Posted by: Meditate in thy Precepts | August 13, 2016

Delayed Does Not Mean Denied

On that night could not the king sleep, and he commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king. And it was found written, that Mordecai had told of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s chamberlains, the keepers of the door, who sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus. And the king said, What honour and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this? Then said the king’s servants that ministered unto him, There is nothing done for him…Then the king said to Haman, Make haste, and take the apparel and the horse, as thou hast said, and do even so to Mordecai the Jew, that sitteth at the king’s gate: let nothing fail of all that thou hast spoken. Then took Haman the apparel and the horse, and arrayed Mordecai, and brought him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaimed before him, Thus shall it be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour.” (Esther 6:1-3, 10-11)

This passage from Esther serves to illustrate for us a very important spiritual point, which is that a delay in the mercies of God does not mean that those mercies have been denied.

We see earlier in this book (2:21-23) that Mordecai had the opportunity to foil a plot against the life of the Persian king which was being hatched by two of his chamberlains.  The natural assumption would be that a good work like this toward a powerful sovereign would be rewarded.  Yet, this was not the case at that time.  Mordecai seemed like his good deed was simply forgotten.

Let us keep in kind that Mordecai’s action was intrinsically good.  Though Ahasuerus was a pagan king, he was still the sovereign whom God had set over Mordecai and his people.  Mordecai owed allegiance to him,

“Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.” (I Peter 2:17)

So Mordecai had done right.  Now we should grant that Mordecai did not really deserve a reward, however.  After all, just like us, he was an unprofitable servant who merely did what he was supposed to do.

Yet, God is merciful and will requite His servants when He knows the time is right for it.  In the case of Mordecai, the right time happened to be a few years later, just when the king’s “fortuitous” insomnia had kept him up and led to him discovering and resolving to rectify his oversight.  This set into motion the chain of events which led to God’s providential preservation of His people just when it was needed.  This would not have happened had Mordecai been honoured at the time of his good deed.

This ought to remind us of God’s promise to us found in the Lord’s parable of the widow and the unjust judge,

“And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:7-8)

God will avenge, do justice for, his people when the time is right for it.  This may not be when *we* would like to see it done, but it will be when is best for it.

We should also note that this same point can be made for the dispensation of God’s justice toward the wicked, too.  We often see the wicked seem to prosper and wonder what is going on,

“Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” (Ecclesiastes 8:11)

Yet justice delayed is not justice denied in this sense, either.

Indeed, we see this in Esther as well.

“And Harbonah, one of the chamberlains, said before the king, Behold also, the gallows fifty cubits high, which Haman had made for Mordecai, who had spoken good for the king, standeth in the house of Haman. Then the king said, Hang him thereon. So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then was the king’s wrath pacified.” (Esther 7:9-10)

For a time it seemed that Haman was unstoppable – highly favoured by the king, given carte blanche to do whatever he liked – yet he ended up hanging from the gibbet he had thought to slay Mordecai with.

Let us always remember that God will requite both good and evil when it is in His good time to do so.  If we are patient, we can rest in Him without worry or hurry.

Posted by: Meditate in thy Precepts | August 5, 2016

Avenging His Own Elect

While rereading the parable of our Lord concerning the widow and the unjust judge, I was struck by the following verse,

“And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?” (Luke 18:7)

I got to digging a little deeper with this verse. In the Greek, the word that’s translated as “bear long” is makrothumeo, a term which denotes longsuffering, patience, and enduring something being put upon you. Now, what struck me as somewhat counterintuitive about this is that this term is applied to God. The text says that HE bears long, indicating that HE is the one who is enduring patiently, who is being longsuffering. Of what? That is the question.

The answer is found in the contextual clues. We already know from verse 1 that the Lord gave the parable to His disciples for the purpose that they ought always to pray, and not faint. We then see that, in contrast to the widow, who has to come to one who is, essentially, uncaring towards her great need and only answers her request because she has wearied him with her continual coming, we see that the Lord will respond to His own elect. When He bears long with them, then, it is not because He is unconcerned or uncaring, but for some other reason.

That reason is His mercy. Notice in verse 7 that it says that God will avenge His own elect. That is translated from the Greek ekdikeo, which means to revenge oneself upon someone, retaliate, or punish. Verse 8 promises that this vengeance of the Lord will be speedy (which does not imply it will necessarily be soon, however). Well, we know that God is longsuffering, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (II Peter 3:9). What we see the Lord Jesus speaking of in our passage is that God bears long with His elect, and a major part of the sense of the passage is that this bearing long involves His being merciful and withholding His judging hand from those who are oppressing and persecuting His people. God is giving even these enemies of Himself and His people the opportunity to turn from their ways and repent – a classic illustration of the merciful God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob!

Contextually, this best fits our passage. Jesus’ whole lead-in to this verse involves one who was powerless (the widow) being requited by the one in power (the judge). The contrast is drawn between this judge and God in the sense of the nature of their response and the reason for their bearing long, not in the bearing long itself. In verse 8, Jesus asks the rhetorical question, “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” That puts the primary sense of this passage into an eschatological context. The bearing long of the Lord involves His refraint from judging the world in righteousness so as to give sinners yet more time to repent. This, of course, involves the extension of the temporal sufferings of His elect upon the earth, but there is also the promise that these WILL eventually be requited. For though the Lord bears long in His return and judgment, it will come, and when it does, it will be performed speedily at the end of the tribulationary period,

“For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall the coming of the Son of man be.” (Matthew 24:27)

And woe unto whosoever has not repented and turned to Him before this time!

It is common to hear and see this passage referred to as a palliative for support and strength in times of general trial in our lives. Sickness, heartache, and other trials we are told not to faint or fail because of. While this can, I believe, be justly applied in a secondary sense from this verse, I do not believe that perseverance in general trials is what is primarily mean from this parable. Rather, it is talking about the persecution, and especially the increasing persecution that God’s children will be enduring as the end draws closer and closer. Christ is urging us to remain faithful even unto death, not to fall away such that, when He returns, His question mentioned above would be answered in the negative.

Posted by: Meditate in thy Precepts | July 24, 2016

The Good Conscience of Baptism

The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (I Peter 3:21)

A lot of folks try to point to this verse as evidence for baptismal regeneration – the idea that baptism is *necessary* for salvation. However, to understand the verse, we have to look at what it is saying in the context of the rest of God’s Word.

First of all, it is NOT saying that baptism is necessary for salvation, or that baptism, as a ritual act, “washes away sins.” The verse says as much – “not the putting away of the filth of the flesh.” Baptism doesn’t “wash off” our guilt before God, the stain of sin upon a person’s fleshly nature. The idea that baptism is necessary to save also contradicts the many places where we are told that works do not save (Eph. 2:8-9, Titus 3:5, Rom. 4:1-8, Gal. 2:16, Hebr. 9:14, James 2:23, etc.).

However, the verse IS indicating that baptism IS important. It is “the answer of a good conscience toward God.” Baptism is really an identification with the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 6:3-5). When we are baptised by immersion, we are showing openly that we are figuratively claiming that the old man has been put to death, and the new man has risen to new life. We are identifying with Christ’s own death and resurrection, whereby the old man was slain, and the new man raised again.

When this verse talks about baptism “saving” us, it is speaking in the sense of sanctification, similarly to how the term is meant in Phil. 2:12. We are sanctified as we willingly yield to Him in obedience to identify with Him in baptism. It always bothers me when someone professes to be saved, but then doesn’t want to be baptised. They claim to have received the life changing gift of new life in Christ, yet don’t want to follow Him in obedience to make this claim openly and decisively known.

Baptism is part of the great commission (Matt. 28:19) that comes after justification, but seems to logically precede much further discipleship. While there may be the need for a brief period to measure the genuineness of a profession of faith, I am not a big fan of requiring new converts to wait through months or years of catechising before they can be baptised. I don’t believe we see that model in Scripture whenever someone was baptised after receiving Christ. Instead, new believers ought to have the opportunity to make their response of a good conscience toward God in an open profession before the brethren.

Posted by: Meditate in thy Precepts | July 23, 2016

The Law is Holy and Just

Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” (Romans 7:12)

It’s common to hear Christians assert that “we’re not under the law, we’re under grace!” And while it is true that we are not bound to try to keep God’s law to be saved – Christ is the end of the law *for righteousness* – many folks have sort of morphed this biblical truth into a more generalised (and unscriptural) notion that “the law” no longer applies to the Christian in any way whatsoever.

Christians are said to be “free” to just do whatever they want, so obviously we can’t expect converts to demonstrate the fruits of righteousness in their lives. Expecting this is “pharisaism” and “legalism,” despite the clear teaching of the Bible that “by their fruits ye shall know them” and that we are not to use our freedom as a “cloke of maliciousness.”

Paul here makes a different argument – the law itself is holy and just and good. The law, while not able to save us by keeping its precepts, is nevertheless the will of God for our lives. Simply being under grace does not mean it’s suddenly acceptable to lie, commit adultery, steal, murder, slander, consort with the world, or any of the other things proscribed in the moral law.

And while the ceremonial laws – the sacrifices and whatnot – have been fulfilled by the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ (which is what “Christ is the end of the law” really means – He is the fulfillment, the final purpose), the law still contains principles of holiness and propriety in worship and how we conduct ourselves within the local church assembly (the NT analog of the temple, the place where God meets with His people) that are relevant for the Christian today.

Much of this shallow understanding of “the law is abolished” comes from the easy believism that infects so much of otherwise conservative Christianity today – the “1-2-3-pray after me” mentality that never asks people to repent, never asks them to deal with the sin that separates them from God, never asks them to make a clear and serious commitment of their entire lives to the Lord Jesus Christ, and in fact, which derides these things as “lordship salvation” even when it clearly is simply biblical salvation that is being talked about.

We need to understand that being “under grace” is a state of existence. It is a place that we occupy within the Lord Jesus Christ as we are said to be “in Him.” It means that we are the recipients of God’s unmerited favour by virtue of our identification with His perfect Son and our Saviour.

It does NOT mean, however, that we are free to act in ways that are contrary to the standards of holiness established by God. Receiving God’s grace does not grant liberty to violate God’s law. Instead, being under grace means we are now free to imitate our Saviour in Whom we are – and remember, He kept the law perfectly and never once violated any point of it.

To have a balanced Christian life, the Christian needs to have a proper understanding of the law – it is not a means for salvation, but it IS a guide for the holiness that God desires for us all to exhibit in our lives.

Posted by: Meditate in thy Precepts | July 21, 2016

Entering the Holiest

And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all.” (Hebrews 9:3)

This holiest of all places was the enclosure where the High Priest entered in once a year on Yowm Kippuwr – the Day of Atonement – to make atonement by the blood of animals for the sins of the people of Israel. In this place was the ark of the covenant, the most sacred artefact which God had commanded Moses to make according to the pattern given him from heaven. This ark contained the mercy seat, the place between the cherubim (who always in Scripture serve to protect and surround the holiness of God) on which the blood of the sacrificial animals was sprinkled, and it was here that God manifested Himself in a special way to His chosen people. Not just anyone could enter into the Holiest. To do so unauthorised was to experience immediate and certain death. Even the High Priest could enter in on only ONE DAY out of the year, and that for one specific purpose – to meet with God to make atonement for Israel’s sins. He had to enter this place with blood.

So it sounds like God was serious about maintaining the sanctity of the Holiest.

Of course, we know that this all pertained to the old covenant. We know that Christ, who is our great High Priest in heavenly places, has opened up for us the way to enter the very presence of God,

“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh, and having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water….” (Hebrews 10:19-22)

This is an amazing passage. What formerly was the province of one man, acting as intercessor for a nation, has been opened up for us all, freely available to all who have called on God by faith in the sacrifice of Christ, Jew and Gentile alike.

But of equal importance to the wonder of this privilege is the seriousness of this privilege. When we come to God through this new and consecrated way, when we by the indwelling of the Spirit, through the blood, in the name of our Lord, come to the throne of God’s presence in prayer, of what necessity is laid upon us to enter there purely! Our hearts are sprinkled from an evil conscience, which is what lets us be there in the first place. How much then should we KEEP our hearts clean so as to readily enter in at any time of need?

Sin will cut off our entry into this holy place.

“If I regard iniquity in my heart, he will not hear me.” (Psalm 66:18)

If our hearts are set on doing evil, if we are not repentant of our sins, then we can’t enter into that holy place of intimate fellowship with God called prayer. We may go through the motions, but the words bounce off the ceiling, nothing more. David says that God will not hear him – it’s not that God doesn’t perceive the prayer, but that He will not be inclined to receive them if offered in an unholy state and fashion. Remember, the sacrifices of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord. Husbands and wives are even told that a lack of amity and love in the marriage relationship can hinder their prayers (I Peter 3:7), since this lack of unity in that most holy of relationships which is supposed to typify that of Christ with His church is an affront to the holy God who instituted it.

Are we keeping our hearts clean so that we can “pray without ceasing”? Am I keeping my heart clean, with all diligence? That command – pray without ceasing – I think should be understood from the Jewish context of its writer, Paul (who was a trained Pharisaic scholar, remember). A God-fearing religious Jew was constantly keeping his lines of communication open to God. He wasn’t on his knees 24 hours a day in some posture, but all throughout the day, whenever something – anything – came up, he was there with God in prayer. A need arises? A prayer arose. He just wanted to thank God for a beautiful sunset that was a blessing? A prayer went up. And you know what? We can have that too. In fact, we’re commanded to! but, to do so, we need to remember the seriousness of what we do, for we are entering the Holiest.

Posted by: Meditate in thy Precepts | July 8, 2016

Clay in the Potter’s Hands

O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? Saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.” (Jeremiah 18:6)

So true, is it not? And yet, a truth we tend to (want to) forget. God is indeed sovereign in the affairs of man, both nations, as He expounds further on in the passage in question, but also in the lives of us, His people, as individuals. We are clay in His hands, whom He molds and shapes as He sees fit. Sometimes, this molding is even unbeknownst to us,

“The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” (Proverbs 21:1)

I would think this especially true of the lost, who rarely have the desire, and definitely do not have the means, to actively seek God’s specific will for their lives.

For those of us who know Him, however, we have both a greater blessing and benefit, and also a greater responsibility. See, we can seek God’s face, we can seek out His will, we can approach Him for the wisdom which He gives liberally (James 1:5). But, when we do so, we had better make sure we respond to His direction in the way HE wants us to, instead of the way we would prefer (assuming, of course, the two directions are in conflict). Who can forget the admonition God gives to Israel through Isaiah,

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” (Isaiah 1:18-20)

The more I consider the various aspects of what all is entailed in seeking out God’s will, the more convinced I become that it really is a salvation issue. Of course, I’m not saying that someone has to “find God’s will” before they can be justified, or that justification remains only so long as we’re in God’s will for our lives (similar to the Arminian heresy). Rather, when I say it is a salvation issue, I am referring to it from a sanctification perspective – that portion of our experience in Christ which should be present for any saved person, and the lack of which can indicate the falsity of a profession of faith. Faithfulness to the Lord’s commands is proof of our love for Him (e.g. John 14:15), and Hebrews chapter 4 indicates that a professing Christian who continues to fail in their faithfulness to the Lord may well have reason to check themselves to see if they be in the faith.

But even for the truly saved, Isaiah’s warning holds true – when we are pliable to the Lord, He blesses us (even if in ways we don’t always immediately recognise as blessings, eh?). Contrariwise, if we refuse and rebel, the Lord has His ways of bringing all our plans to naught. When we step outside of His will on any matter – maybe it’s where we’re to live, what job we’re to have, what church to attend, what fellowships we allow into our lives, anything really – we can find that all of a sudden, things just don’t “work” anymore. What we thought was going to be a “better way” than God’s will ends up producing a giant sucking sound that eats up time, money, emotional or mental stability, and spirituality. When we allow the Lord to reason us back into His will, that’s when the rift is healed and the sin removed.

Psalm 37 is a wonderful passage of instruction that tells us how our approach to finding the Lord’s way and will ought to be. One verse in particular that leapt out at me recently got me to investigating deeper,

“Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

That word “delight” is interesting. It is a translation of the Hebrew ‘anag, a word which means “to be soft, pliable”, and carries with actually the idea of effeminacy. What we’re being told to do in Psalm 37:4 is to be soft and pliable in the Lord’s hands, almost as if we’re in subjection to the Lord like a wife should be to her husband (c.f. I Peter 3:1-6). Like the clay in the hands of Jeremiah’s potter, we’re to be moldable, malleable, and directable in the Lord’s ways. So, are we being pliable to the Lord? Remember, the stiff neck is broken, but the soft neck is led in the Lord’s way.

Posted by: Meditate in thy Precepts | July 2, 2016

Follow Through

As we read through the book of Zechariah, we should notice a wonderful promise that, I believe, the Lord makes to each of us in our circumstances as Christians,

Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying Grace, grace unto it. Moreover, the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you.” (Zechariah 4:6-9)

The promise, you might ask? It is that what the Lord has strengthened us to begin in our lives in His service and will, He will give us the means to follow through to completion. Zerubbabel was a man engaged in the Lord’s work. He had a job to do for God, which was to rebuild the Temple that the heathen had destroyed when Israel was taken into captivity, over 70 years before.

And Zerubbabel’s work was not an easy task. The book of Ezra, which is contemporaneous, records in chapter 4 that, like Nehemiah who built the walls of Jerusalem after him, Zerubbabel faced the same trials of compromise and discouragement of the people during the restoration of God’s house. The construction was even halted for a time because of the subterfuge of the enemies of the Jews.

It was probably during this time of intermission that our passage in Zechariah was written. I would imagine Zerubbabel, who we know was zealous to do the Lord’s work, suffered quite a bit of despair and discouragement because of the seeming (though temporary) triumph of these enemies. God had to reassure him that, despite it all, the work WOULD be finished. This temple would be completed to the glory of the LORD of hosts.

So it is in the things God wants to do with us in our lives and walks. Sometimes the things that we KNOW are God’s plan and will for us, what He wants us to do, seem like they are being frustrated at every turn, and it would almost appear as if the work would never be finished. This is likely why God told Zerubbabel that it would not be by might or power but by the Spirit of God, that the work would come to completion. There is always that temptation to take matters into our own hands and to do the work without the aid of God, when we’re outside His timing. This is why we’re told,

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.” (Proverbs 3:5-7)

So, whatever difficult task is before us in our walks, wait upon the Lord. As was promised to Zerubbabel, the great mountains – the rough places where treading is difficult and energy-consuming – will be made plains eventually. This all, in its summa tota is bound up in the Lord’s work of bringing us to perfection. Trials and times when we have to patiently wait upon the Lord, where we’ve NO CHOICE but to wait (a position Zerubbabel more or less was in) unless we want to step outside God’s will and perhaps ruin the work, are times when we HAVE to trust Him, and grow thereby.

“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen” (II Peter 3:18)

The end,

“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

Whatever it is we’re growing in – whatever work He has for us, whatever change He is asking us to make, whatever test of our faith that He is allowing us to endure – the one last lesson to learn is that we must be willing to DO it. God promised Zerubbabel that the work of building the temple would be finished. But this promise was contingent upon Zerubbabel’s willingness to be faithful to trust and to prepare to do that work. There are a lot of things Zerubbabel could have done to render this conditional promise unfulfillable. He could have killed himself, he could have tried to do the work even when the Persian leaders temporarily disallowed it and thus gotten the Jews destroyed, or he could have been immoral and ruined his testimony and position as the leader God would use, anything. But he did not. He trusted, waited, and followed through on his part of the work to be done. If we’re going to be successful in serving God, we can’t just start, we have to allow Him and work with Him to bring us to the finish.

Posted by: Meditate in thy Precepts | June 23, 2016

Into the Breach

And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him. And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.” (Luke 5:18-20)

What’s always grabbed my attention about these verses is the reference to the faith that was placed and the result – it was the faith of the man’s friends that resulted in the forgiveness of the sins of the man taken with the palsy. But it seems to me that the point, or at least a point, that can be taken from this narrative is for us to understand the importance of being faithful in our prayer and supplications for those around us, especially with reference to our friends and family members who are lost.

First off, we can understand that there is no need to think from this passage that the man taken with the palsy himself had not also placed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Certainly he did, else his sins would not have been forgiven (Ephesiahs 2:8-9). Likely his friends would not have been so faithful and persistent in trying to bring him before the Lord if this man hadn’t himself desired to be healed. But all the same, what impressed itself upon the Lord Jesus, what got His attention such that it is recorded in inspired and preserved Scripture for us today, was the faith of this man’s friends in persisting and perservering in bring him to the Lord.

How persevering are we in keeping our lost loved ones and spiritually blind friends and acquaintances before the Lord, seeking their salvation? We certainly know that such prayer qualifies as being in His will (I John 5:14). But do we ask believing (Matthew 21:22)? Do we demonstrate the sort of faith in prayer that causes us to keep coming and coming to the Lord about a lost soul until that person is drawn to the Lord and saved by His grace? As ambassadors for Christ, part of our duty is to intervene with him for those whom we are trying to reach, to request the pity and favour of our King for those foreign subject who desperately need to be brought into His kingdom.

Look at the example of Moses. Israel had sinned the grievous sin of the golden calf, and the anger of God waxed hot against Israel, to destroy them from being a people. But Moses cast himself into the breach,

“And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin – ; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.” (Exodus 32:31-32)

This man was willing, for the sake of those who had sinned against God, to have himself blotted from the Book of Life if it meant their restoration. He didn’t excuse their sin, he didn’t try to sweep it under the rug, he instead openly acknowledged their sin and unworthiness to have the Lord’s mercy. Yet, he asked for them that mercy anywise. Paul similarly writes,

“For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” (Romans 9:3)

Oh that we had the depth of pity, compassion, and urgency to throw ourselves into the gap between God and the lost sinner, seeking to see them spiritually healed and restored to God!

Posted by: Meditate in thy Precepts | June 21, 2016

Building Walls

Recently I read through Nehemiah chapter 6 and began to meditate on the methodology which satan uses to try to hinder the work of God in and through us. In a figurative sense, our work for the Lord can be likened to that work which Nehemiah was doing. This man of God was building the walls of the royal city of Jerusalem, restoring the honour and testimony of God’s people to their God, a work which was of the Lord. The work we do for the Lord – serving in the local church, witnessing, building up our own lives and faithfulness by submission to the Word of God – is like the building of that wall.

When a Christian has resolved to get busy about serving the Lord, the zeal of the day carries them to lay the foundations of their wall and to build up those lower portions that are easily within reach. That’s the easy part. But, where we often become susceptible to the temptations of the evil one is in the matter of perserverence, in finishing what we’ve started for the Lord. A wall is easy to build until you start having to climb up a scaffold with bricks and mortar and balance yourself precariously while you lay those bricks, and so forth. Likewise, it’s often when we move past the foundations in the Christian life – when we start having to make some more serious changes or put away things we’ve held onto for a long time or start doing things we’ve hithertofore thought beyond our capacities – that the flesh and the mind start to rebel against continuing the work of the Lord in our lives. Then, satan steps in and starts to try to draw us away from what we know to be right but don’t perhaps want to acknowledge, or to discourage us from continuing on in our growth and advancement in the Lord.

As Paul exhorted the Colossians,

“If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister.” (Colossians 1:23)

A lot of the reason why people don’t stay grounded and settled, why they don’t continue, is because they gave ear to the discouragements brought against them, and stopped building their walls.

It struck me that the assaults made by the enemies of God’s people in Nehemiah 6 were largely psychological. The opposition that Sanballat and Geshem and Tobiah brought to Nehemiah in this particular chapter were largely attacks upon his mind, whether to tempt him to compromise, to fear of retribution, or to cowardice and the destruction of his testimony as a godly man. And today, these same sorts of mind games are what satan tries to play with us (he is, after all, nothing if not unoriginal). When we’re witnessing, there’s always that little temptation to discouragement that the one we’re speaking to just isn’t going to listen, they’ll never get saved, why even bother. When the Lord is trying to teach us patience or trust, there’s that temptation to throw in the towel or to trust in our own reasoning and understanding. And so forth. This is why the Word of God exhorts us to guard our MINDS with diligence, and to allow the Spirit of God to change our minds as well as everything else during the process of sanctifying us.

“And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Ephesians 4:23-24)

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2)

See, part of the sanctification process, of our going on for the Lord from those bottom few layers of brick and mortar, which will allow us to perservere in finishing our walls despite all opposition, is to allow our minds to be renewed, to have our thought processes changed, to let go of our old ways of perceiving and to be changed and brought into line with God’s Word. When we get our minds really focused on serving God, on finding His will for our lives, on perservering in what He wants us to despite the temptations and opposition that arise – that is when we’ll be really successful in our service. As Paul wrote to Timothy,

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (II Timothy 1:7)

When our minds are fully set on finding the will of God and doing it, as Nehemiah’s was in building the walls of the holy city, that is when we’ll have the strength of perserverence to build our wall and move on to the next. When we realise that we need not fear the opposition or doubt or temptations brought against us, that is when we’ll have that sound mind that rejects fear and instead is fully committed to serving God in love and with the strength of His power at our disposal.

Posted by: Meditate in thy Precepts | June 16, 2016

In My Name

Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24)

Despite the comparative smallness of this verse, it is jam-packed with truth about the matter of prayer. Indeed, there is power, promise, and purpose all rolled up into this single verse.

First, the power. The Lord commands us to ask in His NAME. I remember how floored I was years ago when I first started to understand a bit what exactly is carried with the idea of the “name” of the Lord in Scripture. His “name” is not just a verbal expression, a word, a sound made by air blowing through vocal cords. Instead, the idea of “name”, as the Hebrew term sheym indicates, carries with it the full corpus of His charactre, being, essence, nature, and revelation. The Lord’s “name” is the sum total everything He wants us to know about Him, all that we can know of His charactre and reputation. What do we know of the Lord’s charactre and reputation? He cannot lie (Titus 1:2), He does not tempt man to sin (James 1:13), He is love (I John 4:8) yet He is also a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29), etc. etc.

And it is this charactre and nature of God which the Lord commands to prevail upon when we pray. This brings into focus so much of what we’re told that the nature of our prayers should be. In I John 5:14, we are told that our prayers should be with confidence and in God’s will, and in Matthew 21:22, we see that our prayers are supposed to be made “believing”. In these stipulations, we can recognise that prayer which will be answered is bound by the nature of God with respect to both His truthfulness and His sovereignty. He will not answer prayers that are outside of His will, or which are made for the purpose of satisfying our own desires (James 4:3), for these violate the principle of His sovereignty in determining His will and direction for our lives. Likewise, if prayer is not in faith, then it is an affront to the honesty and truthfulness of God, that one should pray yet not really believe that the Lord will do what He’s plainly said in His Word that He will do.

And the joyous thing is that, when we submit to His Word, His will is further and further revealed in our lives,

“The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.” (Psalm 25:14)

When our hearts and minds are on the same track as God’s, which by necessity means being on HIS track, then our prayers will more naturally be within His will and the desires of our hearts will be those which HE desires for us.

The Lord has been showing me that when we’re unsure about something, especially as it relates to His will for our life directions, then that is all the more reason to both hit our knees and to walk more closely with Him, to search ourselves and see if there be anything that is hindering our walk with Him. Unsurity is not a reason to faint or give up, and a lack of peace about something isn’t necessarily a demand from the Lord that we consider a door closed. Instead, it ought to drive us to our knees and closer to Him, so that we can find the secret of the Lord. Complacency in a Christian’s life will be the death-knell of any efforts to find or continue in the Lord’s path for us. In many ways, I feel that because of the chastisement I wrote about yesterday, that my spiritual life has suddenly exploded like blooming desert flowers. Much of it is due to the assurances that the Lord has been giving me through His Word, through preaching, and through prayer, and the experiential fact of seeing Him give direction about His will as direct answers to prayer. He got my attention and got me back on track with Him, after I’d spent far too long trying to resist and argue with the direction I knew He’d been giving me for months, which I’d mentally acquiesced to, but which I’d still been struggling to accept in a real sense.

In the text verse, then, when we call upon the NAME of the Lord, understanding what His will is, or at least honestly desiring to seek and find it, then we receive the promise that we shall receive. Whatever the need, whatever the provision, whatever the direction, the Lord is faithful to provide. And this is wrapped up in the theological notion of God’s Fatherhood to His children, those saved by faith. God has chosen to take us into His own family, adopting us as children, and therefore, to treat us as if we were His own inheritance. On this basis, the Lord Jesus Christ concludes His promise about prayer in the Sermon on the Mount by saying,

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

What wonderful assurance and peace it brings to my heart to know that the Lord not only considers me His child in a strictly legal sense through the atonement and adoption, but also in the familiar and relationship sense as well! How wonderful to be able to cry out Abba Father! to him and know that He hears!

And this leads to the purpose given in our text, that of our joy being full. The fullest and most sufficient joy a Christian can have is to be squarely in the centre of the will, plan, and life of God,

“Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.” (Psalm 16:11)

All this joy and pleasure comes by being WITH Him, in His presence, at His right hand. True joy comes not by fulfilling our own satisfactions, but in finding satisfaction in the provision of God for us. When He directs us, it is for the purpose of strengthening us, helping us, and giving us what is ultimately best for us – so that we might give our best for Him. Ultimately, when we realise that our help is ONLY of the Lord, that’s when His protection and mercy and provision can be given to their fullest.

“Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hands of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God, until that he have mercy upon us.” (Psalm 123:2)

Our attitude towards the Lord ought to be that of the servants which served the absolute despots of the ancient Near Eastern world. These men and women were trained to observe the least little movement of their lord’s hands, for each motion indicate something their king wanted. In return, these servants were absolutely under the protection of their monarch – his lese majestie extended to them – to touch or harm them was to do so to him, and therefore to affront his majesty and power. We ought to be keep our eyes on the Lord’s desires for us, and to instantly respond to Him, and knowing in return that His purpose is to protect us for His own name’s sake (see, for example, Psalm 106:8).

And when we do, our joy will be full.

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