The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
Psalm 23 is arguably the most beautiful in its genre, reproduced here from the 1611 King James Version of the Holy Bible. This famous and time honoured Davidic psalm has provided comfort in times of trouble and distress for countless millions of people across the world, and over many generations. Minds young and old soak up its words after just a few recitals.
David and all the Israelites marched to Jerusalem (that is, Jebus). The Jebusites who lived there said to David, ‘You will not get in here.’ Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion – which is the City of David.
David had said, ‘Whoever leads the attack on the Jebusites will become commander-in-chief.’ Joab son of Zeruiah went up first, and so he received the command.
David then took up residence in the fortress, and so it was called the City of David. He built up the city around it, from the terraces to the surrounding wall, while Joab restored the rest of the city. And David became more and more powerful, because the Lord Almighty was with him.
1 Chronicles 11:4-9
In this passage from the Old Testament, we learn that Jerusalem was not always known by that name. Prior to David’s forces capturing of the city, it was known as Jebus and inhabited by a tribe known as the Jebusites (see also Exodus 3:8). Once David and his army took the city, it became known thereafter as Jerusalem, the City of David.
Hear, my children, the instruction of a father,
And give attention to know understanding;
For I give you good doctrine:
Do not forsake my law.
When I was my father’s son,
Tender and the only one in the sight of my mother,
He also taught me, and said to me:
“Let your heart retain my words;
Keep my commands, and live.
Get wisdom! Get understanding!
Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.
Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you;
Love her, and she will keep you.
Wisdom is the principal thing;
Therefore get wisdom.
And in all your getting, get understanding.
Exalt her, and she will promote you;
She will bring you honor, when you embrace her.
She will place on your head an ornament of grace;
A crown of glory she will deliver to you.”
Hear, my son, and receive my sayings,
And the years of your life will be many.
The Bible encourages us to seek righteous wisdom. King Solomon himself likens it to a “crown of glory”. God gave us big brains to learn the things that will improve our lives and the lives of others. All of God’s enemies despise true wisdom.
When Jotham heard about this, he climbed to the top of Mount Gerizim and shouted,
“Listen to me, citizens of Shechem!
Listen to me if you want God to listen to you!
Once upon a time the trees decided to choose a king.
First they said to the olive tree,
‘Be our king!’
But the olive tree refused, saying,
‘Should I quit producing the olive oil
that blesses both God and people,
just to wave back and forth over the trees?’
“Then they said to the fig tree,
‘You be our king!’
But the fig tree also refused, saying,
‘Should I quit producing my sweet fruit
just to wave back and forth over the trees?’
“Then they said to the grapevine,
‘You be our king!’
But the grapevine also refused, saying,
‘Should I quit producing the wine
that cheers both God and people,
just to wave back and forth over the trees?’
“Then all the trees finally turned to the thornbush and said,
‘Come, you be our king!’
And the thornbush replied to the trees,
‘If you truly want to make me your king,
come and take shelter in my shade.
If not, let fire come out from me
and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’”
Chapter 9 of the Book of Judges is noteworthy in a number of respects. First, it presents a parable in the Old Testament; a style of writing that is far more common in the New Testament. The trees convene to consider who will be king among them. The Olive, vine and fig trees all produce fruit, oil or wine in their season, unlike the thornbush, which yields little of sustenance. The reader will note that the thornbush invites the other trees to lie in its shade; something that would cause them to die. All in all, the parable teaches the folly of choosing a king without consulting the Lord.
In Judges 9:22 we learn that the usurper, Abimelech, ruled as king in Schechem (the first capital of the northern kingdom of Israel) for three years before being deposed. Saul was therefore not the first king in Israel, as is commonly believed. Indeed, the Hebrews actively sought a monarch ever since the time of Gideon.
Now the glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day He called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. The sight of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel.
Throughout the Old and New Testaments, the Lord is commonly described as a consuming fire, such as when He appeared to the emancipated Hebrew nation atop Mount Sinai in the Second Book of Moses. Fire is a useful analogy in describing the Spirit of God. It is ‘living.’ Its heat and light bring us comfort. It is transformative. But when ignored, abused or disrespected, it can wreak destruction on all and sundry. It sorts the wheat from the chaff, reducing everything to its essence. It can never be quenched.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Peace of mind is perhaps the most valuable thing you can gain in this life. When you place your trust in Jesus Christ, a peace that surpasses all things resides in you, like a cool breeze on a hot, summer day.
Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.
He changes times and seasons;
he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning.
He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with him.
It has been said that the survival of humanity depends on how well we understand nature. That is only half true;. it also depends crucially on how well we understand Scripture. Keep reading Scripture and pray that the Lord will give us wisdom and understanding.
There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers.
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.
And His mercy is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever.”
In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
One of the most compelling reasons to trust the Bible is that it tells a historical narrative (names, places etc), warts and all, irrespective of how we react to it. That said, the last three chapters of the Book of Judges (19 through 21) are out of kilter with the rest of the text in that it must have occurred very early in the history of Israel. The evidence for this comes from the name of the High Priest (necessarily a Levite) at the time; Phinehas, who was the grandson of Aaron, the elder brother of Moses (see Judges 20:28).
These last chapters of Judges recount a horrific story of gang rape, murder, lawlessness and internecine conflict between the tribe of Benjamin and the other tribes of Israel. Above all, it shows what happens when a God fearing society without a righteous king can sink to the depths of depravity with disastrous consequences. The dreadful story these chapters relate has ramifications for all societies that turn their back on the living God.
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:9
We live in uncertain times and many people are understandably anxious about what the future may bring. The internet is full of false prophets setting dates for the return of Christ, the Rapture, the Tribulation and a lot more nonsense besides. They lure gullible people and make them even more anxious. In doing these wicked things, they do more harm than good. Avoid them at all costs!
St. Peter, an apostle of Jesus, provided the correct perspective on how we ought to see God’s sovereign plan unfolding. The Lord wants as large a family as possible and is willing to wait as long as possible to realise it. There are more people alive today than have ever existed in history, so we can begin to see why He would wait.
So don’t be anxious, God’s always in control.
Just keep on keeping on!
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Encouraging words for uncertain times.
It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.
So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. ‘Quick, get up!’ he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.
Then the angel said to him, ‘Put on your clothes and sandals.’ And Peter did so. ‘Wrap your cloak round you and follow me,’ the angel told him. Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.
Don’t tell me God doesn’t have a sense of humour!
In this passage from the Book of Acts, Peter is miraculously rescued from prison by an angel of the Lord, who tells him to put on his clothes, sandals and cloak before making his get away! It’s a funny little detail. One’s natural reaction would be to get out at all costs. In such a perilous situation, the last thing on your mind would be your clothes, but the Lord is a cool cookie; He’s got style. First things first. Talk about gracefulness!
Our God is awesome is He not?
Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.
1 Timothy 4:15-16
Jesus warned his followers not to follow those who change their doctrines to suit the time and the culture in which they live. We need to be mindful of what deceit actually is. It’s subtle, seemingly progressive and has the outward appearance of being innocuous. But its effects are absolutely lethal.
Doctrines don’t evolve. That’s the most effective trick used by the Adversary in these times. And he holds many under his spell.
Trust what the Bible says and stay true to the doctrines it teaches. Afterall, the truth is timeless.
Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
Anyone who reads the Gospel accounts with a completely open mind will quickly come to the conclusion that they’re true. They pass all the tests even the hardest sceptic would ask with flying colours. The writers literally couldn’t have made them up!
The Book of Acts provides very powerful evidence of this great truth. Think about it: why would a group of men and women risk their very lives in the aftermath of Jesus’ death and resurrection if it was all just an elaborate hoax? Why did they not cower behind closed doors or go back to their normal way of life but instead risk life and limb, preaching boldly in public places and healing the sick and the infirmed? The only explanation that makes any sense is this; what they witnessed really happened. The Author of Life became a human being and lived among us.
Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” So they were offended at Him.
But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching.
In this passage from Scripture, we learn that Jesus was rejected by his own people from his own town. It further says that he couldn’t perform the great miracles he had already done elsewhere in Israel. But it was not so much that he couldn’t display his power so much as he wouldn’t. Jesus chose not to engage in miraculous acts there except for a few healings of sick people. Our Lord simply refused to shower miraculous deeds on a place that had rejected his message. It was exactly as the Prophet Isaiah wrote seven centuries before:
Make the heart of this people dull,
And their ears heavy,
And shut their eyes;
Lest they see with their eyes,
And hear with their ears,
And understand with their heart,
And return and be healed.”
Unbelief is the great barrier that prevents God working in our lives. Remove that barrier and a transformation can begin!
To be continued…………………………