Archives

Bible Reading Thoughts: What are the reins?

I will bless the LORD, who has given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons. (Psalm 16:7)

I am not sure what this means but the poetic language moves me. Here is Matthew Henry on it:

He repeats the solemn choice he had made of God for his portion and happiness (v. 5), takes to himself the comfort of the choice (v. 6), and gives God the glory of it, v. 7. This is very much the language of a devout and pious soul in its gracious exercises.

Making a good use of it. God having given him counsel by his word and Spirit, his own reins also (his own thoughts) instructed him in the night-season; when he was silent and solitary, and retired from the world, then his own conscience (which is called the reins, Jer. 17:10) not only reflected with comfort upon the choice he had made, but instructed or admonished him concerning the duties arising out of this choice, catechized him, and engaged and quickened him to live as one that had God for his portion, by faith to live upon him and to live to him. Those who have God for their portion, and who will be faithful to him, must give their own consciences leave to deal thus faithfully and plainly with them.

All this may be applied to Christ, who made the Lord his portion and was pleased with that portion, made his Father’s glory his highest end and made it his meat and drink to seek that and to do his will, and delighted to prosecute his undertaking, pursuant to his Father’s counsel, depending upon him to maintain his lot and to carry him through his undertaking. We may also apply it to ourselves in singing it, renewing our choice of God as ours, with a holy complacency and satisfaction.

Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 763). Peabody: Hendrickson.

So, one does their best to adhere to God’s statutes, acting in His best interest and according to His will. Where we stumble, we repent. And then in the night seasons, let the conscience percolate, giving space and room to the Spirit to convict, admonish, encourage, or bring things to mind. Is that how you see the verse too?

night

“Night”, by EPrata

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: God’s providence in using Deborah and Jael

We read of Jael in the Bible Reading Plan today. God’s providential intervention is evident in today’s reading.

Jael

Jael was the wife of Heber the Kenite. Sisera had been cruelly oppressing the Hebrews for 20 years. The people cried out. Deborah was civic leader at that time, prophesying and judging. She sent for Barak, the military leader and told him to go take care of the problem. Barak could freely decide what to do. He could go or he could not go, the choice was his. He said he would not go unless Deborah came with him. (Judges 4:8). His answer was in effect, no. Deborah replied that she would go with Barak, but it would be an embarrassment to him because God would deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman, and Barak would not get the military glory for the victory.

Barak freely made his choice, but now the outcome would occur from another quarter, just as Mordecai had said it would if Esther decided against her action.

Into the story enters Jael. After Barak routed Sisera’s army, Sisera fled. Sisera aimed toward the tent of Heber the Kenite. Sisera knew there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor (Sisera’s King) and the house of Heber the Kenite. Heber had separated from the Kenites and was settled far from the action. Sisera ran, believing he was safe to go toward the area where there was no fighting and where there was peace between the parties. Normally he would be right, especially since hospitality customs were so strong in protecting those who are invited into the tent. However in this providential case, Sisera was wrong. Jael invited Sisera into the tent, gave him drink, and covered him as he fell asleep.

Note that Sisera fell asleep. He had a hard day of fighting, but even though his life was in peril he felt comfortable enough where he let down his guard and fall asleep. Women in those days were responsible for pitching the tents and so Jael was strong enough and familiar enough with how to efficiently hammer a tent peg into the ground. As Sisera slept, she drove a tent peg into his temple and pinned his head to the ground. The verse succinctly states, “So he died.” (Judges 4:21b).

And behold, as Barak was pursuing Sisera, Jael went out to meet him and said to him, “Come, and I will show you the man whom you are seeking.” So he went in to her tent, and there lay Sisera dead, with the tent peg in his temple. 23So on that day God subdued Jabin the king of Canaan before the people of Israel. (Judges 4:22-23).

Barak had kind of said “I will go” but not really. Placing conditions on your obedience to God isn’t really obedience to God. I like how the verse says God subdued Jabin.

Whether Esther went in or didn’t go in, God would deliver the Jews from Haman. Whether Barak went to battle or didn’t go to battle, God would deliver the Jews from King Jabin and Commander Sisera. Both Esther and Barak freely decided on a course of action. Yet both outcomes occurred at the providential hand of God.

God is amazing.

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: Abraham’s lie of omission

And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. 3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.” 4 Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, “Lord, will you kill an innocent people? 5 Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” 6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. 7 Now then, return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not return her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.” So Abimelech rose early in the morning and called all his servants and told them all these things. And the men were very much afraid. (Genesis 20:2-8)

Porn: I’m not hurting anybody. It’s my decision. I’m the only one affected.
Adultery: Nobody knows, it’s fine. No one else is hurt by it.
Drunkenness: So what if I drink alone in my house, nobody else is being hurt, are they?

And so on. Sin is sin. Sin affects not only the perpetrator of sin but those around him or her.

Abraham told a half-truth. Sarah was his half-sister. But he left off a critical piece of information, one that Abimelech was seeking in good faith: is Sarah married? Abraham was silent on that score. He committed a sin of omission.

James 4:17 declares, “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.

Abraham also committed a sin against God by not trusting Him with the circumstance.

Poor Abimelech. There were certain things he had to do as a result of Abraham’s lie, such as returning Sarah, making arrangements to get Abraham back, telling the servants and so on. Abraham caused an upset against another person, a major one that almost cost Abimelech his life.

Think of Achan in Joshua 7. He stole some things in the military victory, though the Israelites were warned not to. Although the account shows that Achan individually was guilty of coveting and taking these war spoils, Joshua 7 opens with a declaration that the whole community of “the children of Israel [had] committed a trespass” (Joshua 7:1). Achan’s sin wasn’t individual, for 36 men lost their lives in the battle of Ai, which was lost because of Achan’s sin. (Joshua 7:11). All of Achan’s family were stoned as a result. (Joshua 7:24).

Whether sins of omission or commission, sin is never individual. It harms the person sinning, it harms the family, church, or even the nation. Most of all, personal sin is against God. Like ripples in a pond, sin extends it tentacles outward.

Finally, as David declared in Psalm 51:4,

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.

ripples

EPrata photo

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: Hagar in the desert

Hagar_in_the_desert

Hagar and Ishmael in the wilderness, by Gustave Doré

There are so many powerful moments in the bible. Where does one begin? Genesis 1, God creates everything, are verses that are awesome to ponder. The resurrection, when Jesus emerged from the tomb alive. God is all-powerful.

There are thunderous moments too. When Mt Sinai trembles, when God was in the earthquake, when He split the ground under Korah and closed it back up again. God is to be feared.

But there are tender moments too. The God of thunder and wrath and all-power is so tender. I’m not one of these who believes the wrathful God is the Old Testament turned into the sensitive (“boyfriend”) Jesus of the New Testament. Read Revelation and you see it is the same God of wrath and anger against unrighteousness and sin. In the Old Testament (as well as the New), there are very tender moments which show us our Holy God is everything. He is simply everything good- including tenderness.

In Genesis 16 we see Hagar running away from Sarai, who was abusing Hagar in jealousy because Abram got Hagar pregnant (at Sarai’s urging) and Hagar conceived. Sarai didn’t.

The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. 8 And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.” 9 The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel of the Lord also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” 11 And the angel of the Lord said to her,

“Behold, you are pregnant
    and shall bear a son.
You shall call his name Ishmael,
    because the Lord has listened to your affliction.
12 He shall be a wild donkey of a man,
    his hand against everyone
    and everyone’s hand against him,
and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.”
 She sat in the desert, alone,

So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,”[d] for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.”
(Genesis 16:7-12).

In Genesis 21:15-19, slave girl Hagar had been misused by Sarah (and Abraham). She and her son Ishmael ran away to the wilderness, and there, thirsty, alone, and weak, they prepared to die.

When the water in the skin was gone, she put the child under one of the bushes. 16Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot, for she said, “Let me not look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

“God heard”, “The Angel of God” [Jesus] called to her from heaven. He assured her. He made promises to her. He opened her eyes so she could drink. What direct, intimate ministration from Holy God in heaven!

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: The power of greed

And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region. (Matthew 8:34)

Yesterday’s Bible reading in Matthew 8-10 has a tremendous scene where Jesus traveled to Gadara, where there were two demon-possessed men. The men were wild, unclothed, screaming demonically and tearing apart rocks and breaking the chains the people put on them to hold them back. They did not let anyone pass that area, and they lived in the tombs. If there was ever a living monster, these two men were it. (Luke 8:26-39 holds more details than the Matthew verse).

Imagine the pain the demon-possessed men were in. Their spiritual despair, their grief, their torment. Imagine the upset they caused for the people of the region, with commerce and trade and simple passage having to be altered just to avoid them. The night-time screams, the scared children, the harm that undoubtedly had come to hapless victims who ventured too near.

In a miraculous moment, Jesus healed the men and dispatched the demons. The man was clothed and in his right mind. All the people of the area came out to see it. What did they do? Did they praise Jesus for His sovereignty over all creation, even demons? Did they congratulate and welcome the man who was now returned to human habitability? Did they fall down and worship the One who was obviously the Messiah? No. They didn’t do any of that.

They were more concerned about their money. Their pigs were dead. “Jesus, go away! You ruined our commerce!”

Avarice is a strong motivator. Don’t underestimate greed. Greed is the basis for false teachers to perpetuate lies. (2 Peter 2:32; 2 Corinthians 2:17). Loving money too much is the root of all evil. (1 Timothy 6:10). How shocking and sad their greed blinded them to the wonders of God. They preferred the pigs.

pig

EPrata photo

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: Children of the kingdom thrown into outer darkness?

We might be startled to read these words (promises) from Jesus in today’s Bible Plan reading:

But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 8:12).

Aren’t the children of the kingdom of Jesus assured of entry into it? Yes. And no. It all comes down to, which children of the kingdom did He mean?

Barnes’ Notes explains:

The children of the kingdom – That is, the children, or the people, who “expected the kingdom,” or to whom it properly belonged; or, in other words, the Jews. they supposed themselves to be the special favorites of heaven. They thought that the Messiah would enlarge their nation and spread the triumphs of their kingdom. They called themselves, therefore, the children or the members of the kingdom of God, to the exclusion of the Gentiles. Our Saviour used the manner of speech to which they were accustomed, and said that “many of the pagans would be saved, and many Jews lost.”

Jews by ethnicity were not assured of entry to the Kingdom of Jesus. Jews by works of keeping the ceremonial law were not assured of entry into it. Only by faith in the Messiah, on the graceful foundation and simple childlike faith after repentance assures one of entry to it. Mary knew this. Simeon knew this. Anna knew this. In the Matthew verse, Jesus is warning the self-satisfied Jews not to rely on ethnicity, but upon faith in the One who created them.

"Death of the Strong Wicked Man"

William Blake illustration for Robert Blair’s poem “The Grave”.

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: Prophecy for Egypt

Our daily Bible Reading Plan for today is Isaiah 18-22. Isaiah 19 is one of my most favorite chapters in the Bible. I love God’s prophecies and this one at the end of chapter 19 is a great one.

The near future of Egypt is extremely dim. If you read Isaiah 19 it foretells of some dire things for the Egyptian people. The prophetic chapter is easy to read and understand. Toward the end of the chapter, the future becomes gloriously brighter as we read verse 20 to verse 25:

“When they cry to the Lord because of oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and deliver them. And the Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the Lord in that day and worship with sacrifice and offering, and they will make vows to the Lord and perform them. And the Lord will strike Egypt, striking and healing, and they will return to the Lord, and he will listen to their pleas for mercy and heal them. In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and Assyria will come into Egypt, and Egypt into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.”

Those are the only three nations to be specifically mentioned as existing in the Millennium Kingdom and even more incredible is that each receives a specific compliment from the Lord unique to them. He considers Egypt His people…and why not, Hosea 11:1 reminds us, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” He allowed Egypt to shelter His own Son when Herod was chasing Him.

The fact that He calls Egypt back to Himself in the above verses is so wonderful to read. Tears come to my eyes when I read of how specific His plans are and how perfectly they all come together.

There will be a highway…worshipers will flow to the Source.

highway.jpg