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“And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there. Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.”
I Kings 17:4, 9
Elijah had delivered the message of God’s judgment to Ahab, the wicked king of Israel. There would be no rain until God’s man gave the word. God then instructed Elijah to hide himself by the brook Cherith. The ravens would feed him “there.” After a while, the brook dried up because there was no rain. Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah that he should move to Zarephath, for God had a widow woman “there” to sustain him.
The word there reminds us us of the importance of being where God wants us to be. The ravens were commanded to feed Elijah by the brook Cherith. Had Elijah not been “there,” he would have missed out on God’s provision. The Lord then directed the prophet to go to Zarephath because a widow was to sustain him “there.” The only conclusion we can draw from this is that Elijah would have to be “there” for him to receive the blessing and provision that God had arranged for him.
Too many of God’s people are very casual about His will. They act as if God’s will is so vague and general that they can expect His blessing and provision anywhere they might choose to be. The truth is that God has a specific place for us to be if we hope to enjoy His richest blessings for our lives. It would have been very foolish for Jonah to expect God to bless him when he was traveling to Tarshish, deliberately running from God’s will. Imagine if Elijah had said, “I’m no longer happy by the brook Cherith. I think I shall move to another place.” God would not have been obligated to supply all of his needs if he were away from the place God commanded him to be.
We should not assume that it is any different with us. If we want to be where God’s best blessing is for us, we ought to be “there,” where He has commanded us to be. This would include being in the occupation God has chosen, being in the church God commanded, being in the ministry of God’s selection, etc. God said to Elijah, “I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.” If we expect to enjoy God’s blessing and provision, we should be certain we are in the place He wants us to be, and stay “there”
“And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.”
It was the first day of the week, and had been three days and nights since the brutal crucifixion of Christ. Two disciples were dejectedly walking the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus – a journey of about seven and a half miles. As they journeyed together, discussing the events of recent days, Jesus joined them and began to walk with them, without disclosing His identity. When they explained to this unknown Companion the reason they were so sad, He began to teach them from the prophets truths about Himself; “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”
Our text tells us that when they drew near to their destination, Jesus “made as though he would have gone further. But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us.” At their insistence, Jesus “went in to tarry with them.” As He sat with them, breaking bread and giving thanks, their eyes were opened to understand that their new Friend was indeed the Savior. Jesus would have gone further down the road, leaving the company of the disciples, had they not invited Him to abide with them. This was not the only time in the Scriptures when we find our Lord responding this way. The disciples were in a storm on the sea, and Jesus came to them walking on the water. The Bible says He would have passed by, but they cried out to Him.
What a practical lesson about the nature of God and what He wants from us. He wants us to want His presence in our lives. Obviously, we know that when a person is converted, Christ indwells him; God promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us. Jesus says that He will be with us always, but He still wants us to desire His fellowship. As with the disciples in our text, as they strode along the road to Emmaus, He wants to hear us say, “Abide with us.” Jesus does not force His fellowship on us. He wants to be an invited guest into our conversations and lifestyle. He wants to feel welcome in the daily affairs of our lives.
“It is joy to the just to do judgment: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity.”
The children of God, those born again by His grace and power, will bear evidence of His supernatural work in their lives. One mark of God’s ownership is a new attitude toward His Word and His will. It is not like the unconverted rebel to desire to obey, but “It is joy to the just to do judgment.” The born-again believer, the saint of God, will have a different view about obedience. Paul describes this change in the following words: “I delight in the law of God after the inward man” (Romans 7:22). The new man wants to obey the Lord and delights after His Word. This does not mean that we never disobey, or that we never sin. But, it does mean that there is an inseparable part of us that wants to follow the Savior and walk in His commands.
The joy of obedience was not something we were familiar with before the Holy Spirit began to work in our lives. We did not have a heart to obey the Word of God. This is one reason why so many religious people debate the Word of God and His commands and refuse to submit to the authority of the Scripture. They seek to justify their willfulness and rebellion because they do not have a heart to obey God.
God’s Word is to be the delight of our lives. Obedience is evidence of love. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (I John 5:3). God’s commands are not restrictions to be shunned or avoided. The commands of God are for our good. What pure joy it is to know that we are pleasing and obeying the Father! The Christian knows that inner peace when he has done some deed out of love for God and a desire to please Him.
Before we were saved, we had no sincere delight in going to church, worshiping, reading the Scripture, obeying those in authority, loving the brethren, praying, giving our money, or serving others. These activities were not a part of our lives, and to do them would have been anything but joyous. But with salvation, all this changed. He gave us a new heart, with new desires and motivations. We now want to do His will and delight to please Him. Obeying Him brings joy to our hearts, while disobeying brings grief and sadness. If God’s commands become grievous, something is wrong in the heart. The joyous Christian is the obedient Christian.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.”
I Peter 1:3, 4
How great God is, and how incredibly good He has been to us! By His “abundant mercy,” He has “begotten us again,” birthing us into His forever family. We were all guilty sinners and undeserving of His forgiveness and redemption; but thank God, He was merciful to us. Now we are saved, made new creatures in Christ, and translated into His heavenly kingdom through faith in Jesus Christ. No one has the right to claim Heaven as his home or God as his Father unless he has been spiritually born again. We are a people most blessed and filled with hope because of “the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” The power of His resurrection has given us “a lively hope.” The resurrection is the reason for our hope.
The resurrection of our Savior confirms His identity as the eternal Son of God. It gives us assurance that everything He ever said was true. It stands as our confident reminder that because He lives, we shall live also. Peter and the disciples knew first-hand about the loss of hope, having walked through the dark and trying days and despair of the cross, along with the bewilderment that followed. But, hope was forever revived in their hearts when the resurrected Lord appeared in their presence.
Hope lives in our hearts because He lives. Our future is secure, bright, and eternal. To those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ, there is promised “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.” A reservation is made in Heaven for us. Our text begins with the words, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Our hearts erupt with praise for Him when we consider His abundant goodness in our lives.
Where would we be without Him? We would be lost, separated from God, strangers to His goodness, and doomed to an eternity of deserved wrath in the fires of hell. Instead, we are on our way to Heaven. Gratitude and praise should flow from our lips for the great mercy we have been shown, the forgiveness we have been given, and the future we have been promised.
“And the men of Bethshemesh said, Who is able to stand before this holy LORD God? and to whom shall he go up from us?”
I Samuel 6:20
The Philistines defeated Israel and captured the ark of God. Because of the problems and plagues the Philistines had experienced, they decided to send the ark back to Israel. The ark arrived in Bethshemesh where the men rejoiced to see it. However, because the men of Bethshemesh looked into the ark, fifty thousand and seventy of their men were killed. The quick and severe judgment brought this response from the men of Bethshemesh, “Who is able to stand before this holy LORD God?” They had a new appreciation for God’s power and holiness after seeing the way He promptly judged their sin. They were made aware of their own weakness and inability to stand before the Almighty.
Their question deserves our serious consideration and a biblical answer. “Who is able to stand before this holy LORD God?” The answer is that no one, in his own merit or ability, is able to stand before God. The Bible clearly states, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). We cannot come before God in our own works or good deeds. God is infinitely holy. The only way that sinful man can be made fit to come before holy God is to be purified and cleansed of sins.
At the time of our salvation, holiness and righteousness are imputed to us. This is made possible through the grace of God and the perfect forgiveness provided through Jesus Christ. Christ died for our sins that we might be forgiven and cleansed through the power of His blood that was shed at Calvary. When a person acknowledges his sin and repents to God, receiving Christ by faith as his Savior, he is born again by the Spirit of God. At that instant, His righteousness is imputed unto us. We are able to stand before God, not in our own righteousness, but in that righteousness which is by faith in Jesus Christ.
Thank God we are able to stand before God because of our position in Christ. We stand before Him redeemed, cleansed, justified, reconciled, adopted, accepted, and holy because of the gift of righteousness that is found in His great sacrifice. And one day, because of His great love, we will stand before Him in Heaven, in His holy presence. “Who is able to stand before this holy LORD God?” Only those who are redeemed by His grace, washed and made clean in the blood of the Lamb.
“Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.”
The word patience, in referring to the character of Job, describes his endurance, or patient continuance. Job is a tremendous example for us in many ways, and one admirable quality was his ability to overcome. Who do we know that has endured more than Job? He suffered the loss of his wealth, his family, his health, the discouraging words of his wife, and the verbal abuse of his friends. Yet Job continued forward, persevering through all his adversity. The Scripture directs us to think of “the end of the Lord” in Job’s life. What was the final result of his testing? Job was eventually increased and blessed in a remarkable way after enduring his trials. God blessed him with multitudes of livestock, additional children, and length of days. The Bible says, “the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning” (Job 42:12).
None of us would want to go through the things Job experienced, but God wants us to learn a lesson from Job. Whatever life brings our way, He wants us to endure for His glory and for our benefit. This principle presupposes a promise – that endurance is possible by the grace of God. The devil wants us to think differently, that our trials are too difficult, that God is not just, and that we are not capable of enduring. Nothing could be farther from the truth. God has promised to be with us and strengthen us for the most difficult times of our lives.
We should not assume that because trials come our way, God has somehow abandoned us or that He has ceased to be good. God loves us and wants to show Himself strong in our lives as we trust in Him. The Scripture says, “the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” The Lord is compassionate, knows what we are going through, and will give us the grace to endure. It is a truly blessed person who endures and remains faithful to the Lord and His will while going through hardship and difficulty. As with Job, those faithful servants who persevere through times of testing will be rewarded, both in this life, as well as in the life to come. We will all face fiery trials and times when our faith is tested. Look to God and don’t give up. In the end, there will be great blessing.
“Turn thou us unto thee, O LORD, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old.”
The prophet is lamenting the deplorable condition of God’s people. Israel had become a reproach. They had refused to respond to the voice of God’s prophets who repeatedly cried out for them to return to God and the truth. There was one remaining hope for these people. Only the combination of their sincere repentance and the merciful intervention of God could rectify their dismal state.
The Scripture records this earnest plea, “Turn thou us unto thee, O LORD, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old.” The prayer was that God would work in these people, that they would be turned from their rebellion and spiritual adultery, and return to God. He then adds as part of his intercession this phrase, “renew our days as of old.” To renew means “to restore to previous condition, to rebuild, to become like new.” Israel needed to be restored to the spiritual place that was part of their heritage, but had been abandoned. This is the work of revival and renewal that is still needed today. It is clear that Jeremiah was burdened for his nation be restored to a place they once knew. They were guilty of idolatry, worshipping new gods, and turning their backs on biblical instruction for worship and obedience.
The words “as of old” speak precisely of the goal of revival. In many ways, revival is getting back to where we need to be, or getting back to where we once were. This is similar to the warning to the church at Ephesus, “thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works” (Revelation 2:4, 5). True revival is not found in simply introducing new programs or methodology, or changing styles of leadership or worship. Revival is a return to former devotion and love, and a forsaking of sin.
The price or prerequisite for revival has never changed. There must be a turning from sin and self and a turning to God. There can be no revival where there is no repentance. However, the encouraging promise is that God is able to renew our days. He can restore the joy and bring back the spiritual vitality that we once knew. He can rebuild our lives and make us like new again if we are willing to sincerely turn from our sins in repentance and turn to Him with all our hearts. May God “renew our days as of old.”
“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Getting along with other Christians is one of our foremost responsibilities and challenges. At the moment of conversion, we are born into a new spiritual family. We become God’s children, and all those who belong to Him are also related to us. We soon realize what the Bible means when it refers to us as strangers and pilgrims. We have less in common with this world and with those who are a part of this world’s system. At the same time, we have much more in common with our new family. God is our Father; Jesus is our Savior; the Bible is our guide; Heaven is our home; holiness is our objective; evangelism is our purpose; love is our motivation; and integrity is our passion.
This commonness is even more pronounced in our relationship to the members of our church body. We are bound together by the strong cords of charity and purpose. We are united in our care for one another and in our goal of impacting our communities with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet, the painful reality is that believers can have a very difficult time getting along with each other, forgiving each other, and remaining loyal to each other. It takes effort to keep our churches unified, as God wants them to be.
The Scripture charges us with the words, “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” To endeavor means we have to work at it; it takes labor and effort. Maintaining the right spirit towards one another does not happen automatically. Our flesh can find reasons to hold grudges or harbor ill feelings. The devil is actively working to divide and isolate the sheep from the flock and their shepherd.
As challenging as unity may seem, we know it is possible because it is God’s will for us. We must remain humble, treating others with “lowliness and meekness.” Pride drives wedges between the best of friends. We are to have “longsuffering, forbearing one another in love.” Because of our love, we are able to bear with and be patient with each other. By God’s grace, and with the right attitude, we can experience the kind of unity He desires.
“Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.”
David begins his sentence with a two word plea that we all can relate to, “Help, LORD.” It is a prayer that most of us have uttered and is repeated in some form many times in the pages of Scripture. David knew Who to turn to with his need. These two words express the simplicity, and yet power, of sincere prayer. Who do we turn to in our time of desperation? We should turn to the Lord. This is our privilege and even our duty. God wants us to look to Him. He wants us to trust in Him. He wants to be our Helper.
We all know the challenge or grief that comes from being in desperate situations. It may be an emotional struggle that we are going through, a health concern, a formidable spiritual attack, some dire financial need, a relationship that needs divine intervention, or any other type of problem. Whatever the case may be, God wants to help us; He wants us to cry out to Him. This is our privilege as the children of Almighty God.
When Jesus was preparing His disciples for the moment He would leave them, He comforted them with words about the reality of prayer. Jesus had been with them constantly, helping them, providing for them, comforting them, and guiding them. What would they do in His absence? How would they manage? Who would help them after He returned to Heaven? Jesus said to them, “And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:23, 24). God wants to hear from us, and He is ready to help us in our time of need.
A great crisis in David’s day provoked his desperate plea. He was burdened because “the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.” There was an urgent need for divine intervention because of the failure among God’s men. Could the same not be said of our generation? We desperately need God’s help. These are perilous times, and we witness the loss or absence of godly, faithful leaders. We thank God for those who are and remain true to the Savior, the cause, and the Word of God, but the need is paramount. May the critical need motivate us to cry out to God for His help.
“And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the LORD: and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel.”
The Book of Judges records the perpetual backsliding of the children of Israel, their repentance (which proved to be only temporary), God’s deliverance, and then their return to the same cycle. During this period of time, many different enemies oppressed them. When they would cry out to God, He would deliver them. We see this pattern once again in our text. They confessed their sin, “put away the strange gods from among them, and served the LORD.” God’s compassion and mercy for His wayward people is revealed in the words, “his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel.” God was grieved for their misery. He saw their downward spiral and knew the fruit of their rebellion and disobedience. When they acknowledged their error and turned to God, He then turned to them.
It is easy to see how wrong the Israelites were and wonder how God could be so forgiving toward them. But, we all should be thankful that God is as merciful as He is. We should consider ourselves blessed that He sees and cares for us when we have made a wrong decision or have walked away from His will. This is the way God is. He is loving and compassionate. None of us deserve His mercy. We know He will judge our sin if we do not judge it ourselves. He chastens us and corrects us because He loves us.
He sees our misery that is brought on because of our disobedience. A child of God cannot live in rebellion and not experience some measure of misery. How could someone who has been born again and is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, be happy living in wickedness? Sin brings misery. And when God sees us in our misery, His heart is moved toward us. He wants to see us turn from our sin and begin to serve the Lord. To a certain degree, all of us can relate to the period of the Judges. We all know what it is like to drift away from God’s perfect will. We have seen times when we were lukewarm toward the Lord and the work He has given us to do. We know the misery of sin not confessed.
Thank God that He still loves us, even when we are not as faithful as we should be. As with the children of Israel, He sees us in such a state, loves us, is grieved for our misery, and wants to work in our lives.