The Lord Knows Just What to Do

MAY 4, 2024

Psalm 38:21-22

Do not forsake me, O Lord; O my God, be not far from me! Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation!

I realize that David prayed these words but the sentiment expressed could be appropriated to many of us, if not all. How many times have we felt that we are abandoned and vulnerable to the whims of our adversaries? As for me, it is has happened more than I'd like to admit. But let's also acknowledge that, though our emotions taunted us with this feeling, the reality is that God was and is always there. We have the promise that He will never forsake us, even when it sometimes feels that He has. As David reminds us though, He is not far from us.

That being said, there are those times when He allows us to endure spans of time when things aren't going the way we would like for them to go. There are times when He seems to step back and see what choices we will make in certain situations, and sometimes, our choices are not so good. That seems to be what David is conveying through his prayer — he realized that he had made some poor choices and was reaping the rewards. In a previous verse he said, “I am ready to fall, and my sorrow is continually before me.” How many of us can identify with this sense of defeat — feeling as if we can't take another step and that all is on the verge of collapse?

But that is why David called upon the Lord to help — not a person or human agent of assistance but the Lord Himself. Sometimes the Lord does send a person to offer assistance to those in need but, frankly, the assistance can be as short-lived as the agent himself. That is why David prayed that the Lord would bring salvation; if the Lord is the One coming to our aid, the salvation is complete and permanent. Isn't that what we all want? Admittedly, the Lord knows just what to do on our behalf and He knows when it's the appropriate time, nevertheless it is good that we should pray, “Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation!”

Strong Man

APRIL 23, 2024

Psalm 37:23-24

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand.

It is interesting that so many English translations refer to the steps of a “good man.” I make this point because, in reality, the Hebrew word gever should be translated as “strong man.” So why was the decision made to translate this as good? There are many men who wish to do good but when pressed and tempted are too quick to give into the evil inclinations of the flesh. It takes a strong man (or woman) to overcome that inclination and do what the Lord has commanded. But we must also acknowledge that the strength to overcome does not come from ourselves but from above. As it is written, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).

It takes a strong person to resist all the seductions the world entices us with and, if we are  willing to be completely honest, none of us have the strength to resist every single one of them. We may not be tempted with one thing but there is another that has our name on it. Were it not for the Word of God and the empowerment of His Spirit, no one would be able to walk the path that God has ordained for us. And so in reality, the strong man or woman is the one who realizes that in our weakness, He is proven strong. As it was said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” And so as Paul said, so let us all say, “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

When we are led by the Spirit, it is inevitable that we will be led into difficult situations and circumstances that are calibrated to our spiritual maturity; but also intended to cause us to grow in spiritual strength. Should we falter, and that is likely to happen with many of us, we have the promise that He will not cast us away. To the contrary, even as we stumble, He has us by the hand so as to soften the fall. Just as an earthly father would grasp the hand of a stumbling child lest they hurt themselves, our Father has us by the hand even as He leads us into troubling circumstances. He is for us and not against us; though He sometimes allows the situations that causes us to fall it is always with the intention of building us back up. So may it be that today and everyday, as we strive to do good, let us endeavor to “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10).

The Angel of the Lord Encamps All Around Us

MARCH 29, 2024

Psalm 34:7

The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them.

Several years ago, the county in which we live experienced an outbreak of several tornadoes, most of which were quite destructive; unfortunately, some resulted in deaths. That evening my family were preparing a candlelight dinner (the power had gone out earlier in the day) when the weather radio we were monitoring issued an imminent tornado warning and told us to take shelter. In just the short time it took us to get from the kitchen to the bedroom closet, the storm was upon us. The house shook; we could hear leaves and other debris slapping the side of the house. Needless to say it was a scary moment or two and all I could think to do was to sing a psalm.

When the storm had passed I went outside — it was pandemonium. Several neighbors had lost everything in just a matter of seconds. Sirens were blaring, people were shouting; just a few hundred yards away, one family was trapped in their basement underneath the ruins of their former home. As I surveyed the devastation around me, my attention turned to my own home and property — no damage whatsoever. Downed trees and other signs of destruction surrounded our property but everything on our lot was spared. It was then I recalled what had transpired several hours before. Sensing that the storms would pass our way, I walked the perimeter of our property praying over and over, “The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them.”

Never in my life had such a promise been so real; with my own eyes I could see the promise of the Lord being manifested before me — and for me. I saw no angels but I knew they were there watching over my family because, respecting His might and power, we had placed our trust in Him. For us, His deliverance was as significant as it was for Daniel when an angel was sent to muzzle the lion's mouth or for his three friends when they were rescued from Nebuchadnezzar's fiery pit. No books will be written about our experience but it doesn't negate the fact that the Sovereign of the Universe looked upon a small frightened family who believed in Him, and sent His angel to surround them and deliver them from destruction. If He did it then, He will do it again; if He did it for us, He will do it for you.

He is our Good Shepherd

FEBRUARY 15, 2024

Psalm 27:8-9

The Lord is their strength, and He is the saving refuge of His anointed. Save Your people, and bless Your inheritance. Shepherd them also, and bear them up forever.

In the previous devotion, we explored the notion that God is our source for strength allowing us to withstand the attacks of the enemy, as well as shielding us from any missiles launched at us. In the verses above, David — who had been petitioning God on his own behalf — prays for the sake of the people of Israel, who he refers to as God's “inheritance.” The Hebrew word used here is of interest because, according to Jewish belief, “Your inheritance” hints at prophetic elements. Specifically, David seems to referring to the time in the future when all Israel will be together in the land living under the authority of the Messiah.

It is of interest, also, that David prays that the LORD will “shepherd them” and “bear them up” — literally elevate them — forever. This wording is also pregnant with prophetic themes. Being a prophet, as well as a king, David was aware that a time would come when Israel would be scattered through the nations, forced to live beneath the heel of her oppressors (Moses had spoken this long before; see Deuteronomy 4:25-31). Realizing they would be as lost sheep having no shepherd, David prayed that the LORD Himself would be their shepherd — keeping watch over them and guiding them until the day came He would bring them back into their own land. In that day, David understood that God would elevate them above all other nations, never again to be subservient to oppressors. As it is written:

“For thus says the Lord God: Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered.” (Ezekiel 34:11-12)

What has this to do with you and me? As it is written, “We are all His people and the sheep of His pasture” (Psalm 100:3), and we “like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). But He is our Shepherd who watches over His people wherever they may be, never losing sight of them. Though we sometimes wander, He will guide us back to where we are supposed to be, and in so doing, bear us up above our oppressor, Sin. As His people, we are His inheritance; as for me that means that He is determined to never let go of what belongs to Him. Let us be thankful that He, our Good Shepherd, has not only saved us; He will save us and bring us safely into His Kingdom to live under His care forever, amen.

Come and Lay it Before Him

DECEMBER 18, 2023

Psalm 21:1-2

The king shall have joy in Your strength, O Lord; and in Your salvation how greatly shall he rejoice! You have given him his heart’s desire, and have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah.

In the previous devotion, we shared the idea that David's words recorded in this psalm are prophetic, ultimately speaking of the Messiah — and if you can receive it — “quoting” the Messiah to a degree. In that light, take note of the statement, “You have given him his heart’s desire” — it is phrased in such a way that we may conclude the prayer has already been answered. To be clear: if David is expressing the words of Messiah in the form of prophecy, then the desire of Messiah's heart had already been granted, long before He ministered on the earth. If that is true then might it be that, when we pray according to the Will of God, it is the same? In others words, if we are His, will He not grant the request of our lips? John seemed to think so: 

“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” (1 John 5:14-15).

Messiah, also, speaks to this issue; He said, “If his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9-11). The point, obviously, is that our Heavenly Father desires to answer our prayers, sometimes even before we ask; as it is written, “It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24).

It is important to point out, however, that even though He already knows what's going on in our life, He wants us to pray. He knows what's swirling around in our heart, but still wants us to use our mouth and lips to utter our prayers and petitions. I would suggest that prayer, among other things, is the most intimate of ways we can interact with the Creator, meaning, that it is how we can grow in intimacy with Him. Like any parent, He doesn't want His children to take His unlimited goodness for granted; He wants to have a relationship with us whereby, even though He knows our heart's desire, He wants us to come to Him and lay it before Him. In short, He doesn't interfere with an answer when we are motivated to humble ourselves before Him. It may be as good as done, but it is even better to know that when we call, He recognizes our voice and moves quickly on our behalf.

Praising Him in the Storm

OCTOBER 9, 2023

Psalm 9:1-2

I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works. I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.

As to why David wrote this psalm and for whom, there is much discussion in rabbinical works. The reason for this diversity of opinion revolves around the phrase seen at the heading of this psalm — “To the Chief Musician. On the Death of the Son.” In Hebrew the last of the phrase is translated from the words, mut (death) l'van (to the son). Some commentators surmise the son in question may have been Absalom, but most conclude that the son referred to is the one born to Bathsheba who died as a seven-day old infant. You will recall this is the child born as a result of David's scandalous and adulterous affair.

Others suggest the word l'van may have another meaning, while remaining connected to the thoughts above. They argue that the Hebrew word l'van should not be translated as “to the son” but as the “to whiten.” The word laban does in fact mean “white” and, therefore, this idea is not to be considered as farfetched. But why would David compose a psalm about being whitened one might ask? That is, in fact, the very thing that connects the two ideas together. In other words, the death of his young son was, in part, a consequence of his sin, meaning that God allowed him to endure a great trial that was engineered to render repentance. God allowed David to go through a great trial, at the end of which, David arose, washed himself and changed his clothes. He realized that God was putting him through the process of repentance and forgiveness. In short, l'van has a double meaning: it was the “death of the son” that caused David to be “whitened.”

Instead of being melancholy and composing a dirge, David went before the LORD with song and with adoration saying, “I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works. I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.” How many of us could do this under such circumstances? Admittedly, it is difficult to come out of such a distressing situation and immediately burst forth into praise, and yet, David did so, and in so doing, challenges us to do the same. All of us have grappled with remorse over our failures and grief over our losses, still in spite of those how we feel at the moment, it behooves us to praise Him with our whole heart and sing praise to His Name. That might be just the thing to pull us out of our grief and despair.

Be Faithful As He Was Faithful

Be Faithful As He Was Faithful

SEPTEMBER 12, 2023

Psalm 2:7-9

I will declare the decree: the Lord has said to Me, “You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

In Jewish commentary, the one being spoken of here — the king who is set upon Mount Zion — is David. When he was crowned king of Israel, one of the first things he did was go to Jerusalem (which was called Jebus), subdue its inhabitants and begin to rule from Mount Zion. Thus, it is understood, at least in some Jewish circles, that the LORD speaks to David saying, “You are My son … I will give you the nations for your inheritance.” Without a doubt, David figured prominently in God's purpose and plan for Israel, nevertheless, we understand that David was a picture (or pattern if you will) that pointed to someone greater — the Son of David, the King Messiah.

It is on His behalf that this decree is issued, and it is to Him that the nations are given as an inheritance. As it is written, “The earth is the LORD's and the fulness thereof,” and consequently, He bequeaths the nations to His Son, the only begotten of the Father. He is the One who, according to the psalmist, “shall break (rule) them with a rod of iron … and dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.” When the nations are compelled to come up to Jerusalem to worship the King at the Feast of Tabernacles (Zechariah 14:16), they will not stand before the shepherd who killed Goliath; they will bow before the Good Shepherd, the One who crushed the Serpent and destroyed the works of the Devil.

All of us who follow the LORD look with great anticipation toward that day as we do consider what His reign means for us. Of course, it means that we will no longer be subject to the inclination of the flesh; we will be changed when we shall see Him as He is. Also in that day, we too will be recognized as sons and daughters of the Most High, and as such, will be given dominion over the nations. Quoting Psalm 2, Messiah promised that those who overcome and remain faithful to the end, will be given “power over the nations… to” rule them with a rod of iron” (Revelation 2:26-27).

Because of Him, we are reborn as the children of God; because He overcame the world, we can as well. Furthermore, just as He received authority to rule the nations from the Father, He will give us authority to do likewise. But here is the key: we must overcome and be faithful even as He was faithful — even unto death. We must do as Messiah admonished us to do, we must continue to watch and pray in this evil day that we might be permitted to stand before the Son of Man, the King Messiah (Luke 21:36).

Pay Attention to the Smallest Matters

FEBRUARY 2, 2023

Deuteronomy 7:12-13

Then it shall come to pass, because you listen to these judgments, and keep and do them, that the Lord your God will keep with you the covenant and the mercy which He swore to your fathers. And He will love you and bless you and multiply you.

As Moses continued encouraging the people to safeguard that which had been entrusted to them, he explained to them that there would be a reward for their obedience. The Hebrew word that is translated here as “because” is an interesting one with rich connotations. The word is ekev and can be rendered as “reward” or “result” — that which comes about because of their obedience. In this case, not only would God bestow His love upon them but He would “bless and multiply” the people. Sounds simple enough, however, there is much more to this word that just that.

More literally, the root word akev (ekev) means “heel” or can imply that which is underneath our feet. There are some Jewish commentaries that suggests that, as it is used in this verse, the word ekev hints that no command God has given should be considered as insignificant, or something they would tread on with their “heel.” Man lives by “every word” that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD God. Then, there is this aspect of the word ekev — it can be translated as “end” as in the end of a matter. In this case, if we obey, in the end, we will be blessed and multiply. That thought brings us to our main point.

That which God commands us to do can be summed up in this manner: “Love God with all your heart” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It sounds simple when read aloud but when it comes to putting this into practice, we can get tripped up by the heel. In other words, to fulfill this mandate, it is important that we don't tread underfoot those instructions that might seem insignificant in comparison to others. It is important that we consider the Word of God, with all of its precepts and principles, to be crucial for our spiritual growth and maturity. If we disregard what doesn't seem important to us, we may never accomplish the greater goal. However, if we pay attention to even the smallest matters, as it relates to our overall growth in Messiah, we will reap the rewards and be blessed from above and multiply in this life.

Seek the Lord

JANUARY 1, 2023

Deuteronomy 4:29

But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.

It is interesting and a bit pathetic that, in our human frailty, we often fail to appreciate what is before us. By that I mean, rather than appreciating what we do have, we long for what we think we don't have. Likewise, have you ever met a person who can't seem to enjoy the present because they are too fixated on the past or overly concerned about the future? Far too often, it takes losing what they do have — including their families at times — to shake them from their selfish stupor. Only then do they seem to recognize that they had everything they needed all along.

I will suggest that this is what is hinted at in the verse above. Only when Israel had been exiled from the land of milk and honey and reduced to serving idols of wood and stone would they come to realize that they had exchanged blessings for curses. Nevertheless, God would use this sad state of affairs — in servitude to strangers — to provoke them to “seek the LORD.” Not only would they search for Him, but if they did so wholeheartedly, they would “find” Him. And thus, we are reminded that God is the only One who can take a bad situation and make something good come from it. Moreover, we are reminded of this life-saving principle: if we pursue God, we will not be disappointed. Messiah said:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8).

Whatever our circumstances, even when it is the consequence of our bad choices, God is not so far away that He can't be found. He isn't so far removed that He can't hear us when we call out to Him. The key is to seek His face with everything we have — all our heart, all our soul and all of our strength. He wants us to completely turn our zeal and passion away from our other love interests and focus it all on Him. In short, He wants to see whether we really love Him the way we say that we do. So should we give to Him anything less than our whole heart? To those who may feel as if they are in exile, far away from home, forgotten and lost, remember the words He spoke to errant Israel: “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear” (Isaiah 59:1).

Be Faithful As He Was Faithful

Faithful

DECEMBER 31, 2022

Deuteronomy 4:27-28

And the Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the Lord will drive you. And there you will serve gods, the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell.

Imagine a scenario in which one member of a marriage has eyes for someone else outside of the marriage. The faithful spouse perceives this and warns the one with the wandering eye to be careful and to stay away from the person they find so alluring. Unfortunately, the one refuses to heed the warning and continues flirting with this other person, falling more deeply into the seduction. Eventually, the faithful spouse has had enough and says to the unfaithful one, “Leave, and go be with the one you really love. But be prepared to deal with the consequences.” In a nutshell, that is what Moses warned would happen if Israel pursued the gods of the land.

In fact, he didn't say “if” this happens but “when” this happens they would go into exile and serve “the works of men's hands, gods of wood and stone.” If they were so enthralled by these “nothing gods,” they would end up serving them in the nations where they were venerated. If their hearts were bound to go after the gods of Babylon, then their bodies would end up in Babylon — in chains. It would seem that this fascination with pleasing the world has not stopped even now. Consider this: the United Nations has never been a friend to Israel, and yet, decade after decade, the nation of Israel seems ready to comply with most anything the UN wishes to hand down — all for the sake of being accepted by the nations.

Here is the reality for God's people: if we are determined to seek out and embrace the values of the world, then eventually, we will be in servitude to the world. To gain acceptance by this world means we must be polluted by the world's values. If that happens, we will end up acting like the world which, in turn, means that we will cease serving our purpose — being a light to the world. And so it is that God uses this scenario to teach His people a valuable lesson which is — it really isn't so bad in our Father's house. Even the servants have it good there.

So if He must, He'll send us away to the embrace our other lovers and, consequently, allow us to lose everything. He'll allow us to experience great suffering to the point that we are reduced to feeding pigs — but all in the hopes that we will come to our senses and return to Him. But here is the good news — it doesn't have to be that way at all; instead, we can determine to be faithful to Him. In reality, anything in this world that would lead us astray has been, in some way, fashioned by the hands of men, meaning it is temporal and not eternal. In short, it is worthless. So let us be careful not to turn away from our Master and thus avoid the pitfalls of this world. Let us keep our eyes fixed on the Author and Finisher of our faith and be the one He calls “Faithful.”

NOVEMBER 27, 2022

Deuteronomy 1:5

On this side of the Jordan in the land of Moab, Moses began to explain this law.

It has always intrigued me that, as a nation, Israel didn't grow and multiply while in the land of Canaan but always outside of the land, in fact, in the land of their enemies. Likewise, it has always struck me as interesting and important that, through Moses, God gave instructions for living to His people while they wandered through a wilderness. In fact, this book opens with, “These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel … in the wilderness.
The Hebrew word translated as “wilderness” is midbar — spelled with the letters mem, dalet, beit and reish). This same spelling could also be rendered as m’daber – a phrase that means “to speak.” In other words, very often in our life, God chooses to speak to us in an environment that doesn't offer too much luxury and prosperity. To the contrary, it is an environment that puts every man and woman to the test to see whether they possess the spiritual mettle to continue on having only the Word of God to sustain them. Of course, He gave them bread and water for their daily physical needs but that was also intended to teach them about what they need in a spiritual sense — “Man does not live by bread alone….”

How many of us have wondered why it is that God often leads (or prods) us into what seems to be a wilderness experience? Within our hearts we know why it must be, however, it is our flesh that is quick to resist (and sometimes resent) the experience. But the One who knows what is in our best interests guides us into that place and that season whereby we have nothing else to rely upon save Him and His Word to us. As it written, “He made His own people go forth like sheep and guided them in the wilderness like a flock; and He led them on safely, so that they did not fear” (Psalm 78:52-53). So just like Israel of old, we too must traverse the wilderness of life, sustained by His Hand of provision, but ever needful to hear Him speak His Word into depths of our soul.

Be Faithful As He Was Faithful

Discerning the Times

AUGUST 16, 2022 Numbers 14:27  How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who complain against Me? I have heard the complaints which the children of Israel make against Me. That is the question isn't it — how long will He bear with those who continually resist and walk contrary to Him? In this section of Scripture, […]
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