Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Daily Devotional Tuesday 8th November

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” 1 Timothy 2:1-2 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands."
Isaiah 49:16

No doubt a part of the wonder which is concentrated in the word "Behold," is excited by the unbelieving lamentation of the preceding sentence. Zion said, "The Lord hath forsaken me, and my God hath forgotten me." How amazed the divine mind seems to be at this wicked unbelief! What can be more astounding than the unfounded doubts and fears of God's favoured people? The Lord's loving word of rebuke should make us blush; he cries, "How can I have forgotten thee, when I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands? How darest thou doubt my constant remembrance, when the memorial is set upon my very flesh?" O unbelief, how strange a marvel thou art! We know not which most to wonder at, the faithfulness of God or the unbelief of his people. He keeps his promise a thousand times, and yet the next trial makes us doubt him. He never faileth; he is never a dry well; he is never as a setting sun, a passing meteor, or a melting vapour; and yet we are as continually vexed with anxieties, molested with suspicions, and disturbed with fears, as if our God were the mirage of the desert. "Behold," is a word intended to excite admiration. Here, indeed, we have a theme for marvelling. Heaven and earth may well be astonished that rebels should obtain so great a nearness to the heart of infinite love as to be written upon the palms of his hands. "I have graven thee." It does not say, "Thy name." The name is there, but that is not all: "I have graven thee." See the fulness of this! I have graven thy person, thine image, thy case, thy circumstances, thy sins, thy temptations, thy weaknesses, thy wants, thy works; I have graven thee, everything about thee, all that concerns thee; I have put thee altogether there. Wilt thou ever say again that thy God hath forsaken thee when he has graven thee upon his own palms?

Evening

"And ye shall be witnesses unto me."
Acts 1:8

In order to learn how to discharge your duty as a witness for Christ, look at his example. He is always witnessing: by the well of Samaria, or in the Temple of Jerusalem: by the lake of Gennesaret, or on the mountain's brow. He is witnessing night and day; his mighty prayers are as vocal to God as his daily services. He witnesses under all circumstances; Scribes and Pharisees cannot shut his mouth; even before Pilate he witnesses a good confession. He witnesses so clearly, and distinctly that there is no mistake in him. Christian, make your life a clear testimony. Be you as the brook wherein you may see every stone at the bottom--not as the muddy creek, of which you only see the surface--but clear and transparent, so that your heart's love to God and man may be visible to all. You need not say, "I am true:" be true. Boast not of integrity, but be upright. So shall your testimony be such that men cannot help seeing it. Never, for fear of feeble man, restrain your witness. Your lips have been warmed with a coal from off the altar; let them speak as like heaven-touched lips should do. "In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand." Watch not the clouds, consult not the wind--in season and out of season witness for the Saviour, and if it shall come to pass that for Christ's sake and the gospel's you shall endure suffering in any shape, shrink not, but rejoice in the honour thus conferred upon you, that you are counted worthy to suffer with your Lord; and joy also in this--that your sufferings, your losses, and persecutions shall make you a platform, from which the more vigorously and with greater power you shall witness for Christ Jesus. Study your great Exemplar, and be filled with his Spirit. Remember that you need much teaching, much upholding, much grace, and much humility, if your witnessing is to be to your Master's glory.

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Today's reading: Jeremiah 40-42, Hebrews 4 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway

Today's Old Testament reading: Jeremiah 40-42

Jeremiah Freed

1 The word came to Jeremiah from the LORD after Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard had released him at Ramah. He had found Jeremiah bound in chains among all the captives from Jerusalem and Judah who were being carried into exile to Babylon. 2 When the commander of the guard found Jeremiah, he said to him, “The LORD your God decreed this disaster for this place. 3 And now the LORD has brought it about; he has done just as he said he would. All this happened because you people sinned against the LORD and did not obey him. 4 But today I am freeing you from the chains on your wrists. Come with me to Babylon, if you like, and I will look after you; but if you do not want to, then don’t come. Look, the whole country lies before you; go wherever you please.” 5However, before Jeremiah turned to go, Nebuzaradan added, “Go back to Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon has appointed over the towns of Judah, and live with him among the people, or go anywhere else you please.”

Then the commander gave him provisions and a present and let him go. 6 So Jeremiah went to Gedaliah son of Ahikam at Mizpah and stayed with him among the people who were left behind in the land....

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

Today's New Testament reading: Hebrews 4

A Sabbath-Rest for the People of God

1 Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. 2 For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed. 3 Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,

“So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest.’”

And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world. 4 For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “On the seventh day God rested from all his works.” 5 And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.”

6 Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience, 7 God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted:

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts....”

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Sarah, Sarai, Sara

The Woman Who Became Mother of Nations

Scripture References - Genesis 11:29-31; 12:5-17; 16:1-8; 17:15-21;18; 20:2-18; 21:1-12; 23:1-19; 24:36,37; 25:10, 12; 49:31; Isaiah 51:2;Romans 4:19; 9:9; Hebrews 11:11; 1Peter 3:6

Name Meaning - Among the classified names of the Bible are those known as sacramental names, and are so-called because they were names given by God Himself, or under His inspiration in association with a particular promise, covenant or declaration of His, as to the character, destiny or mission of those distinctly named. Thus a sacramental name became a sign and seal of an established covenant between God and the recipient of such a name. Two Bible characters bearing sacramental names are Abraham and Sarah, both of which signify the gracious purposes and promises of God.

The wife of the patriarch was originally known as Sarai, meaning "princely" or "a princess." Elsdon C. Smith suggests it may signify "contentious" or "quarrelsome," but was changed, not accidentally, or by the whim of the bearer, but by God Himself that it might be a sign of His purpose, into Sarah, implying the princess, a princess or princesses, the source of nations and kings. Sarah or "chieftainness," the feminine of Sar, meaning a "captain" or "commander" is repeatedly used in this sense as a common noun as, for instance, by Isaiah who renders it "queen" (Isaiah 49:23 ). It has been observed that among ancient Jews there was a sort of a cabalistic translation that "the Hebrew letter yod signifies the creative power of God in nature, while the letter hay symbolizes the state of grace - that state into which Sarah had entered after receiving the covenanted promises." The promise of ancestorship of many nations came with the change of the name of Sarai to Sarah. "I will bless her and she shall become nations." She was thus associated with her husband in the great blessing of the covenant whose name was also changed from Abram toAbraham . The former, original name means a "high, or honored father," the latter, "a father of many nations." The Apocrypha speaks of Abraham as "a great father of a multitude of nations" (Ecclesiasticus 44:19-21).

The root idea of Sarah means "to rule," and fits the personality of the bearer. It was a name intended as a seal of the promise given to Abraham, "kings of peoples shall be of her." Paul has an allegorical reference to Sarah as one who typified the gospel dispensation, "Jerusalem which is above ... which is the mother of us all" (Galatians 4:26). Thus, Sarah was to be the princess, not only "because she was to be the ancestress of a great nation literally, of many nations spiritually , but also because the rank and power were to be possessed by her descendants, or rather because the people descended from her were to be ruled over by a regal dynasty, by a succession of kings of their own race and lineage, is derived from her." In the genealogy of the descendants of Esau, Sarah's grandson we read, "These are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom before there reigned any king over the children of Israel." The line of kings descended from Sarah terminated in God's Anointed One, the Messiah, whose "kingdom is not of this world." The sacramental name of Sarah, therefore, also symbolizes the spiritual seed, the whole multitude of believers of all nations who are "kings and priests unto God."

Then the personal application of the changed name must not be forgotten. Called Sarah by God and the Angels (Genesis 17:15;18:9 ), she exhibited the traits of a princess, "wielding a sceptre by the magic of which she could lord it over men's hearts after her own will, even bring kings to her feet. If she came into the world with a will of her own as her dowry, nature further assisted her in developing it by the great beauty of her face and the grace of her stature. By these gifts she made her wish a command and disarmed opposition." Both in bearing and character she illustrated the significance of her name. Through the long, long years of the quiet and stedfast devotion of Abraham to Sarah, peace reigned in the matrimonial tent more because of Abraham's gentleness, kindness and forbearance, even though he lived so long with the more expressive and possessive ways of Sarah. Twice over in the kjv of the New Testament she is referred to as Sara, but the asv uniformly gives us Sarah (Hebrews 11:11; 1 Peter 3:6).

Family Connections - Sarah came from Ur of the Chaldees, Babylonia, and her former name Sarai, "princely," identifies her as coming from an honored family. She was the daughter of Terah and was therefore half-sister to Abram, her senior by ten years (Genesis 17:17), whom she married in the Ur of the Chaldees. While Abram and Sarai had the same father, they had different mothers (Genesis 20:12). Marriages between near relatives were countenanced in those days and were sometimes common for religious reasons ( Genesis 24:3, 4;28:1, 2), but not marriages between those actually by the same mother. Sarai was well past middle life and childless when with Abram she left her own country and with him went out "not knowing whither they went" ( Genesis 11:29, 30).

There are various ways of looking at this remarkable woman who through a long span of life was the faithful wife of a prophet known as "The Friend of God."

Her Uniqueness

Strange though it may sound and seem, the first Jew was a Gentile, for Abraham who came from beyond the Euphrates was the first man to be called a Hebrew, "Abram the Hebrew" (Genesis 14:13). The word Hebrew itself means, "the immigrant," and was no doubt the usual designation among the Canaanites. As his wife, Sarah was the first Hebrewess - the joint fountainhead of the great Jewish race (Genesis 11:29-31;Isaiah 51:2 ). Abraham has been fitly called, "The fountainhead of the Hebrew hero life," and Sarah is the heroine of such life. She remains the first unquestionably historical woman of the Hebrews, and their first mother. She is, therefore, one of the most important female figures in the world's history, as the natural source of the Jewish people, through whom the nations of the earth were to be blessed. Only two women are named in the illustrious roll of those conspicuous for their faith: Sarah is the first, and Rahab the second (Hebrews 11:11, 31), both of whom lived by faith and died in faith (Hebrews 11:13). Sarah or Sara have always been popular female names both among Jews and Gentiles.

Her Beauty

The testimony of the Bible is that Sarah was unusually beautiful (Genesis 12:11, 14). The lines of Keats were true of her -

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:

Its loveliness increases; it will never

Pass into nothingness; but still will keep

A bower quiet for us, and a sleep

Full of sweet dreams ...

Hebrew folklore has kept alive stories of her remarkable beauty and ranks her next to the most perfect woman the world has known, Eve, "the mother of all living." Sarah seems to have had beauty that grew more attractive with the passing years. "Of the things that are unfavourable to the preservation of beauty, the Orientals count travel as one that is most baneful, even fatal to it," says Gustav Gottheil. "Yet when Sarah arrived, after a long journey through dusty deserts and under a scorching sun, at the frontiers of Egypt, she was more beautiful than ever, and this explains the curious speech of Abraham to his wife at that juncture: 'Now I know that thou art a woman beautiful to look at.' Did he not know that before? Not so convincingly, explains the rabbi, as after he had seen that even travel had left no touch on her countenance."

Isaiah says that, "Beauty is a fading flower" (Isaiah 28:1), and a song of old has the stanza -

Beauty is but skin deep,

And ugly to the bone.

Beauty soon fades away,

But ugly holds its own.

But with Sarah it was different, for even when she was 90 years of age she was so lovely that Abraham feared that kings would fall in love with her bewitching beauty - which Pharaoh and Abimelech did, as our next glimpse of her proves. As one of the most beautful women who ever lived we can imagine that wherever she journeyed the admiring eyes of all were cast upon her. "Grave is all beauty," and Sarah's renowned loveliness certainly brought its trouble.

Her Peril

When famine drove Abraham and Sarah into the land of Egypt, and they felt that hostile kings might take them prisoners, Abraham came up with the abject, base proposal that if taken prisoners then his wife should represent herself as his sister. Fear of death unmanned him and led him to risk the dishonor of his wife and thereby save his own neck. She dearly loved her husband, and his life was too precious to her to make her think of the shame she might incur. Sarah was utterly wrong in yielding to her husband's plot. How nobler she would have been had she stoutly refused Abraham saying, "How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?" But she called her husband "lord," and evidently he was lord of her conscience.

Abraham felt that if oriental despots knew that Sarah and he were married they would slay him and add the lovely woman to their harem. Married to a conspicuous beauty caused Abraham to be afraid, and he resorted to a falsehood to save his life. If taken, Sarah was not to say that she was his wife but his sister. This pretense was not an outright lie, but a half-truth, seeing that she was his half-sister. They were children of the same father, but not the same mother. It seems hard to believe that such a good man could deliver his lovely wife over to a heathen monarch, but he did, and Sarah entered Pharaoh's harem. But God protected her by sending plagues upon the monarch. Pharaoh sent her back to her own husband, untouched. The same unworthy plan was carried out when Abimelech, king of the Philistines, admiring her bewitching beauty had her taken to his harem. But again God interfered and commanded the king to restore Sarah to Abraham, seeing she was his wife. Threatened with violent death, Abimelech obeyed, but severely rebuked Abraham for his deceit (Genesis 12:10-20; 20). Years later Isaac, the son of Abraham and Sarah, used this same form of deception ( Genesis 26:6-13, see Rebekah).

God expressed His displeasure with Abraham and his wife because of their ill-conceived plot. As the Righteous One, He could not condone such trickery. Had He not called them out from their country for a specific mission? And was He not able to protect and preserve them from harm and danger in a strange land? Was not the halflie told on two occasions an indication of the lack of faith in God's overshadowing care and power to fulfill His promise? Abraham's lofty soul suffered an eclipse of the virtue of faith for which he was renowned when he adopted such a plan of deception, exposing his wife to great peril, and also thwarting of the divine plan for and through Sarah. (Compare Hagar.) Abraham's deception was followed by an attempt to ease an offense, and the patriarch was more blameworthy than Sarah who should have resisted the dangerous plan of exposing herself for the sexual gratification of other men.

A lie that is half a truth

Is ever the worst of lies.

A half-truth is always a lie. While it was true that Sarah was Abraham's sister, the assertion was in reality a falsehood. After the severe rebuke from Pharaoh for their deception, they should have learned their lesson, but to commit the same sin again a few years later, and further imperil God's plan to make of them a great nation, leaves Abraham and Sarah without excuse. How slow we are to learn from our past failures?

Her Sorrow

The one great grief of Abraham and Sarah was that through their long life together they had no children. To a Hebrew woman, barrenness was looked upon as a gnawing grief, and sometimes regarded as a sign of divine disfavor. Childless, even when back in Babylonia (Genesis 11:30; 16:1-8 ), Sarah remained so until at 90 years of age God miraculously fulfilled His promise and made her the mother of the son of promise. Through the long years, "side by side with the prosperity, beat for beat with the pulse of Abraham's joy, there throbs in Sarah's heart a pulse of pain ... There is as yet no heir." The constant grief of barrenness caused Sarah to become "The Woman Who Made a Great Mistake." In spite of the fact that, along with her husband, she had received the divine promise, that from her nations would spring, the possibility of ever becoming a mother died in her heart. Such a cross as barrenness inflamed and intensified her pride, and forced her to find a way out of this embarrassment to her husband. "Sarah sacrificed herself on the cruelest altar on which any woman ever laid herself down; but the cords of the sacrifice were all the time the cords of a suicidal pride: till the sacrifice was both a great sin in the sight of God, a fatal injury to herself, to her husband, and to innocent generations yet unborn."

Sarah revealed the sad defect of her qualities when she said to Abraham, "Take Hagar my maid, and let not the promises of God fail through me. Through her I can continue your hereditary line." But all poor Hagar could do was to produce an Ishmael. It was only through Sarah that the promised seed could come. Although it might have been a custom of the time for a man with a barren wife to take a concubine in order that he might have an heir, Abraham, as a God-fearing man, should have stoutly refused to go along with the unworthy scheme, which in the end produced jealousy and tragedy. "Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai," but the voice was the fatal siren of Satan who sought to destroy the royal, promised seed (Genesis 3:15). As one modern writer expresses it -

Little did Sarai think when she persuaded Abram to take Hagar, that she was originating a rivalry which has run in the keenest animosity through the ages, and which oceans of blood have not quenched.

In our cameo of Hagar we sought to show all that followed the blunder of Sarah, when she intervened in God's plan and chose her way to continue her husband's posterity.

Her Joy

In His forgiving love and mercy God appeared to Abram when he was 99 years old, and assured him that his long barren wife, although now 90 years old, would conceive. To confirm His promise God changed the name of Abram to Abraham, and of Sarai to Sarah (Genesis 17; 18). At such a revelation of God's purpose, "Abraham fell upon his face and laughed." Although he marveled at the performance of the naturally impossible, Abraham yet believed, and his laughter was the joy of a man of faith. Laughter is sometimes mad (Ecclesiastes 2:2 ) but that of Abraham was highly rational. He rejoiced in the thought that Isaac should be born, and perhaps at that time he had a vision of the Messiah. Jesus said, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day" (John 8:56). As for Sarah, what was her reaction when she overheard the Lord say to her husband, "Sarah thy wife shall have a son"?

The record says, "Sarah laughed within herself," but hers was the laugh of doubt. Yet when her son was born he was named Isaac, which means "laughter" - a memorial of her sin (Genesis 18:13), and of her husband's joy (17:17). Sarah's joy knew no bounds, "God hath made me to laugh" (21:6; 24:36). She had laughter before, but God was not the author of her laugh of doubt. The joy of Sarah in the birth of Isaac reminds us of "the great joy" proclaimed by the angels who made known to the shepherds the birth of Christ who came of the line of Isaac (Luke 2:10; Romans 4:18-21 ). Paul reminds us that it was by faith that Sarah conceived beyond nature (Hebrews 11:11). It was not only in itself a miracle wrought by faith, but also in earnest of something far greater, even the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.

Her Longevity

Sarah is the only woman whose specific age is stated in Scripture. A girl's approximate age is given us in the gospels. The only daughter of Jairus whom Jesus raised from the dead was "about 12 years of age" ( Luke 8:42). Sarah called herself old when she was 87 (Genesis 18:12), but she was 127 years of age when she died. Abraham had reached the patriarchal age of 175 when God called him home. Godliness has always been favorable to longevity. The "good old age" (Genesis 15:15 ) was a signal proof of the faithfulness of the Lord. When the Countess of Huntingdon came to die she said, "My work is done, and I have nothing to do but to go to my Father." Surely the same contentment was experienced both by Sarah and Abraham who were not satiated with life, but satisfied with it. Abraham lived for another 38 years after Sarah's death before his God-given task was completed.

The day came, then, for Sarah to leave the world in which she had sojourned so long, and hers is the first grave to be mentioned in Scripture. Although Abraham and Sarah were nomads living in their tent in a desert land, the aged patriarch wanted a more permanent resting place for his beloved wife than the shifting sand of the desert. Here vultures and beasts of prey would wait to gorge themselves off the dead, leaving behind nothing but white bones. Breaking with the ancient custom of the desert burial, Abraham purchased a cave at Machpelah as a sepulcher for his dear Sarah, and when Abraham himself came to die his sons "buried him beside Sarah." Thus, in death, symbolically, they were unseparated as they had been through their long and eventful life together. When Cornelia, the mother of Caius and Tiberius Gracchus, whom she called her "jewels" died, on her monument was inscribed, "Cornelia, the mother of Gracchi." Had a monument been erected for the noble woman we have been considering, the simple inscription in enduring marble would have been sufficient -

Here lies

Sarah,

the devoted wife of Abraham

and

mother of Isaac.

There is a legend that Sarah died of a broken heart as she learned of God's command to Abraham to offer their son Isaac as a sacrifice on Mount Moriah. The sword pierced her heart, as it did Mary's when she witnessed the slaying of her illustrious Son at Calvary. When Sarah saw her husband and son leaving the tent, taking with them wood and a large knife she became terrified with shock and died. When Abraham and Isaac returned - Isaac brought back from the dead as it were - it was only to mourn and weep for Sarah. Had she lived she might have received her dead son back from the hands of God, and heard from her husband how his hand had been restrained by the angel, "Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me." But in the legend it goes on to tell us, eye and ear of the devoted wife and mother were closed to earthly things, and her heart stilled forever beyond the reach of the terrors, to which human flesh, and especially mothers' hearts, are heirs.

Her Example

When Paul came to emphasize that law and grace cannot exist together (Galatians 4:19-31 ), and uses the two sons of Abraham to illustrate the contrast, he mentions Hagar by name, but not Sarah. The Apostle called her "the freewoman" and "mother of us all." In Hebrews, however, which we believe to be Pauline, the Apostle mentioned Sarah as being one of the cloud of faithful witnesses (Hebrews 11:11, 12). The reason she received strength to bear Isaac when she was so old was because she came to believe in the faithfulness of God. If Abraham is "the father of all them that believe" ( Romans 4:11;Galatians 3:7), surely Sarah is their mother. "Sarah speaks of that which is in faith, and by promise, and is free - and therefore is carried on in those who live on God's promises by faith in Christ, and have that perfect freedom which is alone found in His service, and thus belong to the Heavenly Jerusalem."

Then Peter takes his brush and adds another touch to the portrait of Sarah ( 1 Peter 3:5-7), where she is especially distinguished for obedience to her husband, becoming thereby a model of wives in subjection to their husbands. Beautiful, strong-willed and determined, Sarah, although on two occasions she lost her temper, never disobeyed her husband. From the moment she left Ur of the Chaldees with her husband, she became the obedient wife. Martin Luther once declared that if he wanted an obedient wife he would have to carve her out of marble. But Peter, exhorting wives to obedience, holds up Sarah as their model. She called Abraham "my lord" ( Genesis 18:12), still her declaration of her husband's lordship suggested incredulity rather than the obedience of faith. Yet Peter was right because all through her wanderings in desert places, and her occasional waywardness there ran the golden thread of a beautiful and loving submission to her husband's interests, and in this respect is a pattern for "holy women" to copy. Sarah and Abraham were "two lives fused into one," with Sarah conspicuous in sacrificial submission. How apropos are the lines of Longfellow as we think of her -

As unto the bow the cord is,

So unto the man is the woman.

Though she bends him, she obeys him,

Though she draws him, yet she follows,

Useless each without the other!

With peculiar force Peter describes Christian wives who manifest conjugal obedience, as daughters of Sarah, as long as they do well and are unafraid (1 Peter 3:6 ). By her faith and obedience, a Sarai became a princess among women, and she teaches us the lesson that if "Man proposes: God disposes." It was only after much suffering and sorrow that grace was hers to look up into the face of God and say, "Thy will, not mine, be done!" Applying the life of Sarah with Abraham, Mary Hallet draws attention to Sarah's weaknesses of jealousy and selfishness as being akin to ourselves, but by sharp contrast her fine qualities point to us an ideal of perfection. Her remarkable physical beauty may be regarded as indicative of inner grace.

We cannot doubt that, living with Abraham in an atmosphere of reverence and worship, Sarah developed a spiritual loveliness. Perhaps this can serve as a suggestion to girls of a modern day to take time for communion with God. For only in quietude, only as we listen, can we hear His unmistakable Voice.

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Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadrezzar, Rezzar

[Nĕbu chad nĕz'zar] - nebo, defend the boundary. Son of Nabopolassar and king of Babylon, who figures prominently as an enemy of God's people (2 Kings 24:1, 10, 11; Dan. 1-5).

The Man Whose Pride Turned Him Mad

This first Gentile monarch was the one who captured Jerusalem and destroyed both city and temple. The inhabitants were carried into Babylon as slaves. Nebuchadnezzar set up a golden image in Dura, and the three Hebrew youths who refused to bow down to the image were thrown into the fiery furnace but divinely preserved. Drunk with pride, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams Daniel interpreted. Driven out for a time from men, and living among oxen, he became a new man and turned from his humiliation to honor God.

The encyclical letter written by the first head of Gentiles, for Nebuchadnezzar was "a king of kings," reaches far and wide in the lesson it teaches to all Gentile powers, until the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled (Dan. 4:34-37; Rev. 11:15-17). In this letter we have:

I. The dream of a tree reaching in its height to heaven, and seen by all the world. This related to the king himself, who swayed the scepter of a universal empire, and whose power led to pride (Prov. 16:5-18).

II. The wise advice received from Spirit-anointed Daniel made clear how the king's error could be healed. God has been speaking to the Gentile nations ever since he gave them dominion, but a deaf ear has been turned to divine entreaties. In the face of appalling perils Gentile monarchy is crumbling today.

III. The patience of God is manifest in that twelve months have elapsed before the threatened judgment overtook the proud monarch. How long-suffering God is!

IV. Sore punishment led to deep humiliation and to a noble confusion in the presence of the world. God abased Nebuchadnezzar, and the day is coming when He will likewise abase the Gentile nations of earth. When the mightiest of all monarchs returns, He will lay hold of Gentile government and introduce His own world-kingdom and reign as the King of all Gentile kings. The scepter of universal dominion will rest in His pierced hands.

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November 7, 2010

The Taste Berry

Mary Southerland

Today's Truth

I will give thanks to your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness, because your promises are backed by all the honor of your name (Psalm 138:2, NLT).

Friend to Friend

Alexander Whyte, the Scottish preacher, always began every prayer with praise. One brutally cold Sunday, his people filed into the church, wondering what the preacher could possibly find to praise God for on such a miserable day. Alexander Whyte stood, bowed his head and prayed, "O Lord, we thank Thee that it is not always like this."

Are there times when you don't feel like praising God? Honestly, our feelings are irrelevant when it comes to praising God. Praise is not about us. Praise is all about God. Praise is a deliberate choice and a learned habit that produces contentment and an attitude of gratitude.

In Philippians 4:11 , the Apostle Paul writes, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." In this verse, "learned" means to be "educated by experience" and the word "content" means "contained." Paul's contentment was the result of the resources contained in his heart. In other words, Paul used his circumstances as tutors in the school of praise. He learned how to give God praise even when he was beaten, ridiculed, in prison and facing his own death. Paul's attitude did not reflect his circumstances. Paul made a deliberate choice to praise God - no matter what. Why? Because Paul knew that even when he did not understand God's process, he could trust God's heart.

Let's pretend for just a moment. Suppose I went to my local bank and tried to cash a personal check for a thousand dollars. I can assure you that when I presented that check to the teller, she would have burst out laughing. She knows what I have in my bank account. Now suppose Bill Gates walked into his bank and presented the teller with a personal check for a thousand dollars. I can assure you that the teller would not burst out laughing. In fact, she would promptly cash that check. She knows what Bill Gates has in his bank account.

When we come to Jesus Christ, all of His promises are credited to our spiritual account. And there is a money-back guarantee on every promise of God. That is why we can praise Him - no matter what.

Praise invites God to take up residence in the middle of whatever mess we are facing.

Psalm 22:3 "But You are holy, Enthroned in the praises of Israel."

Praise produces trust in God and strengthens our faith.

Psalm 42:11 "But, O my soul, don't be discouraged. Don't be upset. Expect God to act! For I know that I shall again have plenty of reason to praise him for all that he will do. He is my help! He is my God!"

In Africa, there is a fruit called the "taste berry" that literally changes a person's taste buds so everything tastes sweet and pleasant. Sour fruit, even if eaten several hours after the taste berry, becomes sweet and delicious.

Praise is the "taste berry" for every Christian. Praise is more than emotions or spoken words, singing songs or lifting up hands in worship. True praise is the celebration of God, His power, His works and His greatness. Praise is the fruit of a committed heart and the tool of a life completely surrendered to God.

When we are discouraged, praise reminds us that there is hope in God.

When we are afraid, praise reminds us that no matter what happens, God is with us.

When we are lost, praise reminds us that God has already been where He is leading us.

When we are confused, praise reminds us that heaven is not in a panic.

Right now, girlfriend, lift up your head and praise your God. He is with you and He is more than enough.

Let's Pray

Father, I praise You for Your love and Your mercy. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I praise You for sending Jesus to die in my place, to pay for my sin. I praise You for the family and friends You have given me. I praise You for this ministry of Girlfriends in God and for every woman who reads each word. Please bless them and fill their hearts with Your presence and Your power as they praise You.

In Jesus' name,

Amen.

Not it's Your Turn

Read the following verses of Scripture and fill in each blank.

I will praise God with ________________.

Psalm 34:1 "I will praise the Lord no matter what happens. I will constantly speak of his glories and grace."

I will praise God with ________________.

Ephesians 5:19 "Speak to one another with psalms."

I will praise God with _____________.

Psalm 69:30 "Then I will praise God with my singing!"

I will praise God with my ____________.

2 Corinthians 5:15 "He died for all so that all who live--having received eternal life from him--might live no longer for themselves, to please themselves, but to spend their lives pleasing Christ who died and rose again for them."

More from the Girlfriends

I wish I could reach through the computer screen and give you a hug, girlfriend! No matter what you are facing, God is with you and so are we. You are not alone. I pray that God will become more real to you as you praise Him. We would love to pray for you and with you. E-mail your prayer requests to our team of prayer warriors.

Free resources are available on Mary's website. Need a friend? Connect with me on Facebook or through email.

Need help learning how to study the Bible? Check out Mary's E-Book Bible Studies that you can download for your personal use and/or for a small group study. Are you or someone you love battling the darkness? Get Mary's book,Hope in the Midst of Depression, and discover how God delivered her from the pit of depression.

Mary's weekly Online Bible Study, Light for the Journey, is a great Bible study tool as well. Check it out! The current topic isCome As You Are.

Seeking God?

Click here to find out more about

how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Girlfriends in God

P.O. Box 725

Matthews, NC 28106

info@girlfriendsingod.com
www.girlfriendsingod.com

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P31Header
Marybeth Whalen

November 7, 2011

Stir It Up
Marybeth Whalen

"[For] it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." Philippians 2:13 (NIV 1984)

I took a sip of coffee and grimaced as I peered into the cup. Everything looked like it should, but the coffee wasn't sweet. Yet I remembered tearing open the little yellow packets and sprinkling the sweet crystals over the surface of the caramel colored liquid. Then I realized that-while I had added the sugar-I had never stirred it into the coffee. Without that stirring action, the sugar couldn't work all the way through.

I do this with my faith as well. I add all the necessary ingredients. I've got my Bible, my devotion subscription, my godly girlfriends, my church, my special quiet time journal, my praise and worship songs, my verses memorized. If you looked at me, you'd say it's all there.

But I'd rather avoid the stirring up part, truth be told. I'd tell you that I know it's good for me. I'd tell you that it's not good to stay in one place. I'd tell you that you should submit to God and let Him stir you up and that I'd be glad to pray for you during that process.

But me? No. Just leave me alone. Let me sit. I'd rather look okay and be comfortable than be stirred up and reach my full potential.

Have you ever had those feelings?

Maybe today you're feeling stirred up. Your finances or your job or your marriage or your children or your friendships or your dreams feel like a cyclone is swirling through them, leaving you unsettled and unstable. You might be wondering why God is letting this happen, why He's forgotten you. Not thinking that it just might be His hand doing the stirring. He's using those swirling forces to reach all the parts of you that He wants to get to. As today's verse reminds us, He works in you to accomplish His purpose for you.

Years ago a friend and I were making a big pot of spaghetti sauce. We left the pot on the stove and went off to join our families outside. But when we returned we smelled something burning. We pulled the lid off the pot to peer at the sauce. The sauce looked fine. All the elements were there: the red color, the thickness of the liquid, the chunks of meat and slivers of onions and spices. It was only as we took a long spoon and dug deep into the pot that we discovered that the sauce at the very bottom had become stuck because we hadn't been inside stirring it up, keeping it moving, not letting it settle. When things get settled, they become stuck.

As you are stirred up in life, thank God that He loves you enough to not let you get stuck, to not leave you bitter. The elements are there-and that's important-but it's in the stirring that we become all that He has in mind.

Dear Lord, when I am feeling stirred up, help me to think of it as You working Your sweetness into me, as You preventing me from becoming stuck. I want to move forward with You and become what You have in mind. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Visit Marybeth's blog where she discusses faith, family, fiction or food each day.

Living Financially Free: Hard Earned Wisdom for Saving Your Money and Your Marriage by Marybeth and Curt Whalen

She Makes it Look Easy by Marybeth Whalen

When you purchase resources through Proverbs 31 Ministries, you touch eternity because your purchase supports the many areas of hope-giving ministry we provide at no cost. We wish we could, but we simply can't compete with prices offered by huge online warehouses. Therefore, we are extremely grateful for each and every purchase you make with us. Thank you!

Application Steps:
Think about a time recently when you felt stirred up. Write down some good things that came out of that stirring up. Spend time thanking God for the way He works through you to accomplish His purposes for you.

Reflections:
When I'm feeling stirred up do I tend to resist it or submit to it? Am I afraid of being stirred up? Do I feel like God must not love me when that happens or do I see the stirring as just one more step in my faith process?

Power Verses:
Hebrews 13:20-21, "May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (NIV)

© 2011 by Marybeth Whalen. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

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Skills: Decision Making

Read Nehemiah 1:1-11

Decision Making is one ofleadership's core competencies. In fact, decision-making ability differentiates between poor and good, and between good and great, leaders. Decisions reveal values and intelligence. They require obedience to and dependence upon God. They demand wisdom. As your mind scans the topics related to leadership, it will become apparent that making decisions affects just about everything else leaders do. In a given day, the decisions can number into the thousands. Some are small; others are life-altering.

Where can a leader go to get help in this essential component of life and leadership? Let's start with the wise decision to meditate on a leader who depended upon God and had a proven track record in the decision-making business. Of all the Bible's leaders, Nehemiah provides one of our best patterns for "doing it right." Thoughtfully read through Nehemiah 1:1-11, and list qualities that help to explain why Nehemiah was so effective in this essential leadership task.

In this opening chapter of the book that carries his name, we read about how Nehemiah was faced with a huge challenge: The walls of Jerusalem were in disrepair, and the returned exiles were vulnerable and disheartened. Let's take a moment to examine how he approached the problem. First, he carefully studied the situation (vv.2-3). Second, he empathized with those who were hurting (v.4). Third, he humbled himself before God (v.4). Fourth, he prayed (vv.5-11). And what a prayer! Nehemiah adored God (v.5), confessed his nation's sin to the Lord (vv.6-7) and finally petitioned God for help (vv.8-11).

Ultimately, Nehemiah knew what every great leader knows: All wisdom comes from God, and using his wisdom to make good decisions is something God wants to help us learn to do. What strategies do you presently use in making decisions? How could the methods that Nehemiah used help you?

This Week's Verse to Memorize James 4:13-15

Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money."Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow . . . Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."

Decision Making and Who God Is

In what sense can we say that the Sovereign Lord, the One who transcends all imaginable boundaries and who knows all things, makes decisions? In his timeless plan, God surely encompassed all possible scenarios. Yet the Scriptures portray God's very real interaction with his people in earthly time and space and affirm that our prayers make a difference in the outworking of God's purposes. Turn to Genesis 18:16-33 to read about Abraham's prayer to God on behalf of the few who were righteous in Sodom.

Decision Making and Who I Am

Identify two or three of the worst decisions you have ever made. How many times have you revisited them and imagined how things might have been different had you reversed them? We make decisions every day, and the patterns established by the small decisions shape the course of the larger ones.

Decision Making and How It Works

In an age in which computer technology helps us to gather and analyze incredible amounts of data, the pithy nuggets of wisdom found in the ancient book of Proverbs are more important than ever. Decision makers must understand complicated matters, but they also need God's perspective in deciding how to act. Find out more by turning to Proverbs 1:1-6.

Decision Making and What I Do

While it's crucial to make wise decisions, no decision is wise if it's made independently of God. In today's story, the people of Israel made a bad decision because they left God out of their plans. James (4:15) stresses the importance of including God in our plans, and Haddon Robinson helps us to understand how we can go about doing that.


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by Kenneth Boa
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The Handbook to Leadership includes: 52-Week Leadership Guide, Topical Leadership Guide, Leadership Character Studies, and Books of the Bible Leadership Guide.


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NIV Devotions for Moms

Whose Child Is This?

Today's reading: 1 Samuel 1:21–28

Additional Scripture Readings: Psalm 66:19–20; Proverbs 3:5–6

Have you ever prayed Hannah’s words as your own?

I have. Several times. Eagerly I’ve asked for God to take charge of my children. Out of fear that I might “ruin” them, I hand them over to him.

But as I give my children to God, I often hear him ask, “Do you really trust me with your children? Do you trust me to get them to school safely?”

“Yes!” I respond.

“Do you believe that I can guide them through an illness?”

“Of course!”

“How about deciding if they will marry—and who?”

“Better you than I!” I say.

“Then do you trust me to select the very best mother for your children and for who I want them to become?”

We can be the mothers our children need because God divinely chose us for the job. Don’t doubt it. He knows what he is doing. And aren’t we glad!

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Today's reading is from the
Mom's Devotional Bible
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Mom, you don't have to go it alone! The Mom's Devotional Bible is a trusted source of wisdom to help you along the path of mothering.


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How to Restore Relationships

Today's reading: Numbers 5:5-8

Sue loved her new sweater. She couldn't wait to show it to her friend Leslie. The two decided to meet for dinner and a movie. Leslie loved the sweater too. She immediately said, "That sweater would be perfect for my office party. Can I borrow it?" Sue hesitated, but decided a friend was more valuable than an article of clothing, so she agreed. When she got the sweater back, there was a hole under the arm. Leslie apologized profusely, saying, "It must have unraveled. I'm so sorry." Sue nodded and said, "Oh, it's okay." But things were never the same between the two of them. Sue felt that Leslie had taken advantage of her. Leslie thought Sue had overreacted over a simple article of clothing. Over time, the friendship unraveled like the sweater. What would have happened if Leslie had offered to repair or replace the sweater . . . and maybe added a scarf to apologize?

When God gave Moses the Law, he instituted a system of restitution: Anyone who injured another paid the price for what was stolen or destroyed and added 20 percent to the value. We may think of restitution as justice for the wronged party and punishment for the offender. But restitution offers more: It builds a bridge between the two parties, paving the way for relationships to be restored. By confessing the sin and compensating for any loss, the offender no longer has to deal with guilt. Receiving restitution and more frees the injured party from feeling unfairly treated.

Forgiveness from God coupled with responsibility toward the other person are key to restoring relationships. In Jesus' eyes, those broken relationships are always our responsibility. If someone has something against us, he calls us to go and make it right (see Matthew 5:23-24). If we have something against another, we're responsible to take the initiative to settle our differences with them (see Matthew 18:15). It's not always comfortable. But it's always the right thing to do.

Do you feel taken advantage of? Maybe it's time to engage someone in conversation rather than detach from your relationship with them. Or maybe you've unintentionally mistreated a friend . . . you owe them money or lunch or a favor. Consider what needs to be done and take action: Repay the debt, replace the item and apologize for a wrong. Do whatever it takes to restore the relationship. Do it because it pleases God and because your relationships will be richer for it.

Reflection

  1. Why is restitution necessary?
  2. Think about a relationship that is unraveling. How can you make restitution?
  3. What are some ways you can reconcile with God after you have sinned? What restitution can you offer?

Numbers 5:5-7
The LORD said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites: 'Any man or woman who wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the LORD, is guilty and must confess the sin they have committed. They must make full restitution for the wrong they have done, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the person they have wronged.' "

Related Readings

Leviticus 6:1-7; Luke 19:8-10

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