Bethel Digest

BE GLAD AND REJOICE – Better Appreciating the Present Times

Free picture: sun, exploding, cloudsWhen I plushed my previous article in which I enjoined us to pray for enlightenment and direction for the days ahead, someone responded that no amount of prayer could save the world from what has come upon it. I conceded that prayer could not avert the wrath of God that must be poured upon the world in the last days, but we could pray about how these difficult times would affect us. As our Lord exhorted, “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21:36).

Nevertheless, I must add that my previous article does not say that we are at the end. It basically probes whether we are at the BEGINNING OF THE END, whether the dark clouds of the end of the present world are fast gathering upon us. While only time could answer the question, I am strongly inclined to believe that what the world is currently going through is indeed part of “the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8). This is why we urgently need to examine ourselves, our activities, our priorities, and what we are investing ourselves in. Are we laying up treasures for ourselves in heaven to reap eternal dividends in the world to come, or are we being unduly mindful of earthly things and staking our future on this transient world destined for the fiery wrath of God (Matthew 6:19-21; 2 Peter 3:11-13)?

Despite what some may say about the improbability of the Lord returning anytime soon, there is a reason why He wanted us to imbibe a sense of urgency and expectation, saying, “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44). The biggest mistake that we could make is to think that we could shoehorn God into the box of our conceptions about the last days. As any good Bible student realizes, God is the ultimate determiner of what constitutes the fulfillment of Bible prophecy. It should also be noted that some popularly held ideas about the end times are contrary to the testimony of Scripture. You may want to check Matthew 24:23-31 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 for a particularly relevant issue.

What I am attempting to convey is significant because, just as some strongly proclaim that we are at the end or the beginning of the end, others confidently affirm that such “doomsday” proclamations are not new and are mistaken (cf. 2 Peter 3:1-9). I am of the opinion that the present Covid-19 pandemic will burn out sooner or later, but it will also be a catalyst for the ushering in of a new global dispensation that will exact increasingly severe pressures on true believers, at least in some parts of the world. We might recall that it was the horrors of World War 2 that gave reason for the establishment of the United Nations, which has been used to keep the nations of the world on a tight leash, ostensibly to avoid recurrence of the dreadful events of that war. We could well expect the unprecedented economic and social toll of the present global scourge to result in a similar control being extended to the individual level. It may not be immediately apparent, but it will evolve. However it goes, it is extremely important that we should be prepared and, I repeat, pray for enlightenment and guidance for the days ahead.

If the last days of the present world are truly here and the return of our Lord is upon us, then we are indeed in a glorious time. It would be a reason for us to be glad and rejoice. “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28). It would be the arrival of a great exodus and liberation from the troubles of the present life. There is no amount of material or spiritual blessing that the Lord could afford us in the present time that could be compared with what He has prepared for us in the promised new world (1 Corinthians 2:9-10; 1 Timothy 4:8). One reason is that the merciful blessings of the present life are mingled with pain and tears, even when the adversities do not directly affect us. Covid-19 is thought to be an unprecedented challenge, but even if it passes away and the present life continues, other calamities, anxieties, and disruptions will still come. This only echoes the words of our Lord in Matthew 6:19-21.

When in our walk with the Lord we arrive at that state that He desires for us, we should be “looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (2 Peter 3:12), even as the closing words of Scripture pray, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20). He stands as an incomparably glorious light behind those dark clouds and will shortly burst into full view (Matthew 24:30). The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

🎼 BE GLAD IN THE LORD AND REJOICE

1.Be glad in the Lord and rejoice,
All ye that are upright in heart;
And ye that have made Him your choice,
Bid sadness and sorrow depart.

Refrain:
Rejoice!… rejoice!…
Be glad in the Lord and rejoice!
Rejoice!… rejoice!…
Be glad in the Lord and rejoice!

2. Be joyful, for He is the Lord,
On earth and in heaven supreme;
He fashions and rules by His Word;
The “Mighty” and “Strong” to redeem.

3. What tho, in the conflict for right
Your enemies almost prevail!
God’s armies, just hid from your sight,
Are more than the foes which assail.

4. Tho’ darkness surround you by day,
Your sky by the night be o’ercast,
Let nothing your spirit dismay,
But trust till the danger is passed.

5. Be glad in the Lord and rejoice,
His praises proclaiming in song;
With harp, and with organ, and voice,
The loud hallelujahs prolong!

THE GATHERING STORM – We Are At a Crucial Time

Image result for gathering storm

Is there fire on the mountain? Certainly! Something is definitely wrong, perhaps seriously wrong. There is a contagious and potentially deadly virus out there and we should all be careful and protect ourselves against it. If you care to know, I have been taking bitter kola (Garcinia kola), which is good for the respiratory and immune systems. I’m not telling you to do that – actually I usually don’t take such stuff – but God so arranged it and got a brother-friend to nudge me toward getting some, just before this pandemic really broke loose. So, take good care of yourself in any way you can.

However, there may be much more to what’s going on than we immediately realize. Therefore, beyond our protective health measures, I think we should be earnestly praying at this time – praying for divine enlightenment and guidance for the days ahead. That’s because we are in a strange time. A lot doesn’t seem right. The numbers are not adding up. This is not about the coronavirus being engineered and planted. I don’t know anything about that. Nor is this about political affiliation and power tussle. I stay away from such. But let’s consider, for example, this excerpt from an article on Live Science (livescience.com): “So far, the new coronavirus has led to more than 220,000 illnesses and more than 9,300 deaths worldwide. But that’s nothing compared with the flu, also called influenza. In the U.S. alone, the flu has caused an estimated 36 million illnesses, 370,000 hospitalizations and 22,000 deaths this season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).” So, why the shut-down spree all over the world for Covid-19? No doubt about it, people are unusually dying, but the patterns are strange. We are in the middle of a mystery.

Whatever the mystery may be, what we are seeing may be the tip of the iceberg, a foretaste of much more dire things to come in the days ahead. The day may be farther gone than we think. “For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the LORD will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you” (Isaiah 60:2). Cash is already being rejected for fear of it being a means of transmission of Covid-19. Mandatory vaccination is being put forward. Would that be a condition for re-entry into normal work and economic activity? What would the vaccine amount to? Could all this be related to Revelation 13:16-17? Read it, and try to read the entire chapter. Actually, next to praying, the second best thing you could do at this time is studying the Revelation. By the time you get to the end of Chapter 1, you would know why. By the time you read the last paragraph of Chapter 3, your perspective should be sharper. And then you may be literally hearing the Lord speaking to you, extending an invitation to you at the beginning of Chapter 4. Thereafter, welcome to the dramatic details of what the world is up against in the days ahead. Yes, we should also beware of all the stuff flying around on social media. But in the midst of the cacophony, there may be a true and most imperative voice.

I could dwell long on the subject, but I had to quickly get this out. And my point is, prayer for the days ahead would be more important than any other thing that we could do at this time. Pardon me, but with what is ahead of the world, some may later find that Covid-19 was a merciful escape door. I am not being sensational – just trying to say it as it is. We have been playing around with the things of the Lord for too long, circling the things that really matter, and “those days” may have arrived sooner than we expected. Now, the doors of the churches are being shut. How soon? I don’t know. Chances are that the Lord would be merciful and give us one more opportunity to get our priorities right. But it could also be that we’ve had all our time and the storm is indeed swiftly gathering. That being the case, we should be earnestly praying and seeking the way to “Goshen,” for “upon mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions” (Obadiah 1:17). That’s it. “And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch” (Mark 13:37).

The Lord bless you.
David Olawoyin
http://davidolawoyin.com/bethel-digest/

🎼 THE DAY OF REDEMPTION IS NEAR

(https://www.guitarvideochords.com/gospel%20music/the_day_of_redemption.html)

1. Nations are breaking, Israel’s awaking,
The signs that the prophets foretold;
The Gentile days numbered,
With horrors encumbered;
Eternity soon will unfold.

Chorus
The day of redemption is near,
Men’s hearts are failing for fear;
Be filled with the Spirit,
Your lamps trimmed and clear,
Look up! Your redemption is near.

2. The fig tree is growing;
Jerusalem’s restoring
Her national life, long dethroned;
Today she is calling, her latter rain’s falling,
“Return, O dispersed, to your own.”

3. Heaven’s powers are shaking,
And many are mistaking God’s meaning to be of the sky;
God’s Church is the power that’s shaking this hour;
The day of redemption is nigh.

4. False prophets are lying.
God’s Truth they’re denying,
That Jesus the Christ is our God;
Though this generation spurns God’s revelation,
We’ll walk where the apostles have trod.

THE PRECIOUS PROMISE OF GOD – Keep the Hope Alive

 “For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him. Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah. I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye”  (Psalm 32:6-8). Amen

🎼 Precious Promise God Hath Given (https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/703)

1. PRECIOUS promise God hath given
To the weary passer-by,
All the way from earth to Heaven;
I will guide thee with mine eye.

Refrain:
I will guide thee, I will guide thee,
I will guide thee with mine eye;
All the way from earth to Heaven,
I will guide thee with mine eye.

2. When temptations almost win thee,
And thy trusted watchers fly,
Let this promise ring within thee:
I will guide thee with mine eye.

3. When thy secret hopes have perished
In the grave of years gone by,
Let this promise still be cherished:
I will guide thee with mine eye.

WHAT IF THIS GREAT LAND IS NOW AS EGYPT?

We are familiar with the analogy that has been made between the founding of the United States and the conquest of the Promised Land of Canaan by the Israelites. However, in latter-day Bible prophecy, the Promised Land of Canaan is spiritually associated with “Sodom and Egypt” (see Rev 11:7-8). So, what if, in a spiritual-prophetic sense, this great land, the United States, once likened to the Promised Land of Canaan, has now become as Egypt?

This is not merely rhetorical or sensational. As we know, the ancestors of the Founding Fathers of the United States fled from Europe to America to escape a religious famine, even as the ancestors of the Israelites fled to Egypt to survive a natural famine. But the tide eventually turned in Egypt and the children of Israel became slaves in the same place where they had received an inheritance. A highly favored people were soon severely relegated. But we know that it was all part of the divine plan. Egypt had served its purpose for the people of God and it was time for them to move on to something BETTER. Hence, the Exodus under Moses. As noted earlier, however, the Promised Land that they went on to possess was later associated with the same Egypt that they had been delivered from. This seems to create a cyclic repetition, with the second cycle being spiritual.

So, what if a spiritual Exodus has actually been underway in the United States? What if the people of faith have been led out of the shadow and are now approaching the reality of “God’s Own Country”? What if they are currently on a spiritual wilderness journey toward a new Promised Land, a “better” and “more perfect” “God’s Own Country,” a global “city” (cf. Heb 11:16 and Rev 2:26)? What if the actions of some among them who are resisting the clouds gathering over the present land and fighting to regain lost ground actually amount to grumbling about the leanness and seeming lowliness of the wilderness journey? What if it amounts to looking back and longing for the old pleasures of Egypt? What if the grumbling is actually wrestling back the hand of God and stretching into a “40-year” journey what should be no more than a “40-day” trek? What if in the course of the extended journey some become ensnared in idolatry and other deadly stuff and fall by the wayside, never to make it to the New Promised Land, “the white city that’s soon COMING DOWN”?

What if that which was once exalted as a Lamb must now speak as a Dragon (Rev 13:11)? That would mean it has served its purpose for the children of faith and it is time for us to humble ourselves, let go, and trust the mighty hand of God to safely lead us through the hazards of the wilderness into the Promised Golden City (Heb 11:15-16, Rev 21:2-3). He takes away the old that He may establish the new. Resolutely clinging to that which has been given up would only threaten our survival and entry into that which is much better and just ahead.

“Nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor 10:9-11).

BEWARE OF “GOOD TIMES”

“And the
people stayed up all that day, all night, and all the next day, and gathered
the quail (he who gathered least gathered ten homers); and they spread them out
for themselves all around the camp. But while the meat was still between their
teeth, before it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was aroused against the
people, and the Lord struck the people with a very great plague” (Numbers
11:32-33).

Beware of the comfort and “good time” that you mindlessly crave and cry for in defiance of the divine purpose that has been clearly revealed, including in the Word. Beware of that rebellious mindset to always have it your way, to always have a “boom” and never have to yield ground, despising and complaining about any temporary leanness or subservience that the Lord might have purposefully allowed. God may yield and give you that which you lust after and cry for, but it may be the harbinger of destruction. Carefully read the entirety of Numbers 11. God is not obligated to our comfort but to His purpose, and any comfort contrary to His purpose should be cause for concern.

IN PURSUIT OF TRUTH

That you believe and are convinced about something does not make it true. You may argue rationally and persuasively for a position, even succeed in convincing some about it, but that still does not make it true. Sometimes, those who to go to great lengths and invest so much energy in proving a point are actually peddling mere theories, or worse. Truth is not synonymous with legality, it speaks for itself, and is often intuitively perceived. Many times, however, truth has to be patiently and persistently pursued, against the allures and perils of half-truths and untruths. We will never get far with God – not in any substantial and enduring sense – until we discover that which is truly true. “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” (John 16:13).

ACCOUNTABILITY AND RESPONSIBILITY

We are free to believe whatever we fancy, say whatever we like, and do whatever we desire. This is not just a human right but a God-given right, for we were created as free moral agents. What we must never lose sight of is that we are RESPONSIBLE and ACCOUNTABLE for our stance – if to no other but to God. We should be especially careful of what we say or propagate, for it not only represents our stance but is also influencing others and magnifying our RESPONSIBILITY and ACCOUNTABILITY. “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (2 Timothy 4:16).

NEW CREATION REALITY

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new (2 Corinthians 5:17, KJV).

When last did you hear it: “You must be born again”? The words evoke memories of a long time ago, when there was a profound realization of man’s need for Christ and the salvation He offers.  Back then, coming to know Christ in a saving way was signposted by a radically altered life. Those who knew you realized that “something” had happened to you. Some felt exposed and were no longer comfortable around you. Neither were you still interested in keeping some of the old associations or following the same old throng. You were no longer the same person you used to be. You were a new person – a “new creation.” You had experienced a heavenly conversion.

No one understands the reality of this new creation better than the one who has experienced it. “Old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” Your aspirations are no longer the same. Your priorities have been altered. There is one thing that undergirds and spontaneously controls all that you do: the approval of God. The life beyond the present one continually looms before you, and spending it with your Lord and Savior is your ultimate ambition. Anything that threatens this goal constitutes a real hazard to you (Matthew 16:26, 1 Corinthians 15:19, 1 Timothy 4:8).

And as you learn more of God and yield to His Spirit, it gets to where you no longer struggle with sin. “The flesh with its affections and lusts” are dead in you (Galatians 5:24). Doing what is right and pleasing to God becomes your nature. Indeed, it becomes an issue of common sense, as you see no benefit in doing otherwise and you give no real thought to such. All you need to know is the mind of God about an issue, and that settles it. This new creation life is not a sermon, not a worldview, not a teaching, not a confession, not an article of faith, and not just a “big idea.” It is a life – a pervading reality.

Preaching “you must be born again” to folks today can be embarrassing, if not offensive. Everyone seems to be born again, even though the expression paradoxically seems alien and awkward. A close look reveals that something else has taken the place of the Holy Spirit-powered conversion that characterizes the true born-again experience. Church membership. Someone invites you to a church program, where you experience great music and charismatic teaching. You feel the “vibe” and breathe in the atmosphere. You come back, you come again, and again. You catch on and get involved. You learn the language and sensational lines, and soon you are also a “minister.”

While some may providentially experience true salvation through a church program, what folks often experience in this way is not Christ, but a church. They do not learn of Christ but of a man. It is not a conversion or recreation, but an assimilation – the adoption of a new worldview, becoming part of a following. It is not Holy Spirit-powered but charisma-enabled. Sometimes, it is enabled by something much worse, for when you exercise influence over people without having experienced a true conversion yourself, something else might be at work. This is what is drawing the multitudes today, and it is so pervasive that some who once knew God through a real conversion are unwittingly being caught in the snare and led away from the Cross and set-part life that comes through Christ. They are learning “another Jesus,” different from the One they once encountered (2 Corinthians 11:1-4). They are being destroyed without realizing it. God laments in Isaiah, “As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths” (Isaiah 3:12).

Yet, Jesus Christ remains the same, yesterday, today, and forever. His genuine saving grace is still available and effectual. “The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Timothy 2:19). When you tell lies, peddle falsehood, cut corners, steal, engage in dishonesty, sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like (see Galatians 5:19), and yet claim to be a Christian or a minister, something is seriously wrong and you need to start praying and seeking. The works of the Spirit in the life that He renews are evident: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-24).

The gate to the new birth experience remains open. The invitation is being extended to us to enter this haven of rest in Christ, free from the burden of guilt and the debilitating cares of life. “‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

JEHOVAH EZER – THE LORD MY HELP

 O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help (Hosea 13:9, KJV).

This was the distressing assessment of the state of Israel at the time of the prophet Hosea. The Lord looked upon His people and saw a crowd that had brought destruction upon itself. They claimed to be the chosen of the Lord but their hearts were far from him and their deeds were a reproach to His name. Unfortunately, this is also the case of the people of God today. Jesus Christ looks upon His Church and declares: “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17, NKJV).

The calling of the people of God is by divine election; and those that the Lord calls, He faithfully caters for according to His own counsel and purpose (Romans 8:28). But there seems to be something about those who bear the name of God such that we tend to have another idea of how things should be done, different from the divine plan. This is not only often influenced by our observation of the practices of those in the world, but is also often the beginning of problems in our relationship with God (see Hosea 13:10-11). And if the people of God are at odds with their Savior and His ways, what would be the end of those who know not the Lord. Indeed, as Micah declares, the rebellion of God’s people is a primary cause of His coming judgment upon the world in preparation for a new beginning (Micah 1:3-5; cf. 2 Peter 3:10-13).

As our opening Scripture bears out, however, the solution to our self-inflicted troubles is in the same One against whom we have rebelled. These self-imposed problems come in different forms – personal, marital, familial, vocational, financial, ecclesiastical, etcetera. God announces: “in me is thine help” – not in church membership or a church program, not in a pastor or some other man, not in tithes and offerings, not in community service, not in social or political action – not in anything else, but in God. The first step is a sincere and thorough self-assessment, followed by genuine repentance, and a decision to make things right (see Revelation 2:5). We can’t eat our cake and have it; if we are going to experience the deliverance and help of God, it would have to be on His terms. “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21, KJV).

THE SNARE OF WILLFULNESS

 There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. (Proverbs 14:12, NKJV).

My mind was recently quickened to how a series of providential events had helped me to deal with a potentially difficult situation. As I considered it, I realized that the pattern had actually characterized much of my activities over the previous few months. This was instructive considering how we often insist on doing things our way, executing our carefully crafted plans, or adhering to some traditional practices or a set of fancy rules. This attitude manifests in various forms, but in its most potentially destructive form, it is “willfulness.” One definition puts it this way: “(Willfulness) suggests a stubborn persistence in doing what one wishes, especially in opposition to those whose wishes or commands ought to be respected or obeyed: that willful child who disregarded his parents’ advice.”

Every Christian can put this definition in context, especially the last part. Two things undergird it: stubbornness and disobedience – disobedience to the voice of God our Father. It is curious how we often seek, or claim to seek, to hear the voice of God. Truth is, God speaks to us practically every day, often in seemingly mundane and innocuous ways. But we often do not hear. The Lord lamented, “Who is blind but My servant, Or deaf as My messenger whom I send? Who is blind as he who is perfect, And blind as the Lord’s servant? Seeing many things, but you do not observe; Opening the ears, but he does not hear” (Isaiah 42:19-20). And sometimes, we simply refuse to hear. We are often more impressed by sensational visions and dreams, audible voices, or something that would attract loud hallelujahs when we share our “testimony.” But the divine directions and providential orchestration of events that bring about some of the greatest experiences in our lives sometimes come quietly, or require us to “let go,” to put aside our self-will and ideas.

Fully yielding to the leading of God through His Holy Spirit in this manner not only requires spiritual sensitivity, but also an everyday awareness and persistent consciousness that the Lord is in control of all things that pertain to us. It requires a practical and proper appreciation of the words of the apostle:  “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Now, the noted aspect of spiritual sensitivity cannot be discounted here, for it is what keeps us from swinging to the other extreme, where one is carried along by every fickle impulse, or becomes purposeless and visionless, drifting from day to day in the guise of yielding to divine providence. To be concise, when events are providentially working out the will of God, there would usually be the quiet voice of the Spirit witnessing to the same (see Isaiah 30:21). That’s when our spiritual senses are roused and we become watchful to discern the divine purpose at hand. Oftentimes, sooner or later, a third witness would appear to confirm the matter.

It is when all this is in place and we still insist on doing our own thing, when we still set our hearts on following a different “way that seems right” to us – that is when we are falling into the snare of willfulness. That is when we are being stubborn, and the consequences of stubbornness can be very severe, even as the “way of death.” However, the consequences are no more severe than the sinfulness of stubbornness, for in the eyes of God, “rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry” (1 Samuel 15:23). That is true because when a man stubbornly sets his face one way, despite the pure light pointing the other way, whatever is behind the attitude has taken the place of God in his life.

THE GOODNESS OF GOD

“The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works” (Psalm 145:9).

The Lord is good to ALL, and His tender mercies are over ALL His works. This is impressive and worthy of thought. The Lord’s goodness is nondiscriminating. The Lord is inherently good and His exhibition of this attribute is inherently independent. According to the Creation account, the Lord repeatedly assessed His work and He “saw that it was good” (Genesis 1). The good Lord created good things and His goodness is forevermore. Adam and Eve disobeyed Him in the beginning and the good Creation was corrupted, but the goodness of God remained the same. Indeed, His tender mercies immediately intervened for the rebellious children (see Genesis 3:21). The words of the Psalmist about this longsuffering goodness of God are better understood when compared with those of the apostle Paul in encouraging believers through the pains that they experience in the present corrupted world: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man (1 Corinthians 10:13). The Christian life is rightly considered to be one of inescapable tribulation (John 16:33), but as Paul implies here, unbelievers experience the same. And so also is it that, as the Christian can be expected to benefit from the grace of God, in the sense of unmerited blessing, so also does it happen to all men, as the Psalmist declared. It is the manifest goodness of God to all His creation. This line of thought is continued farther on in the Psalm: “The Lord upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down. The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing” (Psalm 145: 14-16). What is the lesson here? It is this: If you have been blessed, if you have experienced the goodness of God, if you have partaken of His tender mercies – do not presume that it is because of something that you have done, or that you are better than another. Truth is, there are many who are much better than you that have not had it so good. So, beloved, be thankful. And, yes, be good, genuinely good, to your neighbor, even as the Lord has been good to you. The goodness of God abide with you. Amen.

THE SURPASSING WORD

“I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name” (Psalm 138:2)

There are two things that we would readily consider very crucial to the Christian life: faith and prayer. Our walk with the Lord begins with our salvation, which is a gift received by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). This saving faith is exercised by believing and calling upon the name of the Lord (John 1:12, Romans 10:13). Concerning prayer, the songwriter describes it as “the Christian’s vital breath,” and Jesus assures us that whatever we ask in his name in prayer, we will receive (John 14:13). We therefore see the centrality of the name of the Lord to these two vital Christian elements of faith and prayer. Yet the Psalmist tells us in our Bible reading that God has exalted his Word above all his name. This is remarkable, for it suggests that the Word of God is even MORE important than faith and prayer. This thought is made very vivid by Moses: “And he said unto them, Set your hearts unto all the words [of God] which I testify among you this day, which ye shall command your children to observe to do… For it is not a vain thing for you; because IT IS YOUR LIFE” (see Deuteronomy 32:46-47). Virtually the same thing was echoed by Jesus Christ (John 6:63b). The Word of God is not only lively, but in it consists the very life of the believer. This surpassing importance of the Word is indeed reasonable, for despite the importance of faith and prayer, they must be exercised according to the Word for them to be valid and effective (Romans 10:17, 1 John 5:14). It is therefore most important for us to strive for a lively knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures for effective living, ministry, and service, for anything done apart from the Word is ultimately void (Romans 10:3; 2 Timothy 2:15).  The Word is truly the most reliable way to the heart of God, for “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and THE WORD WAS GOD” (John 1:1).

OUR TIMES ARE IN HIS HANDS

“He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper” (Psalm 1:3).

This verse from the first Psalm teaches that a Christian prospers in all that he undertakes. There is, however, a detail that we should pay close attention to: “brings forth its fruit in its season.” Truly, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). As the Psalmist goes on to testify, “My times are in Your hand” (Psalm 31:15a). There is a divinely appointed time for every fruit that the life of a Christian would bear, spiritually and otherwise, and the vindication of our good standing with the Lord is in this timeliness, and not any other human consideration. The world may hold us up and measure us against diverse metrics, parameters, and pace counts, but the manifestation of the God-designed fruits of our lives in the God-ordained season is what constitutes true and enduring prosperity. All else makes for a doubtful life, basking in false prosperity, which is often acquired by questionable means or apart from the divine purpose. Such prosperity is transient, for it either soon dries up and leads to shame in the present life, or it injures the soul and brings eternal consequences. That’s what the first Psalm goes on to declare: “The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous” (Psalm 1: 3,4). May we find the grace to always wait for the Lord’s appointed time, for He faithfully makes all things well in their season. 

THE FIRE AND WATER THAT BRING TRUE WEALTH

“Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place” (Psalm 66:12).

Jesus and the apostle Paul warned of the inevitability of tribulation in the dedicated Christian life (John 16:332, Timothy 3:12). These troublous experiences come in different forms, but the Psalmist particularly recalls the pains that are inflicted on us by our fellow man “who ride over our heads.” The divine purpose for these difficult “fire” and “water” experiences is that we may by them be purged and washed of all things that are contrary to true godliness; that we may imbibe a heavenward worldview and reproduce the pure character of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the words of the Psalmist, it is that we may be brought into “a wealthy place,” which is synonymous with the abundant life that Christ purchased for us (John 10:10). Whether this promise would be partly fulfilled in the present life or entirely in the life that is to come, is the Lord’s own mysterious determination. The assurance remains that we have a reliable promise of full and enduring respite from our present troubles. “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). As the songwriter further exhorts, “Though cisterns be broken, and creatures all fail, the word He hath spoken shall surely prevail.”