Book traversal links for March
The tops of the pillars were in the shape of lilies. So the work of the pillars was finished.
1 Kings 7:22
Everything in the temple, as in the tabernacle before it, spoke of Christ. “In his sanctuary every whit of it utters His glory” (Psalm 29:9, literal rendering). The great pillars Jachim (“He will establish”) and Boaz (“In Him is strength”) speak of His power and might. The lily work at the top speaks of the lowliness and beauty of His character. To those who overcome He says, “I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God” (Revelation 3:12). His pillars must be strong in the Lord and the power of His might, but there must also be the beauty of holiness, the lowly grace which was seen in all perfection in Him. No experience is valueless which tends to reproduce Christ in us. No suffering is too great if it results in that lily-work which is so precious in the eyes of God. The lovely flowers of His grace give beauty to the sturdy pillar that tells of His power.
In this, Thy temple, Lord, Thy lilies carve.
Upon the pillars of my soul engrave
Thy handiwork. Let me not save
One corner from the sharpness of Thy chisel,
That might make known to others Thou wast there
And marked it for Thyself. Let sorrow, care,
And pain leave only echoes of Thy beauty,
Fast in the pattern of my heart and face
Thy hammer hews. This would I, by Thy grace.
—Henrietta Runyon Wintrey
Then the king answered the people roughly, and rejected the advice which the elders had given him; and he spoke to them according to the advice of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy but I will add to your yoke: my father chastised you with whips but I will chastise you with scourges!”
1 Kings 12:13-14
One of Solomon’s own proverbs, if taken to heart by his son, might have saved the entire situation: “A soft answer turns away wrath. But a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). Another proverb might have given added guidance: “By pride comes nothing but strife, But with the well-advised is wisdom” (Proverbs 13:10). Rehoboam lost the greater part of his kingdom because of refusing the good advice of the elders and following the foolish counsel of the young men. Puffed up with pride, he met the reasonable demands of the people roughly instead of with conciliatory speech, which might have bound their hearts to him and saved from much strife and bitterness. It is a lesson that we are all very slow to learn. We so readily forget that “the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). Many family, business, church, and national troubles might be avoided were this lesson taken to heart.
So many hearts are breaking,
And many more are aching,
To hear the tender word.
God, make me kind!
For I myself am learning
That my sad heart is yearning
For some sweet word to heal my hurt
O Lord, do make me kind.
God, make me kind!
So many hearts are needing
The balm to stop the bleeding
That my kind words can bring.
God, make me kind!
For I myself am learning
The cure in some one’s keeping
He should impart to my sick heart.
O Lord, do make me kind.
Then it happened, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said to him, “Is that you, O troubler of Israel?” And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and have followed the Baals.”
1 Kings 18:17-18
He who has the testimony of his own conscience that he is walking in accordance with the revealed will of God will be courageous in the hour of danger, when the enemies of the truth oppose with violence or deceitful pretense. There is a fleshly bravado which may exist where one is playing fast and loose with that which is of God. But holy boldness is another thing altogether and is the accompaniment of genuine piety and true loyalty to the Word of the Lord. It is this that we see exemplified in the life of Elijah, and in this we may seek grace to emulate the devoted man of God who came to call the people back to the law they had forgotten.
I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need,
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The Word of God to give me speech,
The heavenly host to be my guard.
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
—St. Patrick of Ireland
And he prayed that he might die. and said, “lt is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!”…So he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”
1 Kings 19:4, 10
It took real courage—the courage borne of the conviction that he was God’s own messenger—for this sturdy Tishbite to rebuke so powerful and wicked a ruler as Ahab. It took even more courage to declare beforehand what nature saw no evidence of, but which faith counted on God to perform (1 Kings 18:41). Yet we see this bold man tremble before the wrath of a proud, haughty, vixen-like Jezebel (1 Kings 19:2-3), whose threatening words so disturbed him that he preferred death to further conflict (1 Kings 19:4). In this we may see how he was a man of like passions with ourselves: not some wonderful, mysterious, superhuman being, but a very human person who God had taken up in grace and commissioned for a great work. His greatest weakness was in connection with his outstanding testimony: he was inclined to think of himself as Jehovah’s sole representative on earth. When he said, “I alone am left (1 Kings 19:14), God rebuked him by telling of seven thousand hidden ones in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal (chapter 19:18). We need to learn the same lesson. However faithful or devoted we may imagine ourselves to be, God has many more than ourselves who are true to His Word and faithful in their stand against apostasy.
Not that there be less to bear,
Not that there be more to share;
But for braver heart for bearing,
But for freer heart for sharing—
Here I pray.
Not that joy and peace enfold me,
Not that wealth and pleasure hold me;
But that I may dry a tear,
Speak a word of strength and cheer
On the way.
While your servant was busy here and there, he was gone.
1 Kings 20:40
The parable of the missing man which the unnamed son of the prophet used in seeking to stir up the slothful spirit of the king of Israel has a similar lesson for us. We are exhorted to redeem the time, literally to buy up opportunities for witnessing for Christ. We are to be as alert for witnessing to the lost as bargain hunters are to purchase goods to advantage. Yet how often we neglect to use the circumstances which are put in our way, where we may say a word for our Lord and endeavor to point the lost to Him. Our intentions are good, but we become so occupied with other matters, many of them trifling in the extreme, and before we realize it the person to whom we should have spoken is beyond our reach.
Is it justice, is it kindness,
Thus to leave them in their sin,
‘Midst the ignorance and blindness,
Not a ray of hope within?
None to tell them of the Saviour
Who has died their souls to win.
Lord, increase our love, we pray Thee,
Fields are ripe and servants few;
Help us gladly to obey Thee;
Give us willing hearts and true,
That, responsive to Thy bidding,
We may seek Thy will to do.
Micaiah said, “As the Lord lives, whatever the Lord says to me, that I will speak.”
1 Kings 22:14
Micaiah spoke nobly. His faithfulness stands out in vivid contrast to good king Jehoshaphat’s compliance with evil by his association with ungodly Ahab. When the prophet was urged to prophesy smooth things so as to curry favor with the wicked king of Israel he refused to compromise God’s truth. He was under orders as a soldier of the Lord and he felt he could only obey his Captain. As a steward of a divine revelation he must be found faithful. He got a prison for his pains, but Micaiah in jail made a greater figure in the sight of God than Jehoshaphat in the robes of Ahab!
I do not ask for mighty words
To leave the crowd impressed,
But grant my life may ring so true
My neighbor shall be blessed.
I do not ask for influence
To sway the multitude;
Give me a “word in season” for
The soul in solitude.
I do not ask to win the great—
God grant they may be saved!—
Give me the broken sinner, Lord,
By Satan long enslaved.
Though words of wisdom and of power
Rise easily to some,
Give me a simple message, Lord,
That bids the sinner come.
—Barbara Cornet Ryberg
Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.
2 Kings 2:11
It was a glorious consummation to a noble life. Surely Elijah must have rejoiced in the hour of his ascension that his petulant prayer when he was under the juniper tree was not answered. He prayed to die, but God had something far better for him. He was the only man since Enoch who was carried up to Heaven without passing through death. And so God is often better than our faith and deals with us according to the lovingkindness of His great heart rather than according to our poor thoughts and our just rewards. He would have us learn to trust Him to do the best for us and to know that if He does not grant our exact requests it is because He has something better in store for us.
He was better to me than all my hopes,
He was better than all my fears;
He made a bridge of my broken works,
And a rainbow of my tears.
The billows that guarded my sea-girt path
But carried my Lord on their crest;
When I dwell on the days of my wilderness march
I can lean on His love for the rest.
Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master…He was also a mighty man of valor, but a leper; and the Syrians…had brought back captive a young girl from the land of Israel. She waited on Naaman’s wife. Then she said to her mistress, “If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy “
2 Kings 5:1-3
The blight of sin is set forth in a striking way in the disease of leprosy. In the case of Naaman we have human nature at its best in many respects. He was evidently a kindly, gracious man, though proud and sensitive, as his attitude toward the prophet’s message indicates. A soldier of renown, he was honored by his sovereign and looked up to by the nation to which he belonged. He was blessed with an affectionate, solicitous wife, who sought his well-being. But he was a leper. And this dreadful fact blighted everything else. So one may be admirable in many things and his circumstances generally be pleasing and satisfactory, but if he is a sinner, unsaved and uncleansed, all else counts for nothing.
The little captive maid who waited upon Naaman’s wife is a precious example of faithfulness under adverse circumstances. Torn away from her home and loved ones, instead of giving herself over to grief and despair, she maintains a bright testimony to the power of Israel’s God and becomes the honored instrument of bringing her afflicted master into touch with the prophet of Jehovah. Through Elisha Naaman finds not only healing for the body, but the knowledge of the one living and true God whom he comes to know and worship (verse 17).
Lord, Thou hast given to us a trust,
A high and holy dispensation,
To tell the world, and tell we must,
The story of Thy great salvation.
We all are debtors to our race,
God hold us bound to one another;
The gifts and blessings of His grace
Were given us to give our brother.
Then said they one to another, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, and we remain silent. If we wait until morning light, some punishment will come upon us. Now therefore, come, let us go and tell the king’s household.”
2 Kings 7:9
The four lepers who had found abundance in the deserted camp of the Syrians were conscience-stricken as they realized that, while they were feasting, others were dying of starvation. Acting on their best impulses, they hurried back to tell the royal household that all might share in the bounteous provision God had made for them. The lesson is an important one for those of us who are now enjoying the riches of divine grace. Millions are still without the knowledge of Christ. How great is our guilt if we allow them to die in their sins without doing all we can to acquaint them with the gospel of God, which alone can save all who put their trust in Christ. Let us go and tell. It is our duty and we will be held responsible if we fail to respond.
If He should come today
And find I had not told
One soul about my Heavenly Friend
Whose blessings all my way attend,
What would He say?
If He should come today
Would I be glad—quite glad?
Remembering He had died for all
And none, through me, had heard His call,
What would I say?
—Grace E. Troy
And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord.
2 Kings 19:14
It was a “letter of blasphemy” sent from the God-defying Syrian leaders, in order to terrify good King Hezekiah and impress him with the hopelessness of attempting to defend Jerusalem against the vast armies of the cruel enemy. But Hezekiah found his resource in prayer. He laid the letter before the Lord and counted on Him to act for His own glory, and in a most wonderful way God intervened. Hezekiah knew who to turn to in the hour of stress. God has said, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble, I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me” (Psalm 50:15). The promise was most blessedly fulfilled, as in every case where faith lays hold of the Lord and counts on Him to act for His own glory.
God’s delays are not denials,
He has heard your prayer;
He knows all about your trials,
Knows your every care.
God’s delays are not denials,
Help is on the way.
He is watching o’er life’s dials,
Bringing forth the day.
God’s delays are not denials.
You will find Him true,
Working through the darkest trials,
What is best for you.
At that time Berodach-Baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah; for he heard that Hezekiah had been sick. And Hezekiah was attentive to them, and showed them all the house of his treasures—the silver and gold, the spices and precious ointment, and all his armory—all that was found among his treasures. There was nothing in his house or in all his dominion that Hezekiah did not show them.
2 Kings 20:12-13
Yesterday we saw Hezekiah spreading out the letter of blasphemy before the Lord. Today we see how sadly he failed and how differently he acted when there came a letter and a present from the idolatrous king of Babylon. Hezekiah was flattered by this attention and did not feel the need of taking it to God as he did in the other case. And so he erred grievously and Israel was destined to suffer terribly for the king’s blunder. We need to be as much before God when the world patronizes us as when it openly disapproves. It is never safe to forget to pray.
We bless Thee for Thy peace, O God!
Deep as the boundless sea,
Which falls like sunshine on the road
Of those who trust in Thee.
We ask not, Father, for repose
Which comes from outward rest,
If we may have through all life’s woes
Thy peace within our breast.
That peace which suffers and is strong,
Trusts where it cannot see,
Deems not the trial way too long,
But leaves the end with Thee.
Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested.
1 Chronicles 4:9-10
In the midst of what seems to many like a wilderness of forgotten names, how refreshing it is to come across the brief story of Jabez. His name means “Sorrowful,” but through grace he was determined to rise above the sorrow that overshadowed his life and enter into the joy of fellowship with God. His prayer is fourfold. “Bless me indeed.” That is, “Give me true happiness.” This is only found as one prevails and walks with God. “Enlarge my territory.” He was not content to go on only with what he had. He would enter into and enjoy more of the inheritance of the Lord. “That Your hand would be with me.” He counted on God’s protecting care. And lastly he prayed, “Keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” Sin is the only thing that can rob a child of God of his joy in the Lord.
Do you know what happened on that day
When, burdened for souls, you tried to pray?
Did you think you failed to touch the Throne
When your lips were dumb, your prayer a groan?
Over the sea in a hot, dry land,
A sower sowed with faltering hand—
But, lo! in that hour refreshing came:
God’s servant spoke with a tongue of flame!
And souls long steeped in a land of night
Passed from gloom to marvelous light;
Away from idols they turned to God,
Finding their peace in Jesus’ blood.
‘Twas your faith had moved God’s mighty hand,
His blessings poured down in a desert land.
—Margaret D. Armstrong
These are the singers, heads of the father’s houses of the Levites, who lodged in the chambers, and were free from other duties; for they were employed in that work day and night.
1 Chronicles 9:33
Is singing work? It is certainly not labor in the sense of toilsome effort. But we read of the “service of song.” And when our hearts are lifted up to God in praise and our lips sing thanksgivings to His name, it is indeed a work in which He finds delight. He has said, “Whoever offers praise glorifies Me” (Psalm 50:23). Of old the Levites, who were set apart for the special ministry of song, were “employed in that work day and night.” It is no light thing to be appointed to lead the praises of God’s people. It is a blessed and joyous service in which the heart must be continually occupied. Paul and Silas were true singing Levites, even in a prison cell with their feet fast in the stocks. It is God alone who gives songs in the night.
When shadowed in the darkness,
And pressed by every foe,
Then let your gladdest carols
And sweetest anthems flow;
The praise so sweet to Jesus,
The “sacrifice of praise,”
Is when no earthly sunshine
Pours forth its cheering rays.
‘Tis then your song is wafted
All human heights above,
And mingles with the angels’
In realms of perfect love;
‘Tis then the God of Glory
Makes Satan fear and flee,
And sends a mighty earthquake
To set His ransomed free.
However I did not believe their words until I came and saw with my own eyes; and indeed the half of the greatness of your wisdom was not told me. You exceed the fame of which I heard. Happy are your men and happy are these your servants, who stand continually before you and hear your wisdom!”
2 Chronicles 9:6-7
What the queen of Sheba said of King Solomon may well be applied to our blessed Lord Jesus Christ. None can realize His worth until they come to Him in faith and prove for themselves the wonders of His grace, and the glory of His power. Then indeed the adoring heart admits with joy and gladness that His wisdom and goodness are far beyond all that has ever been proclaimed by the heralds of His gospel. Faith, we are told, comes by hearing (or, a report). He who hears the word and believes the message is the recipient of life eternal and enters into fellowship with Him who is the source of that life. Then the heart can say, “The half…was not told me.”
For Thou exceedest all the fame
Our ears have ever heard;
How happy they who love Thy Name
And trust Thy faithful Word.
And Asa cried out to the Lord his God, and said, “Lord, it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O Lord our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name we go against this multitude. O Lord, You are our God; do not let man prevail against You!”
2 Chronicles 14:11
God’s power is omnipotent and He is prepared to back up the man of faith, no matter how difficult the circumstances that he may have to face. We today are not called to battle with flesh and blood using carnal weapons, but our conflict is with Satanic hosts, who would seek to rob us of the enjoyment of our inheritance in Christ (Ephesians 6:12). But, for faith, the devil is already a defeated foe (Hebrews 2:14). As we meet the enemy in the power of the cross, victory is sure (Galatians 6:14). He who fought for Asa will undertake for us as we rely upon His faithfulness and walk in obedience to His Word. Asa’s prayer is soul-stirring and indicates strong faith and high spirituality. He put God between him and the enemy. It was a case of divine power versus human assumption, the might of Jehovah against mere brute strength and artfulness.
Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ, who turns
Defeat to victory in every heart.
When battles rage and, crushed, the spirit yearns
To “cease from man,” God rends the clouds apart
And sets a banner in the troubled sky—
It is the face of Jesus Christ, and He
Becomes the challenge that we conquer by;
Nay, more than that: He IS the victory.
Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ; the One
Who never lost a battle; who laid down
His life a ransom, and, when that was done,
Arose unvanquished and put on the crown;
Who knows when foes oppress, when eyes grow dim,
When life is hard. Thanks be to God for HIM!
Now the Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the former ways of his father David; he did not seek the Baals, but sought the God of his father, and walked in His commandments and not according to the acts of Israel, Therefore the Lord established the kingdom in his hand; and all Judah gave presents to Jehoshaphat, and he had riches and honor in abundance.
2 Chronicles 17:3-5
The path of obedience is the path of blessing. This is the great lesson emphasized in the life of King Jehoshaphat. Disobedience always results in sorrow and disappointment. Yet how slowly we learn these things, simple and so often demonstrated as they are! What can be more foolish than to suppose that we, poor finite creatures of a day, are capable of ruling ourselves and finding lasting happiness in acting in accordance with our own unrestrained impulses? Rather we should yield ourselves to God to do His will and be controlled and directed by Him as He has revealed His mind to us in His holy Word. It is His love for us that leads Him to give us appropriate instruction for a safe way through this life. Our greatest wisdom is demonstrated by surrendering ourselves wholly to Him, in order that He may be glorified in and through us.
“His will be done,” we say with sighs and trembling,
Expecting trial, bitter loss and tears;
And then how doth He answer us with blessings
In sweet rebuking of our faithless fears.
God’s will is peace and plenty and the power
To be and have the best that He can give,
A mind to serve Him and a heart to love Him,
The faith to die with and the strength to live.
It means for us all good, all grace, all glory,
His kingdom coming and on earth begun.
Why should we fear to say: “His will—His righteous,
His tender, loving, joyous will—be done?”
—Annie Johnson Flint
But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he trangressed against the Lord his God by entering the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense.
2 Chronicles 26:16
There is a very real danger in success even for those who are children of God. It is easy to become proud and to take credit to oneself instead of giving all the glory to Him through whom promotion comes (Psalm 75:6-7). King Uzziah, as he is called here, otherwise known as Azariah (2 Kings 14:21; 15:1-7), is a striking illustration of this truth. Like many others, he began well and ended badly. In his early years he was earnest and energetic in building up the kingdom of Judah and in furthering the observance of the law of the Lord. While under the helpful influence of “Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God” (2 Chronicles 26:5), he sought after God, and as long as he did so he prospered. “But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction.” In his old age he became “disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27). He was set to one side as unfit to be used of the Lord, while his son acted as regent in his place.
There is a service God-inspired,
A zeal that tireless grows,
Where self is crucified with Christ,
And joy unceasing flows.
There is a being “right with God,”
That yields to His commands
Unswerving, true fidelity,
A loyalty that stands.
There is a meekness free from pride,
That feels no anger rise
At slights, or hate, or ridicule,
But counts the cross a prize.
There is a patience that endures
Without a fret or care,
But joyful sings, “His will be done,
My Lord’s sweet grace I share.”
Now do not be stiff-necked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the Lord; and enter His sanctuary which He has sanctified forever, and serve the Lord your God, that the fierceness of His wrath may turn away from you. For if you return to the Lord, your brethren and your children will be treated with compassion by those who lead them captive, so they may come back to this land; for the Lord your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn His face from you if you return to Him.
2 Chronicles 30:8-9
God is always ready to grant revival and blessing when His people turn wholeheartedly to Him. He cannot pour out His Spirit upon a disobedient and antagonistic people. But He responds at once to those who humble themselves before Him, put away all known sin, and seek to yield implicit obedience to His Word. These were the characteristic features of the great awakening in the days of Hezekiah, and these things are written for our learning (Romans 15:4) that we too might seek the Lord in His own appointed way. It has been well said that we may have revival in any place, at any time, when willing to pay the price. There will always be blessing when the people of God return to obedience to the written Word. It is appalling how far the professing church has drifted in many instances from that which God has revealed as His holy will, in the Bible. We need to come back to first principles, and instead of sitting in judgment on the Scriptures, give the Word of God the place of absolute authority in all things. Then we may be assured of divine approval.
The dearest idol I have known,
Whate’er that idol be.
Help me to tear it from its throne
And worship only Thee.
So shall my walk be close with God,
Calm and serene my frame,
So purer light shall mark the road
That leads me to the Lamb.
For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel.
The order here is most instructive, particularly for any who desire to serve the Lord in ministering to others. Note the four things that characterized Ezra. First “he prepared his heart.” We are told that “The preparations of the heart…[are] from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:1). This is all-important. A prepared mind will never take the place of a prepared heart. In the second place, Ezra sought the law of the Lord. He endeavored to become acquainted with the Scriptures. Thirdly, he set himself to do according to what he read. He was obedient to the Word. Then, lastly, he began to teach others the statutes and judgments of the Lord. To do and then to teach was what was exemplified in our Lord Himself (Acts 1:1). We can only help others as we walk in obedience ourselves. It is the surrendered life that counts for God.
O grant, Lord Jesus, mine may be
A life surrendered unto Thee.
The vessel need not be of gold,
Need not be strong, or wise, or bold,
But, Lord, the vessel Thou shalt choose,
It must be clean for Thee to use.
So fill my heart till all shall see
A living, reigning Christ, in me.
—Barbara E. Cornet
Those who built on the wall and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon. Every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built. And the one who sounded the trumpet was beside me.
The story of the building up again of Jerusalem’s ruined wall, as told in the book of Nehemiah, is most interesting and suggestive. A wall speaks of separation and also of security, God’s children need to be walled in from the world if they would enjoy fellowship with their Lord and with one another. But the maintaining of this means activity in service and watchfulness against the enemy. Into all of our hands God puts the trowel for service and the sword for conflict. Then we need to be ever on the alert, listening for the trumpet call so that we may act consistently for God and glorify Him as we take our places on the walls of Zion.
The Saviour bids thee watch and pray
Through life’s momentous hour,
And grants the Spirit’s quickening ray
To those who seek His power.
That night the king could not sleep. So one was commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king.
The king’s insomnia may have seemed but an accidental ocurrence on that night when Haman was plotting the destruction of Mordecai, the faithful Jew who would not bow to the enemy of his people and his God. But on that sleepless night, there hung the fate of a nation. It was God Himself who kept Ahasuerus from sleep. He was working out His plan for the deliverance of His people and the wakeful king was but a cog in the machinery of the divine purpose. Thus, in ways too innumerable to mention does the Lord work out everything according to His own will. He is never indifferent to His people’s needs. He will never disdain their cries for help, but in every hour of need He is on hand to bless.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
For Mordecai the Jew was second to king Ahasuerus, and was great among the Jews, and well received by the multitude of his brethren, seeking the good of his people and speaking peace to all his countrymen.
Mordecai, the faithful Jew who withstood Haman the Agagite, whom he recognized as the enemy of God and His covenant people, became their benefactor when advanced to the position where he administered the affairs of the kingdom at the king’s command. In this he reminds us that God is now “speaking peace by Jesus Christ,” who has overcome our great enemy. He has annulled him that had the power of death, even the devil, and delivered those who once trembled beneath the sentence of death, and given them that cloudless peace which can never again be disturbed.
A mind at perfect peace with God!
Oh, what a word is this!
A sinner reconciled by blood,
This, this, indeed is peace.
By nature and by practice far,
How very far from God,
But now by grace brought nigh to Him,
Through faith in Jesus’ blood.
Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground, and worshiped. And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.
Suddenly bereft of nearly all that his heart held dearest, Job’s confidence in God shines out most brilliantly. He made no foolish charge against his Creator, as though such testings were a denial of His love. He recognized that he had to do with One infinite in wisdom, as in grace, and he could glorify Him in the hour of trial. Bereavements often prove just where the heart is. If occupied with persons, however dear, rather than with the Lord Himself, there will be a break down when human props are taken away. But where God fills the vision of the soul, the heart will rest in Him though all else may vanish.
I cannot tell why life should thus be shorn,—
Or heart thus emptied be:
Why stricken, broken, desolate, forlorn,
Should be my life’s decree:
Yet—through my blinding tears I fain would trace
The unchanged outline of Thy tender face.
—J. Danson Smith
For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!
The poetical part of this book of Job begins with chapter 3 and goes on to chapter 42:6. In this great drama we have Job in controversy with his three friends, who insist that God does not permit a righteous man to suffer, but that affliction is the portion of the wicked only; therefore Job’s case implies that God is dealing with him because of some sin or sins, open or secret, which the patriarch cannot or will not acknowledge. When the friends fail to convince him of wickedness, Elihu appears to speak on God’s behalf and shows that suffering is not necessarily punishment for sins actually committed. It may often be chastening or discipline in order to bring man to a deeper realization of his own impotence, or to emphasize man’s littleness and Ignorance and to magnify the greatness and wisdom of God. This the Lord Himself enlarges upon when He speaks to Job out of the storm, with the result that the heart of the sufferer is bowed in reverence and repentance before Him.
During all his perplexing experiences, Job maintains his faith in God and has absolute assurance that some day all will be made clear. Meantime he can say, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15), for he has a sure hope of resurrection when he shall, in his flesh, see God and all will be made plain.
I know that, though He may remove
The friends on whom I lean,
‘Tis that I thus may learn to love
And trust the One unseen
And, when at last I see His face
And know as I am known,
I will not care how rough the road
That led me to my home.
Look, in this you art not righteous. I will answer you, for God is greater than man. Why do you contend with Him? For He does not give an accounting of any of His words.
Though God’s ways with His people are often perplexing and baffling to human reason, we may be assured that He will justify Himself at last. If we never understand the reasons for many of His dealings with us here on earth, all will be clear when we stand eventually in His presence in the full blaze of resurrection glory. Till then faith can afford to wait, knowing that infinite wisdom cannot err, and that all the sufferings of this present life will be repaid abundantly with eternal bliss. This was Job’s confidence even when his distress was so deep that he seemed to be overwhelmed in a sea of trouble and false accusation.
I know not why His hand is laid
In chastening on my life,
Nor why it is my little world
Is filled so full of strife.
I know not why, when faith looks up
And seeks for rest from pain,
That o’er my sky fresh clouds arise
And drench my path with rain.
I know not why my prayer so long
By Him has been denied;
Nor why, while others’ ships sail on,
Mine should in port abide.
But I do know that God is love,
That He my burden shares,
And though I may not understand,
I know, for me, He cares.
I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
You have heard of “the perseverance of Job,” writes the apostle James (James 5:11), “and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.” That “end” was to give to Job such a realization of the greatness, the majesty, the power, and the goodness of God, that it would produce in His servant so great a sense of his own nothingness as to bring him to repentance (Job 42:2-6). But it was the repentance of a saint, not of a sinner; for God’s children need to see their own good-for-nothing-ness as truly as the unregenerate. No matter how careful our walk or how consistent our behavior, we are ever to say with Paul, “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells” (Romans 7:18). Hence it is that when God would write a book on repentance, He searches the world over, not for the worst, but for the best man He can find, and then He shows how He brought that good man to an end of himself.
Less, less of self each day
And more, my God, of Thee;
Oh, keep me in Thy way,
However rough it be.
Less of the flesh each day,
Less of the world and sin;
More of Thy love, I pray,
More of Thyself within.
Riper and riper now,
Each hour let me become;
Less fond of things below,
More fit for such a home.
More moulded to Thy will,
Lord, let Thy servant be;
Higher and higher still—
Nearer and nearer Thee.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.
This blessed man is God’s ideal of what man ought to be in this world. It finds its perfect fulfillment in the holy behavior of our Lord Jesus Christ, who ever did the things that pleased the Father. We, in our measure, are called to walk as He walked (1 John 2:6), according to the example He has left us (1 Peter 2:21). To do this we must be regenerated (Titus 3:5). It is a life of holy separation from all evil that is in view. The blessed man is careful to avoid any participation with the ungodly so far as their attitude toward divine things is concerned. His piety does not consist in a negative attitude toward evil alone, but in the positive enjoyment of what is good. The Word of God is precious to him and is his spiritual food, assimilated by meditation (Jeremiah 15:16).
Perennially fresh and ever fruitful, the blessed man is likened to a tree whose roots go down to the water streams, ever drawing up that which tends to growth and enrichment, so that he is a witness for God to all who know him, as they see how richly grace is working in his soul.
O Lord, when we the path retrace,
Which Thou on earth hast trod,
To man Thy wondrous love and grace,
Thy faithfulness to God.
We wonder at Thy lowly mind,
And fain would like Thee be,
And all our rest and pleasure find
In learning, Lord, of Thee.
—J. G. Deck
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork…The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
Psalm 19:1, 7
In the nineteenth Psalm we are called to consider the twofold testimony of creation and of the Word, or the Bible, as we call it, God has revealed His eternal power and deity in the wonders of the created universe (Romans 1:20). This testimony is full, wonderful, and compelling. When men consider the witness of creation they are without excuse if they reject it. In addition, however, He has revealed His love and His righteousness in the Scriptures, where we learn of His marvelous plan of redemption for lost mankind. It is this which, if received in faith, will produce the new birth (1 Peter 1:23-25).
The amazing mechanism of the universe declares there is a master mind behind it. It is designed to lead men to recognize the personality and omnipotence of God. It has been written. “An undevout astronomer is mad.” The heavens are ever telling of their Creator’s wisdom, and calling men to bow reverently before Him and to seek His face. But it is only in the Scriptures that we have the full revelation of His Fatherhood and His redemptive plan. We would never understand His grace apart from its manifestation in our Lord Jesus Christ, who is Himself the central theme of both Testaments. It is through this unveiling that we are enabled to draw nigh to God. knowing He is full of mercy and compassion, infinitely holy and righteous, yet ready to forgive all who trust His Son.
Heaven above is softer blue,
Earth around is sweeter green!
Something lives in every hue
Christless eyes have never seen:
Birds with gladder songs o’erflow,
Flowers with deeper beauties shine,
Since I know, as now I know,
I am His, and He is mine.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
Someone has said, “Psalm 23 is the best loved of all the Psalms and it is the one least believed!” Do we really believe it? We all love it; do we not? Its beautiful imagery, its wonderful idyllic poetry, its expressions of confidence in Jehovah, our great Shepherd, appeal to every discriminating and Spirit-taught mind. But do we know the blessedness of resting upon its implied promises? When out of employment, laid aside by illness, or facing bereavement, are we able to say from the heart, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want”? Not want what? Another Psalm answers, “Those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing” (Psalm 34:10). And again, “There is no want to those who fear him” (Psalm 34:9). Why then should the child of God ever be troubled and distressed by thoughts of future trials? God is over all and He is undertaking for us.
Since the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want:
Rest—“He maketh me to lie down.”
Refreshment—“He leadeth me beside the still waters.”
Restoration—“He restoreth my soul.”
Guidance—“He leadeth me in the paths of righteousnes.”
Confidence—“I will fear no evil.”
Companionship—“Thou art with me.”
Comfort—“Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
Provision—“Thou preparest a table.”
Unction—“Thou anointest my head.”
Satisfaction—“My cup runneth over.”
Protection—“Goodness and mercy shall follow me.”
A Home at last—“I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
The first five words are italicized in our NKJ version and do not represent any words in the original text. Actually the sentence is, in a sense, unfinished. Or it may be considered as an exclamation, “Oh, if I had not believed to behold the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!” Had David been without faith and spiritual insight, he could not, dare not, think what the sad results might have been when his enemies were seeking his destruction and false witnesses were endeavoring to corrupt his life and ruin his testimony. But believing God, he triumphed over them all. Looking upon the promises of the Lord as certain of fulfilment, he was preserved from moral and spiritual shipwreck.
Unless I had believed,
I had fainted long ago,
So buffeted by whelming seas,
With treach’rous undertow;
I dare not think what might have been
Unless I had believed.
Unless I had believed,
I could not have won the fight,
Too many and too fierce my foes
To have withstood their might;
They would have torn me, limb from limb,
Unless I had believed.
Now that I have believed,
Are my feet upon the Rock,
My soul established, strong, secure,
To brave the earthquake shock?
What tragic loss, what black despair!—
Unless I had believed.
—T. O. Chisholm
The Lord will strengthen him on his bed of illness. You will sustain him on his sickbed.
Sickness is one of the many consequences of sin. Believers’ bodies are as subject to illnesses as those of the unsaved, because we are still waiting for the redemption of the body (Romans 8:23), which we shall receive at our Lord’s return (Philippians 3:20-21). But we are encouraged to pray for physical health (James 5:16), and when granted, whether with or without means such as medicines, we should recognize all as coming from God Himself.
When tempted to think that God has forgotten and that we have very little to praise Him for, let us consider how sinful and disobedient we have often been and how patiently He has borne with us. As we reflect on these things, we will have a new conception of His love and grace.
Oft have I sat in secret sighs
To feel my flesh decay;
Then groaned aloud, with frightened eyes
To view the tottering clay.
But I forbid my sorrows now,
Nor dares my flesh complain;
Diseases bring their profit too—
The joy o’ercomes the pain.