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  August 29, 2020
His Master's Crib
“The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.” (Isaiah 1:3)

What an indictment this is—not only against the people of Israel, but against men and women everywhere. All were created and made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) for fellowship with Him, but even His own chosen people rejected Him, and most people everywhere all but ignore Him in their daily lives.

“Crib” is the same as “manger,” and when God became man, His human parents “laid him in a manger” (Luke 2:7) since there was no room for Him anywhere else. The animals knew Him, and so did the angels, but His people were unconcerned. “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not” (John 1:10).

When He came into Jerusalem offering Himself as King of Israel, He rode on an unbroken colt, “whereon yet never man sat,” and the little “foal of an ass” (Luke 19:30; Zechariah 9:9) willingly submitted, knowing his divine Master and Maker. But the people of Jerusalem as a whole joined in clamoring for His crucifixion just a few days later.

The indictment against Israel could be lodged with even greater justification against America today. “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth:…I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me” (Isaiah 1:2). The morals of our people seem to have been turned upside down, and God would say to us also: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness” (Isaiah 5:20).

Yet—in modern America, as well as in ancient Israel—“as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12). HMM
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August 30, 2020
Milk or Meat
“For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:13-14)

The Scriptures are compared in these verses to our daily food—milk and meat. Milk is the necessary food for babies (1 Peter 2:2), but it becomes grotesque when a baby continues year after year as a baby, still incapable of partaking of anything but milk. This was the case with the Corinthian Christians who were, according to Paul, “babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 3:1-2). It was also true for these Hebrew Christians: “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again…the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat” (Hebrews 5:12).

Sad to say, this is still the situation with most Christian people today, even in Bible-believing churches. This is indicated not only by the many carnal divisions between them (1 Corinthians 3:3), but even more by the frothy nature of the Christian materials they read, almost always centered on introspective personal relationships rather than on the person of Christ, the deeper truths of Scripture, and the great purposes of God. The time spent in personal Bible study is minimal, and even most sermons repeatedly serve up milk for Christian babes rather than strong meat for spiritually healthy Christians “of full age” whose “senses” have already been strengthened by use to recognize the true and the false, the good and the evil. How urgently we need to heed the last words of the apostle Peter just before his martyrdom: “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). HMM

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August 31, 2020
The Omniscience of God
“O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me.” (Psalm 139:1)

The marvelous 139th Psalm consists of a prayer by King David to his King, the omniscient, omnipresent, holy Creator God, the King of kings. In this psalm David reflects on and praises God for His majestic attributes, and by doing so is driven to introspection.

David claims that God knows when we sit down or stand up (v. 2). He even knows our thoughts (v. 2). Furthermore, He knows our direction and habits (v. 3). He knows our words better than we do ourselves (v. 4). In everything, God knows and guides (v. 5). “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me” (v. 6), David claims, and neither he nor we, trapped as we are in finiteness, can comprehend this omniscience.

Where can we go to escape His omnipresence (v. 7)? Neither to heaven nor hell (v. 8). Not to the air or the sea (v. 9). Neither darkness nor light (vv. 11-12) can shield us from His presence. In all, He leads and guides (v. 10).

Thinking such lofty thoughts should compel us to praise and thankfulness as it did David, especially as it relates to our own creation and growth. God knew us in the womb (v. 13) and controlled each stage of our embryonic development (vv. 14-16). He knew and planned all the events of our lives (v. 16). “How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God!” (v. 17). They are innumerable (vv. 17-18).

Reflection on God’s holiness makes David painfully aware of his own sinfulness, as it should us. Recognition of God’s nature should bring us to a place of submission and a desire for holiness, as well as a yearning to follow fully the omniscient God. “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (vv. 23-24). JDM

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September 1, 2020
Great and Precious Promises
“Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (2 Peter 1:4)

Scripture is full of promises, more than 2,800 in the Old Testament and more than 1,000 in the New. The first of these exceeding great and precious promises was the Protevangel (“first gospel”) of Genesis 3:15. Immediately after the fall of Adam and Eve through the temptation of Satan, God promised the coming Seed of the woman, the Savior: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; [He] shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”

The first New Testament promise, significantly, is this same primeval promise, now made far more specific: “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

The last promise of the Old Testament speaks of a second coming of “Elijah the prophet,” who will “turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:5-6). Then, the final promise of the Bible is the wonderful assurance of Christ concerning His glorious second coming: “Surely I come quickly” (Revelation 22:20).

Sandwiched between these great and precious promises are over 3,800 other promises. Some of these are in the form of promised warnings to the sinner, but promises nonetheless. Most promises, however, are to the obedient follower of God, and we know that “he is faithful that promised” (Hebrews 10:23). “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us” (2 Corinthians 1:20). HMM

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September 2, 2020
Pie in the Sky
“And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.” (Revelation 19:9)

Unbelievers sometimes ridicule Bible-believing Christians as being “so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly use” and as waiting for “pie in the sky bye and bye.” This canard is, of course, unjustified because the Lord Jesus has told us: “Occupy till I come” (Luke 19:13), and we are also instructed: “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Colossians 3:23). A Christian could—and should—do a better job in his particular occupation than he would ever have done as a non-Christian. All honorable occupations come within the scope of God’s primeval dominion mandate (Genesis 1:26-28). “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

Nevertheless, there is indeed a great feast day coming bye and bye, and indeed it will be a great blessing to be “called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.” Presumably those who partake of this wonderful feast will be not only those who constitute His Bride, but also others who are called to be guests at His wedding supper. Since the Holy City is also called “the bride, the Lamb’s wife” and since it is inscribed with the names of both the “twelve tribes” of Israel and also of the “twelve apostles” (Revelation 21:9, 12, 14), it is clear that believers from both the pre-Christian and Christian ages will be there. They will all have responded to the Lord’s invitation and have had the right attitude of heart and life toward the will of the Bridegroom (Matthew 22:1-14; 25:1-13).

Whether some kind of heavenly pie will be served at the supper is doubtful, but it will surely be a time of great blessing. HMM

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September 3, 2020
Blessed by the Word
“Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD.” (Psalm 119:1)

The Hebrew word barak appears over 300 times in the Bible. It basically means to endue or bless with power for success, prosperity, fruitfulness, longevity, and so on. The oft-used Aaronic blessing (Numbers 6:24-26) closes with “The LORD lift up [turn] his countenance upon [toward] thee, and give thee peace,” and is initiated by the greater upon the lesser.

The opening stanza of Psalm 119 identifies the traits of a lifestyle subject to the Word of God and then claims the blessing that comes as the result of those who “seek him with the whole heart” (Psalm 119:2). The unknown psalmist saturates all 22 stanzas with eight key words describing the intimate role by which inspired Scriptures empower godly behavior. Six are used in this opening testimony and prayer.

Those who “walk in the law [torah] of the LORD” and “keep his testimonies” (edah) receive God’s blessing (Psalm 119:1-2). These instructions inscripturated in God’s Word enable us to be “undefiled in the way” and to “do no iniquity” (Psalm 119:3). The apostle Paul noted that apart from the law, he would not know he was sinning (Romans 7:7).

God “hast commanded us to keep [His] precepts [piqquwd—listings, statutes, laws] diligently....Then shall [we] not be ashamed, when [we] have respect unto all [His] commandments [mitzvah—instructions]” (Psalm 119:4-6).

The promise to “praise [Him] with uprightness of heart” (Psalm 119:7) is based on a prayer: “O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes [hoq—engraved laws]!” (Psalm 119:5). And we can be certain that a righteous life will come when we have “learned [His] righteousness judgments [mishpat]” (Psalm 119:7). May our lives be as dedicated to God’s Word as is described in this magnificent song. HMM III

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September 4, 2020
Our Sins
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)

As Christ hung on the cross, the Jewish leaders felt that He was guilty of blasphemy—a mere man, claiming to be God. In short, they felt that He was dying for His own sins. Their tragic misconceptions were predicted centuries before, as recorded in the treasured 53rd chapter of Isaiah: “We hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not....we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted” (vv. 3-4).

But not so! God did not punish Him for His sins but for ours. “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities” (v. 5). “For the transgression of my people was he stricken” (v. 8).

The penalty for sin has always been death, and even though “he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him” (vv. 9-10). He was the perfect “offering for sin” (v. 10), and “he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (v. 12). Justice has been served! “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many” (v. 11).

Furthermore, through His death, even our griefs have been borne and our sorrows carried (v. 4). In addition to all this, our peace has been gained through His chastisement, and our healing has been accomplished with His stripes (v. 5).

Such considerations can drive us only to the most complete prostration of wonder and amazement. Necessitated because “all we like sheep have gone astray,” God’s justice has been satisfied, because Christ, in love, has taken upon Himself “the iniquity of us all.” As in the hymn: “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” JDM

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September 5, 2020
Cleansed by the Word
“Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.” (Psalm 119:9)

Psalm 119:9-16 provides key instructions for those who would seek to please their Creator with a godly life.

“Taking heed” (Hebrew shamar—guarding) of God’s Word is the foundation upon which a godly life is built (vv. 10-11). The psalmist sought God with his whole heart and pleaded with God to prevent him from wandering (Hebrew shagah—to stray through ignorance). That plea was then turned into a confirmation and an understanding: “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (v. 11).

With the assurance of these foundational elements, the psalmist promised the Lord that he will organize his life so that he “will not forget thy word” (v. 16).

Similar to the apostle John’s assurance in his first epistle, the psalmist recognized behaviors that he was already exhibiting. His “lips” have “declared” the judgments of God (v. 13). He knows that he has “rejoiced in the way” (v. 14) of God’s revealed testimonies as much as the ungodly have boasted of gaining wealth. He is no stranger to godly living and loves the way of God, seeking to excel in holiness (1 John 5:3).

The section closes with two “I will” promises, surely based upon his earlier commitment to cleanse his way. The psalmist promised to “meditate in [God’s] precepts, and have respect unto [His] ways” (v. 15). This assumes time, study, and careful thought about the purposes and intent of God’s message. It is not a promise to sit comfortably and “clear one’s mind” of cogent thinking, waiting on some voice to reveal truth. The psalmist can then “delight” in the statutes of the Word (Psalm 119:16; Romans 7:22).

As we seek to know God’s great Word, may His works refresh our hearts and delight our lives. HMM III

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September 6, 2020
Meditation
“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” (Joshua 1:8)

This well-known verse contains the first use of the Hebrew verb for “meditate” (hagah) in the Bible and, significantly, it is a command to meditate on the Scriptures. Such meditation is not mere quietness or daydreaming but is thoughtfulness with a purpose—to obey “all that is written therein.”

Meditation for its own sake, without being centered on God’s Word, is often useless or even harmful. Witness the Western proliferation of Eastern “meditation cults” (T.M., etc.), which lead their devotees into pantheism and occultism. Isaiah 8:19 warns against “wizards that peep, and that mutter [same word as ‘meditate’].” “Why do...the people imagine [same word] a vain thing?” (Psalm 2:1).

The blessed man is the one whose “delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night” (Psalm 1:2). That is, only if we are continually guided by the Holy Scriptures will we be happy and successful.

In the New Testament, the Greek word for “meditate” (melatao) is used only twice. Once it is translated “imagine” (Acts 4:25) and is in a quotation of Psalm 2:1, as above. The last time it is used, however, its emphasis reverts back to the context of its first usage, as in our text above. Paul commands us: “Give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine....Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all” (1 Timothy 4:13, 15). Modern meditationists say that the goal of meditation is to clear our minds of “things,” but God wants us to meditate on “these things”—the life-giving, life-directing doctrines of His Word. HMM

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September 7, 2020
Labor or Service?
“Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work.” (Deuteronomy 5:13)

The term “labor” to many seems to connote drudgery or routine, repetitive, demeaning toil. As used here in the fourth of God’s Ten Commandments, however, the Hebrew word abad means rather to “serve” and is so translated 214 times in the King James. Only one other time is it translated “labor,” and that is in the first rendering of the commandments (Exodus 20:9). Thus, the command could well be read: “Six days shalt thou serve....”

Furthermore, the word for “work” (Hebrew melakah) does not denote servile labor but “deputyship” or “stewardship.” The one whom we are to serve or act as deputy for, of course, is God Himself when we do our work. In the ultimate and very real sense, the Lord is our employer, and we serve Him, not man. Therefore, “whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Colossians 3:23). Every honest occupation, if carried out for the Lord’s sake and to His glory, is “divine service,” and every Christian who holds this perspective on his or her work (be it preaching, or bookkeeping, or homemaking, or whatever) is in the Christian ministry—for “ministry” simply means “service.”

Note also that God has ordained not a four-day or five-day workweek: “Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work,” He says, thus commemorating the six days in which He worked in the beginning, “for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth” (Exodus 31:17).

One day, Lord willing, we shall hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant:...enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matthew 25:21). Then, throughout the ages to come, “his servants shall serve him” (Revelation 22:3) with everlasting joy. HMM

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September 8, 2020
Bounty from the Word
“Deal bountifully with thy servant, that I may live, and keep thy word.” (Psalm 119:17)

Materialism is so prevelant that it is sometimes difficult to not associate words like “bounty” or “blessing” with earthly riches. This psalmist wasn’t concerned with physical prosperity but rather that God would reveal to him what his own heart sought—“that I may live, and keep thy word.”

He requested spiritual insight: “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law” (v. 18). Without hint of greed or self-centered aggrandizement, he only longed to understand the “wondrous” insights of the torah (law). We lack “bounty” if we neglect studying God’s inerrant Word.

We often forget that we are “stranger in the earth” (v. 19). Once adopted into God’s family (Ephesians 1:5), our citizenship (Philippians 3:20) is transferred from this earth to God’s “city” (Hebrews 11:10). Thus, the psalmist begged for God not to “hide” the commandments from him because his “soul breaketh for the longing” (v. 20) he had, in every season, for the judgments of God’s Word.

He remembered God’s swift justice against the “cursed” (v. 21) who “err” (wander, stray) from the Word, since the “princes” (chiefs, leaders) of the land resisted his effort to obey God (v. 23). Nontheless, he was determined to demonstrate his “delight” in the “counselors” within God’s testimonies (v. 24).

Many who claim to be evangelicals today boldly scorn those who trust that “every word of God is pure” (Proverbs 30:5). May God keep us from “the fear of man” (Proverbs 29:25) and embolden our resolve to “worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name” (Psalm 138:2). HMM III

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September 9, 2020
To Be or Not to Be
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

The verb “to be,” in its various forms and tenses, enjoys wide usage throughout Scripture. Verses employing it, as it relates to us, contain many of the greatest and most precious truths. Consider the following sampling.

Past tense: “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God” (v. 10). “You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). “You, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled” (Colossians 1:21).

Present tense: “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven” (Romans 4:7). “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation” (1 Peter 1:5). “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10). “Beloved, now are we the sons of God” (1 John 3:2). “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him” (Colossians 2:9-10). Note also our text verse.

Future tense: “It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). “And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads....and they shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 22:3-5). JDM

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September 10, 2020
The Imperatives of Redemption
“From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.” (Matthew 16:21)

The little word “must” (Greek deon) conveys urgency and necessity and is frequently used in connection with the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ. When He was just a lad, He told His parents in the temple: “I must be about my Father’s business” (Luke 2:49).

But then the first time this key auxiliary verb is found in the New Testament is in the comprehensive prophetic statement of His mission, as given to His disciples in our text. He must go to Jerusalem to suffer, and die, and be raised the third day. As He was moving toward that climactic event, “he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent” (Luke 4:43). Furthermore, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4).

He had much preaching and much work to do in that brief three-year interim in world history. But then He must die! And why must He die? Because “the scriptures must be fulfilled” (Mark 14:49). “These are the words which I spake unto you... that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me” (Luke 24:44). And how must He die? “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up” (John 3:14). But then, of course, “he must rise again from the dead” (John 20:9).

To what purpose must He be lifted up on the cross to die and then be raised again? Why, because “there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). HMM

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September 11, 2020
Understanding the Times
“And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do; the heads of them were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their commandment.” (1 Chronicles 12:32)

This chapter lists the numbers of men from each of the tribes of Israel who cast their lot with David in his conflict with King Saul. All these numbers are given except those of Issachar, but of these it was said that all their brethren followed their 200 leaders in turning to David. The reason for their unanimity in this decision was that these leaders “had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.” It was time to “turn the kingdom” to David, “according to the word of the LORD” (1 Chronicles 12:23). God had given them a Benjamite, Saul, as king for a time, but now David had been anointed, and it was the time to give “the sceptre” to Judah, according to the prophecy of their father, Jacob, given over 600 years before (Genesis 49:10).

How desperately we need leaders today who are spiritual “sons of Issachar,” understanding these times! Christ told the apostles: “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons” (Acts 1:7); it was more urgent that they proceed to witness for Him “unto the uttermost part of the earth” (v. 8).

Nevertheless, He would return to the earth in some generation, and that generation should be expected (when they would see all these things) to “know that it is near, even at the doors” (Matthew 24:33). They could understand the signs, and even though they should never attempt to guess the date, they could “look up...for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28) when they would see “these things begin to come to pass.”

The signs are everywhere, yet few of our leaders—even many Christian politicians—seem to understand the real meaning of these times. Christ is “even at the doors!” HMM

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September 12, 2020
Revival Through the Word
“My soul cleaveth unto the dust: quicken thou me according to thy word.” (Psalm 119:25)

Sometimes the battle takes its toll, we feel like the enemy is winning, and our soul “melteth for heaviness” (v. 28). Many psalms share these intense emotions and seek God’s face for relief and revival. These eight verses in Psalm 119 provide a concise remedy that every Christian needs sometimes.

  • Open confession and supplication: “I have declared my ways, and thou heardest me” (v. 26).
  • Clear request for understanding: “Teach me thy statutes. Make me to understand the way of thy precepts” (vv. 26-27).
  • Reaffirmation for personal witness: “So shall I talk of thy wondrous works” (v. 27).
  • Bold request for spiritual strength: “Strengthen thou me according unto thy word” (v. 28).
  • Request to gain victory over habitual sin: “Remove from me the way of lying: and grant me thy law graciously” (v. 29).
  • Conscious declaration of personal commitment: “I have chosen the way of truth: thy judgments I have laid before me” (v. 30).
  • Remembering past righteous behavior: “I have stuck unto thy testimonies” (v. 31).
  • Plea for God’s favor and mercy: “O LORD, put me not to shame” (v. 31).
  • Expectant promise for future lifestyle of holiness: “I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart” (v. 32).

Personal revival is as sure as the Word of God. But revival assumes our own deep desire to live in accordance with God’s Word. God will “enlarge” (fill, expand) our heart when we seek His face (Psalm 81:10). HMM III

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September 13, 2020
The Writing of God
“And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables.” (Exodus 32:16)

In this verse is the first occurrence in the Bible of the word “writing” and, appropriately enough, it is speaking of “the writing of God” rather than the writings of men. The reference, of course, is to the two tables of the law, the Ten Commandments, “written with the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18) and rewritten on a second set of stone tables to replace the first, once they were shattered (Exodus 34:1).

All Scripture is divinely inspired, but the Ten Commandments were divinely inscribed! This testimony of their unique importance is a sobering condemnation of any who ignore them or distort their meaning (including the one referring to the six-day creation in Exodus 20:11).

But there is another writing of God—this one recorded in the New Testament, one of even greater personal significance to the Christian: “Ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ...written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart” (2 Corinthians 3:3). No longer an external standard divinely engraved in stone by the finger of God, but an internal conviction inscribed in the heart by the Spirit of God! “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them” (Hebrews 10:16).

This remarkable writing of God’s law in our hearts and minds has been accomplished because Christ came not “to destroy, but to fulfill” the law (Matthew 5:17) and “hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). Now, with the law in our hearts, we have become epistles of God, “known and read of all men” (2 Corinthians 3:2), and it is vital that the writing read true and clear through our lives. HMM

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September 14, 2020
Arise, My Soul, Arise
“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

The beautiful old hymn “Arise, My Soul, Arise” was written by the great hymn writer Charles Wesley. Let us use its five verses to focus our thoughts these next five days.

 

Arise, my soul, arise; Shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding sacrifice in my behalf appears:
Before the throne my surety stands,
My name is written on His hands.


At first reading, the theme of the song seems unclear, until we recognize that the sinner is being enjoined to come to salvation and by the power of the sacrificial blood shed on his behalf receive forgiveness and eternal life.

Because “Christ...hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2), “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access” (Romans 5:1-2) to the Father, who alone has the power to forgive our sins. We have no need to fear rejection, for “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).

We can arise and “come boldly unto the throne of grace,” where God the Father reigns. We have assurance of access because our “surety of a better testament” (Hebrews 7:22) is “a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God” (Hebrews 4:14), and “who is [seated] on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Hebrews 8:1). Here He requests the Father’s “mercy, and...grace” on our behalf, for He knows us by our names, which are already “written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27) “from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 17:8). JDM

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September 15, 2020
For Me to Intercede
“Wherefore, he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25)

The second verse of the moving old hymn “Arise, My Soul, Arise” speaks of Christ’s intercessory work on our behalf and the basis on which His prayers are accepted.

 

He ever lives above; For me to intercede,
His all-redeeming love, His precious blood to plead.
His blood atoned for all our race
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.


Christ is our intercessor, pleading with the Father to save us from our sins, for which the penalty has been paid by His “sacrifice...for this he did once, when he offered up himself” (Hebrews 7:27). It is “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19) that pleads for our forgiveness. He does this for us because He “loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood” (Revelation 1:5) as we come to God in repentant faith.

Because Jesus was Himself a fully righteous man, He could die on another’s behalf; because He was fully God the Son, His death was sufficient to pay the penalty for the whole human race: “Jesus Christ the righteous; And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2). “Thou art worthy...for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Revelation 5:9).

Only in this way can we come “to the general assembly and the church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling” (Hebrews 12:23-24). JDM

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September 16, 2020
Forgive Him, Oh Forgive
“Who his own self bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)

The third verse of the majestic hymn “Arise, My Soul, Arise” relates how the crucified but risen Intercessor, Christ, pleads with the Father to save a sinner and why His prayers are heard.

 

Five bleeding wounds He bears, Received on Calvary.
They pour effectual prayers; They strongly plead for me.
“Forgive him, oh, forgive,” they cry,
“Nor let that ransomed sinner die.”


When Jesus was crucified, they “pierced [His] hands and [His] feet” (Psalm 22:16) and “pierced his side” with a spear (John 19:34). After His resurrection, His disciples would view these five wounds (Luke 24:39; John 20:27). It was from these wounds that His blood flowed, “and without shedding of blood [there] is no remission” of sins. “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:22, 28). Our text for today declares that it was His “stripes,” literally “wounds,” that heal us of our deadly sin sickness. His death provides life and health and righteousness.

If “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16), surely the pleadings of Christ, a perfectly righteous man, are of infinite strength. “Neither pray I for these alone [i.e., His disciples], but for them also which shall believe on me through their word...[that they] be with me where I am” (John 17:20, 24).

As a truly repentant sinner comes in faith to God seeking forgiveness for his sins, Christ pleads, “Forgive him, oh, forgive.” “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:5-6). JDM

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  September 17, 2020
His Spirit Answers to the Blood
“But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” (Romans 8:11)

The fourth verse of “Arise, My Soul, Arise” speaks of God the Father answering the request of God the Son and granting salvation to a repentant sinner, adopting him into His family.

 
The Father hears Him pray, His dear Anointed One;
He cannot turn away the presence of His Son.
His Spirit answers to the blood,
And tells me I am born of God.

As Christ the Messiah hung on Calvary’s tree, God the Father turned away, unable in His holiness to look upon Christ as He bore “the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:28). “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1) He cried in His agony. But once God’s righteous justice was satisfied, the Father turned back and answered Christ’s prayer, even from the horns of the altar, as it were (Psalm 22:21). “I and my Father are one,” Christ had said (John 10:30), and once sin’s penalty was paid, there would be no more separation.

And when a sinner comes to God, claiming the blood of Christ as a full payment for his sins, and Christ Himself prays for the sinner’s full forgiveness and acceptance, the Father cannot turn away, for “he loved us, and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

In our text, the same Spirit that raised up Christ grants the spiritually dead sinner new life and declares him to be born of God. “Marvel not that I say unto thee, Ye must be born again [literally, ‘born from above’]” (John 3:7). “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God” (1 John 3:1). JDM
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September 18, 2020
Father, Abba, Father
“They are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:14-15)

Charles Wesley’s great hymn “Arise, My Soul, Arise” concludes with a stirring testimony of the joy of salvation.

 

My God is reconciled; His pardoning voice I hear.
He owns me for His child; I can no longer fear.
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And, “Father, Abba, Father,” cry.


“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18). As our text explains, once we have received the spirit of adoption, we are the sons of God—He owns us as His child. This is a “new” thing. We who formerly were estranged from our Creator have been reconciled to Him. “Old things,” such as the bondage to fear, are “passed away.” The close-knit ties are strong, “for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee....I will not fear what men shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:5-6).

Now that He is our Father, we have direct access to Him. “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8). As an earthly father desires the best for his children, “how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:11). “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And...we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him” (1 John 5:14-15).

This father/child relationship goes deep. The term “Abba, Father” reflects a most sensitive and loving bond, perhaps best rendered “O Sweet Daddy.” “We pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). JDM

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September 19, 2020
Taught by the Word
“Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end.” (Psalm 119:33)

This eight-verse section (vv. 33-40) closely parallels a similar passage in Proverbs 2:1-5. Both focus on being taught, gaining understanding, and keeping “the way” of God’s Word.

Certainly worth noting is the manner in which the psalmist asked to “go in the path of thy commandments” (v. 35). In every case, the request is for God’s hand to control the process. There is no indication that the psalmist assumed the capability of finding these truths on his own.

  • “Teach me, O LORD” (v. 33).
  • “Give me understanding” (v. 34).
  • “Make me to go” (v. 35).
  • “Incline my heart” (v. 36).
  • “Turn away my eyes from beholding vanity” (v. 37).
  • “Stablish thy word” (v. 38).
  • “Turn away my reproach” (v. 39).
  • “Quicken me in thy righteousness” (v. 40).

However, having prayed for God’s intervention and oversight in his life, the psalmist promised to act on the given insight and order his life around “the way” so illumined by God’s instructions. He acknowledged his “delight” and his “longing” in the holy life and character revealed in the Scriptures and, like the Proverbs 2 passage, showed a willingness of the spiritual consciousness of his heart and mind to “understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:5).

May our prayer always be like this: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24). HMM III

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September 20, 2020
The Comfortable Church
“Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” (Revelation 3:17)

This is the heart of Christ’s rebuke of the church at Laodicea, the “lukewarm” church (v. 16) of the last days. This is an evangelical church for its candlestick is still in place (note Revelation 1:20; 2:5), but it has become a neutral church, “neither cold nor hot” (3:15). The reason for its tepid witness is because it has become “rich, and increased with goods,” comfortable in a culture that tends to equate material prosperity with success and God’s favor. It may have acquired large and beautiful facilities, developed special programs of many kinds, featured a variety of musicians and other artists, and even gained a measure of political power. Yet, Christ calls it poor and blind and naked!

Not all large churches become like this, of course, but it is always a real danger. The desire for large congregations can easily lead to compromising biblical standards of doctrine and practice. “Woe to them that are at ease in Zion,” the prophet warned (Amos 6:1).

Note that the Lord began His letter to the Laodicean church by identifying Himself as “the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God” (Revelation 3:14). This strongly suggests that a major reason for the development of such complacency in a large church (or a small church, for that matter) is neglect of these three doctrines—the sufficiency of Christ, the inerrant authority of God’s Word, and the special creation of all things by God.

The letter to this church ends with the sad picture of Christ standing at its door, seeking admission (v. 20). “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (v. 22). HMM

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