Category: Word Focus

The Disciple’s Personal Blessing

The Disciple’s Personal Blessing (Psalm 119)

Do you want to be blessed by God? Is there joy in your service? Do you feel like there is something missing in your spiritual life? You are saved, but do you feel blessed? You are serving God, but do you sense the blessing of God on your service?

God blessed Adam and Eve because it was His desire to do so. Then they sinned. Although it is God’s desire to bless us, He is holy and cannot bless disobedience. Thereafter nearly every time the word blessed is used in scripture, it is directed toward those who love and obey God.

Others can also be blessed through the obedience of His own (Genesis 39:5 states the Egyptian’s house was blessed because of Joseph). Galatians 3:8-9

Yes, God can certainly bless us with material things, but the word itself deals with the spiritual – defined as hallowed, sacred, consecrated, holy, and bringing comfort or joy.

The very first psalm describes the blessed man as one whose delight is in the law of the Lord and who meditates on His law day and night.

In Matthew 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus did what this psalmist asked: He teaches the law of God to His disciples and describes how God blesses a godly character. Character does not define what you do, but who you are. These are not natural characteristics of every man. They are produced by the grace of God and are exclusive to the person who seeks after God – a person who is spiritually blessed. Read Matthew 5:3-12.

G. Campbell Morgan explains these characteristics in The Gospel According to Matthew.

  • “poor in spirit” means truly subject, willing to be governed. There is a recognition of lack, but also a recognition of something that supplies the lack. Consciousness of a great need (poor in spirit) recognizes a great provision (the kingdom of God).
  • The man “poor in spirit” mourns over his own sin, and thus will be comforted by the Holy Spirit of God.
  • The meek are “obedient to the rule of the King; meekness is the submissive spirit, the spirit of true humility.” Christ gave the perfect example (Matthew 11:29) for those who shall inherit the earth.
  • Those that hunger and thirst after righteousness have a “Divine discontent with everything unlike God” and they shall be filled.

Morgan states that “upon the basis of that growth (the first four characteristics) there follow the virtues of the Christian life. Mercifulness – indicating service; purity of heart – indicating the inward condition; peacemaking – indicating the effect produced on others. Then crowning all, there is the great Beatitude, which illuminates the process of pain, and suffering, and persecution, through which men pass into this great character.”

D. Martyn-Lloyd Jones says that “the Christian is a man, and the only man in the world, who is truly aware of his own limitations” (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount). He says that the beatitudes start and end with “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” because “you belong to a different kingdom. You are in this world; but you are not of it. You are among those other people, yes, but you are citizens of another kingdom.”

The mother of Jesus was blessed because of her obedience. He tells His disciples (Matthew 13:16), “Blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear”. He tells Thomas (John 20:29), “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin” (Romans 4:8).

What does it mean to have the blessing of God on your life? Check out Psalm 119 for some answers. “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord! Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart. They also do no iniquity; they walk in His ways” (verses 1-3).

The psalmist wants the blessing of God. In the first three verses, he speaks of “those” and “they” stating a general principle. In verse four, he changed from speaking of God as “the Lord” and “Him” and begins his prayers with, “You have commanded us to keep Your precepts diligently.” Starting with verse five until the end of the psalm, his prayer is very personal using pronouns “You”, “Your”, “I”, “me” and “my” – pledging to God the commitment of his heart.

We learn about God through His word – His Son Jesus Christ, the Living Word and His written word, the Bible. The disciple of Psalm 119 realizes the importance of God’s words expressed in His precepts, testimonies, laws, commandments, judgments and statutes.

Charles H. Spurgeon, a respected 19th century British Baptist preacher, wrote a three-volume work on the Psalms called “The Treasury of David.” In his preface to volume III, he says,

I have been all the longer over this portion of my task because I have been bewildered in the expanse of the One Hundred and Nineteenth Psalm, which makes up the bulk of this volume. Its dimensions and its depth alike overcame me….Other Psalms have been mere lakes, but this is the main ocean….This great Psalm is a book in itself; instead of being one among many Psalms, it is worthy to be set forth by itself as a poem of surpassing excellence. Those who have never studied it may pronounce it commonplace, and complain of its repetitions; but to the thoughtful student it is like the great deep, full, so as never to be measured; and varied, so as never to weary the eye…

I am captivated by every reading of Psalm 119 – discovering a new theme, another revelation of God and more depth of understanding of the heart of the man who wrote it. Although the psalmist may have been David (and Spurgeon was sure it was), many say the author cannot be known for certain. One thing we do know for sure. This man was led by God to write down the desire of his heart – to love God by learning, heeding and keeping His commandments.

The blessed disciple concentrates on the Lord and communicates with Him directly:

  • You have commanded us to keep Your precepts diligently (v. 4)
  • Blessed are You, O Lord (v. 12)
  • You shall enlarge my heart (v. 32)
  • Remember the word to Your servant, upon which You have caused me to hope (v. 49)
  • You are my portion, O Lord (v. 57)
  • You are good and do good (v. 68)
  • Your hands had made me and fashioned me (v. 73)
  • I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right (v. 75)
  • All Your commandments are faithful (v. 86)
  • Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven. Your faithfulness endures to all generations; You established the earth, and it abides (v. 89-90)
  • I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have given me life (v. 93)
  • Your commandment is exceedingly broad (v. 96)
  • You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies (v. 98)
  • Your testimonies are my meditation (v. 99)
  • I have not departed from Your judgments, for You Yourself have taught me (v. 102)
  • Your testimonies are wonderful (v. 129)
  • The unfolding of Your words gives light (v. 130)
  • Righteous are You, O Lord, and upright are Your judgments (v. 137)
  • Your word is very pure (v. 140)
  • Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your law is truth (v. 142)
  • The righteousness of Your testimonies is everlasting (v. 144)
  • You are near, O Lord, and all Your commandments are truth (v. 151)
  • Concerning Your testimonies, I have known of old that You have founded them forever (v. 152)
  • The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever (v. 160)
  • …For all Your commandments are righteousness (v. 172) (all verses taken from New Kings James Version)

There are many things revealed about God’s nature. He is blessed, good and righteous. God’s word is settled in heaven. His faithfulness endures to all generations. He established the earth and it stands. His righteousness is everlasting. His testimonies have been founded forever.

With all the revelations of how majestic God is, the psalmist knows Him as a personal God, for he says: You will enlarge my heart (32), You have caused me to hope (49); You are my portion (57); Your hands have made me and fashioned me (73), You have given me life (93), You Yourself have taught me (102) and You are near (151).

Men can look around them and see God’s creation and should recognize His creative genius and power and worship Him (Romans 1:20-21). Many don’t, though, because they do not relate to Him as a personal God. The Creator to them is distant and not accessible.

I can know many things about someone else. I can study his life and his accomplishments, but unless and until I have a personal relationship with that person, there are things about him I will never discover. For instance, the first American president I remember was Dwight D. Eisenhower, a five star Army General in WW II who served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe. He became President in 1953 and served until 1961. I respected and admired him, but I didn’t know him personally.

Although my father also served in that war, he was known by few people outside his family. However, I knew him as no one else knew him. He introduced me to Christ and loved me. When he died at age 90, I knew I was the one he wanted with him. That made all the difference. My personal relationship with my father had a larger impact on my life than knowing everything I could ever learn about President Eisenhower.

You may be sure that God is sovereign, good and righteous and that His Son died so that whoever would believe on Him would become a child of His. Many people know this about God but they don’t know God. Until you come to understand that He loves YOU personally, you will never feel blessed. In turn, you will not be able to bless others if you don’t have the assurance in your life that God is personally interested in YOU.

Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. You must settle your relationship with God before you can love and serve others. People who love themselves in the wrong way – selfishly – only think of themselves. If you obey God, you will love yourself in the right way – a healthy love. Knowing that God loves you frees you to take your attention off of yourself and onto others. Why should you love yourself? Why should I love myself?

  • God in Christ gave His life for me. – John 10:14-15, Romans 5:8
  • God loves me – John 3:16, Isaiah 43:25
  • God made me – Psalm 139:13-16; Jeremiah 1:5
  • God has a plan for my life – Jeremiah 29:11-13, Proverbs 3:5,6
  • God cares about the smallest details of my life – Luke 12:7
  • God is molding me – Philippians 1:6, 2:13 – He’s not through with me!
  • God hears me when I call – Psalms 4:3, Jeremiah 33:3
  • God personally teaches me – Psalm 32:8, John 16:13, James 1:5
  • God protects me – Psalm 91:1, Isaiah 41:10,43:1,2, Ephesians 6:10-17
  • God dwells with me – Ezekiel 37:27, John 1:14, Hebrews 13:5b
  • God trusts me to do His will – Matthew 28:18-20, John 17
  • God gives me power to do His will – Acts 1:8, II Timothy 1:7
  • God provides my needs – Matthew 6:31-34, Philippians 4:19
  • God will speak for me in time of trial – Matthew 10:19-20, Luke 21:14-15
  • God gives my life purpose – Philippians 3:13-14
  • God will provide rest – Matthew 11:28-30
  • God determines where I will live – Acts 16:6,9, Acts 17:26
  • God provides me a way of escape from temptation – I Corinthians 10:13
  • God gave me at least one spiritual gift – I Corinthians 12:7
  • God gives me an eternal heritance – Eph. 1:11, I Peter 1:4
  • My citizenship is in Heaven – Philippians 3:20

Look once more at the seven statements the psalmist makes about his personal relationship with God. Notice the personal pronouns.

You shall enlarge my heart (32)

Moffatt paraphrases this verse, “I will obey thee eagerly as thou dost open up my life.” The Maker of your heart knows how to enlarge your desire for Him.

The last stanza of “The Longer I Serve Him,” by Christian hymn writer Bill Gaither is:

The longer I serve Him, the sweeter He grows.

The more that I love Him, more love He bestows.

Each day is like Heaven, my heart overflows.

The longer I serve Him, the sweeter He grows.

You have caused me to hope (49)

We hope because of God and God does not disappoint.

The good news of salvation runs throughout this psalm. The men of faith in the Old Testament were saved by grace through faith (see Romans 4:3, 5, 16, 18-22).

God’s word in the Old Testament prophesied of God’s salvation through the coming Messiah. His word in the New Testament recorded that salvation obtained through the miraculous birth, sinless life, sacrificial death and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. As the men of old (including this psalmist) believed God would deliver what He promised, men today look back upon that accomplished fact in history. The Son of God gives all believers “the hope of glory.”

The hope the Psalmist had and the hope Abraham had is the same hope that we have. Eight times this psalmist mentions hope (43, 49, 74, 81, 114, 116, 147 and 166). “Lord, I hope for Your salvation, and I do Your commandments (v. 166).

  • “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is in the Lord” (Jeremiah 17:7).
  • “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5)
  • “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13)
  • “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling” (Ephesians 4:4)
  • “because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel” (Colossians 1:5)
  • “To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27)
  • “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope” (1 Timothy 1:1)
  • “full assurance of the hope until the end…that  to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul… (read Hebrews 6:10-20)
  • “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3)

You are my portion (57)

TEV (Today’s English Version) – “You are all I want.”

In Psalm 142:5, David said, “I cried out to You, O Lord; I said, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” Before a follower of Christ enters eternity through death, while still living on the earth (the land of the living), he is constantly in need of help from God. He needs His protection (refuge) and he needs His guidance.

At one point in our ministry, Satan’s attacks upon our family were so strong I nearly despaired. The verse God gave me during that time was Psalm 27:13, “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” He did get us through it and I did once more become aware of the goodness of God. Had He not been “my portion” during that time, Satan would have won.

If God is your portion in this life, you have all you need. God is more than enough.

In heaven, I will not need refuge. Temptation, trials and despair will be no more. However, while we are still here in the land of the living, He must be our portion. Nothing else will do.

One commentator (John Field, 1882) said that “the believer’s portion” is a “gift by covenant,” “involved in joint heirship with Christ” and “confirmed by the experience of faith,” stating that if you “meditate much upon God, under the conviction that he is your portion,” you can “draw largely upon his riches to meet every need as it arises.” – Treasury of David, page 456.

Your hands have made me and fashioned me (73) 

“Your hands have made me, cunningly fashioned and established me” (Amplified). Man was God’s special creation. From the dust of the ground God formed man (with His hands?) and breathed life into his nostrils (Genesis 2:7). He is also active in the formation of every soul who has ever lived (Psalm 139:13-16).

God made you, established a plan for your life and is molding you in the image of His Son. 

You have given me life (93)

“I will never forget Your precepts, [how can I?] for it is by them You have quickened me (given me life) (Amplified). Some translations render given me life “revived me” (NASB).

“Did not He who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same One fashion us in the womb?” (Job 31:15) God is Creator of all, but not all are His children – quickened to life by salvation through Jesus Christ, revived from death to life. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24). “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12).

Until one is born of the Spirit, he is the walking dead. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned – (Romans 5:12) …”so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:21).

When sin entered the world, the devil told Eve, “You will not surely die.” He lied. Death entered the world with that first sin. All men die once (Hebrews 9:27), but for those who do not accept Christ as Savior, there will be a second death (Revelation 20:13-15). “The last enemy that will be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26).

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). For believers, everlasting life begins at the moment of spiritual birth. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15). The Bible calls the death of a believer “sleep”. “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20).

You Yourself have taught me (102)

It is impossible to get more personal than “You Yourself.” “You” is emphatic. God is the One who opens his eyes for him to see the benefit of His ways.

In our last session, we will look at the prayer requests of this psalmist. One of them is in verse 18: “Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law.” Many times he asked the Lord to teach him. In this verse near the end of the psalm, we see the answer to his prayer. 

You are near (151) 

At the beginning of this session, we noted that many people think God is distant and unapproachable. This disciple knows differently. God is near – as close as his thoughts, his heart and his breath.

When my father was dying, I knew he wanted me to be near him. I didn’t have to say much. In fact, he couldn’t talk to me. He was on a breathing machine. The doctors told me that before I got there, he had been struggling. He had pulled out all the tubes and tried to get out of bed. He tried to fight the doctors. When he saw me, everything changed. He stopped struggling. He relaxed. His daughter that he loved was near him. That was all that mattered.

I know the value of feeling my Father’s presence. I talk a lot to God, but not always. I just feel Him near me. I know if He needs to say something to me or I need to say something to him we can talk. All I really need to know is that He is near.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

When you communicate the gospel to others, it is important that you let them know God is personally calling them. His Spirit will draw them to Himself. You can be the one who introduces them to Jesus, but it is Jesus Himself who will love them like no one else can. Just as I have a personal relationship with each of my sons, God has a personal relationship with each of His children.

You cannot share what you do not have. There are many things I would like to share with you, but if I do not possess them myself, I cannot give them to you. Likewise, others can tell if you have a genuine relationship with God and feel His blessing. That relationship is the best testimony you have.

When you are sure of the love of God in your life, you can share it with others. God will use you as a mouthpiece and an example – just like He used this psalmist.

Personal Reflection

Can you now say that you feel blessed by God in your life…your ministry…your relationship with Him?

How has God blessed you personally? Do you feel His hand on your life? Is He guiding you?

Which of the personal reflections of the psalmist spoke to you the most and why?

  1. You shall enlarge my heart
  2. You have caused me to hope
  3. You are my portion
  4. Your hands have made me and fashioned me
  5. You have given me life
  6. Yourself have taught me
  7. You are near

How does knowing that God loves YOU help you share the gospel with those who need to hear it? What can you tell others about His love?

© Stephanie B. Blake

Download The Disciple’s Personal Blessing

 

The Disciple’s Path

The Disciple’s Path (Psalm 119)

Assured of a personal relationship with God, the psalmist also recognizes the sovereignty of God over his life. He knows God blesses obedience and that his own heart will guide his behavior. Whatever God has planned for him, he knows it is good and right.

The psalmist has an intimate, personal relationship with God, but he knows his place. He does use the personal pronouns “I,” “me” and “my” when talking to God, but twelve times he calls himself “Your servant” (verses 17, 23, 38, 49, 65, 76, 84, 122, 124, 125, 135, 140).  He is God’s possession: “I am Yours, save me; for I have sought Your precepts” (verse 94). “You are bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20).

The psalmist declares the sovereignty of God over heaven, the earth and all peoples. “Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven. Your faithfulness endures to all generations; You established the earth, and it abides. They continue this day according to Your ordinances, for all are Your servants” (verses 89-91). Everything belongs to God.

The pronoun “Your” is used over 200 times in this psalm, always of God: Your righteous judgments, Your statutes, Your word, Your commandments, Your testimonies, Your precepts, Your way(s), Your law, Your ordinances, Your salvation, Your favor, Your mercies, Your mouth, Your hand, Your custom, Your name, Your face, Your lovingkindness, Your justice and Your servant(s).

Knowing God’s way is the way of truth (verse 30), the psalmist states that God has revealed Himself through His words, statutes, commandments (law), precepts and testimonies. Determined to live according to God’s plan for his life, he pays attention to what He says.

The same should be true for us. We cannot separate the love of holy God and His commandments. As sinful men, we come short of completely obeying God’s law. Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life, fulfilled God’s law for us, paid the price for our sin on His cross, and offered us eternal life as His love gift. There is no way to repay the Giver of our blessings, but we can please Him. What He asks from us is our heart.

To Walk in His Ways 

We please God by loving, trusting and obeying Him. Then He freely blesses us.

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good? (Deuteronomy 10:12-13).

He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…”  (Mark 12:30).

Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, has one dominant theme. It is expressed in the first three verses: Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord! Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart! They also do no iniquity; they walk in His ways. The remaining verses of the psalm are a prayer of the psalmist. He has described the blessed man in verse 1 through 3. In verses 4 through 176, he addresses God.

We each choose whether or not we will follow God and how we will do it. In Psalm 119, we see that the blessed man makes a lifelong choice, delights in the path God provides for him, walks with a wholehearted purpose, stays on the path, watches for obstacles, looks for treasure along the way and invites others to walk with him.

1.    Make a lifelong choice

Richard and I often take walks whenever we can. In our hometown in Texas, there is a walking path we often use, but it is there whether we use it or not. We choose to use it on occasion, but there are days when we do not use it. We can choose to walk on it or not.

The law of the Lord is like that. It is true and righteous whether or not you choose to obey it, but when you do obey it, you are blessed. The blessed man chooses to walk on the path God has set for him – in the law of the Lord (verse 1). “I have chosen the way of truth; Your judgments I had laid before me” (verse 30).

When you accept Christ as Savior, you become a child of God and cannot lose your salvation. However, you can be a disobedient child. On your daily walk with Him, you must continually choose to follow Him. Satan is lying in wait to make your life miserable and cause you to have a bad testimony.

This psalmist recognizes his life is comprised of a timetable. What he has done in his past has influenced his present and what he does today will influence tomorrow. Blessed is the man who can look in his past and know that he has been mostly obedient. Like this psalmist, though, we “have gone astray like a lost sheep” (verse 176) and need the Lord to seek us out for salvation.

There are over twenty verses that deal with his past; over sixty that deal with his present and over twenty that deal with his future.

His past:

The psalmist has a history with the Lord. He has kept record of His trustworthiness – just as we might keep a journal. One entry was this: “Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction” (verse 92).

His present:

Yesterday is gone and tomorrow is unsure. Today is the day we are given to live for the Lord. “Your testimonies are my delight and my counselors” (verse 24).

His future:

We can make a predetermined choice about serving God. That’s what Joshua did when he said, “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). The psalmist has done the same. He knows, like Joshua did, that our truest liberty is in the choices we make. We have the liberty to serve God. Even in the harshest circumstances – such as prison, concentration camps and the like – we can still choose. Our focus in our thoughts can be on God and His will in our lives or we can feel sorry for ourselves and become unproductive.

No one can take that liberty from us. “And I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts (verse 45). Liberty is found in Jesus Christ: “If the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

Upon receiving Christ as Savior, believers should pledge to follow Him as Lord. That decision, made in the past, must be lived out in the present and settled for the future. Some who profess to be Christians say they believe in Christ, are going to heaven when they die, but desire to live without God’s influence in their lives in the meantime. Although only God can judge the sincerity of a believer, those who live that way are not blessed nor can they effectively lead others to Christ.

2.    Delight in the Path

“And I will delight myself in Your commandments, which I love” (verse 47).

The psalmist loves the Giver and the gift. Ten times the psalmist says he loves God’s word. Jesus said, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21). If you love Jesus, the Living Word, you will love His words – law, etc. “Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble” (verse 165).

3.    Walk with a wholehearted purpose

He is intentional about the path he is taking for the Lord. He knows that if his mind is not filled with the word of God that his heart can go astray. What we treasure in our hearts guides our thoughts and our actions. Like the psalmist, let your heart lead you through the journey of life.  “With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments. Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (verse 10-11).

God made us with a yearning to find a purpose in life. As we seek that purpose, we need to be focused. We can get caught up in the minutiae of living and neglect to accomplish God’s will. We cannot be divided. “Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart” (verse 2).

I will praise You with uprightness of heart, when I learn your righteous judgments (Psalm 119:7). Holy God desires our praise – for His love, for His grace expressed through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ and for His righteousness.

With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments (Psalm 119:10). Even with a commitment to seek and to serve God, the psalmist knows there will always be a temptation to focus on something other than God and His will.

Your word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You (Psalm 119:11). Perhaps the most well known verse in this psalm, the secret to staying in God’s will is to stay close to Him (or as Jesus put it “abide in Him”), to listen to Him, to know His word intimately.

I will run the course of Your commandments, for You shall enlarge my heart (Psalm 119:32). The longer a believer serves and obeys God, the larger the capacity for loving Him becomes.

Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart (Psalm 119:34). This is not a plea for understanding as the world defines it, but as God does. As Solomon put it in Proverbs 9:10: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to covetousness (Psalm 119:36). Sinful human nature can lead one to covet the things of the world. The psalmist wants to love what is lasting – the things of God.

I entreated Your favor with my whole heart; be merciful to me according to Your word (Psalm 119:58). We do not deserve God’s favor, but He promises it to those who truly love Him.

The proud have forged a lie against me, but I will keep Your precepts with my whole heart (Psalm 119:69). C. H. Spurgeon said: “We must first get a thing before we can keep it. In order to keep it well we must get a firm grip of it: we cannot keep in the heart that which we have not heartily embraced by the affections.” When our affections are set on God, the darts of the wicked fall short of their goal.

Let my heart be blameless regarding Your statutes, that I may not be ashamed (Psalm 119:80). Sin originates in the heart. The psalmist did not want to look back on his life and regret falling short of God’s best for Him. He mentions his desire to be unashamed several times in this psalm (6, 31, 46, 80, 116).  Each of us should have the same goal. If, as a young person, we were determined to never shame the name of Christ, what a difference that would make. – How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word (v.9).

Your testimonies I have taken as a heritage forever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart (Psalm 119:111). God’s involvement in our lives is cause for rejoicing. “I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, as much as in all riches” (v. 14). Our eternal heritage is life forever with God in the place He has prepared for us. No matter the trials here on earth, we can with confidence look forward to that inheritance.

I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes forever, to the very end (Psalm 119:112). In verse 64 of this psalm, the author says, Lord, the earth is filled with your faithful love; teach me Your statutes (HCSB). God has no obligation to anyone except Himself, but even so, He shows His love to us by His faithfulness to His promises. We owe God everything and are obligated to show Him our love by trusting and obeying Him – to the very end.

I cry out with my whole heart; hear me, O Lord! I will keep Your statutes (Psalm 119:145). The psalmist’s decision has been made. He will remain faithful to the God who was faithful to him.

Princes persecute me without a cause, but my heart stands in awe of Your word. I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure (Psalm 119:161-162). The inevitable persecution that Christians encounter cannot be compared to the awesome treasure of knowing God.

To those true disciples who were true believers Jesus said, “Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love Him and manifest Myself to him….If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love (John 14:19-21, 15:10).

Looking forward by faith to the Messiah’s fulfillment of the law and the offer of grace through His sacrifice, the psalmist knew that his love for God would be evident as he kept His commandments.

4.    Stay on the Path

Yes, you’ve made your choice. You’ve determined to love God and obey Him.

You must continue to choose. Stay on the path. The psalmist determines not to wander (verse 10). He does not turn aside (verse 51) nor did he forsake God’s precepts (verse 87).

When I walk on the path in my hometown, I have noticed poison ivy on the side. If I stay on the path, I’m OK. If I get off the path, I can get in trouble.

Jesus has done the hard work for you. He has already set an example of what it is like to walk in God’s ways and do His will.

This psalmist is determined to follow the path of obedience.

“{Blessed are those who] walk in HIs ways (verse 3)

“Oh, that my ways were directed to keep Your statutes! (verse 5)

“With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments” (verse 10)

“I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, as much as in all riches” (verse 14)

“I have chosen the way of truth; Your judgments I have laid before me” (verse 30)

“I will run the course of Your commandments, for You shall enlarge my heart” (verse 32)

He asks the Lord to “make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it” (verse 35)

“And I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts” (verse 45)

“I thought about my ways, and turned my feet to Your testimonies” (verse 59)

“Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path” (verse 105)

He asks the Lord to “direct my steps by Your word, and let no iniquity have dominion over me” (verse 133)

5.    Watch for Obstacles

When I walk through the woods or my footpath in Texas, there are many times when I have to deal with obstacles in the path. Maybe there was a storm that caused a large branch or tree to fall into the pathway. Maybe there was so much rain the path was not safe. Sometimes there are animals in the path. Obstacles and trials are inevitable.

The psalmist was determined not to wander, but had to deal with obstacles nonetheless. Satan will always try to get us to stray. We need to work our way through keeping our eyes on Jesus.

“You rebuke the proud-the cursed, who stray from Your commandments” (verse 21)

“Princes also sit and speak against me, but Your servant meditates on Your statutes (verse 23)

“So shall I have an answer for him who reproaches me, for I trust in Your word (verse 42)

“The proud have me in great derision, yet I do not turn aside from Your law (verse 51)

“The cords of the wicked have bound me, but I have not forgotten Your law” (verse 61)

“The proud have forged a lie against me, but I will keep Your precepts with my whole heart (verse 69)

“Let the proud be ashamed, for they treated me wrongfully with falsehood; but I will meditate on Your precepts (verse 78)

“The proud have dug pits for me, which is not according to Your law. All Your commandments are faithful; they persecute me wrongfully; help me! They almost made an end of me on earth, but I did not forsake Your precepts (verses 85-87 see also 81-84)

“The wicked wait for me to destroy me, but I will consider Your testimonies (verse 95)

“The wicked have laid a snare for me, yet I have not strayed from Your precepts (verse 110)

“I hate the double-minded, but I love Your law” (verse 113)

“You reject all those who stray from Your statutes, for their deceit is falsehood. You put away all the wicked of the earth like dross; therefore I love Your testimonies. My flesh trembles for fear of You, and I am afraid of Your judgments” (verses 118-120)

“Redeem me from the oppression of man, that I may keep Your precepts” (verse 134)

“Rivers of water run down my eyes, because men do not keep Your law” (verse 136)

“My zeal has consumed me, because my enemies have forgotten Your words” (verse 139)

“Trouble and anguish have overtaken me, yet Your commandments are my delights (verse 143)

“They draw near who follow after wickedness; they are far from Your law” (verse 150)

“Consider my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget Your law. Plead my cause and redeem me; revive me according to Your word. Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek Your statutes” (verses 153-155)

“Many are my persecutors and my enemies, yet I do not turn from Your testimonies. I see the treacherous and am disgusted, because they do not keep Your word (verses 157, 158)

“Princes persecute me without a cause, but my heart stands in awe of Your word (verse 161)

Some of the obstacles are of our own making.

“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word” (verse 67)

“It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes (verse 71)

“I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me (verse 75)

“Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction (verse 92)

6.    Look for Treasure

As I take walks, I look down as I am walking and have on occasion found some treasures (money someone has dropped, a beautiful flower, pecans, etc). I would not notice these things if I wasn’t looking.

I get great joy when I study God’s word and find treasures I have never seen before. I would not find them if I was not looking. “I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure” (verse 162).

God’s words serve as a map for the path He wants you to take. The psalmist does not separate the law of the Lord from the Lord Himself. If you love God’s law, you love God. Jesus made this clear as well. The God who loves you wants to bless you, but you must choose to evidence your love for him through your obedience.

Distinguish between the treasures of God and the treasures of the world. “The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of coins of gold and silver (verse 72)

Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your heart is, there your treasure will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

We store our treasures in our hearts. “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things” (Matthew 12:35).

7.    Invite Others to Walk with You

This psalmist has a personal relationship with God, seeks His will with his whole heart, but knows that God’s purpose for his life includes bringing others to that understanding.

He knows he is part of a larger family of God and that others are brought into the family just as he was – by discovering God’s love.

As he benefits from the richness of God’s love, he also wants others to know Him as well. “Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble” (verse 165).

“You have commanded us to keep Your precepts diligently” (verse 4).

“With my lips I have declared all the judgments of Your mouth”  (verse 13).

“I will speak of Your testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed” (verse 46).

“I am a companion of all who fear You, and of those who keep Your precepts” (verse 63).

“Those who fear You will be glad when they see me, because I have hoped in Your word (verse 74).

“Let those who fear You turn to me, those who know Your testimonies (verse 79).

“My lips shall utter praise, for You teach me Your statutes. My tongue shall speak of Your word, for all Your commandments are righteousness” (verses 171-172).

Personal Reflection

Did any of the descriptions of the blessed man speak to you personally? If so, which one impacted you the most:

  1. Make a lifelong choice
  2. Delight in the path God has provided
  3. Walk with a wholehearted purpose
  4. Stay on the path
  5. Watch for obstacles
  6. Look for treasure
  7. Invite others to walk with you

© Stephanie B. Blake

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The Disciple’s Prayers

The Disciple’s Prayers (Psalm 119)

Throughout his prayer in verses 5 through 176, the psalmist comes to God without reservation. He holds nothing back. He realizes God knows him completely but that it is his responsibility to acknowledge His hand in his life.

In the personal relationship he has with God, he recognizes God’s sovereignty, knows his place, uses His words as a guide, asks God to teach him, pleads for His mercy, recognizes the need for revival, seeks understanding, wants to be free from sin, desires God’s comfort and constant presence. As we look at these elements of prayer, we can identify with them. The heart’s desire of the psalmist is captured in verse 133: “Direct my steps by Your word, and let no iniquity have dominion over me.” May our desire be the same.

I Recognize Your Sovereignty

“You established the earth, and it abides” (verse 90). 

Over 200 times the psalmist asserts God’s ownership by using the word “Your” – Your precepts, statutes, commandments, righteous judgments, words, mouth, testimonies, ways, servant, law, wonderful works, mercies, salvation, ordinances, name, favor, merciful kindness, faithfulness, custom, face, lovingkindness, justice, hand. It bears repeating that God is sovereign, in charge and in control. We need Him.

I Know My Place

“Establish Your word to Your servant, who is devoted to fearing You” (verse 38).

  • With my whole heart I have sought You (verse 10).
  • I am a stranger in the earth (verse 19) “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul” (1 Peter 2: 11-12).
  • My soul clings to the dust (verse 25).
  • I have declared my ways, and You answered me (verse 26).
  • My soul melts from heaviness (verse 28).
  • I long for Your precepts (verse 40).
  • I have hoped in Your ordinances (verse 43).
  • I believe Your commandments (verse 66).
  • Your hands have made me and fashioned me (verse 73).
  • Your law is my delight (verse 77).
  • I am Yours (verse 94).
  • I am Your servant (verse 125).
  • I cry out with my whole heart (verse 145).
  • I cry out to You (verse 146).
  • I do not forget Your law (verse 153).
  • Consider how I love Your precepts (verse 159).
  • I have chosen Your precepts (verse 173).
  • I have gone astray like a lost sheep — for I do not forget Your commandments (verse 176).

Your Words Are My Guide

“Remember the word to Your servant, upon which You have caused me to hope” (verse 49).

The psalmist declares God’s sovereignty (“Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven” -verse 89), knows his rightful place and recognizes the trustworthiness of God’s word (“The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever” – verse 160).

Therefore, he has decided to use God’s words as his guide.

He will:

  • heed God’s word (verse 9)
  • hide God’s word in his heart (verse 11)
  • rejoice in HIs testimonies (verses 14, 111)
  • meditate on God’s precepts, wonderful works and His ways (verses 15, 27, 48, 99, 148)
  • delight himself in God’s statutes and testimonies (verse 16, 24)
  • not forget God’s word (verses 16, 93, 109, 141, 153, 176)
  • keep God’s word (verses 17, 33, 34, 44, 57, 63, 67, 69, 88, 100, 106, 115, 129, 134, 145, 146, 167, 168)
  • be strengthened by God’s word (verse 28)
  • chosen the way of truth, laying God’s judgments before him (verse 30)
  • delight in His commandments (verse 35)
  • long for His precepts (verse 40)
  • be saved according to God’s word (verse 41)
  • trust in God’s word (verse 42)
  • hope in God’s ordinances and His word (verses 43, 74, 81, 114, 147)
  • seek God’s precepts (verse 45)
  • obtain life through God’s word (verse 50)
  • believe His commandments (verse 66)
  • hope in God’s word (verses 74, 81, 114, 147)
  • search God’s word (verse 82)
  • consider God’s testimonies (verse 95)
  • restrain his feet from evil in order to keep God’s word (verse 101)
  • make God’s words a lamp to his feet and a light to his path (verses 105, 130)
  • love God’s word (verses 113, 140, 119, 159, 163)
  • observe God’s statutes (verse 117)
  • long for God’s commandments (verse 131)
  • stay awake to meditate on God’s word (verse 148)
  • stand in awe of God’s word (verse 161)
  • rejoice in God’s word as one who finds great treasure (verse 162)
  • speak of God’s word (verse 172)

His determination to listen to and follow God was answered with God’s blessing on his life. “You have dealt well with Your servant, O Lord, according to Your word” (verse 65).

Teach Me 

“Accept, I pray, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O Lord, and teach me Your judgments” (verse 108).

Nine times he asked the Lord to “teach me…Your statutes, judgments, good judgment and knowledge” (verses 12, 26, 33, 64, 66, 68, 108, 124, 135).

He acknowledged God’s answer to that prayer in verses 71, 102 and 171:

  • “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.”
  • “I have not departed from Your judgments for You Yourself have taught me.”
  • “My lips shall utter praise, for You teach me Your statutes.”

Be Merciful to Me 

“Let Your tender mercies come to me, that I may live; for Your law is my delight (verse 77).

Six times he appealed to the mercy and lovingkindness of the Lord (verses 41, 76, 77, 88, 124,132, 149).

God is sovereign and in control, but the psalmist knows Him as loving and merciful. He is Almighty God, but He relates personally to us through His Son Jesus Christ. “Great are Your tender mercies, O Lord; revive me according to Your judgments” (verse 156).

Revive Me 

“Revive me according to Your lovingkindness, so that I may keep the testimony of Your mouth” (verse 88).

Nine times he asked the Lord to “revive me” (verses 25, 37, 40, 88, 107, 149, 154, 156, 159). Like this psalmist, we are in constant need of revival. That request is answered in a daily walk with the Lord.

Give Me Understanding

“Your hands have made me and fashioned me; give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments” (verse 73).

Six times he asked the Lord to “give me understanding” or “make me understand” (verses 27, 34, 73, 125, 144, 169).

God granted his request:

  • “I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation (verse 99).
  • “I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Your precepts” (verse 100).
  • “Through Your precepts I get understanding, therefore I hate every false way” (verse 104).
  • “The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (verse 130).

The psalmist recognizes that understanding is a continual process. He asked before and after he says he has understanding.

Keep Me from Sinning

“I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Your servant, for I do not forget Your commandments” (verse 176).

Five times he recognizes sin in his life (verses 10, 29, 37, 67, 176). In the very last statement this psalmist makes in this particular psalm, he recognizes the constant temptation to go astray. He appeals to God to seek him out because he belongs to Him.

God gives a believer the ability to withstand temptation. “Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble” (verse 165). Paul says in 1 Corinthian 10:13 that God will always provide a way out. This psalmist knows the way out and peace are obtained by obeying God.

Comfort Me 

“Let, I Pray, Your merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to Your word to Your servant” (verse 76).

The psalmist needed and wanted comfort in his relationship with God (50,52 and 76, 82).  He needed comfort in his affliction and he found it in God’s word. He was afflicted, but recognized God’s hand in permitting it (verses 67, 71, 75, 92, 107, 153).

Jesus promised and sent His Spirit to guide and comfort His followers. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26). “But the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will cause you to recall (will remind you of, bring to your remembrance) everything I have told you (The Amplified).

Be With Me, Lord, At All Times

Interspersed throughout this prayer are the psalmist’s constant awareness of his need for God.

Deal bountifully with Your servant (17), strengthen me according to Your word (28), make me walk in the path of Your commandments (35), Incline my heart to Your testimonies (36), establish Your word to Your servant (38, let my heart be blameless regarding Your statutes (80), accept, I pray the freewill offerings of my mouth (108), hold me up (117), be surety for Your servant for good (122), redeem me from the oppression of man (134), Make Your face shine upon Your servant (135), Let my cry come before You, O Lord (156), Let my supplication come before You (170), let Your hand become my help (173) let my soul live (175), seek Your servant (176).

God is faithful and true. The psalmist has confidence to ask the Lord to deal with him “according to Your word” eleven times (verses 25, 28, 41, 58, 76, 88, 107, 116, 154, 169, 170), according to Your mercy (verse 124), according to Your lovingkindness  (verse 149, 159) according to Your justice (verse 149), according to Your judgments (verse 156).

“Look upon me and be merciful to me as Your custom is toward those who love Your name”(verse 132).

A child might ask something of his father and remind him, “Dad, you promised!” That is how intimate a child of God’s relationship is with the Father. God delights in blessing His children and He is merciful to those who love Him.

Personal Reflection

What have you learned from Psalm 119 and the relationship that the psalmist had with his God?

Were you encouraged to pray for guidance or for God to teach you more about Him?

Do you feel the need for His mercy? Have you been discouraged? Do you need a revival in your spirit?

Has God revealed things to you that the world cannot understand? Do you long for more understanding of His word and His will in your life?

Do you feel the need to continually ask Him to keep you from sinning? Have you felt the comfort of His Holy Spirit?

Do you feel the blessing of God on your life and your ministry?

© Stephanie B. Blake

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The Christmas Book

 

This 33 page PDF ebook is my gift to my friends.

It is compiled from Bible studies, devotionals and blog entries from http://www.onefocusministries.com.

A little history:

A Gift for Jesus is a poem written when my children were toddlers. I printed them in red, rolled them and tied a ribbon around them as gifts for friends and family.

The Scripture Tree is a Christmas project for a church group or the whole family. It was written during my husband’s first pastorate. My ladies’ Bible study group put it together at church and my sons and I put one together at home.

The Child Who Chose to be Born is a Bible study developed while my husband was ministering at an international church. I have very fond memories of the ladies in that church who were eager to study the Bible.

Butterflies and Roses in December remind me that what is uncommon for me during the Christmas season may be ordinary for others. My friends down under don’t experience snow during Christmas time, but butterflies and roses are plentiful. In the northern hemisphere Christmas comes during winter; they celebrate during summer.

My husband and I minister internationally and share a love for Christ with many friends around the globe – though we may experience Christmas in a different season or in a different way.

God’s love transcends miles and cultural and language barriers. We are all part of His magnificent world that He came to save.

 May God richly bless each of you as you celebrate His birth this year!

 Merry Christmas!

© Stephanie B. Blake

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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

The Heart Prayer that Pleases God

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).

How can you know that you are pleasing God when you pray?  Do you struggle with believing that He will answer your prayers or are you afraid that His answer might be different from your desires?

When God told Solomon to ask for anything, he asked for wisdom and the scripture said that it was pleasing in the sight of the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing (1 Kings 3:10 NAS). James said that if you lack wisdom, ask God, but only ask in faith believing that you will receive the guidance you ask for (James 1:5-8 emphasis mine).

When a disciple asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, He gave them a sample prayer much like the one He gave in His Sermon on the Mount (Luke 11:1-4 and Matthew 6:9-13).  In the Luke passage, He goes on to emphasize that persistent prayer is pleasing to God (Luke 11:5-13). Don’t give up.  Continue to pray until you get an answer.

Hebrews 11:6 gives us the basis for all prayer that is pleasing to God.  Faith pleases God.  Both of the examples above were pleasing to God because they were prayers based in faith.  Solomon acknowledged his total dependence upon God for guidance to lead His people.  Jesus emphasized that all that we have, including provision and proper relationship to others, is given to us by our Father in Heaven. The Message paraphrases Hebrews 11:6 this way, It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why?  Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.

How can you be sure that you are praying a prayer that pleases God – a prayer of faith? Do you really believe that God cares enough about you to respond to your prayer? Are you willing to adjust your desires to God’s will, acknowledging that He knows best, has a plan for your life, and will bring about those answers to your prayers that will bring glory to Him and fruit for you? Complete trust in God accepts His answer even when it was not the answer you desired.  The apostle Paul prayed three times for God to remove a thorn in the flesh, but accepted His answer, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Do you trust Him enough to accept whatever answer He has to give – knowing that He knows all about your circumstance and will do what is best?

The answer lies in what you truly believe about God (Hebrews 11:6).  Can you trust Him?  What has your experience revealed to you when you have trusted Him?  Has He ever let you down?  If you think He has, examine your heart.  Were you relying on His power and strength or yours or maybe even someone else?

It is your heart that God observes. See 1 Samuel 16:7, Psalm 44:21, Psalm 51:10, Psalm 51:17, Proverbs 4:23, Proverbs 17:22, Jeremiah 17:10, Matthew 5:8, Matthew 6:21, Mark 12:30, John 14:1, Romans 8:27, Romans 10:10,Ephesians 3:17,Philippians 4:7, Hebrews 4:12, Hebrews 10:22. Read through these passages. Note that according to God, your heart is the core of your being.  You can say one thing, but believe another.  You can believe something in your head, but not experience that belief in your heart.  James 2:19 states that you believe there is one God. You do well.  Even the demons believe – and tremble.

Although most translations render Psalm 19:14 as Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, I believe that what the NLT adds is appropriate: May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer (emphasis mine). He is delighted when we want to please Him. A heart prayer of faith pleases God.

Reflect on the scriptures below. In your own heart, do you truly believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6)?

  • For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His (2 Chronicles 16:9 NAS).

Examine this passage about Asa king of Judah.  Notice that when Asa relied on the Lord, God delivered him from the Ethiopians (2 Chronicles 14:9-15), but subsequently, Asa relied on man (king of Syria, 2 Chronicles 16:7-10) and not God.  What does this passage tell you about trusting God sometimes and not others?  Are there times you trust God and then others when you wonder if you can really trust Him? What makes the difference for you? What does God mean by those whose heart is completely His?

Compare the beginning of Asa’s life with the end (2 Chronicles 14-16).  What a sad picture was this life that started out in faith but did not continue to trust God.  Although Asa began with reliance on God, his heart was not completely His. A pleasing faith in God is a faith that does not waver in trust in God’s provision, goodness, and sovereignty.

  • The heart of Psalm 119 is acknowledgment that God’s ways and His commandments are for our good.  Yes, we are under grace, but the boundaries that God set in His commandments were created for our benefit. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15).

I cry out with my whole heart; Hear me, O Lord. I will keep your statutes (Psalm 119:145).

Examine the prayers of the psalmist and promises in Psalm 119 made by God to those who trust Him with their whole heart. A few of them are listed below.  God’s guidance is highlighted in yellow and man’s obedience (faith and trust) is highlighted in blue.  Obedience to God is evidence of trust in Him (James 2:14-26). On your own, finish the exercise. Practically every verse in this psalm contains a prayer for guidance or a promise from God.

Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord! (v.1)

Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart (v.2).

They also do no iniquity; they walk in His ways (v.3).

Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You (v.11).

I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways (v. 15).

Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law (v. 18).

My soul melts from heaviness; strengthen me according to Your word (v. 28).

I have chosen the way of truth; Your judgments I have laid before me (v. 30).

I will run the course of Your commandments, for You shall enlarge my heart (v. 32).

Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, and I shall keep it to the end (v. 33).

Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart (v. 34).

Establish Your word to Your servant, who is devoted to fearing You (v. 38).

And I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts (v.45).

This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life (v.50).

I entreated Your favor with my whole heart; be merciful to me according to Your word (v. 58).

It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes (v. 71).

The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of coins of gold and silver (v. 72).

Your hands have made me and fashioned me; give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments (v. 73).

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (v. 105).

Consider how I love Your precepts; revive me, O Lord, according to Your lovingkindness (v. 159).

Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble (v.165).

My tongue shall speak of Your word, for all Your commandments are righteousness (v. 172).

I long for Your salvation, O Lord, and Your law is my delight (v. 174).

Are your prayers pleasing to God? Is your heart totally devoted to Him? If not, ask Him today to help you make Psalm 119:111 a reality in your life: Your testimonies I have taken as a heritage forever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart (Psalm 119:111).

© Stephanie B. Blake

All Scripture quotations (unless noted otherwise) are from the New King James Version.

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The Law of Liberty

But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does. . . . So speak and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty (James 1:25, 2:12 emphasis mine).

Webster states that law “implies imposition by a sovereign authority and the obligation of obedience on the part of all subject to that authority.”  On the other hand, liberty is seen as “the quality or state of being free:

  • The power to do as one pleases
  • Freedom from physical restraint
  • Freedom from arbitrary or despotic control
  • The positive enjoyment of various social, political or economic rights and privileges
  • The power of choice”

Although law and liberty appear to be contradictory terms, the Bible refers to “the law of liberty,” a reality that is possible because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Observe a young child of two or three.  Some of the first words that many children learn are “mine” or “no.” Children test their boundaries, wishing to be free from restraint.  However, if they are taught by godly parents, they eventually learn that freedom is actually the ability to make right choices in life.

Using freedom to chose to act in selfish ways does not result in a happy life.  There are adults who can testify that because there were no restrictions or guidelines given to them by their parents, they chose a life of crime. Other adults credit their godly upbringing with their success in society. The law of liberty referred to in Scripture leads a person to choose to act in love, just as Jesus did.

Freedom is certainly a topic of cultures and nations.  America is known as a “free nation.”  Nations with dictators are known for oppressive rule, where people are not allowed choices or have very limited choices as to lifestyle, education, employment, religion, etc. Presented with the ability to choose freedom or dictatorship, most people would choose freedom.  Even in countries where the political climate is burdensome and unjust, Christians understand the “law of liberty.”  They choose to follow God through extremely difficult circumstances. Although oppressed, they know they have freedom in Christ.

Many believers, such as Corrie ten Boom (The Hiding Place) and Dietrich Bonhoeffer (The Cost of Discipleship), have given testimony to their joy and freedom in Christ while undergoing horrendous trial.  In his poem The Friend from Letters and Papers from Prison, Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes:

When the spirit touches mans heart and brow with thoughts that are lofty, bold, serene, so that with clear eyes he will face the world as a free man may. . . . then would that man, lonely and actively working, know of the spirit that grasps and befriends him, like waters clear and refreshing where the spirit is cleansed from the dust and cooled from the heat that oppressed him, steeling himself in the hour of fatigue – like a fortress to which, from confusion and danger, the spirit returns, wherein he finds refuge and comfort and strengthening, is a friend to a friend.

God tells us that choice is ours.  When you choose Christ, you choose freedom.  It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1).  “A yoke of slavery” implies bondage, and an “obligation to keep the whole Law” (Galatians 5:3). The law of liberty involves choice: the power to choose to be in submission to Christ, His teachings and His example. He left the freedom of Heaven voluntarily for our sakes.  Along with the apostle Paul, we can choose to follow His ways:

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly (Galatians 2:20-21).

For further study and reflection, examine the following passages. You will need to do background study in order to answer the questions.

John 8:32

  • Who spoke these words?
  • What was the context – the background of this passage?
  • How does one “know the truth?”
  • How does knowing the truth set you free?

Romans 8:2

  • Who wrote these words?
  • What was his background?
  • What group of people was he addressing?
  • Describe the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” and “the law of sin and of death.”
  • What is the difference between the two?

Galatians 2:4-10

  • What role did misunderstanding and jealousy play in the attack described in verse 4?
  • How did the apostle respond to the “false brethren” described in verse 4?

Galatians 6:2

  • How does this verse relate to the “law of liberty?”

2 Corinthians 3:17

  • Read this entire chapter. How does verse 17 describe the “new covenant?”

© Stephanie B. Blake

Biblical references are from the New American Standard Bible.

Download The Law of Liberty

 

The Master Communicator

How do teachers get their message across to their students? If they are really concerned that their students learn something from their teaching, how is it best done?  Some use humor, some interject stories, some lecture and some interact with the students through questions.  Many do a combination of all of these.

Jesus was the master communicator, using every good form of teaching style. His favorite was story telling – those remarkable illustrations of life He called parables. Since this world is His creation, it was easy for Him to make the spiritual applications. His parables were also intended to have special meaning for His followers (His true students) while sometimes confusing the ones who refused to believe (see Mark 4:11-12). But without a parable He did not speak to them. And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples (Mark 4:34). Those that wanted to hear what Jesus had to say (Mark 4:9) bonded more closely to Him through His lessons as He talked about things they observed every day.

Many preachers try to follow His example with the traditional “two stories and a poem” in their sermons.  Often the stories are what the congregants remember.  The preacher hopes they will also apply the spiritual principle.  Jesus taught us that a good story is memorable and can bring the teaching point back to mind again and again.

Students are more engaged in the learning process when they personalize the lesson: how does this apply to me? Often this identification results from a teacher’s questions. Even when the context cannot result in a verbal response to the question (the class is too large, the teaching is done through print, etc.) questions can put personal emphasis on the subject.  Why do I need to study this? Will knowing more about this subject improve my life?

Making a personal application comes through proper use of questions. Jesus’ use of questions often set the stage for His teaching although He interspersed them among His discourses as well.  Examine the selected teaching venues from the gospel of John and see how His questions were designed to draw the hearer closer to understanding His teaching.

–        What do you seek? (1:38). Jesus’ first question recorded in John’s gospel was directed to two disciples who were following Him.  Why do you think He phrased His question just so? What did He not say, “Whom do you seek?” What do you want out of life – what do you seek?

–       Because I said to you, “I saw you under the fig tree,” do you believe? (1:50). Read His encounter with Nathanael (1:45-51).  Nathanael had a change of mind from verse 46 to verse 49.  What caused his change of mind? Did you ever have an erroneous idea about Jesus? What changed your mind?

–       Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? (3:10). Nicodemus was a ruler of the Jews.  Why do you think he was having a hard time understanding the spiritual concept of being “born again?”

–       Do you want to be made well? (5:6) At first glance, Jesus’ question to the lame man is a strange one.  The man had evidently been coming to the pool for some time. The Bible tells us that we are in need of the Great Physician (Mark 2:17); however, does everyone want to be made well?

–       But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words? (5:47). The Jews took pride in their knowledge of Moses and his teaching.  Why did Jesus say they did not believe his writings? See John 5:45-46.

–       Does this offend you? What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? (6:61-62). Do you also want to go away? (6:67). Some following Jesus became confused and offended because of His lessons. After they went away, Jesus asked the twelve if they also desired to leave.  Christians are often persecuted and ridiculed for believing in Him. How hard is it for you to stay with Jesus even when others are not with Him?

–       Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law? Why do you seek to kill Me? (7:19). If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath? (7:23). If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you strike Me? (18:23). Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me? (10:32). Why was Jesus ridiculed, attacked and ultimately crucified?

–       Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you? (8:10). Was the woman guilty or innocent of the charges made against her? Why did Jesus refuse to condemn her?

–       Why do you not understand My speech? (8:43). Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? (8:46). Jesus often said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15, Mark 4:9, Mark 4:23, Luke 8:8, Luke 14:35).  Why did He say certain people did not understand or believe in Him? See John 8:47.

–       Do you believe in the Son of God? (9:35). Read the entire chapter.  What else was healed in this man besides his eyesight?

–       Are there not twelve hours in the day? (11:9). Jesus made the most of His time, doing more in three years of ministry than anyone else has ever done in a lifetime.  Do you feel an urgency to accomplish something for Jesus with what time you have on earth? James said . . .You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away (James 4:14).

–       And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this? (11:26).

Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God? (11:40). One of His most amazing miracles was the raising of his friend, Lazarus, from the dead. However, Lazarus did ultimately die another physical death.  What promise did He make to Martha when He said, He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live? (John 11:25).

–       Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? “Father, save Me from this hour”? (12:27). Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me? (18:11). Jesus is the God-man, all God and all man at the same time.  His anguish and His suffering were real. He did nothing to deserve death on the cross. He chose to live His perfect life and die a sacrificial death for you and me.  How does that put any suffering that you may encounter into perspective? If God can be glorified through a circumstance in your life, can you say, “Shall I not drink from that cup?”

–       Do you know what I have done to you? (13:12). Jesus answered this question in verses 14 and 15.  Is it possible to follow His humble and sacrificial example?

–       Will you lay down your life for My sake? (13:38). Have you ever made a rash claim to God and then fallen back on that promise to witness to His goodness in your life?

–       Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father, so how can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? (14:9-10). Even the disciples who walked and talked with Jesus face to face had a hard time understanding His identity and His mission.  With the completion of the Bible and the passing of time, there is more than enough evidence to support Jesus’ claims about Himself and His relationship to God, the Father.  Do you believe?

–       Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me? (18:34). Do you base your judgment on who Jesus is by what others say about Him or by what He has said about Himself?

–       Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these? (21:15, 16, 17). Three times Jesus asked Simon Peter the same question.  What about you?  Do you love Him?

Jesus asked probing questions of those around Him. Some believed in Him, some deserted Him, but His questions remain for everyone to answer.  If you ask the Good Teacher (Mark 10:17, Luke 18:18), What shall we do, that we may work the works of God? [His answer is] This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent (John 6:28-29).

 

© Stephanie B. Blake

All Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version.

Download The Master Communicator

The Sacrificial Love of the Good Shepherd

“Note four things about Jesus the Good Shepherd. He owns the sheep; they belong to Him. He guards the sheep; He never abandons them when danger is near. He knows the sheep, knows them each by name and leads them out. And he lays down His life for the sheep, such is the measure of his love.” ~ Billy Graham

The Lord Is My Shepherd

The picture of God as a shepherd is a humbling one, for the occupation of a shepherd is a lowly one with no recognition, no fame. Who but the sheep know whether the shepherd is doing his duty? A shepherd is motivated by the love for his sheep that he bought and paid for. It can be a lonely job. He calls his sheep by name, but having a meaningful conversation with them might be a bit difficult! The shepherd’s life is always in peril as he must protect his flock from the beasts in the wild (1 Samuel 17:34-36).

David wrote the 23rd Psalm and understood all the implications because he was a shepherd; the boy shepherd who became King of Israel. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who is the King of Kings.

Reflection:

Read Psalm 23 aloud alone or with your small group. List the provisions made for the sheep by the Shepherd. Then read John 10:11-18 and make another list. Compare the two lists.

Biblical Shepherds

• Abel gave the proper sacrifice. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep. . . Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering (Genesis 4:2, 4) By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks (Hebrews 11:4) . . . to Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel (Hebrews 12:24).

• Abraham had many livestock. God substituted the lamb (ram) for the sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22:8, 13).

• Jacob tended flocks of Laban 14 years – for Leah and for Rachel (Genesis 29:20, 30).

• Israel (Jacob) blessed Joseph and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day. . . (Genesis 48:15 NIV) and prophesied concerning Joseph, Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall. With bitterness archers attacked him; they shot at him with hostility. But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel (Genesis 49:22-24 NIV).

• Moses was a shepherd in Midian for 40 years (Exodus 2:15-3:2).

• David’s experience as a shepherd enabled him to kill Goliath and lead the people of Israel as king (Psalm 78:70-72, 1 Samuel 16:11-12, 2 Samuel 7:8).

• Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would reign on David’s throne (Isaiah 9:6-7).

• Ezekiel described the reign of Jesus in the Davidic kingdom (Ezekiel 34, 37:24).

• Shepherds witnessed the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:8-14).

Reflection:

How did the shepherds of the Old Testament point to the coming of the Good Shepherd?

The Good Shepherd, the Lamb of God

Prayer: the people ask for the Shepherd’s help: Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock; you who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth between Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. Awaken your might, come and save us. Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved (Psalm 80:1-3 NIV). – God is called the Shepherd of Israel 80 times in the Bible.

The Lord God cares for His flock: Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him; behold His reward is with Him, and His work before Him. He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young (Isaiah 40:10-11).

The Lamb gives His life for His sheep: All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth (Isaiah 53:6-7).

The Lord will gather the scattered flock (Israel): Jeremiah 31:10-12

The Shepherd rejoices over one sheep. Matthew 18:12-14, Luke 15:1-7

The Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world. John 1:29

The Good Shepherd had compassion on His sheep. Matthew 9:36, Mark 6:34

The Good Shepherd is the Guardian of our souls. 1 Peter 2:25

The Chief Shepherd will bring reward to His under-shepherds. 1 Peter 5:1-4

The Good Shepherd offered Himself as the sacrificial Lamb, one sacrifice for sins of all time. Hebrew 10:12

The Good Shepherd is also The Resurrection and The Life. Hebrews 13:20

The Lamb is praised. Revelation 5:11-12

The Church, the Bride of Christ, is made ready for the Bridegroom, the Lamb. Revelation 19:7

The Lamb sits upon the throne. Revelation 22:1-4

Reflection: 

How is the will of God accomplished through the Good Shepherd?  Who does all the work?

The Sheep

Sheep go astray. Isaiah 53:5-7 Read Acts 8:25-35. Why do sheep go astray? Isaiah 43:25

Sinners regarded as lost sheep: Jeremiah 50:6, Ezekiel 34:6, Matthew 9:36, 15:24, 18:12

Sheep are in the midst of wolves: Matthew 10:16

The family of God compared to a flock: Psalm 78:52-53, 79:13, 100:3, Isaiah 40:11, Zechariah 9:16, Matthew 10:16, 26:31, Luke 12:32, Acts 20:29

Scattered by persecution and false shepherds: Jeremiah 23:2, Ezekiel 34:12, John 10:12, 16:32

Act as under-shepherds: Number 27:15-17, Jeremiah 3:15, 23:3-4, Acts 20:28-29, 1 Peter 5:2

Hear the voice of their shepherd: John 10:3-5, 14

Reflection:

What is the role of the sheep?

False Shepherds/Hirelings

Description: Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves (Matthew 7:15).

Scatter the flock: “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!”says the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel against the shepherds who feed My people: “You have scattered my flock, driven them away, and not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings,” says the Lord. But I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries where I have driven them, and bring them back to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, or shall they be lacking,” says the Lord. “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “that I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness: A King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Jeremiah 23:1-6).

Lead sheep astray: My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray (Jeremiah 50:6).

Prey upon flock: And the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God to the shepherds: “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock.” (Ezekiel 34:1-3).

Forsake the sheep: But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep (John 10:12-13).

Reflection: 

How can the sheep recognize the false shepherds?

Separation of the Sheep and the Goats

• Matthew 25:31-46. Who was Jesus’ primary audience in this discourse? See Matthew 24:3 and 26:1.

• As in the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24-30), the division will be made at judgment day. Is there any way to recognize the tares or the goats before that time? John 10:26, 1 John 4:1-3

• Is there a relationship between the thieves and robbers Jesus mentioned in John 10, false prophets mentioned throughout scripture (Matthew 7:15, 2 Corinthians 11:4, 13-15), false Christs (Matthew 24:4-5, 11, 23-27) and the goats.

The Good Shepherd, The Under-Shepherd and The Sheep

Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Feed My lambs.’ He said to him again a second time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord’ You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ And he said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed My sheep.’ (John 21:15-17).

Reflection:

Why do you think Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him? What did He say would be evidence of Peter’s love? What does that say to you?

How does understanding what the Good Shepherd does for you affect the way you live?

“Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb . . . for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes (Revelation 7:10, 17).

© Stephanie B. Blake

Download The Sacrificial Love of the Good Shepherd

The Sad Story of Solomon

The just shall live by faith, but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him (Hebrews 10:38 NKJV).

The Bible tells it like it is.  It does not “sugar coat” God’s people.  There are stories of some who were great examples of faith throughout their lifetime.  Unfortunately, there were also those who had great beginnings with God’s hand of blessing upon their lives, but because they did not remain faithful, had very sad endings.  Solomon is a prime example. 

Even before he was born, Solomon was David’s son of promise (2 Samuel 7:12-16).  Although David’s desire was to build a house for his Lord, God told him instead his son would do it.  At Solomon’s birth, God declared His love for him (2 Samuel 12:24).  On David’s deathbed, his last words were to his son Solomon, charging him to continue to follow and obey God (1 Kings 2:1-10).

As Solomon started his reign, he must have remembered his father David’s love for God.  When God appeared to him in a dream and offered him anything his heart desired, Solomon asked for an understanding heart to judge God’s people (1 Kings 3:9).  As this request greatly pleased God, He not only gave Solomon the wisdom he asked for but riches and honor as well (1 Kings 3:11-13).  When the Queen of Sheba came to check out Solomon’s reputation as a great, wise and powerful king, she noted that his wisdom and riches were even greater than what she had heard (1 Kings 10:7).

As God had predicted, Solomon did build His temple (1 Kings 5-6).  Upon completion, Solomon led a dedication prayer and then directed his people to keep their hearts loyal to God and to keep His commandments (1 Kings 8:61).

Solomon wrote thousands of proverbs as well as the book of Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon. His own assessment of life, having tried every pleasure available to man, was that devotion to God was above everything else (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

So, what happened?  Why was the ending of his life so sad?  How is it that the wisest man in the world did not take his own advice? As a result of his willful disobedience, his kingdom was divided and there was conflict among God’s people from that day on.

David and Solomon’s lives ended differently. It was not a case of “like father, like son.” Both David and Solomon reigned for forty years (1 Kings 2:11, 1 Kings 11:42).  At the end of David’s reign, we find him instructing his son to stay true to God.  At the end of Solomon’s reign, we find a very sad word: but (1 Kings 11:1). Just like the church in Ephesus, he had left his first love (Revelation 2:4).

Solomon’s love for foreign women did exactly what God had warned him against. It caused him to allow them to bring their gods with them.  As he established places of worship for their false gods, his own heart grew cold toward the one true God.

All Solomon’s wisdom did not keep his heart in tune with God’s. Although he knew that one must trust the Lord with all his heart (Proverbs 3:5), he did not keep all his heart dedicated to God.  His inspired proverbs became a case of “do as I say, not as I do.”

Both David and Solomon sinned, but we often find David in acts of true repentance.  David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).  His heart was dedicated to Him.  When he strayed from God’s plan and God brought it to his attention, his own heart was broken because of the sorrow he had brought to God’s heart. In confession and repentance, he reestablished fellowship with God.  He did believe what he said, You are my Lord, my goodness is nothing apart from You (Psalm 16:2 NKJV).

Christians know that God examines one’s heart and it is with the heart that one trusts in Christ (Romans 10:9-10).  It is not head knowledge or even wisdom that brings about a spiritual birth. Even the devils believe in the existence of God, but they are not saved (James 2:19).  God searches for those whose hearts are fully committed to Him (2 Chronicles 16:9).  Which legacy would you rather leave, that of David’s or Solomon’s?

For further study, run Scripture references above of the life of Solomon and answer the following questions:

  • Why do you think Solomon did not follow his own advice?
  • Paul told Timothy (through God’s inspiration) that God’s word is given for reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:15).  How can we learn from someone like Solomon, who was led to write part of Scripture himself, but failed miserably at the end?
  • How hard is it for you to “keep the faith?”  How often are you tempted to make it easy on yourself and give in to the world, like Solomon did? What can you do about it?
  • What do you want God to say to you when you first greet Him in heaven? Do you want Him to be pleased with your life?  How do you do that?

© Stephanie B. Blake

Download The Sad Story of Solomon

The World’s Most Majestic Prayer

One of the most awesome discoveries of Scripture is that God Himself, through His Son Jesus Christ, prays a prayer on behalf of His believers.  God is our Creator, He is our Savior and He is our Petitioner.  In John 17, God the Son voiced the prayer, God the Father received that prayer, and God the Spirit communicates God’s love to us through that prayer. What an incredible reality!

John 13:1 gives us the setting preceding the prayer.  Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. On this journey to the cross, Jesus proved that He loved His own.  He lived for them, He prayed for them and then He died for them.  If you are a believer, you are His own.

Many times before Jesus had said, “My hour has not yet come,” but now, He knows it is here.  The first thing He did in this hour was to wash the feet of his disciples. He washed the feet of ALL the disciples, even Judas Iscariot.  After Judas had gone out to betray Jesus, He tries to prepare the true believers for the horror that will follow.  The last thing that He does in this precious time alone with His own was to pray for them and us. See John 17:20.

His prayer is for believers (John 17:8-10). The prayer that He prays for unbelievers is for belief.

  • Jesus prays for our security. “Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me” (John 17:11).

Our salvation is eternal because we are kept by God.  Our eternal security does not depend on anything that we can do, but God Who keeps us.  God is the one who justifies.  See Ephesians 2:8-9, 1 Peter 1:3-5, 1 John 5:13, Romans 8:33-39.

  • Jesus prays for our unity.  See John 17:21-23.

The mystery of the Trinity is played out in the mystery of the Church, the Body of Christ.   Jesus prayed for all the generations to come who would receive Him because of the testimony of those who had seen Him in the flesh.  He prayed for us today that we may be one in God SO THAT the world would believe (v.21, 22). 1 John 1:3 states that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you may also have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.

  • Jesus prays for our joy. Earlier, when Jesus was talking about the vine, He said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy will be full” (John 15:11).  Here, in His prayer, He asks the Father “that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves” (John 17:13). We know that John was listening to this prayer as in 1 John 1:4, he says, these things we write to you that your joy may be full.  See also Galatians 5:22, James 1:2.
  • Jesus prays for our protection,that You should keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).  See also 1 John 5:18, James 4:7-8, Romans 12: 2, Ephesians 6:11 ff.  We are not of the world, but we must live in it and our Heavenly Father protects us. See Matthew 4 for one example of God’s protection in Jesus’ life. The promise is protection from sin, not protection from trial or difficulty.  Many of the lessons of the Christian life are learned through the trials (James 1:2-12).
  • Jesus prays for our sanctification. “Sanctify them by Your truth” (John 17:17). He went on to say, “Your Word is truth.”  We know that He declared Himself to be the “Way, Truth and the Life” (John 14:6).

John 1:1 tells us that God’s Word became flesh.  We are sanctified by Jesus, the Living Word of Truth which is revealed by God’s spoken words of truth as recorded in Scripture. In the armor of God (Ephesians 6:14), truth is what girds our waist or holds us together!

  • Jesus prays for our glory. “And the glory which You gave Me I have given them. . . that they may behold My glory which You have given Me” (John 17:22,24). Paul said that Christ in you, the hope of glory. . . . Him we preach . . . that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus (Colossians 1:27, 28).
  • Jesus prays for our perfection. “I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:23).  The perfection that Jesus prays for is our completeness in Him.  Without Him, we have no merit at all.  “In Jesus” we may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God (Colossians 4:12).  Previously, Jesus had stated in His sermon on the mount that you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:28).  See Romans 12:2, Philippians 1:6.
  • Jesus prays for us to understand the magnitude of His love. As He sacrificed Himself for us because of His great love, in His prayer He tells the Father, “And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26).  He had already promised that “the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I have said to you” (John 14:26). One of the things that the Holy Spirit continues to bring to our minds is the incredible love of God.  Again, we see the picture of the Triune God doing all the work on our behalf.  God loves you and me!

Questions for Reflection:

  • How does it make you feel to know that God, in all three of His persons, preserved a prayer for you?
  • Security, unity, joy, protection, sanctification, glory, perfection and love are all petitions in Jesus’ prayer.  Did any of these requests surprise you?  Why?
  • Do you feel the need for any of these in your life right now?
  • Can you communicate that message to some other believer who needs encouragement?
  • Paul said that nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39).  How does that affect the way you live your life?

 © Stephanie B. Blake

All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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