Do you ever feel like it is always someone else who is the winner? You put your best effort in and someone else is chosen? This desire for favor is within us, a craving for acceptance and significance. We all want to be the one chosen and appreciated. But the irony is, that while we are looking for favor, in Christ, we already have it, yet many still strive blindly for favor that looks different than what they have been given.
Maybe you feel like the 1% of the population where Murphy’s Law resides. That other shoe is about to drop. And you just want some relief. I get it, believe me. Join me for some sweet relief today from the psalmist as he points us to the favor of God that never fails is.
Bible Reading of the Day: Psalm 123-125
The Psalmist is looking for God’s favor. Notice that the eyes are the focus in this Psalm. He is actively choosing to lift his eyes to God, and setting his eyes on the LORD.
He recognizes that his help comes from God and no one or nothing else. And he admits his problems to God and cries out. He does not try to placate his troubles or go elsewhere for rescue.
“I lift my eyes to you, the one enthroned in heaven. 2 Like a servant’s eyes on his master’s hand, like a servant girl’s eyes on her mistress’s hand, so our eyes are on the Lord our God until he shows us favor. 3 Show us favor, Lord, show us favor, for we’ve had more than enough contempt. 4 We’ve had more than enough scorn from the arrogant and contempt from the proud.”
The Psalmist asks for favor and reveals his hardship to God. But the presence of hardship does not mean the absence of God.
Looking for Favor—Recognizing God’s Favor in Our Lives
We often think about our struggles in the context of when will God deliver us from them, but perhaps we do not consider what God has already spared us from. This is the heart of Psalm 124.
The “if . . . then” statement of the psalmist reveals that the favor of God is the difference in the equation of life.
The psalmist shifts from looking to and on God to recognizing that God was already there. His favor was already there.
1 “If the Lord had not been on our side—let Israel say—2 if the Lord had not been on our side when people attacked us, 3 then they would have swallowed us alive in their burning anger against us. 4 Then the water would have engulfed us; the torrent would have swept over us; 5 the raging water would have swept over us. 6 Blessed be the Lord, who has not let us be ripped apart by their teeth. 7 We have escaped like a bird from the hunter’s net; the net is torn, and we have escaped. 8 Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
Looking for Favor—Trusting in God at All Times
Our stability hinges on what we are trusting in. Are we trusting in favor as our rescue, or God? Favor on this earth is temporary, like popularity in a fickle world. But the favor of God lasts forever.
“Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion. It cannot be shaken; it remains forever. 2 The mountains surround Jerusalem and the Lord surrounds his people, both now and forever. 3 The scepter of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous, so that the righteous will not apply their hands to injustice. 4 Do what is good, Lord, to the good, to those whose hearts are upright. 5 But as for those who turn aside to crooked ways, the Lord will banish them with the evildoers. Peace be with Israel.”
Scripture of the Day: Psalm 125: 1-2
“Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion. It cannot be shaken; it remains forever. 2 The mountains surround Jerusalem and the Lord surrounds his people, both now and forever.”
Friends, we are surrounded by God’s favor. So much so. But the world around us is full of troubles and we are affected by that.
Don’t look for a rescue or favor from man or anywhere in this world.
May we recognize the favor of God in our lives and choose to be grateful when life is hard.
When we feel surrounded by troubles, may we remember that God surrounds us and His favor is enough.
The presence of hardship does not mean the absence of God.
There’s a trend in human nature to blame those who went before us. And sometimes our predecessors can make it harder on us, for sure. But at the end of the day, God’s grace is there to help us rise above our past and release its residue of pain. There is no blaming your parents when the example they set – good or bad – is something we can learn from. And more than that—when the Holy Spirit can transform and enable us to rise above any past.
Bible Reading of the Day: Zechariah 1-5
We are reading the book of Zechariah today so we always provide a little background information. This is from my study Bible:
“Zechariah is the eleventh of the Minor Prophets. Like Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Zechariah was a priest as well as a prophet. The book of Zechariah largely concerns the temple and priesthood and the purification of the people. Zechariah’s grandfather Iddo was a priest who returned from exile with Zerubbabel (Neh. 12:4), making it likely that Zechariah was Haggai’s younger colleague. Whereas Haggai’s focus was on the rebuilding of the temple and the reinstitution of the sacrificial system, Zechariah’s focus was on the people’s spiritual transformation” (Colson, Chuck, Norm Geisler, Hank Hanegraaff, Josh McDowell, Albert Mohler, Ravi Zacharias, J. P. Moreland, and Phil Johnson. The Apologetics Study Bible. B&H Publishing Group, 2007).
Zechariah stressed the presence of the LORD with His people (1:16, 9:9-10; 14:4,9) and also the necessity to obey the LORD, especially in matters of justice, mercy, compassion, and truthfulness.
No Blaming Your Parents—Return to the LORD of Armies
“Zechariah begins his book with a strong call for Israel to repent (1:1-6). This theme of repentance is developed more fully through the subsequent eight visions. In general, these visions speak of God’s plans for Israel and especially for Jerusalem and the temple. Another major theme is the coming of the future Messiah. The prophet also had a mission of encouraging the post-exilic Jews to continue their work to rebuild the temple.” (Gotquestions.org)
“In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berechiah, son of Iddo: 2 “The LORD was extremely angry with your ancestors. 3 So tell the people, ‘This is what the LORD of Armies says: Return to me—this is the declaration of the LORD of Armies—and I will return to you, says the LORD of Armies.
No Blaming Your Parents—Their Pattern Does Not Have to Be Ours
4 Do not be like your ancestors; the earlier prophets proclaimed to them: This is what the LORD of Armies says: Turn from your evil ways and your evil deeds. But they did not listen or pay attention to me—this is the LORD’s declaration. 5 Where are your ancestors now? And do the prophets live forever? 6 But didn’t my words and my statutes that I commanded my servants the prophets overtake your ancestors?’” So the people repented and said, “As the LORD of Armies decided to deal with us for our ways and our deeds, so he has dealt with us.”
Notice the name of God that is repeated five times in these opening verses – the LORD of Armies. LORD – He is in relationship with His people, and He is LORD over all the Heavenly host and all creation.
We have to return in order for the LORD to return to us. Repenting is not just being sorry it is turning from our ways. Even ingrained ways that might have been sins passed down as part of the family tradition.
The Hope of Restoration Via Visions
In Zechariah 1:7–6:8, the prophet Zechariah receives eight visions in one busy night:
The horseman among the myrtle trees (1:7-17)
The four horns and four craftsmen (1:18-21)
The surveyor (2:1-13)
The vision of Joshua the high priest (3:1-10)
The golden lampstand and two olive trees (4:1-14)
The flying scroll (5:1-4)
The woman in the basket (5:5-11)
The four chariots (6:1-8)
Visions of Restoration
The horseman among the myrtle trees (1:7-17): Zechariah sees a man and horses among the trees. The man explains that they had gone throughout the whole earth and found peace. An angel then tells the prophet that God still loved Israel and would restore Jerusalem. Verse 17 summarizes: “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘My towns will again overflow with prosperity, and the LORD will again comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem.’”
2. The four horns and four craftsmen (1:18-21): Zechariah is shown four horns and four craftsmen. The angel tells him that the horns are four kingdoms that opposed Israel (Assyria, Egypt, Babylon, and Medo-Persia) and the craftsmen are coming to “throw down these horns”; i.e., God would defeat Israel’s enemies.
3. The surveyor (2:1-13): Zechariah sees a man holding a measuring line. When the prophet asks the man where he is going, the man says he is going to measure the city of Jerusalem. This vision represents God’s promise that Jerusalem will be expanded and its people will one day live in safety as the Lord judges Israel’s enemies.
Visions of Blessing
4. The vision of Joshua the high priest (3:1-10): Zechariah sees Joshua the high priest standing in filthy clothes; he is before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan stands to the side. Satan is rebuked, and Joshua is given rich, clean clothes. God Himself explains the vision: Joshua will be blessed in his service to the Lord. The vision is also symbolic of Israel’s restoration as God’s “priestly” nation (cf. Exodus 19:6). This vision of Joshua ends with a prediction of the ultimate high priest—the coming Messiah, symbolized by a Branch and an all-seeing Stone.
5. The golden lampstand and two olive trees (4:1-14): An angel shows Zechariah a golden lampstand being fed oil from two olive trees. The two olive trees are symbolic of Zerubbabel the governor of Judah and Joshua the high priest. The golden lampstand represents the temple and temple-worshiping community. God was making the point that He would once again work through His people to lay the foundation of the temple and finish the work.
Visions of Obedience
6. The flying scroll (5:1-4): Zechariah sees a large scroll, written on both sides, flying over the whole land. This vision speaks of God’s judgment upon those who disobeyed His law.
7. The woman in the basket (5:5-11): The angel shows the prophet a basket that could hold an ephah (three-fifths of a bushel). On the basket is a lead cover. The angel opens the basket to reveal a woman sitting inside. The angel says, “This is the iniquity of the people throughout the land,” and seals the basket again with the heavy lid. Two other women appear with stork-like wings; they pick up the basket and carry it to Babylon. This strange vision pictures suppressed wickedness to be banished to Babylon where it would eventually be freed (cf. Revelation 17).
Visions of Judgement
8. The four chariots (6:1-8): Zechariah sees four horses of different colors pulling four chariots. They quickly run through the entire earth, with the result that God’s Spirit has “rest.” This vision represents a judgment upon the enemies of Israel. After the judgment, God’s wrath will be appeased, and “rest” ensues. This final vision brings the series of visions full circle: the first vision had pictured these horses at the end of their mission. A similar vision of judgment, also using the imagery of horses, is found in Revelation 6:1-8.
The two middle visions, numbers 4 and 5, emphasize God’s blessing. As Israel returns to Jerusalem and rebuilds the temple, they will find God’s favor. The work will be accomplished, “‘not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty” (4:6).
No Blaming Your Parents—Restoration is Possible!
The Book of Zechariah teaches that salvation may be obtained by all. The last chapter depicts peoples from all over the world coming to worship God, who desires that all people follow Him. This is not the doctrine of universalism, i.e., that all people would be saved because it is God’s nature to save. Rather, the book teaches that God desires that all people worship Him and accepts those who do, regardless of their national or political expressions.
Finally, Zechariah preached that God is sovereign over this world, any appearance to the contrary notwithstanding. His visions of the future indicate that God sees all that will happen. The depictions of God’s intervention in the world teach that ultimately He will bring human events to the end He chooses. He does not eliminate the individual’s freedom to follow God or rebel, but holds people responsible for the choices they make. In the last chapter, even the forces of nature respond to God’s control.
Scripture of the Day: Zechariah 4:6
“So he answered me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by strength or by might, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord of Armies.”
God was not telling Zechariah the work he had to do and then expecting Zechariah to get ‘er done on his own. The Spirit is how we do life now. We cannot do things in our own strength—we fail if we do.
No matter what our past, God holds our future.
No matter what our story is, it’s not over yet and God knows the end.
God will complete the work by His Spirit.
Don’t blame your parents or circumstances. Life is hard, but by His Spirit and the blood of Christ, we are overcomers.
We all know the American motivation for cleaning up, right? Company’s coming. But shoving things in the closet will come back to haunt us later. It’s the deep clean that happens when we finally set aside time to do so that truly gets the job done. But when the job is daunting, we tend to avoid it. Everybody ought to know how to clean house. But I’m not talking about literal house cleaning. There is a spiritual cleansing that is necessary, too. Don’t be afraid to “clean house” in your life and church, friend. We tend to want to set it and forget it, right? But the problem is we are not static. The natural tendency is to grow complacent and to drift by degrees.
Bible Reading of the Day: 2 Chronicles 31-36
We are finishing the book of 2 Chronicles today and what an end! Hezekiah is cleaning house and getting things done.
2 Chronicles 31:2-4
“2 Hezekiah reestablished the divisions of the priests and Levites for the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, for ministry, for giving thanks, and for praise in the gates of the camp of the Lord, each division corresponding to his service among the priests and Levites. 3 The king contributed from his own possessions for the regular morning and evening burnt offerings, the burnt offerings of the Sabbaths, of the New Moons, and of the appointed feasts, as written in the law of the Lord. 4 He told the people who lived in Jerusalem to give a contribution for the priests and Levites so that they could devote their energy to the law of the Lord.”
Hezekiah did not just go with status quo. He was a leader who was willing to go against the tide and set a right standard. And he also applied this standard to himself. There is nothing better than a leader who lives out what he expects of others.
How to Clean House—Inspire Others By Living What You Believe
Sometimes pastors and churches can catch flack for asking church members to contribute, though. People can say all the church wants is money. This is not so. A few corrupt tele-evangelists does not mean that God’s church is greedy. Ministry costs and laborers are worthy of compensation so they can be devoted to God’s work. Notice in verse 4, that the leaders in the church could devote their energy to the law of the Lord because of the generosity of God’s people.
It is contagious when others around us serve and are faithful. Well, sometimes when we are doing major house cleaning, people hide at our house to get out of chores. But there is positive energy that comes from people serving and giving faithfully. The leaders exemplified it and the people followed.
Cleaning House—The People’s Contribution
2 Chronicles 31:6-10
“6 As for the Israelites and Judahites who lived in the cities of Judah, they also brought a tenth of the herds and flocks, and a tenth of the dedicated things that were consecrated to the Lord their God. They gathered them into large piles. 7 In the third month they began building up the piles, and they finished in the seventh month. 8 When Hezekiah and his officials came and viewed the piles, they blessed the Lord and his people Israel.
9 Hezekiah asked the priests and Levites about the piles. 10 The chief priest Azariah, of the household of Zadok, answered him, “Since they began bringing the offering to the Lord’s temple, we have been eating and are satisfied and there is plenty left over because the Lord has blessed his people; this abundance is what is left over.”
Our faithfulness in giving affects ministry. And when leaders are diligent to do things God’s way, the church and leadership are blessed. I love Hezekiah’s heart. He feared and loved God and was diligent to do what God said.
How to Clean House—Being Diligent
2 Chronicles 31:20-21
“20 Hezekiah did this throughout all Judah. He did what was good and upright and true before the Lord his God. 21 He was diligent in every deed that he began in the service of God’s temple, in the instruction and the commands, in order to seek his God, and he prospered.”
This is such a wonderful moment. I can even hear the orchestral music in the background. But as much as I love Hezekiah’s heart, he also made mistakes. Showing the Assyrians all his riches was not a good idea. And led to attack from King Sennaccherib.
2 Chronicles 32:1
“After Hezekiah’s faithful deeds, King Sennacherib of Assyria came and entered Judah. He laid siege to the fortified cities and intended to break into them.”
Good times, right? Just when everything is going well, a big threat comes. But look at Hezekiah’s response, which is the Scripture of the day.
Scripture of the Day: 2 Chronicles 32:6-8
“6 He set military commanders over the people and gathered the people in the square of the city gate. Then he encouraged them, saying, 7 “Be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid or discouraged before the king of Assyria or before the large army that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. 8 He has only human strength, but we have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.” So the people relied on the words of King Hezekiah of Judah.”
King Hezekiah truly lived out his faith. He relied on God. Despite Sennacherib’s insults, mocking and undermining of his faith, Hezekiah dug in deeper and cried out to God. And God answered.
How to Clean House—Passing the Torch Down
2 Chronicles 32:18
“18 Then they called out loudly in Hebrew to the people of Jerusalem, who were on the wall, to frighten and discourage them in order that he might capture the city. 19 They spoke against the God of Jerusalem like they had spoken against the gods of the peoples of the earth, which were made by human hands.
20 King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz prayed about this and cried out to heaven, 21 and the Lord sent an angel who annihilated every valiant warrior, leader, and commander in the camp of the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria returned in disgrace to his land. He went to the temple of his god, and there some of his own children struck him down with the sword.”
Hezekiah walked closely with the LORD. Through illness, battles, through all of life, but his son, Manasseh didn’t. God used Assyria again to bring Manasseh to repentance. Josiah became king after him and found the book of the Law and also cleaned house like Hezekiah did. The question is, will we live our life faithfully so those who come behind us will do the same? Do we need to clean house today, friends?
God is faithful to speak. May we be faithful to listen and apply His word to our lives.
Cleaning house is a continual effort in our lives.
Will you pass the test? No one likes tests, right? Ok, that is an assumption on my part, but suffice it to say that tests for most people are stress-inducing. The SAT test, in particular, was a source of stress in our household. One moment in time to prove yourself. We can wonder why we have to test ourselves. But there is a test that we all must go through. The test of faith. There is no fence walking there. We are either in the faith or we are not. And we will bear consequences for that choice. It is pass/fail. No in-between.
The Test of Faith—Deuteronomy 13-15
Tests prove our readiness and mastery of the content being presented. Deuteronomy 13 opens up today with a test that God has for His people. How would you answer these questions:
Do you love God?
Do you follow Him?
And do you fear Him?
Do you keep His commands?
Do you listen to Him?
And do you worship Him?
Are you faithful to Him?
We all in our hearts want to answer yes to these questions, and we all know the Sunday school answer to any question, right? It’s Jesus!
But the proof is shown when we are tested. And sometimes we are not aware that we have a test coming.
The Test of Faith—It’s Test time!
Have you ever forgotten about a test or had to cram for a test? I remember one time at the University of Maryland when I was late for a test. And on another time, I did not know there was a test and was highlighting the book in yellow right before I had to take it. I passed those tests due in part to the lifestyle of preparation I had before those tests.
For the Israelites, and sometimes for us, the tests can be tricky. Would they be able to discern if a prophet were trying to lead them astray? Or if their own loved ones tried to? Or if the surrounding culture was influencing them away from God? These were the measures used to test their hearts and prove their faith.
The Test of Faith—Do You Love Me?
“If a prophet or someone who has dreams arises among you and proclaims a sign or wonder to you, 2 and that sign or wonder he has promised you comes about, but he says, ‘Let’s follow other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let’s worship them,’ 3 do not listen to that prophet’s words or to that dreamer. For the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul. 4 You must follow the Lord your God and fear him. You must keep his commands and listen to him; you must worship him and remain faithful to him. 5 That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he has urged rebellion against the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the place of slavery, to turn you from the way the Lord your God has commanded you to walk. You must purge the evil from you.”
The Test of Faith—Test #1—A Religious Leader
The chief test here was a prophet – so someone who represented God – was trying to lead God’s people away from God. Y’all, we have to be like the Bereans – are we testing what we hear in the pulpit? Not to beat up the pastor, but to make sure we are walking in truth. We should test what we hear with the word of God. Luke applauded the Bereans for doing so.
“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”
The test was whether or not they really loved God. The temptation was whether they would follow the leader’s advice to follow other gods or follow God. And the proof of that love was shown in their actions.
Pastors mean well but they aren’t perfect and sometimes they make mistakes, too. There is a struggle between being culturally sensitive and not being biblically sensitive. We must be discerning like the Bereans.
The Test of Faith—Our Response When Tested
We must follow Him . . . before we ever follow man.
We must fear Him . . . more than we fear man.
And we must keep His commands . . . more than trying to fit in because we belong to Jesus.
We must listen to Him . . . not listen to all the different opinions and philosophies of this world.
We must worship Him . . . and not resort to idolatry.
And we must be faithful to Him . . . and after all, we are talking about the test of faith – being faithful.
The Test of Faith—Test #2—Loved Ones
There were other people who would try to turn God’s people from following Him. After the prophet was those in our inner circle. Our family and loved ones.
“If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you embrace, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, ‘Let’s go and worship other gods’—which neither you nor your ancestors have known, 7 any of the gods of the peoples around you, near you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other— 8 do not yield to him or listen to him. Show him no pity, and do not spare him or shield him. 9 Instead, you must kill him. Your hand is to be the first against him to put him to death, and then the hands of all the people.”
Notice these were people who were close to them. And their temptation was to get God’s people to not just follow other gods, but to go and worship them. Worship happens when we prioritize something or someone above all else. Worship is not always so obvious.
We need to not check our brain at the door. We need to be in God’s word so we can discern.
The Test of Faith—Um, Kill Those Who tempt Us Away From God?
Ok, let’s address the elephant in the room. We are not supposed to murder someone if they try to tempt us away from following God.
“The Old Testament law commanded the death penalty for various acts: murder (Exodus 21:12), kidnapping (Exodus 21:16), bestiality (Exodus 22:19), adultery (Leviticus 20:10), homosexuality (Leviticus 20:13), being a false prophet (Deuteronomy 13:5), prostitution and rape (Deuteronomy 22:24), and several other crimes. However, God often showed mercy when the death penalty was due. David committed adultery and murder, yet God did not demand his life be taken (2 Samuel 11:1-5, 14-17; 2 Samuel 12:13). Ultimately, every sin we commit should result in the death penalty because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Thankfully, God demonstrates His love for us in not condemning us (Romans 5:8).
The Test of Faith—Grace When We Fail
When the Pharisees brought a woman who was caught in the act of adultery to Jesus and asked Him if she should be stoned, Jesus replied, “If anyone of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). This should not be used to indicate that Jesus rejected capital punishment in all instances. Jesus was simply exposing the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.
God is the One who instituted capital punishment: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man” (Genesis 9:6). Jesus would support capital punishment in some instances. Jesus also demonstrated grace when capital punishment was due (John 8:1-11).
But perhaps we see the seriousness of the sin of someone trying to influence someone away from faith in God. And friends, this happens every day, 24/7. The influences surrounding us and our children trying to pull us away from God are ridiculous. These influences are tests that can be overcome by God’s word and through the power of the Holy Spirit, prayer, and being in community with godly, like-minded people.
But how do we correct others? In humility and grace . . . with truth without compromise.
The Test of Faith—Test #3—The Surrounding Culture
If it isn’t someone in the church or a family member trying to lead you astray, perhaps it is the culture around you.
12 “If you hear it said about one of your cities the Lord your God is giving you to live in, 13 that wicked men have sprung up among you, led the inhabitants of their city astray, and said, ‘Let’s go and worship other gods,’ which you have not known, 14 you are to inquire, investigate, and interrogate thoroughly. If the report turns out to be true that this detestable act has been done among you, 15 you must strike down the inhabitants of that city with the sword. Completely destroy everyone in it as well as its livestock with the sword.”
Notice that we are not to be apathetic and just throw in the towel. No. We are to do something about it. We are to inquire, investigate, and interrogate thoroughly. And we need to examine our culture through a biblical lens. This will mean we might get persecuted. But this, too, is the test of faith that proves whether our faith is genuine or not.
The Test of Faith—Accessing the Blessing
We all want to get an “A” on a test, right? Ok, an “A+”. We don’t want to barely pass. On a recent Hebrew final exam, I literally wept during the test. It was so hard. I had been hospitalized during the final weeks of the class and just struggled to get final assignments in. My family rolled their eyeballs because I did get an A+ on that test and in that class, but it was a hard-fought A+, y’all.
The goal for an A+ is not for our glory, but God’s. We give our best because He deserves it. And when our faith is tested and proven genuine, we arrive at a place of blessing. Because God is so good. He sets the standard of righteousness and then fulfills it on our behalf. Not so we can coast through this life, but so we can have strength and grace to rise to the tests this life presents.
The Test of Faith—Other Tests of Obedience
The chief struggle for us all and for God’s people back then was idolatry. Faithlessness. This is why our faith needed to be tested so we would grow and not shrink back. Deuteronomy 14 reminds us to avoid practices that are forbidden by God. Don’t follow the culture. Lead it to God. The food practices aren’t as applicable to us today, but there are principles found within this text. We see the words reiterated in Deuteronomy 14:2 and 14:21:
“2 For you are a holy people belonging to the Lord your God. The Lord has chosen you to be His own possession out of all the peoples on the face of the earth.”
The Test of Faith—Be Holy As He is Holy
God’s holiness does not change with the influences of the world, family, or religion. We need to be steadfast. Faithful. Faithful in the tithe and in generosity to those in need mentioned in chapters 14 and 15. And faithful in purity and holiness. Finally, we need to be faithful to submit to God rather than yielding to ungodly influences. And look at the promise that is ours if we do Deuteronomy 15:5, “5 if only you obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow every one of these commands I am giving you today . . .”
Scripture of the Day: Deuteronomy 15:6 (NLT)
“The LORD your God will bless you as he has promised. You will lend money to many nations but will never need to borrow. You will rule many nations, but they will not rule over you.”
Study God’s word to be ready for the tests this life brings.
Examine the influences in your life through God’s word.
Joy does not just happen. It is something we get to decide whether or not we experience it. And true joy can occur in hard or good times. Joy is chosen. And when it is, there is nothing that can steal our joy.
Bible Reading of the Day: James 1-3
This book was written by the half-brother of Jesus. The Easy English Bible commentary describes the main message of the book of James in this way:
“A large number of the Christians had left Jerusalem and had gone to live in other countries. But the apostles and leaders of the church did not go. So, these Christians no longer had the day-to-day contact with their leaders. James wrote to help them. He wrote to encourage them to live as Christians should, in the places where they now lived.
What Christians believe must affect what they do. That is the main subject of his letter. He shows how they should apply their trust in God to the problems that they have. Real faith must be active. That is the key to what he wrote. Faith that does nothing is not real faith. So he says that faith without works is dead.”
Joy is Chosen
James 1:2-4 CSB
“2 Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”
Notice the words, “Great joy”. This joy was massive. And friends, we need joy to walk out this life of faith. James is writing about the need for faith with works and it is trials that can cause us to get sidetracked. But if we learn how to handle trials with joy, we can overcome and live out this message faithfully. Joy is Chosen. And it can be chosen at all times.
The enemy works to discourage us and sometimes we believe the lie that we are forgotten when God allows suffering in our lives. We get distracted and just want the absence of troubles, but here James is challenging us to rise above our pain and to recognize the blessings of trials. That sounds like an oxymoron, right? Blessings in trials? Yes.
Joy is Chosen—Gratitude
Gratitude cultivates joy. What are some blessings that God has shown you in some of the hard places in your life?
In the hospital recently, God filled me with joy as I considered the gift of life. And the character God was imparting to me and the revelations He showed in the midst are treasures.
Joy is Chosen—In the Daily
James is chock-full of practical tips to help us find joy in our daily lives.
James 1:5 – We can have wisdom for the asking.
“5 Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him.”
Ecclesiastes 8:1 (NIV)
“Who is like the wise? Who knows the explanation of things? A person’s wisdom brightens their face and changes its hard appearance.”
James reminds us to do what we say we believe.
“But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
“12 Speak and act as those who are to be judged by the law of freedom.”
“22 You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was made complete.”
When we are hearers and doers, we have joy. Being duplicitous only leads to conflict, confusion, and depression.
Joy is Chosen—Joy in Mercy
“For judgment is without mercy to the one who has not shown mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
Friends, our Savior chooses to sit on a seat of mercy when we deserve damnation. If this does not produce joy, God help us. This life is not the end goal.
Scripture of the Day: James 3:13
“Who among you is wise and understanding? By his good conduct he should show that his works are done in the gentleness that comes from wisdom.”
Friends, let’s live out God’s word. Living out what God has shown us gives us great joy. God’s ways are best. Living in sin discourages us and defeats us and James mentions several sins – favoritism, gossip, a duplicitous faith, pride, cursing, that keep us burden and joyless. Christ gave His life for us. Let’s live faithfully for Him.
Saul/Paul’s calling or conversion story was pretty miraculous. In a moment he went from persecutor of Jesus and all Jesus followers to a radical believer who was chosen by God as a representative for the very Savior he persecuted. Finding favor with God was not dependent upon Saul’s goodness or performance. It was just dependent upon God’s grace. So how do we find favor with God who shows no favoritism? We have favor with God just because of his incredible kindness. But there is an expectation for this gift from God. Accepting His free gift of salvation, then living out the gift we have been given. Fearing God and doing what is right.
Finding Favor with God—Salvation
What is your salvation story? Whatever your background before Christ, on the other side of salvation our lives should look radically different. And this salvation is underserved. Unmerited. Given for free.
Bible Reading of the Day: Acts 9-10
What were our expectations of what salvation would look like? Sometimes we expect ease and comfort, right?
“15 But the Lord said, ‘Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. 16 And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.'”
Suffering is a part of life. And representing Jesus means we will be hated by the world. Do we still choose the favor and salvation that Jesus so freely gives, that cost Him His life, knowing that we will suffer for it?
Here’s the thing. We will suffer in this life, regardless. Far better to have a Savior Who is with us through and in all of our suffering.
And when we are saved, it should show.
Finding Favor with God—Bearing Fruit
There is fruit evident in our lives and peace that only God gives.
“31 The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers.”
The church is strengthened when we live in the fear of the LORD and are encouraged by the Spirit and walking in the Spirit.
Finding Favor with God—Not Taking His Grace For Granted
And may we not take for granted God’s kindness and favor.
God’s favor is not cheap.
God’s favor cannot be earned.
And God’s favor does not play favorites.
Scripture of the Day: Acts 10:34-35
“34 Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. 35 In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right. 36 This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee, after John began preaching his message of baptism. 38 And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”
Finding Favor with God—Acceptance on God’s Merit
This reminds me of the verse in Genesis 4:7
“You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”
I have shared this verse from Genesis many times with my children. No one likes to be corrected right? But when we do what is wrong, the freight train is coming, y’all. And that is love that does not let people continue in sin. Sin is deceptive. Crouching at the door. Seeking to subjugate and master us.
Acts 10:34 says that those who have receive salvation will fear God and do what is right. If we don’t live the message we say we believe, it is hard for people to be saved because of our hypocrisy.
Let’s examine ourselves, friends. Are we walking in the light or the dark? Walking in the flesh or the Spirit?
The meaning of life. Ever wonder what the point of it all is, anyway? Since day one there has been the search for the meaning of life, which has always centered around man’s perspective in his own search for significance. But the problem with self-centered theology is that we cannot find any real answers there. And we will not find the answers in and of ourselves. Life’s biggest questions can only be answered by the Creator of life. And He has not left us without guidance. But He has placed a hunger in all of our souls to cause us to search, hopefully until we find Him and His precious word.
Bible Reading of the Day: Ecclesiastes 1-2
Solomon is in a massive brainstorm getting major brain cramps as he struggles in his mind with the purpose of life. Depending on the translation you are reading from, you will see that Solomon has a favorite word that he comes to, again and again in his description or summary of life.
The CSB and NET translations render it “futile”.
The NASB, ESV, NKJV and KJV translations render it as “vanity”.
The NIV translates it as “meaningless”
The GNT says it as “useless”.
And the ISV renders it as “utterly pointless”.
The Search for Significance—Futile
The Hebrew word is “hebel” (pronounced heh’vel), that is in the opening verse of Ecclesiastes 1. Solomon resorted to this word 10 times in the first two chapters and 25 times in the book of Ecclesiastes.
In Strong’s Concordance it means “emptiness or vanity; figuratively, something transitory and unsatisfactory; often used as an adverb: altogether, vain, vanity.
The Search for Significance—Vain
The Theological Workbook for the Old Testament says,
“They went after vanities and “became vain.” (NIV; “They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves.”) Two inexorable principles are illustrated here: (1) every man takes on to some degree the character and nature of the God he worships; (2) the characteristic of all false gods is that they destroy their worshippers.” (Victor P. Hamilton, “463 הָבַל,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 204.)
The Search for Significance—True Understanding
You see if we are not careful, we can let a lie slip in and it becomes a part of our belief system. In our search for significance, we can become jaded by life’s harshness when we look to the creation as our joy rather than the Creator.
We can try to make sense of life and try to define it, but that cannot bring us joy. Understanding life through the eyes of God sets us free from letting life’s ups and downs determine whether or not life is good.
““Absolute futility,” says the Teacher. “Absolute futility. Everything is futile.” 3 What does a person gain for all his efforts that he labors at under the sun? 4 A generation goes and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. 5 The sun rises and the sun sets; panting, it hurries back to the place where it rises. 6 Gusting to the south, turning to the north, turning, turning, goes the wind, and the wind returns in its cycles.
7 All the streams flow to the sea, yet the sea is never full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again. 8 All things are wearisome, more than anyone can say. The eye is not satisfied by seeing or the ear filled with hearing. 9 What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun. 10 Can one say about anything, “Look, this is new”? It has already existed in the ages before us. 11 There is no remembrance of those who came before; and of those who will come after there will also be no remembrance by those who follow them.”
The Search for Significance—Finding Worth in Mundanity
This reminds me of the movie, “Groundhog Day”. The repetitive nature of life can wear us out. OR it can be a comfort.
Really what we are talking about is a search for significance. The daily grind is meaningless unless we have an eternal view. Solomon tries to find significance in several places that turn up empty, futile, meaningless.
He is frustrated that life is the same old thing, day after day.
He wants something new. But shiny and new eventually wear out, too.
“Can one say about anything, “Look, this is new”? It has already existed in the ages before us.” (Ecclesiastes 1:10)
The Search for Significance—Not in Fame
He wants his name to live on. But the desire for significance and or fame should not be our purpose. It’s Jesus’ name that we should want to live on.
“There is no remembrance of those who came before; and of those who will come after there will also be no remembrance by those who follow them.” (Eccl 1:11).
He searches for significance in his own mind and understanding.
“13 I applied my mind to examine and explore through wisdom all that is done under heaven. God has given people[e] this miserable task to keep them occupied. 14 I have seen all the things that are done under the sun and have found everything to be futile, a pursuit of the wind.” (Eccl. 1:13-14)
In short, we are the creation. We do not know more than God. Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds us to lean not on our own understanding. No matter how much we try to find significance with our own mind, we will fall short and it becomes idolatry and discouraging.
The Search for Significance—Solomon’s Errors
For this reason, the search for significance based on our reasoning leaves us empty. No wonder Solomon thought life was futile.
Solomon gave glory to himself for wisdom.
“16 I said to myself, “See, I have amassed wisdom far beyond all those who were over Jerusalem before me, and my mind has thoroughly grasped wisdom and knowledge.” 17 I applied my mind to know wisdom and knowledge, madness and folly; I learned that this too is a pursuit of the wind.” (Eccl 1:16-17)
Solomon thought significance would be found with wisdom, but wisdom is knowledge applied.
18 For with much wisdom is much sorrow; as knowledge increases, grief increases.” (Eccl. 1:18)
Solomon sought significance through his own perspective, centered on self.
Look at all of the “I’s” in this text:
I said . . .
I explored with my mind (Eccl. 2:3)
I increased my achievements (Eccl. 4)
I made . . . (5)
Friends, everything we have has been given to us. Our wisdom is not ours. Our achievements. There is nothing to be set on self. Eternal gains are superior.
The Search for Significance—The Fruit of Searching in the Wrong Places
Solomon’s approach led to:
Hating life (Eccl 2:18)
Control issues (2:19)
Despair (Eccl 2:20)
In conclusion, this life is not our hope. Jesus is. This life is not about us. Life is good. Truly good. But a life centered on self will lead us to despair. It needs to be centered on someone greater.
Scripture of the Day: Ecclesiastes 1:9
“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.”
Don’t try to find your significance in the creation.
The Author of creation gives us purpose and significance in this life.
Sometimes it is not always a monstrous dire situation that is our struggle. It is the daily grind that wears us down. We can lose perspective and grow weary. And sometimes we create drama for ourselves when we choose to do things the hard way. And when we cry out to God in all of life, we have a Helper, ready to make the hard places smooth. Dealing with hard places with God and His word helps us to overcome.
Bible Reading of the Day: Psalms 120-122
Psalm 120 is one of the ascent Psalms. The Easy English Bible Commentary has this to say about these type of Psalms:
“Psalms 120 – 134 are all part of the 15 psalms that are called “Songs of Ascent” in many Bibles. “Ascent” means “going up”. We have translated it “climbing”. But what are we climbing? Students of the Bible give us 4 answers:
One line in the psalm “climbs” on the line in front of it. This means that it repeats the line. Read the start of Psalm 124 for an example.
There were 15 steps from where the women stood to where the men stood outside the temple. The temple was God’s house in Jerusalem. As the men climbed the steps, they sang one psalm on each step. This is why most of these psalms are short.
Jerusalem was on the top of a hill called “Zion”. The Jews often went to Jerusalem to worship God at the temple. The Jews sang these psalms for climbing as they went up the hills to Jerusalem.
Hezekiah was a king of the Jews. He was so ill that he would soon die. He asked God for a longer life. God made the clock “climb” back 10 degrees. This was about an hour. It was a sign that Hezekiah would live for another 15 years. Hezekiah made a book of 15 psalms, 10 of them new, the other 5 by David and Solomon. The story of Hezekiah’s illness is in Isaiah chapter 38.”
Dealing with Hard Places—The Psalmists’ Example
Who wrote the psalms for climbing? Some are by David, and one or two are by Solomon. Solomon was David’s son. The other psalms for climbing may be by Hezekiah or one of his friends like Isaiah; or by Ezra or Nehemiah. Ezra and Nehemiah were leaders of the Jews 500 years after Solomon built the temple, or 250 years after Hezekiah was king. This was when the Jews made the Book of Psalms. The psalms for climbing were part of this Book of Psalms.” (Easy English Bible Commentary).
The Psalmists learned that dealing with hard places was a part of life and God always held the answer.
Dealing with Hard Places—Cry Out!
In Psalm 120, the Psalmist is crying out to the LORD (all caps), meaning our covenant-keeping God. This is speaking of the relationship he had with God. He could come and pour out his heart to God and know that he would be heard.
In spite of challenges, the Psalmist didn’t to give up and asked for help and while sometimes the situations were intense that the Psalmist sought deliverance for, I think we can relate to his plight.
“In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. 2 “Lord, rescue me from lying lips and a deceitful tongue.”
Dealing with Hard Places—The Daily Grind
In short, sometimes it is not always a monstrous dire situation that is our struggle. It is the daily grind that wears us down. Dealing with hard places is not always the obvious problems we face.
People were talking about him. Ever been slandered or gossiped about?
And they were lying about him.
Combative people were in his life who did not want peace. Ever had people stir the pot in your life?
Dealing with Hard Places—Peace in the Midst
Yesterday we talked about the need for peace in our lives – the Psalmist is seeking this peace. But the peace God wants for us is not just the absence of troubles. It is an abiding peace.
In the same way, it is when we go through hard things down here that we are desperate for relief. Sometimes we seek peace but dealing with hard places in our lives, we can run to things of the world for refuge.
What do you need to cry out to God about? Cry out, friend! Don’t resist asking our heavenly Father for help! He wants to help. He wants to have a relationship with Him. And He wants to be our Deliverer, Our rescue.
Dealing with Hard Places—Our Rescue
The Psalmist in Psalm 121 describes Who this is that we are crying out to. He is well able.
“I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? 2 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. 3 He will not allow your foot to slip; your Protector will not slumber. 4 Indeed, the Protector of Israel does not slumber or sleep. 5 The LORD protects you; the LORD is a shelter right by your side. 6 The sun will not strike you by day or the moon by night. 7 And the LORD will protect you from all harm; he will protect your life. 8 The LORD will protect your coming and going both now and forever.”
God is our Helper. Our Protector. Our Shelter.
Scripture of the Day: Psalm 121: 7-8
“The Lord will protect you from all harm; he will protect your life. 8 The Lord will protect your coming and going both now and forever.”
Interestingly, the word protect is the Hebrew word, “shamar” and it appears three times in this verse. It means to keep, guard, observe, give heed, to watch over.
In the same way, sometimes we just want to know that we are seen in this life. God sees us, friend. And more than sees us, he is watching over us. With great care. He is our Protector. Of our coming and going, over all of our life.
Dealing with Hard Places—Pray for Others
Lastly, in Psalm 122 we are told to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Gotquestions.org has this to say about why we should pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
God tells us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem in Psalm 122:6-9: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.’ For the sake of my brothers and friends, I will say, ‘Peace be within you.’ For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your prosperity.” God promised blessings on those who bless Israel and curses on those who curse her (Genesis 12:3), and since Jerusalem is depicted as the center of Jewish life, it follows that those who pray for her peace and security will be granted peace themselves.
Dealing with Hard Places—Praying for Peace
Ultimately, praying for the peace of Jerusalem is most appropriate for a city whose name literally means “peaceful” and which is the residence of the God of peace. Further, Jerusalem will be the scene of Christ’s return (Acts 1:11; Zechariah 14:4), and at that time He will establish permanent peace with its walls. All Christians should be eagerly awaiting His return and praying for the time when the Prince of Peace will reign in Jerusalem.”
Cry out to God. Numbing ourselves with the world’s solutions will not heal us.
Don’t look for peace to be an end of troubles. Look to God as your peace.
In the wake of hardship or trials, we look around and see destruction. We wonder how we can pick up the pieces and start over. Or if we can adjust to our new normal. And peace? It seems out of reach. Our innocence is tainted with a bit of a new jaded reality when what we expected out of life is flipped upside down. But there is a peace that surpasses understanding and God wants to restore His people. He is a Redeemer. But we can’t regain peace and hope our way. God’s way opens the door to healing and restoration.
Bible Reading of the Day: Haggai
We are reading from a new book of the Bible today, so a little info about the book of Haggai and the prophet himself. There are 5 core messages in this book. Haggai was one of the Postexilic prophets, meaning 6th century. He and the prophet Zechariah roused the people of Judah to finish the temple under Zerubbabel’s leadership. Haggai’s preaching focus was mostly on the building of the temple, but also on the future.
The book of Haggai was written near 70 years after the exile. God’s people were back from exile to return to a mess. But they began to rebuild. First they built their fancy houses rather than God’s. Haggai had seen Solomon’s temple in all its glory. But it was now in ruins. The temple they were rebuilding was not as big in size and glory, but God tells them the temple might not be as big, but it is unshakeable.
Peace that Surpasses Understanding—Found as We Worship
Haggai and Zechariah were called to bring the people back to proper worship of the LORD. They faced political opposition as well as opposition from wayward people struggling with apathy.
Haggai’s main points in his book were:
Build the temple
Deal with expectations and morale and shares a future hope.
Call to covenant faithfulness – be faithful to God and His ways.
Future hope is certain.
Our choices really matter
Peace that Surpasses Understanding—The LORD of Hosts
The name for God in this book that is used the most is the LORD of Armies. Some translations render it the LORD of Hosts. He has the authority to speak to His people.
The two Hebrew words this name comes from are:
Jehovah, meaning the “existing One”, the proper name of the one true God.
God has always been. He always will be. This brings great comfort to us as we struggle, confined by time and space. God is LORD over time.
Peace that Surpasses Understanding—Preexistent One
This name is also YHWH and comes from the root הָוָה (hāwâ), the older form and rare synonym of hāyâ (q.v.), meaning to be, become (J. Barton Payne, “484 הָוָה,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 210.)
Strong’s interprets this name as LORD over 6500 times and as Jehovah and God each 4 times. God is the supreme God. There is no other. This is the One who knows all and is able to lead His people.
The other name is tsä·vä’, meaning that which goes forth, army, war, warfare, host.
God is the LORD over all creation. Over the host of all heavenly bodies. He has the authority to bring about His will and complete the work that He has begun. God created this host—all creation and every star – with His breath.
Theological Workbook of the OT:
“This divine name appears for the first time in I Sam 1:3. Its origin appears to have been at the close of the period of the judges and in the vicinity of the sanctuary Shiloh, where the ark of the covenant was housed. The ark itself symbolized Yahweh’s rulership; for he is declared to be enthroned between the cherubim (I Sam 4:4; cf. Ps 99:1). This name certainly contains the affirmation that Yahweh is the true head of Israel’s armies.
The idea that more than Israel’s armies is encompassed in this title is clear from David’s statement, “Yahweh of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel” (I Sam 17:45). Rather it affirms his universal rulership that encompasses every force or army, heavenly, cosmic and earthly.” (John E. Hartley, “1865 צָבָא,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 750.)
I counted 15 uses of this name for God in the book of Haggai. God wanted His people to know that He is in control. He is sovereign. He is good. He is able.
Friends, God is able to restore us, too. The wreckage of our lives, those painful places that need rebuilding? God is up to the task. We just need to cooperate with Him.
Peace that Surpasses Understanding—Choosing Peace
There is an overriding message of God leading His people to peace. But this peace is not something that just happens to us. It is chosen as we walk in the counsel of God.
Key principles that lead to this peace:
Think carefully about your ways (1:5, 1:7, 2:15, 2:18)
Obey God (1:12)
Live aware of His presence. God is with us. We do not need to despair. (1:13)
Be strong in Christ’s strength. (2:4)
Fear God. (1:12)
Worshipping God brings us into His presence.
Friends, we can rest in some profound truths when we desperately need to see God move in our lives.
Peace that Surpasses Understanding—God Completes the Work.
God begins and finishes the work. But we need to be open to His examination and consider our ways.
2 “The Lord of Armies says this: These people say: The time has not come for the house of the Lord to be rebuilt.” 3 And the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?” 5 Now, the Lord of Armies says this: “Think carefully about your ways: 6 You have planted much but harvested little. You eat but never have enough to be satisfied. And you drink but never have enough to be happy. You put on clothes but never have enough to get warm. The wage-earner puts his wages into a bag with a hole in it.”
Peace that Surpasses Understanding—Obey God
God will lead. But we must follow. Seek Him and His will.
12 Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak, and the entire remnant of the people obeyed the Lord their God and the words of the prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him. So the people feared the Lord. 13 Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, delivered the Lord’s message to the people: “I am with you—this is the Lord’s declaration.” 14 The Lord roused the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, the spirit of the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. They began work on the house of the Lord of Armies, their God.”
Peace that Surpasses Understanding—Choose Christ’s Strength
Choose faith. And choose to be strong by relying on God’s strength. God is able to call us and He
“4 Even so, be strong, Zerubbabel—this is the Lord’s declaration. Be strong, Joshua son of Jehozadak, high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land—this is the Lord’s declaration. Work! For I am with you—the declaration of the Lord of Armies. 5 This is the promise I made to you when you came out of Egypt, and my Spirit is present among you; don’t be afraid.’”
Peace that Surpasses Understanding—Priority Brings Peace
A key lesson from Haggai is that the LORD should always be the first priority in our life. Really, the priority of our life. Everything centered around Jesus demonstrated by walking in obedience to Him.
Scripture of the Day: Haggai 2:9
“The final glory of this house will be greater than the first,” says the Lord of Armies. “I will provide peace in this place”—this is the declaration of the Lord of Armies.”
Friends, the future glory God has for us does not compare with any trouble we face on this earth. The superior pleasure of the hope we have in Christ makes everything else pale in comparison. May we fix our eyes on God’s hope and not our own or any earthly hope. This gives us strength to endure hard times.
God will not waste any of it and His plans are good!!
Look up from the wreckage and look at Christ and His precious word.
The same God Who restored His people and the Temple is restoring us, too.
The big rock for the Christian is to truly live out the message that changed our lives. To not just talk about our faith, but to do it. To do what is right. But who determines what is right? God’s Word is our plumb line. But we can compromise and try to do what is right in our own eyes. But what about going beyond the right?
Bible Reading of the Day: 2 Chronicles 26-30
Saying and doing what is right requires self-discipline and faith. The lives of Uzziah, Jotham, and Hezekiah are such examples that we can learn from of doing what is right even in an evil culture. We can glean some parenting and leadership tips and motivation for us, as well, to fiercely, tenaciously live out our faith in today’s reading.
Going Beyond the Right—More Than Enough
I heard a sermon years ago that is one of those “life” sermons, where the message impacts you and you just know that you want to carry that message for the rest of your life. It was a message entitled, “Going Beyond the Right”.
The core message behind it was to not just think bare minimum about doing what is right. Go beyond the right. I see this mentality as I tried to train my children to do a job well. The bare minimum was not doing what was right. Going above and beyond was. We tend to want to be graded on the curve. Like, we did “enough”. That is not the heart we should have for doing what is right. We should be zealous and jealous for God’s glory.
I want to do what is right in such a way that others will look to my God, and not me. He who gave His very best and went beyond the right on our behalf deserves nothing less.
Going Beyond the Right—A Momma’s Role
All right, sisters, we are getting some shout outs today in the word of God! Did you catch it? Each one of the kings we read about today, the mom was mentioned. So was dad. But women were not always acknowledged, and so it is intriguing to see.
2 Chronicles 26:3
“3 Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jecoliah; she was from Jerusalem.”
2 Chronicles 27:1-2
“Jotham was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jerushah daughter of Zadok. 2 He did what was right in the Lord’s sight just as his father Uzziah had done.”
Notice that the next king who was not so good, ok, he was downright evil, King Ahaz. And the momma was not mentioned. No shaming of the momma. Because at the end of the day, our children have to pick up the torch and run with it. No blaming momma. No blaming our past or our upbringing. But I love that the moms were honored when their sons chose to do what was right and even beyond the right.
Going Beyond the Right—Producing Godly Offspring
Each one of the kings we read about today had an epitaph – a statement of their legacy, which was based on whether or not they did what was right. Whether or not they were faithful to God and sought Him. This is the end of the matter for us all and for our children.
Parents cannot guarantee that their children will do what is right, but they can help shape their character and lay a standard in their homes of doing what is right, that becomes part of a foundation and culture that they are used to.
And friends, there will be pushback on this. But we must lead. Don’t let children pull you away from what is right. We are supposed to lead them! And they will not always like it. But God has expectations for us just as he did of Abraham.
Going Beyond the Right—Raising Our Tribe for Jesus
Genesis 18:19 (NIV)
“For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”
Malachi 2:15 (ESV)
“Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.”
God wants godly offspring. Children raised in His truth and way. The world wants to pull our children away. We parents have to stand in the gap.
It’s not too late. Don’t spend any time wasted on regret or shoulda coulda woulda’s. Today is a new day. Start today. What is one thing you can do to turn the tide and do what is right in your life? Where is the compromise? Ask God. He will tell you.
Richard Fugate is the author of the book, “What the Bible Says About Child Training” that truly helped me as I was parenting my children. Lots of books did. I consumed godly parenting books to guide me as well as the word of God. But Richard Fugate did not start applying biblical principles until his children were teens. That was impressive. A late start and God still granted the victory. Doing things God’s way is the right way.
Going Beyond the Right—Godly Leadership
King Hezekiah gives us several principles that we can take away in our parenting.
2 Chronicles 29:1
“Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abijah daughter of Zechariah. 2 He did what was right in the Lord’s sight just as his ancestor David had done.”
He did what was right in God’s sight. Even when it was not popular. And he led well.
He led the Levites to consecrate themselves. Not half-baked preparation – but pure hearts and doing things God’s way. (2 Chronicles 29:5).
And he led the cleansing of the temple. Again, God’s way. (2 Chronicles 29:15).
He led a renewal of temple worship with burnt offerings and singing. (2 Chr. 29:27).
He sent word throughout all Israel & Judah to come and celebrate the Passover. (2 Chr. 30:1)
And he sent messages to challenge the people of God to be faithful.
2 Chronicles 30:7-9
“7 Don’t be like your ancestors and your brothers who were unfaithful to the Lord, the God of their ancestors so that he made them an object of horror as you yourselves see. 8 Don’t become obstinate[c] now like your ancestors did. Give your allegiance[d] to the Lord, and come to his sanctuary that he has consecrated forever. Serve the Lord your God so that he may turn his burning anger away from you, 9 for when you return to the Lord, your brothers and your sons will receive mercy in the presence of their captors and will return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful; he will not turn his face away from you if you return to him.”
Going Beyond the Right—Turning the Tide Back
Friends, don’t let discouragement or past failure cloud your vision. God still has work for us to do. We can turn the tide back to being and doing beyond the right.
2 Chronicles 29:35b-36
“So the service of the Lord’s temple was established. 36 Then Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced over how God had prepared the people, for it had come about suddenly.”
Hezekiah Prayed for God’s people. He interceded. We must intercede for our children and those in our sphere of influence, too. Don’t let people just fall away because it is hard to correct them. Be humble and lead them. Help them to master the sin that so easily ensnares.
2 Chronicles 30:18-20
“18 A large number of the people—many from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun—were ritually unclean, yet they had eaten the Passover contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah had interceded for them, saying, “May the good Lord provide atonement on behalf of 19 whoever sets his whole heart on seeking God, the Lord, the God of his ancestors, even though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary.” 20 So the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people.”
Hezekiah encouraged God’s people.
2 Chronicles 30:22
“22 Then Hezekiah encouraged all the Levites who performed skillfully before the Lord. They ate at the appointed festival for seven days, sacrificing fellowship offerings and giving thanks to the Lord, the God of their ancestors.”
Scripture of the Day: 2 Chronicles 26:4-5
“4 He did what was right in the Lord’s sight just as his father Amaziah had done. 5 He sought God throughout the lifetime of Zechariah, the teacher of the fear of God. During the time that he sought the Lord, God gave him success.”
We can learn some things from Uzziah, too.
Uzziah did what was right as long as he had the godly influence of Zechariah in his life. We have to guard the influences in our lives and in our children’s lives. Remove stumbling blocks. Place things in your life that will point you to Christ.
Uzziah was famous. And this led to his downfall. It was God who made him famous. And that fame was not intended for Uzziah. Doing what is right is for God’s glory, not ours.
2 Chronicles 26:8
“8 The Ammonites paid tribute to Uzziah, and his fame spread as far as the entrance of Egypt, for God made him very powerful.”
2 Chronicles 26:15b-16
“So his fame spread even to distant places, for he was wondrously helped until he became strong. 16 But when he became strong, he grew arrogant, and it led to his own destruction. He acted unfaithfully against the Lord his God by going into the Lord’s sanctuary to burn incense on the incense altar.”
Going Beyond the Right—Humility
The Bible says in Proverbs 27:21 a man is tested by the praise he receives. We need to remember that there is nothing good in us.
Friends, let’s not let pride or anything cause us to stop doing what is right and stop putting God first – more than first – making Him what our lives are centered around. A relationship with Him is not a religion, a “to do”. It is a lifestyle centered around knowing Him and making Him known. And as parents, we are seeking to influence our children to do the same.
More than just learning about doing what is right, which is an outward behavior, doing what is right starts in the heart. We need to get our children’s hearts – not just their behavior. And sometimes we will not be popular for that leadership. And sometimes we will have to intervene in crazy ways to get our kids back on track. It’s hard. But it requires godly leadership. And God expects godly offspring. This has driven my parenting from day one.
Going Beyond the Right—Simply Obedience
Circling back to King Jotham – He did not waiver in obeying God.
2 Chronicles 27:6, “6 So Jotham strengthened his position because he did not waver in obeying the Lord his God.”
And King Ahaz, he was just unfaithful. This word unfaithful is the Hebrew word, “ma`al”. The Theological Workbook of the Old Testament has this to say about this word:
“Māʿal occurs thirty-five times. It occurs most frequently in II Chr and in Ezk. Among the prophets, only Ezekiel uses this word (excluding Dan 9:7). In almost all the biblical references māʿal is used to designate the breaking or violation of religious law as a conscious act of treachery. The victim against whom the breach is perpetrated is God. It means “to commit a trespass against the lord” (Victor P. Hamilton, “1230 מָעַל,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 520).
Be faithful. Don’t give in to compromise. It will be hard to choose to do what is right. But thinking beyond the right helps us to keep our mind and heart-centered in the right place.
Rather than lowering the bar, we raise it and don’t give up.