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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Psalm 119:121-128: Eyestrain

Don’t leave me to the mercy of my enemies,
    for I have done what is just and right.
122 Please guarantee a blessing for me.
    Don’t let the arrogant oppress me!
123 My eyes strain to see your rescue,
    to see the truth of your promise fulfilled.

124 I am your servant; deal with me in unfailing love,
    and teach me your decrees.
125 Give discernment to me, your servant;
    then I will understand your laws.
126 Lord, it is time for you to act,
    for these evil people have violated your instructions.
127 Truly, I love your commands
    more than gold, even the finest gold.
128 Each of your commandments is right.
    That is why I hate every false way. (New Living Translation).

The love this man has for God’s Word; his valuing it (127), and deep concern over its violation (126) are evident for all to read. So also, is his eager, energetic, expectant longing for God’s promises to be fulfilled (123). He has a form of holy and healthy ‘eye strain’ as he looks for what God has said to come to pass. Clearly, ‘standing on the promises of God’ is not a passive thing.

I often think about something I read many years ago in an inspiring biography of George Mueller of Bristol. It was said that he developed a way of praying that was rather like a lawyer, in a court of law, arguing a case. Reverently but boldly, he would lay claim to God’s answers on the basis of His own Word. He knew His Bible so well.

This is an inspiring quote from the George Muller,org website. Let it inspire you to pray on in faith:


In November 1844, I began to pray for the conversion of five individuals. I prayed every day without a single intermission, whether sick or in health, on the land, on the sea, and whatever the pressure of my engagements might be. Eighteen months elapsed before the first of the five was converted. I thanked God and prayed on for the others. Five years elapsed, and then the second was converted. I thanked God for the second, and prayed on for the other three. Day by day, I continued to pray for them, and six years passed before the third was converted. I thanked God for the three, and went on praying for the other two. These two remained unconverted.

Thirty-six years later he wrote that the other two, sons of one of Mueller’s friends, were still not converted. He wrote, “But I hope in God, I pray on, and look for the answer. They are not converted yet, but they will be.” In 1897, fifty-two years after he began to pray daily, without interruption, for these two men, they were finally converted—but after he died! Mueller understood what Luke meant when he introduced a parable Jesus told about prayer, saying, “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1).

Titus 3: The good life

 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. 10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. 11 You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.

Final Remarks

12 As soon as I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, because I have decided to winter there. 13 Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything they need. 14 Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.

15 Everyone with me sends you greetings. Greet those who love us in the faith.

Grace be with you all.

As we have seen, there is a major emphasis in this letter on Christians being called to good works. It comes up repeatedly in chapter three, as you can see from the highlighted verses. We are definitely not saved by good deeds (5a), but we are saved for them. However, what makes ‘the good life’ possible? It is the bountiful gift of the Holy Spirit (5b,6). (Note that at its heart conversion is a bath and a bestowal – a generous outpouring – of the Spirit of God.) So, the goodness of a believer flows outwards from a regenerated heart. The newness begins on the inside but is exhibited on the outside.

God never asks us to do anything that He does not also enable and empower.

F.B.Meyer points out that the word translated ‘good’ may also be rendered beautiful. He writes;

‘It is better to live a holy life than be a successful disputant. The best proof of orthodoxy is a Christlike life.’ (‘Devotional Commentary’. p.592).

Lamentations 3:31-39: The wondrous Cross


31 
For no one is cast off
    by the Lord forever.
32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
    so great is his unfailing love.
33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
    or grief to anyone.

34 To crush underfoot
    all prisoners in the land,
35 to deny people their rights
    before the Most High,
36 to deprive them of justice—
    would not the Lord see such things?

37 Who can speak and have it happen
    if the Lord has not decreed it?
38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
    that both calamities and good things come?
39 Why should the living complain
    when punished for their sins?

Whenever we read about God’s judgment in the Bible (and we do often; especially, though not exclusively, in the Old Testament prophetic books) we need to remember at least two things:

  1. We are all guilty before God and deserve His punishment (39);
  2. God does not willingly bring chastisement upon anyone (33).

The Cross supremely demonstrates God’s attitude to His own judgment. He substituted Himself – in Christ – in the place of those of us who deserve it. He willingly took our punishment so that we can go free, if only we will repent of our sins and place our full confidence in Jesus alone to save us.

As ever, John Stott has expressed this doctrine so clearly and succinctly:

‘The concept of substitution may be said to lie at the heart of both sin and salvation. For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be. Man claims prerogatives that belong to God alone; God accepts penalties that belong to man alone.’ (From ‘The Cross of Christ’).

Lamentations 3:19-39: One day at a time


19 
I remember my affliction and my wandering,
    the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
    and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
    to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.
27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke
    while he is young.

28 Let him sit alone in silence,
    for the Lord has laid it on him.
29 Let him bury his face in the dust—
    there may yet be hope.
30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,
    and let him be filled with disgrace.

31 For no one is cast off
    by the Lord forever.
32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
    so great is his unfailing love.
33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
    or grief to anyone.

34 To crush underfoot
    all prisoners in the land,
35 to deny people their rights
    before the Most High,
36 to deprive them of justice—
    would not the Lord see such things?

37 Who can speak and have it happen
    if the Lord has not decreed it?
38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
    that both calamities and good things come?
39 Why should the living complain
    when punished for their sins?

With regard to the above passage, Warren Wiersbe says:

‘As I wrote this section of our study, I occasionally glanced at a picture on a nearby bookcase. It’s a reproduction of Rembrandt’s painting ”Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem,” which Rembrandt painted in 1630. It depicts a sad old man, seated on a rock, a copy of the Scriptures on his left and behind him on his right a scene of people fleeing a burning city. If I weren’t a Christian believer, the painting would discourage me, but I see in it the truths Jeremiah shared in verses 19-39. Like the prophet, we must live a day at a time and each morning draw upon a new supply of God’s mercy. No matter what the Enemy says to to us, we must remind ourselves that ”the Lord is good” and He is never closer to us than when He chastens us.’ (OT Commentary, p.1271)

Lamentations 3:19-24: Mental focus

I remember my affliction and my wandering,
    the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
    and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”

The words of Jeremiah may well reflect his time in the dungeon. Even there, a change of mind changed everything. After writing yesterday’s piece, I found three highly relevant quotes in my journal from 2nd December last year, and I felt I couldn’t move on without sharing them:

‘A Christian should be joyful, if he’s not, the devil is tempting him.’ Martin Luther.

‘Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.’ Henri Nouwen.

‘Redirection: When thoughts come about how bad your life is, or hard your life is, or unfair your life is – and those thoughts come a lot! – you redirect your mind, which is best described as directed attention, to what you are grateful for.’ John Mark Comer.

Lamentations 3:1- 27: ‘Yet…’

I am the man who has seen affliction
    by the rod of the Lord’s wrath.
He has driven me away and made me walk
    in darkness rather than light;
indeed, he has turned his hand against me
    again and again, all day long.

He has made my skin and my flesh grow old
    and has broken my bones.
He has besieged me and surrounded me
    with bitterness and hardship.
He has made me dwell in darkness
    like those long dead.

He has walled me in so I cannot escape;
    he has weighed me down with chains.
Even when I call out or cry for help,
    he shuts out my prayer.
He has barred my way with blocks of stone;
    he has made my paths crooked.

10 Like a bear lying in wait,
    like a lion in hiding,
11 he dragged me from the path and mangled me
    and left me without help.
12 He drew his bow
    and made me the target for his arrows.

13 He pierced my heart
    with arrows from his quiver.
14 I became the laughingstock of all my people;
    they mock me in song all day long.
15 He has filled me with bitter herbs
    and given me gall to drink.

16 He has broken my teeth with gravel;
    he has trampled me in the dust.
17 I have been deprived of peace;
    I have forgotten what prosperity is.
18 So I say, “My splendor is gone
    and all that I had hoped from the Lord.”

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
    the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
    and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
    and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
    to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.
27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke
    while he is young.

For many years, in churches across our land, we have sung the beautiful worship song: ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases’. But we have no doubt rarely considered the context in which these verses are found in ‘Lamentations.’ Up to verse 21ff, the mood of the chapter is one of deep gloom. Jeremiah had (prophetically) foreseen the judgment to fall on Judah; and then he had seen it at close hand – all of the death and destruction. He felt like a man whose prayers were not answered (8,9).

In verses 19,20 I note that what we focus on affects our emotions and attitudes. ”For as he thinks within himself, so he is’ (Prov.23:7).

But I also observe that in the middle of dire circumstances:

  • Jeremiah chooses to remember differently (21-23). Everything in the chapter turns on the little word ”Yet.” When he thought about negative things it did not do him any good. But then he decided to remember the truth about God;
  • Jeremiah decides to adopt a one day at a time perspective: ”They are new every morning” (23a);
  • Jeremiah preaches to himself (24-27). He counsels himself. As the psalmist often does, he speaks to his own soul.

What are you fixating on today that is ruinous to your mental, emotional and spiritual health? What truth do you need to speak into your own soul – and believe?!!

Psalm 119:113-120: God’s sustaining Word


113 
I hate double-minded people,
    but I love your law.
114 You are my refuge and my shield;
    I have put my hope in your word.
115 Away from me, you evildoers,
    that I may keep the commands of my God!
116 Sustain me, my God, according to your promise, and I will live;
    do not let my hopes be dashed.

117 Uphold me, and I will be delivered;
    I will always have regard for your decrees.
118 You reject all who stray from your decrees,
    for their delusions come to nothing.
119 All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross;
    therefore I love your statutes.
120 My flesh trembles in fear of you;
    I stand in awe of your laws

Someone observed regarding Ps.119:118 that it is ‘a recognition that God cannot bless where His word is deserted.’

It may have been the same person who noted: ‘Nothing opens a window into the Old Testament view of the law of God more than the word ‘love’ (113; cf.v.97)…This love was all -absorbing, utterly excluding the double-mind…’

Twice, in this section, the psalmist writes about his ”love” for God’s Word (113 & 119). I firmly believe God wants us to be in the place where we ”live” on every word that proceeds from God’s mouth. We love the Bible for many reasons, including this one that it ‘sustains’ us

Hudson Taylor wanted missionaries for China who would totally trust God’s promises and look to Him alone for the supply of all their needs. He wrote:

‘Our Father is a very experienced One. He knows very well that His children wake up with a good appetite every morning, and He always provides breakfast for them, and does not send them supperless to bed at night. ‘Thy bread shall be given thee, and thy water shall be sure.’ He sustained three million Israelites in the wilderness for forty years. We do not expect He will send three million missionaries to China; but if He did, He would have ample means to sustain them all. Let us see that we keep God before our eyes; that we walk in His ways and seek to please and glorify Him in everything, great and small. Depend upon it, GOD’s work done in GOD’s way will never lack GOD’s supplies.’ (‘The growth of a work of God’, p.42).

PRAYER: Lord please give to me a simple, practical trust in your Word.

Titus 2: Enabling grace

 You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.

11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

15 These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.

This down-to-earth teaching about life in the home, and the workplace, has both negative and positive implications. Negatively, practical, godly living will mean that the Word of God is not ‘maligned’ (5); positively, such a holy lifestyle will make the teaching about God ”attractive” (10). There’s a lot at stake here.

But holiness is only possible because of the enabling grace of God in Jesus (11-14). There is a power at work in the life of every Christian, enabling us to refuse to yield to the siren calls of temptation and sin, and equipping us for godly living. The very reason Jesus died was in order to create such a holy people.

Nicky Gumbel tells a story about a Christian man, ”Gibbo”, who worked at ‘Selfridges’, and who knew Gordon Selfridge himself. One day the phone rang in the store, Gibbo answered it, and the person at the other end of the line asked for Mr. Selfridge. Gordon, standing nearby, said, ‘Tell them I’m not here.’ Gibbo handed Gordon the receiver and mouthed, ‘You tell him!’ When he’d finished the call, Gordon Selfridge was livid with Gibbo. But Gibbo explained, ‘If I can lie for you, I can also lie to you.’ That day he won the respect and admiration of his boss. This is the power of practical, everyday holiness, and Jesus makes it possible for every believer, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This is amazing grace.

PRAYER: Lord God, teach me to say ‘Yes’ to all you ask of me, and ‘No’ to all that sin requires of me.

Lamentations 2:15-22: Deeply Moved

   

15 All who pass your way
    clap their hands at you;
they scoff and shake their heads
    at Daughter Jerusalem:
“Is this the city that was called
    the perfection of beauty,
    the joy of the whole earth?”

16 All your enemies open their mouths
    wide against you;
they scoff and gnash their teeth
    and say, “We have swallowed her up.
This is the day we have waited for;
    we have lived to see it.”

17 The Lord has done what he planned;
    he has fulfilled his word,
    which he decreed long ago.
He has overthrown you without pity,
    he has let the enemy gloat over you,
    he has exalted the horn of your foes.

18 The hearts of the people
    cry out to the Lord.
You walls of Daughter Zion,
    let your tears flow like a river
    day and night;
give yourself no relief,
    your eyes no rest.

19 Arise, cry out in the night,
    as the watches of the night begin;
pour out your heart like water
    in the presence of the Lord.
Lift up your hands to him
    for the lives of your children,
who faint from hunger
    at every street corner.

20 “Look, Lord, and consider:
    Whom have you ever treated like this?
Should women eat their offspring,
    the children they have cared for?
Should priest and prophet be killed
    in the sanctuary of the Lord?

21 “Young and old lie together
    in the dust of the streets;
my young men and young women
    have fallen by the sword.
You have slain them in the day of your anger;
    you have slaughtered them without pity.

22 “As you summon to a feast day,
    so you summoned against me terrors on every side.
In the day of the Lord’s anger
    no one escaped or survived;
those I cared for and reared
    my enemy has destroyed.”

Streams of tears flow from my eyes,
    for your law is not obeyed.
Psalm 119:136 (see also Lam.2:11).

This passage challenges me with a number of pressing questions:

  • What do I really care about?
  • What moves me?
  • What moves me to tears?
  • What might keep me up at night (or get me up) in order to pray about it?

Jeremiah found himself in the midst of terrible suffering. It was needless. If only the people had turned back to God, it would not have happened. But it had, and the prophet could not be passive. But even in that situation he believed prayer could make a difference.

Warren Wiersbe says, ‘Sin is costly, God must punish sin, but God’s mercy never fails: these are the key lessons of Lamentations…”

He writes about Jeremiah, ‘His heart was broken, and his grief reveals the broken heart of God. God had to chasten His people, and it grieved Him to do it.’

PRAYER: Soften my heart, Lord, soften my heart. From all indifference set me apart.

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