Wisdom?

Image from Art4TheGlryOfGod by Sharon under Creative Commons license Website: https://www.flickr.com/photos/4thglryofgod/8784955343

January 22, 2023

This week we read 2 books written by king Solomon; Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs. Even though this week’s focus will be on Ecclesiastes, I recommend reading the Song of Songs. This is a beautiful love story between a man and his wife.

When Solomon became king, the Lord asked him what he wanted. He said “wisdom.” Because Solomon did not ask for money, or anything else, the Lord blessed him greatly with not only wisdom, but also wealth. King Solomon was the wealthiest of kings in his day. Unfortunately, the king did not follow God’s commands, even though he was wise. Remember, knowing and doing are very different.

In Deuteronomy 17, God gives rules for kings. He says in 17:16-17 says, “The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself…He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.”

Solomon did not follow any of these commands above. He had many horses, 700 wives, 300 concubines, and accumulated much silver and gold. He was led astray with the many gods his wives worshipped, because he started worshipping them as well.

This is the background of Solomon when he is writing Ecclesiastes. Chapter 1, verse 1 says, “Meaningless! Meaningless…Everything is meaningless!”

Solomon has lived a life of abundance and has looked into different worldly philosophies. He names the things that most people seek to feel fulfilled: money, things, people, sex, and wisdom. He found that we all live and die and without God and all of the above were meaningless, empty. He was the one to know. He had it all and found them unfulfilling.

Chapter 12:13-14 is a result of how Solomon feels after having it all, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter; Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”

To fear God is to respect and worship Him. With that respect we then keep his commandments. For the Christian, we are to fear God, and worship Christ. It is through Christ that we are able to keep God’s commandments.

What did you learn from Solomon?

I learned that we only truly get meaning and fulfillment when we respect worship and believe in the Lord and this is what we should seek first. Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Next week we will read Jeremiah 1-20. Have a blessed week and please let me know if you need prayer.

A Woman of Valor

Photo of my mom, Jean Backus, a woman of valor

January 15, 2023

This week we read the book of Proverbs. This is a book that is considered poetry, like the book of Psalms. Proverbs was written by King Solomon, who was King David and Bathsheba’s son. Solomon was asked if he could have anything what would it be, and he asked for wisdom from God. He received it. This book is a small sample of what he wrote. I am going to focus on the last proverb, and this is frequently called the Proverb’s 31 woman or a woman of valor.

Proverb’s 31:1 says “The sayings of King Lemuel-an oracle his mother taught him”

  • We don’t know King Lemuel, but many feel it was another name for King Solomon. What we know is that it means “One given by God.”
  • These were the recommendations a mother made to a son about what type of woman he should look for in a wife.
  • In Proverbs 1:8-9 King Solomon says, “and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.”

In verses 10-31 the king lists 22 characteristics that make up the perfect wife. It is a poem and is written in Hebrew alphabetical order. Here is the scripture. I will discuss in more detail after you read.

Epilogue: The Wife of Noble Character

10 [b]A wife of noble character who can find?
    She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
    and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
    and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
    and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
    for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
    she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
    where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
    and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

This woman is amazing and is this way because she fears (has reverence) the Lord.  She has a great relationship with her husband. She is trustworthy, wise, a great teacher, strong, dignified and celebrates the future. She is a hard-worker. She starts her day early and is able to buy, sell and trade goods, she is a merchant. She is a realtor, seamstress, and manager of her home. She also helps out the poor and needy.

Thus, she is godly, has good character, and is a hard worker.

Sometimes this seems impossible to achieve. But as one pastor said, “don’t see her as a model to imitate in every detail; see her instead as an inspiration to be all that God made you to be.”

In summary, the Proverbs 31 woman is:  a woman who loves the Lord with heart, mind and strength, has good character, and is a hard-worker in whatever gifts or abilities she has.

Question: What characteristics inspire you about the woman of valor?

For your review, I have gone through each verse.

10: Noble character. The word noble means strong, or a woman of valor. It is the same word used to describe Ruth in the book of Judges. Merriam Webster defines valor as “strength of mind or spirit that enable a person to encounter danger with firmness. Personal bravery.” This mom is telling her son to find a woman who has inner strength.

11. Full confidence: This means trustworthy.

12. She brings him good, not harm: The word for harm in the Hebrew language means wicked, disagreeable, inferior. This wife is trustworthy and a positive person in his life.

13. Works with eager hands: she takes pleasure in her work. She does not complain.

14. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar: This woman is importing goods from afar.

15. Gets up at night, provides for her family and female servants: She is an early riser, and does what is needed to provide for everyone.

16. Considers a field, buys it; out of her earnings plants a vineyard: She is a leader in the home. She knows the finances and is able to buy land, and make money, and provide even more for the family.

17. Sets about work vigorously, her arms are strong: She is not just mentally strong, but physically.

18. Her trading is profitable, lamp does not go out at night: Another way to make money, and is constantly on alert.

19. Holds the distaff and grasps the spindle: She not only works to make money, but also spins her wool.

20. Opens arms to the poor and extends hands to the needy: She thinks of other and gives to those in need.

21. When it snows she has no fear for her household because they are clothed in scarlet: she is prepared and her family has warm clothes.

22. Makes bed coverings, and she is clothed in fine linen and purple: she makes her own high quality clothes.

23. Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders: Because she is trustworthy and hard-working, the husband is not worried, and able to sit at the city gait and be the leader he is suppose to be.

24. Makes linen garments, sells them, supplies the merchants with sashes: Makes and sells garments.

25. Clothed with strength and dignity; can laugh at the days to come: She is not worried about the days ahead because she is organized, and has been able to make a profit from her hard work. She is strong and dignified.

26. Speaks wisdom, and faithful (kind) instruction: she is knowledgeable and kind when she instructs others.

27. Watches over the affairs of her household, does not eat the bread of idleness: she keeps her home in good order and is not lazy.

28. Her children call her blessed; husband also and he praises her: her husband and children speak well of her and the husband is thankful for her.

29. She surpasses them all: she is the best of the best.

30. Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised: This is a woman who loves the Lord which is the most important quality to have. It is more important than looks or charmful ways.

31. Honor her and let her works be praised at the city gate: She is an amazing woman and you should honor her in front of others and let them know how great she is.

Next week we will read 2 more books written by Solomon: All of Ecclesiastes and all of the Song of Songs.

Have a blessed week.

Fully Known and Fully Loved

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

This week we read Psalm 121-150. We will focus the discussion on Psalm 139. Below is the psalm.

Psalm 139

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
    Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
    your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
    and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
    I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

This Psalm is about the relationship that David has with the LORD.  David is in awe of God and he praises the LORD through the Psalm. The Psalm is not just about David. It can be applied to all of us who believe and follow the Lord.

Let’s dive in.

Verses 1-4 talk about how God is omniscience. This means that God is all knowing.

In verses 1-3, the words “know me” or a version of this are used 5 times. Verses 1 and 2 each say the word “know.” The second half of verse 2 says “perceive.” Verse 3 says “discern” and “familiar.”

These are all words that describe how well God knows each and every one of us. What does God know about us? Plain and simple He knows everything. God knows our mind, body and soul. He knows are physical movement “sit and rise,” he “perceives our thoughts”, he knows our coming and going, our conduct, and our speech before a word gets out of our mouths.

Verses 7-12 talk about how God is omnipresent. This means he is everywhere at the same time. God is in the heavens, in the depths, on the wings of the dawn, on the far side of the sea. Gills Commentary says about verse 11, “If I say, surely the darkness shall cover me,…. The darkness of a cloud or of the night, so that my actions shall not be seen; that is, if I entertain such a thought in my mind, that what I do in the dark will escape the sight and knowledge of God, and so be emboldened to commit it; even the night shall be light about me; and make all my works manifest, as light does.” Thus, if we try to hide our sinful actions in the dark, God can see them. The day and night are the same for God.

Verses 13-18 talk about how God created you and has a plan for your life even before you were born. Verse 13 says “you created my inmost being.” This is your body, mind and spirit. Verse 15 states, “My frame was not hidden from you.” In those days there were no ultrasounds, so people could not see what their baby looked like in the womb. God could see the baby. He could see the baby’s unformed body (this means embryo). All the days were ordained by God before one of them came to be. God had a perfect plan for your life before you were even born.

At the end of the psalm, David asks God to “search me and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.“ David wants to be pure in God’s sight and asks God to show him where he has sin in his life. He wants God to lead him in the way of eternity.

At different places throughout the psalm, David praises God in different ways. After he talked about God being all knowing, he said in verse 6 “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” When he was talking about how God created him, he said in verse 14, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful.” Then in verse 17 he says, “How precious to me are your thoughts, God.”

Question: how do you feel about God knowing every thought, action, or conversation you have? Does it worry you or give you comfort?

I can see how it could be worrisome, but truly it gives me comfort. Think about David. He was married to many women and had concubines. He had relations with Bathsheba, then had her husband killed. But he was still a man after God’s own heart. He asked forgiveness for his sins, and God forgave him. God knew his heart, his sin. And when David confessed sincerely his sin and asked forgiveness, God gave him forgiveness. He does this for you and me as well. When we ask forgiveness for our sins, and believe in Christ, and that Christ rose from the dead, we are forgiven. No matter what we have done.

This psalm gives me hope. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows our thoughts both good and bad. We cannot hide anything from Him. In spite of all our flaws, God still loves us. In spite of our mistakes, he still has a plan for our lives. While we were sinning, Christ died for us. And “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

If you remember anything from this week remember that no matter what you are going through or what you have done you are fully known and fully loved by God.

Next week we will read Proverbs 1-31. Have a blessed week.

Protection

    January 1, 2023

    Happy New Year!

    This week we read Psalm 91-120. Again, there are many songs and much information in each Psalm. This week we are going to focus on Psalm 91. Here is the psalm.

    Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
        will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
    I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
        my God, in whom I trust.”

    Surely he will save you
        from the fowler’s snare
        and from the deadly pestilence.
    He will cover you with his feathers,
        and under his wings you will find refuge;
        his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
    You will not fear the terror of night,
        nor the arrow that flies by day,
    nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
        nor the plague that destroys at midday.
    A thousand may fall at your side,
        ten thousand at your right hand,
        but it will not come near you.
    You will only observe with your eyes
        and see the punishment of the wicked.

    If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
        and you make the Most High your dwelling,
    10 no harm will overtake you,
        no disaster will come near your tent.
    11 For he will command his angels concerning you
        to guard you in all your ways;
    12 they will lift you up in their hands,
        so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
    13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
        you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

    14 “Because he[b] loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
        I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
    15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
        I will be with him in trouble,
        I will deliver him and honor him.
    16 With long life I will satisfy him
        and show him my salvation.”

    We are not sure who wrote the psalm. Some say it was King David, others say it was Abraham. Either way, we see this psalm is about protection we receive during difficult times from God.

    Let’s look at the verses to try to understand a bit more.

    week we are going to focus on Psalm 91. Here is the psalm.

    Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
        will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
    I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
        my God, in whom I trust.”

    1. Verse 1 and 2 contain 4 different names of God: (1) Most High (elyon in Hebrew): this describes God as supreme and powerful. (2) Almighty (Saddy in Hebrew): this means almighty. (3) LORD (Yahweh in Hebrew): this means the one true God. Knowledge of Yahweh implies there is a relationship with God. (4) God (loheim in Hebrew): this means great one.  The writer wants to ensure that we know these characteristics of God as it relates to his protection.
    2. Verse 1 also discuss dwelling in the shelter. To dwell means to live there. The psalmist is talking about someone who lives with God 24/7, not just when it is convenient or when there is a need.
    3. Verse 1 and 2 talk about how God is a refuge and fortress and He is trustworthy. A refuge is a place to go for protection or safety. A fortress is a military fort used for protection during war. Thus, when we live with God, he protects us and is trustworthy.

    3Surely he will save you
        from the fowler’s snare
        and from the deadly pestilence.
    He will cover you with his feathers,
        and under his wings you will find refuge;
        his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
    You will not fear the terror of night,
        nor the arrow that flies by day,
    nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
        nor the plague that destroys at midday.

    1. Verse 3 talks about God saving us from a person who sets traps (this could be Satan or people) and from deadly pestilence (deadly disease or calamity). The word for save is salvation, which is ongoing. When we repented and accepted Christ as Lord we were saved. This salvation is ongoing unto eternity.
    2. Verse 4 talks about God protecting us again like a hen protects her chicks under her wings from anything that wants to kill them (like in the picture above).
    3. Verse 4 also discusses God’s faithfulness and that this is our shield and rampart (a protective wall). A shield is used to protect us as is a rampart. We often hear about us being faithful to God. This verse states that He is faithful to us as well.
    4. Verse 5 and 6 state that bad things will happen to us, but we will not fear them. These include terror of the night, an arrow that tries to kill in the day, pestilence stalking in the dark or a plague in the day. Bad things happen to all people including Christians, but God is with us through it all. Romans 8:31 says, “If God is for us, who can be against us.”

    A thousand may fall at your side,
        ten thousand at your right hand,
        but it will not come near you.

    You will only observe with your eyes
        and see the punishment of the wicked.

    1. Verses 7 and 8 state that many people will fall due to wickedness, but those things will not come near people who dwell with Christ.

    If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
        and you make the Most High your dwelling,
    10 no harm will overtake you,
        no disaster will come near your tent.

    1. Verses 9 and 10 are repetitive about God being our refuge and protecting us.

    11 For he will command his angels concerning you
        to guard you in all your ways;
    12 they will lift you up in their hands,
        so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

    1. Verse 11 and 12 are interesting. These verses were quoted by Satan to Jesus in Matthew 4:5-7 when Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days. He had nothing to eat or drink and Satan was tempting him. Matthew 4:5-7 says, “Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ’He shall give His angels charge concerning you, and, “In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Jesus said to Him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.
    2. What do we learn from this? Satan knows some scripture, but he used this out of context to tempt Christ. This psalm is about the protection of those who dwell with Him. If Christ would have followed Satan’s temptation, he would be following Satan’s ways and not Christ’s. Of course, Christ would not follow Satan because He is one of the persons of the trinity. But, we might.
    3. Jesus’ reply was a quote from Deuteronomy 6:16.
    4. We can learn a lot. We must know Scripture in order to know when it is being used incorrectly. This could be in a temptation, a sermon, a song, or anything else.

    13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
        you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

    1. Verse 13 is providential. What if Satan would have continued quoting this verse? He would have seen that he was to be trampled by those who dwell with the Lord. This verse can also give us peace because Satan is trampled and crushed.

    14 “Because he[b] loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
        I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
    15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
        I will be with him in trouble,
        I will deliver him and honor him.
    16 With long life I will satisfy him
        and show him my salvation.”

    1. These last verses are very comforting. God rescues us and protects us. When we call on Him, he answers. He is with us during times of trouble and will deliver us. He will honor us. And will give us a long life. This is eternal life with the Lord because of His salvation.

    I love this psalm as it shows God’s protection and love for those who dwell with Him. As I was studying it, I struggled because in reality, godly people experience evil, get sick, and have troubles. I read an article by John Piper that really helped me understand this and I am going to summarize it a bit.

    Piper cautioned about using the Psalm as protection because that was how Satan used it. “He told Jesus to count on the deliverance promised to the godly…” After Jesus was tempted, Piper states, “Instead of following Satan’s use of Psalm 91, Jesus embraced the path of suffering.

    Jesus had a purpose when he came to earth and that was to die on a cross to save us all from our sins so we could have eternal life with God. Had he succumbed to Satan’s temptation, this event would never have happened.

    Piper states, “So clearly the seemingly face-value meaning of Psalm 91 did not come true for the most godly person who ever lived.”

    And the meaning does not always come true for you and me either. Piper states, “The writer of Psalm 91 was not mistaken, or naïve, or foolish. He gave promises of protection that come true for the saints, by God’s grace, over and over. Literally and simply. But we would demean the writer of Psalm 91 if we thought he was unaware of the truth of Psalm 44:22 that Paul quoted in Romans 8:36, “For your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered” (Psalm 44:22). Or that he did not know the Jesus-fulfilled warning of Psalm 22:16, “A company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet.” The writer of Psalm 91 stands with Jesus who said: “Some of you they will put to death” (Luke 21:16). And in the same breath said, “But not a hair of your head will perish” (Luke 21:18).

    Piper concludes, “Psalm 91 means two things about suffering of the saints. One is that often God amazingly delivers them physically when others around them are falling. The is that God often wills for his children to suffer, but forbids that the suffering hurts them in the end. Such evil will never befall you.

    He then quotes Charles Spurgeon when he described Psalm 91, “It is impossible that any ill should happen to the man who is beloved of the Lord; the most crushing calamities can only shorten his journey and hasten him to his reward. Ill to him is not ill, but only good in a mysterious form. Losses enrich him, sickness is his medicine, reproach is his honor, death is his gain. No evil in the strict sense of the word can happen to him, for everything is overruled for good. Happy is he who is in such a case. He is secure where others are in peril, he lives where others die. (The Treasury of David, Vol 2, Part 2, 93).

    God does protect and comfort us. He also has a perfect will. Only He can see the future and know what is best for us. We must trust in Him. Psalm 3:5,6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

    Are you trusting in the Lord? What about in the bad times as well as the good?

    My New Year’s resolution is to trust in God more. How about you?

    Next week we will finish reading the Psalm from 121-150. Have a blessed week.  

    Article by John Piper, “Your Executioner May Laugh You to Scorn for Quoting Psalm 91”, August 15, 2012. DesiringGod.org

    Psalm 51: David’s Prayer for Forgiveness

    December 18, 2022

    This week we continued in the book of Psalms. I am going to specifically discuss Psalm 51. It was written after the sin David committed with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah found in 2 Samuel 11 and 12. It was about one year after David committed adultery and murder, and he had already had a son. He was living with the sin, and did nothing about. The prophet Nathan approached David and told the story of 2 men in one city. One man was rich the other poor. The rich man had many flocks of sheep, the poor had one lamb who like a daughter to him. When a traveler came upon them, the rich man spared his sheep and took the poor man’s sheep for the traveler. David was angered and said to Nathan, “The man that has done this shall surely die.” Nathan did a brave thing. He told the King, “You are the man.”

    Kings in those days could have someone killed, and could commit adultery and no one thought anything.  Thus, David had a choice. He could kill Nathan, deny the sin ever happened, or admit his sin. What did David do? He admitted his sin. Psalm 51 is David’s confession of sin (chapters 1-6), his asking for cleansing from the sin (chapters 7-12), and his communion with God (chapters 13-19).

    Here is the Psalm. We will dive deeper into each line after reading each line.

    Psalm 51

    For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.

    Have mercy on me, O God,
        according to your unfailing love;
    according to your great compassion
        blot out my transgressions.
    Wash away all my iniquity
        and cleanse me from my sin.

    For I know my transgressions,
        and my sin is always before me.
    Against you, you only, have I sinned
        and done what is evil in your sight;
    so you are right in your verdict
        and justified when you judge.
    Surely I was sinful at birth,
        sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
    Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
        you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

    Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
        wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
    Let me hear joy and gladness;
        let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
    Hide your face from my sins
        and blot out all my iniquity.

    10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
        and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
    11 Do not cast me from your presence
        or take your Holy Spirit from me.
    12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
        and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

    13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
        so that sinners will turn back to you.
    14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
        you who are God my Savior,
        and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
    15 Open my lips, Lord,
        and my mouth will declare your praise.
    16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
        you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
    17 My sacrifice, O God, is[b] a broken spirit;
        a broken and contrite heart
        you, God, will not despise.

    18 May it please you to prosper Zion,
        to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
    19 Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
        in burnt offerings offered whole;
        then bulls will be offered on your altar.

    1. Have mercy on me”
      1. David asks for mercy. What is mercy? According to dictionary.com it is, “compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.” God had the power to punish him. Look how God punished Saul for his disobedience. The Holy Spirit was taken from him and an evil spirit allowed to take over. God could have done something similar to David. Why didn’t God do this to David? Because here we see that David is humble, and truly repentant for what he did. He asked God to have mercy on him. Micah 7:18 says the Lord delights to give mercy, Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.” We need to remember that God delights in showing mercy.
    2. O God, according to your unfailing love according to your great compassion”
      1. David is stating characteristics about God. The term unfailing love in Hebrew is about a loving covenant relationship and David and the Lord have this. He also states that the Lord has great compassion. He is emphasizing the great care or concern the Lord has for him.
    3. “blot out”
      1. Blot out, wash away, cleanse – David felt dirty and diseased due to his sin. The word for cleanse is the same word used when a leper was pronounced ceremonially clean
    4. “my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.”
      1. Here David is confessing to his sin. He doesn’t just use the word sin, however. He uses:
      1. Transgression – Rebellion against God
      1. Iniquity – Perversity, depravity
      1. Sin – (falling short of the mark)
      1. Then David calls it all “evil” – He has done what is wrong in Gods sight.
    5. “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;”
      1. This does not mean that David did not sin against Bathsheba, Uriah, or the Israelites. David is emphasizing the great sin he committed against God.
    6. “so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.” David is not making excuses. He knows he sinned, and God is correct in His judgement.
    7. “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.” David is not saying that he was conceived out of adultery. He is saying that he was born into sin because of the first sin of Adam and Eve.
    8. Cleanse me with hyssop,” 
      1. Hyssop was a plant (herb) that was used back in the day of Moses for ceremonial cleansing of the leper and also during one of the ways for purification of sin. The Israelites also used hyssop when they dipped it into blood and put it around the door frame during the exodus.
    9. and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”
      1. David wants to be purified.
    10. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.”
      1. When we sin, we are separated from God.
      1. Where does true joy come from? God. David wants the joy of the Lord back (Psalm 32).
    11. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.”
      1. David was ashamed and so wanted God’s face hidden.
    12. Create in me a new heart O God.”
      1. The word create “bara” is the same as in Genesis 1:1 when God created the earth and everything in it. The word means to create out of nothing.
      1. David did not want the old heart back, but wanted it to be recreated and new.
    13.     “and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
      1. David wanted an unwavering spirit for the Lord.
    14. 11 Do not cast me from your presence”
      1. This is what happened with Saul as discussed above.
    15. or take your Holy Spirit from me.”
      1. This is the first time the Holy Spirit is used in the Old Testament. We have the assurance of the Holy Spirit staying within us as Christians. They did not have that in Old Testament days.
    16. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”
      1. David had been without joy due to his sin and wants this back.
    17. 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you”
      1. David wanted to use this for good and teach others.
    18. . 14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. 15 Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.”
      1. Because David committed murder, under Jewish law, he could have been put to death (Leviticus 24:17).
      1. Then David wanted to praise the name of the Lord.

    19. 16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.”
      1. David was guilty of adultery and murder and no sin sacrifice provision was made under Mosaic law.
      1. David learned about total grace.
    20. “17 My sacrifice, O God, is[b] a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”
      1. Sin is to be dealt with on a spiritual level, not a ceremonial level and David has come to God with a humble broken spirit because he sinned against God.
    21. 18 May it please you to prosper Zion, to build up the walls of Jerusalem.”
      1. David knew his sin not only affected him but the whole city. Now that he had confessed and asked forgiveness, he prayed the whole area would prosper.
    22. Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous, in burnt offerings offered whole; then bulls will be offered on your altar.”
      1. God is happy with the sacrifice of righteousness; someone is obeys is commands.
      1. Then sacrifices will be offered.

    David has confessed his sin and asked God’s forgiveness. He is sincere.

    Is there anything God has laid on your heart that needs confessing and asking God’s forgiveness?

    Next week we will read chapters 91-120.

    Psalm 23 The Lord is My Shepherd

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    December 11, 2022

    Psalm 23

    A psalm of David.

    The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
        He makes me lie down in green pastures,
    he leads me beside quiet waters,
        he refreshes my soul.
    He guides me along the right paths
        for his name’s sake.
    Even though I walk
        through the darkest valley,[
    a]
    I will fear no evil,
        for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
        they comfort me.

    You prepare a table before me
        in the presence of my enemies.
    You anoint my head with oil;
        my cup overflows.
    Surely your goodness and love will follow me
        all the days of my life,
    and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
        forever.

    First, we see the author of the Psalm is King David. Remember, he was a shepherd as a young boy and had a lot of experience in this area. In verse 1-3 David is talking about the Lord in

    1. The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    2. David starts by saying LORD. Who is this? Remember God said that He was the great “I am” when He was talking to Moses in Exodus, and this is who David is talking about.
    3. There is a word here that is very important and can be missed easily and that is the word “my.” This is important because it is personal. While David wrote this psalm, it is applicable to you and me as well.
    • Being a shepherd is a lot of work. A few roles are: leading his sheep to pasture and water; protecting them from wild animals as David did by killing a lion and bear (1 Samuel 17), and caring for them in their daily needs. David is saying that the LORD does this for him. He makes sure he has food and water, protects him and takes care of him. There is another role that is talked about in the New Testament, and that is the fact that the shepherd sacrifices his life for you. Jesus said in John 10:11- “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
      • I lack nothing.” The LORD provides and therefore we lack nothing. I heard a pastor (Skip Heitzig) talk about this and I felt very convicted because I can be a complaining sheep. Skip said that we live in a society of discontentment. We look at others and say that the sheep over there has greener pastures. He said a complaining sheep is a disgrace to the shepherd because complaining reflects the kind of care he/she thinks the shepherd is giving. Thus, when we complain, we do not feel the Lord is providing well for us. He also went on to ask the question about how believers feel when they look at complaining sheep. When they see complainers, they do not want what we have.
    • He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
          he refreshes my soul.”
      • The shepherd makes the sheep rest and leads them to quiet water to provide refreshment for them physical. In verse 3, he also provides refreshment spiritually.
    • “He guides me along the right paths
          for his name’s sake.
      • In the verse before and this verse we see the word “lead” and “guide.The Lord will direct and guide into the people He wants us to be. Many ask, “What is God’s will for me? What is my next step?” If we are Christian, we have a personal guide and leader that lives in us, and that is the Holy Spirit.
      • He guides us along the right path, not the wrong path.
    • 4 “Even though I walk through the darkest valley,[a]I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
      • This verse does not say if you walk through a valley, but even though. This means we will walk through valleys in our lives, even if we are Christians.
      • It also says that we will walk through the valley. It does not say we will stay there, but walk through it.
      • It says that even though I might go through a difficult time, I will not be afraid because God is right there with us. In Hebrews 13:5, Jesus says, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.”
      • your rod and staff, they comfort me.” During Biblical times, the shepherd carried a rod and staff. The rod was used to protect the sheep against predators and the staff was used to pull the sheep in when he was facing harm. The sheep saw these on the shepherd and were comforted.
    • You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”
      • Louie Giglio, in his book, “Don’t give the enemy a seat at your table” writes, “I could see myself sitting at a table, with the Good Shepherd across from me. He had led me through dark valleys to reach the table, and I didn’t need to be afraid, even though the fiery trials weren’t all resolved. My place at the table didn’t mean that my enemies would be removed from the equation. In fact, the table was set right in the middle of my enemies…I didn’t need to vindicate myself. I didn’t need to clear my name. I didn’t need to control this equation or work overtime to improve it. My task was to concentrate on the Good Shepherd, the One who owned the table.” God does not remove the trials in our life. In the middle of them he will give us complete provision and will be there with us through the trial.
    • You anoint my head with oil;”
      • This could mean a few things. One that makes sense is when a guest came over for dinner, his head was anointed by the host. This was a sign of the guest being honored. David is the Lord’s honored guest at the table.
    • “my cup overflows.”
      • This shows the great blessings the Lord has given David. He gives us more than we need. The cup is overflowing and the Lord overflows his gifts on us.
      • Thus, even when we are in a trial, the Lord is right there with us, providing for us, honoring us, and giving us more than we need.
    • Surely your goodness and love will follow me
          all the days of my life,”
      • The Lord gives us goodness and unfailing love every day of our lives.  The word “follow” in Hebrew means “chase.” God will be chasing us with His goodness and love.
      • God’s love is sacrificial. John 3:16 says, “16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. “
    • “and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
      • When a person is a Christian, they have eternal life with the Lord. Jesus prepares a home for you in heaven so you can dwell with him forever. John 14:2 says, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?”

    Questions:

    1. Is the Lord your shepherd and will you dwell with Him always? If not, and you want Him as your shepherd, pray that He enter your life. You can also let me know and I can help you with this.
    2. Are you content with what God has given you?
    3. Do you know that God is your protector, your provider, your Father?

    Next week we will read Psalm 61-90.

    The Psalms

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    December 4, 2022

    This week we started the book of Psalms and went to Psalm 30. The title “Psalm” means “Praises” or “Book of Praises” or “Songs of Praises”. The title in Greek suggests the idea of an instrumental accompaniment (psalmos). It is considered the book of worship, the hymnbook of the temple, or the hymnbook of the Old Testament.

    Reading the Psalms is different than reading the other books of the Bible because they are written as poems and music. God inspired them in that form and we must read them that way to get the most out of them.

    Poetry has different characteristics. It communicates experience, not just information. Psalms tells us what is important in the human experience from God’s perspective. The language and structure in the Psalms are different. It uses figures of speech.

    The book is divided into 5 sections.

    Book 1: 1-41

    Book 2: 42-72

    Book 3: 73-89

    Book 4: 90-106

    Book 5: 107-150

    Each Psalm has a header which is a genre. This helps us know the type of Psalm it is because we don’t always know the historical setting of the Psalm. There are 5 types of genres in the psalms.

    1. Hymn: Psalm of praise of who God is and what he has done. These psalms are God centered.
    2. Lament: Psalm of petition. The Psalmist finds himself in difficulty and turns to God for relief.
    3. Royal (or Kingship): David as King or God as King.
    4. Thanksgiving: Similar to praise. There is an offer of gratitude to God for something he has done on his behalf or for his people.
    5. Wisdom: These teach us how to live godly lives (Psalm 1, 111, 112).

    Of the 150 Psalms, 116 have superscriptions (brief titles written just above the text).

    • These may hint about how ancient Israel interpreted these texts.
    • Superscriptions contain 3 elements:
    • Liturgical collections: “Psalm of David,” “Psalm of Asaph” This indicates the collection from which the psalm came
    • Technical terms related to use in worship. Psalm 59 is a “Miktam” (golden poem) of David, and its superscription includes instructions to the choirmaster.
    • Historical notes. Several Psalms include a setting for the psalm.
    • Psalm 57 (has all three elements) “To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy (technical terms for use in worship). A Miktam of David (liturgical collection), when he fled from Saul, in the cave (historical note).
    • Psalms without a title are called orphan Psalms

    There were different collections in the psalms.

    1. Koharite collection
    2. Davidic Collections
    3. Elohistic Collections (from Elohim or God) vs. Yahweh Lord
    4. Asaphite Collections
    5. Psalms on the Kingship of God
    6. A Collection of Psalms of Praise
    7. Songs of Ascents
    8. Hallelujah Psalms (begin and end with Hallelujah

    A few other tidbits about the psalms:

    Some of the psalms are prophetic. They prophesy the first and second coming of Christ. Psalm 22 looks at the crucifixion and Psalm 2 looks forward to the time that His kingdom is universally acknowledged. Many of the psalms are quoted in the New Testament (Ex: Romans 4:7-8 quotes Psalms 32:1-2). Psalm 119 is the very center of the Bible and it exalts God’s word. There are 16 psalms that speak specifically about Christ. It was written over a broad time period extending from before to after the Jewish exile, and it was probably compiled in its present form sometime during the third century B.C.

    The main theme of the psalms as one commentator put it “At the core of the theology of all Psalter is the conviction that the gravitational center of life…is God.” Also, God is worthy of praise and prayer, thanksgiving and confidence, whatever the occasion in personal or community life.

    The Psalms reflect the inner most thoughts of historical people who experienced and felt many of the same things we feel today; feeling bad about mistakes, feeling angry, feeling left out, feeling abandoned, feeling resentful, feeling afraid,, feeling unsure…you name it and the psalmists felt it. Just like you and me. This is a book of real people, real life and real faith.

    We will be spending a total of 5 weeks reading Psalms. They are all important, but we will be discussing just one psalm per week over the next 4 weeks. Because the book is so different than other Psalms, I wanted to give this overview to help you read and understand it a little better.

    The psalms we will specifically discuss each week are:

    December 11, 2022: Psalm 23

    December 18, 2022: Psalm 51

    December 25, 2022: we will skip to celebrate the birth of Christ

    January 1, 2023: Psalm 91

    January 8, 2023: Psalm 139

    This week I want you to think about a song that makes you feel closer to God and listen to it before reading His word.

    Have a blessed week.

    Why am I Suffering?

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    November 27, 2022

    For the past 2 weeks we have been reading the book Job which is the oldest book of the Bible. The time period that it was written was before Moses. It is considered poetry.

    The theme of Job revolves around the question, “How can God allow suffering, especially to those that are innocent?”

    In Job chapter 1 we find out that Job was blameless and upright, fearing God and shunning evil. He had 7 sons and 3 daughters, and owned many animals and had many servants. He was very wealthy. He would sacrifice burnt offerings for his children just in case they sinned or cursed God.

    During this time there was something happening behind the scenes, in the spiritual realm. The angels presented themselves to God, and Satan came with them. God asked Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan responded that he had been roaming through the earth going back and forth. The Lord asked Satan if he had considered his servant Job because he was blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. Satan felt that Job was good only because he had not encountered difficulty. Job 1:12 says, “The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Thus, God allowed Satan to cause suffering, even though Job was a good man.

    In a very short amount of time, Job found out that all of his animals and servants were killed by the Serbeans (Arabs), Chaldeans (Mesopotamians) and by fire. He then found out that all 10 children were killed by a wind storm that caused his house to collapse on them. With all of this Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing (Job 1:22). He did say, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD by praised.”

    Satan came back to the LORD again. The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” Then Satan wanted to strike Job’s skin. He felt he maintained his integrity because his body was intact. The LORD allowed Satan to strike Job again. This time he developed painful sores from the top of his head to the bottom of the feet. Then Satan used his wife to tempt Job. She says in Job 1:9-10 “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!” He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.”

    In Chapter 3 Job does curse the day he was born, but never curses God. He has 3 friends who come and say nothing to him and just sit with him for 7 days. But from chapters 4-37, Job and his friends have long conversations about the suffering Job is experiencing. Job continues to say that he has done nothing wrong. His friends do not believe him. They feel that God is punishing Job because of sin in his life and he must repent in order to be in God’s good grace. They are not very kind. Job says in 16:2 “I have heard many things like these; you are miserable comforters, all of you!” Job’s suffering is terrible. Job 19:17-20 says, “My breath is offensive to my wife; I am loathsome to my own brothers. Even the little boys scorn me; All my intimate friends detest me; those I love have turned against me. I am mothing but skin and bones. I have escaped with only the skin of my teeth.” Job defends himself further stating that the wicked prosper at times, and the righteous suffer.

    In chapter 30 Job cries out to God, but states he does not listen. Job 30:20 says, “I cry out to you, O God, but you do not answer; I stand up, but you merely look at me. You turn on me ruthlessly; with the might of your hand you attack me.” He says in 31:35 “Oh, that I had someone to hear me! I sign now my defense-let the Almighty answer; let my accuser put his indictment in writing.”

    In chapter 32 we find the 3 men stop talking to Job because “he was righteous in his own eyes.” A new man, Elihu (means YHWH is my God), who is younger, then begins to speak with Job. He condemns the 3 friends because “they had found no way to refute Job, and yet had condemned him” (32:3). He condemned Job because he kept saying he was without sin in chapters 32, 33, and 35. In chapters 36 and 37 he talked about the greatness of God.

    Even with Elihu, Job does not get an answer about why he is suffering. In chapter 38, the LORD speaks. He asks Jobs 77 rhetorical questions about the creation and nature that Job cannot answer. An example is 38:4, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” God’s purpose in this was to show Job how big God was and how small Job was. After the questioning, Job was humbled. In Job 40:2-4 God asks, “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him! Then Job answered the LORD: “I am unworthy-how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer-twice, but I will say no more.” In chapter 42:2-6, Job says to the LORD, ““I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” We see more humility from Job, along with glorifying God, and asking for forgiveness.

    After this conversation, the LORD told Job’s friends he was angry with them because of what they said about God, and to Job. He had them sacrifice a burnt offering. He then had Job pray for the friends, and accept Job’s prayer and withhold judgement. After Job prayed, the LORD made him prosperous again. He had double the animals, 7 more sons and 3 more daughters, and his reputation was restored in the community.

    The first question is, “Why do we suffer?”

    1. Sin: We have to go back to the garden in Genesis. God wanted us to live in perfect harmony with Him. But, he gave us a choice to love Him or not. He wanted obedience and Adam and Eve were not obedient. When Adam and Eve sinned, God cursed the ground. Genesis 3:17-19 says, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Because of this curse, we will always have pain and suffering. Matthew 5:45 says, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” No matter who you are or how good of a person, or how godly you are, pain and suffering will happen. Job is a great example. God said he was righteous and blameless and he allowed this to happen to him.
    2. Satan: Satan (which means opponent or adversary) is the originator of sin. He tempted Adam and Eve and got them to sin (Genesis 3:1-6). We can see in Job that Satan was roaming around the earth looking for someone to tempt and cause calamity. He authored the pain and suffering that Job experienced. We do learn that it had to go through God. And that is when we question God.

    The second question is, “Why does God allow the suffering?” God wants to be glorified. He also wants to build our character, our strength and our trust in Him.

    1. God wants to be glorified: Job did this well. While he suffered, he did not curse God. He was a great witness. Where I use to go to church, one of the pastors, Dr. Bob Laurent, use to talk about “shiny people.” These were people who were sick and dying, yet glorified God wherever they went. They had a certain glow about them because of their faith in the Lord, and they shown His light wherever they went. When each one of us suffers, we have a choice as to how we handle the situation. We can be a witness to God, or we can curse Him.
    2. God wants us to be humble: Job was humbled after he heard from God. He realized that while he was righteous, he was not perfect. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Also, think of Paul. God allowed Paul to see heaven, and he had reasons to think he was great. 2 Corinthians 12:6-12 says “Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
    3. God wants to give us patience and strength: James 5:10-11 says, “Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. Job suffered, yet did not sin against God with his words. He was patient through his suffering. Why is this important? Because patience builds strength. Isaiah 40:31 says, “those that hope (means wait) upon the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
    4. God wants to give us perseverance, character and hope: Romans 5:1-5 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we[b] boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” The Expositors Bible commentary says this about suffering and hope in these verses. “They help to produce character, and approved Christian character finds its ultimate resting place in the presence of God, not in a grave. By the tutelage of suffering the Lord is fitting us for his eternal fellowship. Paul then makes it plain that this hope is not just a pious wish, for it does not put one to shame. It does not disappoint, because it is coupled with the love of God (v.5). Human love may bring disappointment and frustration, but not the love of God. Subjective desire is supported by an objective divine gift guaranteeing the realization of an eternal fellowship with God.”
    5. God wants to get our attention: An example in the Bible is from the book of Jonah. God wanted him to go to Nineveh. Jonah did not listen. God had Jonah in the belly of a whale for 3 days. I think God got his attention. He may not go to such extremes with us, but he will get our attention somehow. Psalm 119:67 says, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.” He also may want to draw you closer to him. Through tragedy, many people seek the LORD. He may want you to know Him as your LORD and Savior.  
    6. God wants to reveal your true character: When Job suffered, he asked God a lot of questions. He did not understand why these terrible things had to happen, but he never sinned. His wife, however, wanted Job to curse God and die. Which person are you when suffering occurs. As said by a pastor, “suffering does not create character, it reveals it.”
    7. God wants to prepare you for a certain task: Joseph suffered much, but it prepared him to be 2nd in command. His brothers had sold him into slavery. After many hardships, Joseph was 2nd in command. His brothers thought Joseph was angry with them. He was not. Genesis 50:20 says, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

    These are just a few of the reasons God allows us to suffer. He is divine. We must trust him. He loves us so much he sent his Son to die for us on a cross. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” We may find out the reason for our suffering here on earth, or may have to wait until we get to heaven. We won’t always know why. Job asked God 5 times in chapter 3 “why?” Jesus asked God why when he was dying on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me? (Matthew 27:46).

    Are you going through a trial or tribulation? It may be your health, a job or lack of job, stress in your marriage or with your children. If you are struggling, I hope that this will help you understand a little more about possible reasons why. Pray to the Lord and talk to Him honestly and openly without sinning. He may answer your questions, he may not. But know that you are not walking the difficulty alone. He is with you the whole time. Isaiah 41:10 says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Romans 8:37-39 says, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

    Next week we will read Psalm 1-30. Have a blessed week!

    References: sermons from Pat Damiani, Toby Powers, Dennis Lee, Greg Laurie

    This week I will not be posting. We read the beginning of Job, and I would like to finish the book this week before discussing. The topic is so difficult, “why bad things happen to good people” and I want to ensure the message is complete in the week.

    A Surprise Party from God

    My daughter at age 4

    November 13, 2022

    This week we read the book of Esther. Before we talk about the book, I want to share about a time where God had plans for my life that I was not aware. I call this situation “my surprise party from God.”

    Think about what happens before a surprise party. Someone who loves you makes plans that you are unaware of. They arrange a party with food, activities, people, and gifts and you are clueless. Then you come home or to the event space and “Surprise!” There is a very special day awaiting you.

    This happened to me on March 28, 2002, the day my daughter was born. You see, I wasn’t planning on having a 3rd child. I had 2 boys age 2 and 3. After my 2nd child was born, I struggled with post-partum depression, and did not want any more children. Because of this, my husband had “the surgery.” I felt very strongly for some time that I did not want any more children, and that included adoption, even though my husband really wanted to adopt. I did not know my husband was praying for my heart to change.

    A few months before my daughter was born, I babysat for a friend who just had a newborn girl. After watching her, “I wish I could have another baby.” Also, at the time my husband was struggling with his work. We were both really going through a difficult time.

    On March 27, 2002, I had been praying for whatever God’s next step was in my life. I felt there was going to be a change, but did not know what it was. I read these verses along with others, in the Bible that night while praying:

    1. Proverbs 27:1, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.”
    2.  29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
    3. Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”

    That night my husband, a physician, called about midnight. A teenage girl had been in an accident with her boyfriend, was pregnant, and came into the ER. She thought she was 20 weeks pregnant and asked for help. He told her he would do whatever it took. When he called me, he asked if I would be willing to adopt a child if she wanted us to be the child’s parents. I said, “yes.” She was taken to the OB floor, and the next morning transferred to a high-risk OB hospital. We did not think we would hear anything more. That night, about 5:00 pm we received a phone call from a social worker at the hospital the woman had been transferred. She was not 20 weeks pregnant, but 30 weeks, and delivered the baby girl. The baby was healthy, and she wanted us to be the adoptive parents.

    We were ecstatic, but did not know the next steps. We prayed a lot. It was the day before Good Friday, and I knew nothing about adoption. I called an adoption agency and they were closed. I talked with friends, and one told me about a group in Indianapolis that helped write the adoption laws. I called them and they called us back. They first asked if we wanted to adopt a different child and give this one to someone else. We, of course, said “no.” They told us to meet them at the hospital 2 hours away that evening with cash in hand. We had just happened to receive a large tax check, so actually had the cash available. I called my prayer partner Judy and she followed us to the hospital praying the whole way.  Everything was going so fast.

    We met the social worker at the hospital and she took us up to meet the child’s parents. We had the opportunity to share Christ with them and pray. Many tears were shed. We signed the legal paperwork and got to meet our new daughter that day. She was in the Neonatal Intensive Care, but was doing very well. That day was March 29, 2002 and was the day that God gave me a surprise party.

    At that time in our life, we were going through a difficult time. God knew this, but still had a great plan going on behind the scenes. He was taking care of the situation at my husband’s job so that he would be someone the birth mother would want to have as their child’s adoptive father. God changed my heart about adoption and about having another child. He enabled us to have the finances required for that day to adopt. He allowed this teenage girl to become pregnant and deliver a beautiful baby girl.

    We thank God for that time in our life and for our daughter. She is 20 years old currently.

    How does this relate to the story of Esther? God is working behind the scenes in Esther and has a great plan for her life.

    Esther lost her parents as a child and was raised by her uncle Mordecai. King Xerxes had divorced his wife Queen Vashti and was going to have a new wife. Esther was brought to the king along with many other young women. The king chose her to be his wife. One day, Mordecai was at the gate and heard 2 men conspiring to kill the king. He told Esther, and she told the king and these men were put to death. This was written in the king’s log.

    One of the king’s officials, Haman, was plotting to kill all the Jews. He manipulated the king to agree to the murder of the Jews on a specific day in all 127 provinces that he ruled over. Mordecai went to Esther tried to persuade her to talk with the king.

    Esther 4:6-14 says, “Hathak went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate. Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him, including the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews. He also gave him a copy of the text of the edict for their annihilation, which had been published in Susa, to show to Esther and explain it to her, and he told him to instruct her to go into the king’s presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people.

    Hathak went back and reported to Esther what Mordecai had said. 10 Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai, 11 “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.”

    12 When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, 13 he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

    I want to point something out in the above verses. Mordecai says that if Esther remains silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from somewhere else. God’s plan was for the Jews to live on and if Esther would not step up, God would have someone else carry out His plan.

    Then Mordecai said, “…who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

    Mordecai knew the God’s sovereign control. He knew that God was in control and had a plan and purpose. He thought that Esther was the Queen because of God’s plan to save the Jews.

    Guess what? Queen Esther did reach out to the king. He granted her request, and in the end, the Jewish people were saved.

    God is always at work in our lives, even though we don’t recognize it, just like someone throwing a surprise party. Esther’s “surprise party” was that God was working to have the Jewish nation saved from annihilation and He used a Jewish woman in the role of Queen to accomplish the work.

    Question: How are you doing today? Are you wondering where God is in your life? Maybe you are not really even thinking about God.

    God is in your life and He is working behind the scenes on your behalf. You may not know everything that He is doing, but he does.

    Remember Romans 8:28  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.”

    Remember this verse as well, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

    Next week we will read Job 1-14. Have a blessed week.