He is Faithful, we are Sinful, His Grace Covers Us

Today’s reading is taken from Nehemiah 11 & Matthew 21:23-32.

The Israelites through the ages have been a people who have had front-row seats to witness the faithfulness and patience of the Lord. Time and time again these ‘stiff-necked’ people tested Him beyond reason. Starting with the ‘golden calf’ incident at Mount Sinai all the way to the Asherah Poles in Josiah’s day, the people responded to His faithfulness with scorn.

Reading Nehemiah 11 the first time round will not give you much, just a list of names which are not the easiest to pronounce. However, what unfolds here is part of the restoration of Jerusalem and the revival of Israel. You see God had made a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12 and created Israel, a chosen nation through his seed. Turned out this nation had a knack for sinfulness and at every turn they challenged God’s authority and purposes. God himself famously states: “I have seen this people, and they are a stiff necked people”. However, not for one moment did God forget his promise to Abraham to make him into a great nation. Although like a father disciplines his child, God disciplined Israel. But never did He throw in the towel and say ‘Okay, I’ve had enough!!’

Throughout the Old Testament God displays his faithfulness and patience to a sinful people despite their explicit rebellion. A part of Israel’s disciplining was the exile to Babylon and Assyria, and after the time was completed emerged a remnant that ensured the Abrahamic covenant didn’t end there. Nehemiah 11 is a record of how God in His Grace restores a people that constantly rejected him.

Now fast forward the story of Israel to the Gospel of Matthew. Chapter 21 reveals to us that not much had changed with these people. They were still as determined to question God’s authority as they were in Nehemiah’s day. God, however had been faithful to Israel and had preserved them through the centuries and had now brought to them their Savior, the culmination of the Abrahamic covenant, to finally reverse the curse of Genesis 3. But even here, His chosen people responded to His relentless faithfulness with contempt.

But because of His grace, even then, God refused to throw in the towel and say ‘Okay, I’ve had enough!!’, but instead decided to lay down his very life ‘for the joy that was set before him’. This is what His faithfulness to the Israelites looked like, and this is what His faithfulness to us looks like today. That ‘while we were still sinners He redeemed us’ through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. Our God is faithful, although once sinners we have been set free from the bondage of sin by His grace that covers us every time we stumble. Let us be a people determined to trust in Him and not question His authority, to worship Him and not replace him with useless idols like the Israelites did at Mount Sinai.

Have a listen to this song. Blessings!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9E5Yck_cvQ

Sam, KIC

His Glory in our Weakness

Today’s reading is taken from Psalm 71.

In my experience every time before the Lord brings a blessing into my life he first takes me through a trial of sorts. I’m not sure I completely understood the significance of this process during my early stages as a Christian. However, as I started familiarizing myself with the writings of Paul in 2 Corinthians I started to grasp the logic and wisdom behind it. It was the Lord in his love, gently showing me my weakness, my helplessness and my desperate need for him. And in a way setting the stage for a blessing so that when it came, I knew that it wasn’t me, but Him. When God decided that he wouldn’t remove the thorn from Paul’s flesh, it wasn’t out of spite or judgement. But so that Paul could encounter his own weakness and ultimately experience the Grace of God!

In Psalm 71 David in his old age -probably on the run from Absalom- cries out to the Lord for His grace and consideration during this time of trial. It is quite evident in this chapter that the great King David who slew tens of thousands of Philistines (1 Sam. 18:7) as a young man now feels the inability and helplessness of losing all his strength (v.9). And what makes things worse is that he is being pursued by his enemies. Is this happening to David because God wasn’t powerful enough to stop it? I think not! This in my opinion is God designing a place in time where David can come face to face with his own mortality and be reminded once again that he in his flesh is not able, but God is.

Now we know that David throughout his life has had front-row seats to experiencing the goodness of God. Yes, David has seen some tough times and has been on the run before (from Saul). But by the looks of things David by now understands just how God works out his purposes in him. In verse 20 David gives us a glimpse of what he knows of the character of God. He has ‘seen troubles, many and bitter’ and every time, God has restored his life again. At the end of each trial God has always without fail increased his honour and comfort. And it is with this confidence that he able to praise the Lord ‘with the harp’ (v.22) and sing of his ‘faithfulness’. Even when his own fragility is staring him in the face, David has a peculiar resilience that enables him to see the bigger picture and continue to be assured of the love of God.

We as Christians, like David have walked through some great seasons and have experienced the goodness and love of Christ but when those not so savory seasons come around we begin to get a sense that God may have abandoned us. David in Psalm 71 shows us through example what it means to walk with God and how encountering our own weaknesses can be God perhaps setting the stage for a breakthrough. As we make our way to the various services today let us ask for a greater discernment to understand the purposes of God in the trails that we face and constantly like David be determined through whatever situation to ‘praise Him more and more’ (v.14).

Sam

KIC

Motives of the Heart

Today’s reading is taken from 2 Chron. 9 & Matt 5:17-26

Under Solomon’s reign Israel reaches its climax in the process of redemption that started in Egypt which is clearly seen especially in the building of the temple. Tall tales of Solomon’s wisdom, wealth and extravagance reached all corners of the world and ‘all the kings of the earth sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart’ (v.23). The people, Solomon and the Queen of Sheba rightly see this as a blessing from God and recognize Him as the Source of this prosperity.

Chapter 9 is pretty much an inventory of what Solomon has accomplished. Two hundred shields of hammered gold, steps made of algumwood and the list goes on. Here, it is important to see God’s promises to Abraham being fulfilled by the establishing of the Davidic dynasty through Solomon. Under the blessing of God Solomon becomes a builder who undertakes several projects which included the Temple, his palace and the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon. However, as Solomon continues to bask in the glory and the success bestowed upon him by God he gradually forgets the big picture. Somewhere along the way Solomon stops building for the glory of God and Israel and starts to build for his own glory and vanity.

In Matthew 5 Jesus makes it abundantly clear that one’s outward expression should be the result of an inward godliness. Without God at the center of our motives, any outward action only goes to feed our own pride and self-exaltation. This is what happened to Solomon. Yes he built a Temple for God – probably his most acclaimed accomplishment, and continued to build to prosper Israel. However thanks to his over-sized harem his heart changes and is no longer set on God.

Solomon’s story is so much our story today. During those joyful seasons when we’re seeing success after success it is so easy to take all the credit and forget the Source of our prosperity. For us seasoned Christians the people around us may not even notice that subtle change in our hearts because, like the Pharisees, our outward faith or ‘religiosity’ may sometimes be what really defines us. But as Jesus puts in Matthew 5 it’s not what you do outwardly that is of the highest importance, but it’s the motive of your heart that counts, the very posture of your heart which needs be to set entirely on desiring Him and Him alone.

Sam, KIC

Certainty in a Glorious God

Today’s reading is taken from 1 Samuel 14 & Revelation 4.

As you read 1 Samuel 14 the theme that jumps out at you is one of deep certainty. Jonathan, perhaps a highly disciplined warrior makes a rash move – one which in usual circumstances would require the validation of the resident prophet or priest. On the surface one might think Jonathan’s actions to be reckless and destructive. A possible outcome of his little escapade could have become a case of national humiliation where the king’s son ends up -in a best case scenario- a P.O.W., or -worst case- probably with his head on a pole. But this move is not made by some knuckle-head soldier hungry for blood. Jonathan proves to be a man of great faith with a deep certainty in the God of Israel.

For one Jonathan knows his history. The promise made to Abram in Gen. 12:1 goes like this: ‘Leave your country… and go to the land I will show you.’ Egypt was definitely not that land. God redeemed Israel and brought them out of there so that He could lead them to the land where a life of blessing might be enjoyed. Jonathan is well aware that the land of Canaan (occupied by the Philistines) ‘flowing with milk and honey’ is where the Lord is leading His people. So this war against pagan Philistine is essentially God’s war – one that He is fighting on behalf of His people. It is then with this certainty that Jonathan says in v.6b that ‘nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few’.

1 Samuel 13:5 gives an intimidating inventory of the Philistine army – which by the looks of things is force to be reckoned with. Only someone daft enough would walk into that camp with a young armour-bearer by his side hoping for a victory. But such is the case with most things of God. God makes a promise to a childless Abraham in Gen. 17:5ff to make him ‘a father of many nations’ and ‘very fruitful’ at the ripe old age of 100. This too might have seemed daft at the time to Abraham. Genesis 17:17 says that in fact ‘he laughed’ at the thought of this. In 1 Samuel 16, Samuel seems keen to anoint Eliab to be king of Israel, probably based on his stout appearance. But instead the skinny shepherd-boy -the after-thought- is chosen by God to lead His people. God often chooses the weak, the meek, the lowly and the resource-poor to carry out his purposes and to display his power and glory.

Jonathan trusts in the power and might of his God and not in his own resources. His faith and deep certainty in the Most High reveals to him that the strength of an army is redundant when God is involved. Revelation 4 reinforces this vision of God by painting a vivid picture of His throne where the all-powerful God of the universe who spoke the heavens into existence sits (Ps. 33). Let these words written by John the Apostle be our prayer today: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

Sam, KIC

God’s Dwelling Place

Todays’ reading is taken from 1 Chronicles 13 & 1 Corinthians 8.

1 Chronicles 13 is a tricky passage to make sense of. Was God a bit unreasonable in striking down Uzzah for trying to keep the ark of God from falling? Perhaps it was a reflexive response as the oxen stumbled!? (v9) Thinking of it now, it does seem like something I would’ve done if I was in Uzzah’s place. God could have responded with something along the lines of “Thank you trusted servant for keeping my ark from falling, you and your family will be blessed for this selfless act”, but instead He cut him down, right then and there.

So why was God so inconsiderate? This was an occasion of grand celebration. The mighty King David himself at the risk of looking like the fool boldly made merry along with the rest of Israel (v8). It would seem –on the surface- that God’s wrath against Uzzah in verse 10 is uncalled for – a classic kill-joy moment.

These are the questions I asked as I read through this passage the first time round. However as I kept reading something else came into focus – the ark itself. You see the Ark of the Covenant was God’s dwelling place – the temple of God, so to speak. For the Israelites in the wilderness, this was the means through which God ministered to and led them on for forty years (Ex. 25). The glory of God was on display here through a cloud by day and fire in the cloud by night (Ex. 40:38). The ark was placed in the ‘holy of holies’ with a curtain shielding it and separating it from the tent of meeting. The instruction given in Numbers 4 to the Kohathites (the people tasked to do the carrying of the ark) on transporting the ark is a clear one in summary – to observe reverence toward the dwelling place of God (Num. 4:15). So when God struck Uzzah down it was because Uzzah was in clear breach of God’s commandment.

In 1 Corinthians 8 Paul implores the Corinthian with knowledge (the ability to tell the lawful apart from the unlawful – Strong’s) to be mindful of those that are still green in their faith or as verse 10 puts it – weak in conscience. He tells them to not let their knowledge puff up and so become a stumbling block to those that don’t yet possess this knowledge. The point Paul is making here is that each man regardless of the strength and maturity of his faith is precious. He is valuable to God and no one has the right to hinder his walk with Him. The command here is to show reverence and consideration to any man of God regardless of the depth of his faith.

In the Old Testament God dwelt among his people through the ark. This ark was the physical embodiment of God among them. However, when the curtain is torn in Matthew 27 the dwelling place of God shifts from that of the Ark to the very hearts of men. The common denominator in both these passages is a high reverence for the dwelling place of God. As the Ark displayed the glory of God so now we living on this side of the Cross display his glory through our very lives. We are now the temple of God, the holy of holies where he dwells. In the knowledge of this truth let us take a moment on this day to look inside our own hearts to see if we are living up to this high calling.

Sam, KIC

The Resilient Heart of David

Today’s reading is taken from Psalm 59.

It’s too easy for a Christian to make his trails and afflictions all about himself. A preacher that I follow on Podcast eloquently calls this tendency ‘navel-gazing’. Here the Christian’s gaze is set upon himself, he is looking downward (obviously. the point is that all he can see is his own navel). In his affliction the Christian zooms in on his troubles, his difficulties and his helplessness and I’m not saying that there is anything diabolically wrong with that. But what the ‘navel-gazer’ forgets to do is look upward, toward Christ, the one who has allowed into his life that affliction. You see, each trial and each affliction is allowed into our lives not so that we can get better accustomed to ourselves but so that we can see God more clearly. It was in the wilderness on the way to Shur that Hagar –hitting rock bottom- looked upward and finally encountered the God of her life (Gen. 16:13).

David cries out in Psalm 59 as he is being hunted by Saul to the extent that his soldiers have come to David’s house in order to kill him. I mean he is not even safe in his own house! Imagine being in that situation. However, as I dwell on this chapter today what has really spoken to me is David’s resilience to look upward toward His God in his lowest of lows. If anyone has the right to navel-gaze it is David, right here in this chapter as he flees leaving his home and his wife behind. But he sees the bigger picture. David understands that here in the midst of this trial his God is most capable to rescue him and carry out His purposes – both in his life as well as in the lives of his enemies (judgement for his enemies in this case).

David has a staggering confidence is this dire moment to know that his God will come to his rescue. He makes it sound as if it were too easy for Him to extend His hand of deliverance (v8). In the meantime he waits (v9) his eyes fixed upward knowing full well how this is going to end. However only a few verses back (v3) he uses the word ‘fierce’ to address his enemies. So surely David the fearless man ‘after God’s own heart’ does feel the gravity of the situation. However, this immediate and real threat to David’s life doesn’t seem to rattle his trust in God at the least. Not once but four times in this chapter David refers to God as his ‘fortress’. Through his struggle he is not only looking upward but he has found a peculiar joy and comfort in this place making it possible for him to ‘sing praises’ to his God (v17).

My prayer for us this morning is that we too in our trials would be able ask for the strength –like David’s- to look upward, heavenward and see beyond our immediate discomfort. I pray that we’d find the confidence to understand the purposes of Christ behind the hurdles that come our way. David -although anointed by God to succeed Saul as King of Israel- had to go through his own wilderness before reaching his promised land.

Have a listen to this song by Sarah McMillan – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpqSbKYxd9Y

Sam J., KIC

New Birth

Today’s reading is from Proverbs 17:17-28 and 1 Peter 1:1-12

Proverbs 17 compares two types of people – the first is wise, discerning and righteous. The second type is the opposite – foolish, quarrelsome and wicked. As I read this chapter it is easy for me at first to compare myself to the first type. I’m surely not THAT wicked, or foolish for that matter? However, as I dwell on this and dig deeper I start to compare myself not to my own mental images of what wickedness or foolishness might look like, but I compare myself to the righteousness and wisdom of Christ. And here I find myself lacking.

I realize that in my fallen state any natural inclination in me will never lead to the fullness of life the Bible constantly speaks about. You’ll never catch me in my natural state of heart and mind engaging in a selfless friendship with another person or going out on a limb to help a brother out in a difficult time knowing full well that he has nothing to offer me in return. As a son of Adam I am inclined to set up on my own, to behave as if I belonged to myself.

Then, I went on to read 1 Pet 1 which sort of is the anti-dote to the wickedness and foolishness mentioned in Prov. 17, the stuff that quite naturally comes to me I guess. Christ knowing my previous state –my sonship to the spirit of the world, my refusal to surrender to Him and my resolve to live for myself- sets an example by sending His son to be the ultimate prototype of surrender and selflessness. Through His life and work I’m now adopted to be a Son of God and as He constantly injects in me his good virus, my form is being changed every day to look more like his – in linear terms you could say this change would be an upward trajectory. This is where I start to finally break free from the recklessness. This is where I find Wisdom, (Prov 17:24,28) in the knowledge of the truth of the gospel.

This was God’s desire for me all along and this is what he desires from each one of us above anything else. Every trial and every affliction, though only momentary is really Him working on us just like a father disciplines a legitimate son or daughter that he so dearly loves. Every difficult moment is him drawing us in closer to this truth. He will do anything to accomplish this in us regardless of the cost to us or to Him.

Have a listen to this song (Good Good Father) by Shane and Shane. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZMU1TvJwA0

Have an awesome day!!