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

The Blessing of Defeating Satan

Do you remember being in school facing tests regularly? How did you handle them? I had test anxiety and abysmal study skills. When I became a teacher, I was very sympathetic to students who had trouble studying or remembering material or had test anxiety. The youth in our Sunday school class often talk about the pressure to perform well on tests in high school. And the more a student’s worth is performance-based, the higher the anxiety to perform exceptionally well. However, students can accomplish good grades through good study habits without too much fear. Some new Christians are anxious about pleasing God because they feel tested and judged by Him—baggage from a former religion or ideas about the Lord. But God isn’t always testing us, and when he does, it’s our hearts that he tests since all we do comes from our hearts. Fortunately for us, God knows that we rely more on our conduct and accomplishments than our faith in him because of our sin nature—until we have matured. He also knows that Satan and the world strongly influence us, enticing us to depend upon our circumstances for our well-being. These distractions from true faith in Christ make us anxious and fearful. However, by studying God’s Word for preparation, we are conquerers for Christ. If there were no tests, trials, or temptations, we would have no victories in and for Christ. The Old Testament saints would have had no conquests. One particular Old Testament man in the Bible underwent an intense testing period. No one knows how long Job suffered under his testing, but it was probably a matter of months or years. The bottom line is that God singled out Job for Satan’s tests because of his faith. And Job worshiped and blessed God before the Lord restored his health and possessions and replaced his family. Will we also honor and praise God when we feel tested? How much more should we praise God, we who are blessed by our victories through Christ?

God Singled Out Job for His Witness

“The Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?’ Then Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.’…Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 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 1:8-10, 20-21) “In the wake of his loss, Job embodies both grief and trust in the Lord. In contrast to what Satan suggests will happen, Job cries out from a posture of grief and worship, ‘blessed be the name of the Lord.'” (1) (See Job 1:1-2:10.) “It is God, not Satan, who singles out Job for testing. Satan does not dispute Job’s integrity but argues that Job’s conduct is motivated by what he gets out of it rather than by a sincere attachment to the Lord. Satan also insinuates that the only way God can get people to worship Him is by bribing them with protection and prosperity.” (2) God never bribes anyone, being perfectly sovereign and righteous. He does not accept our worship of his provisions but tests our hearts for true faith in Christ as our spiritual provision. 

Job Proved His Blessedness

“We brought nothing of this world’s goods into the world, but have them from others; and it is certain we can carry nothing out, but must leave them to others. Job, under all his losses, is but reduced to his first state. He is but where he must have been at last, and is only unclothed, or unloaded rather, a little sooner than he expected…See how Job keeps his eye upon the First Cause…The Lord is righteous. All we have is from his gift…may the malice and power of Satan render the Savior more precious to our souls, who came to destroy the works of the devil; who, for our salvation, suffered from that enemy far more than Job suffered, or we can think.” (3) When God singled out Job for Satan’s tests, Job worshiped and blessed God. We are blessed by significant victories over sin through Christ and are also called to worship and praise God. If we depend only upon our wisdom or experience to overcome the devil, Satan will certainly use that against us. Only God’s holiness, his Spirit, indwelling us, is our blessed hope. “Satan does not deny any part of Job’s character, nor directly charge him with anyone sin; which shows what a holy man Job was, how exact in his life and conversation, that the devil could not allege any one thing against him; nor does he deny that he feared the Lord; nay, he owns it, only suggests there was a private reason for it…he insinuates that Job’s fear of God, and serving him…was not out of love to him, or with any regard to his will, or his honour and glory, but from selfish principles, with mercenary views, and for worldly ends and purposes: indeed…godliness has a great gain along with it, the Lord bestows everything, both in a temporal and spiritual way, on them that fear him; so that eventually, and in the issue, they are great gainers by it.” (4) May we be so holy and prepared for God’s tests!

Satan Took Everything From Job—or Did He? 

“Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 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 1:20-21) Here is some food for thought from the Reformation Study Bible, especially in light of the state of the financial markets reacting to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: “Job utters a wisdom poem that portrays the discernment of quiet submission to the secret will of God. Everything belongs to the creator who gave it…The word ‘blessed’ is the same word used in verse 11 for ‘cursed.’ By employing it here, the author is emphasizing how Job, though grief-stricken, has frustrated Satan’s predictions in verse 11.” (5) Job “thought once he should have died in the midst of all his prosperity, and left a large substance to his children; but now all was taken away, and for the present had no hope or expectation of a restoration…[be men] cannot carry anything out of the world with them, either riches or honour, but must leave all behind them, (1 Timothy 6:7) which may serve to loosen the minds of men from worldly things, not to set their eyes and hearts upon them, nor to put their trust and confidence in them; and good men may part with them, especially at death with pleasure, since they will have no further use of them, and will have a better and a more enduring substance in their stead.” (6)

Satan’s Defeats Bless Christ.

“The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; all outward enjoyments, all the good things of this world, are the Lord’s, and at his dispose; Job ascribes to God, not only the giving, but the taking away: he does not attribute his losses to second causes, to the Sabeans and Chaldeans, to the fire from heaven, and the wind from the desert, but to God, whose sovereign will and overruling hand were in all; these were but the instruments of Satan, and he had no power but what was given from God; and therefore to the counsel of his will, who suffered it…Job, instead of cursing God, blesses him, and proves the devil to be a liar, as he was from the beginning; and shows his superiority over him through the power of divine grace; this evil one could not touch him…and his designs defeated.” (7) Even more than Job, we are blessed by our victories over Satan’s schemes and the world’s temptations. If these did not exist, if God didn’t test us, we would not need such victories, and Christ’s witness would not grow the kingdom of God. Is God testing your faith in him as the financial markets wobble, the supply chain falters, and gas prices skyrocket? Or when people all around you are continually sharing their opinions about world events? There is a future time when all God’s children will live in a perfect world. Our blessings here depend on the immense contrast between God and everything and everyone opposed to him. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you. Blessed are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face, who exult in your name all the day and in your righteousness are exalted.” (Psalms 89:14-16)

Related Scripture: Genesis 3:19; Numbers 12:7; Job 2:3; Psalms 3;3; 34:7; 49:17; 72:18; 90:3; Ecclesiastes 5:15, 19; 12:7; Romans 11:29; 1 Thessalonians 5:18; 1 Timothy 6:7; James 1:17; 1 Peter 5:6.

Notes

  1. “English Standard Version Study Bible Notes,” Job 1: 1:9–21, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  2. “The Reformation Study Bible,” Job 1, Reformation Trust Publishing (Ligonier Ministries), Sanford, Fl., 2015.
  3. Henry, Matthew, “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Job 1:20-22, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/job-1.html
  4. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Job 1, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/job-1.html
  5. Reformation study Bible, Ibid.
  6. Gill, Ibid.
  7. Gill, Ibid.

March 17, 2022

The Blessing of Christ-like Meekness

Do you consider yourself a proactive person who knows how to strategize and get things done? Or are you more laid back, waiting for something to work out, doing what is necessary,  allowing God to work? In some cultures, proactivity is considered rude, while in others, it is required to accomplish anything. Sometimes, it’s hard to find the balance between waiting on God and stepping in. In developing countries, where the bureaucracies are young or unorganized, a person must be proactive to accomplish tasks such as finalizing a residency permit, getting a school registered or accredited, or a building approved during construction. In Africa, where I frequently had to plan for delays. If delays in government approvals hindered our work, I resorted to one particular strategy. I packed up my work, laptop, lunch, and water and set off for the government office. When I was received by a receptionist or administrator who assured me that the permit was in process, I informed them quietly, with a sincere smile, that I would wait in their office for as long as it took to receive the document I needed. Upon protest from them, I gently repeated my plan and took a seat, getting ready to do my work. The document was usually produced within an hour or two, with some embarrassment but smiles all around. There was no frustration or anger. It was only a matter of doing what was necessary in a culture where the loudest, most assertive person received the attention. Proactive Christians should look and behave differently, knowing that God has a plan and works on our behalf if we yield to him. For Christians, there is always a way to approach worldly challenges without being rough, mean, or oppressive. Jesus blesses and gives the world to those who quietly submit to God’s will. We can and should enjoy God’s blessings in this world through our Christ-like meekness.

Who Are the Meek?

In his sermon on the mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5). “I can read a corporate confession in church and it causes me no great problem; I can take it in stride. But let somebody else come up to me after church and call me a sinner, and I want to punch that person in the nose. I am not prepared to allow other people to think or speak of me what I have just acknowledged before God that I am. There is a basic hypocrisy here; there always is when meekness, the third quality Jesus emphasizes, is absent… ‘It is comparatively easy to be honest with ourselves before God and acknowledge ourselves to be sinners in his sight,’ says commentator Martyn Lloyd-Jones. ‘But,’ he continues, ‘how much more difficult it is to allow other people to say things like that about me?’ (LLoyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount)…We shrink from the image of Jesus as meek and mild because it conjures up a picture of him as weak and effeminate, yet he described himself as ‘gentle,’ using the Greek adjective found in verse 5, and ‘humble in heart’ (Matthew 11:29). What sort of gentleness is this, on account of which those who have it are pronounced blessed?” (1) John Gill writes, “Blessed are the meek who are not easily provoked to anger; who patiently bear, and put up with injuries and affronts; carry themselves courteously, and affably to all; have the meanest thoughts of themselves, and the best of others; do not envy the gifts and graces of other men; are willing to be instructed and admonished, by the meanest of the saints; quietly submit to the will of God, in adverse dispensations of providence; and ascribe all they have, and are, to the grace of God.” (2)

The Meek are Blessed

“The meek are happy. The meek are those who quietly submit to God; who can bear insult; are silent, or return a soft answer; who, in their patience, keep possession of their own souls, when they can scarcely keep possession of anything else. These meek ones are happy, even in this world. Meekness promotes wealth, comfort, and safety.” (3) We are meek when we realize that we can proactively pray for nations in conflict, but God will be the one to deal with the political leaders. We are meek when we initiate or participate in service to those in need, but know that God has a plan for their lives as he does for ours—so we serve with respect, not superiority. We are meek when we confess to our friends that we don’t know what to say about their troubles, but we will be with them and help in whatever way they can suggest. “Here meekness is to be considered, not as a moral virtue, but as a Christian grace, a fruit of the Spirit of God…and which is of great advantage and use to them, in hearing and receiving the word; in giving an account of the reason of the hope that is in them…and in the whole of their lives and conversations; and serves greatly to recommend religion to others: such who are possessed of it, and exercise it, are well pleasing to God; when disconsolate, he comforts them; when hungry, he satisfies them; when they want direction, he gives it to them; when wronged, he will do them right; he gives them more grace here, and glory hereafter.” (4) Jesus blesses us when we quietly submit to his will; that is when we will enjoy God’s blessings through our humility.

The Meekness of Jesus

Meekness was one of Jesus’s most notable characteristics. The prophet Isaiah predicted his humility: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7) Jesus proved his humility at his arrest and crucifixion. “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). “It is common to long for retaliation in the face of unjust criticism or suffering, but Jesus behaved like the meek lamb of Isa. 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.” (5) 

The Meek Will Inherit the Earth

Jesus used Psalm 37:11 in his beatitude: “But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.” “The first eleven verses [of Psalm 37] are the most direct exposition we have of the third beatitude. They describe the quiet spirit of one who trusts in God and does not fret because of evil men.…We are to look ahead as well as looking up [but]…It is hard for most of us to take the long view, because we are consumed by the present. But we need to do it if we are to grow in grace and begin to understand something of what God is doing in this world. The world associates happiness with worldly possessions, and it believes that the way to gain them is through ability, strength, hard work, self-assurance, and at times, even through self-assertion and conquest…We seek [happiness] through homes and their contents, success and the praise of men for it, power and the stature it confers…Against all these outlooks on life and these ambitions Jesus teaches that meekness must be a characteristic of those who are to share his kingdom….meekness is a characteristic by which God promises to bring blessing in the lives of Christians and through them to others, and that it is not a natural characteristic in man but is the result of the supernatural working of God’s Spirit.” (6) God blesses and gives the world to those who quietly submit to his will. We enjoy his blessings in this world and the new earth through our Christ-like meekness. And when we need to act, the Lord will lead us to do so gently, with respect, grace, and humility. When my present apartment was under renovation for three times as long as the estimate, my neighbors were amazed that I was not frustrated. But the staff knew, from my private inquiries that I was following the work and not passive. Yet there was nothing anyone but God could do about the “supply  chain” delay for the carpeting. Are you waiting for something? How will you handle it? “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29) “For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.'” (Isaiah 57:15)

Related Scripture: Numbers 12:3; Psalms 45:4; Isaiah 29:19; 32:17; 66:2; Luke 18:14; Romans 12:19; 2 Corinthians 10:1; James 3:13; James 1:21; 1 Peter 3:15; Galatians 5:22-23; 6:1; 1 Cor. 4:21; 2 Cor. 10:1; Col. 3:12 

Notes:

  1. John Stott, The Beatitudes: Developing Spiritual Character, Chapter 3, Learning Gentleness, John Stott Bible Studies, InterVarsity Press, 1998.
  2. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Matthew 5:5, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/matthew-5.html
  3. Henry, Matthew, “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Matthew 5:5, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/matthew-5.html
  4. Gill, Ibid.
  5. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, (1 Peter 2:23), (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  6. Boice, James, “Boice Expositional Commentary Series,” Baker Books, Psalm 37, Software version, 1998

March 10, 2022

God’s Blessed Rulership

I’m keeping up with the news on Russia’s war on Ukraine, and it dominates my thinking, as it probably does for most people in the world. We grieve for the innocents in Ukraine who have died or suffered because of Russia’s “invasion,” and the Russian soldiers who are also caught in the war. Most of us are angry that Russia has invaded the country, and frankly, all I can think of is President Putin’s demonstration of humankind’s sinful rebelliousness toward God. How does God views and deals with power-hungry, over-reaching worldly leaders? How does God deal with them? He laughs at the rulers and nations who mock him and try to assert their power while he blesses those who take refuge in him and his rulership (Psalm 2). Our faithful King has given us a Savior who will vindicate and rescue his people whom these temporary but hurtful bullies have oppressed. Submitting to God and trusting in Christ’s rulership blesses us with spiritual peace. “The divine government may be defined as that continued activity of God whereby He rules all things teleologically so as to secure the accomplishment of the divine purpose. It is the government of God as King of the universe. In the present day many regard the idea of God as King to be an antiquated Old Testament notion, and would substitute for it the New Testament idea of God as Father. The idea of divine sovereignty must make place for that of divine love. This is thought to be in harmony with the progressive idea of God in Scripture. But it is a mistake to think that divine revelation, as it raises to every higher levels, intends to wean us gradually from the idea of God as King, and to substitute for it the idea of God as Father. This is already contradicted by the prominence of the idea of the Kingdom of God in the teaching of Jesus…He is both King and Father, and is the source of all authority in heaven and on earth, the King of kings and the Lord of lords.” (1)

The Nations Rage

“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.’ He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, ‘As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.’ I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’ Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 2) As we observe the nations strategizing about responding to Russia’s warring, we can trust that God does not need to follow suit. Our God laughs at the rulers and governments who mock him and try to assert their power, blessing those who take refuge in him. “What is God’s reaction to the haughty words of pygmy human rulers? God does not tremble. He does not hide behind a vast celestial rampart, counting the enemy and calculating whether or not he has sufficient force to counter this new challenge to his kingdom. He does not even rise from where he is sitting. He simply ‘laughs’ at these great imbeciles. [Psalm 2] is the only place in the Bible where God is said to laugh, and it is not a pleasant laugh. It is a laugh of derision, as the next verb shows: ‘the Lord scoffs at them’ (v. 4). This is what human attempts to throw off the rule of the sovereign God deserve. It is understandable that sinners should want to reject God’s rule. That is what sin is: a repudiation of God’s rule in favor of one’s own will. But although it is understandable, the folly of this attempt surpasses belief. How can mere human beings expect to get rid of God?” (2) Of course we can’t. Believers know that submitting to God and trusting in his rulership will result in blessings of spiritual peace.

God’s Derision, Wrath, and Fury

Psalm 2 is packed with God’s anger toward sin: “the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury…You will break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Doesn’t this sound like the final judgment of unbelievers? (See Revelation 6:15-17.) “Some rulers think their hands are their own to do as they please. But they cannot command their hands because God rules their hands…If God did not maintain unity and harmony by guiding all things in their motions and directing all things to their ends, the world would soon fall into chaos…Apart from God’s governance…the whole earth would turn into a field of blood. If God did not guide and govern, the order of nature would give way to confusion and destruction. God governs the highest creatures, even monarchs and governors. Some rulers think their hearts are their own to will as they please. But they cannot command their hearts because God rules their hearts.” (3) “’The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will’ (Prov. 21:1). God turns the king’s heart whichever way He chooses, the way that most magnifies His glory. He is Lord of all mercy, for He establishes His kingdom upon rebels, of whom He first has to redeem and win, and renew a right spirit within them. He renews these rebels and makes them righteous and gives them the right spirit because He is the Lord of all mercy, and He is the Lord of all power, and He is the Lord of all deity. Only this kind of Lord can do this kind of thing. Nothing stands in His way of accomplishing His purposes.” (4)

The Lamb is on His Throne

Psalm 2 ends with this warning: “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (v. 12). “After laughing at such foolishness, God speaks to rebuke and to terrify these rulers. He tells of the appointment of his Son to be King in Zion and foretells his triumph…It is a reminder that the only refuge from the wrath of God is God’s mercy unfolded at the cross of Jesus Christ.” (5) “Though he is a Lamb, he has wrath in him, and when the great day of his wrath comes in any form on earth, there is no standing before him; blessed [are] all they that put their trust in him; not in horses and chariots, in riches and honours, in their own wisdom, strength, and righteousness; but in the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and who is truly and properly God…and happy are those who betake themselves to him as to their stronghold and place of defence; who look to him and believe in him for pardon, peace, righteousness, every supply of grace and eternal life; these are safe and secure in him, nor shall they want any good thing needful for them; and they have much peace, joy, and comfort here, and shall have more grace as they want it, and hereafter eternal glory and happiness.” (6)  God blesses those who take refuge in him while he laughs at the rulers and nations who mock him and try to assert their power. As we meditate on this truth, will we not pray that the rulers of this earth will also submit to Christ’s rulership? Blessings of spiritual peace always lead to the benefit of earthly peace because our Lamb is on his throne. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

Related Scripture: Job 34:25-27; Psalms 29:10; 37:12-13; 46:6-7; 59:8; 84:12; 119:1-3; 146:5-9; Ezra 6:22; Jeremiah 17:7-8; Acts 4:27-28; Hebrews 12:28-29; 2 Peter 2:4-10; Revelation 19:15.

Notes:

  1. Berkoff, L., “Systematic Theology,” p. 175, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, Reprinted 1993.
  2. Boice, James, “Boice Expositional Commentary Series,” Psalm 2, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
  3. Swinnock, George, “The Blessed and Boundless God,” p. 51, Reformation Heritage Books, 2014, Kindle Edition.
  4. Tozer, A.W., “And He Dwelt Among Us,” March 2, Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition, 2009
  5. Boice, Ibid.
  6. The Reformation Study Bible, Psalm 2, Reformation Trust Publishing (Ligonier Ministries), Sanford, Fl., 2015. 
  7. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Psalm 2:12, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms-2.html

March 4, 2022

Blessed Everywhere in Everything

Do you remember when you began to obey God’s will—no matter how tiring or demanding—and realized blessings you never expected? In 1997, I lived in a Maryland suburb, driving to work in Washington, DC or Northern Virginia. It typically took me between one and two hours each way in heavy beltway traffic. God had called me to this work through an unlikely series of events after I prayed and answered an employment ad in the newspaper (which, we’re told, hardly ever leads to a job). I was driving a stick shift in heavy traffic, and my left (clutch) foot often grew very tired. But knowing that it was God’s job for me, at least temporarily, motivated me to do whatever was required. I was also teaching a BSF* class, so I often drove to work listening to taped Bible commentary and drove home praising God for all the blessings I had received during the day training executives in software applications. I was “good tired” and didn’t even mind getting up at 4 am on Saturdays to lead the BSF leaders’ meeting before the Monday night lecture (directly after work). I was blessed in every aspect of my work and life by yielding entirely to God’s direction, leaning on Christ for strength to obey. It’s no wonder that this experience came to mind when I landed on our passage in Deuteronomy for this week’s devotion. God called Israel to be his holy nation, in obedience to him, blessed in every way. I pray that our obedience to God’s commands, which result in his blessings, will also increase our conformity to Christ and God’s resulting blessings.

Why Study Deuteronomy?

“Deuteronomy is the third most quoted OT book in NT—Jesus and his apostles knew the book and felt it was important. It is a spiritually valuable book that stimulates Christian thought and living. It is written so that we can understand Jesus as king, prophet, and high priest. Undergirding the stress on holiness and law-keeping is faith through grace. We can see profoundly our religion, to reinforce our commitment to be a people of faith, grace, and holiness, as we are called by Jesus. But how do we balance faith, grace, and holiness? We have trouble doing this. Biblical religion balances these, and we are never to neglect holiness.” (1) Moses writes, “And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.” (Deuteronomy 28:1-6) God’s infinite, inexhaustible, faithful character is seen in the comprehensiveness of his blessings in every aspect of life. “[Chapter 28] is a very large exposition of two words, the blessing and the curse. They are real things and have real effects. The blessings are here put before the curses. God is slow to anger, but swift to show mercy.  It is his delight to bless…The blessing is promised, upon condition that they diligently hearken to the voice of God. Let them keep up religion, the form and power of it, in their families and nation, then the providence of God would prosper all their outward concerns.”(2) Blessed [shalt] thou [be] in the city…Not only in the city of Jerusalem, where the temple would be built…but in all other cities of the land; where they should dwell…and their cities should be walled and fenced, and be very populous…as well as prosper in all kinds of merchandise there, and blessed  in the field; in the country villages, and in all rural employments, in sowing and planting, in all kinds of husbandry, in the culture of the fields for corn, and of vineyards and olive yards; all should…bring forth fruit abundantly. Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body…Their children, of which they should have many, and these live…and the fruit of thy ground, of their gardens, orchards, and fields; grass for the cattle…and the fruit of thy cattle…and the flocks of thy sheep; of their cows and oxen, and of their sheep and goats…Blessed [shall be] thy basket…any and every vessel in which they put their provisions for present use, and that that should never be empty of them, and that they should always have a sufficiency: and thy store…for future use, or in proper places for seed.” (3)  God called Israel to be his holy nation, in obedience to him, blessed in every way, even before they entered the land, by God’s presence with them. Then, in Canaan, God’s material blessings would prove his enduring covenantal love. The more they obeyed his commands, the more blessed Israel would be, both individually and nationally. Just so, our obedience to God’s commands results in blessings that will increase our conformity to Christ and strengthen our witness for him, blessing others.

The Heart of Deuteronomy’s Blessings

“The theology of Deuteronomy is focused on convincing Israel to trust and obey, and to conquer the land. The uniqueness and incomparability of God is clearly argued…Deuteronomy recognizes the need for God to act within the heart if Israel is to achieve faithful obedience to God’s covenant. The ideal life in the land is for each member of the people, and the body as a whole, to display fervent love to God as their proper response to God’s love for them; this is the means by which the rest of the world is to learn of the true God–the very reason for which Israel exists. Israel’s record of failure recounted in Deuteronomy exposes that need. Deuteronomy looks forward to the day when God will change Israel’s heart. This longing recurs in the OT. It is finally met through the work of Jesus’ death and the giving of his Spirit.” (4) “[But] many first-century Jews came to view material wealth as an inevitable sign of personal righteousness. Since wealth is God’s blessing upon holiness, these Jews reasoned, the rich have an inside track for entering the Lord’s kingdom and eternal life. Of course, such a view represents a selective reading of the Scriptures, for God’s Word also knows of wicked people who enjoy financial prosperity (Ps. 73:3). Be that as it may, the view that personal righteousness and wealth are inextricably linked was common in ancient Judaism…[However] after hearing Jesus declare that it is difficult for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10:23–25), the disciples exclaimed, ‘Then who can be saved?’ (v. 26). Their thinking went something like this: If even the rich, who are supposed to have an advantage over others when it comes to redemption, cannot enter heaven without great difficulty, how then is it possible for everyone else to attain salvation? Jesus did not correct their assumption that riches were an inevitable mark of righteousness. In one sense, He did not have to, because the example of the rich young ruler and His own teaching on wealth already had refuted any view that wealth and salvation always go hand in hand. Instead, our Lord answered the disciples by pointing out that what is impossible for human effort is possible for God (v. 27). The disciples were right to conclude that it is impossible, humanly speaking, for anyone—rich or poor—to be saved. But the transformation of the human heart is possible for the Lord.” (5) Our obedience to God’s commands, by the blessing of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling power, results in our conformity to Christ, which further blesses us.

Scripture’s Blessings Become Ours 

In Leviticus, God shares his heart with Israel in the context of his moral, civil, and ceremonial laws. “I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt… And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.” (Leviticus 26:11-13) When Israel was in exile, living in foreign lands, God said, “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27) How do God’s blessings speak through your daily life, wherever you are, and in whatever you do? “The one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” (James 1:25)

Related Scripture: Leviticus 26:3-6; Deuteronomy 7:12-15; 30:5-10; Psalm 144:12-15; Jeremiah 31:31–34; Ezekiel 36:24–28; 2 Corinthians 3:3; Hebrews 10:16; Revelation 21:7.

Notes:

*BSF—Bible Study Fellowship—has excellent, free Bible study classes for men, women, children, and youth all over the world. bsfinternational.org 

  1. Notes from: Godfrey, Robert, “Grace in the Law,” Lecture Series on Deuteronomy, https://www.ligonier.org/learn/series/foundations-grace-ot/grace-in-the-law 
  2. Henry, Matthew, “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Deuteronomy 28:1-14, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/deuteronomy-28.html
  3. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Deuteronomy 28:3-5, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/geb/deuteronomy-28.html
  4. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Deuteronomy 28, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  5. Ligonier.com, “The Necessity of Divine Grace,” https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/necessity-divine-grace

February 24, 2022

The Blessings of Honest Work and Christian Family

What do you think of when you hear about a “community?” Do you immediately picture your gated neighborhood or the geographic area where you live? During my year in England, I learned that people in a community are more commonly those who have common interests, nationality, or socialize together—it implies more than just geography. For example, those who participate in their church’s ongoing ministry get to know each other and depend upon them. They see members as a community and even a family. But those who attend church worship on Sundays without becoming involved in church life won’t consider the congregation their families. It’s a blessing to have a family of faith and mutual concern. Many people in my two communities took an interest in my swollen, bruised face this week after my recent tumble onto the curb. I appreciate the families God has given me; mine are Christian communities. In Psalm 128, the psalmist writes that those who walk with God are blessed with honest work and good family relationships, as well as eternally, living as a family in peace together. Perhaps, through meditation on Psalm 128, we may develop a deeper appreciation of God’s blessing of honest work and Christian families, who bring us peace and further blessings. 

The Blessing of God’s Providence

“Ancient Israel was called to view secular life as sacred. Daily life was to be lived under the eye of God and each activity squared with the divine will…it was the Israelite’s prime duty to relate every human concern to Yahweh. The good things of life were traced back to His generous hand in praise…it proved a good working principle for life, and so it can be still…[Psalm 128] has much to teach the restless, individualistic modern westerner.” (1) “Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord. The Lord bless you from Zion! May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life! May you see your children’s children! Peace be upon Israel!” (Psalm 128) “This psalm…shows that all things depend on the providence and goodness of God; and that all blessings, particularly children, are the gift of God.” (2) Children remind us of the future, giving us hope and sometimes a completely different, simplistic view of life here on earth. Young children, who focus on the moment, who are engaged productively and joyfully, bless us with their optimism and energetic curiosity. Our church family celebrates the birth of children because of this blessedness; our family rejoices together as we encourage their parents and them to walk with God in Christ. Being united in faith in Him, we strive to show our children God’s faithfulness in our lives. Psalm 128 says those who walk with God reverently will be blessed temporally and eternally as his family, living in peace together.  

The Blessing of Good Spiritual Work

“Blessed [is] everyone that fears the Lord, that walketh in his ways: which God has prescribed and directed his people to walk in, his ordinances and commands; which, to walk in, is both pleasant and profitable: it supposes life, requires strength and wisdom; and is expressive of progression, for continuance in them…a good man may have a comfortable enjoyment of the good of his labour; than which, as to temporal blessings, there is nothing better under the sun, Ecclesiastes 5:18; and, in a spiritual sense, good men labour in prayers at the throne of grace, there lifting up holy hands to God, wrestling with him for a blessing, which they enjoy; they labour in attendance on the word and ordinances, for the meat which endures to everlasting life; and they find the word and eat it, and Christ in it, whose flesh is meat indeed; and feed by faith on it, to the joy and comfort of their souls;…happy as to temporal things, and well as to spiritual ones: such having an apparent special interest in the love, grace, mercy, and delight of God; in his providence, protection, and care.” (3) How are you participating in gospel labor for your family, be it your biological family, extended family, or church family? As we work together we become more Christ-like, because of his grace and the Spirit’s empowerment. We bless each other through God’s provision of something good to do, rather than being and feeling like an outsider. May we grow to have a deeper appreciation of God’s blessing of work and Christian family, which produces further blessings. Last night, as I returned from walking GG (my dog), I came upon a friend and two couples whom I enjoy. Besides our friendly and personal conversation, including prayers for one, I had the opportunity to help assemble some programs for the Wednesday vesper service. I enjoyed helping my neighbor put together the programs and our dialog as we worked. I was blessed.

The Blessing of Family is For Everyone

I love my biological family members, but we are far from perfect. We have a heap of negative history in our past, affecting our relationships. And, my extended family members have no spiritual commonalities, so our life views are radically different. When I read what the psalmist writes, I could feel shortchanged. “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.” (Psalm 128:3-4) Tim Keller’s comments are helpful. “A loving spouse and growing children are a great blessing. But sin in the heart and evil in the world have disrupted the life of the human family. Many wish to have families who don’t and many who have families wish they had very different ones. There are also people who have suffered terrible abuse within their families. Jesus said that his family did not consist of his biological relatives: ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.’ (Matthew 3:33-35) The church must not only support and repair families but also find a way to become the family of God, where everyone, married and single, childless or not, can flourish in love.” (4) 

Blessings From Zion

Psalm 128 ends with a benediction for Israel: “The Lord bless you from Zion! May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life! May you see your children’s children! Peace be upon Israel!” (vs. 5-6) The writer of the psalm has the temple in mind when He mentions Zion; God’s grace is the source of Israel’s blessedness: “the goodness of God in Jerusalem (another name for the church of God); the beauty of the Lord in his house and ordinances; his power and his glory in the sanctuary: or…the church of God in prosperous circumstances all his days; true religion flourish, the power of godliness in the professors of it; the word and ordinances blessed to the edification of saints, and many sinners converted and gathered in, [and] peace upon Israel: all kind of prosperity, temporal and spiritual; peace, and abundance of it; as will be in the latter day, in the spiritual reign of Christ.” (5) Those who walk with God reverently will be blessed temporally—with honest work and good family relationships—and eternally as his family, living in peace together. Work takes many forms. My neighbor’s husband moved to memory care, so now it’s her job to walk their older dog—that’s her “work.” She blesses my dog and me whenever we meet. This morning she told me that a gentleman who was petting her dog had tears in his eyes when he looked up at her and said, “I used to have one just like him and I miss him so much. Thank you.” We should grow a deep appreciation of God’s blessing of honest work, whatever it is, and for our Christian families, who bring us peace and further blessings. Being “like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever. I will thank you forever, because you have done it. I will wait for your name, for it is good, in the presence of the godly.” (Psalms 52:8-9)

Related Scripture: Deuteronomy 8:6; 28:1-6; Job 42:16; Psalms 52:8; 112; 118:26; 127:3; 133:3; Isaiah 3:10; Matthew 5:2-14; Galatians 6:14-16; James 5:11; 1 Peter 3:14.

Notes:

  1. Zondervan Bible Commentary, F. F. Bruce General Editor, Psalms 127-128, One-Volume Illustrated Digital Edition.
  2. Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Psalm 128, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms-128.html
  3. Gill, Ibid.
  4. Keller, Timothy with Kathy Keller, “The Songs of Jesus,” Psalm 128, Viking, New York, 2015.
  5. Gill, Ibid.

February 17, 2022

Count Your Blessings

Living in a retirement community, we frequently see neighbors with bruised heads and faces. So we pray for each other to be careful not to fall. Last Sunday evening, when walking my dog, I reached for a tissue while continuing to walk. I stumbled over something in the road and fell. It wasn’t a hard fall, but I hit my left eyebrow on the curb. The small scratch on my eyebrow gushed. My relatively new iPhone screen was cracked but it still worked to call our front desk staff for a ride back to my apartment. I am grateful for so many things: my phone working, our staffs’ care, having only a little scratch, the ER staff’s, and my friend’s help to get to the ER. She also kept my anxious dog with her and her dog (his best friend). I’m even thankful for ice to reduce the swelling. It’s been an excellent opportunity to give God the praise he deserves. As Christians, we are able to use minor and more significant trials to recognize God’s grace and witness for Him. Because we have the indwelling Holy Spirit, we don’t grieve over our troubles but seek to see the hand of God and our blessedness, to walk with him, and witness for Christ. Jesus alone can give us his peace when our circumstances or worlds are shaken. God graciously gives his witness to the unbelieving world by his patience and satisfying people with food and (some) happiness.

Life Doesn’t Just “Happen.”

In Acts 13, we find Paul and Barnabas on the island of Cyprus witnessing. But they were forced to leave Antioch, so they went to Iconium to continue their ministry. In Iconium, many Jews and Greeks believed, but there was much opposition. “But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles. When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country, and there they continued to preach the gospel.” (Acts 14:4-7) Lystra was populated mainly by Gentiles and had no synagogue. After the healing of a lame man, the people started to worship Paul and Barnabas. But the Holy Spirit gave Paul knowledge of what was happening in the invisible, spiritual realm. They realized the gravity of the situation when the local priest began to offer a deific sacrifice to them. “But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of [the sacrifice], they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, ‘Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.’” (Acts 14:13-17) “Since the Lystrans were polytheists, it was necessary to begin with the basic message that God is the Creator of all that exists…Paul tells these Gentiles who had no knowledge of the Jewish Scriptures that their regular harvests, the food they eat every day, and the gladness they experience in the ordinary activities of life are all a witness from God of his existence, wisdom, and goodness. They should not think that these things’ just happen’ or that they are the work of some local deities, for they are from the one true God ‘who made the heaven and the earth.’” (1) God has always been gracious and gives witness to the unbelieving world through his patience and by satisfying people with food and happiness. We, who are in Christ, walk in God’s ways, with his witness in us, utterly blessed in our hearts, to witness for Christ. Sometimes we begin with the blessing of God’s common grace.

God’s Blessed Common Grace For All People

“Scripture explicitly declares [God’s] divine government to be universal. It is really the execution of His eternal purpose, embracing all HIs works from the beginning, all that was or is or ever shall be. But while it is general, it also descends to particulars. The most significant things, that which is seemingly accidental, [and] the good deeds of men, as well as their evil deeds. To common grace men further owes all the natural blessings which he receives in the present life…[The] benevolent interest of God is revealed in His care for the creature’s welfare, and is suited to the nature and the circumstances of the creature. It naturally varies in degree according to the capacity of the objects to receive it. And while it is not restricted to believers, they only manifest a proper appreciation of its blessings, desire to use them in the service of their God, and thus enjoy them in a richer and fuller measure.” (2) Maybe one of God’s providential provisions for my witness was years teaching this hymn to children and teachers: “When upon life’s billows you are tempest, tossed; when you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done…Are you ever burdened with a load of care? Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear? Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly, and you will be singing as the days go by…When you look at others with their lands and gold, think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold; count your many blessings, money cannot buy, your reward in heaven, nor your home on high. So, amid the conflict, whether great or small, do not be discouraged, God is over all; count your many blessings, angels will attend, help and comfort give you to your journey’s end. Count your blessings, name them one by one; count your blessings, see what God hath done.” (“Count Your Blessings,” Johnson Oatman, 1897) 

God’s Witness of Himself

“The apostle [in Acts 14], to engage us to worship God, sets before us his beneficence, that we may have good thoughts of him in every thing wherein we have to do with him—may love him and delight in him, as one that does good, does good to us, does good to all, in giving rain from heaven and fruitful seasons…It is he that fills our hearts with food and gladness…Even those nations that had lost the knowledge of him, and worshipped other gods, yet he filled their houses, filled their mouths, filled their bellies with good things. The Gentiles that lived without God in the world, yet lived upon God, which Christ urges as a reason why we should do good to those that hate us, Matthew 5:44; Matthew 5:45. Those heathen had their hearts filled with food; this was their felicity and satisfaction, they desired no more; but these things will not fill the soul, nor will those that know how to value their own souls be satisfied with them; but the apostles put themselves in as sharers in the divine beneficence.” (3) “Sublimity is not just for the ear, it is also for the eye…Even the pagan who rejects Christ can enjoy the sublimity of the poets and musicians and artists. But they can never worship God as He desires to be worshiped. The sublimity of a great painting can lift me only so far. God’s Word can lift me beyond that kind of sublimity into the very presence of God.” (4) I believe that I should and can use every query about my shiner to witness for God. Our theology should lead us to walk in God’s ways, with his witness in us, utterly blessed in our hearts, to witness for Christ. Shona Murray writes, “[Some] practical problems result from the failure to apply theology to our lives…Throughout medical school, I was constantly taught the theory of evolution. Not once, though, did I entertain it as a valid theory. Not once did I doubt that God had created the world. However, looking back, I can see that I did not fully apply that doctrine to my life. There was a block between what I believed in my head and what I did in some parts of my life.” (5) so let’s “Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise! Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you. All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name.'” (Psalms 66:1-4)

Related Scripture: Job 38:28-29; Psalms 36:6; 104:21; 145:9, 15, 16; 146:5-7; Jeremiah 31:25; Matthew 6:26; Luke 6:35-36.

Notes:

  1. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Acts 13-14, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
  2. Berkoff, L., Systematic Theology, p. 176, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, Reprinted 1993.
  3. Henry, Matthew “Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible,” Acts 14:18, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/acts-14.html
  4. Tozer, A. W., “My Daily Pursuit Devotions for Every Day,” Psalm 96:1-2, Feb. 5, Bethany House Publishers, 2013.
  5. Murray, Shona and David, ReFRESH, p. 38, Crossway, 2017.

February 10, 2022

Creation’s Passive Blessing

Are you a bird-watcher, a birder, or a twitcher? I’m getting an education in birding and learning that there are degrees of studying birds. Bird-watching is what I usually do, casual glancing at birds I hear or notice as I walk or drive. I have friends who are birders and go on walks with binoculars to see which birds are on their paths, taking special delight in particular birds’ coloring and sounds. I’m not sure I know any twitchers—those who go on trips looking for very selective, rare birds to add to their bird journals. If we enjoy birds at all, we take pleasure in their different sizes, colors, designs, and habits, with varied calls and sounds. In winter, we have some birds in Texas: pixabays, cardinals, robins, purple martins, and cedar waxwings (according to a website). Maybe now that I know about the first and last ones on the list, I’ll spot them more easily. When we raise our awareness by increasing our knowledge or understanding of a topic, we are more likely to notice its effects. We know that God created the natural world from Moses’s record in Genesis 1-2. We are stimulated to appreciate the natural world more to the extent that we know our Creator. Moses remarks on God’s goodness seven times in Genesis 1! “Not only is God altogether good, He is consistently good. God doesn’t know how to be anything but good. So closely linked is goodness to God that even pagan philosophers such as Plato equated ultimate goodness, the highest good, with God Himself. God’s goodness refers both to His character and His behavior. His actions proceed from and flow out of His being. He acts according to what He is.” (1) Every tree, flower, blade of grass, and weed is good and blessed because an infinitely good Creator made them. And it’s the same for every animal, bird, fish, mountain, lake, rock, and cloud. 

God Blessed Creation 

The Lord, who created all the creatures that live in the sea, on the land, and in the air, called them good. He blessed them and commanded them to fill the earth. “And God said, ‘Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.’ So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.’ And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.” (Genesis 1:20-23) What I appreciate about birders is their delight in birds that don’t have any particular usefulness (besides supplying them with a hobby). Have you ever noticed how we appreciate some things only because they serve us? A sunny day after showers to cheer us up; flowers that make our homes look good; or animals that we feed on. But God blessed the animals before they had served any purpose for Adam and Eve. The existence of the birds and fish was a blessing in the mere fact of their existence. “In Genesis 1:22 God blesses the creatures of the sea and air telling them to ‘be fruitful and multiply.’ He was acknowledging the unique role they are to play in his creation, and he gives them the ability and mandate to reproduce. Right before this verse he pronounced that these creatures he had just created were ‘good.’ These animals were not made to be capable of making moral choices, and they had just come into being. Their ‘goodness’ could not have been because of any thing they had done. They hadn’t done anything yet. In this case, as with the other pronouncements at each stage of creation, the ‘good’ means that they were exactly what the Creator intended them to be. He recognizes how the objects of his blessing fit into his plan.” (1) All natural creation is blessed because Yahweh blessed it. Do we respect, honor, and delight in the goodness of creation and realize how blessed it is because it is created by and blessed by God? Do you take time to think about the blessedness of the created world, and therefore God, who made and blessed it? A biblical Worldview sees God as the first cause, and leads to thanksgiving, worship, and prayer—through which we are more blessed.

God’s Creation is Still Good

“So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:21) “God’s moral pronouncement on what he has done. It appears in the repeated phrase, ‘and God saw that it was good.’ This pronouncement is not made because we can point to an object and say pragmatically, ‘That thing is useful to me and is therefore good to me.’ God’s pronouncement on the goodness of creation came even before we were made. The pronouncement is made because the object is good in itself. As Schaeffer says, this means that a tree is not good only because we can cut it down and make a house of it or because we can burn it in order to get heat. It is good because God made it and has pronounced it good. It is good because, like everything else in creation, it conforms to God’s nature…’Every step and every sphere of creation, and the whole thing put together—man himself and his total environment, the heavens and the earth—conforms to myself.’ It is not only in its pristine state, that is, before the fall of man, that the earth and its contents are pronounced good. The initial blessing of God recorded in Genesis 1 is repeated later even after the fall. For example, it is repeated in God’s covenant with the human race given at the time of Noah…God’s concern is expressed, not just for Noah and those of his family who were delivered with him, but for the birds and the cattle and even the earth itself. Similarly, in Romans 8 there is an expression of the value of creation in that God included it in his promise of that future deliverance for which it as well as the race of men and women wait: ‘The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God’ (v. 21). The value of creation, declared good by God, brings us to a natural conclusion: If God finds the universe good in its parts and as a whole, then we must find it good also…we should be thankful for the world God has made and praise him for it…we should delight in creation. This is closely related to being thankful but is a step beyond it. It is a step that many Christians have never taken. Frequently Christians look on nature only as one of the classic proofs of God’s existence. But instead of this, the Christian should really enjoy what he sees. He should appreciate its beauty. He should exult in creation even more than the non-Christian, because in the Christian’s case there is a corresponding knowledge of the God who stands behind it.” (2)

Remembering the Lord of Creation For the New World

Since we know that God created the world by His Word out of nothing, we have confidence that he can recreate a perfect world that isn’t affected by the decay of sin (Hebrews 11:3; Revelation 21:1-4). Just as the Lord created all the creatures that live in the sea, on the land, and in the air, and called them good and blessed them, he will bring a better Eden, a more blessed one, that we will enjoy without hindrance. Respecting, honoring, and delighting in the goodness and blessedness of this creation will prepare us for our more blessed home. All this, though, is to motivate us to worship God, not nature. “There is a high enjoyment in the contemplation of the divine and the sublime. The concentration of the mind upon truth always brings a high sense of enjoyment…I enjoy getting out in nature and just having some quiet time. There’s nothing wrong with that. The problem comes when people confuse nature worship with true worship.” (3) Our natural world’s blessing can reduce our anxieties, help us see a bigger picture of God’s activity, and calm our spirits. Taking a walk or looking out the window to spot the birds who reflect God’s blessedness may be just what you need today. “I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26)

Related Scripture: Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25; 9:9–13; Psalm 104:25-30; 135:3; Isaiah 45:12; Jeremiah 10:12-13; Ezekiel 17:22-24; Romans 1:20; 8:18-23.

Notes:

  1. The Reformation Study Bible, “The Goodness of God,” p. 991, Reformation Trust Publishing (Ligonier Ministries), Sanford, Fl., 2015. 
  2. Burridge, Bob, “The Meaning of Blessedness,” 2015, Geneva Institute for Reformed Studies. http://genevaninstitute.org/articles/the-meaning-of-blessedness/
  3. Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Genesis 1:1-25, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
  4. Tozer, A. W., My Daily Pursuit Devotions for Every Day, Ps 119:38, Feb. 2, Bethany House Publishers, 2013.

February 3, 2022