Many today are perplexed and distressed by the news of one nation invading another for no reason other than control and power. This is concerning but it is not surprising. People are inherently evil. We hope that leaders of countries would act in the best interest of humanity but at the end of the day evil is selfish.
Do we give up? What keeps me going? God gave me encouragement from the reading of Psalm 25.
To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, in You I trust, Do not let me be ashamed; Do not let my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none of those who wait for You will be ashamed; Those who deal treacherously without cause will be ashamed. Psalm 25:1-3
First, I wait for God. The Psalmist tells us, “Indeed, none of those who wait for You will be ashamed.” Personally, today I want action. I want response. I want our government to fix the problem. But humanity cannot snuff out evil. I rest in the knowledge that, “Those who deal treacherously without cause will be ashamed.” We must do our part to help and resist with the full understanding that many evil leaders will not face their ultimate punishment until they leave this world.
Turn to me and be gracious to me, For I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; Bring me out of my distresses. Psalm 25:16,17
Second, I go to God. The Psalmist said, “For I am lonely and afflicted.” Even King David felt alone and overwhelmed by the evil of this world. He said, “The troubles of my heart are enlarged.” When we feel that life is out of our control we will feel alone and hopeless. The weight of the darkness of evil can break us if it is all we know.
One of the challenges today is that we are consumed with information. We know more about evil than we do about God. We need to be informed but we cannot be consumed with information. Ask God to turn to you through His Word. Ask God to turn to you through music. Ask God to turn to you through discussion with brothers and sisters. Ask God to turn to you through worship.
Look upon my affliction and my trouble And forgive all my sins. Look upon my enemies, for they are many, And they hate me with violent hatred. Guard my soul and deliver me; Do not let me be ashamed, for I take refuge in You. Psalms 25:18-20
Third, I look within. These are not verses to inspire guilt. The Psalmist has hope. Our sins are forgiven even amid “affliction and my trouble.” My sins are not the cause of the evil of others. But I recognize that I too am a sinner. I call upon God to address the evil in this world while recognizing my own sinfulness and salvation. Nothing can take away the forgiveness of God. I can take refuge in God because I know that only through salvation will evil be eliminated.
Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, For I wait for You. Psalms 25:21
Fourth, my righteous response. I cannot change the world. I cannot change my city. I cannot change my church. God’s plan is not for me to change this world. God’s plan is for me to be a light of “integrity and uprightness.” Will this stop the invasion of another country? Will this end violence in my community? Will this end inequity? What would happen if Christians throughout the world were living “integrity and uprightness”. We have stopped living “integrity and uprightness” and waiting for God.
What do I learn from this Psalm?
12 So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.
The year has started and we survived the first day. Now there are 364 more to go. What do we want to accomplish in those 364 days? What are the promises that we have made to ourselves that may or may not be kept in 364 days? Is it to get a new job, give up a habit, start a new habit, learn a new hobby, or make a significant purchase?
Knowing that we have 364 days to achieve a promise helps us to work towards that goal. We don’t want to be sitting in our room on New Years Eve 2022 regretting how we used the year. Somehow having that marker can be a motivator.
The Psalmist understood this simple truth. But how is it possible to know how many days we have left on this earth? If we only had 364 days on this earth would our promises look different than they do today? What If there would not be a New Years Day 2023?
This is the simple profound truth. The Psalmist is looking at his infinite God realizing that his days are numbered and only God knows that number. The Psalmist is fínite and he numbers his days with that realization. Each day is significant. Our choices today are significant. Psalm 39:4 says,
“LORD, make me to know my end And what is the extent of my days; Let me know how transient I am.”
It is a blessing to be cognizant of how transient our lives really are. This frees us from being controlled by goals that we may never reach. This empowers us to make decisions that focus not on what we attain but who we become. For this Christ died for us to free us from the shackles of human time.
There are 364 days to go. What are your promises?
“There is hope for your future,” declares the LORD, “And your children will return to their own territory.
Hope is a popular topic at the beginning of a new year. It is especially meaningful when life has been so challenging. We finish a year that has been difficult and we have hope that the next year will be a little less challenging.
So we turn to a verse like Jeremiah 31:17. We proclaim that there is hope for the future because of our God. And this is true. What is a little more challenging to process is what does hope look like?
The Israelites had lost their land. They had lost their inheritance. They had suffered. What did hope look like for them? In this verse it says simply, "your children will return to their own territory." In fact the word future can also be translated as descendants. The hope of the Israelite was that God would fulfill all his promises even if they never saw it in their own lifetime. They were a part of the fulfillment of those promises.
How can this give us hope for 2022? Well, we have no idea what is going to happen. We have no idea if life is going to get a little easier or a little more "normal." What we do know is that every trial, every challenge, every sickness has a purpose in the plan of God because He will bring our children back to the land.
This year there will be wonderful times. This year there will be hard times. This year will be one full of purpose, promise, and hope because God is the master planner who will sustain us, encourage us, give us the strength, provide the purpose for every experience of life.
Methuselah lived one hundred and eighty-seven years, and became the father of Lamech. Then Methuselah lived seven hundred and eighty-two years after he became the father of Lamech, and he had other sons and daughters. So all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred and sixty-nine years, and he died.
I remember growing up that we would be encouraged by the church to memorize Bible facts. We would even have Bible Quiz competitions between churches with teams that could compete nationally. Memorizing scripture is very valuable and if applied to life can result in changed behavior and perspective. And there is also the danger that Bible knowledge becomes Bible trivia.
One of those interesting Bible facts that kids the world over know is, who was the oldest man in the Bible? And those that are even a little more well schooled could give possible scientific reasons for his longevity. And some could go even a little further and point out his place in the lineage of Abraham and beyond. But after all of that, so what? What was the purpose of his life? What was his career? What did he accomplish beyond passing along his genes to the next of the lineage?
That is the beauty of this passage. We have no idea. We don't know what he did or who he helped. We don't even know if he was a nice guy. What we do know is that his life had a purpose. It had a purpose beyond what even he knew or realized. Every experience of his life, every decision of his life, every challenge of his life made him Methuselah. And Methuselah was the father of Lamech. He passed on to his son his life experiences. He was a part of the community that prepared the next generation. By living faithfully in the present he was preparing for the future. How? Because God has the plan.
I don't know what will happen tomorrow. I don't know how my daily life decisions are going to impact the future. I don't know in what lineage I may be included. What I do know is that when I walk in the ways of God I am preparing the future. When I do not walk in the ways of God I am destroying the future.
When I leave this earth I will be very comfortable if this was written on my tombstone, "Richard Carey...and he died". The three dots represent the totality of my life that God has given to me on this earth. When my time is done I will die with full confidence that it does not matter what people remember about my actions. My God knows. My God will use my life to prepare the future. My God will keep the story going. There is nothing more blessed than to be a line in the lineage because that God is writing the story.
But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’”
There are so many familiar sayings from the Bible that are used in a variety of life situations. As often happens when something is repeated over time it tends to lose the original significance. This verse is used to encourage the reading of scripture which is an important and valid point. And as you look into the context of the quote you see that there is even more.
In response to temptation Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3. The context of this quote is when the children of Israel were wandering in the wilderness and the Lord provided manna for them to eat. Cleary God was providing for their physical needs. Verse 2 says that God led them in the wilderness that they would be humbled. They were tested to see if they would follow the commandments of God. Verse 3 shows another way that they were humbled as God provided the manna. This unknown food was provided to show that humans do not just live by bread but again by the commandments of God.
What is the lesson? People continually separate human physical needs from spiritual needs. People prioritize one over the other often thinking that they have to provide for their own physical needs and then looking to God to provide spiritual satisfaction. But the reality is that bread cannot be separated from the Word. How we eat and how we drink cannot be separated from walking in the ways of God. The most mundane steps of life flow from the Word of God.
This was further taught to the Israelites in the laws of food and celebration. Food is not simply a reaction to hunger. It is part of walking in the ways of God. This was a lesson that Esau had to learn many years before the wilderness wandering. If we approach all decisions of life with this spiritual mindset we will view life in the way that Christ was viewing life in the wilderness. Every basic need was responded to with the Word of God. It is an incredible adventure to read the Bible with an expectation of Spiritual Wisdom for every question of life even to when to eat bread.
What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it?
I remember growing up hearing the story of "Old Yeller". He was this faithful yellow dog who stuck by his family no matter what they did or what happened in their lives. This is the concept of faithfulness that we love to associate with God's faithfulness to us. No matter what we do or how we fail He is always there to pick us up, dust us off, and then tell us to keep going.
But the significant difference is that God is not faithful to us. He is faithful to Himself. He is faithful to His Word. So while His faithfulness is connected to his forgiveness it is also connected to his righteousness. It is the the other aspect that we often forget. There is accountability to those who have been entrusted with His Word who do not walk in His ways.
For a pastor it is not enough to be preaching the Word of God without living the Word of God. It is not enough to point out the weaknesses of others without first seeing the weakness in ourselves. This is what Christ stated concerning the scribes and pharisees in Matthew 23:3 "therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them." Every pastor should preach the sermon to themselves first.
God is faithful to His Word. The rest of Romans 3 addresses this vital truth that all are accountable for their rejection of God regardless of their knowledge and lineage. All have to make a decision to live the Word because in God's faithfulness there will be punishment.
This brings hope and it brings fear. It brings hope because we know that God is faithful to His Word which leads to salvation. It brings fear because we know that God is faithful to His Word and there will be judgement for all of sinned. God's faithfulness to His Word is not dependent on our response. Our response will determine how we are impacted by His faithfulness.
Sow with a view to righteousness, Reap in accordance with kindness; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the LORD Until He comes to rain righteousness on you.
In the midst of the warnings Hosea includes encouragement for the Israelites that there was hope for righteousness. And even more importantly it was achievable.
Many people today do not relate fully to this picture that Hosea is painting. Sowing is the day-to-day life decisions and reaping is the result of those decisions. Hosea is simply saying to make day-to-day life choices with the objective of being righteous which would lead to kindness.
The Israelites were consumed with the moment. They were making decisions based on what they believed would give them the greatest personal benefit. Righteousness focuses on what will results in God’s kingdom in which kindness to all people is integral.
Then Hosea expands this thought by talking about preparing the ground. This means simply to prepare the ground to receive the seed. This reminds us of Jeremiah 4:3,
Break up your fallow ground, And do not sow among thorns.
And also, Matthew 13 with the parable of the sower where the ground is key to the growth of the plant. The reality is that the preparation of the soil is as important as the spreading of the seed.
What does this mean to this modern world which moves so fast that we barely have the time to think? We need to stop and think. Every decision and action of the life of God’s children is to grow righteousness which will result in kindness. It is a fairly easy test for us to see if we have achieved the challenge. When we leave the room what have been the results of my words and actions?
But growing righteousness in my life which results in kindness is not always easy. We just cannot will it into being. It takes thought. It takes thoughtful preparation. According to Hosea we have to break up the fallow ground.
As Christians we have received Christ but as humans there is a lot that is making our ground hard. We read scripture. We memorize scripture. We sing the songs. But the ground is hard. It is hardened by listening to human wisdom and questioning God’s wisdom. It is hardened by looking for other ways of fulfillment instead of no matter how temporary they may prove.
We cannot respond to the seeds of righteousness because our ground is hard.
Hosea says to break up the fallow ground. Examine what is making your ground hard, your heart like stone so that you just cannot receive the seed which will result in understanding righteousness. Confess those things which have made your ground hard. Implore God to give you the strength to break those things out of your life. Determine to live for righteousness not even knowing exactly what that will look like. And God will rain righteousness. It takes thought. It takes effort. It takes faith. It will result in kindness.
"Their deeds will not allow them To return to their God. For a spirit of harlotry is within them, And they do not know the LORD. Moreover, the pride of Israel testifies against him, And Israel and Ephraim stumble in their iniquity; Judah also has stumbled with them. They will go with their flocks and herds To seek the LORD, but they will not find Him; He has withdrawn from them."
We often read the prophets and thank God for the reminder. The interesting thing about a reminder is that it serves very little purpose if it does in some way impact our behavior and choices. Israel was continually reminded by the prophets but all too often the words of the prophets did not result in change without a corresponding loss in their lives.
We have this view that God is willing to just stand by and watch us destroy the world around us. We accept the forgiveness of salvation without the corresponding change of heart resulting in a change of deeds. Hosea calls this the spirit of harlotry. Israel was married to their God and yet their “deeds did not allow them to return to their God.” They did not know their own God. And the frightening result was that God was no longer there for them.
"They will go with their flocks and herds To seek the LORD, but they will not find Him; He has withdrawn from them."
We are the bride of Christ. Are we faithful? I have learned in life that when God feels far away it is not because He has changed. I have played the harlot. I have depended on the false Gods of this world for my comfort. I have sought the false wisdom of this world for my answers. I have determined that I will take care of the short term needs of this life and let God take care of the eternal. And God feels far away.
These words do not give us three steps to spirituality. These words cause us to pause and ask ourselves if God is really “all I need” as we sing in our songs. These words cause us to reflect if our “deeds will not allow” us to return to God. And He feels far away.
The wonderful truth is that in the midst of these words of warning and reality that we read in Hosea, we find words of comfort and hope. God is there. God is still our God. God is still in control. God simply wants us to repent from playing the harlot and trust in Him and nothing else. He says in 6:6
"For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings."
The simple question that I ask myself is, “What are my deeds that will not allow me to return to my God?”
1 Kings 7:13,14
"Now King Solomon sent and brought Hiram from Tyre. He was a widow’s son from the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in bronze; and he was filled with wisdom and understanding and skill for doing any work in bronze. So he came to King Solomon and performed all his work."
This may not seem like a verse that inspires us to great things for God. In fact, as we read about the work of Hiram in the context of this passage we wonder about the usefulness of his labor in the big picture of life. He was a man that made beautiful things out of bronze. He was called upon by Solomon to use his abilities in the house of the Lord.
What I find interesting in this passage is that his abilities are described by “wisdom and understanding.” We see this concept repeated throughout the Old Testament. It says in Exodus 28:3,
"You shall speak to all the skillful persons whom I have endowed with the spirit of wisdom, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him, that he may minister as priest to Me."
What we see in these people is that they had skills which were not necessarily seen as connected with the religious activity of the temple. But those skills were from God and the wisdom in how to use the skills were from God. They exercised their occupations based on the wisdom of God. So, when they were called upon to serve in the temple those skills were a benefit to the religious practices of the temple.
Hiram was ready to serve with his skills before Solomon ever called upon him because he used his skills wisely in everyday life. We see throughout the Old Testament God calling upon the Israelites to walk in His ways, every day in every activity.
Sometimes I hear people say that they are not ready to serve in the church. I don’t believe that it is because they are not spiritually prepared to serve in the church. It is because they have not realized that God’s wisdom to serve is not just connected with a location. It is in every decision every use of every skill in the careers that he has given us.
We need to remember what Solomon said in his dedication at the opening of the temple.
1 Kings 8:27
“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You, how much less this house which I have built!"
God is not contained in a building, a group, a day, or an activity. There are two questions that we can ask ourselves moment by moment. Am I working filled with wisdom and understanding? When I serve God in the ministry of our spiritual community will I work in the same way that I do in my career?
And it shall be that when they say to you, ‘Where should we go?’ then you are to tell them, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Those destined for death, to death; And those destined for the sword, to the sword; And those destined for famine, to famine; And those destined for captivity, to captivity.”’
Therefore, thus says the LORD, “If you return, then I will restore you—Before Me you will stand; And if you extract the precious from the worthless, You will become My spokesman. They for their part may turn to you, But as for you, you must not turn to them.
This may seem like and odd passage to start a blog of Daily Thoughts. Typically we like verses that encourage and inspire us to greatness. Thoughts that will enable us to face the challenges of the day. We do not usually spend time meditating on the inevitable judgement that faces the world as we prepare for the days work.
When I was reading this passage this morning I was comforted. I was comforted to know that God is not sitting idly by allowing the world to run its course. There is accountability. There is judgement. There is hope.
My response to the inevitable accountability of God is the same as the response of Jeremiah. I turn to God recognizing that He is the one that will take care of me. I say like Jeremiah, "Your words were found and I ate them, And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart;" realizing that it is only through His Word being in the very depth of my being will I begin to understand His mercy and grace.
With His Word firmly entrenched in my thoughts and actions I will be able to be restored by our God. I will be able to "extract the precious from the worthless" as I begin to see this world through God's wisdom and understanding. Sitting here today without God I can only see the agonies and failures of this world. With His Word in my life I can begin to see His hand in everything.
Yes, as I see His hand at work I will see the inevitability of judgement. And yet that same inevitability is what gives me hope because God has promised to restore me through His Word. He has promised to give me the insight to extract the precious from the worthless. He has given me the privilege of being his spokesperson. And as His spokesperson I can be used by Him to be a part of the deliverance from judgement of those who will turn to Him. I am part of the inevitable picture.