Aubrey Smith – Rev. 21

At times in my life, I see evidence of God’s presence beyond any doubt. Passages of Scripture light up with meaning, and prayer flows easily. Worship brings me joy as I reflect on how palpably God keeps his hand over my circumstances. Walking with God seems tangible during these times, as if he is physically beside me, and my love overflows in easy obedience. But then there are times that it seems God has gone on vacation. The same passages of the Bible seem devoid of life; I trudge through prayer and push myself to worship. Why does God sometimes feel so distant?

When we look at the life of Israel, we find the same apparent ebb and flow of God’s presence that we feel in our own lives. The opening chapter of Exodus depicts God’s fulfillment of his promise to Abraham for numerous descendants—a nation grown large enough to incite Pharaoh to enslave them out of fear and vengeance (1:8–14). Distanced from the land and favor God had promised them, the Israelites must have struggled to understand their God. Why would he increase their numbers only to allow Pharaoh to drown their newborn boys in the Nile (1:22)? When would God deliver them?

Generations pass before God spares Moses and raises him up in Pharaoh’s own house. When Moses flees Egypt and wanders the plains of Midian, God reveals himself through a burning bush. He acts on behalf of Israel, manifesting his presence through miracles, plagues on Egypt, and the parting of the Red Sea. God leads Israel through the wilderness, as a pillar of cloud by day and a cloud of fire by night. His voice thunders from a mountain, his holiness overcoming the Israelites until they fear for their lives. Wanting to remain among his people, God commands them to construct a tabernacle, which serves as his dwelling place until the temple in Jerusalem is completed hundreds of years later. His presence among the Israelites is overwhelming.

Yet even with so many memories of his glory, the Israelites forget God’s nearness and care for them. With the Egyptians advancing on them before the Red Sea, they complain that Moses brought them out of Egypt only to die in the wilderness (14:11–12). After a three days’ walk, they find no water, their food stores run out, and they despair (15:22; 16:3). And while Moses spends 40 days and nights atop Mount Sinai, receiving instructions from Yahweh, the Israelites even build and worship a golden calf, attributing their deliverance from Egypt to a false god (32:1–6). At the first sign of hardship or confusion, the Israelites assume God has left them.

Although the Israelites doubt God’s presence throughout the book of Exodus, his protection and provision for them is obvious to us, since we have the whole story: God was near Israel at all times. His presence and care were constant, though the evidence seemed sparse from the perspective of the Israelites. Even when their babies were in danger, the writer of Exodus tells us that God honored the obedience of the Hebrew midwives who allowed the babies to live (1:20). He heard the people groaning under slavery, remembered his covenant, and took notice of Israel during their hardest years (2:23–25).

What about us? What truths do we hold to when God seems distant and far off? We know that God’s presence among humanity reached its fullest expression with the advent of Jesus. John’s Gospel states, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). In Greek, the word for “dwelt” literally means “pitched his tent.” In Jesus, God came near—not just in a tent like he did in the tabernacle, but now in flesh. And today, rather than looking for God in pillars of cloud and fire, the Hly Spirit dwells in Christians who carry God’s presence with them. Although he often goes unperceived, that won’t always be the case. In John’s vision of the new heaven and new earth, he describes everything made new, and a loud voice from the throne proclaims, “He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them” (Rev 21:3, emphasis mine).

Advertisements
Standard

Jerry Bridges – Psalm 42

In the life of the godly person, this desire for God produces an aura of warmth. Godliness is never austere and cold. Such an idea comes from a false sense of legalistic morality erroneously called godliness. The person who spends time with God radiates His glory in a manner that is always warm and inviting, never cold and forbidding.

This longing for God also produces a desire to glorify God and to please Him. In the same breath, Paul expressed the desire to know Christ as well as to be like Him (Philippians 3:10). This is God’s ultimate objective for us and is the object of the Spirit’s work in us. In Isaiah 26:9, the prophet proclaimed his desire for the Lord: “My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.” Immediately before this expression of desire for the Lord, he expresses a desire for His glory: “Your name and renown are the desire of our hearts” (verse 8, niv). Renown has to do with one’s reputation, fame, and eminence—or in God’s case, with His glory. The prophet could not separate in his heart his desire for God’s glory and his desire for God Himself. These two yearnings go hand in hand.

This is devotion to God—the fear of God, which is an attitude of reverence and awe, veneration, and honor toward Him, coupled with an apprehension deep within our souls of the love of God for us, demonstrated preeminently in Christ’s atoning death. These two attitudes complement and reinforce each other, producing within our souls an intense desire for this One who is so awesome in His glory and majesty, yet so condescending in His love and mercy.

Standard

John Barry – John 10

Reality shows are all about people who are known or want to be knownthey have celebrity syndrome. The root cause of this obsession is probably, like most things, a disconnect from our Maker. As people disconnect from the God who made us, we seek affirmation from other sources. And as wrong as this desire may be, our culture makes it feel like second nature.

The Jewish people Jesus spoke to also felt displaced. They were a people who had lost touch with their guidetheir shepherd. Jesus is the answer to their call.

Echoing Ezekiel 34:1124, He says, I am the good shepherd, and I know my own, and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.” But Jesus goes one step further by adding, and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:1415). Jesus promises that He will know us, and by echoing the very words of God, He is claiming that He is the God of IsraelHe is the way God will know us. He offers the affirmation weve been looking for; He essentially says, I chose you.

But lest we understand this passage only to be about Jesus fulfilling what God had promised to the Jewish people, He remarks, And I have other sheep which are not from this fold. I must bring these also, and they will hear my voice, and they will become one flockone shepherd. Because of this the Father loves me, because I lay down my life so that I may take possession of it again” (John 10:1617).

Jesus came as our good shepherd, as the one who guides us back to God. When we have the urge to obsess over those who are known to the world, or when we desire to be known ourselves, we can be assured that Jesus knows us. He knows you, and me, and He was still willing to die for us.

In what ways are you seeking to be known by people or obsessing over those who are well-known? What can you do to change that?

Standard

CH Spurgeon – Matthew 3

It is pleasant to pass over a country after a storm has spent itself; to smell the freshness of the herbs after the rain has passed away, and to note the drops while they glisten like purest diamonds in the sunlight. That is the position of a Christian. He is going through a land where the storm has spent itself upon his Saviour’s head, and if there be a few drops of sorrow falling, they distil from clouds of mercy, and Jesus cheers him by the assurance that they are not for his destruction. But how terrible is it to witness the approach of a tempest: to note the forewarnings of the storm; to mark the birds of heaven as they droop their wings; to see the cattle as they lay their heads low in terror; to discern the face of the sky as it groweth black, and look to the sun which shineth not, and the heavens which are angry and frowning! How terrible to await the dread advance of a hurricane—such as occurs, sometimes, in the tropics—to wait in terrible apprehension till the wind shall rush forth in fury, tearing up trees from their roots, forcing rocks from their pedestals, and hurling down all the dwelling-places of man! And yet, sinner, this is your present position. No hot drops have as yet fallen, but a shower of fire is coming. No terrible winds howl around you, but God’s tempest is gathering its dread artillery. As yet the water-floods are dammed up by mercy, but the flood-gates shall soon be opened: the thunderbolts of God are yet in his storehouse, but lo! the tempest hastens, and how awful shall that moment be when God, robed in vengeance, shall march forth in fury! Where, where, where, O sinner, wilt thou hide thy head, or whither wilt thou flee? O that the hand of mercy may now lead you to Christ! He is freely set before you in the gospel: his riven side is the rock of shelter. Thou knowest thy need of him; believe in him, cast thyself upon him, and then the fury shall be overpast for ever.

Standard

John Calvin – Isaiah 55

This verse offers the kind of severe teaching that is absolutely necessary in dealing with hardened hypocrites, who otherwise would deride all instruction. While the psalmist threatens his listeners with the intent of alarming them, he also offers them the hope of pardon if they hasten to avail themselves of it.

To prevent them from further delay, he warns them of the severity and suddenness of divine judgment. He also charges them with base ingratitude for forgetting God. What remarkable proof we have here of the grace of God in extending the type of mercy to corrupt men who have impiously profaned his worship, who audaciously and sacrilegiously mocked his forbearance, and who abandoned themselves to scandalous crimes!

In calling them to repentance, God extends to sinners the hope of reconciliation with himself so that they may venture to appear in the presence of his majesty. Can we conceive of greater clemency than this, to invite to himself and into the bosom of the church such perfidious apostates and violators of his covenant, who have departed from the doctrine of godliness in which they were brought up?

Great as it is, we would do well to reflect that it is no greater than what we ourselves have experienced. We too, have drifted away from the Lord, and only in his singular mercy have been brought back by the Lord into his fold.

For meditation: As parents, we often warn our children about threatening dangers even as we protect them from those dangers. With that in mind, how do God’s warnings to us in chapters such as Psalm 50 and Isaiah 55 and books like Hebrews and Revelation actually promote the perseverance of the saints?

Standard

DA Carson – Job 23

we have heard two full rounds of speeches from the three “miserable comforters,” plus responses from Job. There is one more round, a truncated and imbalanced one. Eliphaz speaks and Job replies (Job 22–24); Bildad speaks very briefly, and Job responds at great length (Job 25–31), with extraordinary sweep and fervor. The comforters have nothing new to say, and are winding down. Job’s persistent defense of his integrity, though it does not convince them, grinds them into sullen silence.

Eliphaz’s last speech (Job 22), though it extends the limits of his poetic imagery, does not extend the argument; it merely restates it. God is so unimaginably great, says Eliphaz, that he cannot derive any benefit from human beings. So why should Job think that the Almighty is impressed with his righteousness? That same greatness guarantees that God’s knowledge and justice are perfect. If so, Job’s sufferings are not groundless: God has winkled out Job’s hidden sins—sins that Eliphaz tries to expose by shots in the dark.

While he responds with some arguments he has used before, Job embarks on a new line of thought (Job 23). He does not now charge God with injustice but with absence, with inaccessibility: “If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling!” (23:3). This is not a longing to escape and go to heaven; it is a passionate and frustrated desire to present his case before the Almighty (23:4). Job is not frightened that God will respond with terrifying power and crush him (23:6); he is frightened, rather, that God will simply ignore him. However, no geographical search Job can undertake will find God (23:8–9).

Job’s words are quite unlike the modern literary protest that God is so absent that he must be dead. Job is not “waiting for Godot.” His faith in God is at one level unwavering. He is perfectly convinced that God knows where Job is, and knows all about the fundamental integrity of his life (23:9–11). This integrity is not the bravado of a self-defined independent; Job has carefully followed the words of God, cherishing them more than his daily food (23:12).

That is why God’s absence is not only puzzling, but terrifying (23:13–17). Job’s continued confidence in God’s sovereignty and knowledge are precisely what he finds so terrifying, for the empirical evidence is that, at least in this life, the just can be crushed and the wicked may escape. The “comforters” claim that Job should be afraid of God’s justice; Job himself is frightened by God’s absence.

When such days come, it is vital to remember the end of the book—the end of the book of Job, and the end of the Bible.

Standard

John MacArthur – John 14

If I could simplify the Christian life to one thing, it would be obedience. I don’t mean just external obedience but a spirit of obedience. It’s not like the little girl who defiantly continued to stand up after her father had told her many times to sit down. Finally her father said, “Sit down, or I’ll spank you.” She sat down but looked up and said, “I’m sitting down, but I’m standing up in my heart!” That’s obeying outwardly but disobeying in the heart. A Christian should be willing to obey.

One evidence of spiritual maturity is loving God enough to obey Him even when it is difficult. God is glorified when we willingly obey Him no matter what the cost. Each time we obey, we grow spiritually, and each time we disobey, we retard our growth.

Standard