Tag Archives: Israel

Alistair Begg – Are You Happy Today?

 

Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord. Deuteronomy 33:29

The person who declares that Christianity makes men miserable is himself an utter stranger to it. It would be strange indeed if it made us wretched; consider to what a position it exalts us!

It makes us sons of God. Do you suppose that God will give all the happiness to His enemies and reserve all the mourning for His own family? Will His foes have laughter and joy, while His home-born children inherit sorrow and wretchedness? Will the sinner, who has no part in Christ, call himself rich in happiness, while we go mourning as if we were penniless beggars? No; we will rejoice in the Lord always and glory in our inheritance, for we “did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!'”1 The rod of discipline must rest upon us in our measure, but it works for us the comfortable fruits of righteousness; and therefore by the help of the divine Comforter, we, a “people saved by the LORD,” will rejoice in the God of our salvation.

We are married to Christ; and will our great Bridegroom permit His spouse to linger in constant grief? Our hearts are knit to Him: We are His members, and though for a while we may suffer as our Head once suffered, yet even now we are blessed with heavenly blessings in Him.

We have the promise of our inheritance in the comforts of the Spirit, which are neither few nor small. Inheritors of joy forever, we have foretastes of our portion. There are streaks of the light of joy to herald our eternal sunrise. Our riches are beyond the sea; our city with firm foundations lies on the other side of the river; gleams of glory from the spirit-world cheer our hearts and urge us onward.

It is truly said of us, “Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD.”

1) Romans 8:15

The Family Bible Reading Plan

  • 2 Samuel 23
  • Galatians 3

Devotional material is taken from “Morning and Evening,” written by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.

Greg Laurie – Good Despite the Bad

 

Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord. So the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian for seven years. —Judges 6:1

Can God ever use a nonbelieving nation to overtake a believing nation as a form of punishment? The answer is yes. We should never think that we could not be overtaken by another nation if we continue to thumb our noses at God, persist in breaking His laws left and right, and insist on going out of our way to remove Him from our culture in every way. A chapter in Israel’s history should stand as a warning to us today.

As Judges 6 opens, we see the Israelites living under the power of the Midianites. This was a result of God’s disciplining them because of their disobedience. Interestingly, the Midianites were the first in history to domesticate the camel, which gave them a huge advantage militarily. Imagine being an Israelite who has engaged solely in battles of hand-to-hand combat when suddenly your enemy comes riding over the hills on camels. That is what the Israelites were dealing with.

Then there was the Midianites’ invasion of the land. They would sweep in on their camels, destroy the Israelites’ crops, and ravage their land. Israel was in despair, so they cried out to God for His help and deliverance. The Lord decided to answer their prayers through the most unexpected person possible, a man named Gideon.

Many times in life when things aren’t going well, it is because of bad decisions we’ve made. We disobey the Lord, and then we have the audacity to blame Him for the way things turn out. That is essentially what happened to Israel. They were wondering why things had turned out the way they did. But they brought it on themselves.

The good news is that even when we have made mistakes, God can intervene and bring redemption. God can bring good despite the bad.

Greg Laurie –The Subtle Destruction of Compromise

 

And it came to pass, when Israel was strong, that they put the Canaanites under tribute, but did not completely drive them out.—Judges 1:28

Approximately two hundred years had passed since Joshua led the Israelites on their famous march around the walls of Jericho. By God’s power, the walls of the city fell, and the Israelites conquered Jericho. Under Joshua’s direction, they also conquered many of the inhabitants of Canaan, including the Amorites, the Hittites, the Ammonites, and the Jebusites.

But the Israelites didn’t finish the job. They failed to drive all the Canaanites from the land, and they lived to regret it. Two hundred years later, the Canaanites had regained strength and began to dominate Israel. The tables were turned. Israel’s enemies were overtaking them.

This can happen to us as Christians. We commit our lives to Christ and effectively give Him the master key to every door in our lives—but maybe not every door. We may leave a few closets locked up because we have some skeletons in them. We have some areas that we don’t really turn over to the Lord, and then those little problems later turn into big problems.

It is not unlike having a tree that has overtaken your yard. You decide it’s time to remove it, and so you cut it down. But you can’t simply cut it down; you also have to pull out the stump too. Otherwise, it will grow back. It might even grow back stronger and cause more trouble.

In the same way, sin needs to be rooted out in our lives. When we compromise a little here and a little there, little things turn into big things. It’s like those adorable bunnies and chicks that parents buy for their children at Easter. Sweet little bunnies turn into adult rabbits, and cute little chicks become full-grown chickens.

Little things turn into big things. That is how sin can work in our lives.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry

I am often asked in conversations with people outside of Christian faith why I am a Christian. Sometimes, before I am finished with an explanation, a litany of offenses associated with Christianity pours out as evidence against believing: all the bloodshed and religious wars, the Inquisition, anti-Semitism, etc. I actually don’t mind these kinds of critiques or questions. They are very important, and it would be foolish of me to pretend that the record of Christendom in the world was spotless. Much has been done in the name of Jesus by those who claim to be Christians, for which there should be collective shame.

Sometimes my honest acknowledgement of historic faults isn’t enough for my skeptical friends. Next, they scrutinize the Bible. Who wrote it? Can we trust it? How do we know it is God’s word? When it comes to the Bible, I also understand why these kinds of questions are raised. There are some fairly difficult passages, culturally specific events and contexts that can make the work of translation and understanding in this contemporary time—let alone for those who are completely unfamiliar with it—complicated at best. Again, it would be untruthful if those who studied the Bible pretended to understand everything within its narrative perfectly or completely.

One thing that is not difficult to see or understand, however, is all the humanity on display throughout the biblical narrative. Even the most ‘heroic’ or ‘epic’ of biblical characters are shown with their flaws and their weaknesses on display as much as their strengths. For example, Israel’s great deliverer Moses is called long past his prime and after having been exiled from the royal life in Egypt. We find him tending sheep in the middle of the wilderness. By his own admission, he is not a great public speaker, likely suffering from a speech impediment, and he struggles with his temper; he had killed an Egyptian and struck a rock with such force and violence that he was not permitted to enter the Promised Land. King David, the great king of Israel, was actually the youngest of his family when he is anointed as king. He is tasked to keep the flocks. The first born son was the normal and rightful heir to inheritance and leadership. He committed murder and adultery, conducted a census against God’s specific prohibition, yet he is the one described as a ‘man after God’s heart.’

David likely penned most of Israel’s psalter—a psalter still used in both Jewish and Christian worship today. In this psalter, the record of human emotions, human experience, and human questioning is on display. These are the psalms of sacred worship even as they are the deepest cries of the human heart.

There are the twelve disciples; humble fishermen without much education who lived and learned from Jesus, himself. Despite their proximity to Jesus for three years, one would betray him, another would deny having even known him, and all of them would flee from him in his greatest hour of need. Even while having access to this great teacher, they often failed to understand his teaching. The apostle Paul, who penned most of the New Testament letters, was formerly a murderer of Christians and a legalist of legalists. Even though he is the first apostle of the early Christian movement, he couldn’t prevent a disagreement between himself and his fellow worker, Barnabus over John Mark from separating them.

In dealing with skeptics, there might be the temptation to overlook the humanity in the Bible. Perhaps it causes embarrassment, or creates fear that Christianity somehow doesn’t ‘work’ in transforming lives. I don’t see it that way at all. In fact, time and again when I have struggled with doubts in my faith, I am reminded of all the human individuals used by God as witnesses to the greatness of God’s love and redemption. It is one of the first things I point out in proclaiming the trustworthiness and faithfulness of the Biblical record, and indeed of Christian faith. For, unlike any other sacred text, as lofty and as grand as their epics might be, or as poetic and beautiful as their text reads, they do not show the full portrait of humanity on display as the Bible does; their heroes are not broken, but elevated humans and demi-gods.

So it seems worth asking: What kind of God, indeed what kind of religion, takes fallen and broken human beings and includes them in the plan of salvation? As the apostle Paul proclaimed of his own ministry; “for God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness, made the light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Cor. 4:6-7).

Skeptics and critics of Christianity might still have well-reasoned arguments, and legitimate issues to raise with the faith (and with the faithful), but one thing that cannot be denied is that the God on display in the Bible is not afraid of our humanity, nor does that God shy away from using those who many might consider undesirable. It is this common humanity—on display in my own life so frequently—recorded in the narrative of Scripture that keeps me believing in its truth and relevance.

And if that weren’t all enough, Christianity proclaims a God who valued humanity so much that in Jesus God took on flesh, becoming human. He took on his own jar of clay and in so doing gifted all of humanity with immeasurable treasure.

 

Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bellingham, Washington.

Greg Laurie – The Spiritual No-Man’s Land

 

In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.—Judges 17:6

Our culture in the United States seems to be turned upside down. In the perception of many, that which was once considered good is now perceived as bad. And that which was once perceived as bad is now thought of as good.

There was a time when, if someone was doing something immoral, we would have said that was bad. For example, if a boyfriend and girlfriend were living together, we would have said that was bad. If you were married, that was considered good. Today, however, if someone thinks marriage is only between a man and a woman, it is now considered bad.

Here is what God says about that mentality: “What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter” (Isaiah 5:20).

There was a time in Israel’s history when everything was upside down, much like it is in our culture today. In Judges 17, we read how and why that happened: “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes” (verse 6). To put it in modern vernacular, everyone was doing their own thing. Everyone had their own “truth.”

Here is what it comes down to. If you want to be a Christian, then be a Christian—a real one. If you don’t want to be a committed Christian, then do whatever you want and face the consequences. Or, be a follower of Jesus and glorify God with your life. But this in-between living will keep you in a miserable no-man’s land of compromise. You will have too much of Jesus to be happy in the world and too much of the world to be happy in Jesus.

Presidential Prayer Team; J.K. – Hear God’s Call

 

Zechariah used the strangest illustration in today’s verse. What made it significant is that Israel had been prohibited to own horses (Deuteronomy 17:16), and those words were reserved for the engraved plate worn on the turban of the High Priest. So what was he saying? The prohibitions and separation required of Israel was to teach them what it meant to be holy. Certain things were sacred.

On that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, “Holy to the Lord.”

Zechariah 14:20

The New Testament relationship secured by Jesus with His Father for the believer elevates all of God’s creation to the sacred. Commentator F.B. Meyer says, “Consider the genius and inner heart of Christianity. Holiness to the Lord is working heartily and doing all to His glory.” He says it’s a life that deliberately obeys and serves Christ (I Corinthians 10:31) but remembers that “you cannot do all tasks to the glory of God unless you have mountains of transfiguring prayer.”

Set aside special time each day to pray for you, your family and the nation. Hear God’s call to the tasks He has for you…the work bell, school bell, or recreation bell. Respond with His grace and strength – realizing that on each bell you’ll find, “Holy to the Lord.”

Recommended Reading: Colossians 3:18-4:6

Max Lucado – God’s Vision in God’s Land

 

Joshua 21:45 says, “Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass.”  Joshua and his men went from dry land to the Promised Land, from manna to feasts, from arid deserts to fertile fields. They inherited their inheritance: the glory days of Israel. This is God’s vision for your life. You, at full throttle. You, as victor over the Jerichos and giants.

Paul describes it as a life in which “Christ’s love has the first and last word in everything we do” (2 Corinthians 5:14).  A life in which Paul says, “we do not lose heart” (2 Corinthians 4:16). A life defined by grace, refined by challenge, and aligned with a heavenly call. In God’s plan, in God’s land…God’s promises outweigh personal problems. Victory becomes a way of life! Your glory days await you!

From Glory Days

Ravi Zacharias Ministry Among the Exiles

 

A recent post in The New York Times caught my eye: “Amsterdam Has a Deal for Alcoholics: Work Paid in Beer.”(1) One of the most emailed columns that week, the article detailed the creative and controversial work of The Rainbow Group Foundation, an NGO helping to prevent social isolation for people without caring networks of community like the homeless, the poor, drug users and those with psychiatric problems. Vital connections are formed that foster community and enable these socially exiled individuals to participate in society in more healthy ways.

Their latest project, however, has provoked public ire and praise. Hiring alcoholics as street cleaners and paying them with beer is not a traditional form of compensation, nor does it appear to deal with their addiction. Yet, one of the unlikely supporters of the Rainbow Foundation’s efforts is the Muslim district mayor of Eastern Amsterdam, where there is a large percentage of these marginalized persons. As a practicing Muslim, the district mayor personally disapproves of alcohol but says she believes that alcoholics “cannot be just ostracized” and told to shape up. “It is better,” she said “to give them something to do and restrict their drinking.” Indeed, Hans Wijnands, the director of the Rainbow Foundation, explained: “You have to give people an alternative, to show them a path other than just sitting in the park and drinking themselves to death.”

One of the participants in this program has struggled with alcoholism since the 1970’s after he found his wife, who was pregnant with twins, dead in their home from a drug overdose. He has since spent time in a clinic and tried other ways to quit but has never managed to entirely break his addiction. “I’m not proud of being an alcoholic, but I am proud to have a job again” he said. Once a construction worker, he was out of work for more than a decade because of a back injury, and his chronic alcoholism. Finally landing this job sponsored by the Rainbow Foundation, he now gets up at 5:30 a.m., walks his dog and heads out ready to clean litter from the streets of eastern Amsterdam. While he has found a new sense of purpose he still acknowledges how difficult life can be. “Every day is a struggle,” he said during a lunch break with his work mates. “You may see these guys hanging around here, chatting, making jokes. But I can assure you, every man you see here carries a little backpack with their own misery in it.”

As I read this article, I couldn’t help but hear the traditional Advent hymn in the back of my mind:

Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel,

And ransom captive Israel,

That mourns in lonely exile here

Make safe the way that leads on high,

And close the path to misery.

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,

And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

The haunting tune of this hymn provides a musical illustration of this modern day exile: solitary individuals, mostly men, homeless often on cold, wintry streets in Amsterdam, living in a world where most consider them a nuisance at best. Gaining access to that which enslaves them as payment for cleaning the streets, they exist in a form of exile. These individuals wander in their own wilderness of addiction, exiled from themselves, from others, and likely feeling far, far away from the presence of God.

This notion of exile, of being exiled from ourselves, others, and from God, is an overarching theme in the Bible. Indeed, it is often the mournful story of God’s people who traverse its pages as captives, wanderers, and exiles. First captives in the land of Egypt, the children of Israel are freed from their bondage only to spend the next forty years wandering around in what is now the Sinai Peninsula. Brought into the land of promise, their years of freedom were relatively short-lived before they were again exiles; first, conquered by the armies of Assyria, then conquered by the armies of the Babylonians, the people of Judah ‘wept by the rivers of Babylon’ for their home. Even when they returned to their land, they were now under the thumb of the Roman Empire; captives, wanderers, and exiles.

As I thought about the juxtaposition of biblical exile with more modern day examples of exile, I couldn’t help but recognize the story of exile as a story of human nature. We find ourselves in exile for a variety of reasons. Some are pilgrims who choose to walk a road less traveled; some wander off the path and become lost. Some, like the Israelites, long to return to places of enslavement mistaking them as places of comfort and solace. The story of Israel’s exile is our human story—how we wander, how often we get lost, and how we are exiled from the better angels of our nature, from one another and from our Creator. For many, we are exiled for so long we no longer remember our homes, or the way back home.

O come, O come Emmanuel is a cry that resounds in a world of exiles. The word Emmanuel means ‘God with us.’ Yet the Christian narrative marks the arrival of that God in an unexpected manner. Not a conquering hero like other myths and legends, but a God who steps into human exile in the weakness of a baby. But that baby, Jesus of Nazareth, would declare at the beginning of his public ministry that he would “preach the gospel to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”(2)

Margaret Manning is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Seattle, Washington.

(1) Andrew Higgins, “Amsterdam Has a Deal for Alcoholics: Work Paid in Beer,” The New York Times, December 4, 2013.

(2) Luke 4:14-19.

Greg Laurie – After the Victory

Joshua sent some of his men from Jericho to spy out the town of Ai, east of Bethel, near Beth-aven. When they returned, they told Joshua, “There’s no need for all of us to go up there; it won’t take more than two or three thousand men to attack Ai. Since there are so few of them, don’t make all our people struggle to go up there.”—Joshua 7:2–3
The story of the Israelites’ victory over Jericho is of the greatest stories ever told. But after Jericho came Ai. It was a small city compared to Jericho, which was lying in smoldering ruins. The Israelites apparently thought they could have essentially done this one in their sleep. They didn’t even need the whole Israeli army, they reasoned—just a few thousand. This argument was based on the supposition that Israel had captured Jericho.
But if anything is clear from the story of Jericho’s fall, Israel had very little to do with its defeat. God did it. As the Israelites were willing to humble themselves and do it God’s way, He brought them a great victory. Yet when it came to Ai, they were acting as though they could knock down another city without any effort or apparent dependence on God.
It was God’s plan for the Israelites to go from victory to victory, overtaking their enemies in Canaan. But they had to do God’s will in God’s way. Instead, they faced a crushing defeat at Ai, which was much smaller than Jericho.
Sometimes we are more vulnerable after a time of victory in our lives. We are more vulnerable after God has blessed us. So don’t be surprised the next time you leave church and get attacked spiritually. Don’t be surprised when the Lord has done a great work in your life and then there is a spiritual attack.
After Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, the Holy Spirit came upon Him in the form a dove. And then He went immediately into the wilderness, where He was tested by the Devil. After the dove came the Devil.
As the Scottish preacher Andrew Bonar once said, “Let us be as watchful after the victory as before the battle.”
Share this today:
Sometimes we are more vulnerable after a time of victory in our lives. We are more vulnerable after God has blessed us. So don’t be surprised the next time you leave church and get attacked spiritually.

 

Greg Laurie – Depending on Him

 

“I am the LORD, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to carved images”—Isaiah 42:8

Have you ever noticed that Jesus never really healed people in exactly the same way? Sometimes He would touch a person, and sometimes a person would touch Him. At other times He would speak the word, and they would be healed.

It seems as though God goes out of His way to accomplish His purposes through unusual and varied means. We find a great example of this in the story of Naaman. As the leader of the armies of Assyria, he was famous, powerful, influential, and admired by many. But he had leprosy. There was an Israelite maid working in his house who had been captured as a slave, and she suggested that he go to Israel. There was a prophet there named Elisha who could pray for him, and he would be healed.

So Naaman went to the king of Assyria and told him what his maid had said. Then the king sent a message to Israel’s king, saying, “Now be advised, when this letter comes to you, that I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may heal him of his leprosy” (2 Kings 5:6).

Naaman and his entourage arrived in town and stopped in front of Elijah’s house, expecting a hero’s welcome. But Elisha didn’t even give Naaman the time of day. He just sent his servant, Gehazi, to the door with a message for him: Go dunk yourself in the Jordan River seven times, and you will be healed.

There was a reason God wanted Naaman to do it this way. To go into the water, Naaman would have to take off his armor and royal clothing and reveal what he really was.

God likes to vary His methods so we will be dependent on Him—and so that He will get the glory.

 

Presidential Prayer Team; A.W. – Then and Now

 

The song Forever, written by Chris Tomlin, has been a favorite of worship leaders since its release in 2001. It’s been listed in the top 25 praise songs as reported by Christian Copyright Licensing International since 2003. The lyrics are based on Psalm 136. The Psalm is meant to be sung and praises God for all He has done.

And brought Israel out from among them, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Psalm 136:11

There are countless examples in the Old and New Testament of people singing and of God’s command to do so. Today’s verse focuses on when God brought Israel out of slavery in Egypt. Being set free was certainly something to sing about then and still is today – which is probably why Chris Tomlin has had so much success with the same words so many years after they were originally written.

God’s Word says He doesn’t change. He set His people free in Egypt over 2,000 years ago and He can set you free today. During this month of celebrating America’s freedom, set aside some time to celebrate your freedom in God and the life in the Spirit that He provides. As you do, pray for those who do not know Christ to find Him and be set free, too.

Recommended Reading: Romans 8:1-11

Alistair Begg – One of Them?

 

You were like one of them. Obadiah 11

Brotherly kindness was due from Edom to Israel in the time of need, but instead of showing kindness, the men of Esau joined with Israel’s enemies. Special stress in the sentence before us is laid upon the word you, as when Caesar cried to Brutus, “and you, Brutus.” A bad action may be all the worse because of the person who has committed it.

When we sin, who are the chosen favorites of heaven, we sin with an emphasis; ours is a crying offense because we are so peculiarly indulged. If an angel should lay his hand upon us when we are doing evil, he need not use any other rebuke than the question, “What, you? What are you doing here?” Having been gloriously forgiven, delivered, instructed, enriched, blessed, do we dare give ourselves to evil? God forbid!

A few minutes of confession may be beneficial to you, gentle reader, this morning. Have you never been like the wicked? At an evening party certain men laughed at uncleanness, and the joke was not altogether offensive to your ear – even you were as one of them. When hard things were spoken concerning the ways of God, you were bashfully silent; and so, to onlookers, you were as one of them. When worldlings were bartering in the market and driving hard bargains, were you not as one of them? When they were pursuing vanity without restraint, were you not as greedy for gain as they were? Could any difference be discerned between you and them? Is there any difference?

Here we come to close quarters. Be honest with your own soul, and make sure that you are a new creature in Christ Jesus; but when this is sure, walk carefully in case anyone should again be able to say, “You also are one of them.”1 You would not desire to share their eternal doom. Why then be like them here? Do not enter into their secret, in case you enter into their ruin. Side with the afflicted people of God, and not with the world.

1) Luke 22:58

The Family Bible Reading Plan

  • Judges 6
  • Acts 10

Devotional material is taken from “Morning and Evening,” written by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.

Greg Laurie – Deal Quickly with Sin

 

A little leaven leavens the whole lump. —Galatians 5:9

Israel committed a great sin. They knew better. They were God’s chosen, covenant people. They had seen his power demonstrated time and time again. They saw the Red Sea parted as they passed through, and they saw it close on the pursuing Egyptian army. They saw manna provided every morning. They saw God’s fire by night and His cloud by day. They saw miracle after miracle. They made a promise to obey God on three separate occasions. Much had been given to Israel, and much was expected from Israel.

So when they worshiped the golden calf that Aaron formed from the jewelry they willingly gave him, it was a radical sin. And it would be dealt with harshly. When Moses arrived, he threw down the commandments, took their golden calf, ground it into powder, put it into water, and then made them drink it. Then he gave the command for a number of them to be put to death for their sin.

It almost seems unfair that God would deal so harshly with these people. But frankly, God doesn’t owe us the time of day, much less an explanation of why He does or does not do certain things. He just does what He is going to do.

Basically God was saying, “I hate sin. It will not be tolerated. It must be dealt with swiftly, lest it spreads and do even more harm.”

The Bible compares sin to leaven, which is yeast that is put into bread to cause it to rise before baking. It is always a picture of evil in the Bible. We could say that sin is like cancer. It needs to be cut out before it metastasizes, before it spreads through someone’s system. That is why the Lord tells us to deal quickly with sin.

Presidential Prayer Team; J.K. – New Beginnings

 

The people of Israel had angered God with their disobedience and after 70 years of captivity in Babylon were released to return home. Even in their punishment, the Lord had been good to them. He raised up godly leaders, protected them and forgave them. He gave them a new start.

Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?

Psalm 85:6

Scottish preacher George H. Morrison said, “The victorious Christian life is a series of new beginnings,” and he is right. When you disobey God, it is sin and you fall from a right relationship with Him. You must make a new beginning by confessing your sin and turning back to Him. He will restore you. He will revive you through His love and faithfulness and will give you righteousness and peace so that you may rejoice.

The remnant nation of Israel prayed for new life and a new birth of freedom by thanking God for all He had done. They petitioned for restoration of their life in Him. The same should happen today for this country. Confess your sins and the sins of this nation. Petition the Lord to save this country. When you seek Him, be confident that He will give you peace and a fresh start.

Recommended Reading: I John 1:5-2:5

John MacArthur – Rejecting Christ

 

“For those who disbelieve, ‘the stone which the builders rejected, this became the very corner stone,’ and, ‘a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense’; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed” (1 Pet. 2:7-8).

Rejecting Christ leads to spiritual damnation.

Israel was a unique nation, chosen by God to be the guardian of His Word and proclaimer of His kingdom. The Old Testament records His miraculous and providential care for her throughout the centuries, and the prophets told of One who would come as her great Deliverer. Israel eagerly awaited the promised Messiah.

But the story has a surprise ending. In the Person of Jesus Christ, the Messiah finally came and presented Himself to Israel. The religious leaders examined Him carefully, measuring Him in every way they could. But He didn’t fit their blueprint. They expected a reigning political Messiah who would instantly deliver them from Roman oppression. They felt no need for a spiritual deliverer, so they rejected Him and tossed Him aside like a worthless rock.

That rejected cornerstone is precious to believers but remains a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to unbelievers. A “stone of stumbling” was a stone on which someone tripped while walking along the road. A “rock of offense” was a rock large enough to crush a person. The point: rejecting Christ brings spiritual devastation of enormous proportions.

All who reject Christ do so because they are disobedient to the Word. Rebellion against the written Word inevitably leads to rejection of the living Word. Of such people Peter said, “To this doom they were also appointed” (v. 8). They weren’t appointed to reject Christ, but to receive the judgment that their rejection demands. That’s a frightening reality that should motivate you to take every opportunity to evangelize the lost.

Suggestions for Prayer

If you have family or friends who are rejecting Christ, pray for them often, asking God to grant them saving faith.

For Further Study

Read Romans 9:30-10:17, noting Israel’s false standard of righteousness and Paul’s prayer for her salvation.

Our Daily Bread — Ordinary People

 

Read: Judges 6:11-16

Bible in a Year: Job 36-37; Acts 15:22-41

We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. —2 Corinthians 4:7

Gideon was an ordinary person. His story, recorded in Judges 6, inspires me. He was a farmer, and a timid one at that. When God called him to deliver Israel from the Midianites, Gideon’s initial response was “How can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house” (Judg. 6:15). God promised that He would be with Gideon and that he would be able to accomplish what he had been asked to do (v. 16). Gideon’s obedience brought victory to Israel, and he is listed as one of the great heroes of faith (Heb. 11:32).

Many other individuals played a significant part in this plan to save the Israelites from a strong enemy force. God provided Gideon with 300 men, valiant heroes all, to win the battle. We are not told their names, but their bravery and obedience are recorded in the Scriptures (Judg. 7:5-23).

Today, God is still calling ordinary people to do His work and assuring us that He will be with us as we do. Because we are ordinary people being used by God, it’s obvious that the power comes from God and not from us. —Poh Fang Chia

Lord, I am just an ordinary person, but You are an all-powerful God. I want to serve You. Please show me how and give me the strength.

God uses ordinary people to carry out His extraordinary plan.

INSIGHT: Today’s text provides some insight into how we should view situations for which we feel inadequate. Gideon did not feel prepared to go into battle against the Midianites who were oppressing Israel. Responding to Gideon’s understandable concern, God sent the angel of the Lord to encourage him. He said that Gideon should “go in the strength” he had (Judg. 6:14 niv), but he also said, “I will be with you” (v. 16). When God calls us to take on a difficult task, we can rely on His strength and power to help us accomplish it.

Greg Laurie – Expect Opposition

 

Then Moses went back to the LORD and protested, “Why have you brought all this trouble on your own people, Lord? Why did you send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh as your spokesman, he has been even more brutal to your people. And you have done nothing to rescue them!” —Exodus 5:22–23

Sometimes we think that when we are in the will of God, it always will be smooth sailing. But I have found that the opposite is usually the case. When I am in the will of God, I brace myself for opposition. I almost see it as a confirmation that I am doing the will of God. In fact, if there is no opposition, I start to wonder what I am doing wrong.

When God sent Moses back to Egypt after 40 years in the desert, Moses probably was hoping that he could walk in, say what he had to say to Pharaoh, and hear him reply, “No problem. Go for it. Everything is good.”

But that isn’t what happened. Rather, Pharaoh answered, “And who is the LORD? Why should I listen to him and let Israel go? I don’t know the Lord, and I will not let Israel go” (Exodus 5:2).

Then Pharaoh made things worse. He told the Israelite foremen that obviously the people had too much time on their hands because they had this guy Moses coming in and asking for their release. He instructed them to no longer give them straw to hold their bricks together. They would have to get their own straw but still make their quota of bricks.

When the leaders of Israel found out, they said to Moses, “May the Lord judge and punish you for making us stink before Pharaoh and his officials. You have put a sword into their hands, an excuse to kill us!” (verse 21). Effectively it was a complete disaster.

Don’t be discouraged if you have tried to serve the Lord or do something for His glory and discovered that people are not supporting you—or are even harassing you. That is exactly what happened to Moses.

Alistair Begg – Sifted by the Lord

 

For behold, I will command, and shake the house of Israel among all the nations as one shakes with a sieve, but no pebble shall fall to the earth.

Amos 9:9

Every sifting comes by divine command and permission. Satan must ask permission before he can lay a finger upon Job. In actual fact, in some sense our siftings are directly the work of heaven, for in the text God says that He will “shake the house of Israel.” Satan, like a slave, may hold the sieve, hoping for the worst; but the overruling hand of the Master is accomplishing His purpose by the very process that the enemy hopes will be destructive. Precious children of God, even though you are shaken, be comforted by the blessed fact that the Lord directs the whole process for His own glory and for your eternal profit.

The Lord Jesus will graciously and yet firmly divide that which is precious from that which is of little account. All are not Israel that are of Israel; the grain on the barn floor is not clean and pure, and so the shaking process must be performed. In the sieve, husks and chaff fly before the wind, and only solid substance will remain.

Observe the complete safety of the Lord’s wheat; even a pebble has a promise of preservation. God Himself sifts, and therefore it is stern and terrible work; He sifts them in all places, “among all the nations”; He sifts them in the most effective manner, “as one shakes with a sieve”; and yet in all this, not the smallest, lightest, or most shriveled grain is permitted to fall to the ground.

Every individual believer is precious in the sight of the Lord. A shepherd would not lose one sheep, nor a jeweler one diamond, nor a mother one child, nor a man one limb of his body; nor will the Lord lose one of His redeemed people. However little we may be, if we are the Lord’s, we may rejoice that we are preserved in Christ Jesus.

Devotional material is taken from “Morning and Evening,” written by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.

Charles Spurgeon – The jeer of sarcasm, and the retort of piety

 

“Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal… came out to meet David, and said, How glorious was the king of Israel today, who uncovered himself today in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself! And David said unto Michal, It was before the Lord, which chose… to appoint me ruler… over Israel: therefore will I play before the Lord. .” 2 Samuel 6:20-22

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Peter 3:1-7

It is a happy thing when we are enabled to rejoice together in our family relationships; when husband and wife help each other on the path to heaven. There can be no happier position than that of the Christian man who finds, in every holy wish he has for God, a helper; who finds that often she outstrips him; that when he would do something, she suggests something more; when he would serve his Master there is a hint given that more yet might be done, and no obstacle put in the way, but every assistance rendered. Happy is that man and blessed is he. He has received a treasure from God, the like of which could not be bought for diamonds. That man is blessed of the Most High; he is heaven’s favourite, and he may rejoice in the special favour of his God. But when it is the other way, and I know it is the case with some of you, then it is a sore trial indeed. Perhaps, though a careful, cautious, prudent, and excellent worldly woman, she cannot see with you in the things which you love in the kingdom of God, and when you have done something which in the excess of your zeal seems to be but little, she thinks it inordinate and extravagant. “Oh,” says she, “do you go and mix with these people? Does King David go and wear a linen ephod like a peasant? Do you go and sit down with that rabble? You? You can stand up for your dignity—put ‘esquire’ after your name, and yet walk in the street with any beggar that likes to call himself a Christian. You,” says she, “you that are so cautious in everything else, you seem to have lost your head when you think about your religion.”

For meditation: Those close to the Lord Jesus Christ, his friends and family, could not understand him (Mark 3:21; John 7:5) but God worked in their lives (Acts 1:14; 1 Corinthians 9:5). Don’t despair of your loved ones who seem so far from God (1 Corinthians 7:16).

Sermon no. 321
9 April (Preached 8 April 1860)

Our Daily Bread – A Gift Of Hope

 

 

Read: Judges 13:1-7
Bible in a Year: Joshua 4-6; Luke 1:1-20

 

He shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines. —Judges 13:5

When a powerful typhoon swept through the city of Tacloban, Philippines, in 2013, an estimated 10,000 people died, and many who survived found themselves homeless and jobless. Necessities became scarce. Three months later, while the town was still struggling to dig itself out from the destruction, a baby was born on a roadside near Tacloban amid torrents of rain and strong wind. Although the weather brought back painful memories, residents worked together to find a midwife and transport the mother and newborn to a clinic. The baby survived, thrived, and became a symbol of hope during a time of despair.

Forty years of Philistine oppression marked a grim period in Israel’s national history. During this time, an angel informed an Israelite woman that she would give birth to a special son (Judg. 13:3). According to the angel, the baby would be a Nazirite—a man set apart to God—and would “begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines” (v.5). The infant, Samson, was a gift of hope born in a troubled time.

Trouble is unavoidable, yet Jesus has the power to rescue us from despair. Christ was born “to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet in the way of peace” (Luke 1:76-79). —Jennifer Benson Schuldt

Lord, help me to see beyond my circumstances and put my hope in You. All authority and power are Yours. Remind me of Your goodness, and let me rest in Your love.

Jesus is the hope that calms life’s storms.

INSIGHT: Samson was set apart as “a Nazirite to God” even before he was born (vv. 5,7).Nazirite means “dedicated” or “consecrated.” Numbers 6:1-21 sets out the requirements for those who were Nazirites. Besides Samson, other well-known Nazirites in the Bible are Samuel (1 Sam. 1:11) and John the Baptist (Luke 1:15).