The Terrifying Laughter of God

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? (2) The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, (3) “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” (4) He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. (Ps 2:1-4)

The laughter of God is a terrifying thing. He does not laugh here because someone has told a joke— no, he laughs because of the puny attempts of his feeble creation to stand against the Almighty Creator. A baby plotting his escape from his crib and setting up his own republic would have a better chance at success than a king plotting against the almighty God. Oh, how these rebellious peoples plot and scheme! And though they exercise their mental powers to their fullest and make plans with their people, it is in vain! You may throw off the yoke of an earthly ruler with cunning plans and an ample number of soldiers, but what can you hope to do against an all-knowing and omnipotent God?

Though they are mightiest kings of the earth and their wisdom combined is unmatched, they cannot stand against the Lord and his Anointed. The God who sits in heaven, laughs at them! He mocks their infantile attempts. Oh, foolish kings! Their domains are the lands of the earth and their thrones are but carved wood and gold. But God’s throne is the very heavens themselves! Men look to the skies and are awed by its immensity and yet the firmament is nothing but his sitting chair. And there from his great domain, God commands and rules. Kings may order men to move their feet on the face of the earth, but the God of heaven can order the very earth below their feet to move. Ridiculous! How utterly ridiculous it is for clay to plot against the potter! The God who sent his very own Son into the world—a world which he will one day rule over completely with a rod of iron cannot be rivaled. He has spoken, and the world trembles at the very thought of his wrath and fury.

The laughter of God is unquestionably terrifying. Yet at the same time, it is also a deeply comforting to all those who believe in him. The laughter of God reminds us, that though life is full of uncertainty, sorrow, pain and injustice—evil will ultimately be destroyed. At the cross, the power of darkness was broken, and one day, all that is wicked will be cast into the lake of fire. Though there will be a final battle, it’s outcome is certain and indisputable—God will win. God’s laughter against the infantile attempts of his enemies to war against him is a sweet encouragement to all those who have suffered for the sake of his name. The God who has commanded us to repay evil with good, will one day repay those who have done evil to us according to his righteous standards. Rest assured, believer, that in the end, evil will not go unpunished. Justice will be served. The world is not perfect yet, but the mighty God who laughs at those who would rise against him, will one day make it perfect. And in that day our joy will be complete—forever.

Although there is pleasure to be had in knowing that the God-man Jesus Christ could laugh and weep with those he called his friends, there is far greater, soul-satisfying comfort to be had in knowing that our God laughs because his enemies will be destroyed as easily as an ant is crushed under the heel of a boot. The laughter of God is terrifying to all who would rebel against him, but to those who eagerly long for Christ to come again, the laughter of God is the sound of perfect, triumphant justice and eternal peace. As the Psalmist says in closing, “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Ps 2:12 ESV)

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God’s Mercy for the Sins We Cannot See

Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. (Ps 19:12 ESV)

The default thinking of human beings is to consider ourselves good. In most cases, we acknowledge that we make mistakes here or there, but overall, we consider the general tenor of our lives to be positive. The Scriptures, however, paint a very different picture of the human condition. God’s Word tells us that our hearts are deceitful (Jer 17:9) and tainted by sin that colours and dulls everything that we see. To our eyes that are darkened by sin, our own faults and wickedness do not seem so terrible and the perfect law of God does not shine with the brilliance of his holiness but appears to our sin-stained senses as something dull and oppressive.

Yet, if we were honest with ourselves, would we not be forced to admit our own desperate condition? If an invisible tape recorder were hung around our necks that recorded every single time in our lives that we told another human being, “You should…”—how many judgments would it record? And if we were to use that same tape recorder to measure our own lives, how many of us would live up to the standards that we foist on others? The truth is, we would not. We would fail and perish based on our own self-condemnation.

And if we were to condemned based on our own standard of living, how much more would we fail, if we were to be judged according to the standard of the immortal, perfect King of all the earth? How dangerous it is to think that we can attain heaven by our own good works! For none of us is wise enough to discern the entirety of our errors—including those we have forgotten or are ignorant of. Just as a lack of knowledge of the laws of the land do not pardon an individual who breaks the law, neither does ignorance of God’s holy laws pardon anyone in the heavenly courts.

The heart cry of the Christian, therefore, is that we need forgiveness of not just the sins that we are aware of, but also those we are unaware of. We as Christians are not permitted to live in sin lest we spurn the grace of God, but we as Christians must never think that our conduct before God is sinless perfection. Though we are redeemed, we are not yet what we will finally be. And so long as we live in this flesh, the only proper posture for us, is the humble acknowledgment that we need daily grace from our Saviour to cleanse us from both our known and unknown sin.

Christian, do you realize just how grand a Saviour Jesus Christ is? Just as a child cannot comprehend the extent of a parent’s dutiful care for them, neither do we as God’s children fully grasp just how magnificent the provision of God is for us through Christ. How precious is the flow that makes us white as snow! How precious is the blood of Christ that takes away the stain of even the sins that are hidden from our very own hearts and minds! God, declare me innocent of the hidden faults of my soul, for I dare not trust my own assessment of my heart!

The Gospel is good news to our souls. The Gospel tells us that we are far more sinful than we can ever comprehend, but also more forgiven and loved through Jesus Christ than we could ever have imagined. All glory be to our great and Saviour Jesus Christ!

It is Always Summer for Christians

A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. 5 He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame. (Prov 10:4-5 ESV)

The Israelites lived in an agrarian society that understood that there was a time for everything. There was a time to plant and a time to pluck up what was planted (Ecc 3:2). The regular rhythms of the sun and the moon were ordained by God to govern the seasons so that we might learn about the importance of discipline and order. The God whom we serve is a God of order and peace—not confusion and chaos. And the beauty and symmetry of his creation reflects the manifold perfections of this glorious God.

In this proverb, we are enlightened by the divinely-inspired wisdom of king Solomon regarding the importance of laboring at the appropriate time. Those who are dependent on their harvests to survive cannot work on their own timetables but must adhere to the heavenly schedule that God has ordained. The farmer who is lazy and refuses to harvest his crops when they are ripe during the summer will find only spoiled fruit and rotten vegetables in the fall.

We modern city-folk have been immensely blessed in that we have airplanes and trucks that can supply us with delicious out-of-season fruits and goods from far-off lands even in the dead of winter. We work all year round and trade for what we need. This is a good thing and it means that our summers must not be wholly spent in back-breaking work to provide for ourselves lest we starve in the upcoming winter. Yet, we must never forget that even those we buy from must be diligent to use their harvest times productively in order to sell and trade with us. No one is exempt from following the ebb and flow of the divinely fixed seasons.

As Christians, we delight in the beautiful sunshine and warmth that God gives us during the summer months. But we must never forget that we are living in the last age—a spiritual, summer harvest season that is rapidly drawing to a close as our Lord Jesus prepares to return. Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. (Luke 10:2 ESV)” We are grateful to no longer live in the winter season of human history when Messiah was only a promise and the polar nights of sin and death shrouded us Gentiles in a valley of deep darkness. We are privileged to have witnessed the spring season in which our Lord walked the earth and brought the newness of eternal life to all who would believe in him. And we are blessed to now live as workers in the master’s vineyard in the summer of our Lord’s harvest! Oh, there is much joy, peace, and rest to be had as we bask in the golden rays of the love of Christ that fill our hearts with warmth and everlasting happiness. But let us remember that the summer God has blessed us with is also a time for diligent labour!

“Lift up your eyes,” said the Master, “and see that the fields are white for harvest (John 4:35).” The world around us is blooming in this spiritual summer with souls that have been prepared from before the foundation of the world for us to reap as fruit for our King. They are planted everywhere around us in the oddest places. Perhaps a family member, or a neighbor, or a person who rides the bus with us every day. A young teenager driven away from his home, a single mother with three children, an outwardly happy work colleague who is struggling with inner depression. Church, do you see these lost sheep as our Master does? Our King desires a royal priesthood, a holy nation of redeemed people to worship him, and he has made us ambassadors of his kingdom to preach the Good News and to lead souls out of the kingdom of darkness into the marvelous light of Christ!

Taking a summer break from a regularly scheduled church program or small group does NOT mean taking a break from God, his Word, or his mission for us. And so long as our Lord delays his coming, we remain in the summer of our Lord’s harvest. It is always summer for Christians.

So, let us be diligent—not slack—this summer as we labor for his kingdom. Let us not be unfaithful servants who bury their talents to pursue the pleasures of this world, but let us be prudent sons and daughters who work with the fervency of those who know that NOW is the time to reap and gather souls for our Lord’s good pleasure.

The God Who Buried His Friend

So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD, 6 and he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-peor; but no one knows the place of his burial to this day. (Deut. 34:5 ESV)

Of all the servants of God who had the privilege of having their names recorded in Scripture, the mighty Moses ranks among the very greatest. Moses stood before Pharaoh and declared God’s judgment of horrendous plagues. Moses stretched his hand over the Red Sea and caused the immense waters of the deep to part. Moses ascended the mountain of the Lord and received the tablets of stone carved by the very finger of God. And Moses entered the tabernacle and spoke with God face to face as one speaks to a friend.

But we must never think that faithfulness to God can be used to sway the hand of divine justice. Our faithfulness to God never tempts the righteous Judge of all the earth to overlook our wickedness or to close an eye to our evil that is absolutely abhorrent to the One who is perfect. Because Moses disobeyed God in the sight of all Israel by striking the rock instead of speaking to it, the Lord God declared that he would not enter the Promised Land but instead die outside of it (Deut 32:51-52). And so, Moses, servant of the Lord, who had led the people of Israel faithfully through the desert for 40 years, bore with their grumblings and sufferings, and interceded with God on their behalf—died according to the judgment that God had determined for him.

Yet, despite the severity of Moses’ discipline, he did not die outside the grace of God. Moses died with the magnificent title of servant of the Lord and not God’s enemy. Moses was told that he would die as one who was “gathered to his people,” (Deut 32:50), not condemned to everlasting fire. And Moses’ body was buried in the earth with dignity, and not consumed by dogs in disgrace as Jezebel’s was.

Perhaps the most remarkable part of this passage is that the text says that “he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab.” Although the subject is not stated, Moses certainly did not bury himself, therefore, it is only sensible to conclude that in the absence of others, God himself buried him! What insight this gives us into the character and person of God! God had every right to judge Moses for his sin, yet, the Judge of all the earth looked upon the body of his faithful servant with tenderness and compassion and honored him as one would a friend. Though Moses did not die surrounded by scores of his family, friends, and people, he died in the presence of his Lord who loved him and had the dignity and unimaginable privilege of being served by God himself. God dug the hole in the earth for his faithful servant. God placed his body into that grave. And God himself sealed his grave.

How great the tender mercies of our God are! He is not a God who delights in meting out punishment, but one who weeps at the tomb of Lazarus and considers the death of his saints to be precious in his sight (Ps 116:15). And when Satan showed up to contend with the archangel Michael over the body of Moses (Jude 9), the mighty archangel declared, “The Lord rebuke you!” to that fallen angel. We are not told what Satan had to say about the body of Moses, but perhaps the Accuser pointed out Moses’ sin in killing the Egyptian or in disobeying the Lord just as he later pointed out the high priest Joshua’s sin (Zech 3:1). But the God who sees and judges us for our sins is the same God who atones for our iniquities and silences the accusations of the devil.

Brothers and sisters, let us never forget that though Moses died FOR his sin he did not die IN his sin. For the God who disciplined him FOR his sin, is the same God who would later for PAY for that sin with his own body and blood. Christian, the God we serve disciplines those whom he LOVES (Heb 12:6)—not hates. He is a God to be feared and whose very presence causes the mountains to shake. Yet he is a God who sympathizes with our weaknesses, weeps over the death of his friends, and lays down his life for his sheep. What perfect justice! What perfect love!

Christian, do you know and serve THIS God? Or do you serve a god that you have fashioned for yourself by reading only the verses of the Bible that you like?

Do you take his commandments lightly thinking that your sin is no big thing because you have prayed a prayer of salvation? Hear the word of God from Hebrews that declares to us, that “if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. (Heb. 10:26-27).” We who have died to sin can no longer live in it. If you have suffered the discipline of the Lord in your life, know that if you repent of your sins, our Lord is faithful and just to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. And though you may die as a consequence of your sins, remember that your Lord bore the ultimate consequences for your sins on the cross.

Brothers and sisters, let us see our God rightly—this God who is both our Judge and our Friend. He is a God to be FEARED, but he is also a God to be LOVED! And if you should die in this world, forsaken by even your closest friends such that the place of your burial is unknown to this world because of your love for Christ, know that forsaken does not mean forgotten. For the God who is your Friend, will never forget you and your death is precious in his sight. What a joy it is to know a God who is both our Judge and our Friend—an ultimate, faithful, friend who paid it all for us when we could not!

Prayer Moves the Cosmos

At that time Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.” 13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. 14 There has been no day like it before or since, when the LORD heeded the voice of a man, for the LORD fought for Israel. (Josh 10:12-14 ESV)

The world is full of mighty and powerful forces. The bubbling magma that resides deep within the earth’s crust periodically finds its way to the earth’s surface and erupts from volcanoes that send hot, molten lava into the air, burning everything in its path. Deep-sea earthquakes that arise from the shifting of tectonic plates suddenly displace millions of tons of water that coalesce into massive tsunamis that slam into coastal cities, sweeping away everything that its raging waters touch. Category five hurricanes terrify us as they pass through cities, picking up entire buildings and flinging them as if they were rag dolls. The forces of the natural world are indeed powerful and awe-inspiring, yet the Scriptures tell us that prayer is far more powerful than all of these.

In this account, Joshua was fighting with one of Israel’s enemies as they sought to obey the Lord’s command to conquer the promised land of Canaan. As the battle drew long, Joshua, the astute military commander, realized that the day was quickly drawing to a close and that his soldiers would not be able to continue fighting. In a moment of spontaneity, driven by his great need and also his great trust in the LORD, he cried out a prayer to God in the form of a command. Gazing up at the burning sun that hung in the middle of the sky and the dimly lit day-time moon hanging to the west over the valley of Aijalon, Joshua called out in faith to God for the heavenly bodies to cease their movement—and the Lord God answered and listened to the voice of a man!

Never before had there been a day like that in the history of the world. Joshua had never seen such a thing in all of his life—no Israelite had. Yet, because of his belief and trust in a God who rules over all things, Joshua prayed. He knew that he was obeying the will of God by conquering the Promised Land. He knew that Israel was not making the progress they needed to defeat their enemies before sundown. He knew that the sun would follow its normal course and set on the day before the battle was over if nothing changed. So, driven by his convictions, he cried out to God for what is humanly impossible—the stoppage of the movement of the heavenly bodies, so that he could accomplish the LORD’s mission.

How much hope this gives us as Christians! When we stand upon our immovable convictions that are grounded in the Word of God, we have surety as to what direction to take even when the path we must walk is humanly impossible. What should we do when there is no humanly possible way to make our monthly budget? Pray to our Lord who owns the earth and its fullness thereof and wait expectantly for our Father in heaven to send his ravens to feed us even in the midst of famine. What shall we do when we are threatened with death for believing in Christ? We cannot deny him, so we must pray boldly either for the angel of the Lord to defeat our enemies or for divine strength and joy to go to our deaths with a song on our lips and heavenly hope in our hearts. What shall we do when we are fighting the Lord’s battles and waging wars against the powers and principalities over this dark world as we preach the Gospel? Let us ask our Lord to defeat the darkness and to shine light where this is none.

Christian, do you tremble at the awesome power of the mighty gift that God has given us in the discipline of prayer? Do you realize that prayer not only moves mountains, but the very sun, moon and earth? What obstacle in your life are you facing that is as vast as the sea and as violent as a storm on the sea of Galilee? Can you fathom the thought that your greatest problems can be solved in an instant with divine aid because prayer moves the very heart of the infinite, almighty, and all-knowing God? What a powerful and priceless gift prayer is to the children of God!

So, when we are faced with what is impossible with man, let us boldly look at the mountainous obstacles that stand in our way as we seek to obey the will of the Lord and say, “Sun, stand still… mountain, be cast into the sea,” and stand in awe of the power of our God.

Resist the Devil!

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (Jam 4:7 ESV)

The world we inhabit lies in the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19). Satan is a master deceiver who has been tempting humans to sin against God since the very first man and woman walked with God in the garden of Eden. The devil is thousands of years old, yet age has done nothing to weaken the strength of this fallen angel. He has so much experience with hunting his human prey that his fiery darts rarely miss their targets, striking the weakest points in our armor with pinpoint precision. He has one singular purpose—to kill and to destroy, which makes him more deadly of an adversary than all the half-hearted people of this world. Furthermore, Satan does not act alone, for he is the ruler of a united kingdom of demons (Matt 12:26). How sad to think that Satan is sometimes more united than brothers and sisters in the Christian church!

But the most devious and deadly schemes of the great Tempter of human souls are not found in his frontal assaults against humanity, but rather in his subtle, and eternally devastating suggestions that fly beneath our radar. The great skill of this enemy of our souls lies in suggesting to us ideas that agree with the sin-corrupted reasoning in our wicked and deceitful hearts. To the atheistic professor who is admired for his massive intellect and stellar contributions to research, Satan whispers, “God is a crutch for the weak. You, however are not weak. You are great.” To the religious and proud, the devil says, “Certainly Christ died to save you from your sins, but also need some of your own efforts and other works of the law to be truly saved. Look how well you are doing! You are certainly going to heaven!” To the half-hearted, lukewarm Christian who has put his hand to the plow but constantly looks back, the father of lies says, “As long as you believe Jesus died for you, that’s enough. Don’t let anyone judge you for the sin that you are living in.”

All throughout the Scriptures, this is his pattern. Satan used Peter’s own heart motives to get him to speak against Jesus’ desire to suffer on the cross. Satan filled the greedy heart of Judas with a plan to betray the perfect Son of God by selling him out for mere pieces of silver. Satan tempted Ananias to guard his own financial and social interests by lying to the apostles who were tasked with laying the foundation for the church of God (Acts 5:3). No human being alive is safe from his wicked words! Yet, we are not hopeless, for the Scriptures command us to RESIST him! And RESIST him we must—in the way that our Lord and Saviour did. In the wilderness, Christ set us an example of spiritual combat as he fought Satan with the living and active Word of God that is sharper than any two-edged sword. Jesus countered every fiery dart, not with his own cleverness and intellect, but with the sword of the Spirit.

Believer, are there lies that you are believing right now? Are the minions of the kingdom of darkness so feeding your pride that you worship yourself and not Christ? Or are they so crushing you with waves of guilt and despair that you find that you have lost sight of Christ? Resist the devil and he will flee from you! Tell them as you despair over how you will pay your bills that “Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Deut 8:3). Tell them as you grieve over your past sins, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies (Rom 8:33 ESV).” Tell them when they butter you up and feed your pride that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Pet 5:5). Strike with God’s divine weapons and the terrible dragon will flee!

Christian, the venomous snake whose poison sends people into eternal death is no match for the One who lives inside of you. Put on the armor of God and not the armor of Saul which is your own righteousness and works. Sharpen the Sword of the Spirit by filling your soul with the divine Word so that you might not sin against God. Then, resist your devilish opponent with God’s weapons and live in the peace and joy of God. And though the righteous may fall seven times, by the power of God, we will rise again to the glory of God (Prov 24:16).

Remember Me for My Good

Now what was prepared at my expense for each day was one ox and six choice sheep and birds, and every ten days all kinds of wine in abundance. Yet for all this I did not demand the food allowance of the governor, because the service was too heavy on this people. 19 Remember for my good, O my God, all that I have done for this people. (Neh 5:18 ESV)

Our world measures success in tallying up how much we have gained. More degrees that grant a string of letters behind our names is considered a success. An 8-figure bank account is considered a success. A life full of hobbies and expensive vacations to the sun-kissed white-sand beaches of some tropical paradises is considered to be a successful life. The mantra of our world is “He who dies with the most toys wins.”

Yet, such richness in the eyes of the world is poverty in the eyes of God. In the inverted kingdom of Christ, the one who hoards gold and silver in these last days with no thought to being rich towards God gathers only incriminating evidence of a godless, self-centred life that will shout his eternal guilt in heaven’s courtroom (Jam 5:2). Those who would afflict, crush and rob the poor of their meagre wealth will not escape unscathed but will face the judgment of the Lord who will rob their abusers of their very own lives (Prov 22:22-23).

Nehemiah could easily have lived comfortably serving as the cupbearer to the Persian king, however his heart would not let him. For Nehemiah’s heart was filled with grief for the things of God and as a result he gave of his time, energy and finances to attend to the rebuilding of the wall in Jerusalem. But Nehemiah did not accomplish this work in the ways the leaders of this world do by lording it over those who were subject to him, nor did he exploit those who were unable to defend themselves. Instead, Nehemiah stopped the oppression of the poor in the land and encouraged the builders when opposition arose. Nehemiah refused to take the rights and privileges of a governor and to eat the food allowance, but rather chose to give to the dozens of men who sat around his table daily. What an example to us of Christ-like servant leadership Nehemiah is to us!

Christian, have you poured out your life in serving those who cannot repay you? Have you impoverished yourself of your time and money so that others might become rich in Christ? Has your service to others cost you your health, and no one around you appreciates just what you have sacrificed for the sake of the kingdom?

Come now all you mothers who labor at your daily routine of wiping spills off the floor and folding endless amounts of laundry! Come all of you who care for the needs of aging parents who can no longer remember your name! Come all of you who give so quietly to the poor, helpless, and hungry, that your left hand does not know what your right hand is doing! Come all who have poured out the tears of their hearts over the lives of those who stubbornly refuse to come to Christ.

Come all, for your Father in heaven has a wedding feast prepared for you in his kingdom. In his land, you who have chosen the lowliest seats will hear the Master say to you, “Friend, move up higher,” so that you might be honored in sight of the angels and the other shining saints of heaven. There, our Lord Jesus who said, “It is more blessed to give than it is to receive,” will grant you the gift of an eternal kingdom from his Father. For you fed our Lord when he was hungry, clothed him when he was naked, and welcomed him when he was but a stranger. Though the world and people might forget your righteous deeds, our Lord will never forget your acts of service of him. The Lord our God sees all and not even the sparrows of the field escape his notice.

Therefore, Christian, do not grow weary of doing good, for you are not ultimately serving people, but our God. And in your times of greatest discouragement, call out to our Lord as Nehemiah did, “Remember me, O God, for all that I have done,” and revel in the fact that your Father who will not forget even one hair on your head, will never forget the deeds you have done in his name for his glory.

God’s Calendar App in the Sky

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, (Gen 1:14 ESV)

The urban city-dweller who lives in a beautiful home, possesses an overflowing supply of food and water, and has access to the finest medical care available is one of the most spiritually impoverished, malnourished and disadvantaged persons on the planet. The concrete jungle of towering high-rise buildings rob him of the daily view of the majestic mountains and landscapes that our God has carved into the bedrock of the earth. The pleasures of a private swimming pool in his backyard dulls his mind to the remembrance of the mighty oceans that God has covered the earth with. The clean water that flows freely from the faucet in his home and the grocery store shelves that are filled with food declare to him that mankind lives by the fruit of his own ingenuity and not by the grace of God. How difficult it is to worship God for his infinite glories when we are daily charmed by the technological glories of man!

But for thousands of years this was not so! Genesis tells us that the first man and woman who walked the earth, along with the Israelites and the nations of the world, did not look down at their phones or computer screens to schedule their lives, but instead tilted their heads up to the stars. What a breathtaking and awe-inspiring sight the night sky is! The blue light of Sirius that gleams with a life of its own, the bursts of comets that blaze across the heavenly vault and die out in seconds, the millions of stars that twinkle and shine—all these declare to us the glory of God in the heavens. Without digital watches or phones, the ancients acknowledged their dependence on God for their future plans every evening as they looked to God’s celestial domain to count the cycles of the moon and the passage of days and nights to determine the seasons and the years.

Believer, when was the last time that you went for a walk in God’s creation and marveled at the work of his hands? When was the last time you gazed at the moon and stars which God has set in place and worshipped him for crafting these magnificent heavenly luminaries to establish the rhythms of life that God has blessed us with? What a brilliant app God has programmed into the heavenlies! No smartphone  is required to know the date of the beginning of the month. No battery is required to ensure that the moon is always visible. God’s luminaries do not wander erratically but run their course with the steady, clockwork-precision that marks of all of our perfect Creator’s very good works. They never run out of power, they never have downtime, and they are seen by every tribe, tongue and nation in the world! How great is our God!

Christian, if you find yourself overwhelmed by the troubles of this world, turn yourself from the monuments that testify to the glory of man. Lift your head up from the glow of your digital calendar that seeks to rule your life. Turn instead to the heavenly monuments that testify to the surpassing greatness and glory of God. And as you gaze at the Creator’s brilliance, remember that we need not fear, for this is ultimately our Father’s world. So, make your plans and schedule your days, but never forget to look up to the heavens and remember that only if the Lord wills, will we do this or that (Jam 4:15). In all that we do, let us always be as conscious as the Israelite was—whose heart was moved by his Creator’s brilliance every night he gazed into the night sky—that God gifted all of mankind with his heavenly timepieces so that we could schedule our lives not according to our own pride, but according to his abundant grace.

In Your Presence There is Fullness of Joy

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Ps 16:11 ESV)

The Christian life is a pilgrimage that is incredibly different and unique for every born-again child of God. For some, the Master’s call to be fishers of men takes them down a danger-filled road that runs through the dark valley that is chilled by the shadow of death. For others, their journey is marked by relative peace as in the times of unrivaled prosperity and rest that the land of Israel knew during the reign of king Solomon. For some saints, the journey to the New Jerusalem is a painful but short one. And though they are executed for refusing to deny their Lord, they are not abandoned to Sheol but whisked away to their beloved Saviour’s side by the King’s chariots of fire. For others, their race is a marathon that takes them through the seemingly mundane, but very real trials of ordinary life. And whether the saint is battered on the road by Giant Despair of Doubting Castle or tempted to cease running because of the seductive power of the fleeting treasures of this world in Vanity Fair—with the LORD always before us, we will never be shaken. Though we may have no certainty concerning what trials lie ahead of us, we may have great confidence that the path of the cross that the Lord has revealed to us, is the true path of life. And at the end of this road lies the City of God where our ultimate hope is hidden.

How sweet this truth from God’s Word is! Sweeter than honey to our lips! Because God has made known to us the path of life, we know the way into the presence of God himself through the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. And though our Good Shepherd might lead us into the wilderness, it is only so that we might reach the Promised Land where our soul will at last find green pastures and still waters. There in the presence of our Father, we will experience joy—not just temporary, earthly joy that comes and goes like the ebb and flow of the ocean’s waves—but complete, fullness of joy that overflows our cup!

How unlike our world this is! For all the joy we experience in this world is mixed with pain and sadness. David’s joy at the transportation of the ark was mingled with grief as the LORD struck Uzzah dead for placing his hand on the holy vessel. The apostle Paul’s joy at being caught up into the third heaven was mitigated by his severe thorn in the flesh that drove him to depend on God for daily grace. For us, the joy of marriage will one day be replaced by the sadness of death. The joy of new possessions and growth will be tempered by the painful effects of aging. In this world, we taste only the little drippings of joy that spill from the overflowing cup of heavenly joy that awaits us in the presence of God. There in heaven, we will never again feel our heavenly Father frown at us on account of our sins for we will be sinless. We will never again feel the aches and pains of old age and toil in this sin-cursed world. We will know only unbridled joy as our immortal bodies leap and bound through the streets of the New Jerusalem that gleam with the glory of God. We will age day by day yet have the joy of remaining forever young. And finally, we will have the ultimate delight of the Psalmist—to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to bask in the joy of the One who is the giver of all good gifts and unending joy. Oh, how incomparable heavenly joy is! Joy so full that it makes the joys of this world seem like nothing. Joy so complete that we could never possibly imagine ourselves happier!

And not only joy, the Psalmist says, but pleasures forevermore. Not just for a time, but forever. Even when one million years have passed according to our earthly calendar, it will not even equal one hour on heaven’s calendar in eternity. The toil of serving those who cannot repay us day in and day out, will be replaced with an eternity of being served by God’s ministering servants—the angels of heaven. The ravages of chronic illness will be replaced by immortality and eternal health. The pain of severed relationships on this earth will give way to the pleasures of heavenly friendships that will never again be strained by the effects of sin. Prisoners shall have boundless freedom, the hungry will feast always at the dining table of the Lamb. The tears we have shed on this earth will be wiped away by the finger of Jesus himself whose very presence will ensure that no foul thing will ever come through the gates of the New Jerusalem that are never shut night or day. Perfect, unending love. Perfect, unending worship of the living God. Here on earth, joy enters into us. But in the King’s land, we will enter into joy. On that final day, the ungodly will drink the wine of the wrath of God full strength, but we who are faithful to our Lord unto death will drink the water from the river of life full strength, with overflowing joy.

Christian, do you long to taste the fullness of joy that is found only in the presence of our God? Does your soul pant and thirst after the living God? Do you realize that the light tastes of joy that you have on earth are but little drops that have fallen from the fullness of the river of delight in heaven? Do the eternal pleasures that are at our Lord’s right hand cause you to tear your gaze away from the transient, lackluster joys of this world and fix your eyes on Christ? Does the fullness of joy that awaits you in the Lord’s presence not make your present, light momentary afflictions seem so small? Be encouraged Christian as you run your race and do not give up. For though the finish line may seem far away, our Lord waits for you there with the victor’s crown. And when you have finished the race and kept the faith by his strength, you will have your soul’s ultimate reward—the joy and pleasure of the presence of God himself, forever.

The God Who Keeps His Promises

Thus the LORD gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. 44 And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands. 45 Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. (Josh 21:43 ESV)

In the Hebrew text of these three verses, the word “all” appears no less than six times. This passage comes as the final word in a detailed list of all the different land allocations that were given to the children of Israel after they had conquered the promised land of Canaan. Every major city and its surrounding villages, every regional boundary bordering the numerous brooks and streams that ran through Israel, every bit of pastureland belonging to all the different tribes was accounted for. Nothing was left out. Not because Israel had done a marvelous job in the conquest! In fact, they had failed to obey God’s commands fully in some cases, allowing some of the Canaanites to remain in the land.

But the reason that they received their inheritance is because God ALWAYS keeps his promises. They received the land because God swore to give the land to their ancestors and so he did (21:43). They had peace from their enemies because the LORD gave it to them (21:44). No giant Anakim soldier or fortified city could resist them because the Lord had “handed over all their enemies to them” (21:44). Every single promise—down to the last one—was accomplished.

What assurance this gives to us as believers in an ever-changing world! How much spiritual bedrock this gives to us to build our entire lives on! Are we not painfully aware of how many in this world (us included) make promises that are not or cannot be kept?

How many grooms have gazed into the eyes of their beautiful brides on their wedding day declaring their steadfast love yet left them for some mistress a few years later? How many fathers have made promises to their little girls to return home safely from war only to have a military commander salute their spouse at the door with a folded flag and a letter of condolences? How many businessmen have promised their employees the investment opportunity of a lifetime with their novel product only to have been reduced to rags and bankruptcy by a downturn of the stock market or a change in public tastes?

Christian, are you staggered by our God who always keeps his promises? When we are deserted or betrayed by our closest friends, we will never truly be alone because our Lord has promised to never leave us or forsake us (Deut 31:6). When we sin against our God despite our adamant promises to never do so again and turn to him in humility and repentance, we will never hear him say, “You have sinned too much! The blood of the cross is no longer good for you!” God will never throw us out in exasperation for he is faithful and just to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Christian, let us never take for granted the incredible promises of God! Let us weep for joy that the fountain of grace will never run dry because we serve a God who never goes back on his Word! As surely as the rain and snow come down from heaven and do not return there, neither does God’s Word ever return empty. The heavens and the earth will be burnt up with a roar, but our Lord’s words will never pass away. The friend we once ate bread with might turn against us (Ps 41:9), but Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8). Because our God does not change, the children of Jacob were not consumed (Mal 3:6) and neither are we.

All praise and glory be to our God whose promises never fail!