God > Horses + Chariots

“When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them, for the LORD your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. 2 And when you draw near to the battle, the priest shall come forward and speak to the people 3 and shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, today you are drawing near for battle against your enemies: let not your heart faint. Do not fear or panic or be in dread of them, 4 for the LORD your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.’ (Deut 20:1-4)

We are naturally afraid of things that are larger than us. We are not scared of a barking chihuahua, but we would do well to run from a charging grizzly bear. We are afraid at the thought of being attacked alone by a mugger on a dark night, but we feel safer in the company of three or four friends.

The people of Israel lived under the constant threat of war from neighboring nations with armies that dwarfed their own. Furthermore, their enemies often possessed military resources that gave them an enormous advantage in battle. The charge of warhorses would shake the very ground that the armies stood on, sending fear into the knees of even the bravest soldiers. Archers riding on chariots could send their deadly arrows into the ranks of Israelite soldiers like stinging hornets and then flit away quickly to a safe distance. Heavy horses and chariot wheels surging across a battlefield could overwhelm an army of infantry by simply crushing them underfoot.

Now, although such an army could perhaps be defeated by a larger army, the Scriptures expressly forbade the Israelite kings from acquiring many horses for themselves (Deut 17:16). How odd it would seem! Don’t we all know that being outnumbered in battle is generally a bad idea? What king, going out to war, does not first deliberate whether he’s able to fight an enemy army of twenty thousand with his own army of a mere ten thousand? (Luke 14:31) Yet, God was clear that the Israelites were not to amass for themselves these horses and chariots. And the reason for this express prohibition on gathering military might was so that they would know that it was the LORD who took care of them. Their divinely limited army served as a daily reminder that no matter how much they grew or how rich they became, ultimately it was the LORD who “brought them up out of the land of Egypt,” who would continue to fight for them if they would only wholeheartedly obey his commands.

And this is true for us as Christians as well! Though we might feel alone or outnumbered in our daily battles, we do not need to be afraid if the LORD God fights for us. We may feel dumb and incapable of engaging a wise and well-spoken individual with the Gospel, but we do not need to be afraid if the LORD fight for us! We may look with envy at those around us who have access to better technology, more money, greater numbers and feel despair at our own deplorable lack. Yet, we do not need to be afraid if the LORD fights for us!

Brothers and sisters, it is better to go with faith in God and a shepherd’s sling than dressed in the armor of Saul. It is better to enter spiritual battle with the sword of the Spirit and knees that are bruised from the rigors of extended prayer than it is to have money, intelligence and manpower. How careful we must be when it comes to acquiring for ourselves “horses and chariots” that tantalize us with offers of safety and security in this world when it is only the LORD our God who can truly save!

Christian, are you facing insurmountable odds in your life? Are you in a desperate situation because your obedience to our Lord’s commands has caused an army of people who despise God to rise against you? Are you discouraged because what you now have seems so small when compared with those around you?

Take heart, brothers and sisters, and remember that nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few (1 Sam 14:6). The LORD who loves us will not let us live under the cruel delusion that it is our own hand that saves us. And though our army of thirty thousand may have been reduced to but three hundred (Judg 7), we may fight with courage knowing that the LORD has given our Midianite enemies into our hands. Oh Lord, let us never turn to the world for provisions to live the Christian life lest we fool ourselves into believing that what was begun by the Spirit can now only be accomplished by the army of flesh. And may You get the glory as we come to you in humble dependence. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. (Ps 20:7)

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When Divine Love Allows Pain…

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. (John 11:1-6 ESV)

No living thing enjoys pain. A person will remove a splinter that is lodged in their hand. Cattle will learn to avoid the sharp barbs of a fence. Pain is unpleasant, therefore, we naturally seek to run away from it or remove it from our lives. But just because pain is unpleasant, it does not mean that all pain is bad. For some of the greatest benefits and rewards cannot be attained without traveling the road that is marked by pain and suffering. A cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy will accept the horrid sensation of burning in their veins because they believe that they might be cured. An athlete will endure chapped lips and frozen limbs as they train in sub-zero temperatures, hoping that their diligent training will result in a gold medal.

The life of a follower of Christ is no different. Though there is joy in walking with our Lord and Master, we are not absolved from carrying our crosses daily. Here we see that Mary and Martha bore the full weight of anguish and sorrow as they attended to their mortally, sick brother. Though they were helpless, they knew the One who wasn’t and earnestly implored their Lord to come quickly to their aid. They had seen Jesus do miracles before, and out of love for their dear brother, they wanted to see him restored. But the apostle John tells us that Jesus loved Mary and Martha, and that his love for them resulted in him staying put and not rushing immediately to their sides!

How paradoxical this seems! The Lord of life who can heal with a word spoken from afar and who can raise the dead to life does not immediately alleviate their pain, but instead allows them to remain in their distress even though he is fully capable of ending their suffering with a word! Although this thought might cause us some discomfort, let us never think that our God is a cruel masochist who delights in our sorrows. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and neither does he bring his children into the desert to destroy them. He is the God who weeps at the grave of Lazarus.

But from this passage, we learn that divine love withheld the miracle of divine healing from Mary and Martha so that they could taste the glory of God through the greater, more awesome miracle of resurrection from death. Jesus’ desire for his beloved children is that they would see and embrace that which is greatest in the world—the glory of God. And because of his great love for us, he will spare no expense to ensure that we are not deprived of seeing the priceless glory of God maximally displayed—even if that means we must walk through the valley of pain. For pain is the needle which God uses to inject our hearts with wonder at his divine glory.

Christian, are you suffering under a heavy burden right now? Do you feel that the Lord has forgotten you in the midst of your trial? Do you despair because your eyes are a fountain of tears and that your daily cries seem to go unanswered?

Take heart, believer, and remember that the Father who gave you new birth through his precious Word not only sees you now, but is working for his glory and the good of those who love him. Divine love, not cruelty, is what withholds relief from your current suffering. Divine love may not always give us what we want, but it will always give us what we need—to the glory of God.

Till Now the Lord Has Helped Us

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the LORD has helped us.” (1 Sam 7:12 ESV)

One of the most terrifying aspects of sin is that it ravages our memories. Though the Lord might part the waters of the Red Sea in our lives in the midst of extraordinary trial, it does not take long for our sinful hearts to forget his goodness when we perceive that we appear to be walking through a desert. Left unchecked, we begin to grumble and long to return to Egypt, forgetting that our previous condition was slavery. Our hearts are truly prone to wander and when we do not walk with the Lord in the power of his Spirit, what began in our hearts as boiling fervor for the Lord will eventually grow cold.

The children of Israel were suffering the consequences of their sins, but at Samuel’s command, they put away their idols and devoted themselves to serve the Lord even as the Philistines drew up their battle lines to destroy them. But when Samuel cried out to the Lord on their behalf, the God of Israel responded immediately with thunder from heaven. He threw the enemy into confusion before Israel and their great army was completely routed and defeated. And Samuel upon their victory, set up a stone of remembrance called Ebenezer, which in Hebrew means “Stone of Help.” It was not the stone that helped them, but it was a reminder that the Lord had helped them. Every time they glanced at this boundary marker, they were to recall the magnificent deed that the Lord had done in fighting for them.

When we Christians are discouraged, we too are called to remember the wondrous deeds of God. Paul urged his young disciple Timothy to “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead” (2 Tim 2:8) even as he exhorted him to suffer as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. The Psalmist, despairing that the Lord’s goodness seemed to have ceased from his life, declared that he would combat his spiritual despondency by remembering the deeds of the Lord and the years of the right hand of the Most High (Ps. 77:10-11). How important the act of remembering is! And whether we set up physical stones for ourselves, or write entries in a diary that we review on a regular basis, or discipline ourselves to read God’s Word regularly so that we do not forget our God, we are called to constantly remember and never forget.

Christian, has your own sin driven you into a place where you face suffering and trial? Or are you discouraged and battered by problems that loom larger than a Philistine army in your life? Are you in need of a divine helper to come and deliver you from this trial that is simply too great for you? Then turn to our Lord and cry out to the God of heaven so that he might fight for you!

Brothers and sisters, we must never underestimate the importance of remembering in our lives. In our times of despair, we must not look inward, but upward. We must look at the Ebenezers that we have set up to mark God’s miraculous works in our lives so that our hearts might be encouraged when we are tempted to forget. We must never make the mistake of thinking that that our own hands have given us our success or that our God is too small to save. The God who has helped us “thus far,” will never change. Our Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And if he has helped us thus far and given his only Son for our sins, we can rest assured that he will never abandon his children in their hour of greatest need. So, in these moments of our greatest trials, let us not charge in with our own strength, but stop and remember the strength of our God who is our help.

What Jesus Wants For You

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:24)

Our Lord and Savior is not a distant deity but an intensely personal God. Though he rules from heaven’s throne, he is ever present with us as believers and acts with the greatest amount of care in our individual lives. Jesus has so much affection for those whom the Father has given to him, that even as the hour of the cross approaches, we find him pleading here for those whom he loves. Christ is not indifferent to those whom he saves, nor did he simply stoically bear the cross because of his Father’s will. No, he went willingly to the cross not only because it was the Father’s will to save wretched sinners, but because it was his own intensely personal desire! His impassioned plea and longing before his Father was that we who remain here on this earth might not die in our sins, but would one day be with him where he is! But why would Jesus long for such a thing? It was certainly not because he lacked good company. In heaven, he would be in rich fellowship with his everlasting Father and the Holy Spirit. The greatest relationships in the world cannot compare with the intimacy that is found in the triune Godhead, the perfect three-in-one relationship. So, if our Lord does not need us to satisfy a relational need, why does he want believers to be with him?

The answer? That they might see his glory. What our Lord passionately desired as he headed for the cross is that we would not just be with him, but that would see with our very own eyes the great glory of the Son of Man. The glory which he had before the foundation of the world was laid! What a blessing and joy that the sight of the glory of God must be for Jesus to so desire this just moments before his death! The Scriptures attest to the greatness of the glory of God, for none can see the glory of the immortal God and live. Moses saw God’s back and his face shone so brightly that he needed to place a veil over his face. Isaiah upon seeing the glory of the God of Israel threw himself onto the ground and cried out that he was a man of unclean lips! At the sight of the glory of God, the angels in heaven shout for joy! And because of the glory of God, the rocks of the earth cry out and the hills clap their hands. How magnificent is the glory of God! How awe-inspiring it is to the soul! And if his glory is this wonderful, why then should we be surprised that our Lord desires for us to be with him?

Christian, are you awed at the thought of seeing the glory of God? Is it your heart’s desire to go and be with Jesus so that you might see his glory? The longing of our good Lord was to treat our souls to a sumptuous feast of his glory. Therefore, there can be no greater good work, than to introduce other people to the glory of Jesus, so that they too may feast their souls on him and live. No amount wealth, good health or anything else under the sun can compare with the nourishment we will receive from one day enjoying the glory of God. Jesus does not desire for us to be with him so that we might meet a defect in his joy. Rather, he desires for us to be with him to satisfy a defect in our joy. Life is incomplete and ultimately unsatisfying if we are deprived of the glory of God. But thanks be to God, that our Jesus prayed for us, and that one day, we who believe with him, will have the ultimate joy of seeing his glory.

There are Always Two Who Build

A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon. Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. 2 It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. (Psalm 127:1-2 ESV)

It has been said by some that the beauty of science is that it reveals the mysteries of the universe. The scientist who labors over his microscope to test a new drug against cancer does a great service to society by teaching us about things we cannot see or understand with our eyes alone. But the mysteries that the Word of God reveals, goes far beyond what the greatest scientific advances could ever offer us, for it teaches us what our greatest human instruments can never discover. In this case, the wisdom of God instructs us that the will of God is the ultimate reason behind every one of our successes and failures.

But this does not mean that we are excused from our responsibility to work! Our work matters, but so does the Lord’s work. A house is not built unless an architect draws up plans and a carpenter puts a hammer in one hand and nails in the other. Experience tells us that it is foolish to think that a house can build itself. Yet, this passage is not about our responsibility to work but rather about the attitude behind our work. The wise person who is informed by the Word of God as to the true nature of things, understands that two things must occur for any project to succeed. One, we must build, and two, the Lord must build with us. There are always two who must work for any project to succeed. And the work of the latter is the most important. God’s invisible hand must steady our hands to hold our tools. God’s invisible hand must withhold the rains and winds, guard us from injury, and keep our minds from error-prone calculations. The men of Babel built a tower to the sky to rival God, but because their work displeased him, he demolished their work by confusing their language.

How many human projects do we know that have been terminated by the will of God through unforeseen circumstances! Whether this was due to an economic crash, a devastating earthquake, or unnoticed human error, work can never succeed unless the Lord is at work! Even the sharpest watchman will fail to protect his city from a stealth attack, unless the caring eyes of God are turned towards the city. We should not eat our meals and pay our bills worrying as if the entirety of our provision rests on us. No, we may sleep in peace, knowing that for those whom the Lord loves, he gives the gift of a peaceful sleep—sleep that is free from worry because we are free from the anxiety of trying to provide for ourselves as if we were God.

How humbling this is! We cannot grow food to eat unless the Lord wills. We cannot spot danger unless the Lord allows us to see it. We cannot build a house or undertake any project, unless the Lord is with us! In him, truly, we live and move and have our being! But as humbling as this is, it is also remarkably consoling to our souls. For we know that if we labor diligently at our Master’s command and our project fails, then it is because his hand has brought it to a halt. We are free to work diligently, and also free to not worry about the results.

Christian, is your life busy and full of projects and tasks that seem endless? Do you find yourself anxious about the results? Do your problems keep you awake at night because deep in your heart, you have been trusting in your own plans and efforts for success? Are you stressed out because despite your best efforts, your health continues to fail? Come now, will you not cast your anxieties on the Lord who cares for you, builds for you and fights for you? Or perhaps, do you find yourself proud of your achievements and fail to give God glory for what he has done in your life? Humble yourself before his mighty hand and give God the glory that he is due!

The blessed soul is not the soul that can only find happiness in success and pleasure, but rather, the soul that possesses unshakeable joy in the knowledge that the hand of God is ultimately responsible for all of life’s successes and failures. Truly we can face plenty, hunger, abundance and need, if only we are certain that we do all things through the one who strengthens us (Phil 4:12-13). And if God did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us on the cross, let our worried and anxious hearts find comfort in his love. Truly, all things work for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose (Rom 8:28). So, in all that we do, let us never forget that there are always two who are at work.

The Voice of the LORD Breaks…

3 The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over many waters. 4 The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty. 5 The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon. Psalm 29:3-5

The thunder of a mighty storm is not a testament to the greatness of nature, but to the power of the awesome God who “speaks” about his grandeur and unsurpassed might to us. Verse 5 is a statement of fact: God breaks the cedars of Lebanon. Now breaking down trees is not inherently significant. Lumberjacks fall trees all the time. A man with only a hand axe might labor for a long time, but with perseverance, he will succeed in chopping down the tree. However, God’s tree-falling instrument is not an axe, chainsaw, nor even an excavator. He does not summon a work crew to consult with on how he should make his cuts. No! He does not use the things that we weak creatures must use. The instrument that God uses for smashing the massive cedars of Lebanon is his “voice”! If there is anything to be learnt from this simple phrase, it is that there is a massive difference between us and God.

Who is like our God? Could you throw away your chainsaw, stand beside a cedar tree and shout until it broke into pieces? Would you accomplish anything more than scaring termites off its bark? And yet, the Lord is different as his voice thunders in the storm. At his “words,” not even the mighty trees of the forest can stand. At his voice, their bark is stripped and their massive trunks snapped by an enormous invisible force. The same voice that commanded the earth to sprout and brought the tree into existence is the same voice that can tear the great trees apart, limb from limb, and snap their twelve-foot trunks like a child would snap a small twig.

I have heard many say that they wish that they could hear the Lord speak. But I daresay we do not understand what we are asking for. When the Israelites were assembled around Mount Sinai and saw the thunder, the flashes of lightning and the entire mountain smoking as if it were being consumed by flames, they trembled in terror and stood far away. You speak to us Moses, and we’ll listen! But don’t let God speak to us lest we die! Who has such a voice? And if God’s awesomeness is heard in the storm that destroys giant cedars, how much more awesome must the person of God himself be? If the very sound of his voice levels entire forests and causes people to fear for their lives, what must seeing God be like? No wonder Isaiah upon seeing God in his glory fell to the ground in fear that he would be struck dead. How can unworthy creatures like us look on him who is eternal, all-powerful, and has a voice like thunder that smashes the greatest of trees?

Can you see then why the person of Jesus Christ is so stunning? He was fully God, yet people could hear his voice, and not flee in terror. People could look at him, and not be struck dead. The holy God was veiled in humanity as an act of mercy so that we could see the Way to eternal life and not die in our sins. Yet, the mercy of God was repaid with contempt. The great King whose voice can break trees was instead nailed to one. The voice that can calm storms stayed silent as his tormentors mocked him. His voice could have summoned twelve legions of angels dressed in shining robes and with burning swords in their hands to slaughter his enemies, yet, his voice called out for their pardon instead.

Christian, are you grateful that Christ’s words on the cross were not “Destroy all my enemies,” but “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do?” Are you grateful that the storm of God’s wrath will not break you like one of the cedars of Lebanon because Jesus’ body was broken for you? Christian, if you are discouraged and need to be reminded of the power of God, remember that his voice alone can smash the cedars of Lebanon! If you find yourself proud of your own achievements, remember that your voice does not carry across the oceans like the voice of our God. He was wounded for our transgressions and slaughtered for our sins. He took the penalty we deserved so that we might one day be in fellowship with him forever.

Brothers and sisters, let us rejoice that the mighty voice of God did not break us like the cedars of Lebanon, but broke his own Son so that we could be whole. To such a truth, there is only one proper posture—worship. Thank you, Lord Jesus.

Oh for a Glimpse of Jesus!

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:25-32 ESV)

The final wish of a dying person often can tell us a lot about what they value in life. There are those who fought on distant battlefields in their youth and want nothing more than to return and pay one last visit to the place that claimed the lives of so many of their friends. There are those who poured their lives into their families and want nothing more than to be surrounded by all of their children as they pass from this life. There are those who tragically destroyed relationships with old friends and want nothing more than to see them so that they might make amends with weeping and tears and find sweet reconciliation before they die.

But as much as God’s righteous saints might also desire these earthly pleasures, the greatest desire of the Christian who has been born again into the family of God is to see the Lord’s Christ—Jesus. Old Simeon could not pass from this life in peace until he had feasted his eyes on the one who would bring consolation to the hearts of God’s people. But Simeon was not looking for a mighty warrior to bring deliverance from the tyrannical oppression of a foreign army. No, this devout saint anticipated something more, for he saw in Isaiah’s vision of God’s servant (Is 42:6-7; 49:6) that the Christ would be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles.” And though he never lived to see the glory of the resurrected Christ and how God would save the world through him, he was content with the vantage point that God had given him in salvation history. Simeon had only a short glimpse, a tiny amount of time to hold in his hands God’s masterplan of salvation, yet this glimpse of Jesus gave him unimaginable peace!

But though righteous Simeon had the privilege of seeing firsthand the humble glories of the incarnated God-man, are we not as Christians more blessed than him? Though we have not seen him, we love him and believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible (1 Pet 1:8)! Though we are not first-century citizens of Jerusalem, was not the crucifixion of Jesus Christ publicly portrayed before our very eyes as we heard the preaching of God’s Word (Gal 3:1)? Are we not also recipients of the Spirit of adoption who has sealed us for the day of redemption, and who declares to our anxious hearts that we are indeed children of God (Rom 8:16)?  We who live on this side of the cross are witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection and to God’s ironclad promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against his church! Simeon never heard the words of Jesus himself as he preached, but we who have Bibles in our hands and hearts have heard the voice of the Good Shepherd speak into our souls! And if we have been privileged to see beyond what this old saint was permitted to see, are not our peace and joy greater than his?

Christian, do your life’s troubles weigh on you so heavily that you daily cry out for relief? Let the Lord Jesus part the clouds of sorrow in your life and give you a glimpse of his glory so that he might remind you that his yoke is easy and his burden is light to bear. Are you grieved over the sins that you have committed this last week? Let the Lord give you a fresh glimpse of his great work on the cross for you as you read about his sacrifice in his Word! Does your anxiety about the future rob you of sleep and cause the lines of worry to grow upon your face? Cast then, your fears on your Lord who cares for you and ask him to open your eyes so that you might glimpse the chariots of fire that surround all your enemies (2 Ki. 6).

Christians, words cannot express how grateful we are that Jesus did not offer us the temporal comforts of removing sickness, oppression or even suffering from our lives while leaving us to die under the soul-crushing weight of our sins. He tore the veil and then gave us his Word so that we might see his glory. No one can be more precious to our souls than the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. No one else is more lovely. No one else is more desirable. And nothing else can bring such peace to our hearts as a glimpse of our Lord Jesus Christ. May the God who opened your eyes to see his Christ, give you a glimpse of Jesus once again, today.

A Touch of Grace

[25] And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, [26] and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. [27] She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. [28] For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” [29] And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. [30] And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” [31] And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” [32] And he looked around to see who had done it. [33] But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. [34] And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” (Mark 5:25-34 ESV)

The grace and power of our Lord Jesus has no parallel in human history. The greatest kings and emperors have commanded armies of great warriors, but only our Lord Jesus can command the indestructible angel armies of heaven as well as the very winds of the air and the waves of the sea. The greatest of friends may sacrifice their lives in battle for their loved ones, but only our Lord Jesus so loved even his enemies that he suffered the wrath of God for their sake. No other life was so marked by amazing grace and divine power as that of Jesus Christ’s. And here in this passage, we see a microcosm of the saving grace and power of our Lord in the life of a poor, helpless woman.

Though we are not told exactly what her illness was, we know that she suffered terribly from it. She suffered physically under the care of physicians whose wisdom and skill were powerless to relieve her of her symptoms. She suffered financially as a result of spending all of her money on seeking a cure. And she must have suffered emotionally as her constant flow of blood would have rendered her ceremonially unclean, making her unable to worship in the temple or even share the chair she sat on with others lest her defilement render them unclean.

And in her complete and utter helplessness, she turned to Jesus. We do not know exactly what she thought of him, but she knew enough about Jesus to know that the divine power of the God of Israel flowed through him. So magnificent was Jesus in her eyes that she knew that if she but touched him and experienced a fraction of the mighty power of God, she would gain healing that no doctor could ever hope to give her. And so in faith, she reached out and touched him.

And in that moment, something marvelous happened! Though she was a woman who contaminated everything she touched, she did not defile him. Instead, the radiant power and purity of God flowed through Jesus and infected her disease with divine healing. How unlike us Jesus is! We cannot pass our good health to someone by touching them, but we certainly are in danger of contracting whatever illness they might have! Yet, a touch of our Lord Jesus does not result in two sick people, but rather two who are whole! And when we think of this desperately ill woman’s life-changing encounter with Jesus, are we not reminded of how we too reached out for Jesus and found healing for our souls?

We were filthy because of our sins and spread our germs of lawless rebellion to all whom we interacted with. But when God opened our hearts to receive his Gospel, we cried out to him for a fragment of his grace with mustard seed-like faith. The precious blood of the Lamb washed over us and instead of defiling us, washed us white as snow.  At that moment, the immovable mount Everest of our sin was drowned in the infinite depths of the grace of God and was swallowed up forever.

Christian, are you grateful that when you were horribly diseased with your incurable sin and cried out for grace, your Lord’s power overwhelmed your disease and healed you forever? Do you think about the fact that after our Lord restored us prodigals, he did not treat us as hired servants? Though we might tremble as this woman did to be a recipient of his grace and power, he addresses us not as servants, but instead slaughters the fattened calf and clothes us in the robes of a royal son or daughter! And if our God would do so great a deed for us, can we trust him with the other troubles of our lives?

Though our problems may confound the knowledge of the wisest doctor, overwhelm the finances of the wealthiest banker, or exhaust the patience of our closest friend, nothing is beyond a mere touch of God’s grace. So reach out to your heavenly Father, and receive his unlimited and matchless grace for you this day. To the one whose great light shone into our darkness, be glory forever and ever. Amen!

Don’t Waste Your Time!

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)

There are few resources given to us by our Lord that are as precious and invaluable as time. Our wealth and material possessions may increase, but the amount of time that we have on earth only continues to diminish with each passing day. And when our time on earth is done and the Lord calls us home, we will be called to stand before the Lord’s judgment seat and give an account for how we invested or wasted our talents during our time in our Master’s vineyard. The apostle understood this and urged his Ephesian brother and sisters to make the best use of their time, knowing that the evil days in which we live in earnestly seek to devour our precious time with empty promises of pleasure or threats of anxiety. Yet for the apostle, he understood that there was no more meaningful way to spend his time than to spend it for the Lord. “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain,” he said. And living for Christ meant fruitful, spiritual labor for him (Phil 1:21-22).

When our eyes are not fixed on eternal things, we become loose with our spiritual spending. Our eyes rove around the world, eagerly looking for some new gadget or hobby to spend our time on. We are no different from the shopper who wanders into the mall intending only to browse, yet leaves with an armful of unnecessary purchases and an empty wallet. Time cannot be hoarded—only spent. And if we do not know what to spend it on that is of value, we will spend it on that which is valueless, fleeting and perishable. Oh, that we would follow the example of our Lord and Master who spent his precious three years of ministry in incomparable service to his God! Never did he waver in his resolve nor did he shrink back from spending his time on bearing with his weak disciples and walking the road to his own death. May we be like our Lord and redeem our time by walking the road of the cross and not the road to Vanity Fair that will only lead us to our own destruction.

It is said that we often overestimate what can be done in two years, but underestimate what can be done for the Lord in twenty. How true! Too often, we think that the things the Lord asks us to do are mountains that are too difficult to climb and so we fail to take any steps at all. In our faithlessness, we shrink back from the road say as the Israelites did, “This is a land that devours its inhabitants.”

Yet so much can be done for our Lord over the course of twenty years if only we are willing to faithfully redeem the time each day! The Christian who begins to memorize the New Testament at a rate of one verse per day will complete the New Testament in twenty years. Listening to the Bible on audio or reading aloud according to a plan for just fifteen minutes a day, will result in having read the Bible two dozen times over the course of twenty years. Reflecting each day on what God has done and writing a short half-a-page diary entry for twenty years will result in a literary work that is five times the length of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Writing one word of encouragement for brothers and sisters each week will produce a treasure trove of over a thousand encouraging articles. So much can be done if we place our hands to the plow and do not look back as we strive to redeem the time!

Brothers and sisters, the days are evil, so let us not waste a moment of our time on the fleeting pleasures of this world, but spend them well in service to our Lord and Saviour who spent his time well, and saved countless poor, lost sinners like you and me.

Our Heavenly Home

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:1-5  ESV)

The heavenly home that God has promised to those who love him is without comparison on this earth. No island resort or king’s palace can compete with the great garden-city that our Lord has crafted to be the everlasting place of rest for his saints.

Inside the massive walls of the New Jerusalem runs the grand promenade. And down the middle of this street, flows the river of life, whose waters sparkle with the brilliance of crystal, so pure and clear that if you were to dip your hand in it, you would not be able to tell that your hand were underwater save for the fact that you felt it was wet! And the water of this river flows forever and is more pure than the ice-cold glacier water of the mountains because it contains the very essence of life itself (22:1). No earthly water that we have ever tasted can compare to this perpetual fountain of youth, for its source is none other than the throne of the eternal God whose strength will never fade and who dwells in brilliant, unapproachable light. The water is the unceasing flow of immortality that all saints great and small will drink from. And they shall rest on the river’s beautiful banks in peaceful days that will never again be marked with hurry or anxiety—endless days that will never again know suffering, sickness, or the pain of death, surrounded by loved ones with eyes brighter than they ever were in life. The faces of our brothers and sisters will have none of the wrinkles and creases that belonged to our former manner life, but instead will ever be ready with smiles of rapturous joy. Their voices will sound with laughter and without any hint of sadness or mourning. And their bodies! They are ageless and perfect bodies full of vitality, strength, and perpetual youth. Never again will we speak of doctors, hospitals or medical devices, except to jest with one another.

And the tree of life will no longer be blocked by the fearsome angelic warrior with his flaming sword, but will yield its delicious fruit that we will freely consume from the King’s orchard. How strange to think that we will be able to eat without purchasing from this marvelous tree that does not produce but one kind of fruit, but twelve! How marvellously abundant is the provision of God that we saints should be able to sink our teeth into the fruit of the tree of life that shall change its shape and taste each month but never lose its key nutrient of immortality.

But as wonderful as the gifts of unending prosperity and peace are, there is one greater gift still—the presence of our Lord God himself. On the day when ours eyes close to this world, they shall open in the King’s country. And though we will see many unimaginable sights, the greatest delight to our eyes will be what old Simeon longed to see—the face of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

And in that day, we will no longer walk by faith, but we shall walk by sight. For we shall see Him as He is. We will see Him who loved us before the ages began, and we shall hear the familiar voice of Him who spoke to us all these years. We will walk in the presence of the One whose very being gives life, and we will touch the nail-scarred hands that purchased our salvation. Though we have never seen him, his face will not be unfamiliar to us, as it was to Mary when she gazed on the gardener outside the tomb. And we will love him, more dearly than we have ever loved before. Our helper, brother, savior, friend, redeemer and sovereign Lord, will never be parted from us again. In that land, we will live forever and ever, and when ten thousand years have passed, we will have another ten thousand to look forward to. Our years will have no end and we will live forever with him in the city that will never have night nor gloom, illuminated with the brilliance of God himself.

What a joy and hope we have to look forward to! Let us therefore not fail to run the race marked out for us, and so gain our eternal reward.