"Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep."
Jacob, while expostulating with Laban, thus describes his own toil, "This twenty years have I been with thee. That which was torn of beasts I brought not unto thee: I bare the loss of it; of my hand didst thou require it, whether stolen by day, or stolen by night. Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes." Even more toilsome than this was the life of our Saviour here below. He watched over all his sheep till he gave in as his last account, "Of all those whom thou hast given me I have lost none." His hair was wet with dew, and his locks with the drops of the night. Sleep departed from his eyes, for all night he was in prayer wrestling for his people. One night Peter must be pleaded for; anon, another claims his tearful intercession. No shepherd sitting beneath the cold skies, looking up to the stars, could ever utter such complaints because of the hardness of his toil as Jesus Christ might have brought, if he had chosen to do so, because of the sternness of his service in order to procure his spouse--
"Cold mountains and the midnight air,
Witnessed the fervour of his prayer;
The desert his temptations knew,
His conflict and his victory too."
It is sweet to dwell upon the spiritual parallel of Laban having required all the sheep at Jacob's hand. If they were torn of beasts, Jacob must make it good; if any of them died, he must stand as surety for the whole. Was not the toil of Jesus for his Church the toil of one who was under suretiship obligations to bring every believing one safe to the hand of him who had committed them to his charge? Look upon toiling Jacob, and you see a representation of him of whom we read, "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd."
"The power of his resurrection."
The doctrine of a risen Saviour is exceedingly precious. The resurrection is the corner-stone of the entire building of Christianity. It is the key-stone of the arch of our salvation. It would take a volume to set forth all the streams of living water which flow from this one sacred source, the resurrection of our dear Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; but to know that he has risen, and to have fellowship with him as such--communing with the risen Saviour by possessing a risen life--seeing him leave the tomb by leaving the tomb of worldliness ourselves, this is even still more precious. The doctrine is the basis of the experience, but as the flower is more lovely than the root, so is the experience of fellowship with the risen Saviour more lovely than the doctrine itself. I would have you believe that Christ rose from the dead so as to sing of it, and derive all the consolation which it is possible for you to extract from this well-ascertained and well-witnessed fact; but I beseech you, rest not contented even there. Though you cannot, like the disciples, see him visibly, yet I bid you aspire to see Christ Jesus by the eye of faith; and though, like Mary Magdalene, you may not "touch" him, yet may you be privileged to converse with him, and to know that he is risen, you yourselves being risen in him to newness of life. To know a crucified Saviour as having crucified all my sins, is a high degree of knowledge; but to know a risen Saviour as having justified me, and to realize that he has bestowed upon me new life, having given me to be a new creature through his own newness of life, this is a noble style of experience: short of it, none ought to rest satisfied. May you both "know him, and the power of his resurrection." Why should souls who are quickened with Jesus, wear the grave-clothes of worldliness and unbelief? Rise, for the Lord is risen.
Today's reading: Ezekiel 18-19, James 4 (NIV)View today's reading on Bible Gateway
Today's Old Testament reading: Ezekiel 18-19
The One Who Sins Will Die
1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel:
“‘The parents eat sour grapes,
and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?
3 “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. 4 For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child—both alike belong to me. The one who sins is the one who will die.5 “Suppose there is a righteous man
who does what is just and right.
6 He does not eat at the mountain shrines
or look to the idols of Israel.
He does not defile his neighbor’s wife
or have sexual relations with a woman during her period.
7 He does not oppress anyone,
but returns what he took in pledge for a loan.
He does not commit robbery
but gives his food to the hungry
and provides clothing for the naked....
Today's New Testament reading: James 4
Submit Yourselves to God
1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble....”
GOD’S ATTRIBUTES- HE IS HOLY
Having looked at attributes of God's greatness in recent weeks (see archive), we now turn to attributes of God's goodness. First, his holiness.
"Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty. The whole earth is full of his glory." Those were the words the prophet Isaiah heard during his vision of God high and exalted, seated on a throne, the train of his robe filling the temple (Isaiah 6:1-4). "Holy" means separate, different, unique, and this is one of the best assurances we have that God is only interested in the good. He is separate from all the evil and malice in the world-not ignorant of it-but neither is he defiled or influenced by it.
God made a bold and clear statement about his holy character long ago in the Old Testament. All those laws, for instance, were God's way of setting aside one tribe in the human race for something different, a sure signal that any of us can be elevated to and experience a different life. The children of Abraham learned over centuries about the holiness of God through the object lessons of the holy temple, holy basins, holy garments, holy days, and holy Sabbath. But they also were learning about love. Why else would God want any of us to learn of his holiness if not because, out of his deep love, he longs for us to know that life can be different.
Relationships can be right. Decisions can be just. All the laws about what the Israelites could eat and wear, and how they should sacrifice, and the holy time they should reserve for God's special purposes-they all pointed toward a single truth: God is unique.
Sometimes we run to God because he is holy and we know that the only hope that we have in this world is a God who is so different from the world that he is our lifeline out of the chaos. But our instincts often cause us to shrink back from the holy God. For some it means a lifetime of avoiding him. Whether we realize how desperately we need him or not, we often consider it too risky to approach a God who is that different. So we may shrink from the holiness of God, but we should also long to live in his holy presence because we all know that we need something and someone truly different from the vulgarities of this world. What other hope do we have that things can be different from what they are?
Starting December 1, "Christmas Joy." Check it out.