Saturday, October 13, 2018

I cried unto the Lord and He heard me

artwork by Krista Hamrick


Krista Hamrick’s  beautiful artwork inspired me to do a study based on Jonah 2:2:

KJV: “I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.”

ICB: “I was in danger. So I called to the Lord, and he answered me. I was about to die. So I cried to you, and you heard my voice.”

TLB: “In my great trouble I cried to the Lord and he answered me; from the depths of death I called, and Lord, you heard me!”

MSG: Then Jonah prayed to his God from the belly of the fish. He prayed: “In trouble, deep trouble, I prayed to God. He answered me. From the belly of the grave I cried, ‘Help!’ You heard my cry.”

NCV: “When I was in danger, I called to the Lord, and he answered me. I was about to die, so I cried to you, and you heard my voice.”

NIV: He said: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.”

Pastor Charles H. Spurgeon writes: “What a strange place for prayer! Surely this is the only prayer that ever went up to God out of a fish’s belly. Jonah found himself alive—that was the surprising thing, that he was alive in the belly of a fish—and because he was alive, he began to pray. It is such a wonder that some people here should continue to live that they ought to begin to pray. If you live with death so near, and in so great peril, and yet you do not pray, what is to become of you? This prayer of Jonah is very remarkable because it is not a prayer at all in the sense in which we usually apply the word to petition and supplication. If you read the prayer through, you will see that it is almost all thanksgiving; and the best prayer in all the world is a prayer that is full of thankfulness. We praise the Lord for what he has done for us, and thus we do, in effect, ask him to perfect the work which he has begun. He has delivered us, so we bless his holy name, and by implication we beseech him still to deliver us. Notice that it says here, “Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God.” He was a runaway; he had tried to escape from the presence of God; yet the Lord was still his God. God will not lose any of his people, even if, like Jonah, they are in the belly of a fish, Jehovah is still their God: “Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish’s belly.” You see that this is not praying, it is telling the Lord what he had done for his disobedient servant. Jonah had prayed, and the Lord had heard him, yet he was still in the fish’s belly. Unbelief would have said, “You have lived so long; Jonah; but you cannot expect to live to get out of this dreary, damp, prison.” Ah, but faith is out of prison even while she is in it. Faith begins to tell what God has done before the great work is actually accomplished; so Jonah said, “I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; Jonah 2:2, Out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.” God has only to speak, and even sea-monsters obey him. I know not how he spoke to the fish; I do not know how to talk to a fish, but God does; and as the Lord could speak to that fish, he can speak to any sinner. However far you may have gone from all that is good, he who spoke to that great fish, and made it disgorge the prophet Jonah, can speak to you, and then you will give up your sins as the whale gave up Jonah. God grant that it may be so!”

Pastor John MacArthur writes: “Jonah prayed an exemplary prayer from the most unnatural and unimaginable of settings—the belly of a fish. If you can picture the wet, suffocating darkness and discomfort of such a place, you might begin to have an idea of how desperate Jonah’s situation was at that moment. The whole second chapter of Jonah is devoted to the record of his prayer, and the entire prayer is a profound expression of worship. It reads like a psalm. In fact, it’s full of references and allusions to the Psalms—almost as if Jonah were singing His worship in phrases borrowed from Israel’s psalter while he languished inside that living tomb. The prayer is as passionate as you might expect from someone trapped inside a fish under the surface of the Mediterranean. Jonah begins: “I called out of my distress to the LORD, and He answered me” (Jonah 2:2)—not a plea to God for help, but an expression of praise and deliverance, mentioning God in the third person and speaking of deliverance as if it were an accomplished fact. The focus of Jonah’s prayer—like all great prayers—was the glory of God. Although no one, perhaps, has ever been in a situation where it would be appropriate to plead and beg God to answer more than Jonah was, there was none of that in his prayer. Jonah wasn’t under any illusion that his words could alter the reality of his plight. He was simply extolling the character of God. And that is precisely what our Lord was teaching when He gave the disciples that model prayer in Luke 11. It ought to be clear that when Jesus taught His disciples to regard prayer as worship, that wasn’t anything novel. The great prayers we read in the Old Testament were likewise expressions of worship—including those that were prayed in the most desperate situations. The parallelism between prayer and worship is no coincidence. Prayer is the distilled essence of worship. How much more, then, do you and I need to reevaluate our own priorities in prayer? Rather than paying momentary lip service to God before we get to our list of requests, we need to constantly examine our hearts in prayerful worship before the Lord, making sure we’re holding to the pattern Christ provided. Successful prayer isn’t about getting what you want from God. It’s about bending your will to His, recognizing His supremacy, and reflecting on His glory. It’s an act of worship—one that knits your heart and mind to the Lord in consistent communion with Him.”

Successful prayer isn’t about getting what you want from God. It’s about bending your will to His, recognizing His supremacy, and reflecting on His glory. It’s an act of worship—one that knits your heart and mind to the Lord in consistent communion with Him.

Pastor James H. McConkey writes: “Like Jonah in the belly of the great fish, we must turn to the Lord when our soul is fainting within us, trusting Him completely. What can you do when you are about to faint physically? You can’t DO anything! In your weakness you just fall upon the shoulders of some strong loved one, lean hard, and rest until your strength returns. The same is true when you are tempted to faint under adversity. The Lord’s message to us is ‘Be still, and know that I am God’ (Psalm 46:10). Hudson Taylor was so feeble in the closing months of his life that he said to a dear friend, ‘I’m so weak that I can’t work or read my Bible, and I can hardly pray. I can only lie still in God’s arms like a little child and trust.’ And that is all the Heavenly Father asks of you when you grow weary in the fierce fires of affliction.”

Pastor H.A. Ironside writes: “In his affliction Jonah cries to Him from whom he had been seeking to hide. Divine life, like water, seeks its proper level, or sphere. Because, whatever his failings, Jonah is a child of God still, he turns instinctively to the very One he had been grieving, in the hour that he is brought to realize that he is the subject of divine discipline. A man is a long way on the road to recovery when he is ready to own the righteousness of his chastening, and when he sees that he is under the hand of God. Having already acknowledged to the mariners that such is the case, he now cries to Him who hears him even “out of the belly of hell.”

Have you ever prayed a prayer
from an emergency room? Have you cried out from a broken relationship or a business failure? If so, you might identify with Jonah’s prayer from the belly of the fish. Instead of obeying God and warning the people of Ninevah of impending destruction, Jonah had tried to run from the Lord. But God was with Jonah when the crew threw him overboard. He was with Jonah in the belly of the fish he had prepared to swallow him. He was with him in his trouble and that trouble awakened Jonah to repentance and his need of God. Beneath the waves he lost all hope. But when he cried out in desperation and despair, God heard him and rescued him. There is no place where the Lord cannot hear and respond to us—no pit too deep, no trouble too terrible, no situation too difficult for God. When we cry out to him from whatever “belly” we find ourselves in, he will answer.

Heavenly Father, how I thank You that in the deepest trouble when I cry out to You, You hear and answer me just as You did Jonah. I am glad that there is no place so dark or situation so hopeless that you cannot bring deliverance. I will offer sacrifices to You with songs of praise, for my salvation comes from You alone! I give you all my fears today and look to You for help. Do a deep work in my heart concerning those things that strike fear in me. I know that Your perfect love will cast out all my fears. Thank You for Your promise to answer me when I call to You. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Look Up—meditate on
Jonah 2:2 … pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.

Look In—as you meditate on
Jonah 2:2 … pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: "Because God is_________, I will_____________."

Look Out—as you meditate on
Jonah 2:2 …pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.


 * If you liked this post, you’ll love this bookName Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ



Saturday, September 29, 2018

in the beginning

artwork by Krista Hamrick

As I pondered Krista Hamrick’s beautiful artwork, Genesis, I felt led to do a word study based on Genesis 1:1:

AMP:  In the beginning God (Elohim) created [by forming from nothing] the heavens and the earth.

EXB:  In the beginning [or In the beginning when] God created [C this Hebrew verb is used only when God is the one creating] the ·sky [heavens] and the earth.

MSG:  First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.

NLV:  In the beginning God made from nothing the heavens and the earth.

OJB: In the beginning Elohim created hashomayim (the heavens, Himel) and haaretz (the earth).

WYC:  In the beginning God made of nought heaven and earth. (In the beginning God made out of nothing the heavens and the earth.)

Pastor John MacArthur writes: The English title, Genesis, comes from the Septuagint Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures, meaning “origins”; whereas, the Hebrew title is derived from the Bible’s very first word, translated “in the beginning.” Genesis serves to introduce the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Old Testament) and the entire Bible. The influence of Genesis in Scripture is demonstrated by its being quoted over 35 times in the New Testament and hundreds of allusions appearing in both Testaments. The story line of salvation which begins in Gen. 3 is not completed until Rev. 21, 22 where the eternal kingdom of redeemed believers is gloriously pictured. The initial setting for Genesis is eternity past. God then, by willful act and divine Word, spoke all creation into existence, furnished it, and finally breathed life into a lump of dirt which He fashioned in His image to become Adam. God made mankind the crowning point of His creation, i.e., His companions who would enjoy fellowship with Him and bring glory to His name. Genesis presents creation by divine fiat, ex nihilo, i.e., “out of nothing.” From Abraham on, the pattern is to focus on God’s redemption and blessing.

Pastor Adrian Rogers writes: “What do you think is the verse that is read more than any other verse in the entire Bible? Some will say it is John 3:16, and others will quote many other verses, but that's not the most read verse in the Bible. The most read verse in the Bible is Genesis 1:1. So many people have thought that they would like to read the Bible and they always open it and read that familiar verse, Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." In fact, the golden key to the entire Bible is hanging right on the front door. When we try to truly comprehend how great the God of this one verse is, we are bringing a teacup mind to an ocean of truth! As we look around, we see He is a God of might and miracle and power. And in Genesis 1:1, we see He created it all.

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
No light. No sky. No land. It’s incomprehensible to our finite thinking—the barren nothingness that existed before Genesis 1:1. Then suddenly, through the work of the Almighty, God supplanted nothingness with “the heavens and the earth.” The divine hand reached through the void and produced a place, a world, a universe. Through the magnificent convergence of the workings of the Godhead—with the Son enacting the will of the Father as the Agent of creation, and the Holy Spirit as the hovering Presence—nothing became something. History began its long march toward today. The first verse of Genesis provides us with sufficient concepts to contemplate for a lifetime. That introductory statement speaks of enough glory, enough majesty, enough awe to leave us speechless before God. Just as today we would have no life, no breath, no existence without His sustaining action, neither would we have the cosmos without His mighty act at the moment of creation. In awe we wonder what went on before “the beginning.” With breathless praise we marvel at the words “God created the heavens and the earth.” We read—and we stand in adoration. “Nothing” has never been so fascinating!”

Genesis 1
is the first mention of Elohim. Most authorities agree that "Elohim" is derived from "El" meaning "mighty (one), strong (strength)." The Hebrew ending "-im" added to "El" indicates plurality. The use of the plural "Elohim" with the third person singular masculine form of the verb created suggests plurality in the Godhead.

Pastor Adam Clarke writes: “The original word אלהים  Elohim, God, is certainly the plural form of אל  El, or אלה  Eloah, and has long been supposed, by the most eminently learned and pious men, to imply a plurality of Persons in the Divine nature. As this plurality appears in so many parts of the sacred writings to be confined to three Persons, hence the doctrine of the Trinity, which has formed a part of the creed of all those who have been deemed sound in the faith, from the earliest ages of Christianity.

In the beginning - Before the creative acts mentioned in this chapter all was Eternity. Time signifies duration measured by the revolutions of the heavenly bodies: but prior to the creation of these bodies there could be no measurement of duration, and consequently no time; therefore in the beginning must necessarily mean the commencement of time which followed, or rather was produced by, God's creative acts, as an effect follows or is produced by a cause.

Created - Caused existence where previously to this moment there was no being. The rabbis, who are legitimate judges in a case of verbal criticism on their own language, are unanimous in asserting that the word ברא  bara expresses the commencement of the existence of a thing, or egression from nonentity to entity.

The heavens and the earth - As the word שמים  shamayim is plural, we may rest assured that it means more than the atmosphere, to express which some have endeavored to restrict its meaning. As the design of the inspired penman was to relate what especially belonged to our world and its inhabitants, therefore he passes by the rest of the planetary system, leaving it simply included in the plural word heavens.

And God saw that it was good - This is the judgment which God pronounced on his own works. They were beautiful and perfect in their kind, for such is the import of the word טוב  tob. They were in weight and measure perfect and entire, lacking nothing.”

Spend time contemplating the awesome majesty and splendor of our Creator and sustainer of the universe, Who has spared nothing to reveal His Father’s heart. Recommit yourself to Him and to living according to His ways. Ask for the empowering of his Spirit to delight in doing what God commands. In prayer, lift your voice in extravagant worship of our Lord Jesus Christ, singing praises to His name. Worship Him because He is the perfect, holy, almighty Creator and king of the universe and yet calls you into intimate relationship with Him. Jesus has opened the way for us to experience communion and harmony with our Creator. This is what we were made for! The majesty and brilliance of our God fills the earth. The glory of God is higher than the heavens. Even children and infants give him praise. He set the sky, the moon and the stars, and all the galaxies in place. He is truly an awesome God! From the time we were conceived and born into this world to the very end of our lives, our Creator, who knitted us together in our mother’s womb, the same eternal, unchanging One who created the heavens and the earth, is the One who has been caring for us all along, through the hands of parents and others who have loved, nurtured, and taught us. And it is He who will sustain us—throughout our childhood and youth, in our active years of working or parenting, and into the elder years when our hair is white with age and we can no longer care for ourselves but are dependent on the care of others. Our Creator, our Heavenly Father is our God of everlasting care.

Lord Jesus, help me to realize that You are everlastingly my Father, intimately acquainted with me and with every moment of my entire lifetime. Help me to rely on You through every season of my life and to rest in the knowledge that even when I am old, You will still be caring for me. Grant me the grace to enter into true praise and to experience Your delight in me. I want to be lost in wonder, love, and praise. I want to sing songs that lift Your name high. Give me fresh revelation today, Lord, of who you are. Inspire me so that I will sing of your greatness and glory forever! You are the king over all the earth. I love you, Lord. We praise You for who You are. Your glory is higher than the heavens. Your majesty fills the earth. We worship and adore You. Help us to walk as Your children, giving honor and glory to you and never losing sight of Your power or Your love. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Look Up—meditate on Genesis 1:1… pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.

Look In—as you meditate on Genesis 1:1… pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: "Because God is_________, I will_____________."

Look Out—as you meditate on Genesis 1:1…pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.


 * If you liked this post, you’ll love this book – Name Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ



Thursday, September 20, 2018

Speak, Lord, Your servant hears

artwork by Krista Hamrick

When I saw Krista Hamrick’s beautiful artwork depicting young Samuel’s response to the Lord, I felt led to do a word study based on I Samuel 3:10:

AMPC: And the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, Samuel! Samuel! Then Samuel answered, Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.

ICB: The Lord came and stood there. He called as he had before. He said, “Samuel, Samuel!” Samuel said, “Speak, Lord. I am your servant, and I am listening.”

NCV: The Lord came and stood there and called as he had before, “Samuel, Samuel!” Samuel said, “Speak, Lord. I am your servant and I am listening.”

WYC: And the Lord came, and stood, and called as he had called the second time (and called to him as he had called the other times, saying), Samuel, Samuel. And Samuel said, Speak thou, Lord, for thy servant heareth.

Hear (shama) means to hear, to listen. Webster's on "listen" = to hearken; to give ear; to attend closely with a view to hear. To obey; to yield to advice; to follow admonition. Since hearing/listening are often closely linked to obedience, shama is translated obey or to understand. KJV translates shama "hearken" a word which means to give respectful attention. Shama means “to hear intelligently and attentively and respond appropriately." The most famous use is the so-called "Shema" in Dt 6:4 “Hear, (a command, in the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures, the Septuagint states, "present imperative - habitually, continually.") O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!"  “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

The greatest significance of the use of shama is that of relation of man to God, especially where the context speaks of obedience. Obedience is the supreme test of faith and reverence for God. The Old Testament conception of obedience was vital. It was the one important relationship which must not be broken. While sometimes this relation may have been formal and cold, it nevertheless was the one strong tie which held the people close to God.  

Pastor Charles W. Spurgeon writes: “The child Samuel was favored above all the family in which he dwelt. The Lord did not speak by night to Eli, or to any of Eli’s sons. In all that house, in all the rows of rooms that were round about the tabernacle where the ark of the Lord was kept, there was not one except Samuel to whom Jehovah spoke! The fact that the Lord should choose a child out of all that household, and that He should speak to him, ought to be very encouraging to you who think yourself to be the least likely to be recognized by God. Are you so young? Yet, probably, you are not younger than Samuel was at this time. Do you seem to be very insignificant? Yet you can hardly be more so than was this child of Hannah’s love! Have you many troubles? Yet you have not more, I daresay, than rested on young Samuel, for it must have been very hard for him while so young a child, to part from his dear mother, to be so soon sent away from his father’s house, and so early made to do a servant’s work, even though it was in the house of the Lord!

“Speak, Lord.” Oh, how often has our heartfelt this desire in the form of a groaning that cannot be uttered! “Lord, I want to know You! You are behind a veil, and I cannot come to You. I know that You are, for I see Your works, but, oh, that I could get some token from Yourself, if not for my eyesight, yet at least for my heart!” When the Lord said to the child, “Samuel, Samuel,” it was a distinct, personal call. All who have heard the gospel preached have been called to some extent. The Word of God calls every sinner to repent and trust the Savior, but that call brings nobody to Christ unless it is accompanied by the special effectual call of the Holy Spirit! When that call is heard in the heart, then the heart responds! The general call of the gospel is like the common “cluck” of the hen which she is always giving when her chickens are around her. But if there is any danger impending, then she gives a very peculiar call—quite different from the ordinary one—and the little chicks come running as fast as ever they can, and hide for safety under her wings! That is the call we need—God’s peculiar and effectual call to His own! And I would, if I could, put into the heart and mouth of each person now present this prayer, “Speak, Lord, speak to me. Call me. When You are calling this one and that, Lord, call me with the effectual call of Your Holy Spirit! Be pleased so to call me that, when I hear You saying, ‘Seek you My face,’ my heart may say unto You, ‘Your face, Lord, will I seek.’”

Do pray this prayer—“Speak, Lord.” If you will not, it shall always be my prayer. I would seek the presence of my God and cry, “As the heart pants after the water brooks, so pants my soul after You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God! When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say to me, Where is your God?” But when my heart can answer, “Here He is! He is with me.”

“Speak, Lord.” I have known the time—and so have some of you—when one word of His has saved us from a grievous fall. A text of Scripture has stopped us when our feet had almost slipped. A precious thought has helped us when we were ready to despair, and when we could not tell what to do. One word out of the inspired Book, applied to the soul by the Holy Spirit, has made a plain path before us, and we have been delivered from all our difficulties! I commend to you, then, very earnestly, the personal prayer of the soul desiring: “Speak, Lord.”

“But how does the Lord speak?” someone asks. That is a very important question. I know that He has many ways of speaking to the hearts of His people. We do not expect to hear audible words. It is not by sense that we live—not even by the sense of hearing—but by faith. We believe, and so we apprehend God!

God often speaks to His children through His works. Are there not days when the mountains and the hills break forth before us into singing, and the trees of the field clap their hands because God is speaking by them? Do you not lift up your eyes to the heavens at night and watch the stars, and seem to hear God speaking to you in the solemn silence? That man who never hears God speak through His works is, I think, hardly in a healthy state of mind. Why, the very beauty of spring with its promise, the fullness of summer, the ripeness of autumn, and even the chilly blasts of winter are all vocal if we have but ears to hear what they say!

God also speaks to His children very loudly by His providence. Is there no voice in affliction? Has pain no tongue? Has the bed of languishing no eloquence? The Lord speaks to us, sometimes, by bereavement—when one after another has been taken away, God has spoken to us. The deaths of others are for our spiritual life—sharp medicine for our soul’s health. God has spoken to many a mother by the dear babe she has had to lay in the grave. And many a man has, for the first time, listened to God’s voice when he has heard the passing bell that spoke of the departure of one dearer to him than life itself. God speaks to us, if we will but hear, in all the arrangements of providence both pleasant and painful. Whether He caresses or chastises, there is a voice in all that He does.

The Lord speaks to us chiefly through His Word. Oh, what converse God has with His people when they are quietly reading their Bibles! There, in your still room, as you have been reading a chapter, have you not felt as if God spoke those words straight to your heart then and there? Has not Christ Himself said to you, while you have been reading His Word, “Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in Me”? The text does not seem to be like an old letter in a book, rather is it like a fresh speech, newly spoken from the mouth of the Lord to you. It has been so, dear friends, has it not?

Then there is His Word as it is preached. It is delightful to notice how God speaks to the heart while the sermon is being heard—yes, and when the sermon is being read. I am almost, every day, made to sing inwardly as I hear of those to whom I have been the messenger of God. And my Lord has many messengers, and He is speaking by them all! There was one man, who had lived a life of drunkenness and impurity, and had even shed human blood with his bowie knife, or his revolver, yet he found the Savior, and became a new man! And when he died, he charged one who was with him to tell me that my sermon had brought him to Christ! “I shall never tell him on earth,” he said, “but I shall tell the Lord Jesus Christ about him when I get to heaven.” It was by a sermon, read far away in the backwoods, that this great sinner was brought to Christ! But it is not only in the backwoods that the Lord blesses the preached Word, it is here, it is everywhere where Christ is proclaimed! If we preach the gospel, God gives a voice to it, and speaks through it. There is a kind of incarnation of the Spirit of God in every true preacher—God speaks through him. Oh, that men had but ears to hear! But, alas, alas, too often they hear as if it were of no importance! And the Lord has to say to His servant as He said to Ezekiel, “Lo, you are unto them as a very lovely song of one that has a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear your words, but they do them not.” Oh, that each one of our hearers always came up to the sanctuary with this prayer in his heart, and on his lips, “Speak, Lord, by Your servant; speak right down into my soul.”

The Lord has a way of sometimes speaking to the heart by His Spirit—I think not usually apart from His Word—but yet there are feelings and emotions, tenderness and trembling, joys and delights which we cannot quite link with any special portion of Scripture laid home to the heart, but which seem to steal upon us unawares by the direct operation of the Spirit of God upon the heart. You who know the Lord must sometimes have felt a strange delight which had no earthly origin. You have, perhaps, awakened in the morning with it, and it has remained with you. A little while after, you have had some severe trial, and you realize that the Lord had spoken to you to strengthen you to bear the affliction! At other times you have felt great tenderness about some one individual, and you have felt compelled to pray, and perhaps to go for some miles to speak a word to that individual. And it turned out that God meant to save that person through you, and He did! I think we are not half as mindful as we ought to be of the secret working of the Holy Spirit upon the mind.

I remember George Muller sweetly saying, “When you come to your time for devotion, if you cannot pray, do not try. If you cannot speak with God, do not try. Let God speak with you. Open your Bible and read a passage.” If you cannot speak to God, let God speak to you. It is also true communion with the Lord, sometimes, just to sit still, look up and say nothing. But just, “in solemn silence of the mind,” find your heaven and your God. “Speak, Lord; for Your servant hears. I have prayed to You; I have told You my grief, and now I am just sitting still to hear if You have anything to say to me. I am all ears and all heart. If You will command me, I will obey. If You will comfort me, I will believe. If You will reprove me, I will meekly bow my head. If You will give me the assurance of Your love, my heart shall dance at every sound of Your voice. Only speak, Lord; for Your servant hears.”

Listening does not come as naturally to many of us as it did to young Samuel. In fact, listening isn’t what we do best. We much prefer to do the talking! It has been estimated that the average woman spends one-fifth of her life talking and speaks about three thousand words a day. For men, the number is less, but not significantly. Yet if we want miracles in our lives and in our loved ones’ lives, if we want God to direct our steps, we need to listen to God’s leading and follow it. The good news is that hearing God isn’t a special privilege reserved only for pastors, priests, or seminary graduates. It’s not just for those who are highly intelligent or especially gifted. You don’t even have to be a grown-up to hear God. Even children, such as Samuel was, can hear the voice of the Lord if their hearts are willing, humble, and receptive. God has many things to say to you and wants to bless your life with direction and purpose as you hear his voice and follow. All it takes is a listening heart. Ask God to help you tune in to his Spirit’s leading today.

Lord Jesus, quiet my heart so that I can hear you. Remove any distractions that would keep me from being open and attentive to what your Spirit might be impressing on my heart and mind. Please make me humble and receptive and willing to answer obediently when you call on me. Your servant is listening. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen

Take a few moments to listen to his beautiful rendition of Amazing Love/Word of God Speak by Guy Penrod.


Look Up—meditate on I Samuel 3:10 … pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.

Look In—as you meditate on I Samuel 3:10 … pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: "Because God is_________, I will_____________."

Look Out—as you meditate on I Samuel 3:10 …pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.
 

 * If you liked this post, you’ll love this book – Name Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ

 

Saturday, September 8, 2018

when we all get to heaven

artwork by Krista Hamrick

When I pondered Krista Hamrick’s beautiful artwork, When We All Get To Heaven, I was reminded of the old hymn which my dear Daddy would sing with great enthusiasm during my childhood days in our church, especially after January 18, 1968.

On January 18, 1968, my precious grandfather, William Frank Willis, went home to be with Jesus. It was such a crushing blow, an unexpected loss to our whole family, but especially for my dear Daddy, Eston Frank Willis. My Daddy had purchased a brand-new Scofield Chain-Referenced Bible just the day before his father’s sudden homegoing. In his grief and sorrow in those early hours, he turned to God’s Word for comfort. When he opened his new Bible, he noticed that there was one page which had a torn page, which was folded over, as if it was an arrow, pointing to a specific Scripture, it was Revelation 21:4. This wonderfully comforting passage gave my Daddy the assurance he needed to face the uncertain days that would lie ahead for our family. This memory led me to do a word study of Revelation 21:4.

Revelation 21:4
KJV: And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.
ESV: He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
Amplified: God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more, neither shall there be anguish (sorrow and mourning) nor grief nor pain any more, for the old conditions and the former order of things have passed away
Youngs Literal: and God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes, and the death shall not be any more, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor shall there be any more pain, because the first things did go away.

Author Neil Chethik wrote a book about the way sons cope with the death of their dads. He commissioned a survey of 300 men and found that 65 percent said the death of their father affected them more than any other loss in their lives. Chethik said, “Each man, it seemed to me, experienced a significant reordering of his inner landscape.” One 48-year-old minister said: “When my father died, it was as if I had lived in . . . a house with a picture window looking out on a mountain range. Then one day I looked out the window, and one of the mountains was gone.” For most of us, our fathers will die before we do. We should feel free to grieve our loss, whether our memories are happy or painful. God promises that one day “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying” (Revelation 21:4). Until then, tears are God’s gift for the cleansing of the soul when we must cope with losing Dad.

Pastor John MacArthur writes: “In Revelation 21:4, look at what John says.  "And He shall wipe away," and here come the negatives, "He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes and there shall no longer be any death, there shall no longer be any mourning or crying or pain, the first things have passed away."  And what John is saying is it's not going to be like life here. It's going to be different. All those things which make up life here which are so much a part of life and the negative features of life will be utterly absent. John then rehearses the changes that describe such a dramatically different life by rehearsing for us a series of negatives. Again, I say we can't really comprehend something we can't comprehend so he has to tell us what it won't be like and use what we know as a starting point and back off from there. Now the first thing he says is God is going to wipe away every tear from their eyes. Some people have said, "Well what that means is you're going to get to heaven and you're going to start crying all over the place, the Lord is going to come along and wipe your tears away."  No, that is not what it means.  It doesn't mean we'll arrive weeping. On what basis would we arrive weeping?  Well you say, "We're going to have to face the record of our sins."  Not so, the record of our sins was put on Jesus Christ, He already paid the penalty for it.  "There is therefore now no condemnation." Romans 8:1. "Well," you say, "well wait a minute, we're going to see our wood, hay, and stubble burned up."  Well after wood, hay and stubble are burned up all that's left is gold, silver and precious stones and Paul says, "Not only that, every man will have praise from God," 1 Corinthians chapter 4.  So we're not all going to be moaning and groaning and weeping and wailing all over heaven while the Lord comes around with a supernatural handkerchief and mops up all our tears.  That is not what we are to comprehend by this.

He shall wipe away, pan dakruon, every single tear. What it means is there never will be a tear in heaven, not one single tear. There will be nothing sad. There will be nothing disappointing. There will be nothing unfulfilling. There will be nothing lacking. There will be nothing wrong. There will be nothing limiting. There will be nothing to cry about.
Tears of misfortune, tears of poverty, tears of loneliness, tears over lost love, tears of sympathy, mercy, pity, tears of persecuted innocence, tears of remorse, tears of regret, tears of penitence, tears of neglect, tears of yearning for what cannot be are all gone forever. Bliss, joy and nothing but for eternity. Tears, you see, are part of, what he says at the end of verse 4, the first things that have passed away.  They don't exist.

To put it in a clinical form, you won't have any tear ducts. Furthermore, you might not even have any water in you. I told you there's no more sea. It's not a water-based existence. No more tears, gone, nothing to cry about. And he adds, some more of the no mores, there shall no longer be any death.  The greatest of mortal curses is gone. Death, as Paul promised in 1 Corinthians 15, is swallowed up in victory. Death is gone.  It is eliminated. Nobody ever dies.

And there shall no longer be any mourning. Somewhere before tears come grief, sorrow, distress, repression that leads to tears. There won't be any of that, not at all.  There won't be anything to get depressed about. There won't be anything to get distressed about.  And he says, another no more just along the same line, really almost a synonym, "or crying."  Not only no longer any mourning, but he adds crying, just to make sure he covers all the ground.  No tears, no mourning, no crying...all gone. Then he adds, "No more pain."  No more pain? No, because the healing promise in the atonement is fulfilled. Isaiah 53 verse 5, "He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities," we know that, Jesus died for our sins, but how about this?  More than that, "By His scourging we are healed."

You say, "Well isn't He talking about spiritual healing?"  Yes, but not just spiritual healing because if you go over to chapter 8 of Matthew, it says that Jesus took the hand of Peter's mother-in-law, touched her and fever left her. He healed all who were ill. Then in verse 17, "In order that He might fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah, He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases."  And that's exactly what He did at the cross. We just don't realize that until we get to heaven. But Jesus died for our diseases and someday they'll all be gone. He died for our tears and someday they'll all be gone, and our mourning and our crying and our pain and death will be gone and all sin.

That's the catalog of the "no mores." And at the end of verse 4 he says the first things have passed away. He just sums them all up as the first things. They belong to the first heaven and the first earth. They belong to this life which we now live. But they are the blessed exemptions from heaven. They won't be there. It will be absolute eternal bliss. Everyone will be as happy as it is conceivably possible to be in the presence of God in a perfect condition all the time...all the time...unmitigated, unrestrained, unlimited, unhindered, unrestricted, undiminished joy. We can understand it by what it won't be.

O Father, how awesome it all is. Lord, we do pray that You would cause us to set our affections on things above and not on things on the earth. We sap so much strength, so much energy and so many resources fussing about the trivialities of this life, instead of investing our energies and our thoughts in that which is eternal. Thank You for the hope of heaven which enables us to endure anything here in the light of what is to come. Thank You for the hope of heaven which is the greatest incentive to excellence in our Christian character which is the truest path to joy which is the best defense against sin. Thank You for the hope of heaven which strengthens our spiritual service and causes us to honor you. Help us to live in the light of the glory to come and to treat very lightly this world for there is a far more eternal weight of glory. May we hold lightly to the passing things and feel the true weight of what is eternal. Should there be anyone in our midst, Lord, anyone who reads these words, that is not on the way to heaven, we pray that You would save them by Your grace and turn their course from a course to destruction to a path to glory for Jesus' sake. Amen.”

In 1991, famed British guitarist Eric Clapton was stricken with grief when his four-year-old son Connor died as a result of a fall from an apartment window. Looking for an outlet for his grief, Clapton penned perhaps his most poignant ballad: “Tears In Heaven.” It seems that every note weighs heavy with the sense of pain and loss that can be understood only by a parent who has lost a child. Surprisingly, however, Clapton said in a television interview years later, “In a sense, it wasn’t even a sad song. It was a song of belief. When it [says that] there will be no more tears in heaven, I think it’s a song of optimism—of reunion.” The thought of a heavenly reunion is powerful indeed. For everyone who has trusted Jesus Christ for salvation, there is the hope that we will be reunited forever in a place where “God will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying” (Revelation 21:4). And, most of all, it is a place where we will “see His face” and forever be with Christ Himself (22:4). In our times of loss and grief, of tears and sorrow, isn’t it comforting to know that Christ has purchased for us a heavenly home where there will be no more tears.

When we fear death, we can remind ourselves of the Lord’s care and concern, as we meditate on God’s power and majesty, and as we trust and praise God’s Word, our fear will begin to flee. When circumstances cause us to be afraid, the only way we can avoid being overwhelmed by fear and genuinely trust in almighty God is by experiencing and declaring who He says He is in his Word. It is there that we learn of Him and come to know Him. As He speaks, His very words and presence bring peace, calmness, rest, and stillness in our inmost being. Therefore, we trust in God, so why should we be afraid? As children of God, we learn to live by His precious, powerful Word so that we can walk before Him in the light of life. We can trust Him and not give way to fear. Christians of times past felt that prayer found its greatest inspiration in the Lord himself, and they had a term called “pleading God’s attributes,” in which they would recount particular attributes of God’s character to him and then ask him to answer their prayer on the basis of those attributes: “Lord, you are merciful and gracious, so have mercy on me.” “Lord, you are full of unfailing love. Show us your love in this situation.” “Lord, you delivered your servant Daniel; I pray for your deliverance in my life.” “You revealed your character and deeds to Moses and your people. Likewise, please reveal yourself to me!” Since God’s attributes are numerous throughout Scripture, they provide a never-ending source of inspiration for our prayer life. Praying God’s attributes renews our faith and confidence and reminds us of his greatness and his ability to save. Choose one of the attributes of God from this psalm to “plead” as you pray today.

Heavenly Father, when I am afraid, I trust in you, and I praise you for the sustaining power of your Word. Help me to lay hold of your words to me, for they alone bring me life, health, and peace. Let my trust in you continue to grow deep and wide so that I can fulfill the plans you have for me in order for your kingdom to increase. Thank you for the gift of your Word, which comforts, inspires, and guides my path each day. Lord, you are merciful, gracious, full of unfailing love. I ask you to reveal this in my life today. Thank you for revealing your wondrous attributes to us in your Word. As I read it, continually open my eyes to who you really are so that my prayers will rest on the solid foundation of your character. May my prayers have power because they are based on the truth about you.

Look Up—meditate on Revelation 21:4 … pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.

Look In—as you meditate on Revelation 21:4 … pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: "Because God is_________, I will_____________."

Look Out—as you meditate on Revelation 21:4 …pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.


 * If you liked this post, you’ll love this book – Name Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ




Friday, August 31, 2018

open my eyes

artwork by Krista Hamrick

When I saw Krista Hamrick’s beautiful artwork based on Psalm 119, I felt led to do a word study based on Psalm 119:18:

ESV: Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Your law.
KJV: Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law.
NET: Open my eyes so I can truly see the marvelous things in Your law!
NLT: Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in Your instructions.
The Message: Open my eyes so I can see what you show me of your miracle-wonders.
The Living Bible: Open my eyes to see wonderful things in your Word.
Young’s Literal: Uncover mine eyes, and I behold wonders out of Thy law.

This is a simple but powerful prayer for spiritual illumination, asking God by His Spirit to remove the scales from our natural, spiritually blind eyes, that we might see and receive supernatural truth. Spiritual truth cannot be apprehended in a natural way, but requires a supernatural means.

Pastor J. Vernon McGee writes: “This is the verse I used to begin the “Thru the Bible” program years ago when I first taught it in a little weather-beaten church on the side of a red clay hill in Georgia. I used this verse as a theme for many years. This is a good one—“Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law [thy word].”

The Bible is filled with spiritual truth that can only be seen with eyes opened by the Spirit of God.

Open (galah) means to uncover, to reveal. The Septuagint Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures, translates galah in Psalm 119:18 with the verb apokalupto in the aorist imperative. The verb apokalupto (from apó = from + kalúpto = cover, conceal, English = apocalypse) literally means to remove the cover from and so the idea is to remove that which conceals something. Almost all of the New Testament uses have a figurative use, especially to some aspect of spiritual truth that was previously hidden, but now has the "lid removed" so that it can be seen (understood). We are continually in desperate need for God to remove the lid from His Word, the Bible, so that we might see and understand and obey.

While the verb open is in the imperative form, it is clearly the cry of a beggar who recognizes his abject spiritual poverty and his desperate need of spiritual bread. Do you come to read His Word with this heart attitude—desperate, hungry, impoverished?

Pastor Donald Williams writes: “God must open us up and show us His wondrous things (Ps 119:18). Apart from this, in the words of singer/songwriter Bob Dylan, “I’m a little too blind to see.”

Pastor David Guzik states: “Psalm 119:18 reminds us that it isn’t the word that needs changing, as if it were obscure; we are the ones who are veiled and can’t understand the word of God apart from the work of the Spirit. Paul’s eyes were unveiled when he was converted (Acts 9:18); it was as if scales had dropped from his eyes. The Psalmist didn’t need new revelation; he needed to see the revelation that was already given. He didn’t need new eyes; he needed to see with the eyes he already had.”

Pastor John Piper explains: "By inspiring some things hard to understand, God has unleashed in the world desperation which leads to supplication—the crying out to God for help." (Psalm 119:18) O beloved, how much more should we cry out for God's Spirit to illuminate the sacred pages. One of the greatest privileges of having two good eyes is that we can read God’s word. But there is another set of eyes that have to be opened if the glory of God’s word is to shine in our hearts—namely, the eyes of our hearts. The Word of God cannot be truly desired or spiritually comprehended or savingly spoken without the work of the Holy Spirit, whom we ask for by prayer.So practically we must endeavor to forsake all self-reliance as we hear the Word of God, and seek the power of the Holy Spirit—not to tell us things that aren’t in the Scriptures, but to make us feel the wonder of what is in the Scriptures. “Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law” (Psalm 119:18). We should pray for ourselves the way Paul prayed for the Ephesians: “that God may enlighten the eyes of our hearts to know what is the hope to which he has called us, and what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” (Eph 1:18). The same psalmist who said “How sweet are thy words to my taste” (Ps 119:103), said earlier, “Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law” (Psalm 119:18). He prayed, because to have holy taste buds on the tongue of the heart is a gift of God. No man naturally hungers for and delights in God’s wisdom.”

Pastor Adrian Rogers applies Psalm 119:18 asking: “Isn't that a beautiful prayer? Have you ever prayed that? Have you ever thought, "Well, I can just go to the Bible, and I can pull the truth out of the Bible?" Let me tell you, friend: You cannot. You may know Greek and not know God; you may know Hebrew and not know Him. I don't care who you are in that seminary, or any other Sunday School class—unless you lay that intellectual pride in the dust and pray this prayer—"Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things in thy law"—you'll not know the God of this book. I want to tell you, my friend: It took a supernatural miracle to reveal it; it took a supernatural miracle to write it; and, it'll take a supernatural miracle for you to understand it. Do you believe that? Listen. Most of us don't believe it. If we really believed it, we would agonize before the Lord; we would pray before the Lord; and, we would be saying, "Lord, open Thou mine eyes."..."Oh, God, illumine me. Open my eyes that I might understand." When God opens your eyes you're going to see things you never saw before, you're going to hear things you never heard before, you're going to know things you never knew before because God the Holy Spirit is going to teach you. What you need to do when you come to the Bible is to lay your pride of intellect and your brilliance of mind in the dust, and say, "Dear God, if You don't teach me, I won't understand it." You will never go into the Bible and, with a lexicon and with a mind of logic and with a callous hand, just reach in and rip the truth out of the Bible. Oh no—God's going to reveal that truth to you as you pray—you need to pray when you open the Bible, "Lord, open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things in Thy law. Lord Jesus, help me to see You," for in order to see Jesus in the Bible, you need light, and you need sight. That's the first thing that will happen. Your eyes will be opened. God will help you to see things that you have never seen. I can tell when I am walking in the Spirit when I'm reading the Word of God. There are truths that just jump up off the Bible into my heart."

Pastor Martin Luther wisely advises that when we approach the Word of God for nourishment and spiritual wisdom: "You should completely despair of your own sense and reason, for by these you will not attain the goal. Rather kneel down in your private little room and with sincere humility and earnestness pray God through His dear Son, graciously to grant you His Holy Spirit to enlighten and guide you and give you understanding. As you see, David constantly prays in Psalm 119:18 “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Thy law.”

Pastor Tony Evans writes: “When the Spirit takes “spiritual words,” the Word of God, and combines them with “spiritual thoughts,” a mind and a heart in tune with God, the result is divine illumination. When you combine a spiritually receptive mind with the Word, you have dynamite on your hands. That’s because “he who is spiritual appraises all things” (1Cor 2:15) since he has “the mind of Christ” (1Cor 2:16). This is the key to illumination. Having the mind of Christ is having your spiritual antenna pointed in the direction of the Holy Spirit’s signal. When you are properly attuned, you will understand more things and make more sense out of life than you ever thought possible.”

Behold (look) (nabat) carries the root idea of that which one does with the eye and can describe everything from a mere glance to a careful, sustained, and favorable contemplation. Nabat speaks of physical "looking" and of figurative "looking", that is, spiritual apprehension. Nabat can speak both of man's looking upon God and God's looking upon man. The Septuagint translates nabat in Psalm 119:18 with the verb katanoeo which describes intensive sensory perception of something, and so speaks of looking at something in an attentive, reflective manner, with scrutiny so as to study it or examine it, paying careful attention to the Word of God.

Wondrous things (pala’) is a verb which conveys the meaning of to be wonderful or to do something wonderful. Pala’ means to cause something wonderful, extraordinary, marvelous or amazing to happen. The Septuagint translates pala' with the adjective thaumasios (thauma = Wonder, admiration) which means wonderful, marvelous, excellent, remarkable, admirable, all adjectives which would be an apt description of the Word of God. The idea of thaumasios pertains to that which causes wonder and which is worthy of amazement.

Pastor David Guzik writes: “There are wondrous things in Scripture; but they can only be seen when the eyes are opened by God. This means that prayer is an important (and often neglected) part of Bible study. It also means that not everyone sees the wondrous things in God’s word, but that when one does see them, they should regard it as evidence of God’s blessing and favor. Jesus rejoiced that God revealed His wisdom this way: At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.” (Matthew 11:25). God has given man a sense of wonder, and there are certain things that prompt it. The new and unexpected can cause wonder; the beautiful and great and cause wonder, and the mysterious and unknown can cause wonder. We can say that God has provided for this sense of wonder by giving us His word. The Holy Spirit can make us alive to the Bible, and constantly see things that are new and unexpected; things that are great and beautiful; things that are mysterious and unknown. It is a shame to many Christians that they look for their sense of wonderful to be satisfied without looking to the Word of God. Think of all there is in the Bible that you don’t see. Think of all the wonder, all the treasure that is there, but you don’t see it. You can see such things, though you can’t see everything, and sometimes you will think you see things that are not really there. Yet those who see more than you are not necessarily smarter or better; their eyes are just more open.

Pastor James Montgomery Boice states: “If we want to see wonderful things in the Scriptures, it is not enough for us merely to ask God to open our eyes that we might see them. We must also study the Bible carefully. The Holy Spirit is given not to make our study unnecessary but to make it effective.”

Pastor John Piper comments: "If we are going to be inclined to the Word and stay with it and delight in it and memorize it and meditate on it, we must see more than dull facts, we must see “wonderful things.” That is not the function of the natural mind alone. That is the work of the Spirit to give you a mind to see great things for what they really are. Delight-giving Bible reading and Bible meditation is a work of God on our hearts and minds. That is why we must pray continually for that divine work. In other words, the Word of God contains wonderful things, but we will not see them without God’s help—His illumination. And if we miss what is in the Word of God without his help, then prayer becomes the natural partner to hearing the Word. We pray, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things from your law.”

Pastor John MacArthur states: “The preacher must be dependent upon God the Holy Spirit for divine insight and understanding of God’s Word. Without the Spirit’s illumination and power, the message will be relatively impotent. The preacher must be in constant prayerful communion with God to receive the full impact of the Word. The obvious one to consult for clarification is the original Author.”

Pastor Charles H. Spurgeon: “If you do not understand a book by a departed writer you are unable to ask him his meaning, but the Spirit, Who inspired Holy Scripture, lives forever, and He delights to open the Word to those who seek His instruction.”

Law (torah - derives from yarah that means to shoot an arrow, for a teacher aims to hit the target and achieve specific goals in the lives of the students) is a feminine noun meaning instruction, direction, law, Torah, the whole Law. Torah basically means "teaching" whether it is the wise man instructing his son or God instructing Israel. The torah encompasses instructions from God to His people on how they should live so that He might be glorified. The torah was to be adhered to as a total way of life, to permeate every decision, every thought. Torah was given to men to make known the way in which they should walk. In Psalm 119:18 torah refers to our Father's instructions on how we His children are to live during our short sojourn as aliens in enemy dominated territory.

Pastor Dwight L. Moody writes: “We have a great many prayer-meetings, but there is something just as important as prayer, and that is that we read our Bibles, that we have Bible study and Bible lectures and Bible classes, so that we may get hold of the Word of God. When I pray, I talk to God, but when I read the Bible, God is talking to me; and it is really more important that God should speak to me than that I should speak to Him. I believe we should know better how to pray if we knew our Bibles better.”

Pastor John Newton writing on Psalm 119:18: “Let me suppose a person to have a curious cabinet, which is opened at his pleasure, and not exposed to common view. He invites all to come and see it, and offers to show it to anyone who asks him. It is hid, because he keeps the key, but none can complain, because he is ready to open it whenever he is desired. Some, perhaps, disdain the offer, and say, “Why is it locked at all?” Some think it is not worth seeing, or amuse themselves with guessing at the contents. But those who are simply desirous for themselves, leave others disputing, go according to appointment, and are gratified. These have reason to be thankful for the favor, and the others have no just cause to find fault. Thus the riches of Divine grace may be compared to a richly-furnished cabinet to which “Christ is the door.” The Word of God likewise is a cabinet generally locked up, but the key of prayer will open it. The Lord invites all, but He keeps the dispensation in His own hand. They cannot see these things, except He shows them; but then He refuses none that sincerely ask Him. The wise men of the world can go no further than the outside of this cabinet; they may amuse themselves and surprise others with their ingenious guesses at what is within; but a child that has seen it opened can give us satisfaction, without studying or guessing at all. If men will presume to aim at the knowledge of God, without the knowledge of Christ, Who is the way and the door; if they have such a high opinion of their own wisdom as to suppose they can understand the Scriptures without the assistance of His Spirit; or, if their worldly wisdom teaches them that those things are not worth their inquiring, what wonder is it that they should continue to be hid from their eyes?”

Pastor George Morrison speaking on "wonderful things" in Psalm 119:18: “True wonder is never dispelled by what we know. That alone is genuine wonder—the wonder not of ignorance, but of knowledge, the wonder that does not vanish when we know, but grows and deepens with everything we know. It was the wonder of the apostle Paul. It was the wonder in the heart of Jesus. And it is the wonder we will feel forever in the perfected knowledge of eternity. It is not knowledge, then, that is the foe of wonder; it is something far more commonplace than that. The blight that wilts our faculty of wonder is the familiarity that begets contempt. Someone has said that if all the stars were to cease shining for a hundred years and then were suddenly to flash on again, there is not an eye on earth but would be lifted heavenward and not a heart but would break forth in praise to God. But the stars were there when we were little children, and they will be shining in the heavens tonight. And to us the spectacle is so familiar that we have lost the wonder of it all. Live forty years in such a world as this and a certain blindness falls on the eyes. And therefore the need that when the evening falls, the morning breaks, and the summer comes again, we should pray as the psalmist prayed so long ago, “Lord, open my eyes that I may see.” May I say in passing that all great experiences tend to recreate the sense of wonder? Sickness, sorrow, death, conversion have a way of bringing new wonder into everything. And I suggest that in the will of God, which is as merciful as it is wise, that recreating of the sense of wonder may be one purpose of many an hour of discipline.”

Singer/songwriter Darlene Zschech's devotional on Psalm 119:18: “Two people walk down the same road. One sees the beauty and majesty of God’s creation in a sunrise or sunset, in the color of the sky, in trees and plants. The other sees nothing to find joy in and grumbles. What’s the difference? One had his eyes truly open. How many times do we miss blessings simply because we weren’t looking for them? We get busy and distracted. We get stuck in bad moods. We think too much about ourselves—what I need and want. When our minds are stuck on all that is wrong, we miss all the wonderful things God puts in our path. There is an old Chinese proverb that says, “When the student is ready the teacher will arrive.” Could this be true of God’s Word? Could it be that until our eyes and hearts are open, we are going to miss the wonderful things that God has for us to learn and live? David’s prayer was so simple: “Open my eyes.” But it was profound. He was surrounded on every side by his enemies. What was he asking God to do? He wanted his focus to be on God’s provision as found in His Word—not on his problems. Where are your eyes focused now? God’s promises and provisions or your problems?”

Have you ever found yourself skimming rapidly over your daily portion of Bible reading to get that task mentally checked off your list? In contrast, the psalmist longed to know the wonderful truths in God’s laws and to obey them. He understood his need for God’s commands and was consumed with a desire for them. We may not always share the psalmist’s hunger and enthusiasm, but we have Psalm 119, where almost every verse describes the greatness of God’s Word. It instructs us, encourages us, and shows us the path of life. Much more than just an intellectual challenge, the living words of Scripture are our foundation for prayer and lead us to the Father’s heart. If God’s Word seems dry and less than “wonderful,” maybe it’s because you’re leaving the Holy Spirit out of your reading time. Ask him to open your spiritual eyes to perceive and understand the wonderful truths in the Word of God. He won’t disappoint you!

Lord Jesus, open my eyes, and grant me wisdom to see and understand the wonderful truths in your law! Let me never take your Word for granted. Help me to treasure it and meditate on it day and night. I want to delight in your Word, to obey it, and to commit myself to walking in the light it provides. I praise you that your Word lights the path at my feet so that I don’t have to wander in the darkness. Guide me today with your wonderful Word. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Look Up—meditate on Psalm 119:18… pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.

Look In—as you meditate on Psalm 119:18… pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: "Because God is_________, I will_____________."

Look Out—as you meditate on Psalm 119:18…pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.


 * If you liked this post, you’ll love this book – Name Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ




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