MAKE THY WAY STRAIGHT

“Lead me, O LORD, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face.”
Psalm 5:8

David needed some clear direction from God. He was in danger, and was asking for God’s leadership. His simple prayer expresses what we need from God so often, “make
thy way straight before my face.” It is God’s way that we need and that we need to know. Sometimes it is not plain what God would have us do. We can be uncertain or
confused about which decision or direction is best. It is not always easy to distinguish between what is our way and what is God’s way.

What can we learn from David’s prayer in this Psalm? We need to be committed to finding God’s way. Too many people who claim to be Christians demonstrate no real interest or desire in discovering God’s way. They act as if their way and God’s way must
always be in unison. To watch them, one would think that life for the follower of Jesus should be about doing whatever we desire, whenever we choose. Obviously, this is not an accurate description of what the Christian life is about.

The Bible tells us that the way that seems right to us will lead to death. In describing the error of the unconverted, Isaiah gives us these words, “we have turned every one to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). In our text, David gives us a clear testimony that he wants to know God’s way, not his way. Sometimes our impatience causes us to choose our way rather than waiting on God to reveal His way. It may be that we do not have God’s way “straight before” our faces because we do not need to know it as of yet. One thing worse than going nowhere is going the wrong direction.

We also learn from this Psalm that we can expect God to lead us into His way. This is certainly an encouraging thought. God has a way that He wants us to walk and live in, and we can be confident that He wants to show us that way. We can expect Him to make that way plain, direct, and obvious before us. If the path is not straight and clear, we can believe that God wants to clarify it for us.

Finally, we need to ask God to lead us and make His way straight for us. David knew that it was proper to pray and trust God to make His way “straight before” his face. God wants us to learn to lean on Him and depend on His leadership, and we can be sure that it pleases Him when we sincerely ask for His direction.

THERE IS NO OTHER GOD

“Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.”
Daniel 3:29

Few events in history have done more to inspire God’s people than the one that is recorded in Daniel 3. Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, made an image of gold and
commanded that all would fall down and worship the image. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship the golden image. In his fury, the king commanded that these three men be thrown into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. Rather than deny their God, they stood their ground and faced the consequences. After these men were cast into the furnace, the king looked into the furnace and said, “Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God” (Daniel 3:25).

As a result of this unprecedented miracle, the king made the decree we see in Daniel 3:29. He said, “there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.” He recognized and declared that the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego was greater than any other god. Their God was the true God, the great God, and the living God. What caused King Nebuchadnezzar to come to this conclusion? Very simply, it was the way that God had moved to deliver His children.

Then we must ask another question. What provided such a perfect opportunity for God to move in such an undeniable way for His servants? It was the courage and witness of God’s servants that created such an occasion for God to show His might. We all want the world to know that our God is the true and living God, and that none of the gods of the heathen can be compared to the greatness of Jehovah God, our Savior. It could be that if we want the world to see how great God is, we may have to be willing to take the stand for right that these three men took.

In our generation, we need to stand up for the truth, stand up for the Savior, and stand up for the Gospel. If our God is not so great that we would be willing to be persecuted or even die for Him, then why should anyone be convinced that He is worth living for?

NEHUSHTAN

“He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.”
II Kings 18:4

Our verse is describing some of the noble reforms carried out by Hezekiah, the king of Judah. He began to reign when he was twenty-five and became one of Judah’s outstanding kings. A very interesting action was taken in our text. The Bible says that he “brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.”

When Moses was leading Israel, fiery serpents were sent among the people as a form of judgment. When Moses prayed for the people, God instructed him to make a brazen
serpent and set it on a pole. When the people were bitten, they could look at it and they would be healed. Apparently, the people kept the brazen serpent, and it became an object of worship. The Bible says, the children of Israel did burn incense to it.”

After destroying the serpent of brass, Hezekiah called it Nehushtan, which means “a piece of brass.” The significance of this action seems obvious. In Moses’ day, the serpent of brass was used in a miraculous way to bring healing to the people. Later, Jesus used this brass serpent as an illustration of His impending death on the cross. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, Jesus would be lifted up on the cross of Calvary. As those who looked to the serpent found deliverance, those who look to Jesus in faith are saved from their sins.

But the brass serpent was never to be an object of worship. We are only to worship the Lord Himself. Hezekiah removed the brass figure and named it “a piece of brass.” In other words, it was not something supernatural or divine. It was just a piece of brass that God chose to use. It was God that performed the work. Hezekiah wanted to communicate the fact that the brass image was nothing more than just that, “a piece of brass.”

This is important for us to remember as well. Man has the tendency to want to idolize objects or even men. History, both ancient and contemporary, teaches us the error of worshipping relics or statues. We do not worship angels, objects, or men, only the Lord God Himself.

OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN

“If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”
Matthew 7:11

We know that we are not perfect parents, but still we try to give our children what is best for them. In the verses prior to this, Jesus said, “if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?” (7:9-10) The answer, of course, is obviously “no.” We would not give a child a stone to eat, nor would we give him a snake instead of a fish. We would not do these things because we love our children and want to care for them. We would not do something intentionally to harm them or put them in danger, because we love them.

Jesus uses this as a platform to teach us lessons about prayer. “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” We are sinners, yet we will give what we consider to be gifts that are good for our children. How much more can our Father in Heaven be trusted to give us what we need and what is good for us. Have you ever heard someone express something like this, “Why would God answer my prayers? I am no one.” The answer is simple. It is because He is our Father, and we are His children. Are we perfect? No. Do we deserve God’s blessings or favor? No. But, nowhere does it say that God hears and answers our prayers on the basis of our deserving it. Rather, He hears us because He loves us and wants to do good things for His children.

Many Christians struggle to get a hold of this simple reality. God loves His children dearly. Our children can come to us when they need something because they have
confidence that we love them and will help them in every way possible. We can likewise go to God with our needs because we are so sure of His perfect love. This is a vital part of prayer. God is our heavenly Father. He knows what we need even before we ask. Our confidence before Him is not based on our performance, but on our position in the family. There is nothing that He is not able to do. He wants us to come to Him and seek His face. We need to be so assured in His love that we will boldly approach His throne of grace that we might obtain grace and help in our time of need.

SAY UNTO MY SOUL

“Draw out also the spear, and stop the way against them that persecute me: say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.”
Psalm 35:3

One of the reasons we are so fond of the Psalms is that, in our own way, we can identify with the struggles of the writers. The psalmists are often engaged in some form of conflict and in need of God’s assistance. We also see these godly writers expressing their fears and requesting emotional support. In Psalm 35:3, David is crying out for God to help him against his enemies. He was desperately in need of God’s deliverance from those who were persecuting him. In his plea, David also says, “say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.” David needed physical deliverance, but he also needed encouragement. He begged God to speak words of strength to him; “say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.”

In other words, he needed for God to affirm to his soul that God was his salvation and would undertake for his behalf. Call it discouragement, fear, or even doubt; he needed to hear something from God. As much as he needed physical victory, he also needed the victory in his mind and heart. Have you ever been there? Have you ever desperately needed for God to say to your soul that all was well? Probably all of us have experienced what David needed in this battle. Thank God for all the times He assures us that He is with us and that deliverance and victory will come.

God has a way of speaking peace to the troubled waters of our souls. He speaks to us through His Word and gives us words of comfort. In those times of testing and trials, we are driven to seek Him for direction and perspective. If we do not turn to Him and discover His promises, we can become defeated. Difficulties can either be destructive, or they can be tools to help us grow. If they motivate us to find our strength and wisdom in Him, they will actually produce godliness in our lives.

Of all times, we need to spend time with the Lord when we are going through spiritual battles. It is critical that we converse with and consult Him. We cannot trust our feelings to see us through the storms. It is not wise for us to look only at our circumstances, which can sometimes appear to be impossible. We also know that the devil will try to convince us that our situation is hopeless. In those times, we need God’s counsel. Sometimes we need for Him to “say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.”

GO TO BETHEL AND STAY THERE

“And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother.”
Genesis 35:1

Many years had passed since Jacob left Canaan to go stay with his family in Haran. He left Canaan to flee from his angry brother, Esau, and to find a wife among the daughters of his uncle, Laban. Twenty years later, Jacob returned to Canaan. He settled in a couple of places, but our text tells us that “God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God.” God specifically wanted Jacob in Bethel.

Bethel, which means “house of God,” was the place God met with Jacob as he departed for Haran. At that previous encounter, Jacob had a vision of a ladder reaching to Heaven, and angels were descending and ascending on it. God spoke to Jacob and confirmed the promise of Abraham to him. When Jacob awoke, he promised that if God would be with him and protect him while he was away, one day Jacob would return to Bethel and tithe to God of all that He blessed him with.

In our text, God tells Jacob to get back to Bethel and to stay there. There are two lessons we should consider from this passage of Scripture. It reminds us that God expects us to keep our commitments. The Lord wanted Jacob to go to Bethel and fulfill the vow he had made more than twenty years earlier. Sometimes we may forget commitments we make to God, but He does not forget. He wants us to remember and pay those vows. Perhaps there are commitments you have made to God and have not kept them.

Something else that is very important to each of us is taught in this story. Jacob was to go to Bethel and “dwell there.” As we said, Bethel means “house of God.” God also wants us to go to the house of God and dwell there. The New Testament states clearly that the Lord’s churches are the house of God. It is there that God meets with His children in a special way. Too many people do not understand the importance of the assembly of the Lord’s churches. They treat church attendance and church membership too casually. Also, people leave churches for minor reasons. They fail to understand that if God added them to that church, they should be committed to stay there until God directs them elsewhere. God said, “go up to Bethel, and dwell there.”

WILL GOD DWELL ON EARTH?

“But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built!”
II Chronicles 6:18

Under Solomon’s reign, the temple had been completed. The furniture, including the ark of the covenant, had been placed in the temple. Our text is a portion of the prayer that Solomon prayed at the dedication of the temple. His specific concern and question was, “will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth?” He was particularly interested in God’s presence being manifested in the temple, for the next phrase included these words: “the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built!”

God had manifested His glory in the tabernacle Moses built, and Solomon desired that God would also meet with His people in the temple. Solomon’s question brings to mind the great truth of God’s presence with us. In response to his inquiry, we know the answer is “yes.” God will “in very deed dwell with men on the earth.” From the very beginning, God has chosen to abide with His people. Adam walked with God, as did Noah, Enoch, Abraham, Moses, and many others. As a matter of fact, God so desired fellowship with man, that He, in Himself, removed the thing that separates us from Him.

It was sin that separated Adam from fellowship with his Creator, and it is sin that continues to come between our loving Heavenly Father and us. Because He so desires fellowship with His creation, Jesus took our sins on His own body on the tree that we might be forgiven and be able to walk with our holy God. The only way that sinners can dwell with an infinitely holy God is for our sins to be completely washed clean, which is only possible through the blood of Jesus Christ.

God does indeed dwell with His children. As a matter of fact, He indwells us by His Spirit. He promises to be with us always. Wherever we go, He is with us. One day, we will be with Him in Heaven. Also, just as God made Himself known in the tabernacle and temple in the Old Testament, He dwells “with men on the earth” in His church. His presence is committed to the assembly of His true churches. He promised, regarding His church, which the Bible calls the house of God, that when we are gathered together, He would be in our midst.

WATCHING OUR WORDS

“In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.”
Proverbs 10:19

In our desire to live holy lives, we must maintain vigilance on several fronts. We have to keep our attitudes right, as well as our actions. Our thought lives must also be kept under control. Our verse deals with yet another important and very challenging area to be disciplined, and that is our words. As growing believers, we are commanded to restrict our conversations. Perhaps, we sin as much with our words as in any other area of our lives.

In the New Testament, James tells us that if a man can control his words, he can tame any part of his body. “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” (James 3:2) Taming the tongue requires great grace as well as discipline and determination. We all know the pain of having said something we later wished we could retrieve. We also know the devastating power of words that leave permanent scars. Idle or malicious words spoken about someone can shape others’ opinions about them forever.

By contrast, we know the healing and comforting effect that the right words spoken at the right time can bring. Lives have been greatly helped by the assurance that is given by words of confidence. How wonderful it would be if we could keep from sinning with our lips, or only say the kind of things that are positive and constructive.

Our text gives us practical counsel that can help us curb the occurrences of sinning with our words. The Word of God advises us to monitor and regulate our words. “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.” When words are used without discretion, sin will definitely be the result. If we are serious about this matter, we cannot afford to freely say everything that crosses our minds or verbalize our opinions about every subject. There are many ways we can sin with our words. We can say things that are harsh, cruel, critical, condemning, negative, hopeless, demeaning, deceitful, suggestive, or dishonest. It is true; the more we say, the more likely we will sin with our words. So the Bible warns us to limit our words. Refraining our lips is one of the wisest things we can do. We must be careful that our words are both truthful and beneficial.

DRAW NIGH TO GOD

“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.”
James 4:8

What a great promise our text provides! “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” It reminds us of the fact that our great God wants to be near us. He wants to commune with us. God made the first man, Adam, that he might have fellowship with his Creator. Even when Adam sinned, disturbing that fellowship with God, God came to the Garden of Eden seeking Adam. This is one of the most amazing thoughts our minds can ponder, that holy and perfect God would want to walk in harmony with unworthy men.

This verse is not only a promise, but it is also an invitation. We are to draw nigh to God if we want Him to draw nigh to us. That gives us both responsibility and direction. This is something we can do. By faith, we can draw near to Him. Lest we think that God is putting all of the initiative on us, we should be reminded that the Lord has already initiated all reconciliation with us.

He has come near to us in many ways. He has come near to us in His Word that reveals His will to us. He has come near to us in His Son who walked this planet and died on the cross for our sins. There would be no possibility of approaching God, had Jesus not shed His blood that we might be forgiven and cleansed. We are “made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13). He has come near to us in His Spirit that convicts us and indwells the life of every true child of God. God has provided every means that we might be drawn near to Him. We also know that He made us creatures of choice; and He wants us to take some steps in His direction, if we want a closer walk with Him.

Lastly, our Scripture reveals a condition for drawing near to God. “Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” What is it that puts distance between our Savior and us? Is it not our sin? It was Adam’s sin that shattered the sweet fellowship that he had enjoyed with the Lord. God does not leave us nor walk away from us. It is through our sin and disobedience that we drift away from His fellowship. That is why we are responsible to draw nigh to Him, because we are the ones that have hindered that closeness. As we confess our sins and seek His forgiveness, we are assured that we can draw near to Him.

I SOUGHT FOR A MAN

“And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.”
Ezekiel 22:30

Few verses of Scripture have more powerfully influenced my personal life than this one. This was the word of the Lord that came to Ezekiel. There was a great need for integrity and holiness in every level of leadership. The prophets, the priests, the princes, and the people were all guilty of corruption. God was left with no option. His holiness demanded that He bring judgment on the land. God was looking for a man that would “make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land.” In some of the saddest words in the Bible, we find this expression, “but I found none.” God could not find the man He sought for.

Surely we are not mistaken if we assume that God is still searching for such men. We know that it is true. There has always been a shortage of laborers in God’s work. It was true in Ezekiel`s day, in the days when Jesus was on this earth; and it remains the same today. God is searching for those He can use. I remember when these words first gripped my heart. I was arrested by the thought that God was still looking for men. It does not seem right that our gracious and giving God would have to be in need of something He cannot find, but it is so. He is looking for those who will be available to Him, to use as He pleases.

Not only was I arrested by the idea that God was looking for men, but also even more stunned to think that I might be considered as a candidate. Could God use me? Could God use you? For what kind of person is God seeking? God is not looking for people with a particular level of education or intelligence. Nor is His search limited to certain personality types or physical appearance. He is looking for men and women who are sincere and available. He is looking for those who are humble and dependent on Him. God is seeking people of earnest and believing prayer. One of the most important things we can do to “make up the hedge” is intercede.

He is looking for those who love the Lord more than they love the world and seek His approval more than the applause of men. It would seem that there would be an abundance of such men and women, but obviously, that is not so. May we heartily respond to this need by giving ourselves completely to God and His will.