“‘THY THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER, AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM. THOU HAST LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS; THEREFORE GOD, THY GOD, HATH ANOINTED THEE WITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE THY COMPANIONS'” (HEB. 1:8-9).

As the eternal God and King, Christ loves righteousness and hates lawlessness.

In these days it’s difficult for us as Christians to be totally supportive of our governmental leaders when we see so much of what God calls righteous compromised or ridiculed. But the King of kings—Christ Himself—is the only leader who has a perfectly right attitude toward righteousness.

Christ rules from an eternal throne, and He rules eternity as God and King. The scepter He holds is symbolic of His rule, particularly as a rule of righteousness.

But there’s more to it than that: He just doesn’t act righteously; He loves righteousness itself. How often have we obeyed without joy, expressing an attitude of willing condescension? But Jesus gives us a different model.

James 1:17 says, “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow.” True righteousness never varies from what is true, just, and good. And 1 John 1:5 says, “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” God is total light and total righteousness. Everything Jesus did resulted from His love of righteousness.

Because Christ loves righteousness, He hates lawlessness. Since He loves what is right, He must hate what is wrong. The two are inseparable—one cannot exist without the other. You cannot truly love righteousness and also like sin. When there is true love for God, there will also be true love for righteousness and total hatred of sin.

The more you and I become conformed to Jesus Christ, the more we will love righteousness. Our attitudes toward righteousness and sin will ultimately reveal how closely we are conformed to Christ. Check out your attitudes and actions. How are you doing?

Suggestion for Prayer

  • Like the psalmist, ask God to show you any hurtful way in you (Ps. 139:24).

For Further Study

  • Read Psalm 119 and note how many times the psalmist makes reference to either his love for God’s law or righteousness.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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“[CHRIST] UPHOLDS ALL THINGS BY THE WORD OF HIS POWER” (HEB. 1:3).

Christ, by His almighty power, holds together all creation.

We base our entire lives on the constancy of physical laws. When something like an earthquake disrupts the normal condition or operation of things even a little, the consequences are often disastrous. Can you imagine what would happen if Jesus Christ relinquished His sustaining power over the laws of the universe for it is He in whom “all things hold together” (Col. 1:17)? We would go out of existence, our atoms scattering throughout the galaxy.

If He suspended the laws of gravity only for a brief moment, we would lose all points of reference. If any of the physical laws varied slightly, we could not exist. Our food could turn to poison; we ourselves could drift out into space or get flooded by the ocean tides. Countless other horrible things could happen.

But the universe remains in balance because Jesus Christ sustains and monitors all its movements and interworkings. He is the principle of cohesion. He is not the deist’s “watchmaker” creator, who made the world, set it in motion, and has not bothered with it since. The reason the universe is a cosmos instead of chaos—an ordered and reliable system instead of an erratic and unpredictable muddle—is the upholding power of Jesus Christ.

The entire universe hangs on the arm of Jesus. His unsearchable wisdom and boundless power are manifested in governing the universe. And He upholds it all by the word of His power. The key to the Genesis creation is in two words: “God said.” God spoke and it happened.

When I contemplate Christ’s power to uphold the universe, I’m drawn to the wonderful promise of Philippians 1:6: “I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” When Christ begins a work in your heart, He doesn’t end there. He continually sustains it until the day He will take you into God’s very presence. A life, just as a universe, that is not sustained by Christ is chaos.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask God to remind you of Christ’s sustaining power when you endure your next trial.

For Further Study

  • Read Job 38-39 for a greater appreciation of what Christ does to uphold the universe.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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“The point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Heb. 8:1).

Since Jesus serves as our High Priest, we have access to God.

Access to God was always a problem for the Jewish people. Exodus 33:20 declares that no man can see God and live. Once each year, on the great Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the Jewish high priest entered into the Holy of Holies, where God’s presence dwelt in a unique sense, to approach God on behalf of the people.

God’s covenant with Israel was the basis for their communion with Him. And the sacrificial system that accompanied the Old Covenant gave the people an outward act to represent their inner repentance. But their sacrifices were incessant because their sin was incessant. They needed a perfect priest and sacrifice to provide access to God permanently. That’s exactly what Jesus was and did.

Hebrews 10 says that Jesus offered His body as a sacrifice for mankind’s sins once for all, then sat down at the right hand of the Father (vv. 10, 12). That was a revolutionary concept to Jewish thinking. A priest on duty could never sit down because his work was never done. But Jesus introduced a new and wonderful element into the sacrificial system: one sacrifice, offered once, sufficient for all time. That was the basis of the New Covenant.

Our Lord’s priesthood is permanent and perpetual: “Because He abides forever, [He] holds His priesthood permanently. Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:24-25). That’s the central message of the book of Hebrews.

It wasn’t easy for the Jewish people to accept the need for a new covenant. Most rejected Christ outright. Similarly, many people today reject His priesthood, supposing they can gain access to God on their own terms. But they’re tragically mistaken. Jesus Himself said, “No one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6).

Suggestion for Prayer

  • Praise God for receiving you into His presence through His Son, Jesus Christ.

For Further Study

  • Read Hebrews 10:19-25, noting how God wants you to respond to Christ’s priesthood.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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“By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict” (Heb. 11:23).

God makes His plans; you walk in them by faith. He doesn’t need your help or counsel—just your obedience and trust.

It has been wisely said that trying to improve on God’s plan is more pretentious than trying to improve the Mona Lisa with an ink pen. All you’d do is ruin the masterpiece.

The story of Amram and Jochebed, the parents of Moses, is about two people who refused to ruin the masterpiece. They trusted God implicitly and did everything possible to see His plan for their son come to fruition.

Because of the number and might of the Hebrew people in Egypt, the pharaoh enslaved them and ordered that all male Hebrew babies be put to death. In direct defiance of that wicked edict, Moses’ parents hid their baby for three months, then placed him in a waterproofed basket along the banks of the Nile River near the place where Pharaoh’s daughter bathed. One can only imagine the faith it took for them to risk their own lives, as well as the life of their baby, by placing him into that basket and introducing him into the very household of the one who wanted all male Hebrew babies slain.

By God’s providence, Pharaoh’s daughter found the baby, took pity on him, and adopted him into her family. More than that, the Lord used Moses’ quick-thinking sister, Miriam, to arrange for Jochebed to nurse and care for her own son! That gave Moses’ family the opportunity to teach him of God’s promises for Israel to inherit the Promised Land, become a mighty nation, and be a blessing to all nations. They helped instill within Moses the faith in God that would later characterize his life.

You may never be called on to make the kind of sacrifice that Moses’ parents made, but no matter what the risks, remember God always honors your obedience.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for His plan for your life. Seek wisdom and grace to live accordingly.

For Further Study

  • Read of Israel’s oppression and Moses’ birth in Exodus 1:1—2:10.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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“BY FAITH EVEN SARAH HERSELF RECEIVED ABILITY TO CONCEIVE, EVEN BEYOND THE PROPER TIME OF LIFE, SINCE SHE CONSIDERED HIM FAITHFUL WHO HAD PROMISED; THEREFORE, ALSO, THERE WAS BORN OF ONE MAN, AND HIM AS GOOD AS DEAD AT THAT, AS MANY DESCENDANTS AS THE STARS OF HEAVEN IN NUMBER, AND INNUMERABLE AS THE SAND WHICH IS BY THE SEASHORE” (HEB. 11:11-12).

Your faith in Christ will influence future generations.

I’ve been blessed with a wonderful Christian heritage. In fact, I’m the fifth generation of preachers in our family. The faith of my predecessors has had an enormous impact on my life—either directly or indirectly. I have the same responsibility they did to influence others for good—as do you.

Hebrews 11:11-12 gives a very personal example of how one man’s faith influenced an entire nation. Verse 11 is better rendered: “By faith Abraham, even though he was past age—and Sarah herself was barren—was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise” (NIV).

God had promised Abraham that he would become the father of a great nation (Gen. 12:2). But Sarah, Abraham’s wife, had always been barren, and both of them were advanced in years. At one point Sarah became impatient and decided to take things into her own hands. She persuaded Abraham to have a son by her maid, Hagar (16:1-4). That act of disobedience proved to be costly because Ishmael, the child of that union, became the progenitor of the Arab people, who have been constant antagonists of the Jewish nation.

Despite his times of disobedience, Abraham believed that God would keep His promise. God honored Abraham’s faith by giving him not only Isaac, the child of promise, but descendants too numerous to count. One man’s faith literally changed the world.

Similarly, the faith you exercise today will influence others tomorrow. So be faithful and remember: despite your failures, God “is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Eph. 3:20).

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for those who have had a righteous influence on you.
  • Pray for greater opportunities to influence others for Christ.

For Further Study

  • Read the account of Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 18-21 and 23.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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“WITHOUT FAITH IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO PLEASE HIM, FOR HE WHO COMES TO GOD MUST BELIEVE THAT HE IS” (HEBREWS 11:6).

Nothing you do can please God apart from faith.

Throughout history, people have tried everything imaginable to gain favor with God. Most turn to religion, but religion apart from Christ is merely a satanic counterfeit of the truth.

Many trust in their own good works, not realizing that even their best efforts are offensive to God (Isa. 64:6; Phil. 3:8). And the more we try to justify ourselves, the more we offend God, because “by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight” (Rom. 3:20).

Some trust in their family heritage or nationality. The Jewish people thought they were pleasing to God simply because they were descendants of Abraham. But John the Baptist warned them, saying, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance; and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you, that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham” (Matt. 3:7-9).

Apart from faith, man cannot please God. And the first step of faith is simply believing God exists. That isn’t enough to save a person—even the demons have that level of faith (James 2:19)—but it’s a start, and by God’s grace can blossom into full saving faith.

God has given ample evidence of His existence. Romans 1:20 says, “Since the creation of the world [God’s] invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made.” David said, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Ps. 19:1).

Creation itself proclaims the existence, power, and glory of God, yet most people “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18) by rejecting the Creator and denying their accountability to Him. Rather than bowing to the true God, they pay homage to “Mother Nature” or evolution. How foolish!

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Praise God for the beauty of His creation.
  • Worship Him as the giver of every good gift (James 1:17).

For Further Study

  • Read Romans 1:18-32. Is there a connection between denying God, practicing idolatry, and committing gross immoralities? Explain.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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“BY [FAITH] THE MEN OF OLD GAINED APPROVAL” (HEB. 11:2).

God makes His approval known to those who trust in Him.

The book Catch-22 tells of a squadron of World War II fliers stationed on the fictitious island of Pianos in the Mediterranean. Before a flier could transfer off the island, he had to complete 25 extremely dangerous missions over southern Europe.

One flier, Yosarian, was especially anxious to leave. After completing his twenty-fifth mission, his commanding officer began raising the number of qualifying missions. Insanity became the only justification for a transfer. But the commander decided that whomever feigned insanity to obtain a transfer simply proved his sanity by that sane act!

Realizing it was all a cruel game with no way out, Yosarian devised a plan to build a raft and float to Sweden. Even though there was a whole continent between him and Sweden and the ocean currents would take him in the opposite direction, he couldn’t be dissuaded. He took a leap into the absurd with a hopeless and impossible plan to escape a hopeless and impossible situation.

In their relentless quest for meaning in life, many people become spiritual Yosarians. Rejecting God, who is the only sure and rational answer to life, they jump headlong into alcohol, drugs, witchcraft, astrology, reincarnation, or countless other absurdities.

Many acknowledge God, but try to gain His approval through self-righteous deeds apart from true faith. In either case the results are the same: no faith, no salvation, no hope, no peace, and no assurance.

But those who take God at His word and approach Him in true faith receive His approval and enjoy His blessings. Theirs isn’t a blind leap into the absurd, but a living hope in the God who made man and who alone can fulfill man’s deepest longings. They know the joy and satisfaction of a life spent in service to Christ, and the peace and assurance that all is well—both now and for eternity.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Pray for those you know who have rejected God or are trying to gain His approval on their own. Explain to them the meaning and purpose Christ alone can bring to their lives.

For Further Study

  • According to 2 Timothy 2:24-26, what is the spiritual state of those who oppose the gospel, and how are we to approach them?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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