WHAT WONDROUS LOVE IS THIS
Anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse. (Deuteronomy 21:23)
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
Not father or mother has loved you as God has, for it was that you might be happy He gave His only Son. When He bowed His head in the death hour, love solemnized its triumph; the sacrifice there was complete.
—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
This beloved hymn, with its plaintive modal sound, is one of the best known of our authentic American folk hymns. Like all true folk music, the origins of this text and music remain unknown. It is simply the product of devout people who, when reflecting seriously on the sacrificial gift of God’s Son, respond spontaneously with amazed adoration for this “wondrous love.”
One typical folk hymn characteristic found in these words is the repetition of key phrases such as “O my soul” and “I’ll sing on.” Since folk music is generally learned aurally without the assistance of the printed page or musical notation, such repetition is necessary. Note also how effectively the curving melodic lines enhance the thought and personal application of the words.
The hymn first appeared in 1835 in a collection titled William Walker’s Southern Harmony. These simply stated words with their appealing music have since ministered to people everywhere, extolling the profound truth of Christ’s love for each of us. Allow the hymn to move you to awe even now.
What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul! What wondrous love is this, O my soul! What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul, to bear the dreadful curse for my soul.
When I was sinking down, sinking down, when I was sinking down, sinking down; when I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown, Christ laid aside His crown for my soul; Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.
To God and to the Lamb I will sing, I will sing; to God and to the Lamb I will sing; to God and to the Lamb who is the great “I Am,” while millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing; while millions join the theme, I will sing.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on, and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on; and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be, and through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on, and through eternity I’ll sing on.
For Today: Numbers 21:8; Jeremiah 31:3; John 3:14–18; 1 John 3:1; Revelation 1:5, 6
Reflect once again on the wondrous love of Christ in your behalf. Determine to share your Lord and His wondrous love with another.
February 12: Liar or Lord?
Exodus 28:1–29:46; John 5:16–30; Song of Solomon 4:1–3
When Jesus made a defense of His healing on the Sabbath, He was upping the ante instead of defusing the situation: “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5:17). For the Jews, such a claim was blasphemous. Not only was Jesus breaking the Sabbath, He was equating Himself with the Father and thus claiming to be God. He was presenting the people with a choice.
Jesus provides compelling insight into His relationship with God. Jesus’ authority stems from His relationship with the Father, which is one of complete submission. In fact, He can do nothing on His own. Whatever the Father does, He does likewise. There is complete trust and openness—the Father loves the Son and shows Him all that He is doing. Both the Father and the Son give life. But with authority, the Father has also given the Son judgment.
Jesus presents His audience with an ultimatum as He carries out God’s will on earth: “The one who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly I say to you that the one who hears my word and who believes the one who sent me has eternal life, and does not come into judgment” (John 5:23–24). His claims require bold acts—total faith or total rejection. He is not merely a prophet sent from God.
How do you respond to Jesus’ claim? Are you completely and solely devoted to following Him?
Rebecca Van Noord
Welcome to Daily Treasures from the Word of God. Today’s reading is Mark 5 through 8. Our lesson is from Mark 6:12–13, “They went out and preached that [men] should repent. And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them.” (NASU)
One of the most fascinating things about Jesus as a leader is to observe how He trained the disciples to do the work of the ministry. Jesus did the work of the ministry while the disciples watched Him. Later, the disciples did ministry and finally, Jesus would send them out to do ministry tasks. This is clearly demonstrated in verses 7 through 11. Let’s see the three actions of the disciples.
First, the disciples went out and preached. The message was that people had to repent. They went out with a specific message. There are people who say that preaching repentance of sins is offensive so therefore we should not speak about that at all. This is so far from the biblical truth.
Repentance is the door that opens up to eternal life. It was the message of the prophets in the Old Testament. John the Baptist, Jesus, the apostles and the early Church all proclaimed it. The Good News cannot be good news without the forgiveness of sins.
Next, the disciples cast out many demons. To some in the secularized Western culture, the spirit world is nothing more than superstition. The world view of modern day culture denies spiritual realities. But the Bible makes the reality of spiritual beings abundantly clear both in the Old and New Testaments.
Verse 7 states that Jesus gave authority to His disciples. The significance is that it is Jesus’ authority. He is the spiritual source for power that advances the kingdom of God over the kingdom of darkness. In the name of Jesus, all tongues will confess that He is Lord and every knee will bow to Him. He has dominion over all the demons.
Lastly, the disciples healed many people anointing them with oil. Anointing the people with oil is an act of obedience. The oil in itself does not heal. It is the name of Jesus. Christ gave His authority to the disciples and the believing community in the Great Commissions in Matthew and Mark. It is the role of the Church to appropriate and use the power given by Jesus Christ Himself.
In review, the disciples went out and preached. The disciples cast out many demons. And the disciples healed many people, anointing them with oil.
Let us not forget to use the authority given to us by Jesus Christ. We are to be His representatives on earth to advance His kingdom over the kingdom of darkness. Preaching and praying for the sick is our privilege and responsibility.
It has been a pleasure to share with you Daily Treasures from the Word of God. Tomorrow’s Bible reading is Mark 9 through 12. Let’s not forget the words of the psalmist, “The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” Until tomorrow and may God bless you in abundance as you study the Word of God.
|The Joy of Participation
“ . . in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now” (Phil. 1:5).
You share in a sacred partnership with Christ and your fellow-Christians for the advancement of the gospel.
In recent years the Greek word koinōnia has become familiar to many Christians as the New Testament word for “fellowship.” However, it is also translated “partnership” and “participation.” In Philippians 1:5, Paul uses it to emphasize the participation of the Philippians in common ministry goals.
Romans 12:13 gives one aspect of that partnership and participation: monetary contributions. That’s one aspect of fellowship that the Philippian church eagerly shared with Paul. As he says in Philippians 4:15–16, “At the first preaching of the gospel, after I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs.” They were partners in his ministry because their financial support made it possible for him to preach the gospel more effectively.
The Philippians knew that Paul carried a tremendous burden in his heart for all the churches. In listing many of the trials he endured as an apostle, he added, “Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches” (2 Cor. 11:28). The Philippian church eased that burden somewhat by being committed to Paul, to his teaching, and to godly living. That brought great joy to him.
How about you? Do your leaders derive encouragement and joy from your participation in the gospel? Remember, you share in a sacred partnership with Christ and your fellow-Christians in the advancement of the gospel, just as the Philippians shared a partnership with Paul. Rejoice in that privilege, and make the most of it today.
Suggestions for Prayer: Thank the Lord for the Christian fellowship you enjoy. ✧ Ask for wisdom on how you might advance the gospel more effectively. ✧ Always seek to ease the burden of your spiritual leaders by faithfully participating in the ministry of your church as God has gifted you.
For Further Study: Read Ephesians 4:11–16. ✧ What is the goal of Christian ministry? ✧ What is the role of a pastor/teacher in achieving that goal? ✧ What is your role (see also Rom. 12:6–8; 1 Cor. 12:4–11; 1 Peter 4:10–11)?
Dropping the Dead Weight
Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
Whenever we excuse our sin, we are blaming God. Adam did that when God questioned Him about eating the forbidden fruit. He answered, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate” (Gen. 3:12). Adam did not accept responsibility for his sin but blamed God, who had given Eve to him.
Sin is never God’s fault, nor is it the fault of a person or circumstance that God brings into our lives. Excusing sin impugns God for something that is our fault alone. If He chooses to chasten us, we deserve it.
That’s why confession of sin is essential to spiritual growth. When you openly face the reality of your sin and confess it, you have less dead weight to drag you down in the process of growth. As today’s verse indicates, your growth will increase as the weight of sin drops off through confession.
|God Has Unlimited Power
“Thine, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Thine is the dominion, O Lord, and Thou dost exalt Thyself as head over all.”
1 Chronicles 29:11
God has unlimited power and ultimate control over everything.
There is no limit to God’s power. Revelation 19:6 says, “The Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.” In fact, one Hebrew name for God is El Shaddai (El means “God”; Shaddai means “almighty”). Another word for “almighty” is “omnipotent.”
God can do anything effortlessly. It is no more difficult for Him to create a universe than it is for Him to make a butterfly. We get tired when we work, but God’s infinite power never lessens: “The creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired” (Isa. 40:28).
Not only does God have unlimited power but also the authority to use it. “Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Ps. 115:3). But God’s power, authority, and will are in harmony with His nature. He cannot sin, neither can He accept impenitent sinners. Such actions would contradict His holiness.
People often question what God does because they don’t understand that He can do anything He wants. They ask, “Why did God do that?” I’ve often replied, “Because He wanted to.” He showed His sovereignty—His ultimate control of everything—in showing mercy to some like Isaac and Jacob, while hardening the hearts of others like Pharaoh (Rom. 9:6–21). To those who object to God’s right to control such things, Paul said, “Who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay … ?” (vv. 20–21).
Never question God’s use of His power. He is in control, and “The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and kind in all His deeds” (Ps. 145:17). We can trust that whatever He does, it’s for the best.
Suggestions for Prayer: Praise God for His infinite power and sovereignty.
For Further Study: Read Isaiah 40:21–31. How has God demonstrated His power? ✧ How has He demonstrated His sovereignty? ✧ What comfort should that bring to you?
God Meets Our Needs
The Lord raises those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.
God is aware of, concerned about, and involved in every area of need you have, great or small.
Too often, however, we want to face and deal with only our external needs. We want God to provide a quick answer for us only in the tangible, material realm of life. To dig deeper into our neediness is something we perceive as painful, unnecessary, or too spiritual. God doesn’t agree with that approach. While He is concerned about the needs we face in the practical and natural realm of life, He is even more concerned about the needs that impact our very identity and our potential as human beings.
Scripture reading: Philippians 4:4–9
Key verse: 2 Corinthians 10:5
Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
A clear conscience brings peace to the heart and a sense of contentment to the mind. People who are continually rushing and running in and through trouble shouldn’t be surprised to find it hard to relax and forsake feelings of anxiety.
One of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to lead us into all truth, an essential element in gaining a clear conscience. The apostle Paul wrote, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace shall be with you” (Phil. 4:8–9 nasb).
The verses immediately preceding these also add insight: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!… The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (vv. 4–7 nasb).
When your thoughts are captivated with things that are not of God, it is difficult to experience the hope of His truth. Only when you are in tune with His loving Spirit can you sense His grace and mercy at work in your life.
Lord, help me to be in tune with Your loving Spirit so I can sense Your grace and mercy at work in my life.
February 12 The Ministry of Intercession
|Colossians 4:2–3, 12
I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
The model quarterback is Joe Montana or Bernie Kosar. The model evangelist is Billy Graham. The model pilot is Chuck Yeager. Each possesses the skills and attributes that younger generations seek to emulate.
For intercessors, the clear choice is Epaphras, Paul’s dedicated coworker who prayed with fervor for the Colossian people. His strategy is a proven model that will work in any age. Epaphras always prayed for the Colossian church.
As an intercessor, you must persevere as you allow the Lord to pray through you His concerns for others. Prayers may be answered not within your urgent framework but according to God’s timing. When you intercede for someone, you are to keep praying until you see the need met.
Epaphras labored in his intercession. Prayer for others is hard work; it does not come naturally; it can seem toilsome. But wouldn’t you want someone else to labor in prayer on your behalf?
His purpose in intercession was that the Colossians “may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God” (Col. 4:12 nasb). The intercessor must make the will of God for others the chief pursuit.
Do you want to be used by God? Then pray for others and watch God work.
I want to be used by You, Lord. I want to faithfully intercede for others, to labor in prayer in their behalf. It doesn’t come naturally, so I’m trusting in You to make me an intercessor.
The Word of Truth
Scripture reading: Colossians 3:1–8
Key verse: John 14:6
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Everyone must eventually answer three questions: (1) Where did we come from? (2) Why are we here? and (3) Where are we going?
Philosophers, sages, and prophets have sought to provide solutions, all usually with unsatisfactory conclusions. The Bible claims to have the only adequate response to each of these questions because it provides God’s omniscient perspective in contrast to the futile reasoning of man, who is limited by time, education, observation, culture, and prejudice.
First, we come from God. He created us in His image. We were placed on earth by God and for God. We are not the products of impersonal time or chance. Our origins are rooted in the eternal mind of God.
Second, we are here on earth to know and glorify God in our relationships and through our works.
Third, we shall return to God—for judgment if we have ignored or rejected His terms for knowing Him (reconciliation through the Cross) or for everlasting joy if we have embraced His purposes and presence through the person of Jesus Christ.
All of these answers are revealed in the Word of truth—the Bible—which alone can answer the perplexing problems that confront each generation.
O Lord, thank You for the Word of truth, which answers all my questions.
The Remedy for Sin
Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:14–21
Key Verse: Romans 8:1
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
D L. Moody once said, “Looking at the wound of sin will never save anyone. What you must do is to look at the remedy.”
Worrying about temptation and past sins only leads to episodes of guilt. If you truly want to break the pattern of sin in your life, look to the cross of Jesus Christ. This is your only remedy for sin. It was where God displayed His unconditional love and forgiveness to all of mankind.
You may think what you have done in the past is too horrendous for God to forgive. But nothing can separate you from the love of God. His forgiveness and cleansing are for all who come to Him. You may be a believer who has given in to temptation; God wants to free you from this bondage. However, condemnation is not His way (Rom. 8:1).
He draws us to Himself through the gift of His love. You can scold a person for doing wrong, and he may change his outward actions, but his heart remains unchanged. God goes after the heart. The Word of God provides instruction on how to live a godly life; to this He adds His unconditional love. God knows once a person meets Jesus Christ, his life is eternally changed.
When dealing with people who have fallen, pray to have a Christlike attitude, one that is firm but loving. Let forgiveness be representative of your life, and develop a willingness to help restore people who have sinned.
Precious heavenly Father, I look to the cross of Jesus Christ as the remedy for my sin. You displayed Your unconditional forgiveness there. Thank You for that precious sacrifice, the gift of Your love.
The Grace to Forgive
Scripture Reading: Romans 6:13–17
Key Verse: Romans 6:16
Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?
All of our lives, we have heard the old adage, “Time heals all wounds.” While this rings true occasionally, it is certainly not an all-encompassing rule. There are times when we can actually subvert the effectiveness of time to heal our wounds. Moreover, we can actually work against the power of God to heal our hurts.
What would cause us to do this? It is a matter of forgiveness. When we allow unforgiven hurts to dominate our lives, we are in effect saying, “I do not want to be free from this pain. I want to keep it, nurse it, feed it, and help it to grow. Then, when the time is right, I will thrust this pain upon someone else, hoping to bring misery upon him as well.” Most likely, we never actually voice these intentions, but the effect is the same: we refuse to forgive, and therefore we suffer the pain anew every day.
As Christians, we celebrate that God has chosen not only to forgive our sins but to absolutely forget them as well. According to Psalm 103:12, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” You see, when God forgives us, our sins and failures are totally removed. They are gone—never to be seen, thought of, or heard from again. Ask God today to search your heart and reveal any unforgiven sins that have caused you pain, and ask for the grace to forgive and forget.
Lord, do not let me use the chains of unforgiveness to rebind that which You have set free—my soul and that of my neighbor.
“They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “on the day that I make them My jewels.”
Jesus, You have manifested God’s name to all whom He has given You out of the world. We were His, He gave us to You, and we have kept His word. You pray for us … not for the world but for us whom God has given You. All Yours are God’s, all God’s are Yours; to glorify You. You desire that we also whom God gave You may be with You where You are, that we may behold Your glory which God has given You; for He loved You before the foundation of the world.
You will come again and receive me to Yourself. You will come, in that Day, to be glorified in Your saints and admired among all of us who believe. Then those of us who are alive and remain shall be caught up in the clouds to meet You in the air. And thus we shall always be with You, Lord. I shall also be a crown of glory and a royal diadem in Your hand, my God.
I am Yours—and always will be! What amazing love and hope and joy! Thank You for choosing me and loving me.
Malachi 3:17; John 17:6, 9–10, 24; John 14:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; Isaiah 62:3
Finding Real Love
But the fruit of the Spirit is love.
I’m convinced that what we need most in our world today—in our churches, in our homes and in our personal lives—is a great outpouring of agape love. It is not an accident that God has put love at the top of the list of the fruit of the Spirit, because when that is right, everything else has the greatest potential to fall into place.
How can we get this love in our lives? By finding out how much God really loves us. We love Him because He first loved us.
If your heart is filled with bitterness, resentment, and hard feelings, God loves you just as you are in spite of that. But when you go to His Word and contemplate His love for you, when you see the price He paid that you might have Him and His love, when you drink deeply of His love and thank Him for loving you, the wonder of it all begins to break in on your consciousness.
Then real love, agape love, God’s love, can begin to develop in your life. Get caught up in how God loves you and watch your life respond. The more we know about God and His love for us, the more that love begins to fill our being until we become like Him.
OH! it is a happy way of smoothing sorrow when we can say, “We will wait only upon God.” Oh, ye agitated Christians, do not dishonor your religion by always wearing a brow of care; come, cast your burden upon the Lord. I see ye staggering beneath a weight which He would not feel. What seems to you a crushing burden, would be to him but as the small dust of the balance. See! the Almighty bends his shoulders, and he says, “Here, put thy troubles here.”
“Come unto Me, and I will give you rest.”
What mean these stones?… Ye also as living stones
Josh. 4:21; 1 Peter 2:5 (R.V.)
There should be something so remarkable, so peculiar about the life and conversation of a Christian that men should be compelled to ask, “What does this mean?” … Is there anything in your character, words, and habits of life so different from the world around you that men are involuntarily compelled to ask themselves or others, “What does this mean?” Not that there is to be a forced singularity, a peculiarity for the sake of being peculiar; that were merely to copy the pharisaism of ancient days.… Oh, that we might realize that this is the purpose for which God sends us into the world, as He sent His only begotten Son!
S. A. Blackwood
Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise
In the city of our God, His holy mountain.
We have meditated on Your unfailing love, O God,
In the midst of Your temple.
As is Your name, O God,
So is Your praise to the ends of the earth;
Your right hand is filled with righteousness. (Psalm 48:1, 9–10)
O come, let us worship and bow down,
Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. (Psalm 95:6)
Pause to express your thoughts of praise and worship.
Who can discern his errors?
Cleanse me from hidden faults.
Keep Your servant also from presumptuous sins;
Let them not rule over me.
Then will I be blameless,
And innocent of great transgression. (Psalm 19:12–13)
Ask the Spirit to search your heart and reveal any areas of unconfessed sin. Acknowledge these to the Lord and thank Him for His forgiveness.
Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy; love does not boast, it is not arrogant, it does not behave rudely; it does not seek its own, it is not provoked, it keeps no record of wrongs; it does not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices with the truth; it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4–8)
May my love abound more and more in full knowledge and depth of insight, so that I may be able to approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ—having been filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9–11)
Pause to add your own prayers for personal renewal.
Since I died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, may I not submit to its regulations as though I still belonged to it. (Colossians 2:20)
Growth in Christ
Greater desire to know and please Him
Greater love and commitment to Him
Grace to practice His presence
Grace to glorify Him in my life
My activities for this day
There should be no division in the body, but its members should have the same concern for each other. If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now we are the body of Christ, and each one of us is a member of it. (1 Corinthians 12:25–27)
Churches and Ministries
My local church
Evangelism and discipleship ministries
I am not competent in myself to claim anything for myself, but my competence comes from God. He has made me competent as a minister of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:5–6)
It is because of God that I am in Christ Jesus, who has become for me wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification and redemption. (1 Corinthians 1:30)
Pause to reflect upon these biblical affirmations.
It is in You, Lord Jesus, that I have peace. In this world I will have tribulation, but I will be of good cheer, because You have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
I have been set apart for the gospel of God—I am among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:1, 6)
Pause to offer your own expressions of thanksgiving.
The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters;
He restores my soul.
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23:1–6)
Morning, February 12
“For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.”
— 2 Corinthians 1:5
There is a blessed proportion. The Ruler of Providence bears a pair of scales—in this side he puts his people’s trials, and in that he puts their consolations. When the scale of trial is nearly empty, you will always find the scale of consolation in nearly the same condition; and when the scale of trials is full, you will find the scale of consolation just as heavy. When the black clouds gather most, the light is the more brightly revealed to us. When the night lowers and the tempest is coming on, the Heavenly Captain is always closest to his crew. It is a blessed thing, that when we are most cast down, then it is that we are most lifted up by the consolations of the Spirit. One reason is, because trials make more room for consolation. Great hearts can only be made by great troubles. The spade of trouble digs the reservoir of comfort deeper, and makes more room for consolation. God comes into our heart—he finds it full—he begins to break our comforts and to make it empty; then there is more room for grace. The humbler a man lies, the more comfort he will always have, because he will be more fitted to receive it. Another reason why we are often most happy in our troubles, is this—then we have the closest dealings with God. When the barn is full, man can live without God: when the purse is bursting with gold, we try to do without so much prayer. But once take our gourds away, and we want our God; once cleanse the idols out of the house, then we are compelled to honour Jehovah. “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.” There is no cry so good as that which comes from the bottom of the mountains; no prayer half so hearty as that which comes up from the depths of the soul, through deep trials and afflictions. Hence they bring us to God, and we are happier; for nearness to God is happiness. Come, troubled believer, fret not over your heavy troubles, for they are the heralds of weighty mercies.
Evening, February 12
“He shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.”
— John 14:16
Great Father revealed himself to believers of old before the coming of his Son, and was known to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as the God Almighty. Then Jesus came, and the ever-blessed Son in his own proper person, was the delight of his people’s eyes. At the time of the Redeemer’s ascension, the Holy Spirit became the head of the present dispensation, and his power was gloriously manifested in and after Pentecost. He remains at this hour the present Immanuel—God with us, dwelling in and with his people, quickening, guiding, and ruling in their midst. Is his presence recognized as it ought to be? We cannot control his working; he is most sovereign in all his operations, but are we sufficiently anxious to obtain his help, or sufficiently watchful lest we provoke him to withdraw his aid? Without him we can do nothing, but by his almighty energy the most extraordinary results can be produced: everything depends upon his manifesting or concealing his power. Do we always look up to him both for our inner life and our outward service with the respectful dependence which is fitting? Do we not too often run before his call and act independently of his aid? Let us humble ourselves this evening for past neglects, and now entreat the heavenly dew to rest upon us, the sacred oil to anoint us, the celestial flame to burn within us. The Holy Ghost is no temporary gift, he abides with the saints. We have but to seek him aright, and he will be found of us. He is jealous, but he is pitiful; if he leaves in anger, he returns in mercy. Condescending and tender, he does not weary of us, but awaits to be gracious still.
Sin has been hammering my heart
Unto a hardness, void of love,
Let supplying grace to cross his art
Drop from above.
Genesis 45; Mark 15; Job 11; Romans 15
I shall comment briefly on the two readings set for the day.
Zophar’s speech (Job 11) carries forward the unfolding drama of the book of Job. Like Bildad, Zophar begins by condemning Job’s addresses (11:2–3). To him, it sounds as if Job is claiming personal perfection: “You say to God, ‘My beliefs are flawless and I am pure in your sight’ ” (11:4). Job has been wishing that God would answer him. Well and good, responds Zophar: “Oh, how I wish that God would speak” (11:5). No less than Job, he would love it if God would reply—and he is quite certain that, were God to do so, he would powerfully rebuke Job.
Just for a moment, Zophar seems to take a healthy turn. He begins to deal with the fathomless knowledge and wisdom of the Almighty, far beyond human capacity. If that had been all Zophar had said, he would have anticipated part of the answer of God himself later in the book (chaps. 38–41). Sadly, however, Zophar immediately turns this in a mischievous direction, following the same path as Eliphaz and Bildad: a God so great in knowledge can certainly recognize deceitful men, “and when he sees evil, does he not take note?” (11:11). Once again, the argument degenerates to a fairly mechanical theory of recompense. There is no category for innocent suffering. Job must be very wicked, for he is suffering much; the only reasonable option for him is to turn from the sin that must obviously be engulfing him (11:13–20).
The second passage is of a very different sort. Consider the way Paul here exhorts the Romans to pray: “I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed. The God of peace be with you all. Amen” (Rom. 15:30–33). Note: (a) What Paul asks for is prayer for himself. (b) If the Romans respond by praying, they will by their prayer be joining Paul in his struggle. (c) The particular struggle Paul has in mind is his relationship with unbelievers in Judea; he wants his service for the poor there to be so acceptable that he will be able to leave quickly and make his way to Rome. (d) Within the context of the chapter, this trip to Rome is part of his plan to evangelize Spain. In short, Paul asks for prayers that will further the Gospel in various ways.
What do you characteristically pray for?
Genesis 45; Mark 15; Job 11; Romans 15
In mark 15 people speak better than they know.
“What shall I do, then,” Pilate asks, “with the one you call the king of the Jews?” (15:12). Of course, he utters the expression “king of the Jews” with a certain sneering contempt. When the crowd replies, “Crucify him!” (15:13, 14), the politically motivated think this is the end of another messianic pretender. They do not know that this king has to die, that his reign turns on his death, that he is simultaneously King and Suffering Servant.
The soldiers twist together a crown of thorns and jam it on his head. They hit him and spit on him, and then fall on their knees in mock homage, crying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” (15:18). In fact, he is more than the King of the Jews (though certainly not less). One day, each of those soldiers, and everyone else, will bow down before the resurrected man they mocked and crucified, and confess that he is Lord (Phil. 2:9–11).
Those who passed by could not resist hurling insults: “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!” (15:29–30). The dismissive mockery hid the truth they could not see: earlier Jesus had indeed taught that he himself was the real temple, the antitype of the building in Jerusalem, the ultimate meeting-place between God and human beings (John 2:19–22). Indeed, Jesus not only insisted that he is himself the temple, but that this is so by virtue of the fact that this temple must be destroyed and brought back to life in three days. If he had “come down from the cross” and saved himself, as his mockers put it, he could not have become the destroyed and rebuilt “temple” that reconciles men and women to God.
“He saved others but he can’t save himself” (15:31). Wrong again—and right again. This is the man who voluntarily goes to the cross (14:36; cf. John 10:18). To say “he can’t save himself” is ridiculously limiting. Yet he couldn’t save himself and save others. He saves others by not saving himself.
“Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe” (15:32). But what kind of Christ would they then have believed in? A powerful king, doubtless—but not the Redeemer, not the Sacrifice, not the Suffering Servant. They could not long have believed in him, for the basis of this transformation in them was the very cross-work they were taunting him to abandon.
“Surely this man was the Son of God” (15:39). Yes; more than they knew.
February 12.—Morning. [Or March 25.] “The Lord heareth your murmurings.”
SO Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water.
Their first trouble was too much water, the second is too little; our trials are of all kinds.
23 ¶ And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. (This was tantalizing, they had water, but could not drink it).
24 And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?
25, 26 And he cried unto the Lord; and the Lord shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them, And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee. (God has provided remedies for all ills, sweetening trees for bitter waters, and the cross to sweeten all.)
27 ¶ And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters. (It is not all rough work with pilgrims to Canaan, they have their pleasant seasons. Let them thank God for them.)
AND they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin. (It was strange that God should lead two millions of people into a desert, but wisdom directed his course. Strange providences are gracious providences.)
2 And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness: and said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger. (With shameful readiness they ran to a low-minded form of complaining. There was no spirit in them. The flesh pots and the bread were all they thought of; the brick-making and the whips they overlooked. It is easy to make out the past to have been bright when we wish to find fault with the present.)
4, 5 Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no. And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily. (Our mercies are tests; let us eat and drink to God’s glory.)
6, 7 And Moses and Aaron said unto all the children of Israel, At even, then ye shall know that the Lord hath brought you out from the land of Egypt: And in the morning, then ye shall see the glory of the Lord; for that he heareth your murmurings against the Lord: and what are we, that ye murmur against us?
8 And Moses said, This shall be, when the Lord shall give you in the evening flesh to eat, and in the morning bread to the full; for that the Lord heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him: and what are we? your murmurings are not against us, but against the Lord. (We think it a small thing to murmur against parents and friends, but this sheds a new light upon the matter. It is clear that a discontented heart really murmurs against God himself.)
9, 10 ¶ And Moses spake unto Aaron, Say unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, Come near before the Lord: for he hath heard your murmurings. (This is a solemn truth; let all grumblers remember it.) And it came to pass, as Aaron spake unto the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud.
The cross on which the Saviour died,
And conquer’d for his saints;
This is the tree by faith applied
To sweeten all complaints.
When we by faith behold the cross,
Though many griefs we meet;
We draw a gain from every loss,
And make our Marahs sweet.
February 12.—Evening. [Or March 26.] “I am the living bread.”
AND the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God.
One would have expected a far severer rebuke than this, but the Lord was very pitiful towards them, as he is also towards us. These first murmurings were not visited so severely as those further on. The Lord is loath to use his rod.
13, 14 And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host. And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground.
15 And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat. (They had the best of flesh and better than the best of bread. No king’s table was better spread than theirs. Rest assured he who fed murmurers will not desert believers.)
16 ¶ This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents. (Heaven’s bread must be gathered. We must hear the word, and retain it, or it cannot profit us.)
17 And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less.
18 And when they did mete it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating.
19, 20 And Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning. Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses: but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank: and Moses was wroth with them.
There were misers in the wilderness, and their hoardings stank; there are other misers now upon the earth, whose scrapings are cankered and corrupt. Covetousness is loathsome.
21 And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and when the sun waxed hot, it melted. (Yet it could be cooked! Strange that it could bear one heat and not another.)
22 ¶ And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man: and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses.
23, 24 And he said unto them, This is that which the Lord hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the Lord: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning. And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein.
25, 26 And Moses said, Eat that to day; for to day is a sabbath unto the Lord: to day ye shall not find it in the field. Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none. (Thus the seventh day was honoured by the ceasing of the visible manna, but our first-day Sabbath has a double fall of spiritual manna, and we ought to gather in good store for all the week-days.)
27 ¶ And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none. (This was the surest way of stopping the sin, but it was very grievous that a people so marvellously favoured should be guilty of such a superfluous provocation.)
28, 29, 30 And the Lord said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? See, for that the Lord hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. So the people rested on the seventh day.
31 And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey. (God might have made it bitter, but he delights to see his creatures happy. What a blessed God he is!)
Day by day the manna fell;
Oh! to learn this lesson well:
Still by constant mercy fed,
Give me, Lord, my daily bread.
“Day by day,” the promise reads;
Daily strength for daily needs;
Cast foreboding fears away;
Take the manna of to-day.
Must I listen?
And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die. Exodus 20:19.
We do not consciously disobey God, we simply do not heed Him. God has given us His commands; there they are, but we do not pay any attention to them, not because of wilful disobedience but because we do not love and respect Him. “If ye love Me, ye will keep My commandments.” When once we realize that we have been ‘disrespecting’ God all the time, we are covered with shame and humiliation because we have not heeded Him.
“Speak thou with us … but let not God speak with us.” We show how little we love God by preferring to listen to His servants only. We like to listen to personal testimonies, but we do not desire that God Himself should speak to us. Why are we so terrified lest God should speak to us? Because we know that if God does speak, either the thing must be done or we must tell God we will not obey Him. If it is only the servant’s voice we hear, we feel it is not imperative, we can say, ‘Well, that is simply your own idea, though I don’t deny it is probably God’s truth.’
Am I putting God in the humiliating position of having treated me as a child of His while all the time I have been ignoring Him? When I do hear Him, the humiliation I have put on Him comes back on me—‘Lord, why was I so dull and so obstinate?’ This is always the result when once we do hear God. The real delight of hearing Him is tempered with shame in having been so long in hearing Him.
February 12 – Why the Priority of Humility?
“‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 5:3).
This beatitude was uttered first because humility is the foundation of all other graces and a crucial aspect to salvation (cf. Matt. 18:3–4). The door into Christ’s kingdom is narrow and low, and no one who sees himself or herself too large or too tall will ever pass through. It makes about as much sense to attempt to grow fruit apart from a tree and its branches as to expect the other graces of the Christian life to grow apart from humility.
Until we humble ourselves to recognize our own spiritual poverty and our need of Christ, we cannot see and experience His gracious, saving riches. Jesus said of the contrite tax collector, “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other [the Pharisee]; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14).
No person can receive the kingdom of God until he or she realizes they are unworthy of that kingdom. The proud Laodicean church declared collectively, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” but in reality the members were “wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Rev. 3:17). People like the Laodiceans remind us of the story of the Roman slave girl who would not recognize her blindness, insisting that her world was just permanently dark.
Until the proud are willing to be poor in spirit, they can’t receive the King or enter His kingdom.
We see that pride is the chief barrier between people and God, between sinful souls and Christ’s glorious salvation. But what else does pride restrict us from experiencing and enjoying? What other residual costs does it incur in our lives?
From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610, http://www.moodypublishers.com.
Reading for Today:
Psalm 22:1 This heavy lament rivals Job 3; Psalm 69; Jeremiah 20:14–18. My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? The repeated noun of direct address to God reflects a personal molecule of hope in a seemingly hopeless situation.“ Forsaken” is a strong expression for personal abandonment, intensely felt by David and supremely experienced by Christ on the cross (Matt. 27:46).
Proverbs 8:10, 11 The most valuable reality a young person can attain is the insight to order his life by the standard of truth (see 3:14, 15; 8:19–21; also Job 28:12–28; Ps. 19:10).
Matthew 26:39 this cup. See v. 42. A cup is often the symbol of divine wrath against sin in the Old Testament (Is.51:17, 22; Jer. 25:15–17, 27–29; Lam. 4:21, 22; Ezek. 23:31–34; Hab. 2:16). The next day Christ would “bear the sins of many” (Heb. 9:28)—and the fullness of divine wrath would fall on Him (Is. 53:10, 11; 2 Cor. 5:21). This was the price of the sin He bore, and He paid it in full. His cry of anguish in 27:46 reflects the extreme bitterness of the cup of wrath He was given. not as I will, but as You will. This implies no conflict between the Persons of the Godhead. Rather, it graphically reveals how Christ in His humanity voluntarily surrendered His will to the will of the Father in all things—precisely so that there would be no conflict between the divine will and His desires. See John 4:34; 6:38; 8:29; Phil. 2:8.
DAY 12: Why did Jesus institute the Lord’s Supper?
In Matthew 26:26, “Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body,’” thus transforming His last Passover into the first observance of the Lord’s Supper. He is the central antitype in both ceremonies, being represented symbolically by both the paschal lamb of the Passover and the elements in the communion service. His statement, “this is My body,” could not possibly have been taken in any literal sense by the disciples present that evening. Such metaphorical language was a typical Hebraism. No eucharistic miracle of transubstantiation was implied, nor could the disciples have missed the symbolic intent of His statement, for His actual body—yet unbroken—was before their very eyes.
When He took the cup of wine, He said that this is “My blood of the new covenant” (v. 28). Covenants were ratified with the blood of a sacrifice (Gen. 8:20; 15:9, 10). Jesus’ words here echo Moses’ pronouncement in Exodus 24:8. The blood of the New Covenant is not an animal’s blood, but Christ’s own blood, shed for the remission of sins. See Jeremiah 31:31–34; Hebrews 8:1–10:18, especially 8:6.Thus He established the observance as an ordinance for worship (1 Cor. 11:23–26). Passover had looked forward to the sacrifice of Christ; He transformed it into an altogether different ceremony, which looks back in remembrance at His atoning death.
From The MacArthur Daily Bible Copyright © 2003. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson Bibles, a division of Thomas Nelson, Inc, Nashville, TN 37214, http://www.thomasnelson.com.
Fri, February 12, 2016
Make Time to Pray
“Am I faithful in prayer?” Ask yourself that. “Well, I’m busy,” you say. Yes, you are busy. So was the Lord Jesus. So was Martin Luther. Luther said, “In the morning I have so much work to do that I am going to have to pray longer today.” Are you faithful in prayer, and do you meditate on the Word? How much of Scripture have you read lately? Have you read it wth meditation and tenderness? These are a few questions. You can answer them evasively and the snow lies there. Or you can answer them honestly and see the springtime come to your heart. Put yourself in the hands of the One who loves you infinitely. If you have failed Him, you will have to admit that there is a rut or snow on the meadow. Tell Him so–don’t hide it. He will not turn His back in anger and say, “You disappoined me and betrayed me.” There is a balm in Gilead, plenty of it. The balm and healing in the blood of the Lamb will get you out of the rut.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
Prayer that is prayer is honest, straightforward communication with God. It is not a monologue, a complaint recital, an endless wish list. It is communing with God and listening to Him.
Lord, teach me to pray, really pray.
A. W. Tozer
Faith’s Checkbook: God Delights to Give
After Lot had departed, the Lord said to Abram, “Look from the place where you stand to the north, south, east, and west. I will give all the land that you see to you and your descendants forever. – Gen 13:14-15 NET
A special blessing for a memorable occasion. Abram had settled a family dispute. He had said, “Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between thee and me, for we be brethren”; and hence he received the blessing which belongs to peacemakers. The Lord and giver of peace delights to manifest His grace to those who seek peace and pursue it. If we desire closer communion with God, we must keep closer to the ways of peace.
Abram had behaved very generously to his kinsman, giving him his choice of the land. If we deny ourselves for peace’s sake, the Lord will more than make it up to us. As far as the patriarch can see, he can claim, and we may do the like by faith. Abram had to wait for the actual possession, but the Lord entailed the land upon him and his posterity. Boundless blessings belong to us by covenant gift. All things are ours. When we please the Lord, He makes us to look everywhere and see all things our own, whether things present or things to come, all are ours, and we are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
C. H. Spurgeon
CONFESSION: Confess and Bewail your Original Corruption
We must therefore confess and bewail our original corruption in the first place: that we are the children of apostate and rebellious parents, and the nature of man is depraved and has wretchedly degenerated from its primitive purity and rectitude, and such is our nature.
Lord, you made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes; Ecclesiastes 7:29(ESV) and being in pomp, they did not understand, and therefore did not remain, but became like the beasts that perish. Psalm 49:20(ESV)
Through one man sin came into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned: Romans 5:12(ESV) By that one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, including all of us. Romans 5:19(ESV)
We are the offspring of evildoers; Isaiah 1:4(ESV) our father was an Amorite and our mother a Hittite; and we ourselves were called (and not miscalled) rebels from before birth, and you knew we would deal treacherously. Isaiah 48:8(ESV)
The nature of man was planted a choice and noble vine, wholly of pure seed, but it has turned degenerate and become a wild vine, Jeremiah 2:21(ESV) producing the grapes of Sodom and the clusters of Gomorrah. Deuteronomy 32:32(ESV) How the gold has grown dim, how the pure gold is changed! Lamentations 4:1(ESV)
Behold, we were brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did our mothers conceive us. Psalm 51:5(ESV) For, who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? There is not one. Job 14:4(ESV) We are by nature children of wrath, because children of disobedience, like the rest of mankind. Ephesians 2:2-3(ESV)
All flesh has corrupted their way; Genesis 6:12(ESV) we have all turned aside; together we have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. Psalm 14:3(ESV)
Matthew Henry’s method for prayer
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