Pre-eminence of Christ
view of Christ has changed in our lifetime—from one which exalts him as
pre-eminent in all things to one in which he is confined to the corner of
the house marked, "religion." We have abandoned the pre-eminence of Christ.
Perhaps we are in the age of specialization, and think Jesus should be too.
not so. Christ is the pre-eminent human being, for only he is both God and
Man. We see this pre-eminence in these ways:
the one who has brought us resurrection. The concept is hinted at in the
Old Testament—indeed, Ezekiel shows us much—but is made clear only with the
words of Christ. We who follow Jesus are destined to rise from the grave.
On any other tongue but his, the idea is nonsense.
Indeed, he himself is the first fruit of the resurrection. Others had been
raised from the grave at the word of a prophet; Elijah and Enoch did not
see death at all. But here is our pathfinder—the one who comes back by his
own power. He is pre-eminent; it is proper that he should rise first.
the one who will reign—until all other forms of authority, dominion or power
will be destroyed. The last of these, we are told, is death. The order of
events between then and now is much debated, but the last result is
certain. The one who conquered the grave will destroy death for us.
present and future—He is the pre-eminent one. But do we really believe
that? Or do we let it pass by, marking it as "theological interest only?"
Can the resurrection have an impact on our daily lives? Does the
pre-eminence of Christ have any real bearing on us?
answer depends upon how much you trust him. If you place him first,
trusting him completely, then your view of death changes. You do not fear
it. If you hold him pre-eminent in your life, what can he command that you
would not do? Dread naught; fear God.
Lord, may the power of the resurrection be shown in our daily lives. Grant
us courage to be obedient to your commands in all circumstances. Give us a
spirit of calm in the face of death, for you are the victor over death.
Give us faith in measure to reflect your Resurrection..
Day of the Lord
tale is told of an elderly, pious rabbi who was asked by his students, "When
should a man repent?"
should repent on the last day of his life,": said the rabbi.
how can a man know which day will be his last?"
is why you should repent every day."
can almost picture St. Peter writing this passage, remembering how his Lord
expressed it so many times: "like a thief in the night." That is how our
Lord will return—that suddenly. The parallel is a good one. If you want to
be prepared for the night on which the thief comes, you must be prepared
every night. The only sure way to make certain the boss never catches you
goofing off—don't goof off. Be ready.
Peter expands upon the subject. Everything we know in our physical world
will be destroyed. How? No one really knows. But the one who created all
things can certainly destroy them. He promises, however, not just the
destruction of the old but the creation of the new.
plan to be there? Then understand what will make the transition from the
old creation to the new creation. He calls it the "home of righteousness."
You can pack your bags—now that you know what will go through customs.
to "make every effort." That implies work, despite what some may think.
What are we to work at? We are to be
Perhaps this refers to what others can see. Do we present to the world the
image of the righteous?
The best way to be spotless is to be blameless—not nurturing any secret sin.
peace with him.
Not in conflict, but in calm communion with your Lord and Savior.
don't know when He will return. But we do know how to be prepared for the
Day of the Lord.
Lord, we acknowledge that we cannot know the day and hour of your return.
You have warned us to be ready; by your power keep us ready always. Grant
us a persevering heart, that we may diligently prepare for your return, in
prayer, in study, in fellowship and in charity towards others.
According to the Word
a sad commentary on our times that our soap is more pure than our leaders.
119th Psalm is an acrostic; each section of eight verses begins (in the
original Hebrew) with a letter of the alphabet. The theme of this octet is
living in purity. It is difficult to do in a world which scorns the pure in
heart. How, then, in such a time, does the Christian live according to the
Word? The Psalmist points the way:
you must seek Him with all your heart. This is not just an emotional
decision. See how the Psalmist asks God to keep him from straying. That is
a decision of the will. Lord, I will seek you; help me in the search.
you must have the inner life in the Word. It is "hidden" in the heart..
Not seen by the world, but evident to us, this inner life is achieved first
by memorization of the Scripture. We reward our little children for this,
so that the habit will stay with them life long. After memorization comes
the art of meditation—the contemplation of the Word. In your mind’s
eye, hold it up like a beautiful diamond. Turn it around so that you can
see all its facets. Consider its beauty; take its wisdom to heart.
comes praise. If you hold the Scripture so dear, how can you refuse to
praise it? If the Word is precious, it will not stay concealed long.
praise there is a step that few Christians have experienced: rejoicing in
the Word. The time will come when you take the word hidden in your heart
and place it before God, stepping out on faith, saying, "Lord, your Word
says." When He provides, we rejoice.
then, leads to the delight of the mature Christian—one who knows that God's
Word is sure; his teachings far above any others. The world may wonder
why; the saint simply knows.
Father, teach us to delight in your Word. Open its riches to our struggling
hearts, and bless us with its treasures. Silver goes quickly; gold we leave
behind—but your Word endures forever.
Change in Relationship
I was a young child, I went about in mortal dread of my father. He was
everything a boy could want in a man to look up to. He was a soldier,
familiar with the weapons of my childish dreams. He insisted upon
obedience, and obedience to the letter. I could not call him harsh; but he
certainly was stern.
passed; I had children of my own. In that time I discovered a different man
in my father. We would sit on the back porch and talk of various things.
He'd ask about my job; we'd talk about the kids. No longer did I worry
about what he might say. We spoke as adults, one to another. He had not
changed that much, I suppose; it's just that I grew up.
brings forward just such an example here. He pictures a child, the heir of
a large estate. Until he comes of age, he is subject to tutors, guardians
and trustees. But on a certain day, set by his father, he comes of age—and
what happened at the coming of Christ. For fifteen hundred years or more
God had led and taught the people of Israel. The time came, and our Lord
was born. Born just like the rest of us; under the law like any other Jew
of the time.
this child came for a purpose. Until he came of age, we hear very little
about him. Then for three short years he travels about the nation of
Israel, preaching, teaching and healing. At just the right time, set in the
Passover, he is sacrificed for our sins.
changed everything. The law, the schoolmaster of the Jews for those fifteen
hundred years, had been completed and satisfied. Our relationship with our
heavenly Father changed too. No longer one of ritual sacrifice and stern
warning, we now call him Father in the same way a little child might call
you daddy. The time had been fulfilled.
is gone from us now. But the time is coming when I shall see him again. We
do not know the day or the hour; all we know is that we are to be ready.
Even so, Lord Jesus, come—and soon.
Father, what a privilege we have in prayer! That mere mortals might speak
to the creator of all things is amazing enough; that we might call you
Father could only come from your love. Keep us close to you, Father,
keeping us from evil. May the day of the Lord come soon—and may we be ready
would be humorous if these people weren't so serious.
have in our midst today a large number of people who believe in "animal
rights." The theory goes something like this: since we are nothing but
animals, no different from dogs, cats and barnacles, we have no right to
"oppress" the animal kingdom. So we must cease eating beef and begin the
self-righteous contemplation of our navels.
Psalmist (David) knows better. The Christian view is shown here. Indeed,
mankind has little of which to boast. So he begins with God.
Lord, our Lord" - he acknowledges who is indeed supreme.
majestic" - majesty is in scarce supply these days. But turn to the heavens
out in the desert; God's majesty is still shown there.
name" - the bookends of this Psalm declare the majesty of His name. The
great I AM—Jehovah—is seen in his works.
his works, David makes the obvious comparison: The Creator is great; who
among us compares? But having said that, he shows us the grace of God. For
though we are insignificant in the scale of the universe, God has made us
just lower than the angels, and given us stewardship of all on this earth.
It is his grace that has done this, not our merit.
seem strange, then, to read verse 2. Christ quotes it to the Pharisees at
the Triumphal Entry. It is God's method: by using the weak and the
powerless he conquers those who call themselves mighty. The Pharisees
complained to Jesus about the songs of the children; they did not dare to
silence them. Even hypocrisy has its limits. So it is that God uses the
weak—us—to show his strength.
Lord, the heavens indeed declare the majesty of your name. May we hold it
in reverence on the earth. May our actions acknowledge your grace and your
lordship. Open our eyes to see your creation as the sign of your majesty,
knowing that this majesty will some day be openly displayed at your return.
Judgment Among the Gods
are passages which look as if they could have been written in our own
time—those this was written three thousand years ago. The words are still
Psalmist pictures God meeting those who give judgment on earth—those with
power over others. The word for assembly here is related to the Hebrew word
for testimony, so we see a judicial proceeding.
God makes two charges: first, that we defend the unjust (can ruthless
corporations get laws passed for their benefit?); second, that we show
partiality to the wicked (do we idolize those whose life is sex, drugs and
rock and roll?). Further, He charges us with neglecting the cause of the
weak and the fatherless (how do we care for the homeless?) and failing to
rescue them from poverty (that would be welfare!) and oppression (close down
the sweat shops?)
Our actions seem so profitable that they must be righteous, we think. But
Jesus told us clearly that the blind will lead the blind. Is not our nation
walking in darkness, missing the great Light of the world? Is it any wonder
then that "all the foundations of the earth are shaken"? Things that have
been known to be immoral for thousands of years are suddenly "an alternate
lifestyle." Greed is admired; lust is enthroned in our lives so much so
that divorce is commonplace (it was not always so). Our leaders tell us we
can do quite well without moral foundations.
Our Lord makes it clear. We have been given stewardship of our world; we
have been allowed to form our own governments; we rule our own ways as we
wish with none to say us no. Our nation is the last remaining superpower,
and we, as a people, are acting like it. But do recall that we may be gods
in our own eyes, yet those eyes will close in death. Then comes the Day of
Judgment. Our accusers will be the poor, the hungry, the weak (millions of
abortion victims), the oppressed. As we have failed to do it for the least,
we failed to do it for our Lord.
Father, we are a sinful people in a land where wickedness is praised. The
wicked strut; the righteous are in fear. When the foundations are shaken,
what shall we do? We turn to you, asking forgiveness for our land, revival
for our hearts and a clear purpose in your will.
Christian in Troubled Times
passage seems rather personal to Isaiah. It is as if God gave him some good
advice on what he should be doing.
needed it. He lived in a time much like ours, where God is scorned and
people run to anything that promises sex, money or an inflated ego. In
their day these were stone idols; today the images are computer generated.
The principle remains the same.
what are we to do? First, we are warned about something that may seem
strange: a conspiracy. We are not to call conspiracy what other call
same. Would you like a good example of this? Do you remember Hillary
Clinton's phrase, the "vast right wing conspiracy?" You see Christians in
church; she (and many, many others) see a vast conspiracy.
key to living in such times is contained in an old motto: Fear God, Dread
Naught. It was the watchword of the Royal Navy for many years. "Fear Him,
ye saints, and have nothing else to fear."
this, we must set God apart in our minds. He is not one of the boys, or a
"factor to be considered." He is God, and He is active.
to fear him. Perhaps this sounds strange to you, but consider: do you fear
the power of an oncoming automobile? How much more, then, the Living God?
for the same reason, those who do fear him will find in him a sanctuary; he
cares for his own.
people who ignore God find him difficult to deal with. It seems that the
universe is just filled with his creation—including such little details as
moral law. "What goes around, comes around," we say. And when it comes
around, it snares the person who sent it. The world sees God as something
to be kicked out of the way. But beware; kicking that stone will break
your foot—you will stumble and fall.
Lord, your servant the prophet Isaiah was a man like us—living in times when
your name is
dishonored. May we, like Isaiah, bind up the testimony in our hearts and
seal the law of love in our minds. Then we may wait for you, patiently. We
trust in you, Lord; give us increased faith in these times of trouble.
Your children come to you, honoring your name and trusting in your
strength. Be our sanctuary in this time when the wicked strut.
is a curious phrase given as Christ makes his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem
on that first Palm Sunday. The Pharisees tell him to silence his
disciples; his reply—if they are silent, the rocks cry out.
and again we see in the Psalms that creation is pictured as being capable of
expressing itself—trees clapping their hands, for example. The picture is a
poetic one, but true nonetheless. We are the element of creation given the
power to praise God. But if we are silent, will the God of creation go
without the praise of the created?
we see the thought amplified: the creation, like us, is waiting. Waiting
in the agony of sin, for this is a fallen world. But waiting for what? The
renewal of all things, when our Lord returns. We too await that day, the
day when the dead in Christ shall rise from the grave. We share hope with
the creation: hope in his return.
hope creates a tension in the Christian. The tension exists between hope and
faith. Hope tells us to set our eyes on the future, awaiting his return.
Faith tells us to set our hearts on the tasks given us today. They are not
in conflict, but they are different in view. As a result, we often don't
know what to offer in prayer. For example, if an elderly friend of mine is
very ill, should I pray for recovery? Faith tells me I should; as Christ
healed the sick, so I should pray for them. But hope tells me how much more
glorious it is to be "absent from the body" and be with Christ. For what
shall I pray?
But—thanks be to God! - we have help in this. The Holy Spirit, hearing our
prayers, listens to the burden in our heart and translates this into the
perfect will of God. The prayer I offer in both faith and hope comes out in
accordance with the will of God, by the intercession of the Spirit.
what does the Father do with this? As He works all things together for the
good of those who love Him, he calls us closer to him, justifying us with
the sacrifice at the Cross. If justified, then glorified, as will be
revealed in the last day.
Lord, the burden of knowing what to pray is too great for us. Thank you for
the intercession of the Spirit. We know that our hearts are heard,, even
when our minds are puzzled. May we grow closer to you in grace each day.
Gift of God
Trinity is indeed a great mystery. It may be that it is beyond the mind of
man to completely understand—but that does not spare us from the attempt.
One can gain some understanding from this passage. Jesus tells us that he
came for a purpose: to do the Father's will. In this we see the perfection
of Christ, the perfect man, the perfect God.
the perfect man because he does what we do not: he does the will of his
Father in all ways at all times. He is therefore the only one completely
obedient to the law of God.
also see the perfection of his Deity: he and the Father have the same will.
see to what purpose! This passage touches on the Trinity—but is greatly
concerned with us. In particular, we see here the divine assurance to us:
he turn us away? After all, shouldn't God be selective about who enters the
kingdom? Only the righteous sinners? No; not one will be driven away.
be lost or stolen out of the kingdom of God? Not a one of us.
Indeed, the matter is very much wrapped up in the Trinity—for we are the
gift of God the Father to His Son, Jesus, the Christ. No power on earth or
heaven above can deny that gift, for both giver and receiver are God.
is yet more: eternal life and the resurrection to come.
eternal life—not long life, eternal. Will we even recognize time?
Who can say?
eternal life—the word in the Greek is the one from which we get our
word, zoo. Not some vaporous floating around in the clouds, but life as
humans were meant to experience.
He will raise us up—bodily—as Jesus was raised from the dead.
On the "last day." There will come a day when God declares an end. On that
day his justice will be served; on that day his mercy will be shown in us.
Father, we cannot understand the glory of the creation to come—but we know
its Author. Even so, come quickly!
one of the enduring pictures of the Old Testament: Daniel sees a stone
carved without hands striking the nations of the earth. It is a word
picture of the Christ,.
extends that word picture here.
stone is a cornerstone—the one you need to lay down exactly right. This one
is laid down by God the Father, and it is the perfect cornerstone.
no ordinary stone; it is precious. It is the sinless one himself. In
John's Revelation we see how the foundations of the New Jerusalem are made
of precious stones.
one who trusts in this stone will never be ashamed. We are reminded of
Moses on the mountain, as the glory of God passed by. God hid him in a
cleft in the rock, and covered him with his hand—so that he might live.
stone was rejected by the builders (the Jews) but is now a capstone—the
stone which holds the arch in place. The heavens arch over us; we are
secure forever because of him.
then applies the same word picture to us. He pictures us as living
stones—the building material of the church. The church is not a building;
the church is us. If we are rightly related to the Cornerstone, we are in
the right place. We form a spiritual, not a physical, house of God. And to
what purpose? So that we might offer praise to our Lord.
stones build a temple; in that temple we are a royal priesthood. Royal,
for we are the children of the King of Kings. A priesthood, for we are to
make intercession before God, pleading for those we love. We have received
mercy; therefore, we ask for mercy for both friend and enemy.
Christianity is not a solo flight. We are to be, together, the church. He
is our cornerstone; we must be the temple.
Father, we know that without your Son we would not know your mercy. You
have been gracious to us and forgiven our sins. Therefore we ask that you
keep us ever mindful of the needs, the hurts, the fears and the trials of
others, so that as royal priests we might intercede for them. We do not
come to you because of our own righteousness, but by the righteousness of
Christ and the grace shown at Calvary. Lord, hear the prayers of your
children, and be merciful.
is an economical writer. In five short verses he gives us the blessings of
God: "great mercy," "new birth," "living hope." We receive the benefits of
"resurrection," "inheritance," "never perish," "heaven," God's power,"
"faith," "shielded," "salvation." It is a catalog of the things God has
done for us. Indeed, it is good for us to count our blessings and remind
ourselves of all the great things He has done for us.
bombards us with blessings, and then—"for a little while" - we may
have had to suffer. But even in our suffering, little and short though it
may be, we should see the benefit. "Greatly rejoice" sounds like a grand
thing. The suffering seems trivial in comparison—even though at the time of
suffering we thought it very large indeed. It helps to keep a sense of
even in the suffering, we are blessed. Have you ever wondered if you really
have faith? Is your faith genuine, or are you just going along with the
right crowd? Suffering for the faith tests its authenticity. Even then,
see how Peter can't resist telling you of your blessings. Stuck in the
middle of this test is the description of faith being of greater worth than
gold. So it is that suffering reassures us of the authenticity of our
is more. The day will come when our Lord returns. When that day comes,
our suffering for the faith will be recognized—in praise, honor and glory.
Our Lord is just. If we suffer with him, we reign with him.
you're uncertain about your faith, isn't it because you don't have
eyewitness experience of Christ, in person? As Christ told Doubting Thomas,
blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe. If you're stuck in a
spiritual mud hole, see Peter's method here: you start by loving him as
well as believing in him. The result will be that "inexpressible and
who are goal-oriented sometimes have difficulty with this. We want
results! Remember that this faith is taking you to the goal—the salvation
of your soul.
Lord, in the tedium of our lives we often forget the great things you have
done for us. Keep us mindful of our blessings so that we might rejoice in
you. May we have this joy not just today, but every day. Keep this joy
in us until the day of your return, when our faith will turn to sight, and
we bring praise, honor and glory to you.
most modern Americans, I have a calendar. Not the one on the wall as décor,
the one in my computer to be used. In this I record my appointments; in
this I keep my "to do" list. My wife keeps one in the checkbook; it is the
authority for all things of a social nature in our house. We do this for a
simple reason: we need to be reminded of the commitments we've made. I
learn nothing from my calendar—but I'm reminded of a lot.
need to be reminded! If I don't put the meeting in my calendar I soon
forget it. So I consult my calendar frequently. We should do the same with
the Scripture. Having heard it once, we know its value—and we should let it
remind us of that most frequently.
passage is a reminder, too. Paul is telling the Thessalonians that he
already has taught them about the Lawless One. Also called the Antichrist,
there is much speculation about who this will be. One thing we do know:
his unveiling, coming out of the abyss, is delayed by the restraint God has
placed on him. But some day—perhaps even now—he will come out. When he
comes we will know him—by his fruits. He will do his works according to the
pattern of Satan. What is that pattern? Satan is the Father of Lies. When
the Antichrist comes, he will be accompanied by various signs and wonders
which will make him appear very great. Those who want to be deceived, will
who want to be deceived? Yes, those who delight in the evil of this world.
Does it sound familiar? In my lifetime divorce has gone from rare to
routine; homosexuality from sin and crime to alternative lifestyle; fidelity
and chastity have gone from honored to scorned; honesty that once took only
a handshake and a word now requires an army of lawyers. God sends no one to
hell; not with so many willing volunteers.
take heart, Christian: your Lord is returning. By his own words and the
power of his return he will defeat our enemy. In the meanwhile, keep
Lord, we cannot read the future in detail, but we know what you have
promised. We live in perilous times, Lord. Give us increased faith and
courage, so that we may be faithful until the day of your return. May that
day come soon, Lord.
Crosses in the Desert
curve in the road is deceptive. It's a gentle, sweeping curve, with no
structures nearby. As is often the case in the Mojave Desert, speed limit
signs are far apart and well ignored. The locals call it Dead Man's Curve.
The railroad crossing comes as a big surprise, even at legal speeds.
each side of the road, on both sides of the crossing, you will find a
collection of plain, wooden crosses. Dozens of them, each with the name of
someone who once was a beloved son or daughter. Sometimes, even years after
the death, you will see fresh flowers at the base of a cross.
in this passage, points us to another desert. The ancient Israelites went
through a form of baptism, a form of communion—but God was not pleased with
them. This serves as a warning to us. God is not deceived by the outer
forms of faith; He looks upon the heart. They are to serve as a warning to
warning against what? Paul lists four things which seem to have been
immorality is first. We have lived so long in a society that praises it we
have forgotten that it is sin. But God hasn't.
Idolatry. In our age, we might call this materialism.
Testing God. How? Have you ever said, "God will forgive me—it's his hobby?"
Grumbling. Some of us are "church tasters" - looking for the right blend of
worship—and we grumble when the church doesn't measure up to our recipe.
warning, that's what this is. Like the red lights, bells and the crossing
gates, this is a warning to us. We are to be careful. God even gives us
some help; there's always a way out of the temptation. But we have to take
Crosses bleached white in the Mojave; bones bleached white in the
Sinai—both warnings to us. Silent, yet eloquent, the warning is there.
Lord, open our eyes to our own sins. Teach us to heed your warnings at the
time you give them. Give us the wisdom to see the way of escape that you
provide. Give us the courage to take that escape, no matter what others may
think. Then remind us to praise and thank you for our salvation.
Not My Fault
day, some genius in the world of greeting cards is going to come up with the
all purpose card for sinners. On the inside it will read simply:
such a card is available, we shall have to us older methods. The older
method most in use is simply, "It's not my fault." Of course, that implies
that it must be the fault of someone else. And of all the "someone else"
candidates, God is the most convenient.
of course, is not responsible for our sins. Indeed, he is the ultimate
example of a principle which should be better known: temptation comes from
evil. Have you ever noticed that the people who want you to join in their
slightly unethical schemes are more than slightly unethical themselves? The
honest man poses no great temptation to you; indeed, he sets a pattern that
is easy to follow. If temptation never gets a start, you never have to deal
where does temptation start? With us. We have been told that we should not
restrain and discipline our desires—after all, we don't want to be
repressed. So when the temptation comes along, it eats at us, because we
will not seek God's aid in casting it out. Sooner or later, the forbidden
fruit draws not just thought but action. It may be just a little action at
first. But that action is the birth announcement of sin.
shall we do about this? Start with the positive. God cannot be tempted
because he is pure, and to the pure all things are pure. Imitate your Lord
in this; set your eyes on purity. Seek after this true, humble
righteousness. As you do, keep watch for the temptations most likely to
affect you. Order your life so that these things are not in your daily
life. Then seek the aid of your fellow Christians, asking them to hold you
accountable in your weaknesses.
Lord, how often we tell ourselves that a little bit of sin won't hurt. We
try to forget where that little bit leads. Keep us mindful of your word,
Lord, so that temptation is exposed quickly and destroyed. Give us the
desire for a pure heart and life, so that others may see you in our
character—and that we, in purity, may see You.
mother never lets me forget it. I never wrote home from college. The fact
that the college was barely thirty miles away does not bear upon the
discussion at all. She expected me to write.
were no different in Paul's time. His heart went out to the Thessalonians;
he wanted news from his friends. It's worth a look at what Paul considered
Faith—Paul looks first for the inward man. Appearances can be deceiving;
that's why Paul sent Timothy. He was concerned that someone would have
distracted them from the truth. He cared what they believed.
Love—seen on the outside, flowing out. Were the works of faith seen in the
love that the disciples are to have for one another? He cared what they
is the mark of a good pastor; he cares what his flock believes and how they
act upon that belief.
course, Paul (like the rest of us) has some personal concern as well. Were
the Thessalonians glad to be rid of Paul, or did they miss him? After all,
he was not the most mild spoken of men. What a joy then to find that their
affection for him was real. We all like to be liked.
news from the home front: they are standing firm—and standing firm in the
Lord. Things are going well there.
is not content just to know this; he must share his joy. You can imagine
all those around seeing his eyes light up when he hears the news. Indeed,
the news is so good that he wants to return:
first, he takes the matter to God in prayer. These decisions are not his
own, not even for an Apostle.
he states his motive: to provide whatever might be lacking in their faith.
cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land (Proverbs 25:25)
Lord, keep us mindful of those for whom we care. Even at a distance may we
see them grow in faith and love. When our eyes are dim in the weariness of
the struggle, may the word come to us that those we love are standing firm
in the faith, showing the love of Christ—so that we too may rejoice.
Leadership By Example
is one of those obscure kings tucked away in the Old Testament. His life
story stands out from a line of kings whose epitaph is the same: "He did
evil in the sight of the Lord." Not so Josiah. He became king when he was
eight years old—when his father was murdered. At this time, Josiah is about
twenty-six. He has been diligent in seeing to the restoration of the
Temple. He was a good king.
the reasons he was a good king stands out here. When he gets his first
hearing of God's law, his reaction is this:
just. He gave us the law; we disregarded it. For that, Judah will be
people have done this; he is their king. The nation will pay for its
sins; he, the king, must do something.
instructive to see what Josiah does when he finds out that he and the nation
are in deep trouble:
he inquires of the priests—what will God do about this?
he leads by example. Repentance is required; Josiah will be the first to
tear his robes. The matter is urgent; he does not wait for the answer from
Notice, please, that there is no calculation of, "God should let me off
lightly, I've been good, " or "How was I supposed to know?" As they say in
the navy, it happened on his watch.
is a grand example for us. We live in a democracy; we each bear some of
cannot be content to ignore evil; we should know what's going on. It's
rather apparent that evil is openly displayed.
then, must lead by example. Can the world see in us an option to the
"anything goes" society?
Scriptures opened the mind of Josiah to the repentance needed by his
nation. The Scriptures can still do that today—if we, the children of God,
will study them, plant them deeply in our lives, and live out the example we
know to be right.
Lord, few of us are called to be preachers; a few more are called to be
teachers; but all of us are called to be examples. Lord, fill us with your
Spirit so that we might be the living light of this world—reflecting your
glory to all people. Send us the spirit of revival in our time.
Give us the courage to do what is right, so that others will see you in
recurring theme of the Bible is the Day of Judgment. When our Lord returns,
he will judge the living and the dead. Those who think God weak will be in
awe of his power; those who think him unfair can then examine his justice.
what principle will we be judged?
those of us who know the law (that would include practically everyone
reading this book) we will be judged by our knowledge.
those who are not, they will be judged by the law they know.
law is a common possession of mankind. Shortly after a child learns to
talk, he learns to scream, "No Fair!" We quickly learn that there is a
standard of just behavior. We also learn that we want that standard to be
everyone else. For ourselves, we need a little leniency.
not quite that foolish. You might ask by what standard you will be judged.
Over and again the answer is given: by the same standard you use to judge
others. How will God know that standard?
by your actions—they show that you know right from wrong, and give evidence
of the standards you hold.
for some of us, action is not always a match for our standards. If we pass
judgment on the school yard bully, it will be purely a mental one. Beware:
God knows your thoughts.
Judgment of our secrets; who could be fair in doing that? Only one who is
fully human; only one who is fully God. That one is Jesus, who walked
among us. His purpose in his first coming is clear: he came to seek and
save the lost. His purpose in his second coming is also clear: to judge
the living and the dead.
Lord, we do not know the hour of your return. Many have put forward a
time; we only know that you will return soon. There is but one way to be
ready for "soon." Give us the heart, strength and mind to be ready at all
times for your blessed return. We look forward to that day, Lord, when all
tears will be wiped away. We look forward to seeing friends and family long
gone, now returning with you. We look forward to the new heaven and the new
earth. We look forward—because we can look backward to Calvary's Cross,
bringing salvation for all who believe.
character is a staple of Hollywood fiction: an oriental guru who has spent
the last 900 years staring at the wall of a cave, possessed of the wisdom of
the universe. Somehow, oriental gurus seem fatally attracted to the thought
of accompanying American heroes (or heroines) for the sole purpose of
dispensing that wisdom at various moments during the film. Amazingly, the
wisdom in question sounds exactly like tongue in cheek sarcasm.
Hollywood—wisdom comes from staring at a cave wall. But back in reality,
it's a little different. The enemies of Christ saw his wisdom, too—and
wondered where he got it.
wasn't from the wall of a cave. It came from his one-ness with God the
is a one-ness of belief. If you believe in Jesus, you believe in God the
Father. It would be foolish not to; the claim of Christ is that he is God
in the flesh.
is a one-ness of sight. Jesus came to be the Light of the World. Hearing
his teaching, seeing his works, you can see clearly the way of God the
is a one-ness of speech. Note how closely the two are one! Not only does
Jesus say only that which the Father gives him to say, but he also says it
in the way the Father prescribes.
Jesus we perceive the essence of God the Father, the God whom know one can
see—and live. In the most astonishing metamorphosis of all time, God became
man, and walked among us. It is even more astonishing: he came to give us
then, can we obtain this eternal life? By obedience to his commands. In
the Word we find Life, and find it abundantly. If we love him, we will keep
his commandments. If we keep his commandments, we will have eternal life.
the same Word that offers life through obedience proclaims everlasting death
for those who hear—and disobey.
Lord, we acknowledge you as the way, the truth and the
life. We know that only by our love and obedience to you can we be granted
the wonderful gift you would give us—eternal life. Keep us mindful of your
words; when we hear them, help us to obey them. There is salvation in no
other name, for no other man is one with God the Father as you are. Grant
us wisdom in proclaiming you and humility in following you.
Reading Between the Lines
a principle of understanding the Scriptures: what is given in the Old
Testament is the picture of what will happen in the New Testament. The
picture in this passage is a great one indeed, for it portrays the marriage
of the High Priest (Christ) with his virgin bride, the Church. Applied to
an ordinary human being, these laws seem fussy and restrictive; but seen in
the Gospel light they reflect the glory of Christ in his second advent.
High Priest—there is only one, as there is only one Savior—is given these
must remain ceremonially clean—a picture of the sinless sacrifice of our
must not be defiled, even by death—a picture of the resurrection.
must not leave the Sanctuary—the picture of Christ who reigns forever.
Moses gives two reasons. First, because of the anointing oil—a picture of
the Holy Spirit. Second: because I AM the Lord. God is holy; his High
Priest must also be holy.
High Priest is the picture of Christ, then his bride must be a picture of
the church. This bride must be a virgin—the church must be dedicated to no
may not be a prostitute. Perhaps this symbolizes the sins of the flesh.
may not be divorced—as the church must not be of the world, though in it.
may not even be a widow. Perhaps this is a reflection that even our
righteousness must be given over to Christ.
High Priest is pure; his bride must also be pure, lest the children be
defiled. The children? We are the children of the church, if we have faith
as a little child.
Lord, how often we think that our conduct does not matter, for you will
forgive. Deliver us from such a fault, Lord, and place in our hearts the
desire to by holy, as you are holy. Set us apart for your service, Lord,
and give us the joy that comes from being completely devoted to you.
attitude," says one motivational poster, "determines your altitude." It's
the world's way, of course. By taking on an arrogant, I can whip any man in
the house attitude we supposedly will be prepared to advance upward in our
society. The Christian is counseled to the contrary, and nowhere is this
more evident than in this passage.
our attitude be high and mighty? No; it should be high and holy. Our
attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus himself.
should know ourselves honestly. Christ knew that he was God. It did not
make him boast, nor did he seek false humility in denying it. Likewise, we
should know our virtues and our faults, acknowledging the former as gifts of
God and the latter as work in progress.
should humble ourselves. If our Lord and Savior did not refrain from
becoming one of us—and poor at that—then what service is so menial that we
could say we are above it?
motive for this must be love; it would not do to become very proud of how
humble we (think we) are.
was willing to bear death on the Cross, a criminal's execution. What
suffering, therefore, should we refuse?
then uses the word, "therefore." Because Christ was willing to all this,
God has exalted him. Will God not do the same for us, in the measure with
which we display the attitude of Christ?
strive to know ourselves honestly, acknowledging our sin, he is faithful and
just to forgive.
humble ourselves, it is written that God himself will lift us up.
love one another, and show this in service, God will reward us—and the world
will know we belong to Christ.
bear our sufferings with the thought that we are not called on to bear what
Christ did, then his example and God's comfort will sustain us in time of
Father, we know that we cannot of our own efforts equal Christ—but we can
take up his attitude. Help us to do as He did, knowing our faults, humbling
ourselves, loving each other, seeking your comfort in suffering. Lift us
up, Father, so that we may see you.
passage appears to be the first solemn prayer recorded in the Bible.
Abraham, the patriarch, pleads with God. It would seem to be a difficult
argument; they're discussing the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. The names
even today bring up an image of total corruption and wickedness.
there are lessons for us in this prayer. Abraham sets an example for us.
do you see the compassion Abraham has? It would be easy to have simply
said, "Well, that's God's will." But his compassion rises and he must speak
consider what an example of earnestness Abraham gives us. Again and again
he pleads with the living God, asking for deliverance.
Consider too the basis of his pleading. It is not on the basis of any
favors he thinks God owes him. It is certainly not on the basis of any
sympathy for the wicked. Abraham knows that God is not going to listen to a
plea for an "alternative lifestyle." If not based upon Abraham's character,
nor the character of the wicked, then what? His plea is based entirely upon
the nature of God.
righteous. Abraham pleads God's own character, asking him to spare the city
for the sake of those who do not deserve to be extinguished. We should examine our prayers
in this light.
intercede from compassion, or from a sense of duty, or just because they're
on the prayer list? Does love drive our prayers?
pray earnestly, putting our hearts into it, or are we content with the sweet
minute-and-a-half of prayer?
come to God on the basis of our works, or our position in the church, or out
of a sense that God owes me something—or do we plead with him on the basis
of his character?
more thing: this earnestness comes from a very important fact: Abraham
expected God to act. This was no theoretical discussion to set up a
minimum number of righteous people in a city. Abraham expected God to
Lord, help us to intercede based upon your righteousness, shown at the
Price of Obedience
a curious fact. The Sovereign Lord, the ruler of the universe, sent his
Holy One to us—and we rejected him. The officials of the day, the religious
and government leaders, treated him with scorn, beat him bloody and then
crucified him. One wonders: why is it that this Jesus did not meet with
immediate, universal acceptance?
Perhaps it is this: no prophet comes without suffering. Isaiah knew that.
In his prophetic eye he shows us here the suffering that the Messiah would
endure. But he does so from a prophet's perspective.
makes it clear: his words are those that come from God. The Sovereign Lord
is the one who opened his ears and poured into them his thought and vision.
Therefore, we should not add or subtract from the word of God. His prophets
brought his word; we should not tamper with it.
identifies for us the two reactions that many have to the call of God.
are rebellious. Remember Jonah? He was on that boat because he was running
away from God. When God calls your name, do you reject him this way?
simply draw back. God asks for volunteers; we take two steps backward—just
to make it clear what we aren't. Not that we're arguing with God; we're
just not quite ready to jump on board yet. Not while we can backpedal.
true man of God does neither of these things. Like Isaiah, he says, "Here
am I; send me." No doubt Isaiah felt the tug of rebellion and the laziness
of those would be fatal to a prophet's ministry—for the prophet is going to
see adversity and suffering. Sometimes this is physical suffering;
sometimes suffering in the mind. But we need to be prepared: we need to
count the cost. We need to know the price of obedience.
Lord, open our eyes. Let us see that our journey through this world is not
a sheltered one, but one which will require strength. Give us that
strength, Lord, and work in our hearts so that we will be willing to use
that strength for you. Keep us from rebellion; keep us from drawing back;
keep us serving you.
you ever known a student who enjoyed tests? Neither have I.
reaction to testing in school pretty much sums up our attitude towards
testing in life: we'd just as soon do without it. Each of us can remember
our school days. How much was at stake with each test we took! If I flunk
this, I'll be grounded for life plus twenty years! Do you remember the
feeling in your stomach when the teacher announced a "pop quiz?"
attitude towards testing misses the point. Life is full of tests, most of
them mandatory. If we continue in anxiety and worry about life's tests, we
do not have the peace of our Lord.
useful to look at tests from the other side: the teacher's point of view.
can actually give a student confidence! When a student discovers that he
really does know the subject, so much worry is erased.
keep the student prepared. In football they call it practice—and without
practice you don't play in the game.
also tell the student what is, and is not, important. If it's on the test,
it must be important.
Christian view is very similar.
Testing builds you up, giving you confidence—both in yourself and in your
Testing is also used to ready you for a purpose.
Testing keeps you ready—for our Lord's return!
knew what he was going to do; he wanted Philip to stretch and grow.
Philip, like many of us, raises the difficulties. Our Lord then shows him
the right answer: with God, all things are possible.
Lord, we don't like being tested. We ask for deliverance from temptation;
we also ask deliverance from suffering, pain and strife. We know that you
use our trials to strengthen us. It isn't clear to us why you give us
particular trials; give us the faith to know that you do. Give us the
faith to trust you in this; give us the faith to accept our trials as
preparation and that which makes us better suited for your purposes.
all things, Lord, let us acknowledge your way as perfect—and reach to pass
the test, and become the instruments of your hand.
Nothing so irritates non-Christians like a button-holing evangelist. To be
minding your own business and then be interrupted by what appears to be some
madman trying to litter the landscape with holy tracts is extremely
irritating. If you don't think so, remember the last time you met a
here gives us the opposite advice. He begins by telling us to stay on the
main point: the reason for our hope. It is a fact that Christian ethics
share many things with other systems. The Resurrection is unique, and in
that we have our hope. It is just that which we need to be able to defend.
How do you know that Christ is risen from the dead? Just how do you know
that this Christianity works?
surprises some Christians to know that the evidence for the faith is quite
robust. Each must prepare his own defense, but here are some points to
there is the historical evidence.
Second, consider the man Jesus presented in the Gospels. He claims to be
God; is this reasonable?
also have the change in the lives of those you know. This is one reason for
purity in our lives; it is living evidence of the faith.
important of all is you. You are the expert witness on what Christ has done
for you. If the Resurrection lives in you, your life should show it.
too briefly, there is the message. But we must also consider the method of
that this is for "everyone who asks" - not everyone you can corner.
to be delivered with gentleness and respect. Gentleness, for God is love;
respect, for the hearer is God's child.
witness of your mouth should be confirmed in the witness of your life. If
they laugh at you, let the facts show them wrong.
Lord, we are often timid in proclaiming your name. You do not require each
of us to stand in the pulpit; you ask each of us to be a witness. May our
lives testify that you live in us by the power of the Holy Spirit. May we
conquer your enemies by bringing them to become your friends.
is a certain style to detective fiction, particularly English (as opposed to
American) detective fiction. Bodies are always tidily disposed of; the
detective waits until the last chapter to unmask the villain; and of course
the brilliant deductions by which he discovers the villain are
displayed—with the usual effect that the reader had no clue. The detective
then declares it "elementary."
is some air of that here. The word "mystery" in the Bible means something
which has been hidden, but we may take the concept in the modern sense.
Just as the detective writer hides the key evidence in a basket of red
herrings, so God has hidden the mystery of his will. You think not? There
are thousands of books concerning the Revelation, most of which disagree
with the others. Here again we see God hiding something from the wise—but
revealing it to those who are simple. It is God's way of letting you know
that this is truly from him.
Indeed, it is revealed to "little children" (other translations have "babes"
or "infants"). This tells us that the message is simple, but cannot be
understood until it is revealed.
this, Christ praises the Father. It is fitting to do that, for the
Incarnate Word is the message of the Father. In so doing, he tells us that
it was God's "good pleasure" to do so. The phrase is used in the New
Testament only with reference to revealing his will. It is a phrase of
condescension, of the great revealing to the poor.
too is fitting. For as our Lord points out, the Father is "Lord of Heaven
and Earth." We sometimes forget that. We become accustomed to the gentle
Jesus and omit the power of the Father, the Creator. But is it not an
awesome thought that God's plan, by which he shows his love to us, was his
will from the beginning?
Creator of all things loves us so much that He sent his Son to die for us.
More than that: this was His plan from the beginning. This is the measure
of God's love—for all time.
Lord, we know that we do not deserve the love you have shown us. It is by
your power you made the universe, and by your love you have saved us from
our sins. May we imitate your love and always know your power. Keep us
mindful that we did not discover you; you revealed yourself to us. We must
share this revelation with others, Lord; give us courage to do that. We
thank you and praise you for this surpassing mystery, revealed to your
children in your Son.
uses an unusual phrase here: "the word of Christ." The "word of God"
occurs frequently; this phrase but twice. It its other use it refers to
the word delivered by an evangelist; so we may take this as referring to
the essentials of the faith.
told that we should have this word of Christ "dwell richly" in our hearts.
"Dwell" means to take up residence. But we also use the word to mean "to
linger on a subject." It is to be something that lives in us, and that we
pay lengthy attention.
"Richly" - not just putting in the time to read, but letting the joy be
savored, the wisdom to steep in our minds.
word of Christ is to be savored in our hearts, not hurried through. It is
fine dining, not fast food.
are we to do this? Paul gives us two methods. The first is in teaching and
admonishment. Any teacher of the Scripture knows that preparation for
teaching instructs the instructor. Before you walk into the classroom you
have already profited greatly. Often enough, your students will see new
insights, and you profit more.
what about those who have no gift for teaching? We are also told to
admonish one another. Bring to your fellow Christian's mind that particular
verse of Scripture which is a word "fitly spoken" in time of need. Few of
us are teachers; most of us are friends.
second method: sing. We are to sing all sorts of spiritual works. From
Bach to contemporary, music lifts the soul in praise; praise rolls
naturally into gratitude. "Give thanks with a grateful heart."
does this work? Athanasius explained it to us long ago. Singing requires
not only the full effort of your body (try singing through pushups), but
also your heart; not just your heart, but your mind; not just your mind,
but your spirit. So it is that in singing praise to God you use every bit
of you. The whole human being is committed to praising God; it is as close
to heaven as you can get on this earth.
Lord, there is joy in singing praise to you. A grateful heart is best kept
in song. You have given us words of wisdom in the Scripture; help us to
know when it is fitting to share them with our friends. May we know the joy
of praise for all our days, until you come again with all the chorus.
in this section, gives out a number of one sentence words of warning. Here
is a particularly serious one: if you're going to open your mouth, do it as
if you were carrying the words of God to your hearer.
is not just about teaching, though it applies to that. We, the members of
Christ's body, are to deliver the words of God to the world. We sometimes
forget that people see us as being close to God—and our words should reflect
that fact. It is not that our words are inspired (in the sense the
Scripture is); it is that we are responsible for being God's people in what
we do—and what we say.
are accompanied by service, or should be. We are told to serve in the
strength God gives us. It is a common sight in the church: someone who
continues to minister when the endurance of all others has given out. This
is the strength given by God. It enables us to do what others can not.
This is not miraculous; it is simply a case of "God's supply for God's
needs." If you are tasked with listening to someone clack on, you will be
given the endurance needed.
result is for the glory of God:
that in "all things" God might be praised. It is easy to praise him in the
miraculous. It takes more practice to praise him in the daily grind.
it is the praise of God—not the thinly veiled solicitation of the praise of
Finally, it is done through Jesus Christ, indeed, through his body on earth,
cannot leave this thought without a doxology. "To him be the glory and
power forever, Amen." We sometimes lose sight of the Awesome God in the
daily cycle of chores and woes. We should reflect upon his glory and power,
knowing that we serve the Awesome God who created all things. He enables
our service, blesses it and rewards it.
Lord, we know that you are the Awesome God; help us to remember that fact
in the tedium of the day. Keep us mindful that we are handling holy, sacred
things when we speak on your behalf. Encourage our works with your power;
may we always praise you for the strength you give us. Indeed, to you
belong the glory and the power forever, Amen.
mark of a good leader is this: he defends his people. No outsider can
criticize them—which doesn't mean that they're beyond criticism. It just
means that the leader is responsible for them; others have no such right.
puts the matter in much the same light here. When we see our fellow
Christian doing something of which we do not approve, we have two choices:
pass judgment upon them. Often done in a pious attitude, this provokes
anger. Rarely does the other person change; often does the anger harden
accept them. Note that we are not called on for approval; acceptance is
all the warnings of the Gospels, why is this so hard? Perhaps it is this:
we are warned in this concerning "disputable matters." So often we
transpose "I believe it" with "God said it." I believe all things which God
has said. That does not mean that all the things I believe are divinely
Indeed, the matter can become quite serious. Despite the plain language of
the passage, we frequently think of a person who has added dozens of "thou
shalt nots" to the Scripture as being a pious, wonderful soul who has
clearly thought out matters, standing firmly on principle. In fact, Paul
makes it clear: that's weak faith.
The one with all the rules is the weaker brother.
it matter? Only if that weaker brother passes judgment—or, as we have it
here, looks down upon the other. To do so is to dispute the judgment of
God—because God has accepted that person. In so doing, He has deprived us
of the privilege of judgment. It belongs to God, and we are not to take it
Indeed, is it not rather comical—we invent rules and regulations (with the
best intentions) and then advise the Almighty that anyone who does not
follow them is clearly to be judged. Let judgment belong to God; he needs
none of our regulations for it.
Lord, it is so easy to assume that our rules are your will. Teach us to
rightly handle your Scriptures so that we know the difference. Let us be
trained in handling your word so that we keep it apart in our hearts as
something holy. Forgive us where we have applied our regulations to another
Christian; help us to forgive those who do it to us. Let this forgiveness
bring joy and harmony, destroying the division in your disciples.
us a very deadly heresy in the church today. It goes by many names, but
let's call it "moderation." Moderation, properly understood, is a virtue.
If your life is completely devoted to Jesus Christ, then all other things
must (logically) be done in moderation. So it is we teach moderation in
such things as alcohol and sex; but the same principle applies to
motorcycles, model trains and knitting. None of these are necessarily
evil; all can be a barrier to Christ unless exercised in moderation.
world (and many in the church) would have the same thing done with our
devotion to Christ. But do you not see that this is the one thing to which
it cannot apply? Your devotion to Christ sets all the rest of your life in
the right proportions. It is the ruling devotion of the Christian. It
therefore cannot be limited.
is limited, then we find serious difficulty. You would not be pleased if
your bullet went only half way to the target. No, you would want it to
strike in the bull's-eye. Paul says much the same here. He is headed
toward the goal which God has placed before him. How must we proceed?
need to "take hold" of what God shows us. This must be the ruling devotion.
must forget the past. We cannot live a perfect life; we can only perfect
that which is left to us.
must strain towards the future. There is no retirement in this race.
must not go backwards; rather, our successes of yesterday become the
foundation of higher goals tomorrow.
has called us to win a prize, laid up in heaven. But we must complete the
course first. Paul calls this a mature view. Indeed, it is the measure of
our Christian maturity: how well do we realize we cannot quit yet, and we
cannot go back?
is hard. Because it is a mature view, some of us don't have it yet. You
need not worry about it; as you mature, God will make it clear to you.
Gracious Father, keep us mindful of the race we run. Encourage us as we
become mature so that we will finish the course you have laid out for us.
May we look back upon our attainments and see them not as laurels to rest on
but steps which we have climbed. Do not let the memories of yesterday's
failures burden our race; help us to run unburdened by guilt.
are a pair of drinking fountains in the hall outside our classroom. One is
placed rather low, for small children. The other is at normal height. The
low one works; the high one does not. But they both look like drinking
fountains. So adults come up to them and almost always start with the
higher fountain. There is a sigh of irritation, and the crackle of knees
and backs getting down to first grade level.
false teachers Peter refers to
here are like that.
They appear to be a convenient place to find the water of life. But when we
bend to partake, the fountain is dry. We must go on, to a fountain which
appears to be less convenient—but at least it's wet. The false teacher
always has the initial advantage; after all, he's not limited by either the
facts or the truth.
think that this is not a problem at our church? Think again. One of the
symptoms of false teaching is that it makes its appeal to the lustful nature
of sinners. Well do I remember when our pastor said, from the pulpit: "Sex
outside of marriage is wrong." You could hear a pin drop. The audience was
quite embarrassed that the preacher would take so old-fashioned a view.
Where did they get the opposite idea?
teachers promise you "freedom." But let's understand what freedom means.
If you tie me up and deposit me at the top of Mount Everest, and then untie
the ropes, I am still not free. Just frozen. To be free means to be able
to do what God designed you to do, be what He designed you to be.
is the telltale sign. These teachers go back to the sinful life which they
first left at the church door. The church has too long tolerated the
intolerable: teaching which pronounces sin as an "alternate lifestyle."
Look at the results of such; sex outside of marriage, for example. It is
not "liberating", it is devastating to the marriage and the home the
marriage is building. When will God's church say, "Enough!"
those who think I'm crazy, please read this passage again. It would be
better for you not to have known Jesus, than to have turned your back on his
Lord, grant us generous hearts to go with clear minds. Deliver us from the
temptations which are brought within the church. Give us a spirit of
faithfulness to your Word. Give us wisdom to know the false from the true,
the wolves from your sheep.
they are to look their loveliest, must be pruned. But all who prune them know
that roses have thorns. Over the years we have purchased a number of "thorn
proof" gloves, none of which are in fact proof against thorns. It seems
impossible to keep them from sticking you.
of Palestine do not even have the benefit of beautiful flowers. Since ancient
times they have been considered, both practically and metaphorically, a nuisance
of little use. They are often a metaphor for evil; or for painful nuisance—we
recall St. Paul's "thorn in the flesh," by which God taught him that God's grace
is sufficient. It is the only reference to thorns in the Bible which seems
remotely useful. The Arabs gather them as a replacement for firewood; this is
seen as having the double value of eliminating a pest and heating the coffee at
the same time.
have an interesting characteristic: usually, you only notice them when you are
reaching for something else. Your own strength drives the thorn into your
flesh. Our Lord identifies three such "reaches" here:
the worries of this life. We often think of them happening to us—but a worry
must be reached for, if only to push it away.
the deceitfulness of riches. We reach for the roses of wealth and take the
thorns of greed and envy.
there are the desires for other things—the lusts and gluttonies of our minds.
Again, we do the reaching. If we left them alone, we would not be pierced.
we do with these thorns? There is only one place in all of Scripture where we
see any good from thorns—on the brow of Christ. By the wounds of his crown of
thorns came the blood which cleanses us from all sin. There is the place you
may safely leave your thorns! Cast the cares of this world on him; his yoke is
easy, for his blood has already been shed for us. Lighten your load; put your
thorns on Him.
great is your love for us! May we never allow your word to be crowded out by
the cares of this world. Help us to cast our cares on you, weaving our worries
into a crown for your brow. When you return, we know you will bring that crown
of thorns with you—made new, as all things will be. Then we shall see that
crown of thorns become the crown of life.