"Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well, the rain also filleth the pools."
This teaches us that the comfort obtained by a one may often prove serviceable to another; just as wells would be used by the company who came after. We read some book full of consolation, which is like Jonathan's rod, dropping with honey. Ah! we think our brother has been here before us, and digged this well for us as well as for himself. Many a "Night of Weeping," "Midnight Harmonies," an "Eternal Day," "A Crook in the Lot," a "Comfort for Mourners," has been a well digged by a pilgrim for himself, but has proved quite as useful to others. Specially we notice this in the Psalms, such as that beginning, "Why art thou cast down, O my soul?" Travellers have been delighted to see the footprint of man on a barren shore, and we love to see the waymarks of pilgrims while passing through the vale of tears.
The pilgrims dig the well, but, strange enough, it fills from the top instead of the bottom. We use the means, but the blessing does not spring from the means. We dig a well, but heaven fills it with rain. The horse is prepared against the day of battle, but safety is of the Lord. The means are connected with the end, but they do not of themselves produce it. See here the rain fills the pools, so that the wells become useful as reservoirs for the water; labour is not lost, but yet it does not supersede divine help.
Grace may well be compared to rain for its purity, for its refreshing and vivifying influence, for its coming alone from above, and for the sovereignty with which it is given or withheld. May our readers have showers of blessing, and may the wells they have digged be filled with water! Oh, what are means and ordinances without the smile of heaven! They are as clouds without rain, and pools without water. O God of love, open the windows of heaven and pour us out a blessing!
"This man receiveth sinners."
Observe the condescension of this fact. This Man, who towers above all other men, holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners--this Man receiveth sinners. This Man, who is no other than the eternal God, before whom angels veil their faces--this Man receiveth sinners. It needs an angel's tongue to describe such a mighty stoop of love. That any of us should be willing to seek after the lost is nothing wonderful--they are of our own race; but that he, the offended God, against whom the transgression has been committed, should take upon himself the form of a servant, and bear the sin of many, and should then be willing to receive the vilest of the vile, this is marvellous.
"This Man receiveth sinners"; not, however, that they may remain sinners, but he receives them that he may pardon their sins, justify their persons, cleanse their hearts by his purifying word, preserve their souls by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, and enable them to serve him, to show forth his praise, and to have communion with him. Into his heart's love he receives sinners, takes them from the dunghill, and wears them as jewels in his crown; plucks them as brands from the burning, and preserves them as costly monuments of his mercy. None are so precious in Jesus' sight as the sinners for whom he died. When Jesus receives sinners, he has not some out-of-doors reception place, no casual ward where he charitably entertains them as men do passing beggars, but he opens the golden gates of his royal heart, and receives the sinner right into himself--yea, he admits the humble penitent into personal union and makes him a member of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. There was never such a reception as this! This fact is still most sure this evening, he is still receiving sinners: would to God sinners would receive him.
Today's reading: Proverbs 16-18, 2 Corinthians 6 (NIV)View today's reading on Bible Gateway
Today's Old Testament reading: Proverbs 16-18
1 To humans belong the plans of the heart,
but from the LORD comes the proper answer of the tongue.
2 All a person’s ways seem pure to them,
but motives are weighed by the LORD.
3 Commit to the LORD whatever you do,
and he will establish your plans.
4 The LORD works out everything to its proper end—
even the wicked for a day of disaster.
5 The LORD detests all the proud of heart.
Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.
6 Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for;
through the fear of the LORD evil is avoided.
Today's New Testament reading: 2 Corinthians 6
1 As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2 For he says,
“In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you.”
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
3 We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. 4 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5 in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; 6 in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; 7 in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; 8 through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; 9 known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything....
[Jō'zeph] - may god add or increaser.
- Poetic description of the descendants of Joseph the son of Jacob (Deut. 33:13).
- The Father of Igal, one of the spies sent by Moses into Canaan (Num. 13:7).
- A son of Asaph (1 Chron. 25:2, 9).
- A man of the family of Bani who had taken a foreign wife ( Ezra 10:42).
- A priest of the family of Shebaniah in Joaakim's time (Neh. 12:14).
- Ancestor of Joseph, Mary's husband (Luke 3:24).
- Another ancestor of Joseph in the same line (Luke 3:26).
- A more remote ancestor of Joseph, Mary's husband (Luke 3:30).
- A disciple nominated with Matthias to take the place of Judas Iscariot among the disciples. Matthias was chosen (Acts 1:23). This Joseph must have been a commendable Christian since he was nominated as an apostle.
- The eleventh son of Jacob and first of Rachel, and one of the most outstanding men of the Bible, meriting honorable mention (Gen. 30:24, 25).
The Man Whose Dream Came True
The story of this young man who went from pit to palace and from rags to riches, never loses its charm for young and old alike. It would take a book itself to fully portray all the vicissitudes and virtues of Joseph, who kept his record clean. All that we can do in our treatment of him is to suggest a few aspects of his character for development.
Joseph was a youthful dreamer and his dream came true (Gen. 37:5-9; 41:42-44).
Joseph labored as a slave, but was faithful in hard places (Gen. 39:1-6, 20-23).
Joseph enjoyed the presence of God and won the confidence of his master (Gen. 39:2, 4).
Joseph had physical beauty, but it was never a snare to him (Gen. 39:6).
Joseph resisted temptation. His godless mistress could not seduce him. Grace was his to flee youthful lusts. Thus he did not commit a "great wickedness" (Gen. 39:7-13).
Joseph was silent amid foul accusations and the appearance of guilt and unjust punishment (Gen. 39:14-20 ).
Joseph was unspoiled by sudden prosperity. When days of honor followed days of humiliation, he did not yield to pride (Gen. 41:14-16).
Joseph the interpreter of dreams proved that "prison walls do not a prison make." He acknowledged his dependence upon God for illumination, proving that he was not a mere dreamer but an interpreter of dreams (Gen. 40).
Joseph manifested great wisdom, brotherly love, filial devotion and utter submission to God (Gen. 43:20; 45:8, 14, 23; 47:7 ). He knew how to return good for evil (Gen. 50:16-21). If we cannot have all the gifts of Joseph, who is a perfect type of Christ, we can certainly covet all his graces. If we cannot have his greatness, we can certainly emulate his goodness.
R. W. Moss says, "A very high place must be given Joseph among the early founders of his race. In strength of right purpose he was second to none, whilst in graces of reverence and kindness, of insight and assurance, he became the type of a faith that is at once personal and national (Heb. 11:22 ), and allows neither misery nor a career of triumph to eclipse the sense of Divine destiny."
11. The husband of Mary, and foster-father of our Lord (Matt. 1:16-24; 2:13; Luke 1:27; 2:4-43; 3:23; 4:22; John 1:45; 6:42).
The Man of Wood and Nails
It is somewhat unique that two Josephs were associated with Christ, one at His birth and the other at His death. Both of these godly men gave Jesus of their best. In this section we think of Joseph the carpenter, who was present at the manger when Jesus was born, even though he was not His father. While Christ came as the Son of Man, He was never a son of a man.
Joseph's presence at Christ's birth witnesses to a severe test that had emerged triumphant. Mary was the pure young woman he had fallen in love with, and was about to make his wife. Yet the Child she was about to bear would not be his. Seeing her "great with child," without fanfare Joseph was minded to put her away. He never acted rashly with his espoused, although he was baffled by her condition. This serves for all time as an example of godly wisdom and tender consideration for others.
Bitterly disappointed that Mary had apparently betrayed him, yet believing, he made no haste. As a praying man he waited upon God, and his love for and patience with Mary were rewarded. God understood his mental difficulties and rewarded Joseph's conscientious attitude toward Mary by revealing His redemptive plan. God never fails those who carry their anxieties to Him. Joseph received a direct and distinct revelation from God, and at once his fears were banished, and his line of duty made clear.
Tenderly he cared for his dear one as if the Child she was bearing were his own. Overawed by the mystery of it all, that his beloved Mary had been chosen as the mother of the Lord he as a devout Jew had eagerly anticipated, we can imagine how he would superintend every detail of the Nativity.
What holy thoughts must have filled the mind of Mary's guardian. Where suspicion regarding Mary's purity once lurked, strong faith now reigned as he looked into the lovely face of Mary's Child. At last God's promises had been fulfilled and before him was the Babe through whom God's covenants would be established.
When it became necessary because of Herod's hatred to flee into Egypt, Joseph cared for Mary and her first-born Son with reverent devotion until tidings came that Herod was dead, and that they could safely return to their own land. While a shroud of secrecy covers the thirty years Christ spent at home, we can be sure of this, that between Jesus and Joseph there was an affection strong and deep.
Briefly stated, we have these glimpses of Joseph:
I. He was "a son of David" and could claim royal or priestly descent (Matt. 1:20).
II. His family belonged to Bethlehem, David's city.
III. He followed the trade of carpenter, and doubtless taught Christ how to use wood and nails (Matt. 13:55).
IV. He was a pious Israelite, faithful in all the ordinances of the Temple (Luke 2:22-24, 41, 42).
V. He was a kindly, charitable man, treating Mary gently in her time of need (Matt. 1:19; Luke 2:1-7).
VII. He never appears in the Gospels after Christ was twelve years of age and became "a son of the Law" (Luke 2:41-51), which may suggest that he died during the interval. This would explain why Jesus at His death asked John to care for His mother.
VIII. He died, tradition says, at the age of 111 years, when Jesus was but eighteen years of age.
12. Joseph of Arimathaea, a secret disciple of Jesus, whose unused grave was surrendered to Jesus. Thus the One born in a virgin womb was buried in a virgin tomb ( Matt. 27:57-60; Mark 15:43; Luke 23:50; John 19:38).
The Man Who Gave His Grave to Jesus
This wealthy and devout Israelite, a member of the Sanhedrin, lived in a city of Jews (Luke 23:51). It is to the provision he made for the body of Christ that Isaiah had reference when he said, "He made His grave with the rich" (Isa. 53:9). Of this renowned Joseph we discover:
1. He was an honorable counselor (Mark 15:43 ). Because of his adherence to the Law and integrity of life he was a member of the governing body known as the Sanhedrin.
II. He looked for the kingdom of God. Immersed in Old Testament Scriptures, he anticipated the reign of the promised Messiah.
III. He was "a good man and just" (Luke 23:50, 51). As the Bible never uses words unnecessarily, there must be a distinction between "good" and "just." As a "good man" we have his own internal disposition - what he was in himself. As a "just man" we have his external conduct - what he was towards others. His just dealings were the fruit of the root of his goodness. His was the belief that knew how to behave.
IV. He was a secret disciple (John 19:38). Joseph of Arimathaea was similar to Nicodemus in his respect for our Lord as a man, admiration for Him as a teacher, belief in Him as the Christ, and yet, till now, his lack of confessing Him before men. Dreading the hostility of his colleagues on the Sanhedrin, he kept his faith secret.
V. He begged the body of Jesus (Matt. 27:58 ). As soon as Jesus was dead, Joseph hastened to Pilate for permission to inter His body. David Smith observes that when the condemnation of Jesus was over - a condemnation in which Joseph took no part - he realized how cowardly a part he had played and, stricken with shame and remorse, plucked up courage and went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. It was common for friends of the crucified to purchase their bodies, which would otherwise have been cast out as refuse, and give them decent burial (Mark 15:45).
VI. He gave his grave to Christ ( Matt. 27:59, 60). With lingering reverence Joseph paid his last respects to the One he admired, and in the hour of sorrow helped the friends and not the foes of the righteous Sufferer. Joseph had a garden close to Calvary, where he had hewn a smoothed and polished tomb in the side of the rock as his own last resting place, in which, aided by Nicodemus, he buried the linencovered and perfumed body of Christ.
VII. Joseph, legend tells us, was sent to Britain by Philip the Apostle, and founded the Church of Glastonbury. Medieval chroniclers delighted to tell of the staff Joseph stuck into the ground. The staff supposedly took root, brought forth leaves and flowers and became the parent of all the Glastonbury thorns from that day to this.
HOW CAN WE KNOW GOD?
"When I was young, I said to God, God, tell me the mystery of the universe. But God answered, that knowledge is for me alone. So I said, God, tell me the mystery of the peanut. Then God said, well, George, that’s more nearly your size." -George Washington Carver
How can we mortals say we can know God? There is only one answer: revelation. Belief begins with unbelief (or spiritual ignorance), and then out of the darkness comes the light of God. Out of the silence, his Word. We can know God only because he wants to be known and makes himself known.
John Calvin’s The Institutes of the Christian Religion is a landmark work in the history of Christian thought, and it begins with these simple words: “Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But, while joined by many bonds, which one precedes and brings forth the other is not easy to discern.” Calvin was saying that we have a drive to understand ourselves–our origins, our purpose, our physiology, our psychology, our spirituality–and this leads us to want to know God because we are made in his image. Then, as we try to know God, we are carried along to a deeper understanding of ourselves. This process leads to revelations such as “Oh, I am to be truthful like that, and faithful like that, merciful like that.” Understand God, and understand yourself. Understand yourself rightly, and better understand God. And so the cycle goes.
But how can we know God? Is it from earth up? Or from heaven down? Many honest truth seekers believe that the evidence we have about God and his whole realm of truth is written on the earthy tablets of nature and human experience. If you want to know what it means to be human, then study a multitude of samples of the creature, make observations about their customs and physiology and relationships, and draw your conclusions about what it means to be human. What you believe about humanity is the cumulative analysis of what you experience with a great many human beings. Collect your data; draw the inferences.
Do the same thing for God: look for the traces of his being, the signs of his character written in the stars and the patterns of nature and in human consciousness, and draw your conclusions about what God must be like.
This “earth-up” approach is the way we know about most ordinary things in life we are curious about. It is how scientists diagnose and treat disease and how mothers figure out if their babies have ear infections and how boyfriends learn to read the non-verbal signals sent from their girlfriends (for which there is no known reliable textbook). It is the way of knowing by generalizing from the particular. Theoretically, our knowing becomes clearer and more refined as we gather an ever-wider body of experience.
But there is an alternative way of knowing. The “heaven-down” approach is very different. This is the way of revelation. It does not negate the earth-up way of knowing, at least when it comes to knowing about very earthy kinds of things. But when it comes to knowing God, a different knowing is required. A dog can sniff around a person’s footprints left in the soil, but that doesn’t amount to any real knowledge of the person. We may be able to pick up certain generalities about God from our experience, but it takes the voice of God, the uncovering of himself, to really know God.
That is why we need God's Word–in Christ, and in the Scriptures.
Excerpt from Putting the Pieces Back Together: How Real Life and Real Faith Connect. Complimentary DVDavailable now.