Monday, April 30, 2018

Clay backtalk

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Isaiah 45-48; Psalm 119:33-64

TO CHEW ON: "Woe to him who strives with his Maker!
Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth!
Shall the clay say to him who forms it
'What are you making?'
Or shall your handiwork say, 'He has no hands'?" Isaiah 45:9

Included in today's amazing prophecy about Cyrus (the Persian king whom Isaiah predicted would free Israel from captivity 100 years before it happened) is a warning. It begins "Woe to him..." signalling that all who find themselves described in the words should pay attention. It answers the person who would take exception to God's method of using a heathen king to accomplish His work.

The warning pictures a lump of clay complaining to the potter about the way it is being shaped. I like how the NLT translates it:

"What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator.
Does a clay pot argue with its Maker?
Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it,
saying 'Stop, you're doing it wrong!'
Does the pot exclaim, 'How clumsy can you be'?"

Do we ever do this--find ourselves discontented with the way we were created physically, mentally, emotionally? Do we wish we were taller or more athletic? Smarter and more creative?  More expressive, or less?

Accepting how God has made us is an aspect of belief or unbelief. Practicing contentment with our lot in life, including our physical appearance and the strengths and weaknesses with which we were born is part of the fabric of our confidence in God.

I love how the idea that God knew what He was doing when he intentionally created each one of us is echoed in Ephesians 2:10. Here it is in the Amplified:

"For we are God's [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live]."

How amazing to be His handiwork. [The NLT translates it "masterpiece." The Greek word for "handiwork" is poiema - get it—poem.] What an adventure to discover and then do those "good works which God prepared beforehand" and find those works a perfect fit for us because we were made just for them.

PRAYER: Dear God, I so readily question and talk back to you about the way I am and my apparent weaknesses and lacks. Help me to have the uttermost confidence in Your wisdom when forming me. Help me to find and do those "works" that are my destiny. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 119:33-65

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

Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked Amplified are taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission." (

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Meet the Servant

Image: aschenputtel /
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Isaiah 42-44; Psalm 119:1-32

TO CHEW ON: "Behold! My Servant whom I uphold,
My Elect One in whom My soul delights!
I have put My Spirit upon Him;
He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles." Isaiah 42:1

In today's passage we read the first of what Bible scholars call the Servant Songs of Isaiah. defines these:

"There are four “Servant Songs” of Isaiah that describe the service, suffering, and exaltation of the Servant of the Lord, the Messiah. All four songs show the Messiah to be God’s meek and gentle Servant. He is a royal figure, representing Israel in its ideal form; He is the high priest, atoning for the sins of the world. Isaiah predicts that this Servant of the Lord would deliver the world from the prison of sin. In the royal terminology of the ancient Near East, a servant was a “trusted envoy,” a “confidential representative,” or “one who is chosen.” The Servant Songs are found in Isaiah 42:1–9; Isaiah 49:1–13; Isaiah 50:4–11; and Isaiah 52:13—53:12" (read entire article...)

I am sure there are many scholarly approaches we could take to discovering the riches of these songs, but I'm going to look at them personally and devotionally, through the lens of Jesus being their fulfillment—the Servant that these songs celebrate.

The Servant involves all of God.
This first song is rich in all of the Godhead. All of the trinity is here: The speaker, God the Father, who "puts upon" the Servant (God the Son) the Spirit - Isaiah 42:1. Later the Servant qualifies to receive God's glory (which He will not give to another) - Isaiah 42:8.

The Servant is gentle.

I have heard the Holy Spirit described as a gentleman. That is certainly how He appears here as the Servant empowered by the Spirit administers justice, but with a soft voice and unshowy ways - Isaiah 42:2. He is also gentle with the hurting and frees the most tightly bound - Isaiah 42:3,7.

The Servant is trustworthy.

He stands for what is right and true, and is the means by which God keeps His promises - Isaiah 42:3,6.

The Servant is creative.

He was active with God in creation - Isaiah 42:5 and will be the catalyst of new things - Isaiah 42:9.

I invite you, as I am doing, to let this first Servant Song be salve to your spirit today. Do you need gentleness? Jesus is gentle. Do you crave truth and righteousness? Jesus is that too. Do you need to know you have put your faith in someone who can and will keep His promises? That's Jesus. Do you need His creative activity in your life? Ask Him to be Creator in your circumstances.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for this beautiful picture of Your willingness to serve God the Father, and us. Help me to find comfort and hope in Your abilities today. Amen. 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 119:1-32

The Bible Project VIDEO: The Gospel of the Kingdom (Theme Series)

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

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Our tough and tender Shepherd

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Isaiah 39-41; Psalm 118

TO CHEW ON: "Behold the Lord God shall come with a strong hand ...
He will feed His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs with His arms,
And carry them in His bosom
And gently lead those who are with young." Isaiah 40:10,11

I love seeing news footage of tough athletes (hockey or football players) interacting with kids from the Vancouver Children's Hospital, or watching my strong, capable son-in-law take care of his little daughter. There is something compelling about strength combined with tenderness. In Isaiah 40 we see that aspect of God.

Though He governs with a strong hand and a ruling arm, He rules His own with the utmost of gentleness:
  • He feeds His flock. [Feed - ra 'ah  means to shepherd, tend, pasture, cause one's herd or flock to graze, care for one's animals, providing them with good pasture - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 919.]
  • He carries the lambs—the young and immature—in His arms and carries them close to His heart.
  • He takes special care of the mothers: "gently leads those who are with young."

This passage from Isaiah reminds us of other God-as-shepherd passages.

* Psalm 80:1-2 also combines God's tenderness with strength: "Give ear O Shepherd of Israel / You who lead Joseph like a flock .... Stir up Your strength, / And come and save us."

* So does Micah 5:4: "He shall stand and feed His flock / In the strength of the Lord .." Here "He" refers to Jesus. Two verses earlier in the same passage, Micah predicts His birth in Bethlehem.

* Psalm 23:1-6 shows God shepherding the individual by bringing him to the best pasture and to still water, comforting him in a brush with death, and exalting him before enemies.

* And of course we can't forget the words of Jesus Himself as He expands on His role as our shepherd in John 10. There He talks about how His sheep know His voice (John 10:4), how entry into the sheepfold through Him (the door - John 10:7) assures them safety and an abundant life (John 10:9,10), how He is so committed to the sheep He lays down His life for them (John 10:15), and how no one has power to take the sheep away from Him (John 10:28).

What comfort and security we know in the care of our shepherd who is both strong and tender. I have put myself in His care. Have you?

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for Your power, which so often shows itself in gentleness. Help me to recognize Your voice and always follow You. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 118

The Bible Project VIDEO: Isaiah Part 2 of 2 (Read Scripture Series)

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

Friday, April 27, 2018

Truth—is there such a thing?

Image: Pixabay

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Isaiah 36-38; Psalm 117

“For His merciful kindness is great toward us,
And the truth of the LORD endures forever.” Psalm 117:2

Our reading today contains the shortest chapter in the Bible (Psalm 117). But its subject is neither small nor transitory but vast and eternal: “The truth of the LORD endures forever.” 

The Hebrew word for “truth” is  - emeth: sureness, reliability, stability, continuance, faithfulness. It includes truth as spoken; of testimony and judgment; of divine instruction; truth as a body of ethical or religious knowledge; true doctrine.

The English dictionary’s first three definitions of truth are: 1] The true or actual state of a matter; 2] Conformity with fact or reality; 3] A verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle or the like.

This sounds cut-and-dried. However, truth has come to have a muddied meaning in our culture. We talk about “your truth” and “my truth.” If something seems true to you, it’s your truth, and has as much validity as my truth. Many scorn the possibility of, especially, objective moral truth—something that’s true despite human opinion. (The article “Objective truth is one thing but objective moral truth is another” by J. Warner Wallace discusses this subject.)

The Bible's use of truth, however, would lead us to believe that it exists independent of human opinion and acceptance. Here are some of the facets of truth found just in some Psalms that use the same Hebrew word for truth that's used in our passage.

Truth is:

  • Found in God - Psalm 86:15.
  • Intrinsic in all of God’s initiatives: the “works of His hands” (Psalm 111:7,8; Psalm 57:10; 85:10,11; 108:4) and his communication (“precepts”) - Psalm 111:7-8.
  • Identified with God’s judgments, laws, commandments, and word - Psalm 19:9; 119:142, 151, 160.
  • Mankind’s salvation and preservation - Psalm 69:13; 40:10,11.
  • Inspiration to worship - Psalm 43:3.
  • The subject of human praise - Psalm 71:22; 115:1.In fact, truth evokes praise from  all people on earth - Psalm 117:1,2 (our today’s reading).
  • A quality God wants to find within us - Psalm 51:6
  • A path we can follow and walk in - Psalm 25:10; 26:3.
  • Something we can speak - Psalm 119:43
 Let's make our lives a search for and pursuit of God's truth!

PRAYER: Dear Father, help me to recognize and acknowledge Your truth, and make it the foundation of my life. Amen. 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 117

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

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Still looking forward to "Then"

Peter heals a lame man - Acts 3:8
Peter heals a lame man - Acts 3:8
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Isaiah 31-35; Psalm 116

TO CHEW ON: "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
And the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then the lame shall leap like a deer,
And the tongue of the dumb sing.
For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness,
And streams in the desert."  Isaiah 35:5,6

The first word in our focus verse, "Then," refers back to verse 4, where Isaiah says, "Behold your God will come with vengeance … He will come and save you." Bible commentators interpret these verses to refer to the coming of Messiah—Jesus.

What a beautiful picture Isaiah paints of unheard-of fruitfulness ("the desert shall rejoice and blossoms as a rose"), the return of courage ("strengthen the weak hands / And make firm the feeble knees"), and restored health as sight replaces blindness, hearing deafness, song gushes from the throats of the mute, and the lame "leap like a deer." Hallelujah!

As we review the life of Jesus we find that many of these wonders characterized His ministry. We read how he healed blind men in Matthew 9:27 and again in John 9:6,7. He had a great healing conference "on the mountain" when "great multitudes came to Him having with them the lame, blind, mute, maimed and many others … and He healed them" (Matthew 15:29,30). He actually quoted words from our Isaiah reading to John the Baptist, referring to Himself as a fulfillment of these prophecies (Matthew 11:4,5).

But there is also an aspect of Isaiah's prophecy that has yet to be fulfilled. The "Day of the Lord"—and I think we're safe in equating the "Then" in verse 4 to that "Day"—has layers of fulfillment in prophecy. A footnote in my Bible explains:

"'The Day of the Lord' is used by OT prophets to signify a time in the history of mankind when God directly intervenes to bring salvation to His people and punishment to the rebellious..."

The explanation goes on to identify four stages of the Day of the Lord:
1. The time of the prophets.

2. The time of the fulfillment of their prophecies.
Periods of fulfillment were typically merged in the prophets' views, however (they couldn't differentiate between near or distant fulfillment). From our vantage point, though, we can recognize the first coming of Jesus and the church age as part of the coming of "The Day."

But there's more to come as we look forward to the fulfillment of the "Then," the "Day of the Lord."

3. The Second Coming of Christ: is another part of this, "… during which Christ's personal righteous and universal rule will restore God's order to earth - Isaiah 11:6-9; Amos 9:13."

And finally…

4. The ultimate fulfillment
of "The Day … with its new heaven and a new earth - Ezekiel 47:1-12 compared with Revelation 22:1-5" - Timothy Mark Powell, footnotes on Obadiah 15, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible p. 1190.

And so our attitude is rejoicing in something that has passed and anticipating for the future and the "Then" we still have to look forward to!

Dear Jesus, thank You for coming to show God's heart of abundance, restoration and healing. Help me to live with faith and soberness as I anticipate the next unveilings of "Then." Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 116


New King James Version (NKJV) Used with permission. The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A voice behind you

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Isaiah 28-30; Psalm 115

TO CHEW ON: "Your ears shall hear a voice behind you saying, 'This is the way, walk in it,' whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left." Isaiah 30:21

We love to be guided from the front. We are reassured by someone walking or driving ahead of us, clearly showing us the right way. But often God does not guide us that way.

Isaiah refers to God guidance as "a voice behind you." What does he mean by that? Commenters make a connection to a "voice behind you" with conscience and other metaphors:

"It is thought by some to be an allusion to schoolmasters, who stand behind their scholars, or at their backs, to guide, teach, and instruct them; and by others to shepherds following their flocks, who, when they observe any of the sheep going out of the way, call them back; or to travelers, who, coming to a place where are several ways, and being at a loss which way to take, and inclining to turn to the right or left, are called to by persons behind them, and directed in the right way." - Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible.

Such "voice behind you" guidance has operated in my life in at least two ways.

Sometimes when I'm faced with a fork in the road, I simply make my decision, not thinking to pray about it. It's only later, as I reconsider what I've done—sit before God about it you could say—that I realize, what I did was not such a good thing. When this happens I need to retrace my steps or change direction.

At other times, that voice has been the voice of confirmation. Sometimes I've taken on writing assignments for the simple fact that I've finished the last project and this one came along at just that time. There were no prophetic words, voices or holy thrills - not even a scripture verse on which to hang my hat. Not uncommonly I'll question whether I've made the right decision, especially when the writing gets tough or the piece gets turned down. Later, much later sometimes, I'll get confirmation that the project was a 'God thing' (it finally gets accepted, I get an email or note from someone saying it blessed them, it wins a prize, gets republished).

Have you had such "voice behind you" guidance in your life? How has it worked for you?

The comforting thing in all this is that God promises to guide us:

  • Psalm 25:9: "He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way."
  • Proverbs 3:6: "In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."
  • Isaiah 48:17: "This is what the LORD says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: "I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go."

PRAYER: Dear God, Thank You for Your promise of guidance. Help me to hear Your voice and to be willing to change direction if that is what You are saying. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 115


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

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Your dead shall live

Image courtesy
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Isaiah 23-27; Psalm 114

"Your dead shall live;
Together with my dead body they shall arise.
Awake and sing, you who dwell in dusk;
For your dew is like the dew of herbs,
And the earth shall cast out the dead." Isaiah 26:19

Bible commenters view Isaiah 26:19 with its reference to the dead living again in several ways.

- Spiritual Resurrection
My Thompson Chain Bible links this passage to the topic of "Spiritual Resurrection." So does the Asbury Bible Commentary: "Isaiah 26:19 is an oracle of salvation, a shout of joy that the dead will live. There will be a national restoration (this is similar to Ezekiel's prophecy concerning the dry bones and is not a reference to individual resurrection."

- Bodily Resurrection

My Bible's notes view it as referring to a bodily resurrection: "Dead shall live: The resurrection of the righteous dead affirms the hope of eternal life." The Reformation Study Bible says something similar: "The Old Testament expresses faith in the resurrection of the body since death is an invasion of God's created order." (RSB accessed through

Does it really matter which it is? I don't think so because a spiritual resurrection—a born again experience as Jesus called it—is the beginning of what the Bible calls eternal life which includes a physical resurrection: "The future event of finally being raised to glory with Jesus Christ" - Dictionary of Bible Terms.
Let's camp for a bit on the Bible promise that our bodies will be resurrected.
- It is the hope of psalmists
"But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave,
For He shall receive me" - Psalm 49:15.

"You, who have shown me great and severe troubles,
Shall revive me again,
And bring me up again from the depths of the earth" - 71:29.

- Hosea describes release from death in terms of freedom from a kidnapper
"I will ransom them from the power of the grave;
I will redeem them from death.
O Death, I will be your plagues!
O Grave, I will be your destruction!" - Hosea 13:14.

John recalls Jesus' words about death and resurrection. He said:
- The dead would respond and come alive at His voice:"'Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live'"  - John 5:25. 

- He said said of every one who believes in Him: "I will raise him up at the last day" - John 6:40. 
- Resurrection is promised through belief in Him:"Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live' " John 11:25.

Paul describes the coming resurrection in interesting detail:
 "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first" - 1 Thessalonians 4:16.

In Revelation, John talks about the extent of this resurrection: 

" The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works" - Revelation 20:13.

What an event to look forward to! No wonder the "Resurrection" listing in the Dictionary of Bible terms includes the topics:"The resurrection as an incentive to godliness and perseverance" and "The resurrection as an incentive to endurance and suffering."

Let's keep this hope—this promise—of resurrection in mind as we ride the waves of life, and especially as we say goodbye to those we love who die in the Lord. How wonderful to know that our earthly goodbyes are not final farewells!

Dear God, help me to cling to Your promise of resurrection through the ups and downs of my earthly life.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 114

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

Monday, April 23, 2018

God's sure word

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Isaiah18-22; Psalm 113

TO CHEW ON: “…for the LORD God of Israel has spoken it.” Isaiah 21:17

In our reading today Isaiah prophesies about the nations around as well as Judah. We see proclamations against Ethiopia and Egypt (Isaiah 18-20), Babylon, Edom or Dumah and Arabia (Isaiah 21), and Jerusalem (Isaiah 22).

I’m not sure how much of Isaiah 21 (the proclamation against Babylon, the chapter from which our focus verse is taken) was written after the fact and what was prophetic. My Bible’s notes explain distress at seeing Babylon fall: “Here news arrives in Jerusalem of Babylon’s 703 B.C. defeat by Sennacherib of Assyria. This terrorizes Jerusalem who fears she is next …Isaiah’s emotional response identified with Jerusalem’s at the thought of what Babylon’s fall might mean” - Nathaniel M. Van Cleave, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 896.

Some life observations and applications we can take from this section (emphases added):
  • Like Isaiah did, we who believe in and acknowledge God and His sovereignty will experience our nation’s fate like every other citizen.
  • No matter how prepared we are, international events that have implications for us are traumatic and can be deeply troubling. Isaiah was not blasé about the fate of his nation:
“Therefore my loins are filled with pain;
Pangs have taken hold of me, like the pangs of a woman in labor.
I was distressed when I heard it;
I was dismayed when I saw it.
My heart wavered, fearfulness frightened me;
The night for which I longed He turned into fear for me” - Isaiah 21:3,4.

  • God’s words and promises are dependable: “For the LORD God of Israel has spoken it,” declared Isaiah, before Arabia ever fell (Isaiah 21:17).
Other prophets asserted this too:

“For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place” - Jeremiah 29:10.
"'For I am the Lord. I speak, and the word which I speak will come to pass; it will no more be postponed; for in your days, O rebellious house, I will say the word and perform it,' says the Lord God.” - Ezekiel 12:25.

"And He has confirmed His words, which He spoke against us and against our judges who judged us, by bringing upon us a great disaster; for under the whole heaven such has never been done as what has been done to Jerusalem.” - Daniel 9:12.

So did Jesus:
 "'For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled'" - Matthew 5:18
"'Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away'" - Luke 21:33

We too live in the context of international conflict and uncertainty. Let’s familiarize ourselves with the words and promises of God, and build our lives on their firm foundation.

: Dear Father, please help me find and apply the Bible promises on which I can build my life, no matter what is going on in current events around me. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 113

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

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Original Exorcism

Lucifer of Liége, Liége Belgium (Image: Pixabay)
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Isaiah 13-17; Psalm 112

“How you are fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning!
How you are cut down to the ground,
You who weakened the nations!” Isaiah 14:12

Here we have the interesting account of what is believed to be Satan’s casting out of heaven. My Bible’s notes explain the double application:
“These verses … are part of the proverb against the king of Babylon. The language, however, shows that he is a type of Satan” Nathaniel M. Van Cleave, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 891.

There are several other accounts of Satan’s fall:
- Jesus, when debriefing the disciples on their return from ministering in His name and excited that they could perform exorcisms, told them this was no surprise for Satan was a long-ago defeated foe. He said:‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven’” Luke 10:18.

John in his Revelation vision tells it again:
“So the great dragon was cast out, the serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world, he was cast to earth, and his angels were cast out with him” - Revelation 12:9*

It is interesting to notice the details in Isaiah’s telling. Lucifer’s pride and self-will are on display in his “I will” statements:
“I will ascend to heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation…
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will be like the Most High” - Isaiah 14:13-14.

God responds to him:
He will be brought down
He will be the object of stares
He will be the object of ridicule.
He will be cast out by even the lowest place, the grave.
He will be alone (Isaiah 14:15-20).

What particularly makes me sit up and take notice in this account is the reason for Satan’s fall: pride and self-will, attitudes with which I (and perhaps you too?) am all too acquainted.

PRAYER: Dear Father, by Your Spirit help me to recognize, repent of, and root out the satanic qualities of pride and self-will that so readily take root and flourish in my life.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 112

* Some eschatologists interpret this as a future and final casting out of Satan. different from the one described in Isaiah; others see this as a flashback to that first casting out.

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

Thanks for reading! This year we are using The Bible Project "Timeless Reading Plan" to read through the Bible in 2018. If you'd like to read along in your own Bible, you can download a pdf of the reading plan HERE.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Draw from this well!

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Isaiah 9-12; Psalm 111

TO CHEW ON: "'Behold God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid;
For YAH the LORD is my strength and song;
He also has become my salvation.
Therefore with joy you will draw water
From the wells of salvation'" - Isaiah 12:2,3

Water was a valuable and much-sought-after commodity in the parts of the east where the events of the Bible played out. The New Bible Dictionary says of Bible wells: "In the arid parts of the East, water may become as precious as gold. Wells were and still remain the subjects of fierce disputes and even strife. They became heritable and were exploited by human monopolies at an earlier date than land." The New Bible Dictionary, p. 1325.

We can gain a fuller appreciation for the "wells of salvation" picture in our focus verses today, when we review the key role that wells played in Israel's history.

- Hagar's life was saved when God opened her eyes to the well at Beer Lahai Roi (Genesis 21:14-19).
- Later Isaac settled at that same well (Genesis 25:11).
- Isaac had to dig many wells before he was finally able to make peace with his enemies and settle down in the land (Genesis 26:15-22).
- Jacob met Rachel at a well (Genesis 29:1-2; 9-12).
- Moses' desperate flight from Egypt ended at a well in Midian (Exodus 2:15).
- Three of David's men risked their lives to get David a drink of water from the Bethlehem well.(2 Samuel 23:15-16).
- Jesus offered living water to a Samaritan woman at a well (John 4:1-13).

Likening our salvation to drinking from a well yields some interesting comparisons.

  • Like the well was a life-saver for Hagar and Moses, the wells of salvation are just that -- salvation -- for us spiritually. 
  • What we know about wells generally (that they access water that is underground) and Isaac's experience with them tells us that finding those wells of salvation may require effort on our part. For some it is the culmination of years of searching. 
  • Like wells were the hub of community life in Palestine, the "wells of salvation" are the center around which relationships develop as we meet God and get to know Him and each other in the community of believers, the church. 
  • Should we stray, hopefully we would be like David hankering after water from the Bethlehem well, as we remember and long for the sweet living water of the salvation wells that satisfied like no other.
Let's drink from the wells of salvation today — the water of forgiveness and cleansing, the assurance of eternal life, the comfort of God's presence in the indwelling Holy Spirit who is our comforter, counselor, teacher...drinking deep from all the things that salvation means.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for salvation and what it means for me in everyday life. Help me to never view it casually or take it for granted. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 111

MORE:  Isaiah 12:3 - illuminated

"A kneeling figure looks up to Christ and points at a man who draws water issuing from the foot of the crucifix. Christ looks out from Heaven towards a lamb and crucifix. The crucifix and lamb are not mentioned in the text, but are an interpretation of the word "Savior". (From Biblical Art on the WWW.)

"You shall draw the waters with joy from the Saviour’s fountains" -Unknown illustrator of St. Alban's Psalter' - England first half of 12th century.

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

Friday, April 20, 2018

Dull hearts

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Isaiah 5-8; Psalm 110

TO CHEW ON: “And He said, ‘Go and tell these people;
“Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.”’” Isaiah 6:9

Isaiah’s encounter with God brings an overwhelming sense of his own sinfulness. But after the angel purifies his lips with a live altar coal, he responds to God’s call for help with “Here am I! Send me.”

It is then he gets the bad news. The people God is sending him to have dulled understanding. They will see but not see. Hear but not hear. Their hearts are blunted toward God and will be unreceptive to Isaiah.

A footnote in my Bible says:
“The same message that softens a receptive heart also hardens an unreceptive heart. So in sending forth the message to a people known to be unreceptive, their condition is worsened” - Nathaniel M. Van Cleave, New Spirit Filled Life Bible, p.881.

In our society, which prides itself on skepticism toward claims of absolute truth, an unreceptive attitude toward the Gospel is common. Is there a chance some of that attitude has seeped into us and begun to calcify our own hearts?

The Bible speaks eloquently of the by-products of a dull, unbelieving heart.

1. Theological confusion and dithering - 2 Timothy 4:2-4; 3:7.

2. Moral confusion - Romans 1:28-32

3. Marriage breakdown - Matthew 19:8.

4. We become blind to the fact that sin’s attractiveness is a lie - Hebrews 3:13

5. Miracles don’t happen - Matthew 13:58

6. We become vulnerable to calamity - Proverbs 28:14

7. We become vulnerable to premature death - Proverbs 29:1

8. There are repercussions on how we spend eternity - Romans 2:5

I don't know about you - but I don't like these!

PRAYER: Dear God, please give me a sensitive, believing heart. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 110

MORE: Keith Green sings his prayer for a softened heart in “My Eyes Are Dry.”

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

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Egocentric idols

Image: Microsoft Clipart
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Isaiah1-4; Psalm 109

TO CHEW ON:  "Their land is also full of idols;
They worship the work of their own hands,
That which their own fingers have made." Isaiah 2:8

John Piper takes a little swipe at a common interpretation of Jesus' command, "You shall love your neighbour as yourself (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:39):

"The popular misconception is that this command teaches us to learn to esteem ourselves so we can love others. This is not what the command means. Jesus does not command us to love ourselves. He assumes that we do." — John Piper, Desiring God, p. 209.

It seems to me there is only a short distance between healthy self-love and idolatrous self-love. I wonder if, in our rich, possession-obsessed society, we don't indulge in such idolatry more than we realize. We regularly look to the things we own to give us a sense of worth. We dote on their excellence and how their quality will reflect well on us. When we get down, we shop for more things to help us feel better.

Making an idol out of a car or house or pair of shoes is an easy kind of idolatry to identify. However, there are other ego-centric idols that are just as widespread, but may be harder to put their fingers on. Dale Hanson Bourke in a chapter on idols in her book Embracing Your Second Calling speaks of a Bible-study worksheet (written by Tim Keller) that probed her heart in this regard:

"...the worksheet contained a list of the types of idolatry many modern-day men and women embrace. In part, it included statements like:

Approval idolatry: 'Life only has meaning / I only have worth if I am loved and respected by...'

Control idolatry: Life only has meaning / I only have worth if I am able to get mastery over my life in the area of...'

Helping idolatry: 'Life only has meaning / I only have worth if people are dependent on me.'

Work idolatry: 'Life only has meaning / I only have worth if I am highly productive and get a lot done.'

Achievement idolatry: 'Life only has meaning / I only have worth if I am being recognized for my accomplishments / excelling in my career.'

...One suggestion from the study is to think about what you fear the most or what you worry about most often. If you follow that trail, you almost always arrive at the foot of an idol." -- Dale Hanson Bourke, Embracing Your Second Calling, pp. 90-91

These thoughts convict me. I need to sweep a spotlight into and through the tucked-away rooms of my heart to see what self-idols are hidden there. What about you?

PRAYER: Dear God, please show me where I am worshiping something/someone other than You. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 109

The Bible Project VIDEO: Isaiah 1-39 (Read Scripture Series)

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Pursuing personal revival

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: 2 Kings 23-25; Psalm 108

TO CHEW ON: “Then the king stood by a pillar and made a covenant before the LORD to follow the LORD and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statues with all his heart and all his soul to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people took a stand for the covenant.” 2 Kings 23:3

In the up-and-down story of Judah’s kings we were introduced to Josiah in yesterday’s reading. He became Judah’s king at a mere eight years old. He was one of the rare kings that “...did what was right in the sight of the LORD” (2 Kings 22:2). This involved cleaning up the temple.

The cleanup unearthed a copy of the Book of the Law. When Shaphan the scribe read it to the king (who would probably have been in his early to mid-20s by then - 2 Kings 23:23), he tore his clothes in distress.

Our reading today continues the story, telling of how Josiah covenanted to follow that Book of the Law with his whole being. That involved ridding the land of pagan worship.

The details of this (2 Kings 23:4-20, 24,25) show the extent of Judah’s degradation. But wow, he really cleaned house! He burned idols, desecrated and destroyed pagan shrines, and rounded up priests and other practitioners and did away with them. Finally, he celebrated Passover once again. I think we could call what happened to Josiah “revival.”

I see in his story, some parallels of how we might pursue personal revival.

1. He rediscovered God’s Word (2 Kings 22:10,11)
Though we may not have lost God’s word physically, have we perhaps misplaced it in other ways? If we read it only rarely or as a matter of rote, let’s “find” it again and read it regularly with receptive hearts as God’s communication—His love letter—to us.

2. He cleaned up the land (2 Kings 23:4-20,24,25)
Maybe we too need to do some spiritual housecleaning. We might view what we’re reading, watching, and browsing with an eye to what these things are doing to us spiritually. We might search for objects of worship, like money, success, image, reputation etc. that have become our “idols” and “high places” and again put God on the throne of our lives.

3. He re-instituted Passover (2 Kings 23:21-23)
For us this might be as simple as once again meeting with Him regularly to pray and read the Bible, attend church, cultivate Christian friends, sign up for a Bible study, or listen to Christian programs and podcasts.

4. He led a generation back to God (2 Kings 23:3)
I love how Josiah’s decision impacted not only him but the whole nation: “And all the people took a stand for the covenant” - 2 Kings 23:3. Though we don’t have the clout of a king, our personal revival is bound to affect more than just ourselves. Nowadays with the internet and social media, we have the means to influence not only those with whom we interact face-to-face but virtually the whole world. Only eternity will reveal the impact of our decision to wholeheartedly follow Jesus.

PRAYER: Dear Father, thank You for the example of young Josiah. May I be as resolute in obedience and as ruthless in rooting sin out of my life and following You with my whole heart and soul.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 108

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

Thanks for reading! This year we are using The Bible Project "Timeless Reading Plan" to read through the Bible in 2018. If you'd like to read along in your own Bible, you can download a pdf of the reading plan HERE.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Don't face trouble alone

"For He satisfies the longing soul, / And fills the hungry soul with goodness" Ps. 107:9
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Kings 20-22; Psalm 107

TO CHEW ON: "Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
And He saved them out of their distresses." Psalm 107:19

The first part of Psalm 107 talks about many kinds of trouble, described in the language of bondage.
  • There is the bondage of being owned by the enemy (Psalm 107:2,3).
  • There is the bondage of homelessness and not enough to eat and drink (Psalm 107:4-7).
  • There is the bondage of terminal illness (physical—and spiritual? "… sat in darkness") that is caused by rebellion and insisting on one's own way (Psalm 107:10-14).
  • There is the bondage of foolish, self-destructive behaviour (Psalm 107:17,18).

The writer uses a variety of words to describe this subjection: "…wandered … distresses … longing soul … hungry soul … sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, Bound in affliction and irons … chains … gates of bronze … bars of iron … gates of death … destructions…"

It's easy to recognize ourselves described here. Perhaps we see ourselves as we were before we came to Jesus, lost and wandering. Or we've experienced the humiliating bondage of an illness or accident (when I was convalescing from my broken hip in 2014, the feeling of being limited and bound by pain and weakness was very real). It doesn't even have to be a big thing or event that binds us. I'm intrigued by the words:
"He sent His word and healed them,
And delivered them from their destructions" - Psalm 107:20
(emphasis added).
Sometimes slavery comes from within ourselves—our appetites for food, entertainment, our physical, emotional and social longings.

When we feel bound by a physical condition or mentally, emotionally or spiritually, do we do what the psalmist says to do here—cry to God in our trouble (Psalm 107:6,13,19)?

How He answers in our specific case—by supplying food and drink, or healing from illness, or helping us break chains of habit and addiction—is up to Him and will be tailored to us and our situation. But we do need to take advantage of the recourse we have.

PRAYER: Dear Father, when I am in trouble, help me to remember whose I am, and to call out to You for help, intervention, and deliverance. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 107

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

Monday, April 16, 2018

Desperate king

Hezekiah prays - 2 Kings 19:14
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Kings 18-19; Psalm 106

"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

Today's reading is only part of a larger story where Sennarcherib king of Assyria has threatened Hezekiah, king of Judah, numerous times.

  • Hezekiah responded to the first threat by asking the Assyrian envoys to stop speaking the language the people could understand - 2 Kings 18:26.
  • He responded to the second threat with silence and later called on Isaiah to pray - 2 Kings 18:16-37; 19:2-4.
  • Today's reading is Assyria's third challenge. Walter Brueggemann says of this time:
"... it is important to understand the context of acute anxiety in which the king prays. Hezekiah utters his prayer because he is completely vulnerable and has exhausted all other resources" - Walter Brueggemann, Great Prayers of the Old Testament, p. 82 (emphasis added).

So Hezekiah goes to the temple in Jerusalem with the threatening Assyrian letter in hand, spreads it out before God and prays.

What a picture of "Help!" Perhaps this is what we should do more of when we get puzzling correspondence, bills that are bigger than the extra in our bank accounts, a bad report about our child from the teacher,  distressing news about our neighbourhood or country in the newspaper. We too could spread these things out before God and cry out for His help.

As the writer of my Bible's notes says, "Hezekiah is an excellent illustration of what a believer should do when threatened by an enemy. Hezekiah does not react to the threats of Sennarcherib, but cries out to the Lord for help" - Larry D. Powers, Notes on 2 Kings, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 507 (emphasis added).

PRAYER: Dear God, please bring to my mind this picture of Hezekiah the next time I feel threatened. May I make it a habit to call on You in trouble before I do anything else. Amen.  

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 106

MORE: A great OT prayer

Hezekiah's prayer here is considered another of the great prayers of the Old Testament. Our commenter on these prayers takes this lesson for us from Hezekiah's actions and words:
"In the midst of a frightened people and in the face of overwhelming imperial power, Hezekiah nevertheless acts and speaks as a person of faith who appeals to a will and an agency that refuses conventional worldly characterizations of power .... The most important promise of this text is that prayer cannot be confined to safe familial or domestic spheres of life. The most important seduction of this text is the temptation to harness 'the power of prayer' to the cause of state in uncritical ways" - Walter Brueggemann, Op. Cit. , pp. 86,87 (emphasis added).

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Are you covered?

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: 2 Kings  15-17; Psalm 105

TO CHEW ON: “He spread a cloud for a covering…” Psalm 105:39

Psalm 105 is a praise poem recalling the ways God has helped Israel in the past. On the list is the cloud that accompanied Israel throughout their wilderness wanderings.

It was a cloud that served many purposes:
  • It gave them direction, i.e. went before them telling them where to go. Exodus 13:21
  • It stopped them. When the cloud came to rest, they were to stop and not move on again until the cloud lifted - Numbers 9:17-23.
  • It gave them light at night, so they could travel by day or by night, to avoid the desert’s scorching heat - Numbers 13:21.
  • It shielded and hid them when the Egyptians pursued them. It was dark on the Egyptian side but light on the Israelite side. Its presence gave them light and time to cross the miraculously dried up Red Sea at night while obscuring the Egyptian’s way - Exodus 14:19,20.
The psalmist calls it a “covering.”

God provided other coverings for people as well.

  • He covered Adam and Eve with clothes, animal skin coverings after their disobedience stole their innocence form them (Genesis 3:21).
  • His covering or protection is sometimes referred to as wings. The picture is of a mother bird sheltering her young (Psalm 57:1) or rescuing them (Deuteronomy 32:11). Boaz referred to God’s sheltering wings when he singled out Ruth with an invitation to glean in his field (Ruth 2:12).
  • Bible writers also refer to God’s covering as a shelter or refuge from the elements of life and nature (Isaiah 25:4).
  • And then there are all the references to God covering His people in pure, beautiful clothes—way nicer clothes than those skin tunics of Adam and Eve:
- Robes of righteousness and salvation (Isaiah 61:10).
- Beautiful embroidered garments (Ezekiel 16:10).
- “Best robes” - Luke 15:22.
- Wedding clothes - Matthew 22:11.
- White clothes - Revelation 7:9
- “Fine linen clean and bright” - Revelation 19:8.

Who would not welcome such covering? Sadly, not everyone. In our reading chapters from 2 Kings today, we see how Israel threw off God's covering by disobeying Him and turning to idol worship. Finally God was through with them. We read that God "... removed them from His sight... rejected all the descendants of Israel, afflicted them, and delivered them into the hand of plunderers until He had cast them from His sight - 2 Kings 17:18-20.

Jesus wept over Jerusalem, the people who spurned God’s wings of covering with their rejection of His prophets, including the final One—Jesus the Son - Matthew 23:37-39.

He reprimanded the  lukewarm church of Laodicea for their delusions of needing nothing and counseled them to '… buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich and white garments that you may be clothed that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed…'” - Revelation 3:17,18.

So, how do we put ourselves under God’s covering, under His protection, in His clothes? Revelation 3 continues on with this answer from Jesus Himself.
We invite Him into our lives: 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him and he with Me'” - Revelation 3:21.
Then we listen to His voice and follow Him.  Jesus again: "'My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand'" John 10:27,28. 

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, help me to live constantly under Your covering, in Your clothes. Please show me areas where self will, rebellion, laziness, self-deception, impatience, etc. leave me naked and vulnerable. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 105

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

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Our "very great" Creator

Satellite view of Earth (Image:

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Kings 12-14; Psalm 104

"Bless the Lord, O my Soul!
O Lord my God, you are very great:
You are clothed with honor and majesty." Psalm 104:1

The verse above begins Psalm 104. It is a poem of praise to God the creator. In poetic language rich with metaphor the writer describes the immensity and cleverness of creation.

The Creator (God / LORD), covered with light, "lays the beams of His upper chambers." Clouds are "His chariots." Wind has "wings." "His servants (the angels) are a "flame of fire." Earth is personified as clothed with the garment of water that flees at Creator's voice and "hasten away at the rebuke of His thunder" - Psalm 104:1-6.

We know this is poetic language. But isn't even the idea behind it—a world created by an Intelligent Creator—fanciful? Didn't the world just "happen" to form itself over millions of years of chance elements coming together and separating and forming new elements? That is what our society's scientists would have us believe.

Samuel J. Alibrando doesn't buy that. Always fascinated with nature, this layman would take a leaf and say to his children, "This was an idea before it was created" - Samuel J. Alibrando, Nature Never Stops Talking, p. 11.

For years this inquisitive journalist wrote a column for his local California paper. In it he explored and laid out the wonders and intelligence of nature. In the introduction to his book collection of these columns he says:

"Personally, I see hard evidence of intelligence in every tree, every flower, every star and every single natural thing in the universe. […] While multitudes idealize the supreme wisdom of nature they, at the same time, declare it required zero intelligence to design nature, which I find bizarre.

"Just as contradictory is the fact that in the industrialized world, man considers himself the ultimate intelligence. … But note the irony in claiming that it took absolutely no intelligence to create something as incredible as man" - Ibid., p. 13.

The shame is that our children and grandchildren are being fed these anti-creationist views  every day. The science books in the library are full of them, as are the science documentaries on video and TV.

But I believe the psalmist got it right. Creation was no accident or chance process. Rather, it was the idea and act of the LORD who is indeed very great. Let's not be silenced about this by the pooh-poohing voices of a science community whose theories are built on a need for a much greater leap of faith than required to believe that an intelligent Creator was behind the existence of matter and people.

Creator God, You are indeed very great! All we learn about the world through our investigations into its elements and creatures only increases our amazement at Your intelligence and the wisdom needed to put it all together. Amen. 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 104

MORE: Oxford professor and scientist Dr. John Lennox spoke on the topic "Is God Really There?" on the radio program Haven Today, April 11-15, 2016. In those segments he made a persuasive case for the existence of God. You can listen to these segments by selecting the appropriate dates on this page.

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

Friday, April 13, 2018

This life--not the end of the story

Image: Pixabay
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Kings 8-11; Psalm 103

TO CHEW ON: "Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities
Who heals all your diseases." Psalm 103:2,3

I recall the funeral of the daughter of dear friends a few years ago. She was first diagnosed with cancer in 2003. Thirteen years later, it killed her. As I read this passage, the words "who heals all your diseases" jump out at me and a voice in my mind says, "That's not true. God doesn't heal our all diseases. Despite our prayers, God didn't heal Kathy."

Have you ever found yourself weary of trying to understand God and defend Him in the face of such apparent contradiction? That was my first impulse on reading this. And yet…

I believe in the end, it all comes down to timing. We prayed for God to heal our friend in this life. That didn't happen. But is she healed now? Yes undoubtedly.

All the other promises in this passage will also come true, be experienced, and understood more fully in the real time of that future time beyond earth time:
- the promise of redemption from destruction - Psalm 103:4.
- seeing perfect righteous justice for the oppressed - Psalm 103:6.
- the removal (forgiveness) of our transgressions - Psalm 103:12.

I do believe that God can and does heal in this life, and often does. But not always. I can and do accept this, without an erosion of my trust in His integrity, especially as I view the whole panorama of God's promises in the light of the words:
"But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting" - Psalm 103:17. 
In other words, it transcends time. And this life is not the end of the story! It is only the briefest part, as David reminds us so poignantly:
"For He remembers our frame; 
He remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass,
As a flower of the field, so he fourishes.
For the wind passes over it, and it is gone..." Psalm 103:14-16.

Dear Father, I need Your mercy throughout my life and beyond. Help me to trust Your wisdom, goodness, and love in this life and to eternity. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 103

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

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Listening to a child

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Kings 4-7; Psalm 102

TO CHEW ON: "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 5:2,3

I love the unnamed little Israelite girl in this story. She gets past any resentment she may have felt at being captured and enslaved. She overcomes any fear or shyness she may have felt toward her mistress. It's her testimony of compassion and faith that gets this story started, and Naaman on the road to recovery.

In our time and place children are probably given a lot more credit and listened to more readily than were the youngsters (especially slave children) of Elisha's time. As parents, grandparents, teachers, and leaders, interaction with children is often a balancing act between training and disciplining them versus appreciating, doting on, and loving them.

The Bible tells stories of children who were obviously brought up well.
  • Samuel assisted Eli in the temple - 1 Samuel 2:18.
  • A boy alertly retrieved arrows for Jonathan prior to his secret meeting with David - 1 Samuel 20:36.
  • Joash was crowned king at seven - 2 Chronicles 24:1.
  • Jesus at twelve years was engrossed in fulfilling his destiny to be about His "'Father's business'" - Luke 2:49.
  • A lad gave his lunch to Jesus - John 6:9.

There are also Bible stories of children that imply failed training.
  • Elisha himself was the butt of a mocking gang of youths - 2 Kings 2:23.
  • The prophet Isaiah includes disrespectful children in his list of things that will oppress people - Isaiah 3:5.

Jesus' attitude toward children is a good one to study and imitate.
  • He invited them to come to Him and blessed them - Mark 10:14; Matthew 19:14.
  • He warned against causing them to stumble - Mark 9:42.
  • He appreciated and encouraged their praise as He recalled David's psalm about the potential of a child's words: "'Out of the mouths of babes and nursing infants / You have perfected praise'" - Matthew 21:15,16, quoting: "Out of the mouths of babes and nursing infants / You have ordained strength, / Because of Your enemies, / That you may silence the enemy and the avenger" Psalm 8:2.

Let's keep these things in mind as we relate to the children in our lives.

Dear Father, thank You for the potential in each child. Help me to listen to and love well the children in my life. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 102 

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

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