Responding to the Word of God – Nehemiah 8:9-12

Don’t Just Read The Word Of God – Respond To It

9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.

10 Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

11 The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.”

12 Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.

Massive Mourning

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

As we read the word of God, our hearts should react.  The Israelites who were gathered before Ezra when Nehemiah was the governor over Jerusalem after the wall was rebuilt in fifty-two days experienced great mourning when they heard the word of God read to them.  Jesus indicated that this was to be our state of heart as well when we hear the word of God and we realize that we are falling short of it.

The word of God is not merely words inspired by God and written by men for us to give historical records and inspirational thoughts; rather, the word of God is living and active:

12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

The word of God is able to show us exactly who we are in our inward attitudes as well as our outer words and deeds.  Scripture is able to accurately pinpoint the weaknesses and failings in our character, thought processes, and beliefs.  It is able to do so because it is both alive and absolute truth:

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

When our hearts respond to the word of God, we are ready to be trained by it.

Supernatural Strength

Nehemiah records that the ordeal in rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem was taxing on the people.  Anyone who has been under the threat of violence, where working with one hand and your other hand on your weapon is not a very peaceful ordeal.  The Israelites experience this even today on a near day-to-day basis with the threat of suicide bombers, shootings, beatings, and missiles being directed towards them.

The last thing that God’s people needed right now was to become overwhelmed with dread at the thought of just how far short they were from the glory of God.  Nehemiah commanded that the people not grieve on this day, for it was holy to them.  They were to embrace the joy of the Lord.  This is their strength, and our strength as well.  God has sovereignly paid for our sins with the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary.  Our natural response is to mourn over our sin.  But we should then embrace the joy of our salvation, for it is in that joy that we have strength.

Pain, suffering, misery, mourning, and many other physically and emotionally draining situations sap our strength from us.  When we have joy in hope (the certainty of outcome, not wishful thinking), we are able to look at these difficulties and put them in their proper perspective.  Until we are able to grasp the joy of the Lord, we will be subject to the storms of emotion.  Life is hard.  For many, life seems impossible.  When every breath is a challenge, and the situations of life threaten to rob every aspect of normalcy in life from you, only the joy of the Lord can lift you out of the pit of despair.

Stay Still

The Levites (the Levitical priests) had counseled the people to be still.  Elsewhere in the word of God, that phrase is used as well:

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

But what does it mean to “be still”?  One of the best translations of this phrase is “cease striving”.  As humans, we have a desire and drive to do things our way.  We tend to rely upon the gifts and resources that God has provided to us rather than on the provider of the gifts and resources.  When we rely upon God, we will cease striving.  Our hearts will “be still”, for we will be expectantly waiting for God to act, rather than acting on our own.

Cheerfully Celebrate

God had done a mighty work in and through those who had rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem.  The Israelites were told to celebrate this great victory that God had given to them.  Do we take the time to celebrate what God has done in our lives?  Do we publicly acknowledge the victory God has given us over our enemies?  Do we embrace the joy of the Lord in such a way that it is winsome to others?  How we respond to what God has done and is doing in our lives is very important to God.

Embrace Erudition

All of this was very important because of one thing: the people had understood the meaning of the word of God.  We too should seek and embrace the word of God and its meaning in our lives.  Learning the word of God should be foremost in our minds:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

[Blessed is the one…] whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.

my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.
“Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also reject you as my priests;
because you have ignored the law of your God,
I also will ignore your children.”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I living in the joy of the Lord?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your joy is made complete in me through the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ, for my sins.  Thank You for this gift, and for Your joy.  Help me to know Your word and to embrace Your word in my heart and my mind.  May Your law be on my lips when I first wake in the morning until I go to sleep at night.  Help me to understand Your word better so that I can live it out in my life.  Help me to cease striving, and to fully receive Your Spirit without measure.  Give me the desire and ability to die to myself so that the Holy Spirit can display Your character through the life that You have provided to me.  Help me to rely upon You more each day and less upon myself.  Help my heart to be attuned to Your word and Your direction so that I might live in a way that pleases You more.  Forgive me for my sins, and help me to have a heart that is sensitive to You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Blessings of Obedience – Psalm 128

Obedience To God Results In Blessings By God

1 Blessed are all who fear the Lord,
who walk in obedience to him.
2 You will eat the fruit of your labor;
blessings and prosperity will be yours.
3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
around your table.
4 Yes, this will be the blessing
for the man who fears the Lord.

5 May the Lord bless you from Zion;
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.
6 May you live to see your children’s children-
peace be on Israel.

Revel in Reverence

Obedience is a word that is treated like the plague.  Very few people want to be obedient.  To be obedient means that there may be (most likely will be) great sacrifice, pain, and personal loss in a person’s life.  Jesus likened obedience to love:

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

Obedience to the word of God brings about the circumstances necessary to transform the lives of men and women into the character and capacity of Jesus:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

In obedience we find freedom.  And in freedom, we find joy and peace.  God greatly desires that we be free from the bondage of sin so that we can have the freedom to follow Him:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

The difference between obedience and legalism is that obedience leads to freedom, and  legalism leads to bondage.

Bountiful Blessings

Obedience has its own rewards, apart from the joy of knowing that God is pleased with how you are living your life.  Obedience brings and abundance of blessings.  God is faithful and rewards those who seek after Him in obedience.  There are many blessings to be found in obedience.  The Psalmist lists several.

Wonderful Wife

The man who is obedient to God will have a wife that is fruitful.  Children are a blessing and a reward from God.  Additionally, the wife of an obedient man is most likely following in his footsteps, and is obedient to God and to him as well.  Everything that she does will pour forth out of her joy in Jesus and her husband.  She will be able to trust in her husband, and show him the respect that he desires and deserves, because she will already be showing God the respect that He deserves through obedience.  Her hands will be busy, and she will be fruitful in all that she does.

Chosen Children

When a man is obedient to God, his children will most likely follow suit.  Children model their parents, whether they want to or not.  They learn by watching our example.  And when it is real to them, they will embrace it as they taste and see that the Lord is good.  They will grow in grace and righteousness before God, and will be a blessing to their parents.

Powerful Prosperity

In obedience, those who follow God will be prospered.  God looks to the future and the spiritual rather than the present and the physical.  And while He desires that we prosper here on Earth, He has an even stronger desire that we prosper in Him.  Obedience produces the character that God desires in His children in the same way that parents desire that their children obey them.

Better the poor whose walk is blameless
than the rich whose ways are perverse.

After all, in obedience, we are afforded great, abundant, and valuable wealth:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ

Long Life

Obedience to God gives us wisdom, and God grants long life to those who seek Him in obedience.  They will live a full life, and be afforded the opportunity to see their grandchildren grow.  Their heritage will be available to be a blessing to them, and they will rejoice that God has given them the opportunity to witness it and to participate in their upbringing.  This is not an iron-clad contractual promise, but rather a generalization that bears out in our experience as we live long and prosper on the Earth.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I seeking obedience to God, or His blessings?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have greatly blessed me in that You have revealed Your Son, Jesus Christ to me, and have given me the faith to believe in Him and to follow Him.  Thank You for all that You are, and all that You do.  Give me a heart of obedience so that I will be like Your servant David, who heart was continually turning or turned towards You.  Help me to overcome my sin so that I would be able to be even more obedient to Your word and Your will.  Give me clean hands and a pure heart that I might yield all that I am and all that I have to You in worship.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Restoration by God – Psalm 126

It Is God Who Restores Us After He Disciplines Us

1 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed
2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
3 The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.

4 Restore our fortunes, Lord,
like streams in the Negev.
5 Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.

Dreaming after Discipline

When we are being disciplined, it can seem as if there is no future.  Our very dreams may be stripped from us as God allows us to be sifted like wheat.  The fortunes of yesterday become the poverty of tomorrow.  Women who bore children may now be barren, and any thought of success is marred as God does the opposite in our lives.

5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

It may seem impossible to dream of the future while God is disciplining us.  And although discipline is designed to bring about the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it, the training may seem excruciatingly painful, cruel, unloving, and hateful.  But that is our Earthly emotional response to the unpleasantness that is required for training.  If we focus on the feelings rather than the goal, we can become embittered, disillusioned, distant, withdrawn, and even depressed.

While a significant portion of discipline is achieved through God allowing Satan to have his way with us, God does sometimes supernaturally intervene through the withholding of His blessing and hedge of protection for reasons that appear obtuse to us.  Even His silence during this time is calculated to drive us closer to Him in prayer, with pleading and tears, rather than anger, scorn, and bitterness.

When your dreams seem like a distant echo of some great feast of long ago, let go of them to embrace the discipline that God is using to train you.  It may very well be that God is trying to sanctify you by removing the Earthly dreams and desires that you have so that He can give you new Heavenly desires and future visions of His plans. For when the discipline is over, the time to dream dreams has arrived.

Jubilant Joy

When God restores our fortunes, we will have songs filled with joy and praise on our lips.  And like a woman who has travailed through a long, difficult, and painful childbirth, the joy of seeing her child for the first time makes her forget the pain that she endured to birth him/her.

For the first time in what seems forever, we will have laughter on our lips, and God will give us a new song in our hearts to praise Him.  The former things will have passed away, and the current joy will overshadow any pain that we may have endured.  This does not mean that we won’t bear the scars.  The emotional, psychological, and physical scars of our discipline may well follow us throughout the rest of our lives.  But God will restore and sanctify what was once broken.

It is the scars that remind us of where we came from, what we came through, and where we are going.  Humans are a forgetful people.  That is why God needed to tell us that we should praise Him in remembrance when He prospers us.  Soon after the pain is over, if we do not remember our training, like a dog returning to its vomit, we may very well return to our old ways of living.  That is why God had His people erect Stones of Remembrance.

Nations Notice

When God restores the fortunes of His people, the nations take notice, and they see the grace, mercy, and provision of the Lord God Almighty.  In 1948, God kept His promise and restored His people to their land.  In 1967, God kept His promise and His people threw off the yoke of Gentile control for more than 2,000 years.  God has been restoring the fortunes of His people, and it has been a great and mighty testimony to the faithfulness of God.  And while the enemies of God and God’s people gnash their teeth and cry out in agony at the sovereign power of Almighty God, YHWH, as He marches forth His sovereign plan, the rest of the world looks on in wonder and envy as Israel grows, strengthens, and prospers.

Howling and Hymns

When we sow with tears, we reap with joy.  God is close to the brokenhearted, and hears their cries for His help.  God is not deaf to the suffering of His people:

13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. 16 I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.”

Growing and Garnering

The Bible says:

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

When we sow seed in weeping, God will send us away with joy in our hearts as we reap the efforts of our labors with the fruit that will satisfy us.  God gives us not only physical provision, but also spiritual provision as well.  He will give us the fruit of our labor, and we will be satisfied in it.  When we drink from the fountain of living water, and eat of bread of communion, we are filled with such great abundance of joy and satisfaction that the world in its desire to physically satisfy its carnal desires cannot even begin to appreciate what we have.  For the deepest hunger of our hearts – the spiritual need and desire to be in communion with God – will be truly fulfilled, and no amount of wealth, food, or Earthly attainment can compare to the immense riches of the blessings that we have in our Heavenly inheritance.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When faced with trials and discipline, am I able to see God’s endgame – my sanctification and His glory – through it?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your discipline seems like blows on my back.  I can sometimes barely even breathe under its weight.  Give me strength through my trials, and keep my heart steadfastly focused upon Jesus, that I may honor and glorify Your name though them.  Father, even Your Son, Jesus Christ, asked three times to have His cup removed.  Father, may Your will be done, not mine.  Help me to endure my trials as Jesus did His.  Help me to see the light at the end of these trials, so that I can look forward to laughter, joy, and song, and dreams again.  May my suffering and loss glorify Your name. Please use my pain, suffering, sorrow, and loss for Your glory so that I may know that my suffering serves some greater purpose.  Thank You, Father, for all that You are and all that You do.  May Your mercy and grace be upon me and my family through all of our trials.  Remember me – act divinely upon my behalf – this day, and give me what I need to both survive and thrive.  This I ask in Jesus’ Holy Name, Amen.

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Give Praise to God -Psalm 105:1-4

The Lord God Almighty Is Worthy Of All Praise

1 Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
2 Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
3 Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
4 Look to the Lord and his strength;
seek his face always.

Profoundly Praise

The heart of this Psalm is praising the Lord for what He has done.  The author immediately begins with a command to praise God: not just in private; but to announce to the world what He has done.  As image-bearers of God, we are to loudly proclaim, as the works of His hands, the glory of the One who created everything and even now directs the paths we take.

It brings great glory to God when His people, who are called by His name, proclaim what God has done.  Not only what God has done in the past (as recorded in the Bible), but also what God is doing right now.  After the fall of man through Adam, God hasn’t rested.  He has constantly been at work in the lives of everyone and in the order, motion, and the progression of all things that are occurring.

We would do well to remember that God’s name, YHWH, means “I am He who exists and is dynamically involved in your life.”  We are to publicly praise God for who He is and what He has done.  The Psalmist next describes three ways to do this.

Symphony of Song

The first way that we can praise God is through singing.  When you have time (OK, you can stop laughing now…), search through the Bible for the words sing, singing, sang, and sung.  Throughout the Bible, the only times that these words are used are when human beings are using their voices in song.  Nowhere does it say that angels, who are mightier than humans, express their praise to God in song.  The angels proclaim the glory of God, but they don’t sing of it (at least the Bible doesn’t record that anywhere).  But we are told to make music and sing to God as part of our praise and worship of Him.

Singing God’s praise may be a function that is given only to humans, in that singing evokes an emotional response that resonates within us.  The angels will never know of the glorious and inexpressible joy that we have from our release of the bondage of sin and invitation and acceptance into the household of God.  We have been given the great opportunity to make a joyful noise to the Lord in gratitude for all that He has done.  Even if you sing out of key, or can barely make a sound, use all of your might to express your joy to the Lord as best you can in song, for it is not only for the benefit of man that we sing praise about the Lord, but it is to extol and recount the glory of the Lord and His mighty works.  And when we make every effort to glorify God in song that expresses the deepest desires and emotional state of our hearts, it pleases God to hear us express it in this manner.

Revel and Rejoice

As part of our praise experience, we are to glory in His name and rejoice in our hearts as we contemplate all that God has done for us and through us.  Our hearts are to be tuned to praise God rather than ourselves or others.  Nehemiah said that the joy of the Lord is our strength.  We should have the attitude of gratitude when it comes to the Lord.  As we remember how the Lord has helped us and brought us through deep waters (our most difficult trials), our hearts will be tuned to rejoice in the One who has done all of these things.

See and Seek

And, as part of our praise, we should always look to the Lord and His strength, and seek His face always.  We are to constantly desire to be in the presence of the Lord God Almighty.  We are most protected and strengthened when we are in the will and the presence of the Lord.  When we make it our heart’s desire to seek the Lord in all things, our very lives pour themselves out to Him in a continual song of adoration and praise.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I have the attitude of gratitude?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, my heart rejoices in You.  May I ever seek Your face, and desire to be in Your presence.  When I sin, I am appalled at what I have done.  But when I repent, You are faithful to forgive and help me to draw close to You again.  Give me the strength to get back up when I have fallen.  Help me to recount all that You have done, that men may know of Your mighty works and deeds, and know Your heart that is filled with love for Your creation.  Give me a new song to sing, that my praise would be ever vibrant and changing, not a mere repetition of words to music, but a continual outpouring of praise and adoration towards You that is impossible to stop.  May all praise, honor, glory, power strength, and dominion be Yours forever and ever, Amen.

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Joy of God – 1 Thessalonians 1:4-6

God Fills Us With Joy

4 For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. 6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.

Children are Chosen

God has chosen His children.  He has predestined that all men should be drawn to His Son since Jesus was crucified.  The true children have heard, and will hear, the message of the Gospel with joy, and it will manifest itself with power through the Holy Spirit in the deep conviction that comes with the witness of the Holy Spirit about all things that are true. Truth is no longer an abstract concept relegated to relativism, but is now the embodiment of the Son of God who has declared:

“…I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

The Holy Spirit of God bears witness to the truth and power of the word of the Living God as the word penetrates into the hearts of all who listen.  God’s word will not go void;  everywhere it is heard, His word will have effect upon all who hear it.  The soil of our hearts is being plowed by the difficulties of life and the work of the Holy Spirit.  Even in the darkest of times, the Holy Spirit of God is able to soften the hardest of hearts in the emotional pain of suffering and loss.  God has said through His servant Paul that we are predestined to be His children.  We merely need to respond to the message.

Severe Suffering

We know that we are His children because we have responded to His word, and it has grown in us through the hardship of life.  Paul reiterates that when we become imitators of him, we are being imitators of the one who sent him.  Hardship and suffering produce perseverance,  which produces character, which then produces hope – a fully justified expectation of completion of what has been promised.

When we are tried through the crucible of suffering, our faith is tested, and it grows.  Those who do not have a deep faith in the solid rock of Christ will find that whatever they have placed their faith in will be eroded by the crashing waves of hardship and suffering, just as sand is swept away by the outgoing tide.  The sand erodes, and exposes the fragility of the foundation upon which the building was laid.  But upon the solid rock of Jesus Christ, no hardship or suffering can prevail.  For it is within Christ that we have our joy. and the joy of the Lord is our strength.

Justified Joy

The Holy Spirit testifies of the Son of God, and fills us with joy as we cling tightly to the author and perfecter of our faith.  And a peace that transcends understanding fills our heart.  We may not understand why, but we know that our joy is justified, well-placed, and authentic.  Nothing and no one can take that joy from us except that we take our eyes off of the one who beautiful gaze is the sole object of our affection:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace. – Helen Howarth Lemmel (1863-1961)

It is in the light of His glory and grace that we find our peace and our joy.  In these desperate and wicked times, turn to the author and perfecter of your faith, and witness the joy and peace that transcends understanding as He fills your heart with Himself.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I allowing the joy of the Lord to fill me up during my duress?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, glory and power be to You who are exalted above all.  Praise be to You in all things, for You are all in all, omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent.  Thank You for bringing me joy through Your Son, Jesus Christ, and the wonderful working of the Holy Spirit as I walk in Your ways.  Give me a heart of thanksgiving and joy as I contemplate the magnitude of all that You have wrought.  Tune my heart to Yours, and help me to endure the trials that are and that are to come.  Prepare me for the great and terrible day of the return of Your son.  Help my life to be a witness to the love, grace, and mercy that You extend to all people in the hopes of reconciling everyone to Yourself.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Worshiping God – Psalm 51:17

Worship God in Truth and in Spirit

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

Spiritually Spent

The attitude of our heart is very important in Worship.  Worship is not only about praise, but also about humility in brokenness.  When we go to worship God, we need to do so in truth and in spirit.  Worship originates from our desire to commune with God on His terms.  David shows us that we should come to God with a spirit of contrition when approaching Him after we have sinned.

When our hearts are not right, our worship isn’t right either.  Even when we overcome great odds, and we are at a spiritual peak, we need to be careful that we approach God with humility and reverence.  But David was in a spiritually dark place.  He had molested Bathsheba; he tried to get Uriah, her husband, to have relations with her, so that her pregnancy with David’s son would be covered up; and when Godly Uriah did not follow David’s instructions, David had him murdered at the hands of his enemy.  Yet David was a man after God’s own heart.  He always came back to God.

Hygienic Hands

In Psalm 24, David notes that clean hands are required to come before God.  His hands were covered in the blood of murder and molestation.  David realized that he wouldn’t be able to worship God correctly until he had been cleansed of his unrighteousness.  In our modern society, grace appears to be emphasized over holiness, rather than in balance with it.  Perhaps if more time was spent policing our behavior than leaning on God’s grace when we mess up, we might have a better handle on the holiness of God.  And while God is merciful and graceful, we are told that we shouldn’t sin to bring more grace to bear upon us.

Healthy Heart

David also noted that we need a pure heart.  When we humble our hearts toward God, He will lift us up.  He will restore the joy of our salvation.  He will tenderly bring us back into right relationship with Himself.  And He will draw close to us.  It is then that we can properly worship God in Truth and in Spirit.

A Qualifying Question

So let’s ask ourselves a question:  When I come before the Lord to worship, am I coming with clean hands and a pure and humble heart?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, forgive me of my sins.  It is in brokenness of spirit that I come before You.  You are Holy, Holy, Holy, and cannot stand sin and unrighteousness.  Restore to me the joy of Your salvation.  Renew a steadfast spirit within me, that I will shun evil and love Your commands.  Help me to overcome my sin nature that I may greatly desire righteousness and truth.  I fail all the time, Lord God, but You are faithful to forgive and seek to restore me.  Help me to be more mindful of my actions, thoughts, and speech, that I would live in the positional righteousness that You have provided for me.  Show me my sin, for it blinds me to it.  Help me to overcome it, for I am more than a conqueror in Christ.  This I ask in the precious name and blood of my Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Forgiven by God – Ephesians 4:32

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

It is a blessing to be forgiven. What a relief!  It is also expected that we will forgive as we have been forgiven.  So why is it so hard to forgive when we have been forgiven so much?  We suffer three injuries every time we forgive:

  • The Initial Offense – We suffer from the harm that happened because of the event
  • The Pain of Reconciliation – We must come to terms with the pain of offense and let that pain go, since we consider it as though it never happened
  • The Absence of Justice – We suffer knowing that since we have chosen to forgive, justice will not occur for the offense

Yet, we are called to forgive as we have been forgiven.  But why does it seem that every day people are getting more evil than ever?  Perhaps this is why (Matthew 24:12-13):

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Besides, everything has already been paid in full already.  Just as some physical injuries take longer to heal than others, the pain of sin and forgiveness can take longer for certain events.  Either way, we are called to be perfect like God.  So, like everything else in life, practice makes perfect – make forgiveness the first state of mind when someone wrongs you.  And let God take care of the rest.  Lean on Him for strength and healing.  For:

Isaiah 61:1-3

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

Be an oak of righteousness; forgive as God has forgiven you.  And let God give you the oil of joy and a garment of praise.

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have forgiven us more that we can even comprehend.  From the worst of sinners as Paul described himself to the ones who led good lives, we have all sinned and fallen short of Your glory.  Forgive us this day our trespasses, and help us to forgive the trespasses of others.  Strengthen us as we deal with the consequences of not only our own sin, but the sin of others.  Help us to remember what it cost You to forgive our sins, that we might put everything into perspective.  Touch our hearts and comfort us as we draw close to you.  This we ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?