LET THIS SINK IN

“Let these sayings sink down into your ears: for the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men.”
Luke 9:44

In this verse, Jesus is alerting the disciples to pay close attention to His upcoming announcement. This declaration was of supreme importance, having to do with His coming appointment with betrayal and death at Calvary. There was no information more important to receive and remember than this. He prefaces His disclosure with the words, “Let these sayings sink down into your ears.” He was asking them to give Him their undivided attention. He wanted them to listen clearly and deliberately, not carelessly and casually. Jesus knew how difficult it would be for the disciples to understand and accept what was in the future for Him. In spite of Jesus’ repeated declarations of His pending death, the disciples never really comprehended what was going to happen.

We all have this tendency not to listen as closely as we should at times. I know that I have found myself not listening as carefully as I should have been, and later regretted it. This underscores the importance of deliberate listening. “Selective listening” is a term that might describe our hearing habits. We listen more carefully to some things because we have a greater interest in the subject or the speaker. But we listen less intently to things we may not be as concerned about. I have been amazed at times when it is obvious that people are keenly concentrating on some report of scandal or misfortune, but seem unconcerned when hearing about some great doctrinal truth.

We need to learn to discipline ourselves to be good listeners, especially when it comes to the Word of God and matters of eternal significance. The mind is a great gift from God, but we are responsible to keep it focused on the things it needs to hear. We cannot afford to miss the messages God has for us through His Word and through those He has stationed to teach it to us. It is our responsibility to remove distractions and resist the tendency to allow our minds to wander. There may be times when it is especially hard to hear, perhaps because it is something we have never heard before or something that we do not want to know, or even something that contradicts what we have previously believed. When God speaks to us from His Word, we need to “Let these sayings sink down into your ears.”

SPEAK NO MORE OF THIS MATTER

“I pray thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon. But the LORD was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me: and the LORD said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter.”
Deuteronomy 3:25, 26

Moses was truly one of the greatest leaders of all time and a faithful servant of the Lord, yet the people provoked Moses at the waters of Meribah. The Israelites were without water and rebelled against Moses, complaining and criticizing him for their difficulties. God told Moses to speak to the rock and water would be given for the people. In his frustration and anger, Moses smote the rock instead of speaking to it, as God had instructed him. God then told Moses he would not be able to bring the Israelites into Canaan.

Our text begins with Moses rehearsing how he pled with God to allow him to enter the Promised Land: “I pray thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon.” Imagine how much Moses wanted to see this mission completed and the Israelites occupy their inheritance. He had led them out of their Egyptian bondage, and spent forty years with them in the wilderness. But God’s judgment was sure. Moses recorded, “the LORD was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me: and the LORD said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter.”

The Lord told Moses to drop the issue, and “speak no more unto me of this matter.” This should alert us all that there are times to appeal and there are times to “drop it.” This is true in our prayers to God, as well as our petitions to others. We must be willing to accept God’s decisions, as well as the judgments of those God places in our lives to lead us. Parents can become frustrated by children who do not take “no” for an answer and continually ask for that which has already been denied. However, adults can be just as determined, even with God.

We need to be sensitive to the Lord and submissive as well. Sometimes He may not allow us to go somewhere or do something that we wish to do. However we have to be
willing to accept His will. There may be times when we continue to complain and plead with God when it would be better to SPEAK NO MORE OF THIS MATTER.

TRUST AND OBEY

“Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.”
Psalm 37:3

If ever there were a single verse of Scripture that summarized the general responsibility of the Christian life, this could be it. We are to “Trust in the LORD, and do good.” We are to live by faith and do that which we know to do. We are always to rely upon God, trusting in Him entirely, yet never ceasing to obey His commands and principles.

Daniel B. Towner was present in a testimony service in 1886 when a man, reportedly knowing little of the great doctrines of the Bible, stood to speak. He finished his testimony by saying, “I’m not quite sure-but I’m going to trust and I’m going to obey.” Mr. Towner wrote down the man’s words and shared them with John Sammis. The result was one of the most beloved hymns of all time, “Trust and Obey.” This is great advice for the youngest child of God and also for the most mature saint.

There are two duties in this text, each with equal importance, both faith and obedience. As with many such verses, there is also a clear progression. Although obedience is critical, everything begins with faith. In the matter of salvation, one can never work his way to Heaven. We are born again when we “Trust in the LORD.” That regenerating work will manifest itself in the desire and ability to “do good.” There is also a clear balance for godly living in this profound and inspired statement. It presents the absolute necessity of both faith and obedience. Of course, faith is not passive; but living faith will result in obedience to Christ. At the same time, the effort to “do good” is not in conflict with faith, or a replacement for it.

In the Christian life, faith and works complement each other. We have all witnessed the imbalance of those who claim to be relying on God, and yet they are unwilling to obey the commands of the Word of God. We have also known those who were zealously committed to doing what they perceived to be right, but without the essential presence of faith and dependence upon God. You have probably heard the familiar saying which embodies this principle, “Pray as if everything depends on God, and work as though everything depends on you.” The remainder of this text promises great blessing for those who will “Trust in the LORD, and do good.”

IT IS GOOD TO DRAW NEAR TO GOD

“But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.”
Psalm 73:28

The seventy-third Psalm, like many of the Psalms, records some of the common struggles we all encounter. This is one of the reasons we appreciate the Psalms so much; we can identify with the emotions and difficulties of the writer. In this Psalm, the writer acknowledges that the prosperity of the wicked troubled him, and he even questioned whether his personal devotion was in vain. When the writer finally got into God’s presence about the issue, he understood that he had been foolish to have such an attitude. Finally, he closes the Psalm with our text verse, saying, “It is good for me to draw near to God.” It is so true. “It is good for me to draw near to God.”

Isn’t it a great joy to know that we can draw near to God? The only way that we can approach our Holy God is through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. Thank God that a way has been made for us to draw near. Imagine a sinful man being able to approach the holy presence of God. Only through the blood of Christ is it possible. But, because of our faith in Christ and the fact that the blood has been applied to our lives, we can draw near to Him.

It is another amazing thing that we would want to draw near to God. This too is the result of His work of grace in our lives. Before Jesus came, we had no interest in being near to God. To the contrary, we would distance ourselves from everything that was holy and righteous. But now, all that is changed. Like the newly converted demoniac from Gadara, we want to be near our Lord.

We need to draw near to Him. First, we need to because we owe it to Him to show our love to Him. He has shown His love for us in many ways, but none greater than His death for us at Calvary. He wants us to love Him supremely. Secondly, we need to draw near to God because there is something about the fallen nature of man that is inclined to drift away from God’s perfect place for us. Because we are naturally prone to slackness in our devotion, we must discipline ourselves to habitually draw near to Him.

Our text instructs us on the way to draw near to God. “I have put my trust in the Lord GOD.” We draw near to Him by faith. By faith, knowing He loves us and wants us near, knowing the way has been provided for us, we daily draw near to Him.

WE ARE THE SERVANTS OF GOD

“We asked their names also, to certify thee, that we might write the names of the men that were the chief of them. And thus they returned us answer, saying, We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and build the house that was builded these many years ago, which a great king of Israel builded and set up.”
Ezra 5:10, 11

It was the time of the rebuilding of the temple after the Babylonian captivity. The progress of building was obvious. The governor of the area and his companions inspected the work and reported their findings to Darius the king. Our Scripture is part of the letter the governor wrote to Darius, describing his visit with the Jews. The governor said, “We asked their names also, to certify thee, that we might write the names of the men that were chief of them.” The governor attempted to get the names of the leaders of the Jews that he might pass this information on to the king. What did these Jews say when they were asked to give the names of their leaders? The reply of the builders was simple and profound, “We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth.”

What a classic response this is. WE ARE THE SERVANTS OF GOD. We all can learn a lesson from this, a lesson in humility and purpose. This speaks to a problem that is far too prevalent in God’s work today. Pride can enter into God’s service and His servants. We are not in the ministry to make a name for ourselves. That does not make it wrong if someone uses their name, or someone knows our name. But our purpose should never be to promote our name. Our objective is to promote the name of Jesus Christ and advance His work. When Paul wrote the church of Corinth, he rebuked them for their partisan spirit. They were divided over personalities. Some pledged allegiance to Paul, others to Peter, others to Apollos. God called this behavior “carnal” (I Corinthians 3:3-4). When these Jews were asked to give their names, their answer was, “We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth.”

This should be our attitude; WE ARE THE SERVANTS OF GOD. That is what we are, and that is what we should always be. We are servants. May God help us to be the faithful and humble servants that we should be. It is not important that our names be known, but it is extremely important that His name is known. Let us spend our lives serving Him and serving others.

UNTO THE CHURCHES

“And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia:”
Galatians 1:2

One of the greatest discoveries of the Christian life is learning of the importance and role of the Lord’s churches. Paul is writing this epistle as he did numerous others “unto the churches.” It is interesting that people, who claim to love the Bible and live by the Bible, and enjoy the teachings of these same epistles, discount the significance of the very institution to which God gave the revelation.

There are reasons Paul wrote “unto the churches.” There is much to be pondered and appreciated in the simple statement, “unto the churches.” Why did Paul not write his epistles to individual Christians and post them in a public forum so that believers, independent of any congregation, could find and read them? The answer is simple. God’s plan, according to the Scripture, is to place His children in local congregations for accountability, growth, and service. Paul wrote to the churches because that is where true Christians should be, assembling and worshipping in the place of God’s leading.

This is the pattern for New Testament spiritual teaching and growth. Jesus promised to meet with His churches when they assembled together. In the Book of Revelation, we see Jesus walking among the candlesticks, which are the churches, and giving His Word to the churches. The churches of the New Testament were independent, local, organized, autonomous, and assembling bodies of believers. Jesus loves His churches. The Bible says, “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). And in love, He speaks to the churches words of comfort and sometimes words of reproof.

The great responsibility of getting the message of the Gospel to the world was given to His churches. The churches, through their membership and ministries, are to preach, disciple, train, and commission workers. As these churches see people come to Christ through their missionary activities, they in turn establish other indigenous churches, which are to do the same thing. God gifts each of us individually to serve and minister through our church. What a blessing it is to be a member of one of the Lord’s churches! God’s Spirit leads us and adds us to the body of Christ of His choosing, and uniquely uses us for His glory.

IS THE LORD’S HAND WAXED SHORT?

“And the LORD said unto Moses, Is the LORD’S hand waxed short? thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not.”
Numbers 11:23

The Israelites had just been complaining again, especially about their diet in the wilderness. They were remembering the cuisine of Egypt and were comparing it with the manna they were now being fed. In response, the Lord said that He would give them all the flesh they could eat for an entire month. Moses asked the Lord how this might be done. He told God that there were six hundred thousand footmen, not counting the rest. Moses did not see how they could all be fed. And thus, we come to our Scripture, “And the LORD said unto Moses, Is the LORD’S hand waxed short? thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not.”

What a great question to consider: “Is the LORD’S hand waxed short?” Has His power diminished? He formed everything out of nothing. He rained down manna from Heaven and gave them water to drink out of the rock. He divided the Red Sea for them to pass through. Could He not feed them with meat for a month?

We should ask ourselves this probing question: “Is the LORD’S hand waxed short?” Is He not able to provide for us? We know that He fed them with a great abundance of meat. We should know that He can supply our needs as well. There is nothing that God cannot do. He is able to provide for us materially, as we look to Him and trust Him in faith. He is able to supply our emotional needs as well, giving us peace and rest in the midst of the storms of life. He gives us songs in the night and helps us rejoice in our afflictions. He is certainly capable and willing to meet our every spiritual need. He has provided for our every sin to be forgiven. There is no sinner too vile to be saved. His arm is not short that it cannot save.

He wants us to look to Him in faith and trust Him in prayer. We are too apt to look to the world or to men to supply our needs, when God delights in showing Himself strong when we rely upon Him completely. God said to Moses, “thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not.” We can trust God’s Word. If He said that He will do it, then we can believe it. We can claim His promises with confidence that His hand is not waxed short.

PERFECTING HOLINESS

“Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
II Corinthians 7:1

Our Scripture deals with the subject of holiness, a topic that seems to be overlooked by much of this generation of professing believers, but it is certainly emphasized in the Word of God. The previous chapter introduces the larger context and admonishes us to “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers” and then to “come out from among them, and be ye separate” (II Corinthians 6:14, 17). God’s people are called to be a separated people. This context is all devoted to the matter of personal holiness.

Our text begins with the words, “Having therefore these promises.” The promises that Paul is referring to are also found in II Corinthians 6 and speak of God’s receiving us, His being our Father, and our being His sons and daughters. What precious words these are! God promises a special relationship with those who follow His instruction concerning holiness and Biblical separation. There is a nearness of fellowship experienced by Christians who are willing to separate from those things and those persons that He commands us to distance ourselves from.

God’s promise should provide the incentive we need to remove things from our lives that displease Him and cleave to the things He approves of. We are called upon to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.” The life of the sincere Christian is a continual purging and purifying. The phrase “cleanse ourselves” makes it clear that it is our responsibility to take the initiative in the matter of separation.

The ultimate goal is holiness. “Perfecting holiness in the fear of God” is the language used. Perfecting means “to further complete.” Holiness is a process that should continue throughout our entire lives. We will never be perfectly holy until we get to Heaven. In the meantime, we are to be separating ourselves more from the things that are not God’s best, and increasingly separating ourselves unto the Lord. We are to be a peculiar people. We are God’s own children. He is our Father. This world is not our home. His goal for our lives is to make us more like our Savior, Jesus Christ, and less like our unconverted selves. It is our privilege and responsibility to cooperate with Him in this process.

PREACHING THAT PROFITS

“And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished it,
according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia.”

Ezra 6:14

Like anything that is worthwhile, the rebuilding of the temple faced opposition. In an amazing demonstration of God’s sovereign power, Cyrus the king of Persia commissioned the work to begin. When the adversaries of Judah heard that the construction had begun, they sought ways to hinder the work. These enemies were
eventually successful in getting the work to stop. What was it that revived the work of building? It was the preaching of Haggai and Zechariah that motivated the workers to continue. Our text gives us this record, “the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo.”

What a testimony to the power and influence of preaching! It was the proclamation of truth that inspired the workers to return to the work and finish the project. Thank God for the way He uses the simple, truthful, and powerful preaching of the Bible. Preaching should stir us to understanding, to commitment, and to action. The idea that preaching should have no noticeable affect on our belief or behavior is foreign to the Scriptures. As a matter of fact, we are warned not to be hearers only, but doers of God’s Word. The purpose of preaching is not to entertain or pacify, but rather to rally our hearts to obedience and service.

How is preaching changing our lives? How is it changing our conduct? We need PREACHING THAT PROFITS. We need preaching that stirs us to repentance and challenges us to obedience. The people of Judah had been discouraged and defeated. Their adversaries were intent on hindering their work. When one method of interference did not succeed, the enemies came with another. We all face similar setbacks in the work of God. At times, you may have wondered if it is worth it to keep striving for the work to go forward. What can help us to stay focused and not lose our focus in times of difficulty? Remain faithful to the preaching services, and let God’s Word stir us to faith and action.

THERE STOOD BY THE CROSS OF JESUS

“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.”
John 19:25

There has been no darker day in human history than the one described in our text. The Son of God, Emmanuel, Jesus our Savior is suspended between earth and Heaven, as the crucified Lamb of Glory. The powers of darkness are having their day as they do everything possible to destroy the Lord Jesus Christ. The noonday sky grows black as the Light of the World is dying on the cross. While Jesus looks down from Golgotha, what does He see in the way of supporters? “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.”

Standing by the cross of Jesus was His mother, so near as to hear Him speak. She watched her Son in such agony and saw Him endure such insult and rejection. She herself was exposed to great danger in the midst of this hateful mob. And yet, she “stood by the cross of Jesus.” No doubt she needed to be near Him because He was her Son, but she also needed to be near Him because He was her Savior. Here we find loyalty in its highest form. Nothing could pull these women from the side of their Savior and Friend.

Where were all of the disciples at this time? Where were those who boasted loud of their faithfulness and promised that nothing could sever them from the side of Jesus? As the Scripture said, all the disciples forsook Him and fled, except John. They ran when the tide of popularity turned against them. They scattered when their King was crowned with thorns and ran when the crowds cried, “Crucify Him!” Yet, “there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother.”

It might be a somber thing to ask, but perhaps we should consider it. “What would it take for us to abandon Jesus?” Would we remain true to Him no matter what may come? Where would we have been standing on that day of great agony? This scene brings to mind the times we, too, have failed to be loyal to Christ and those who stand with Him. Let it encourage us to be true to our Lord. It is wonderful when family and friends are with us, supporting the Savior’s cause. But it is quite different when those standing with us are far fewer in number. Whatever life brings, may we be found “by the cross of Jesus.”