung, Watts climbs the ladder of beatitude: from the blessed man, to the blessed savior, to the blessed Trinity, ‘this ocean of being and blessedness, that has no limit, on either side, no surface, no bottom, no shore'” Watts describes the “blessedness to be within earshot of the gospel, “the blessedness of being saved…a sacred and superior pleasure it is, above all the joys of sense, to love the great and blessed God, and to know that he loves me! To walk all the day in the light of his countenance! And some Christians experience more of this peace and power than others…Watts is overcome with the contemplation: We are lost in this ocean of being and blessedness, that has no limit, on either side, no surface, no bottom, no shore. The nearness of the divine persons to each other, and the unspeakable relish of their unbounded pleasures, are too vast ideas for a bounded mind to entertain. It is one infinite transport that runs through Father, Son, and Spirit, without beginning, and without end, with boundless variety, yet ever perfect, and ever present, without change, and without degree.” (8) What a gift, to have the blessing of election, with the desire to linger in God’s holiness. What is your level of intimacy with God’s holiness on a scale of 1-10? Do you love how holiness messes with your old nature and brings you to a place of peaceful surrender? Or do you despise its intrusion on your plans and choices? “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

Related Scripture: Psalms 16:11; 27:4; 33:12; 84:4; Isaiah 6:3; John 6:44; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31; Ephesians 1:3-6; 2:18-22; 1 Peter 1:8, 16; Revelation 21:3.

Notes:

  1. Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Ephesians 1:4, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/ephesians-1.html
  2. Henry, Ibid, Matthew 28:1-8, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/matthew-28.html
  3. Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Ephesians 1:4-7—“Blessings of Election,” Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
  4. Easton’s 1897 Dictionary of the Bible, software version, “Holiness,” M.G. Easton.
  5. Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible, Psalms 65:4, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/psalms-65.html
  6. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Ephesians 1:3-4, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  7. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Psalms 65:4, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms-65.html 
  8. Sanders, Fred, “Blessed Saints, Blessed Savior, Blessed Trinity” (by Isaac Watts), 2009, scriptoriumdaily.com/blessed-saints-blessed-savior-blessed-trinity-watts/

April 22, 2022

Sharing God’s Blessings

In the world today, many people are temporally blessed with influence, power, wealth, and beauty. Interestingly, these folks receive more recognition despite having so much more than others, at least materially. Some people some presume to be blessed without any thought; even Christians take Christ and their eternal life for granted. But recognizing, thanking God for our earthly blessings, and sharing them is what we’re called to do. God has given me a place to live in a close, primarily Christian retirement community. As I walk my dog in the afternoons, many of my neighbors comment on their blessings and thank the Lord for our comforts and GG, whom they love to pet and enjoy. In 2019, I had to train my adopted rescue dog to sit quietly to be petted, so I would give him treats when he “let” someone pet him. We all laughed at the irony of having to reward him for receiving something so delightful. Now, petting is the reward, and he can’t get enough of it. Unfortunately, like my rescue dog, we often don’t understand, appreciate, and allow God’s blessings to be sufficient reward without craving more. Sometimes when people want to greet GG, he is distracted. I help him refocus by saying, “Stop, look at me.” And he does, ready for the following command, which leads to something more valuable–getting petted lovingly. God uses circumstances, people, or Scripture to tell us to stop looking at what is inappropriate, to look at him with love. Instead of looking at God, King Solomon received praise for using God’s blessings narcissistically and exclusively, rewarding those who were already blessed to be in his circle of influence rather than for the nation of Israel. We’ll see how the Queen of Sheba complemented Solomon on his worldly, luxurious treatment of his circle of leaders when he should have been the king of justice and righteousness for all Israel. Hopefully, we share God’s blessings with all people, not only those in powerful positions or people related to us, those who help us, or are popular. Solomon’s misuse of God’s blessings was sinful in God’s sight, and our’s violates God’s command to love our neighbors—all our neighbors. 

The Queen’s Visit to Jerusalem

After King Solomon was established, the Queen of Sheba traveled a long way to witness, complement, and reward Solomon for his wisdom and luxurious rewards for his leaders. But the king should have been the king of justice and righteousness for all Israel, not just those in powerful positions in his court. “Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions. She came to Jerusalem with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices and very much gold and precious stones…And when the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, their clothing, his cupbearers, and his burnt offerings that he offered at the house of the Lord, there was no more breath in her.” (1 Kings 10:1-5) “Carnal confidence frequently creeps upon the saints when they indulge themselves in their prosperity, and so to speak, wallow upon their dunghill…we are taught to be on our guard when in prosperity, that Satan may not bewitch us with his flatteries. The more bountifully God deals with any one, the more carefully ought he to watch against such snares.” (1) It is so easy to get caught up in the Queen’s worldly praise for Solomon, treated as such by Jesus. “The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.” (Luke 11:31) Many people praise her for her judgment of Solomon when she says, “Happy are your men! Happy are your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord loved Israel forever, he has made you king, that you may execute justice and righteousness.” (1 Kings 10:8-9) But should we follow her example? I think not.

Solomon’s Misuse of God’s Blessings

“When the authors of 1–2 Kings described the joyful kingdom back in Ch. 4, they stressed the benefits of Solomon’s wisdom for all his subjects. The queen of Sheba, however, refers much more specifically to the blessing that Solomon must be to his court officials. While Solomon’s wisdom and wealth are still remarkable, and are still evidence of God’s abundant blessing, it seems that his great wisdom, wealth, and power have begun to distort his moral judgment in the proper use of these blessings. Chapter 10 as a whole in fact focuses on this benefit that wisdom brings to the royal court, and particularly to Solomon himself, rather than on any benefit that might flow out to the people. (2) “The accumulation of gold…is mentioned no fewer than 11 times in verses 14, 16-18, 21-22, and 25. Solomon decorates his palace with it, overlays the finest throne ever seen, and makes household items. It arrives in Israel by various means…[from] lands so distant that it took three years to return with their extraordinary cargo. [This] accumulation of silver and horses, as well as gold, is forbidden in Deuteronomy. [“I will set a king over me…only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘you shall never return that way again.’ And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.” (Deuteronomy 17:14-17)] The significant addition to the theme here is the detail that Solomon’s import of horses was from Egypt. All but one of the instructions about kingship in Deut. 17:16–17 have thus far been violated by Solomon.” (3) 

God’s Plan for Solomon’s Blessings

God set Solomon on Israel’s throne and “loved him with a love of complacency and delight…because the Lord loved Israel for ever; to establish them as a kingdom…to do judgment and justice; not merely for the sake of honour and glory, much less to indulge to pleasure and luxury, and still less to oppression and tyranny; but to administer justice and judgment to the people, which is the principal end of government. [He] essentially was meant to fulfill the prophecy of the last psalm of David, a prayer for Solomon.” (4) “May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor!… May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands render him tribute; may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts! May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him! For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight. Long may he live; may gold of Sheba be given to him! May prayer be made for him continually, and blessings invoked for him all the day!” (Psalms 72:4, 10-15–the emphasis is mine) “The world passes over all the works of God with its eyes shut, and is especially ignorant of his fatherly care of the saints; still it is certain that there shines forth such daily proofs of it, that even the reprobate cannot but see them, except in so far as they willingly shut their eyes against the light. David, therefore, speaks according to truth, when he declares that God gives evidences of his goodness to his people before the sons of men, that it may be clearly seen that they do not serve him unadvisedly or in vain.” (5) It seems that Solomon forgot his own words: “Let these words of mine, with which I have pleaded before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, and may he maintain the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel, as each day requires, that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other. Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the Lord our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day.” (1 Kings 8:59-61). But God has preserved these words for us. This Easter weekend, I especially want to remember to share God’s temporal and eternal blessings for good, not to hoard them selfishly. Christ did not suffer, die, and ascend to heaven for my comfort but for God’s glory and kingdom. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)

Related Scripture: 2 Samuel 8:15; 1 Kings 5:7; 8:41-43; 11:1-8; 2 Chronicles 2:11-12; 9:1-12; Proverbs 8:33-36; Luke 11:31.

Notes:

  1. Calvin, John, Heart Aflame: Daily Readings from Calvin on the Psalms, Psalm 30:6, P & R Publishing, 1999.
  2. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, 1 Kings 10, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  3. ESV Study Bible Notes, Ibid.
  4. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” 1 Kings 10:8-10, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/1-kings-10.html
  5. Calvin, Psalm 31:14-2, Ibid.

Post on April 14, 2022

Blessed Shareholders in the Gospel

tocks or partner in a business or investment. Lately, my broker has been transferring my shares to prevent significant losses and yield positive results in this roller-coaster financial season. But I have to admit that I have no idea where my money is specifically invested. I don’t usually think about where my funds are invested since my broker is a faithful Christian who wouldn’t endorse a corrupt venture. But writing about it now makes me feel embarrassed that I don’t know what I have partnered in financially. I trust him, so I have given him the green light to move my money around as he sees fit to produce the best results for my goals. I’m sure there are many times when he isn’t certain how long the new investment will work as the market changes. Just so, our spiritual fruit produces the most by simply moving to God’s Spirit, but it’s not always easy to know where to go or what to do. Some people suppose that if you’re a pastor, Bible teacher, missionary, or working in church leadership, you know exactly what the Lord wants you to do. But, because of worldly influences, our temptations, and Satan’s sublime schemes, understanding how, what, and when to act to please the Lord isn’t so clear. Our Christian church and para-church leaders struggle but encourage us with their teaching and writing. One look at Twitter can yield some daily encouragement. This morning I read: “Biblical submission to one another’s needs is not the suppression of gifts, but full expression for mutual benefit.”  “Your best, most loyal friend can help, encourage and counsel you from the outside, but only Jesus, with divine power, works to transform you from the inside.” We need to remind ourselves daily of all our blessings in Christ, using the resources available to us .especially Scripture. And, we are called to share these blessings as investors in the gospel. 

Paul—Passionate Shareholder in the Gospel

Paul made it is his goal to be “a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak.” (1 Corinthians 9:19-22) Paul used a business metaphor to describe his mission, but “his end was not to amass wealth, to gain riches and treasures of good things to himself, but [bring] many souls to Christ, who otherwise must have been lost; but being brought to the knowledge of Christ, and salvation by him through his ministry, it was profit to them, and gain to Christ: the metaphor is taken from merchants, who spare no pains, but take every method to acquire gain and profit; the ministers of the word are spiritual merchants, their traffic lies in the souls of men, whom they are studiously and anxiously careful to bring to Christ.” (1)

Paul Reflects Christ’s Teaching

Paul continues, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” (1 Corinthians 9:22-23) As a shareholder of the gospel, Paul did all he could to invite others to be blessed gospel partners, much as an investor in a successful business practice wants other successful, powerful partners. And there is no more excellent investment than the gospel, which doesn’t change our financial circumstances, but our hearts to thrive with God. A wealthy young man came to Jesus asking, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus turned his eyes toward his material prosperity, which he obviously loved. “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:17-22) This man was unwilling to trade his material wealth for eternal security and riches in Christ’s kingdom. He rejected the invitation to become a shareholder of the gospel. We are called to follow Jesus’s instruction as  shareholders of the gospel of Christ—to do as Paul did—to do whatever is in our power to invite others to share our gospel blessings. Jesus continued to teach his disciples about life in the kingdom of God. “Jesus said, ‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.'” (Mark 10:29-30)

Philip Reflects Christ’s Teaching

Philip was one of the twelve apostles who readily responded to the call of Jesus when first addressed to him and brought Nathanael also to Jesus (John 1:43-46). He was one of the apostles who were “scattered abroad” by the persecution that arose after the death of Stephen. He went to Samaria, where he labored as an evangelist with much success. While there, he received a divine command to go south, along the road leading from Jerusalem to Gaza. As he traveled along this road, he was overtaken by a chariot in which sat a man of Ethiopia, the eunuch or chief officer of Queen Candace, who was at that moment reading a portion of the prophecies of Isaiah (53:6-7). Luke writes of this encounter in Acts 8. “And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over and join this chariot.’ So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet… And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: ‘Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth’…Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?’…and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.” (Acts 8:26-40) “Philip was directed to go to a desert. Sometimes God opens a door of opportunity to his ministers in very unlikely places. We should study to do good to those we come into company with by traveling…In reading the word of God, we should often pause, to inquire of whom and of what the sacred writers spoke; but especially our thoughts should be employed about the Redeemer. The Ethiopian was convinced by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, of the exact fulfillment of the Scripture, was made to understand the nature of the Messiah’s kingdom and salvation, and desired to be numbered among the disciples of Christ. Those who seek the truth, and employ their time in searching the Scriptures, will be sure to reap advantages.” (2) Is there any better investment than the gospel? Any greater blessing? If we are true shareholders of the gospel of Christ, we will do whatever is in our power to invite others to share our gospel blessings. Let’s turn our eyes away from the financial markets and material issues to Christ. “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:13)

Related Scripture: Proverbs 15:30; 25:25; Isaiah 40:9-11; 52:7; 61:1-3; Nahum 1:15; Matthew 4:23; 24:14; Luke 7:22-23; 1 Corinthian 13:12; Galatians 2:2; 5:7; Philippians 2:16; 3:13-15a; 2 Timothy 4:7-8, 17; Hebrews 12:1-2.

Notes:

  1. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” 1 Corinthians 9:19-20, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/geb/1-corinthians-9.html  
  2. Henry, Matthew, “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Acts 8:26-40, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mhn/acts-8.html 

April 7, 2022

The Blessing of God’s Presence

How would you rate your satisfaction with life right now? On a scale from one to ten, I imagine that the Ukrainians in the cities of Kyiv or Mykolaiv would rate theirs about a minus ten. Maybe the Russians affected by sanctions would give theirs a one or two. If you’re recovering from an injury, affected by illness, financial troubles, or have lost a loved one, you might also be closer to a one than a ten. But life doesn’t have to be rated based on our circumstances; it’s possible to have all these issues at play and be satisfied that you have precisely what you need, what God intends for you to have. Let’s drill down from satisfaction with our circumstances to happiness with our conditions—to the root of our blessedness—the way we think about ourselves and our lives. Our attitudes are vital to our contentment, but even they are not the source of it. The true foundation of our satisfaction and enjoyment of life is our hearts’ beliefs about life. We can think about life as temporary, complicated, and challenging but survivable with the Lord’s help. Or we can truly experience God’s presence, “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:18-19) We can live life to the best of our ability, striving for satisfaction. Or, we will live in God’s presence, with His light that “rejoices the heart” and with Christ’s ‘good news [that] refreshes the bones’ (Proverbs 15:30). In our passage today, we find that David’s time with the Lord has resulted in his contentment with God’s providence, inheritance, counsel, and assurance. Likewise, when we intentionally spend time with God, we enjoy and share the blessings of his providence, inheritance, counsel, and security.

Emmanuel, God With Us

I don’t know about you, but I wake up in the morning with a foggy mind and heart. When my little dog happily urges me to get out of bed, I feel a sense of contentment that all is right. Maybe it’s your spouse or children who help you to disengage from the fog of discontentment. Hopefully, it’s not the news because you think you are lucky or blessed not to be in Ukraine or Russia right now. A better way to overcome discontentment is by meditating on our blessings as David did. “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.” (Psalm 16:5-8) “Our sense of closeness fluctuates. But God is always there…In thinking about our fellowship with Christ we must never imagine that Christ is hiding in a corner, waiting for us to break through his hard exterior, just hoping we’ll pay attention to him. He is constantly reaching out, wooing, speaking, entreating, moving, and standing at the door to knock (Rev. 3:20)…In his brilliant work, ‘Communion with God,’  John Owen tales four hundred pages to unpack how we can have communion with each distinct member of the Trinity…The book demonstrates at length that ‘communion’ is an all-encompassing and complicated theme. But thankfully, behind all of Owen’s dense prose is the central and rather simple thesis that communion with God consists of ‘mutual relations’ between God and us. So when I speak of communion with Christ I mean strengthening our relationship with him. As our communion deepens, we enjoy sweeter fellowship and interchange with him. We grow in knowledge of and him and affection for him, and we experience more richly his love and affection for us…seeing and savoring his grace more and more each day—we also obey Christ more fully and more freely.” (1)

Chosen, Counseled, and Instructed

“[This] part of the psalm describes the psalmist’s present blessings. There are four of them. First, ‘you have assigned me my portion and my cup’…It is what we ask for in the Lord’s Prayer when we recite, ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ It means that we are looking to God for our provisions. ‘You have made my lot secure.’…probably is speaking about the psalmist’s general circumstances…With the Lord defending him, he is not going to be uprooted or cast out. Third, ‘the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.’ Isn’t it interesting that the psalmist is content with what God has meted out to him, especially since so many people are discontent? Discontent is one of the most striking characteristics of our time…There is no cure for this except in God. Fourth, ‘the Lord… counsels me.’ David needed counsel he could trust. So do we! God provides such counsel if we will ask him. The Bible says, ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.’ (James 1:5).” (2) David’s time with the Lord has resulted in his contentment with God’s providence, inheritance, counsel, and assurance. Our intentional time with God, enjoying the blessings of his providence, inheritance, counsel, and assurance will also result in contentment.

Our Interest in God’s Presence

“God’s presence, in which the psalmist delights, is seen in the moral instruction he receives, and it results in his assurance of stability…a result of deliberate reflection; likewise to ‘set the Lord always before me’ expresses intention.” (3) “Christ works, often imperceptibly, without your knowing participation, to draw us close to himself. But we also have a role to play. Just as in any relationship, there are practices we must develop and work hard at if we are to grow in our communion with Christ. We pursue communion with Christ through prayer…the word of truth…fellowship with other Christians…partaking of the Lord’s Supper…[but] If we are honest, communion with God is not a priority for many of us. At best, it sounds unrealistic. At worst, it sounds irrelevant. Communion with God is a small thing to us. We do not marvel that we can have fellowship with God in the first place. If anything, we take it for granted…Communion with God is possible only because of our union with Christ. And what a remarkable possibility! The goal in the Garden [of Eden] was uninterrupted fellowship with God. The aim ever since has been restored fellowship with God. The end of the story is eternal fellowship with God…That sinners can have fellowship with God is astonishing…You can know God You can commune with God. You can be holier than you think.” (4) David’s contentment with his life resulted from his time with the Lord. The more time we spend with God, the more we will enjoy his blessings.

Our Hope of Everlasting Joy

“Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Ps. 16:9-11) “David [may have been] writing of his own hope, expecting that God would not abandon him to the grave and would preserve him. He did not have the resurrection of Jesus before him as a sample of what he had in mind or proof of what God can and will do, as we who live on this side of the resurrection do. How did David get to this point? There is only one answer. It was by the logic of faith. He reasoned that if God had blessed him and kept him in this life, then God, who does not change, would undoubtedly keep him and bless him in the life to come. One commentator has written, ‘The boldness of it all almost leaves the reader breathless. How can a man see all men dying and note that all the children of men before him have died without exception and still say: God cannot let that happen to me! It appears like sheer being carried away into rhapsody of bold assertions. But still, in the last analysis, must not faith draw the conclusion that, if you hold to God, God will take care of you perfectly.'” (5) Should we not enjoy God’s blessings rather than give in to the world’s darkness? “And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’ And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.'” (Acts 13:32-34)

Related Scripture: Numbers 18:20; Psalms 7:10; 16:5-7; 125:3; 142:4-5; Jeremiah 10:16; Lamentations 3:24-26; Luke 24:44; Acts 2:25-28; 1 Corinthians 7:16; 10:33.

Notes:

  1. DeYoung, Kevin, The Hole in Our Holiness, p. 125, 128, Crossway, 2021.
  2. Boice, James, “Boice Expositional Commentary Series,” Psalms 16, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
  3. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Psalms 16:5-8, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  4. DeYoung, p. 128-135, Ibid.
  5. Boice, Ibid.

March 31, 2022

Blessed for the Nations

I’m sure you’re praying for the people of Ukraine, their President, Russian soldiers, and the refugees fleeing for their lives. We intercede through pray or service for a better quality of life for others in far-away countries. While a few people can now go to Poland or other countries, some volunteers and missionaries were already in that region of the world. Now they can influence others by their faithful service more than they imagined, knowing that God has placed and kept them there. Sometimes the best influence Christians can have with unbelievers is by godly living where God has placed us. We know that his presence and supernatural providence are better than any plan we might have about how to serve him best. Christ hasn’t saved us to be safe, comfortable, and surrounded by Christians, but to influence our world. Jesus taught us to be light in a dark world. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16) Should we not be a blessing to every one by God’s favor on us through Christ? We have a great example in the Old Testament account of Jacob’s son Joseph. His story takes up twenty chapters in Genesis and leads to the beginning of Israel’s establishment in Egypt. The Lord’s favor rested on Joseph, in his low position, when he was sold into Egyptian slavery. Despite his sorrowful providence, He blessed his master’s household, giving his master peace. We might also wonder what God did for Joseph’s master spiritually. 

The Lord Was With Joseph

After his brothers sold Joseph into slavery, Joseph found himself in the home of an Egyptian officer of Pharaoh named Potiphar. After a time of service, Joseph’s master entrusted everything he had to Joseph, including his food and finances. We are told that Potiphar actually “saw” that God was with Joseph. “The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field. So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate. (Genesis 39:2-6) “Although Joseph was certainly hardworking, the chief emphasis of his story is not on hard work but rather on the fact that the Lord whom he served was prospering him. This is the dominating theme of Genesis 39, where it is repeated seven times…It is an aspect of God’s blessing on Joseph at this time that others, especially Potiphar, were blessed for his sake. Indeed, we might argue that Joseph’s blessing was chiefly their prosperity since he (for the time being at least) was not particularly prospered. This is a theme that greatly interested Martin Luther, for he was convinced that the world’s blessings are not for the world’s sake but for the sake of the people of God who live in it…Luther stated, ‘The world cannot boast of being worthy of its physical life for even one moment, but that on account of the gospel, baptism, and the forgiveness of sins God bounteously bestows all things even on [our] most wicked and worst enemies.’ Luther said that the world does not acknowledge or believe this. But it is interesting that in this case at least, one unbeliever did: Potiphar. He was closest to the situation and saw that God was with Joseph and was the source of his success. Thus, Joseph’s life brought praise to Jehovah from an important officer in a pagan realm. Has your life had that effect on the ungodly?” (1) Clearly, both Joseph and Potiphar were blessed by God, and we know that this blessing was only the beginning of Joseph’s influence on both Egypt and Israel. The blessing of God’s presence is for us and the world.

Seeing the Lord at Work

“The Lord was with Joseph…And his master saw that the Lord [was] with him…He knew nothing of the spiritual and gracious presence of God that was with him, he was no judge of that; but he perceived by the ingenuity of his mind, by his ready and speedy learning the Egyptian language, by his dexterity in business, and by the prudence and faithfulness with which he did everything, that he was highly favoured by the divine Being…and though Potiphar might have no knowledge of the true Jehovah, whose name he uses…knowing Joseph to be an Hebrew, as it is plain his wife did (39:14); and Jehovah to be the God of the Hebrews, he imputes all the prosperity that attended Joseph and his services unto his God. And Joseph found grace in his sight…In the sight of his master, as he did in the sight of God, he had favour both with God and man… Potiphar’s family was blessed with health, his substance increased, he grew rich and wealthy, and abounded with all good things:and the blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had in the house…every thing belonging to him within doors and without happily succeeded, through the blessing of God upon it. (2) “Our enemies may strip us of outward distinctions and ornaments; but wisdom and grace cannot be taken from us. They may separate us from friends, relatives, and country; but they cannot take from us the presence of the Lord. They may shut us from outward blessings, rob us of liberty, and confine us in dungeons; but they cannot shut us out from communion with God, from the throne of grace, or take from us the blessings of salvation…Good men are the blessings of the place where they live.” (3) The Lord’s grace on Joseph, blessing him in his low position, also blessed his master’s household and gave them peace. We also might be a blessing to those around us by God’s favor on us through Christ. And by God’s mercy, others may see the grace of Christ through our blessedness.

Joseph’s Blessed Christ-Likeness

“You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:43-44) “God hates evil, but he still brings many blessings in this life even to his enemies by means of ‘common grace’… These blessings are intended to lead unbelievers to repentance (Acts 14:17; Rom. 2:4)…God shows grace and care for all of his creatures; therefore Jesus’ disciples are to imitate God and love both neighbor and enemy…[Christians’] transformed lives should result in behavior that shows significantly greater love.” (4) The gospel of Jesus Christ is the best influence; it is given to us to bring people from all tribes, nations, and people groups into the kingdom of God. “What emerges from this is a Christian approach to success in which we, first, please God and seek his blessing and, second, do this over a long period of time. But we are not to think that our service is Godward only, still less that it is to be exerted in merely ‘spiritual’ rather than ‘practical’ ways. It should also be evident from these verses that, whatever Joseph did, he certainly did not neglect the interests of his master and he worked zealously to be sure that those interests were furthered. In other words, God blessed Joseph through Joseph’s own hard work…Joseph plunged ahead to learn the language, master the trades, and acquire management skills. It must have taken long hours and genuine interest, but Joseph kept at it…Luther said, ‘Accordingly, Joseph was not only good and chaste, and not only diligently poured out prayers to God for his master, for the king, and for the whole land of Egypt, but he was also a most vigilant overseer and manager of the domestic tasks.’ Is this not our responsibility as well?” (5) How motivated are we to be a blessing to others by God’s favor on us through Christ? Proverbs teaches us that “Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.” (Proverbs 25:25) “Heaven is a country afar off; how refreshing is good news from thence, in the everlasting gospel, which signifies glad tidings, and in the witness of the Spirit with our spirits that we are God’s children!” (6)

Related Scripture: Genesis 12:1-3; 18:18; 22:17; 30:27; 39:21-23; 45:7-8; 50:20; Psalm 1:1-3; 105:16-22; Acts 7:9. 

Notes:

  1. Boice, James, “Boice Expositional Commentary Series,” Genesis 39:1-6, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
  2. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Genesis 39:2-6, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/genesis-39.html
  3. Henry, Matthew, “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Genesis 39:1-6, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/genesis-39.html
  4. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Matthew 4:43-44, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  5. Boice, Ibid.
  6. Henry, Proverbs 25:25, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/proverbs-25.html

March 24, 2022