David’s Prayer in a Seemingly Hopeless Situation

Today’s Reading – Psalms 69 – 72 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – Click here to view the passage from Blue Letter Bible)

(Second Milers also read – Revelation 13 – 16Psalms 141 – 145Proverbs 29)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – 1 John 3:1

Read the “0629 Evening and Morning” devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Read a another post from this morning’s reading passage – “Who Are You Magnifying?”

Psalm 69

“Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto [my] soul. 2 I sink in deep mire, where [there is] no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. 3 I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God.” (Psalm 69:1 – 3)

This psalm is quoted more in the New Testament than any other save Psalm 22 and Psalm 119.

Notice in the introductory material that this psalm is a psalm of David, and it is upon Shoshannim. We have seen this word once before in the introduction to Psalm 45. The word means “Lily”. It is translated “Lily” in 13 other places in the Old Testament, 8 of which are in the Song of Solomon:

“I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.” (Song of Songs 2:1)

This psalm is messianic in that it speaks of Christ (vs. 4, 21), and it is imprecatory, in that it calls for judgment upon David’s enemies.

I          David’s Problem (vs. 1 – 12)

The historical context of this psalm is not revealed.

In v. 1, David cries out to God to save him. 

David uses the metaphor of a drowning man, which he has done before in Psalm 18:4 – 6, and in other places:

“The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me. In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.” (Psalms 18:4-6)

Sometimes the problems of life overwhelm us and suffocate us. The language used here vividly describes David’s hopelessness as well as his despair (v. 3). 

Notice in v. 4 that David was hated “without a cause”, but in vs. 7 & 9 David reveals that their hatred of him was due to his love for God.

People that hate God will hate God’s children:

“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12 KJV)

David’s problems lead him to pray. 

II         David’s Petition (v. 6; vs. 13 – 28)

            David prays for his own deliverance. (vs. 13 – 21)

            David prays for his enemies’ demise. (vs. 22 – 28)

Our Lord told us to love our enemies; to pray for our enemies; and to even do good to them:

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)

Our petition should lead us to praise.

III       David’s Praise (vs. 29 – 36)

This is a familiar pattern in the Psalms. David praises God before the deliverance came, because he knew that deliverance would come. He trusted that God would ultimately deliver him, no matter how bad the situation looked.


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Happy Anniversary! – The Saturday Morning Post

Today’s Reading – Psalms 46 – 50 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – Click here to view the passage from Blue Letter Bible)

(Second Milers also read – Revelation 1 – 3; Psalms 121 – 125; Proverbs 25)

Read the “0625 Evening and Morning” devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)

Good morning, and HAPPY ANNIVERSARY! Anniversary? That’s right. On June 25, 1962, congress removed prayer from the public schools. Sixty years later, you can see the mess that became. Kids don’t know what they are: boy, girl, or animal species. If you live without God, bad things can happen. One of those people pushing for the removal of prayer was a woman named: Madalyn Murry O’Hair. So what happens to someone who goes against God? In 1995 O’Hair, her son, and her granddaughter were kidnapped, murdered, their bodies dismembered, thrown into a grave on a Texas ranch, burned, and buried. A sad ending indeed. What does God say in our reading today?

“But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth? Seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee. When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers. Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit. Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother; thou slanderest thine own mother’s son. These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes. Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver. Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God.” (Psalm 50:16-23)

There are two ironies that come out of O’Hair’s life. Her son Bill became a Christian. And the second one is that one day, she will bow the knee and proclaim that Jesus Christ is LORD.

“Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about?” (Psalm 49:5)

Should we fear these days of evil?

“Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1John 4:4)

Our God is still in control. We win in the end. Happy Anniversary.

Peace!


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Fret Not Thyself

Today’s Reading – Psalms 36 – 39 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – Click here to view the passage from Blue Letter Bible)

(Second Milers also read – 1 John 1 – 5Psalms 111 – 115Proverbs 23)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – Matthew 6:33

Read the “0623 Evening and Morning” devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon

“(3) Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. (4) Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. (5) Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. (6) And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday. (7) Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.” (Psalm 37:3-7)

Psalm 37 is a beautiful psalm, filled with promises and encouragement for all believers. This psalm is an acrostic psalm, and was written in David’s later years (verse 25). It begins with a warning for us not to be envious against those in the lost world who seem to be prospering greatly. It is a common frustration that is felt by God’s people regarding the prosperity of lost people, and the seeming lack of judgment leveled by God against the wicked. Why do bad people not get what’s coming? God reminds us here through the psalmist that the success and wealth experienced here on this earth by the lost is only temporary. The word “wicked” is found fourteen times in this psalm.

Similar verses:

“Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long. For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off.” (Proverbs 23:17-18)

“Fret not thyself because of evil men, neither be thou envious at the wicked; For there shall be no reward to the evil man; the candle of the wicked shall be put out.” (Proverbs 24:19-20)

See also Psalm 73

Jeremiah asked God the same thing:

“Righteous art thou, O LORD, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously?” (Jeremiah 12:1)

The people of God in the Old Testament were looking for earthly, material blessings as a sign of the blessing of God. Today, we do not look for those things, We are looking for spiritual, and eternal blessings – we live by faith in what will be. The Israelites were expecting their reward in the earth. They are still looking forward to an earthly kingdom, which we know as the Millennial Kingdom, where God will bless them abundantly.

It seemed completely inconsistent with what they knew about God to witness the unrighteous seemingly receiving the blessings that were reserved for God’s people. God’s great reminder to these folks in David’s day, and to us today as well, is to just wait. God will take care of it in His time. God will reward the righteous, and also condemn the wicked on His timetable, not ours. The prosperity of the wicked can only be seen in the short term, because in the long run it can be seen that they do not prosper at all.

The phrase “fret not thyself” is found 3 times in this psalm. The phrase means don’t get angry, or stressed out about something. It literally means to not get agitated, or heated. God is telling His people to “chill out”. This phrase is found in only one other passage in the Bible, which was in the passage that we just read in Proverbs 24.

I          Fret Not Thyself Because of Evildoers (v. 1)

“Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.” (Psalms 37:1)

Notice that fretting, or getting angry with the bad people is associated here with envy. (see also Proverbs 24:19 above)

“Be not thou envious against evil men, neither desire to be with them. For their heart studieth destruction, and their lips talk of mischief.” (Proverbs 24:1-2)

We shouldn’t envy them because their time is short. Their happiness is only temporary; ours is eternal. God says five times in this psalm that the wicked will be “cut off” (vs. 9, 22, 28, 34, 38)

“Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.” (James 1:9-11)

Notice instead what we are commanded to do:

            A         Trust (v. 3)

            B         Delight (v. 4)

            C         Commit (vs. 5 – 6)

            D         Rest (v. 7)

 II         Fret Not Thyself Because of the Prosperity of the Wicked (v. 7)

The prosperity of the wicked can only, at best, last through this life; and even though they may be prospering materially, they are probably not prospering in other areas: they may be very miserable people.

III       Fret Not Thyself To Do Evil (v. 8)

Sometimes our anger at and envy of wicked people can cause us to decide to join them. God says, “don’t do it!”

The remainder of the psalm contains many comparisons between the godly and the wicked; and it also foretells of the consequences that face the ungodly. It may seem like they are on top of the world now, but just wait a while. There are also many promises given here to the godly.

The great encouragement to the people of God in this passage is found in v. 34:

“Wait on the LORD, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it.” (Psalms 37:34)

“Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.” (Psalms 27:14)

“Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the LORD, and he shall save thee.” (Proverbs 20:22)

“But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)


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A Nation Of Fools? – The Saturday Morning Post

Today’s Reading – Psalms 9 – 16 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – Click here to view the passage from Blue Letter Bible)

(Second Milers also read – Hebrews 5 – 8; Psalms 86 – 90; Proverbs 18)

Read the “0618 Evening and Morning” devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon

“To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Psalm 14:1-3)

Good morning. Next week the heathen will probably celebrate the 60th anniversary of congress removing prayer from public schools. It was on June 25th, 1962 when this happened. Sixty years later, look around, this is what we have today. Kids who identify as other genders, they even can say they are an animal: a cat or a dog. It’s too bad that they haven’t learned to balance a checkbook, or any type of skills to survive in this messed up world. Because of the anti-God, liberal teachings they had shoved down their throats, they are all together become filthy. Isn’t the accuracy of the Bible, God’s Word, amazing?

“The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made: in the net which they hid is their own foot taken. The LORD is known by the judgment which he executeth: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Higgaion. Selah. The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.” (Psalm 9:15-17)

Don’t they realize they are messing with the minds of innocent children? They are hurting them mentally…

“Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.” (Luke 17:1-2)

The fool has said in his heart that there is no God, but one day He will be coming back.

“And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done. Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book. And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God. And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand. He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” (Rev. 22:6-21)

Peace!


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He Would Put Strength In Me – The Saturday Morning Post

Today’s Reading – Job 22 – 26 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – Click here to view the passage from Blue Letter Bible)

(Second Milers Read – 1 Thessalonians 1 – 5; Psalms 51 – 55; Proverbs 11)

Read the “0611 Evening and Morning” devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon

“Then Job answered and said, Even to day is my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning. Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. I would know the words which he would answer me, and understand what he would say unto me. Will he plead against me with his great power? No; but he would put strength in me.” (Job 23:1-6)

Good morning. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you were arguing with God? Are you waiting for the finger He placed on your head to come down and squash you like a bug? Job was going through rough times and told his friends…

“Will he plead against me with his great power? No; but he would put strength in me.” (Job 23:6)

Job knew that God would not squish him like a bug, but would give him the strength to get through everything. Don’t have a pity party and cry, “Why me?”

Allow the problem to draw you closer to God. And ask Him for the strength to get through it.

Peace.


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Don’t Mess With GOD’s People – The Saturday Morning Post

Today’s Reading – Esther 6 – 10 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – Click here to view the passage from Blue Letter Bible)

(Second Milers Read – 2 Corinthians 9 – 13, Psalms 16 – 20; Proverbs 4)

Read the “0604 Evening and Morning” devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon

“Then the king returned out of the palace garden into the place of the banquet of wine; and Haman was fallen upon the bed whereon Esther was. Then said the king, Will he force the queen also before me in the house? As the word went out of the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face. And Harbonah, one of the chamberlains, said before the king, Behold also, the gallows fifty cubits high, which Haman had made for Mordecai, who had spoken good for the king, standeth in the house of Haman. Then the king said, Hang him thereon. So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then was the king’s wrath pacified.” (Esther 7:8-10)

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

Good morning. In our passage today we see that Haman has come to the end of his rope. (As Dr. Gray would say, “You don’t pay much, you don’t get much.”). But seriously, Haman was a man who hated the Jews, and one Jew in particular. His name was Mordecai. Mordecai would not bow down to Haman, and Haman hated that. Things got so bad, that Haman had a 75 foot tall gallows to hang Mordecai on. And Haman also devised a plan to murder all the Jews in the kingdom. Queen Esther exposed his evil plan, and Haman was hung on the gallows he built for Mordecai. But that’s not all. Just like a third of the angels followed satan, there were those who followed the hatred of the Jews along with Haman.

For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:14)

And He did. The Jews killed 800 of their enemies in Shushan the palace. The ten sons of Haman were hung on the same gallows as their dad. Across the kingdom, 75 thousand were killed for a total of 75,810. All of these were set on killing God’s people. What will God do to those who try to harm His children today? There is a group out there who would like to rid the world of Jews and Christians. They kill innocent, unborn babies. They support homosexuality, which God calls an abomination. Why, even as a child, you can choose to be a gender other than the one God made you.

For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:14)

They even tried to force God out of government. But still today there are those in government that meet together and pray for our nation. They stopped the oil flow from the Alaskan pipeline, so we have to rely on foreign oil, and watch the gas prices rise to $5 per gallon. God will do something…

“And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:7-15)

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)

If they sow righteousness, they will reap a righteous nation. They will reap what they sow. If they sow iniquity, they will reap…

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.

Peace!


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A Mind to Work

Today’s Reading – Nehemiah 1 – 5 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – Click here to view the passage from Blue Letter Bible)

(Second Milers Read – 1 Corinthians 5 – 8; Psalms 141 – 145; Proverbs 30)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – 1 John 4:7 & 8

Read the “0530 Evening and Morning” devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Read a previous post from this passage – “See the Need and Take the Lead

“So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work.” (Nehemiah 4:6)

My previous posts from this passage have always focused on Nehemiah as he led the people of God to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, but this morning I would like to consider the people themselves, as they sacrificed and labored for the Lord. Our text verse says that the people had “a mind to work”, which means that they were willing to put all of the necessary effort and skill into the reconstruction of the walls around the city of Jerusalem. Nehemiah was merely one man, and there is no way that he could accomplish a task of this magnitude without the help of many men, women, and children that all did their part to get the job done.

In my ministry, there have been a number of times when the people of God were so inspired by a need that they all got on board to help meet it. Those were certainly sweet times. It is wonderful to see the people of the church all get together to accomplish something for the Lord. However, most of the time, the work of the ministry is done by a few people who have to do more than their share of the labor. You may have heard it said that twenty percent of the people do eighty percent of the work. I have found that to be true more often than not. It is a shame that we can’t get more of the people of God involved in the work of the ministry. Imagine with me what it would be like if we had every member of the church out for soul winning; and how about if we had more people than we could use to do all of the maintenance on the building and grounds. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Think about what could be done if we had people waiting for the opportunity to teach a Sunday School class, work a bus route, or disciple a new convert.  I believe that there would be several benefits to this, but two stand out. First, the people that are sacrificing and participating would get so much more out of the Christian life. The happiest people are the ones who get involved in serving others. Secondly, I believe that we could do so much more for the cause of Christ. More people would be saved, and more lives would be changed for the glory of God.

I want to challenge every saint of the Lord that is reading this article today. Have a mind to work. Find something to do in your local church, and give it all you’ve got. Get busy!


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How To Prosper – The Saturday Morning Post

Today’s Reading – Ezra 3 – 7 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – Click here to view the passage from Blue Letter Bible)

(Second Milers Read – Romans 13 – 16; Psalms 131 – 135; Proverbs 28

Read the “0528 Evening and Morning” devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon

“And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia. And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king.” (Ezra 6:14-15)

Good morning. Are you prospering today in your work for the LORD? Do you want to Prosper? Here’s how…

1) “And the elders of the Jews builded…” – They worked!

“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24)

2) “And they builded, and finished it…” – They finished what they started.

Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” (John 4:34)

3) “And they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo.” – They prospered through the Word of God.

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (1Corinthians 15:58)

4) “And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia.” – Their work was commanded by the king, and the KING of KINGS!

“And keep the charge of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest, and whithersoever thou turnest thyself:” (1Kings 2:3)

If you want to prosper in the LORD’s work, you should do things His way.

Peace!


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Reconciling God’s Sovereignty with Free Will

Today’s Reading – Ezra 1 – 2 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – Click here to view the passage from Blue Letter Bible)

(Second Milers Read – Romans 9 – 12Psalms 126 – 130Proverbs 27)

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – Ephesians 4:32

Read the “0527 Evening and Morning” devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Read previous posts from this morning’s passage – “A Fresh Start,“ and “It’s All According to God’s Plan”

“Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem. And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem. Then rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, with all them whose spirit God had raised, to go up to build the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem. And all they that were about them strengthened their hands with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, and with beasts, and with precious things, beside all that was willingly offered.” (Ezra 1:1-6)

The Book of Ezra details the return of some of the people of God from their captivity in the land of Persia. You will recall that the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar had conquered and destroyed the city of Jerusalem and had taken the people of Judah captive somewhere around 586 BC. The Babylonians were then overtaken by the Medes and Persians, and during the reign of King Cyrus, the people were permitted to return to Jerusalem. Ezra 2 records the specific number of people who returned (approximately 50,000) along with some genealogical information.

What caught my attention from this passage is the contrast that seems to exist between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. Notes the highlighted words in the passage above. For example, we see that the return of the people of God was a fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy, and that the Lord had “stirred up” and “charged” Cyrus. We also see that the people who participated had their spirit’s stirred by God. But we also see that these folks who returned into the land had “willingly” offered their “freewill offerings.”

From this passage we can clearly see that God was doing something and that He was moving in the hearts of both His people and this Persian King. Consider the following verses:

“The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” (Proverbs 21:1)

“For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)

However, could we also say that these people who were part of this movement of God were also operating according to their own free will. Do you think that there were any there who really did not want to go? Do you think that King Cyrus really hated the people of God and desired to keep them locked up in Persia, but God forced him to do His bidding? I don’t think so. God was certainly moving and working and influencing in order to accomplish His will, but He was also using willing participants.

The story about Pharaoh from the Book of Exodus is similar to this one, but only in reverse. There we see the king of the land bent on holding the people of God back and persecuting them. He refused to let the people go. The scripture tells us fifteen times that Pharaoh’s heart was “hardened.” The interesting thing is that some of those times it was God who hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and other times it was Pharaoh who hardened his own heart. The bottom line is this: Pharaoh’s will was already made up. He had determined already that he would not let the people go (see Exodus 5:2). Do you really think that Pharaoh was just about to start a new Sunday School ministry for the Hebrew slaves, but then was instead forced by God to made things harder for Israel? No – he was a willing participant in Israel’s misery, and he was completely unwilling to release the people of God out of Egyptian bondage.

How can we reconcile these two concepts – man’s free will and God’s sovereignty? I must confess that I cannot completely wrap my head around all that would be included in this discussion, but I am pretty sure that God’s sovereign plan is accomplished while allowing man to make choices. Man certainly chose to sin against God. Could God force His will upon man? He could, but does He? I am not so sure about that. Does God work in man, influencing man’s decisions? I believe He does, but I do not think that man is a mere robot preprogrammed to do whatever God desires. Neither is he a puppet whose strings are controlled from Heaven. God is certainly sovereign and accomplishes His plan for the ages just as He determined before the beginning of the world, but He will not remove man’s free will in the process. Man is free to accept or reject God’s grace, and he is free to obey or disobey God’s commands. He (and the people around him) will also suffer the consequences of his choices, but he does have a choice. Joshua said, “choose you this day,” and in Revelation, the Spirit of God invites “whosoever will.” These are expressions of choice. I do not always choose wisely, but I cannot blame God for the choices I make or the consequences of those choices.


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Who’s Your Friend? – The Saturday Morning Post

Today’s Reading – 2 Chronicles 18 – 20 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – Click here to view the passage from Blue Letter Bible)

(Second Milers Read – Acts 16 – 18; Psalms 101 – 105; Proverbs 21)

Read the “0521 Evening and Morning” devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon

“And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, by whom we may enquire of the LORD: but I hate him; for he never prophesied good unto me, but always evil: the same is Micaiah the son of Imla. And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so.” (2Chronicals 18:7)

How can you hate someone who is trying to be your friend? Ahab hated Micaiah because, in the king’s eyes, only evil was prophesied and never anything good. At least that was Ahab’s perception. But 2Peter 3:9 tells us…

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2Peter 3:9)

God sent Micaiah to be a friend to Ahab by telling him the truth. The truth is what was written in 1Kings 16…

“And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD above all that were before him. And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him. And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.” (1Kings 16:30-33)

Proverbs 18:24 tells us that a man that hath friends must show himself friendly. And Ahab hated Micaiah. This would be the last chance that Ahab would have to give heed to what God was telling him through his friend Micaiah. Did he listen? Of course not. Ahab hated Micaiah because Ahab could not have things his own way.

So Ahab went to war anyway: against the counsel of Micaiah: against the counsel of God. And you know the rest…

“And a certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness: therefore he said to his chariot man, Turn thine hand, that thou mayest carry me out of the host; for I am wounded. And the battle increased that day: howbeit the king of Israel stayed himself up in his chariot against the Syrians until the even: and about the time of the sun going down he died.” (2Chronicals 18:33-34)

If you have a friend, one who is walking with God, maybe you should listen to his or her counsel. It could be a warning. What a friend we have in Jesus. Who’s your friend?

Peace.


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