Category Archives: Bible

Psalm 77 in English Rhyme

While reading a commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, the author took an aside to talk about the peace that comes from a spiritual mindset (see Rom. 8:6). When a Christian focuses on the Holy Spirit’s leading, he will experience peace because he is following God’s direction and plan. The commentator explained that this peace can be misunderstood as the absence of any trouble. That is not true as many believers in the Old and New Testament times faced difficult situations.

As evidence, the commentator pointed to the psalmist’s thoughts in Psalm 77. The following poem summarizes the thoughts of that psalm, and might also parallel what other believers have gone through at times. As you read it, you may be reminded of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” I think this is well done.

The thought of God brought me no peace
But rather made my fears increase
With sleepless eyes and speechless pain
My fainting spirit grieved in vain
The blessedness of long ago
Made deeper still my present woe

Recalling days when faith was bright
When songs of gladness filled my night
I pondered o’er my grievous woes
And searching questioning arose
Will God cast off and nevermore
His favor to my soul restore?

These doubts and fears that troubled me
Were born of my infirmity
Though I am weak, God is most high
And on his goodness I rely
Of all his wonders I will tell
And on his deeds my thoughts shall dwell

William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980, pp. 249-50.

Discontented with God’s blessings

“But the lesson of the text is rather for those who have the favor and blessing of God, but are not content, and still crave worldly things. You are in covenant with God. He has redeemed you, not with corruptible things such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ. You are now the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what you shall be. There is laid up for you an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. Yet your heart hankers after the things of the world. Your acquaintances and friends are better off. Your bare house, your homely furnishings, your poor dress, your simple fare distress you, and you would fain be in a higher worldly sphere, enjoying more consideration, and participating more freely in worldly enjoyments.

Be assured, my friends, you are not in a wholesome frame of mind. To be depreciating the surpassing gifts which God has given you, and to be exaggerating those which He has withheld, is far from being a wholesome condition. You wish to be like the nations. You forget that your very glory is not to be like them. Your glory is that ye are a chosen generation, an holy nation, a royal priesthood, a peculiar people, your bodies temples of the Holy Ghost, your souls united to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Yet again, there are congregations, which though in humble circumstances, have enjoyed much spiritual blessing. Their songs have gone up, bearing the incense of much love and gratitude; their prayers have been humble and hearty, most real and true; and the Gospel has come to them not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance. Yet a generation has grown up that thinks little of these inestimable blessings, and misses fine architecture, and elaborate music, and highly cultured services. They want to have a king like the nations. However, they may endanger the spiritual blessings, it is all important to have these surroundings. It is a perilous position, all the more perhaps that many do not see the peril—that many have little or no regard for the high interests that are in such danger of being sacrificed.”

W. G. Blaikie, The First Book of Samuel, 112-13.

Quote of the Day – Biblical Obedience

Biblical obedience is not just compliance with some abstract law or rule. It is the submissive response to the person of the Holy Spirit, who has revealed the will of God to us through His Word. It means saying yes to God as we say no to self. It means denying self instead of indulging self. It means pleasing God instead of pleasing self. It means walking in the Spirit instead of grieving the Spirit.

Jim Berg, Changed Into His Image, p. 88.

I think Berg’s point is that obedience to God is not just doing what is asked. True obedience includes a submission to God himself in the process. That is why “the sacrifice of the wicked [obedience to God’s law] is an abomination to the Lord [not pleasing to God].” If we want to please the Lord and keep our relationship right with Him, we have to have the right attitude as well as the right action.

Benaiah – the Mighty Man

As a boy, I always enjoyed reading adventure stories and especially those in the Old Testament. The books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles fascinated me and still do today. During one reading I came across a soldier in David’s army who later became my favorite Bible character. His name is Benaiah.

Who was this man? Benaiah was one of David’s mighty men. He was know for several astounding feats. But his entire life is an example of someone who faithfully and consistently served the Lord.

God honored his service.

He was valiant (2 Sam. 23:22-23).

King David surrounded himself with a group of thirty highly skilled men. They were called David’s Mighty Men. If you read through the chapter you will see that these men were recognized for certain acts of bravery. Benaiah was one of these men. In fact, he was not just one of the thirty, he was better than them. And as one of the mighty men, he was noted for his bravery.

He was trustworthy (2 Sam. 23:23b).

Notice in verse 23 that Benaiah was given a place of trust in David’s entourage. David put him in charge of his guard. I think this is another way of saying that Benaiah was the captain of David’s body guards. I am not sure what the requirements are for being a secret service agent, but I imagine the president would want someone who was very trustworthy to protect him. David trusted Benaiah with this important job because he could be trusted.

He was a leader (1 Chron. 18:17).

This chapter informs us of the accomplishments of King David. It tells us about wars he fought and preparations he made for defending the country. But in the last three verses of the chapter, we find out who his chief officers were. The last person to be listed is our hero. Benaiah was chief over a group of men called the Cherethites and Pelethites. Who were these men? Perhaps this was the group of body guards whom we heard about in the previous passage. Or they may have been a group of foreigners who had joined David during the time he was running away from King Saul. In any case, Benaiah was trusted by David to lead this group of men.

He was promoted (1 Kings 4:1-4).

We know that David trusted this courageous soldier, but was he ever recognized for his service to the country? Yes, we find that, during the reign of Solomon, Benaiah was promoted to the position of commander of the host. This was like being promoted to the commanding general of the army. It was quite an honor for Benaiah, but it was also a promotion he had earned by faithfully serving King David and throughout his life.

Most people would like to be honored in front of their peers. Although there is some embarrassment involved in being honored, there is also a good feeling that someone is thankful for your service. Honor is given to those who are faithful. Our God does the same. He wants to honor those who have been faithful. But he is not as interested in one time greats. He is looking for people who will be faithful throughout their entire life. Benaiah was one of those men.

God honored his courage.

Eddie Rickenbacker was a famous WWI fighter pilot. In just two months of combat, he came away with 26 aerial victories. You would think someone like that was never afraid and yet in his book Bits & Pieces he said these words.

“Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared.”

Eddie Rickenbacker

We are never told that Benaiah feared anything. However, if he was like the rest of us, he probably faced fear on a regular basis. In 1 Chronicles 11:22-24, we read of three of his greatest tests. With the Lord’s enablement, he defeated each formidable foe.

Against two lion-like men

One on one you might have a chance to win a game of pick-up basketball. But if you have to play against two people, the odds are against you. Benaiah faced two Moabite warriors who were described as lion-like men. You can imagine that these men were known for their fierce fighting skills. But after meeting Benaiah, they were known only for meeting their match.

Against a lion

On another occasion, Benaiah killed a lion in a pit. At first glance this seems like an easy task. But as you look at the details, you find that this was not as easy as you would have thought. It was on a snowy day. Imagine trying to fight someone in the slippery snow. Then think about doing it in a pit. Apparently, Benaiah found a lion in a pit and entered the pit to kill it. Again he came out the victor.

Against a giant Egyptian

Think about some of the tall people you have met before. I usually have the advantage in basketball because of my height. But when faced with people taller than me, I am suddenly at a disadvantage. Imagine Benaiah’s disadvantage when facing this tall Egyptian. He was about seven and a half feet tall. On top of that, he was carrying a spear the size of a weaver’s beam. The point is that this man was tall and strong. But once again, Benaiah defeated this soldier. He plucked the spear out of his hand with a staff and then killed him with his own weapon.

During the Old Testament, God honored those who trusted him. It is obvious to see that Benaiah was a man who trusted the Lord for these victories. It is no wonder that the Lord included the record of his accomplishments so prominently.

Where is our faith today? Are we known for our courage in doing the Lord’s work? Or are we known as the spineless jelly fish that cannot even speak Jesus’ name in front of an unbeliever. God needs a new group of mighty men who are willing to do his work in the power he gives them. Will you be one of them?

God honored his loyalty.

What happened to Benaiah as he grew older? There is no doubt that as his body grew older, his physical abilities decreased proportionately. Did he lose his place of prominence or was there still a position open for the once mighty warrior? In the next two passages, we will see that Benaiah remained a loyal member of the kingdom.

During Absalom’s Attack (2 Sam. 17:8)

As David grew older, his mighty men stood with him through some very difficult times. When Absalom attempted to overthrow his father’s kingdom, David was saved by the advice of Hushai the Archite. When asked for his opinion, Hushai reminded Absalom that David had the mighty men with him and that they were like a bear robbed of its cubs. After hearing these words, Absalom decided to round up a larger army before attacking his father’s army. Why was that? I think it was because of the respect men like Benaiah had earned. They were not just mighty men; they were extremely loyal to their king.

During Adonijah’s Attempt (1 Kings 1:5-10)

At the end of David’s life, when it was time for him to hand over the throne to one of his sons, Adonijah decided to crown himself king. Unfortunately, Joab and Abiathar lent him their support. Adonijah threw a party for the occasion and invited lots of friends. But, there were a few important people who didn’t get an invitation. “He did not invite Nathan the prophet, Benaiah, the mighty men, or Solomon his brother” (10). This is a very telling statement. Adonijah already knew what Benaiah and these other men would have said. They would be loyal to David until death and would follow whomever he chose to replace him. Adonijah never succeeded and, as we saw earlier, Benaiah was eventually promoted to the position of commander of the army for King Solomon.

Conclusion

Many people are known for exciting one-time accomplishments, but very few are known for faithful service over the long haul. Benaiah is a good example of someone who dedicated his entire life for service to his king. His mighty acts were not just a one time thing. Instead, he faithfully served in the positions given him year after year and was later rewarded as a trustworthy and loyal servant.

When I think about people like Benaiah who are remembered for their faithful service, the question often pops into my mind: “For what will I be remembered?” Will I be remembered as a faithful servant of God or someone who was inconsistent. With God’s help, I want to be a Benaiah who will faithfully make a difference for God wherever I am.

Humility

If you have been born again (John 3), you know about the change God has made in you (2 Cor. 5:17). But others may not understand the difference in you. Why don’t you curse, get drunk, party, and watch R-rated movies? And when you try to explain, it may come across as pride. What people may not understand is that God changed you. When He changed you on the inside, your thoughts, speech, actions, and desires began to change. While you are thankful for God’s work in your life and can see the Holy Spirit producing the fruit of the Spirit in your life (Gal 5:22-23), others may not understand. This is why humility should be a big part of your life.

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Titus 3:1-7 NKJV

Paul knew that Christians can forget where the change has come from and start taking credit for their God-given character. He reminds us to be humble, to remember where we came from. If you are honest, you know that his description of our past is accurate. We were foolish, disobedient, deceived, lustful, angry, envious, and hateful. In other words, we have nothing to be proud of in ourselves.

We need to be reminded of what God did (and is doing) in us. He saw us in our raw, sinful state and still made the choice to love us. He could have left us to wallow in our sin and its consequences. He could have judged us by his perfect standard of righteousness and condemned us to the lake of fire, but thankfully he didn’t. Instead, he loved us and chose to wash and renew us. In other words, we didn’t do anything; God did everything.

Today, if you are a Christian, remember what God has done in your life. And as you see the change he is making in you, remember to be humble. He did it … not you.

______________

Further reading: Ephesians 2:1-10

Helping the Poor

How our personal experience affects our perspective.

Have you been poor?

Those who have been poor understand the feeling of hopelessness when they don’t have enough to feed their family, pay the bills, or go to the hospital.

Have you been rich?

Those who have not been poor, may not understand the seriousness of being without enough to pay the bills. They may think the problem is laziness, poor use of money, or bad decisions.

Have you become skeptical?

Those who have been lied to by beggars may wonder about everyone asking for help. Because some have lied about their need, were using the money for drugs, or were unbelievable, the skeptic doesn’t want to help anyone.

Have you become an enabler?

Those who have a big heart for the poor see the need despite the big stories and continue to give even when they find out there is a problem.

What does the OT say about poor people?

The Law

The OT law which was given to Moses is filled with commands about justice, worship, civil matters, etc. But does it say anything about the poor?

Ex. 22:25 – Lend to the poor without interest.
Ex. 23:3, 6 – Don’t be partial to or prejudiced against the poor.
Ex. 23:11 – Leave fields fallow the 7th year so poor can eat.
Lev. 19:10; 23:22 – Leave some field unharvested so the poor can glean.
Lev. 25:35; Deut. 15:7, 11 – Help your brothers.
Deut. 24:15 – Pay poor people daily.

The law commanded but also taught the Israelites to help poor people. Sometimes we need to be commanded to do things because we don’t have right thinking or are not often thinking about the poor.

Psalms

The psalms are songs. Why would the poor be mentioned in songs dedicated to God? Maybe it is because they often cry out to God in their distress.

Psalm 10:2 – The wicked persecute the poor.
Psalm 41:1 – You will be blessed for helping the poor.
Psalm 72:4, 12 – God gives justice to the poor.

David knew what being poor was like. When he fled from Saul, he often had very little. This kindled in him a love for the poor, a hatred for oppressors, and thankfulness to God for his provision.

Proverbs

The proverbs often contrast the rich and poor. Sometimes the poor are poor because of bad choices. Other times they are to be helped.

Prov 10:4 – Laziness leads to being poor.
Prov. 14:31 – Oppressing the poor reproaches our Maker.
Prov. 19:17 – Lending to poor is lending to God.
Prov. 21:13 – If you don’t listen to the poor, God won’t listen to your cries for help.
Prov. 21:17 – If you love pleasure, you will become poor.
Prov. 29:7 – The righteous consider the cause of the poor.

Warnings

Isa. 3:15 – God doesn’t want the poor abused.
Isa. 32:7 – God knows when poor people are lied to.
Ezek. 16:49 – Sodom ignored the poor.

What does the NT say about poor people?

Mark 12:42-43 – The poor widow gave all she had.
Luke 18:22 – The rich, young ruler was told to give to the poor.
Luke 19:8 – Zacchaeus showed change of heart by giving to the poor.
Luke 14:13 – Invite the poor to your feast.
John 12:6 – Some talk about helping the poor but just want money.
Rom. 15:26 – Some churches gave to the poor believers in Jerusalem.
1 Cor. 13:3 – Giving to the poor without love is empty.
2 Cor. 8:9 – Jesus became poor for us.
2 Cor. 9:6-9 – God loves cheerful giving and will take care of you.
Gal. 2:10 – Paul was reminded to help the poor.
James 2:2-3 – You should treat the poor and rich the same.

Principles for helping the poor

Offering work is helpful to poor people (2 Thess. 3:10).

Old Testament law required farmers to not harvest the edges of their fields so the poor would have something to eat (Lev. 19:9; 23:22; Deut. 24:19). The poor were given the opportunity to have food if they were willing to work. The principle is repeated in the New Testament (2 Thess. 3:10).

Some people just need immediate help (1 John 3:17).

This is not the answer to every problem, but it certainly makes sense. Helping people who are unwilling to work can enable laziness. But not all are in that situation. Those who are sick, elderly, overwhelmed, or working but unable to pay their bills should be helped out as we see the need if we are able to help.

Conclusion

Has this study changed your mind about the poor and your responsibility toward them? Hopefully, each of us will now consider how we can respond to poor people when they have a need. It won’t be easy, and we might get taken advantage of, but we should consider each situation carefully and wisely choose how to help.

Second Guessing Yourself

Have you ever second guessed yourself? Two months ago, I prayed about and purchased a second car. It was a good buy that happened at just the right time while I was on a business trip. Fast forward two months, and I was second guessing my decision. There was nothing wrong with the first car, but I saw “the perfect car” somewhere else for the perfect price. If only I had waited. If only I had been patient. Was I wrong in buying the first one? Should I have waited for this one?

Then there are more important topics of second guessing. After telling someone about Jesus and receiving a bad response, do you second guess yourself? As you struggle with the person’s response, you probably go through the conversation in your mind trying to figure out where you went wrong. Did I speak too boldly? Did I quote the wrong Bible verses? Was I too hasty in what I said? Did I mess things up?

You are not alone. Many Christians have wondered about decisions they made on the spur of the moment. Paul, in particular, had the opportunity to second guess himself after giving his speech to Festus, Agrippa and Bernice.

When he had said these things, the king stood up, as well as the governor and Bernice and those who sat with them; and when they had gone aside, they talked among themselves, saying, “This man is doing nothing deserving of death or chains.” Then Agrippa said to Festus, “This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”

Acts 26:30-32 NKJV

After hearing his Christian testimony, the leaders discussed Paul’s case. During their conversation, they concluded two things: (1) Paul had done nothing worthy of death or imprisonment, and (2) Paul could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar. This is where Paul could have second guessed himself.

Paul had used his rights as a Roman citizen to parry the attempt of Festus to have him tried in Jerusalem. Paul had already escaped a murder plot. After being warned by his nephew, he had been escorted out of Jerusalem by a small army. It was very probable that this would have happened again if he returned to Jerusalem for trial. With Festus trying to appease the Jewish leaders, it was clear that he was putting Paul in a difficult position. By appealing to Caesar, Paul made a wise decision.

But… if Paul had waited for the meeting with Agrippa, he might have been set free. Festus and Agrippa agreed that Paul was not worthy of death or chains. So, it was possible that he could have been set free. Being set free would mean freedom to travel to cities preaching the gospel again. Was Paul’s decision really as smart as we first thought?

What does second guessing do?

  1. It overlooks the need of the moment.

    What happened in Acts 26 has no bearing on what happened in Acts 25. When Paul appealed to Caesar, he was faced with imminent death at the hands of those plotting to murder him (Acts 25:3). If he had agreed to Festus’ suggestion, he would most probably have been killed in or on the way to Jerusalem. There would have been no meeting with Festus, Agrippa, and Bernice if Paul had agreed to go to Jerusalem. The need of the moment led Paul to appeal to Caesar. It was the right decision at the right time.

  2. It overlooks God’s plan.

    Paul’s decision to appeal to Caesar was part of God’s greater plan. Did Paul have any idea what God’s plan was? Yes, in Acts 23:11, you may recall that God had told him that he would testify for Jesus in Rome. Being freed from his chains would have been nice, but it was not necessarily part of God’s plan for Paul at the time. God wanted Paul to go to Rome. Appealing to Caesar was part of that plan.

Conclusion

It is easy to look back and second guess your decisions. But in most cases, as you sought God’s help and used the wisdom he gave you, you actually made the best decision you could at the moment. As you seek the Lord’s will each day, ask him for wisdom and direction and then make the best decisions you know how at the moment. Second guessing yourself will only cause you to become discontent. You may want to be free when God wants you to be in prison! Trust God to work his plan through you and the decisions you make.

What kept Jesus on the cross?

Matthew describes how most people rejected Jesus as he hung on the cross. The soldiers, those who passed by, the Jewish leaders, and even the two thieves who were crucified on either side of him. Each group mocked Jesus as either a failed king, prophet, or teacher. Why then would he stay on the cross? As the Son of God, he could have answered their mocking cries for him to save himself. He could have removed himself from the cross, and stood before them, surrounded by thousands of angels. And yet, he chose to stay on the cross, suffering, bleeding, and slowly dying.

“Mounce rightly observed, “It was the power of love, not nails, that kept him there.'”
— Craig Blomberg

We are all glad that Jesus did not respond to the taunts of these various groups the way that we would have. Thankfully, he was willing to endure their jeers, along with the other aspects of his suffering, for the sake of each of us, people who did not deserve any portion of his love or forgiveness.

“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” —Romans 5:6-8

Will revenge actually make you feel better?

Have you ever been really, really angry with someone—so angry that you loathed even thinking about that person? This was the situation with Peninnah. You can read about her troubled marriage in 1 Samuel 1. The situation was rather odd as she was the second wife of a man who loved the other one better than her. What a terrible situation! The whole thing was not God’s design for marriage, but was not unexpected for the times in which they were living (see Judges 21:25). So what happened? Peninnah hated the other woman because of her husband’s favoritism and decided to inflict grief on her to make herself feel better. But did it help her cope with the situation? Not hardly.

In his commentary on the subject (written in 1887), W. G. Blaikie points out the lack of fulfillment when an angry person tries to take matters into her own hands.

“Yes, my friends, if you accept the offices of sin, if you make passion the instrument of your purposes, if you make it your business to sting and to stab those who in some way cross your path, you may succeed for the moment, and you may experience whatever of satisfaction can be found in gloated revenge. But know this, that you have been cherishing a viper in your bosom that will not content itself with fulfilling your desire. It will make itself a habitual resident in your heart, and distill its poison over it. It will make it impossible for you to know anything of the sweetness of love, the serenity of a well-ordered heart, the joy of trust, the peace of heaven. You will be like the troubled sea, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. You will find the truth of that solemn word, ‘There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.'”

Blaikie, W. G., The First Book of Samuel, (Minneapolis: Klock & Klock, 1978), 8.

Suffice it to say that revenge is best left in God’s hands (Rom. 12:19). Peninnah poured out her derision on the other woman and caused her great pain, but was she better off in the end? Not hardly. And what about the other woman. You may remember her name—it was Hannah. Under the constant ridicule of her adversary, she became depressed and despondent. But things changed drastically when she took her problems to the Lord. She poured out her heart to the Lord in prayer and was eventually blessed with happiness and fulfillment.

Two women in a difficult situation: The first woman poured out her anger on the other but never found the satisfaction she desired. The second woman poured out her heart to the Lord and found the blessing of the Lord. The lesson should be obvious. You will never resolve a problem by hurting others, so let God handle your problems. Turn them over to him and discover the peace and happiness found only in Him.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

Matthew 22:30 – Like the Angels in Heaven

“Like them, we shall ever be in God’s presence. Like them, we shall ever delight to do His will. Like them, we shall give all glory to the Lamb. These are deep things. But they are all true.

Are we ready for this life? Should we enjoy it, if admitted to take part in it? Is the company of God, and the service of God pleasant to us now? Is the occupation of angels one in which we should delight? These are solemn questions.”


— J. C. Ryle in Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Volume One, Matthew – Mark