"His ways are everlasting."
What he hath done at one time, he will do yet again. Man's ways are variable, but God's ways are everlasting. There are many reasons for this most comforting truth: among them are the following--the Lord's ways are the result of wise deliberation; he ordereth all things according to the counsel of his own will. Human action is frequently the hasty result of passion, or fear, and is followed by regret and alteration; but nothing can take the Almighty by surprise, or happen otherwise than he has foreseen. His ways are the outgrowth of an immutable character, and in them the fixed and settled attributes of God are clearly to be seen. Unless the Eternal One himself can undergo change, his ways, which are himself in action, must remain forever the same. Is he eternally just, gracious, faithful, wise, tender?--then his ways must ever be distinguished for the same excellences. Beings act according to their nature: when those natures change, their conduct varies also; but since God cannot know the shadow of a turning, his ways will abide everlastingly the same. Moreover there is no reason from without which could reverse the divine ways, since they are the embodiment of irresistible might. The earth is said, by the prophet, to be cleft with rivers, mountains tremble, the deep lifts up its hands, and sun and moon stand still, when Jehovah marches forth for the salvation of his people. Who can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? But it is not might alone which gives stability; God's ways are the manifestation of the eternal principles of right, and therefore can never pass away. Wrong breeds decay and involves ruin, but the true and the good have about them a vitality which ages cannot diminish.
This morning let us go to our heavenly Father with confidence, remembering that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him the Lord is ever gracious to his people.
"They have dealt treacherously against the Lord."
Believer, here is a sorrowful truth! Thou art the beloved of the Lord, redeemed by blood, called by grace, preserved in Christ Jesus, accepted in the Beloved, on thy way to heaven, and yet, "thou hast dealt treacherously" with God, thy best friend; treacherously with Jesus, whose thou art; treacherously with the Holy Spirit, by whom thou hast been quickened unto life eternal! How treacherous you have been in the matter of vows and promises. Do you remember the love of your espousals, that happy time--the springtime of your spiritual life? Oh, how closely did you cling to your Master then! saying, "He shall never charge me with indifference; my feet shall never grow slow in the way of his service; I will not suffer my heart to wander after other loves; in him is every store of sweetness ineffable. I give all up for my Lord Jesus' sake." Has it been so? Alas! if conscience speak, it will say, "He who promised so well has performed most ill. Prayer has oftentimes been slurred--it has been short, but not sweet; brief, but not fervent. Communion with Christ has been forgotten. Instead of a heavenly mind, there have been carnal cares, worldly vanities and thoughts of evil. Instead of service, there has been disobedience; instead of fervency, lukewarmness; instead of patience, petulance; instead of faith, confidence in an arm of flesh; and as a soldier of the cross there has been cowardice, disobedience, and desertion, to a very shameful degree." "Thou hast dealt treacherously." Treachery to Jesus! what words shall be used in denouncing it? Words little avail: let our penitent thoughts execrate the sin which is so surely in us. Treacherous to thy wounds, O Jesus! Forgive us, and let us not sin again! How shameful to be treacherous to him who never forgets us, but who this day stands with our names engraven on his breastplate before the eternal throne.
Today's reading: Hosea 9-11, Revelation 3 (NIV)View today's reading on Bible Gateway
Today's Old Testament reading: Hosea 9-11
Punishment for Israel
1 Do not rejoice, Israel;
do not be jubilant like the other nations.
For you have been unfaithful to your God;
you love the wages of a prostitute
at every threshing floor.
2 Threshing floors and winepresses will not feed the people;
the new wine will fail them.
3 They will not remain in the LORD’s land;
Ephraim will return to Egypt
and eat unclean food in Assyria.
4 They will not pour out wine offerings to the LORD,
nor will their sacrifices please him.
Such sacrifices will be to them like the bread of mourners;
all who eat them will be unclean.
This food will be for themselves;
it will not come into the temple of the LORD.
on the feast days of the LORD?
6 Even if they escape from destruction,
Egypt will gather them,
and Memphis will bury them.
Their treasures of silver will be taken over by briers,
and thorns will overrun their tents....
Today's New Testament reading: Revelation 3
To the Church in Sardis
1 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. 5 The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. 6 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches....
Saul, Shaul [Sôul]—asked for ordemanded.
1. The son of Kish, and first king of Israel (1 Sam. 9-11).
A Man Who Lost His Kingdom
No man among Bible men had so many chances thrust upon him to make a success of life, and no man ever so missed them. Saul not only missed great opportunities, he deliberately abused them. His sun rose in splendor, but set in a tragic night. The downgrade of his life is the old familiar story of pride, egotism and the abuse of power leading to moral degradation and ruin. Here are the steps down the ladder:
He was a man anointed and filled with the Spirit. (1 Sam. 11:6).
In his early years he was humble and practiced self-control ( 1 Sam. 10:22; 10:27; 11:13).
Self-will restricted his influence (1 Sam. 13:12, 13).
He became disobedient and was guilty of rash vows (1 Sam. 15:11-23).
Jealousy prompted him to hunt and harm David (1 Sam. 18:8;19:1).
He patronized the superstition he had forbidden (1 Sam. 28:7).
Wounded in battle, he ended up a suicide (1 Sam. 31:4).
Having already destroyed his moral life, he ultimately destroyed his physical life. Saul’s sad story is repeated almost daily.
2. The sixth of the ancient kings of Edom, from Rehoboth on the Euphrates ( Gen. 36:37, 38).
Scripture Reference—Exodus 1:15
Name Meaning—Child bearing or joy of parents
Alarmed over the rapid increase of the population of Israelites in Egypt, Pharaoh ordered two Egyptian midwives to destroy all male children as soon as they were born (Exodus 1:15-20 ). He would never have employed Hebrew women to destroy the males of their own nation. The answer of the two named midwives, Puah and Shiprah, to Pharaoh’s anger when he discovered that his cruel edict was not being carried out, implies that they were used to wait upon Egyptian women who only employed them in difficulty at childbirth (Exodus 1:19). Hebrew women seldom employed midwives for they were more “lively,” or had far easier births than the Egyptians.
Puah and Shiprah are Egyptian names. Aben Ezra, the ancient Jewish historian, says that these two women “were chiefs over all the midwives, who were more than 500.” As superintendents of such a large staff to which they had been appointed by the Egyptian government, Pharaoh ordered them to carry out his terrible command just as he would give orders to any other of his officials. As it is likely that only the chief Hebrews could afford the service of midwives, probably the order of Pharaoh only applied to them. Although Egyptians by birth, it would seem as if they had embraced the Hebrew faith, for we are told that Puah and Shiprah “feared God” ( Exodus 1:21).
Receiving the royal command to commit murder, these two loyal, vigorous, middleaged women were caught between two fires. Whom should they obey? The God of the Hebrews in whom they had come to believe, or the tyrannical king of Egypt? True to their conscience and honored calling they knew it would conflict with the divine command to kill, and so “saved the men children alive.” Thus, they obeyed God rather than man, and in so doing brought upon their heads the rage of Pharaoh. Confronting his anger, Puah and Shiprah took refuge in a partial truth. They said that because Jewish women had easy deliveries, their children were born before they could reach them and assist the mothers in labor.
Cognizant as He was of the partial truth the two midwives told, God knew all about the crisis behind it, and commended Puah and Shiprah for their courage of faith. They had risked their lives for many Jewish infants. Such an act was meritorious in the eyes of the Lord, and He honorably rewarded them by building them houses. Fausset suggests that the nature of such a reward consisted in the two midwives marrying Hebrews and becoming mothers in Israel (2 Samuel 7:11, 27). Puah and Shiprah are striking witnesses against the scandalous practice of abortion, which several nations have legalized.
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All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"-which means, "God with us." -Matt. 1:22-23
My wife and I have only seriously lost track of our daughter once. We were walking through a crowded tourist town and the streets were lined with shops. It was evening and the crowds were dense. Suddenly, I noticed that neither my wife nor I had our eight-year-old daughter by the hand. We spun around, unable to spot her. With candy stores beckoning children indoors, and winding side streets all around, she could be anywhere.
A few minutes of running around, and somehow I spotted her, a far way down a side street. The look on her face was unforgettable: "Where were you?" she asked, but her eyes said, Thank God, you are with me now. I am never going to leave your side again.
"With us." There is hardly a more central promise that God has ever made to human beings. The alternative is just too horrifying to imagine. If God has abandoned us, and that is why so many bad things happen in life, then what does that say about God? What does it say about our destiny? If God oscillates in and out of our lives, willing to be with us only as long as we don't get too obnoxious, coming and going like a father who grows lax in his responsibility-where does that leave us? If God cannot be with us, then we would have to conclude that we will never reap the benefits of divine presence, and that words like grace, mercy, love, andtruth have no meaning.
Jesus was born, but he was also sent, and Immanuel was one of his names. Immanu-el: "with us [is] God." "God with us." His body among us, his message from the heavens. He turned life upside down with the divine truths he presented. But he also left people with the sense that they had never been closer to God than when they were with him.
We don't need to stay lost. God is not indifferent to our condition. And he came to us in the most radical way, by taking our flesh, our humanity, on himself.
Prayer for Today:
Dear Lord, I need to know you are with us. Help me, this Christmas, to know, more than I have ever known before, that you have come and that we can always live in the conscious enjoyment of your presence.