I’VE GOT PEACE LIKE A RIVER
The Lord gives strength to His people; the Lord blesses His people with peace. (Psalm 29:11)
Not merely in the words you say,
Not merely in your deeds confessed,
But in the most unconscious way
Is Christ expressed.
And from your eyes He beckons me,
And from your heart His love is shed,
Till I lose sight of you …
And see Christ the Lord instead.
For the past month we have been considering the benefits and blessings of being a Christian—joy, peace, contentment … with rivers of living waters flowing out of such a life (John 7:38). Knowing Christ as personal Savior, experiencing the guiding presence of the Holy Spirit, and living with a glorious hope for eternity should produce a dramatic difference in the personality and lifestyle of every true believer. Christ’s redemptive work provides not only for our eternal glory, but also for a full and abundant life now (John 10:10). A professing Christian who is perceived by his family, friends, and colleagues to be continually sour, contentious, and discontent is a disgrace to the gospel and a hindrance in the work of evangelism.
May the words of this little spiritual increasingly become our genuine testimony as we earnestly seek to direct others to Christ the Lord:
I’ve got peace like a river in my soul.
I’ve got joy like a fountain in my soul.
I’ve got faith like a mountain in my soul.
I’ve got love like an ocean in my soul.
I’ve got Christ as my Savior in my soul.
For Today: Psalm 107:9; 119:165; Isaiah 26:3; John 14:27; 16:33; Philippians 4:6, 7, 11; 1 Timothy 6:6
Ask God to make your life truly reflect the peace, joy, faith and love of His indwelling presence as you seek to be an effective representative for Him. Allow the Holy Spirit to produce the “rivers of living water” in your daily living. Carry this musical message with you—
July 31: Cosmic, Creation, Chaos
2 Samuel 23:1–24:25; Jude 1:17–25; Psalm 148:1–150:6
Psalm 148 is cosmic in scope and comforting in message. It’s a depiction of how Yahweh brought order to chaos in the very beginning. Yahweh put the heavens, heights, angels, hosts (His armies), sun, moon, stars, and waters in their place—each a sign of His rule over the universe (Psa 148:1–5). Yahweh rules over the elements commonly depicted as gods in the ancient Near East; He rules over the symbols of chaos. And this cosmic depiction is comforting.
The version of the creation story we typically hear tells how things came to be, which is good. But when the story is cast like it is in Psa 148—where we see God as ruler and Lord over chaos—the message moves beyond an intellectual knowledge. If God rules over chaos, and has since the beginning, He can bring order to the chaos in our own lives. For this reason, the psalmist praises Yahweh both for His creation and for His work in his own life.
The end of Psa 148 further reveals Yahweh’s intimate work with the worshiper: The psalmist declares Yahweh praiseworthy because “he has raised high a horn [the symbol of strength] for his people … for the children of Israel, a people close to him” (Psa 148:14). Yahweh’s work in creation proves that He is the most worthy partner in adverse situations. When things get tough, Yahweh will come through.
Sadly, the message of God’s provision for us has become so cliché that it’s easy for us to take for granted. Perhaps that’s why it’s the central message of so many biblical books. For example, when Jude prays for protection for believers, he calls out to Jesus—dedicating his message to Him and His work (Jude 17–25). In doing so, Jude uses the words that would have traditionally conjured up images of God’s work in either creation or war—both of which parallel psalms like Psa 148. Jude declares that Jesus deserves “glory, power, and authority” (Jude 25) because He is the “savior” of people and the universe, both of which Yahweh created (Jude 24). Jesus is the one who came to earth to win the battle against chaos.
Next time things seem get rough, try replacing the cliché of “God is in control” with “God is Lord over chaos.” The tense here is important. God isn’t trying to be Lord—He is Lord. When God spoke, the chaos was subdued. Likewise, when God speaks truth into our lives, the chaos in our lives is subdued. Through Christ’s work, we have the opportunity for this intimate relationship with God. Through Christ’s efforts in us, we can become people who act with Him to subdue chaos.
What chaos do you need God to subdue today?
John D. Barry
Welcome to Daily Treasures from the Word of God. Today’s reading is Romans 9 through 12. Our lesson is from Romans 9:22, “What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?” (NASU)
God’s wrath is an often misunderstood topic. The general misconception is based on perceptions which equate it to human wrath. Nothing could be further from the biblical perspective. God does not fly into a fit of rage, as we humans tend to do. Let’s look at what Paul says about it.
First, God expresses His wrath. It is important to realize that God’s wrath is His response to injustice. He is the only one who is perfect in justice. The Lord is the supreme Judge and jury. He cannot be bought or bribed. No one can influence Him to do something unjust. This is very reassuring to the people of God.
From the time of the fall in Genesis 3 there has been an increase in depravity in the human condition both individually and corporately. Injustice has become so commonplace that the abnormal, i.e., the sinful condition of mankind, has become “normal.” God’s wrath will bring justice to those who have been wronged, as the Psalms assert time after time. There is a just God sitting on the throne of the universe in spite of the apparent injustices that we see. His justice will prevail.
Second, God expresses His power. The wrath of the Lord is closely related to His power. Wrath without the power to do justice would just be an expression of rage. It is not so with the Lord. His power is capable of changing wrong situations for the advancement of His glory and kingdom. The all-just Ruler of the universe, our Lord, uses His power not for personal and selfish gain, as would a human being, but to demonstrate His care and love for all of the created order.
Third, God expresses His patience. This may be the most difficult for us as limited, finite human beings to understand. The Bible is full of many examples of God’s patience being tested by individuals, kings and nations and it seems He does not do anything in response. But we must remember that the Lord’s patience is in order to allow the sinner to come to repentance. A biblical example is the universal flood that took place in the days of Noah. For 120 years Noah preached repentance. Finally the Lord Himself closed the door to the ark and final judgment was executed.
In analysis, God expresses His wrath. God expresses His power. And God expresses His patience. Let’s respond in total submission to the Lord in order to convey our grateful appreciation, love and gratitude to Him.
It has been a pleasure to share with you Daily Treasures from the Word of God. Tomorrow’s Bible reading is Romans 13 through 16. 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.
|Your Present Deliverance
“… obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:9).
Your present deliverance sets you free from the penalty and power of sin.
In 1 Corinthians 1:18 Paul says that “the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (emphasis added). That emphasizes the marvelous reality of the believer’s present deliverance from sin. Peter stressed the same truth in 1 Peter 1:9, where he says that believers obtain as the outcome of their faith the salvation of their souls.
The Greek word translated “obtaining” literally means “presently receiving for yourselves.” It speaks of obtaining something that is due you as a result of your faith in Christ. “Outcome of your faith” refers to the logical result or end of faith. “Souls” speaks of the whole person. The entire verse could be translated, “You rejoice because you have and continue to hold on to the logical result of your proven faith—your ongoing deliverance from sin.”
You need ongoing deliverance because sin is an ongoing problem. You have new life in Christ, you are a new creature in Him, and you are no longer a slave to the penalty and power of sin; but you’re not yet fully glorified. Consequently you’re still subject to sin’s influence. Paul personalized that struggle in Romans 7, where he says, “The good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish. … I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good. … Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (vv. 19, 21, 24). The victory comes in verse 25, which says, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Jesus is the Great Deliverer, through whom you have victory over sin, death, and Hell. That’s the last spiritual privilege in Peter’s brief list, but it’s by no means the least. As you love and trust Him, you’ll know the joy of present deliverance.
Suggestions for Prayer: Praise the Lord for your deliverance from sin’s bondage.
For Further Study: Review all the spiritual privileges and sources of Christian joy we’ve discussed this month. Keep them fresh in your mind as you face the challenges of each new day.
The Depth of His Love
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
jesus has time for you. He is never too busy for you. He will listen to you, no matter what you desire to say to Him. Jesus has answers for you. No matter what problem or difficulty you are facing, Jesus has a way out of your negative situation. He will speak to you through His Word and through the Holy Spirit prompting you to take godly actions. Jesus not only gives us answers about life, but He readily reveals to us Himself. He is quick to show us how He works, what He desires, how much He loves, and the depth of His concern. He will answer any question you ever have about who He is.
The Priority Struggle
Scripture reading: Matthew 6:31–34
Key verse: Matthew 6:33
Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
Any one of us for a number of reasons may stray in our devotion to God. It takes sheer discipline to remain faithful, especially when trouble hits. However, we can achieve this, no matter what the circumstances, when our hearts are focused on Him.
When your priorities get off center, it is easy to feel disillusioned and complacent. Before you know it, you have allowed a shift to take place in the things you hold dear. Some of the signs that priorities are out of line are the presence of sin, fear, compulsiveness, indifference, and self-involvement.
How can you keep your priorities straight? Begin by asking God to make you sensitive to the areas of your life that He wants to prioritize. Let Him arrange your days and your future. He always brings new experiences and ideas to mind. When you try to manage life apart from the Savior’s wisdom, fearfulness and worry are always present. You can trust Jesus to keep you balanced and on target. He knows what He has planned for you, and if you will follow His lead, you will be surprised at the joy and peace He brings your way.
Learn to give yourself away to others. That was a top priority to Jesus, and it should be for you as well. When the Spirit of God rules your life, your pathway will be sure and pleasant.
Father, rule my life by Your Spirit. Make my pathway sure and pleasant.
Reprogrammed for Righteousness
Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.
A man once said to me, “I’ve come to Christ, but I still have so much garbage in my mind. How do I clean it out?” I answered him, “You’ve been programmed by the world for a long time, so your mind is full of filth. Therefore, it has to be reprogrammed—completely cleansed.”
The only way to reprogram your mind with God’s righteousness is to read, study, and meditate on the Word of God. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16).
If you’re a Christian, and you submit to the Holy Spirit as you study Scripture, you will have a reprogrammed mind that focuses on God’s righteousness and helps you live accordingly (Rom. 12:1–2; Phil. 4:8).
July 31 Will You Answer the Call?
You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
For a moment he studied the crowd moving toward the front of the church. Then with sweaty palms and a nervous feeling in the pit of his stomach, he stepped out into the aisle. As he walked to the front of the church, the words of “Have Thine Own Way” comforted him.
Standing at the altar, he suddenly felt a small hand slip inside his. In looking down he saw the face of his seven–year–old daughter. “I will go for Jesus, too, Daddy,” she said and beamed a smile. As he lifted his eyes, he saw his wife holding their eighteen–month–old son. She said, “Darling, we’ll all go for Him.” He knew the moment meant total surrender to the will of God.
But so much had happened in the past. So many tears. So many words spoken in haste and anger. Could Jesus see past the years spent in sin and denial? Could God really be calling them to carry the light of His gospel halfway around the world?
Yes. God uses people with hearts turned toward Him. Past sins and failures are forgiven. He abides in the immediacy of the moment. When we open our hearts in obedient faith to His will, He uses us. Jesus has a job for you to do, and no one else can take your place.
Will you go for Him? Will you answer His call?
Yes, Lord, I’ll answer the call. I’ll leave the past behind. Send me. Use me. I’m ready to go.
In Difficult Times
Scripture reading: Psalm 4:1–8
Key verse: Psalm 4:5
Offer the sacrifices of righteousness,
And put your trust in the Lord.
In her book Abiding in Christ, Cynthia Heald writes about her journey of faith during difficult times:
The wise counsel of Proverbs 3:5–6 has been in my heart for over twenty–five years. Although it has become an old friend, its encouragement continues to be fresh and new in my life.
During a recent struggle, it seemed that the Lord was saying to me, “Do you trust Me?” My response was, “Yes, Lord, I trust You. But can’t You rephrase the question: Do you trust Me to work everything out so that you are happy? I think I could really trust You then.”
But the Lord was steadfast: the issue was my unconditional trust. No strings attached, no negotiating, no promises.
In a deeper way, I began to understand what it means to trust God with all my heart. There is no room for bargaining for what I think is best, only implicit confidence and patience in His plan.
The Scriptures do not guarantee that all will be well according to our human perspective. They do, however, promise that God will work all things for our good. As we learn to trust Him no matter what, He develops within us a deeply rooted confidence in Him. This confidence enables us to lean on His understanding and His ways of working in our lives.
Is God asking you to trust Him unconditionally?
Dear heavenly Father, let me trust You unconditionally—even in difficult times.
Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 4:3–6
Key Verses: Matthew 13:15–16
“For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.” But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear.
When telling of his conversion experience, the apostle Paul always included the footnote that he was a “Hebrew of Hebrews.”
The people of Paul’s day understood exactly what he was trying to convey. His terminology gave evidence that he was a well-educated Jewish purebred.
From the time of his birth, Paul was taught to think within the confines of the Law of Moses. As a young man, he spent his days in the synagogue where he studied under Gamaliel, one of history’s greatest Jewish scholars.
His debates among Stoic philosophers underscored his vast knowledge. But in reality, Paul was quite blind. Mentally he might have been on the borderline of brilliance, but spiritually he lived in darkness. Only Jesus Christ could provide Paul with an education that would change not only his own life, but the lives of all who followed his teaching.
God’s true wisdom and knowledge cannot be found in a human textbook. You may have a “degree of degrees”; but until you sit in God’s classroom, you are living in spiritual blindness. Ask God to remove the scales from your eyes that may keep you in spiritual blindness. Open your heart to study His Word, and you will find the key to true understanding.
Dear heavenly Father, I can’t make this journey if I cannot see the way. Let the light of Your Word clear up my spiritual blindness. Remove the scales from my eyes.
The Lifeline to Freedom
Scripture Reading: James 1:12–17
Key Verse: James 1:12
Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
Satan cannot have your soul, so he wants nothing more than to ruin your fellowship with the Lord and to sidetrack your walk and your witness.
James, Jesus’ half-brother, describes the destructive progression Satan sets in motion through temptation: “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death” (James 1:14–15 nasb).
We can be carried away and lured to go beyond the limits of our God-given desires and interests. Our own lust can conceive and give birth to sin. But this birth is not one involving life. Rather, it brings forth death.
Jesus, however, is a God of hope. While it sometimes seems as if Satan is throwing everything in his formidable arsenal at us, we can trust in God’s Word and believe Him when He tells us that He is faithful. He will never allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able, in His power, to withstand. God will always give us the opportunity to escape. He always honors His Word. And He is always trustworthy.
The key to overcoming temptation is simple obedience. At times, that may seem impossible. But keep in mind that what is impossible with man is possible with God (Matthew 19:26). The Bible says that He will make a way of escape. The lifeline to freedom forever will be there. It is simply a matter of whether we are willing to grab hold.
Dear Lord, I thank You that You will not allow me to be tempted beyond what I am able. Thank You that the lifeline to freedom is available to me today as I reject temptation.
|The Blessings of Assurance
“For as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble.”
2 Peter 1:10
Assurance of salvation lets us enjoy earthly blessings.
It is encouraging that scriptural assurance results in specific, practical blessings in the Christian life. Here are six I’d like to share with you today.
Assurance makes you praise God. There is no way you can be filled with praise and gratitude to God if you’re not sure you’re saved.
Assurance adds joy to your earthly duties and trials. No matter what happens to you, you can be certain that all will work out well in the end. Difficulties are easier to handle when you know they’re temporary.
Assurance makes you zealous in obedience and service. If you’re doubtful about your salvation, you will be apathetic and discouraged. But if you’re sure, you will be hard–working and encouraged in serving the Lord.
Assurance gives you victory in temptation. When you are confident about your salvation, you can overcome the strongest temptation (see 1 Cor. 10:13). Even if you stumble occasionally, you will know that those events have not changed your standing before God. But you will be depressed and discouraged by temptation if you have no assurance. You’ll doubt your ability to cope with temptations and will wonder if falling victim to one or two will send you to Hell.
Assurance gives contentment in this life. You’ll rest secure in the promise that you have a glorious heavenly inheritance to look forward to. At the same time, you will be happy and satisfied that God “shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:9). But if you lack assurance of salvation, you’ll scramble and reach for all the world’s material goods and feel cheated when you don’t obtain them.
Assurance removes the fear of death. If you know you’re a child of God, you can be sure that the moment you die you will enter Heaven. If you don’t have that assurance, however, you’ll be even more afraid to die than one who has never heard of Christ.
If you are growing spiritually, you will have assurance, and that will let you enjoy these and other blessings as you look forward to being with the Lord for all eternity.
Suggestions for Prayer: Pray that God would help you share the blessings of assurance with someone else.
For Further Study: Read Psalm 138. What was David thankful for? ✧ What reassurances are there for every believer?
Endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
Lord God, You have given Jesus as a witness to the people, a leader and commander for the people. It was fitting for You, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of our salvation perfect through sufferings. I must enter Your kingdom through many tribulations, Lord God.
I do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore I take up the whole armor that You provide, God. I do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of my warfare are not carnal but mighty in Your power for pulling down strongholds.
May You, the God of all grace, who called me to Your eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after I have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle me.
Lord God, thank You for providing me, Your humble soldier, with battle armor and Your constant presence.
2 Timothy 2:3; Isaiah 55:4; Hebrews 2:10; Acts 14:22; Ephesians 6:12–13; 2 Corinthians 10:3–4; 1 Peter 5:1
Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
It’s impossible to have faith unless the mind embraces that information which comprises the gospel message. There are specific facts which must be embraced. Faith is not just a warm feeling that comes over you on a bright, sunny day. How would anyone in Seattle or Alaska ever get saved? No, faith is more than a warm feeling. It is the appropriation of certain facts about a man named Jesus.
Gaining perception means you have perceived something. And that “something” is the facts of the gospel message—objective, quantifiable, expressible information. The Bible speaks about false gospels, which means someone has the facts wrong, purposefully or accidentally. So the truth is what has to be perceived and received as “step one” in gaining faith. And that truth comes by hearing the Word of God.
Fri, July 31, 2015
JESUS SAID HE WAS GOD
The more we study the words of our Lord Jesus Christ when He lived on earth among us, the more certain we are about who He is. Some critics have scoffed: “Jesus did not claim to be God. He only said He was the Son of Man.” It is true that Jesus used the term, “Son of Man” frequently. But He testified boldly, even among those who were His sworn enemies, that He was God. He said with great forcefulness that He had come from the Father in heaven and that He was equal with the Father. Bible-believing Christians stand together on this. They may differ about the mode of baptism, church policy or the return of the Lord. But they agree on the deity of the eternal Son. Jesus Christ is of one substance with the Father-begotten, not created (Nicene Creed). In our defense of this truth we must be very careful and old-belligerent, if need be! Christ is the brightness of God’s glory, and the express image of God’s Person!
But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, 0 God, is for ever and ever.
Christ is the brightness of God’s glory, and the express image of God’s Person!
Lord, I do reallize that you are just who you said you are, and I worship you as the Son of God.
A. W. Tozer
July 31 – Tension between Faith and Doubt
“Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. The men were amazed, and said, ‘What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?’” (Matthew 8:26–27).
If you have been a believer for very long, you realize that knowing about the Lord’s love and powerful concern and trusting in them do not always go hand in hand. Even when we trust, it is not always complete or without trepidation. When the disciples witnessed Jesus calming the storm and waves, they were no doubt relieved but also still very much unnerved. Matthew says they “were amazed,” and Mark says they were “very much afraid” (Mark 4:41). They were now perhaps more afraid of the One who had just stilled the storm than they had been of the storm itself.
Our human frailties are so much a part of us that even after God has rescued us or done something amazing on our behalf, we still have doubts and fears. Like the apostles and the greats of the Old Testament, we can be most perplexed and fearful right after experiencing God’s greatness and mercy.
Our faith needs continual strengthening, as the disciples came to realize when they implored, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5; cf. Mark 9:24). We know the Lord can and will provide according to His perfect will and timing, but we easily can fail to trust in that reality. If we rely on mere “little faith” rather than complete faith, we will be afraid, timid, and doubtful when difficulties arise.
What is a proper response to God’s care, even when it arrives in undeniable power and an uncanny arrangement of events? What should gratitude be growing in us each time we see Him working on our behalf and for His kingdom’s cause?
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:
Esther 1:9 Queen Vashti.Greek literature records her name as Amestris. She gave birth (ca. 483 B.C.) to Ahasuerus’s third son, Artaxerxes, who later succeeded his father Ahasuerus on the throne (Ezra 7:1).
Esther 2:5 Mordecai. He was among the fourth generation of deported Jews. Kish. Mordecai’s great-grandfather who actually experienced the Babylonian deportation. After Babylon fell to Medo-Persia (ca. 539 B.C.), Jews were moved to other parts of the new kingdom. Kish represents a Benjamite family name that could be traced back (ca. 1100 B.C.) to Saul’s father (1 Sam. 9:1).
Proverbs 22:6 way he should go. There is only one right way, God’s way, the way of life. That way is specified in great detail in Proverbs. Since it is axiomatic that early training secures lifelong habits, parents must insist upon this way, teaching God’s Word and enforcing it with loving discipline consistently throughout the child’s upbringing.
Romans 2:6–10 Although Scripture everywhere teaches that salvation is not on the basis of works (4:1–4; Eph. 2:8, 9), it consistently teaches that God’s judgment is always on the basis of a man’s deeds (Is. 3:10,11; Jer. 17:10; John 5:28, 29; 1 Cor. 3:8; 2 Cor. 5:10; Gal. 6:7–9; Rom. 14:12). Paul describes the deeds of two distinct groups: the redeemed (vv. 7, 10) and the unredeemed (vv. 8, 9). The deeds of the redeemed are not the basis of their salvation but the evidence of it. They are not perfect and are prone to sin, but there is undeniable evidence of righteousness in their lives (James 2:14–20, 26).
Romans 2:11 partiality. Literally, “to receive a face,” that is, to give consideration to someone simply because of his position, wealth, influence, popularity, or appearance. Because it is God’s nature to be just, it is impossible for Him to be anything but impartial (Acts 10:34; Gal. 2:6; Eph. 6:7, 8; Col. 3:25; 1 Pet. 1:17).
DAY 31: Why isn’t God directly mentioned in Esther?
The question naturally arises when reading the book. Even the usual clues about God’s presence seem absent. No one refers to the Law of God, sacrifices, worship, or prayer. God does not appear to receive public or private recognition for the preservation of the Jews. When it comes to God, Esther seems strangely silent.
In fact, the silence is so obvious that it becomes an argument. Esther challenges the tendency to demand that God prove His power and presence. Must God be apparent? All too quickly we expect God to demonstrate in unmistakable ways His identity. Yet God has repeatedly resisted human ultimatums. God reveals Himself for His own purposes, not human requirements.
Throughout history, God has more readily operated behind the scenes than in plain sight. The Scriptures are filled with unusual circumstances in which God worked obviously. But Esther comes close to revealing God’s standard procedure. God’s fingerprints are all over Esther’s story. His superficial absence points to a deeper presence. God chose to be subtle, but He was there. The events in Esther give us a model for hope when God works in less than obvious ways in our lives.
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.
THANKSGIVING: Thank God for Gracious Answers to your Prayers
For gracious answers to our prayers.
We have reason to love you, O LORD, because you have heard the voice of our pleas for mercy, Psalm 130:2(ESV) and because you have inclined your ear to us; we will therefore call upon you as long as we live. Psalm 116:1-2(ESV)
Out of the depths we have called to you, O LORD, Psalm 130:1(ESV) and you have heard our vows and given us the heritage of those who fear your name. Psalm 61:5(ESV)
Indeed, before we have called, you have answered; and while we have been yet speaking, you have heard, Isaiah 65:24(ESV) and have said, “Here I am,” Isaiah 58:9(ESV) and have been near to us whenever we call upon you. Deuteronomy 4:7(ESV)
Lord, you have heard the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart, and incline your ear to hear. Psalm 10:17(ESV)
Blessed be God, who has not rejected our prayer or removed his steadfast love from us; Psalm 66:20(ESV) for we have prayed and gone away, and our faces have been no longer sad. 1 Samuel 1:18(ESV)
Matthew Henry’s Method For Prayer
The word of the Lord is upright,
And all His work is done in faithfulness.
He loves righteousness and justice;
The earth is full of the lovingkindness of the Lord. (Psalm 33:4–5)
Once God has spoken;
Twice I have heard this:
That power belongs to God,
And that You, O Lord, are loving.
For You reward each person according to what he has done. (Psalm 62:11–12)
Pause to express your thoughts of praise and worship.
When I have sinned against You, hear from heaven and forgive my sin and restore me. Teach me the good way in which I should walk. When I sin against You—for there is no one who does not sin—may I return to You with all my heart and with all my soul. (1 Kings 8:33–34, 36, 46, 48)
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.
Like Noah, may I be a righteous person, blameless among the people of my time, and one who walks with God. (Genesis 6:9)
Like Moses, may I do according to all that the Lord commands me. (Exodus 39:42; 40:16)
Pause to add your own prayers for personal renewal.
But You, O Lord, be not far off;
O my Strength, come quickly to help me. (Psalm 22:19)
Understanding and insight into the word
Understanding my identity in Christ
Who I am
Where I came from
Where I am going
Understanding God’s purpose for my life
My activities for this day
We should bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)
Those in ministry
Those who are oppressed and in need
You are my lamp, O Lord;
The Lord turns my darkness into light.
With Your help I can advance against a troop;
With my God I can leap over a wall. (2 Samuel 22:29–30)
You know the way that I take;
When You have tested me, I shall come forth as gold.
My feet have held fast to Your steps;
I have kept to Your way without turning aside. (Job 23:10–11)
Pause to reflect upon these biblical affirmations.
In the beginning You created the heavens and the earth. When the earth was formless and empty, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, Your Spirit hovered over the face of the waters. And You said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Then You said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” So You made the expanse and separated the waters under the expanse from the waters above it, and it was so. Then You said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered into one place, and let dry ground appear”; and it was so. And You saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:1–10)
Pause to offer your own expressions of thanksgiving.
Come and listen, all you who fear God,
And I will tell you what He has done for my soul.
I cried out to Him with my mouth,
And He was extolled with my tongue.
If I had regarded iniquity in my heart,
The Lord would not have heard.
But God has surely heard;
He has attended to the voice of my prayer.
Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer
Nor His love from me! (Psalm 66:16–20)
Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall
1 Cor. 10:12
Angels fell in Heaven, Adam in paradise, Peter in Christ’s presence.
THERE is a time appointed for weakness and sickness, when we shall have to glorify God by suffering, and not by earnest activity. There is no single point in which we can hope to escape from the sharp arrows of affliction; out of our few days there is not one secure from sorrow. Beloved reader, set not your affections upon things of earth; but seek those things which are above, for here the moth devoureth, and the thief breaketh through, but there all joys are perpetual and eternal. The path of trouble is the way home. Lord, make this thought a pillow for many a weary head!
Morning, July 31
“I in them.”
— John 17:23
If such be the union which subsists between our souls and the person of our Lord, how deep and broad is the channel of our communion! This is no narrow pipe through which a thread-like stream may wind its way, it is a channel of amazing depth and breadth, along whose glorious length a ponderous volume of living water may roll its floods. Behold he hath set before us an open door, let us not be slow to enter. This city of communion hath many pearly gates, every several gate is of one pearl, and each gate is thrown open to the uttermost that we may enter, assured of welcome. If there were but one small loophole through which to talk with Jesus, it would be a high privilege to thrust a word of fellowship through the narrow door; how much we are blessed in having so large an entrance! Had the Lord Jesus been far away from us, with many a stormy sea between, we should have longed to send a messenger to him to carry him our loves, and bring us tidings from his Father’s house; but see his kindness, he has built his house next door to ours, nay, more, he takes lodging with us, and tabernacles in poor humble hearts, that so he may have perpetual intercourse with us. O how foolish must we be, if we do not live in habitual communion with him. When the road is long, and dangerous, and difficult, we need not wonder that friends seldom meet each other, but when they live together, shall Jonathan forget his David? A wife may when her husband is upon a journey, abide many days without holding converse with him, but she could never endure to be separated from him if she knew him to be in one of the chambers of her own house. Why, believer, dost not thou sit at his banquet of wine? Seek thy Lord, for he is near; embrace him, for he is thy Brother. Hold Him fast, for he is thine Husband; and press him to thine heart, for he is of thine own flesh.
Evening, July 31
“And these are the singers … they were employed in that work day and night.”
— 1 Chronicles 9:33
Well was it so ordered in the temple that the sacred chant never ceased: for evermore did the singers praise the Lord, whose mercy endureth for ever. As mercy did not cease to rule either by day or by night, so neither did music hush its holy ministry. My heart, there is a lesson sweetly taught to thee in the ceaseless song of Zion’s temple, thou too art a constant debtor, and see thou to it that thy gratitude, like charity, never faileth. God’s praise is constant in heaven, which is to be thy final dwelling-place, learn thou to practise the eternal hallelujah. Around the earth as the sun scatters his light, his beams awaken grateful believers to tune their morning hymn, so that by the priesthood of the saints perpetual praise is kept up at all hours, they swathe our globe in a mantle of thanksgiving, and girdle it with a golden belt of song.
The Lord always deserves to be praised for what he is in himself, for his works of creation and providence, for his goodness towards his creatures, and especially for the transcendent act of redemption, and all the marvellous blessing flowing therefrom. It is always beneficial to praise the Lord; it cheers the day and brightens the night; it lightens toil and softens sorrow; and over earthly gladness it sheds a sanctifying radiance which makes it less liable to blind us with its glare. Have we not something to sing about at this moment? Can we not weave a song out of our present joys, or our past deliverances, or our future hopes? Earth yields her summer fruits: the hay is housed, the golden grain invites the sickle, and the sun tarrying long to shine upon a fruitful earth, shortens the interval of shade that we may lengthen the hours of devout worship. By the love of Jesus, let us be stirred up to close the day with a psalm of sanctified gladness. 
I have not written to you because I did not know how to write without touching on the one all absorbing subject of my thoughts, and yet could not speak of that, while there was any hope that it should not reach you. Now, however, that hope is vain, and I may therefore speak freely of our trials, and of my dear husband’s bitter suffering.
My dear husband has been most cruelly treated; and the Lord’s cause has suffered a sad blow, through the mistakes of some whom he supposed to be his warmest friends. I do not however blame them. They have meant to do right, and they could have had no power at all against him, unless God had permitted it, so that I am able to overlook second causes and to accept all that has come to us as from the hands of God, and to say continually “Your will be done.” Our friends in this country all know my dear husband too well, to believe for one moment the wicked slanders that come from England concerning him, and they have all drawn closer to him than ever. This is a great comfort to him, but he is a heartbroken man, and will never I fear recover anything of his old energy or health.
As for myself, the effect of this has been to teach me to rest more utterly and more blindly than ever in the sweet will of God. No one ever committed themselves and their lives more completely to the Lord than we did; and since He has permitted this, it must be for the best, dark as it looks. I feel just like a little chicken that has run out of a storm under the mother’s wings and is safe there. I hear the raging of the storm, and I am utterly unable to understand it nor to measure the damage it is doing. But I am safe “under His wings” and there I must rest. He can manage the storm, I cannot. Why then should I worry or be anxious?
—To Priscie, 1315 Filbert St., Philadelphia, Pa., February 1876
Till you are entirely His
Let your endurance be a finished product, so that you may be finished and complete, with never a defect. James 1:4 (Moffatt).
Many of us are all right in the main, but there are some domains in which we are slovenly. It is not a question of sin, but of the remnants of the carnal life which are apt to make us slovenly. Slovenliness is an insult to the Holy Ghost. There should be nothing slovenly, whether it be in the way we eat and drink, or in the way we worship God.
Not only must our relationship to God be right, but the external expression of that relationship must be right. Ultimately God will let nothing escape, every detail is under His scrutiny. In numberless ways God will bring us back to the same point over and over again. He never tires of bringing us to the one point until we learn the lesson, because He is producing the finished product. It may be a question of impulse, and again and again, with the most persistent patience, God has brought us back to the one particular point; or it may be mental wool-gathering, or independent individuality. God is trying to impress upon us the one thing that is not entirely right.
We have been having a wonderful time this Session over the revelation of God’s Redemption, our hearts are perfect towards Him; His wonderful work in us makes us know that in the main we are right with Him; now, says the Spirit, through St. James, “Let your endurance be a finished product.” Watch the slipshod bits—‘Oh, that will have to do for now.’ Whatever it is, God will point it out with persistence until we are entirely His.
Judges 14; Acts 18; Jeremiah 27; Mark 13
If the prophecy in jeremiah 27 takes place early in the reign of Zedekiah (27:1), there are still years to go before Jeremiah is vindicated. At this point King Jehoiachin and the aristocracy have already been transported to Babylon, leaving behind Zedekiah and a ruling remnant. But far from being warned by these recent setbacks, Zedekiah and the ruling oligarchy want to be heroes and take on the Babylonian might. God instructs Jeremiah to provide both a verbal warning and an object lesson, not only to Zedekiah but also to the emissaries of the surrounding little nations and city-states (27:1–3, 12). They are all in the same boat: if they submit to the Babylonian superpower, they will be spared; if they rebel, they will be crushed and destroyed. The God of Israel is sovereign over all the nations; the pagan states would do better listening to him than to all of their own diviners, pagan prophets, and mediums (27:9–10). Of course, most listened to their own religious establishment. Nevertheless, after the tragic events unfolded, doubtless some individuals were a little more impressed by the God of Israel than before these events. He was the only one who had gotten the future right.
For some years I have been keeping odd essays and books that predict the future. These are written by astrologers, various futurologists, and self- proclaimed prophets. Of course, they do not all work on the same premises. Futurologists tend to project current trends into the future and infer what will take place. The best of them also make some allowances for reactions to current trends. Astrologers and self-proclaimed prophets claim some sort of external perspective. I have been keeping these projections for enough years to know that their track record is not good. Inevitably they get some things right—they make many predictions, and they cannot always be wrong. Nevertheless, picking an essay at random out of my files, I consult what one expert predicted in 1968 regarding the state of religion in Canada in twenty-five years, i.e., 1993. Among his predictions: the Catholic Church will be ordaining women; church attendance in the nation will be down by about 60 percent; a new Billy Graham will appear, “more charismatic, more hypnotic in his sway over the masses, than Graham himself”; the crucial public ethical issue will not be abortion or capital punishment but sterilization of the mentally retarded and brain transplants. And much more of the same. Many of us are familiar with the widely disseminated prophecy that predicted massive revival in the West by a set date (now long past).
Brothers and sisters, do not fear them, listen to them, or respect them. Fear and hear the words of the Lord.
Judges 14; Acts 18; Jeremiah 27; Mark 13
Some of us have wondered why God has occasionally used in powerful ministry people blatantly flawed. This is not to say that God should only use perfect people, for that would mean he would be using no people. Nor am I referring to the fact that we all have weaknesses and faults of various kinds. George Whitefield, for instance, despite his enormous stature as a preacher and evangelist, did not fare very well on the marriage front, or in his (misguided) conviction that his son would be healed of his mortal illness. Virtually any Christian leader, whether from biblical times or more recent history, could not stand up under the onslaught of that sort of criticism. No, what I have in mind is the flaw that is so public and awful that one ponders two questions: (a) If this person is so powerful and godly, why the ugly fault? (b) If this person is so filled with the Spirit, why doesn’t that same Spirit enable him to clean up his act?
There are no easy answers. Sometimes it is simply a matter of time. Judas Iscariot, after all, engaged in public ministry with the other eleven apostles—even miraculous ministry—yet with time proved apostate. The passage of time would show him up. But sometimes the flaws are there from the beginning to the end.
That is true, it appears, in the life of Samson. The Spirit of God came upon him mightily; the Lord used him to curb the Philistines. But what is he doing marrying a Philistine woman, when the Law strictly forbade marriage to anyone outside the covenant community (Judg. 14:2)? When his parents warn him of the consequences, he simply overrides them, and they acquiesce (14:3). True, they did not know that “this was from the Lord” (14:4), in the same way that the selling of Joseph into slavery in Egypt was of the Lord; but that did not make the human actions right. Samson’s risky bet (14:12–13) is more cocksure and greedy than it is wise and honorable. Of course, the Philistines are really cruel in the matter (14:15–18, 20), but Samson’s murder of thirty men to fulfill the terms of the wager is motivated less by a desire to cleanse the land and restore the covenant people to strength than it is by personal vengeance. Similar things must be said about his tactics in the next chapter, and about his steamy living in the chapter after that.
It appears, then, that Spirit-given power in one dimension of life does not by itself guarantee Spirit-impelled discipline and maturity in every dimension of life. It follows that the presence of spiritual gifts is never an excuse for personal sin.
July 31.—Morning. [Or February 27.] “Thou shalt tread upon the lion.”
DARIUS made Daniel the prime minister of his empire, and this excited the envy of those beneath him.
4 Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him.
5 Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.
6, 7 Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever. All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. (This would be highly flattering to the king, and it was cunningly framed to entrap him. It would sound so grandly that no prayer was made on earth by the space of one month, save that which was addressed to the great Darius. How often are men snared by their own pride!)
8, 9 Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree. (Little dreaming what he had thereby done. It is wise to consider a long time before we set our hands to any writing, otherwise we may soon sign away the inheritance of our children.)
10 ¶ Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. (He made no alteration, not even in the mode of his worship, lest there should be thought to be any wavering in him. To him life or death was not the question, but loyalty to his Lord was all in all. He would not bate one jot in his adherence to his God, and he took care that his enemies should know this at the very outset.)
11 Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God.
12 Then they came near and spake before the king concerning the king’s decree; Hast thou not signed a decree, that every man that shall ask a petition of any God or man within thirty days, save of thee, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions? The king answered and said, The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not.
13 Then answered they and said before the king, That Daniel, which is of the children of the captivity of Judah, regardeth not thee, O king, nor the decree that thou hast signed, but maketh his petition three times a day.
14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him: and he laboured till the going down of the sun to deliver him.
15 Then these men assembled unto the king, and said unto the king, Know, O king, that the law of the Medes and Persians is, That no decree nor statute which the king establisheth may be changed. (This rule was an affectation of grandeur, and a very foolish one. Immutability is for God, and not for men.)
16, 17 Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee. And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords; that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel.
18 ¶ Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting: neither were instruments of musick brought before him: and his sleep went from him. (He was far more wretched in his palace than Daniel in the den. What a grand night the prophet must have spent: no wonder that he afterwards saw visions of terrible beasts, and yet felt no fear.)
19, 20 Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions. And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?
21, 22 Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever. (Well, kindly and courteously spoken. He did not blame the king, but saluted him right loyally.) My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.
23 Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God.
God can still shut lions’ mouths. Let us do the right at all hazards, and the Lord will deliver us. Daniel’s God still lives: are we prepared to be Daniels?
24 ¶ And the king commanded, and they brought those men which had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions, them, their children, and their wives; and the lions had the mastery of them, and brake all their bones in pieces or ever they came at the bottom of the den.
The Christian, like his Lord of old,
Must look for foes and trials here;
Yet may the weakest saint be bold,
With such a friend as Jesus near.
The lion’s roar need not alarm,
O Lord, the feeblest of thy sheep;
Nor can the fiercest monster harm,
While thou art nigh to watch and keep.
Therefore I will thy foes defy,
And own thee as my God, my friend;
No fear shall make me e’er deny
The God on whom my hopes depend.
Thus saith God of his Anointed;
He shall let my people go;
’Tis the work for him appointed,
’Tis the work that he shall do;
And my city
He shall found, and build it too.
He shall humble all the scorners,
He shall fill his foes with shame;
He shall raise and comfort mourners
By the sweetness of his name;
To the captives
He shall liberty proclaim.
He shall gather those that wander’d;
When they hear the trumpet’s sound,
They shall join his sacred standard,
They shall come and flock around:
He shall save them;
They shall be with glory crown’d.
Praise ye the Lord; ’tis good to raise
Our hearts and voices in his praise:
His nature and his works invite
To make this duty our delight.
The Lord builds up Jerusalem,
And gathers nations to his name:
His mercy melts the stubborn soul,
And makes the broken spirit whole.
His church is precious in his sight;
He makes her glory his delight,
His treasures on her head are pour’d;
O Zion’s children, praise the Lord.
There is a fountain fill’d with blood,
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins:
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.
Dear dying Lamb, thy precious blood
Shall never lose its power,
Till all the ransom’d church of God
Be saved to sin no more.
E’er since by faith. I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.
Many times since days of youth,
May Israel truly say,
Foes devoid of love and truth
Afflict me day by day;
Yet they never can prevail,
God defends his people still;
Jesus’ power can never fail
To save from all that’s ill.
God hath Zion set apart
For his abiding place;
Sons of wrath and guileful art
He’ll banish from his face:
God for Israel doth fight;
Israel, on thy God depend;
Christ shall keep thee day and night,
Till all thy troubles end.
July 31.—Evening. [Or February 28.] “He shall let go my captives.”
BABYLON had overthrown Judah, and now in its turn it was vanquished by Cyrus: this was greatly for the good of the Jews, for the Persian king became their friend and patron, according to ancient prophecies. Thus the Lord’s purposes were fulfilled. When his time is come, all things work together to accomplish his designs.
1 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying,
2 Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.
It is delightful to hear such an acknowledgment from so great a king, and to see him so cheerfully take up his allotted work. We also have received all that we have from God, and should be prompt to do his bidding.
3 Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem.
4 And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.
5 ¶ Then rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, with all them whose spirit God had raised, to go up to build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem.
6 And all they that were about them strengthened their hands with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, and with beasts, and with precious things, beside all that was willingly offered. (The king’s word and example excited a good feeling towards the Jews, so that they went out of Babylon as aforetime they had gone out of Egypt, laden with silver and gold.)
7, 8 Also Cyrus the king brought forth the vessels of the house of the Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had brought forth out of Jerusalem, and had put them in the house of his gods; Even those did Cyrus king of Persia bring forth by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and numbered them unto Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah. (These vessels were the lawful spoil of Cyrus when he captured the city of Babylon and its temples: a generous spirit prompted him to restore them to their ancient use. God knows how to provide for his own temple; Cyrus restored the vessels, but the Lord’s hand was in the matter.)
9 And this is the number of them: thirty chargers of gold, a thousand chargers of silver, nine and twenty knives,
10 Thirty basons of gold, silver basons of a second sort four hundred and ten, and other vessels a thousand.
11 All the vessels of gold and of silver were five thousand and four hundred. All these did Sheshbazzar bring up with them of the captivity that were brought up from Babylon unto Jerusalem.
ENCOURAGED by the Persian king, a considerable number returned to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel, though not such a company as might have been expected when affairs were so favourable.
Ezra 2:64, 65; 68, 69
64 The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore.
65 Beside their servants and their maids, of whom there were seven thousand three hundred thirty and seven: and there were among them two hundred singing men and singing women.
68 And some of the chief of the fathers, when they came to the house of the Lord which is at Jerusalem, offered freely for the house of God to set it up in his place:
69 They gave after their ability unto the treasure of the work threescore and one thousand drams of gold, and five thousand pound of silver, and one hundred priests’ garments.
They had brought generous hearts with them, and at the sight of the sacred site they laid down their voluntary offerings that the Lord’s house might be restored. God’s house should be considered before our own house.
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