Saturday, February 04, 2012

Daily Devotional Saturday 4th February

“But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.” Psalm 59:16 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Therefore, brethren, we are debtors."
Romans 8:12

As God's creatures, we are all debtors to him: to obey him with all our body, and soul, and strength. Having broken his commandments, as we all have, we are debtors to his justice, and we owe to him a vast amount which we are not able to pay. But of the Christian it can be said that he does not owe God's justice anything, for Christ has paid the debt his people owed; for this reason the believer owes the more to love. I am a debtor to God's grace and forgiving mercy; but I am no debtor to his justice, for he will never accuse me of a debt already paid. Christ said, "It is finished!" and by that he meant, that whatever his people owed was wiped away forever from the book of remembrance. Christ, to the uttermost, has satisfied divine justice; the account is settled; the handwriting is nailed to the cross; the receipt is given, and we are debtors to God's justice no longer. But then, because we are not debtors to our Lord in that sense, we become ten times more debtors to God than we should have been otherwise. Christian, pause and ponder for a moment. What a debtor thou art to divine sovereignty! How much thou owest to his disinterested love, for he gave his own Son that he might die for thee. Consider how much you owe to his forgiving grace, that after ten thousand affronts he loves you as infinitely as ever. Consider what you owe to his power; how he has raised you from your death in sin; how he has preserved your spiritual life; how he has kept you from falling; and how, though a thousand enemies have beset your path, you have been able to hold on your way. Consider what you owe to his immutability. Though you have changed a thousand times, he has not changed once. Thou art as deep in debt as thou canst be to every attribute of God. To God thou owest thyself, and all thou hast--yield thyself as a living sacrifice, it is but thy reasonable service.

Evening

"Tell me ... where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon."
Song of Solomon 1:7

These words express the desire of the believer after Christ, and his longing for present communion with him. Where doest thou feed thy flock? In thy house? I will go, if I may find thee there. In private prayer? Then I will pray without ceasing. In the Word? Then I will read it diligently. In thine ordinances? Then I will walk in them with all my heart. Tell me where thou feedest, for wherever thou standest as the Shepherd, there will I lie down as a sheep; for none but thyself can supply my need. I cannot be satisfied to be apart from thee. My soul hungers and thirsts for the refreshment of thy presence. "Where dost thou make thy flock to rest at noon?" for whether at dawn or at noon, my only rest must be where thou art and thy beloved flock. My soul's rest must be a grace-given rest, and can only be found in thee. Where is the shadow of that rock? Why should I not repose beneath it? "Why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?" Thou hast companions--why should I not be one? Satan tells me I am unworthy; but I always was unworthy, and yet thou hast long loved me; and therefore my unworthiness cannot be a bar to my having fellowship with thee now. It is true I am weak in faith, and prone to fall, but my very feebleness is the reason why I should always be where thou feedest thy flock, that I may be strengthened, and preserved in safety beside the still waters. Why should I turn aside? There is no reason why I should, but there are a thousand reasons why I should not, for Jesus beckons me to come. If he withdrew himself a little, it is but to make me prize his presence more. Now that I am grieved and distressed at being away from him, he will lead me yet again to that sheltered nook where the lambs of his fold are sheltered from the burning sun.

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Today's reading: Exodus 31-33, Matthew 22:1-22 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway
Bezalel and Oholiab

1 Then the LORD said to Moses, 2 “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— 4 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 5 to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts. 6 Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given ability to all the skilled workers to make everything I have commanded you: 7 the tent of meeting, the ark of the covenant law with the atonement cover on it, and all the other furnishings of the tent— 8 the table and its articles, the pure gold lampstand and all its accessories, the altar of incense, 9 the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, the basin with its stand— 10 and also the woven garments, both the sacred garments for Aaron the priest and the garments for his sons when they serve as priests, 11 and the anointing oil and fragrant incense for the Holy Place. They are to make them just as I commanded you.”

The Sabbath

12 Then the LORD said to Moses, 13 “Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy.

14 “‘Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people. 15 For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day is to be put to death. 16 The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. 17 It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’”

18 When the LORD finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the covenant law, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God.

Exodus 32

The Golden Calf

1 When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods[a] who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”

2 Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods,[b] Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”

5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD.” 6 So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.

7 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. 8 They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’

9 “I have seen these people,” the LORD said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. 10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”

11 But Moses sought the favor of the LORD his God. “LORD,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. 13Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’” 14 Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

15 Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. 16 The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.

17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting, he said to Moses, “There is the sound of war in the camp.”

18 Moses replied:

“It is not the sound of victory,
it is not the sound of defeat;
it is the sound of singing that I hear.”

19 When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain.20 And he took the calf the people had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it.

21 He said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?”

22 “Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. 23 They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ 24 So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”

25 Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies. 26 So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, “Whoever is for the LORD, come to me.” And all the Levites rallied to him.

27 Then he said to them, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.’” 28 The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. 29 Then Moses said, “You have been set apart to the LORD today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day.”

30 The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.”

31 So Moses went back to the LORD and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.”

33 The LORD replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. 34 Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you. However, when the time comes for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin.”

35 And the LORD struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made.

Exodus 33

1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ 2 I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 3 Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.”

4 When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments. 5 For the LORD had said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you. Now take off your ornaments and I will decide what to do with you.’” 6 So the Israelites stripped off their ornaments at Mount Horeb.

The Tent of Meeting

7 Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.” Anyone inquiring of the LORD would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp. 8 And whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose and stood at the entrances to their tents, watching Moses until he entered the tent. 9 As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the LORD spoke with Moses. 10 Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to their tent. 11 The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.

Moses and the Glory of the LORD

12 Moses said to the LORD, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”

14 The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

17 And the LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”

18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”

19 And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

21 Then the LORD said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”


Matthew 22

The Parable of the Wedding Banquet

1 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

4 “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

Paying the Imperial Tax to Caesar

15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”

18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

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Elisha [Ĕlī’shă]—god is saviour. The son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah, of the tribe of Issachar, the companion and successor of Elijah (1 Kings 19:16-19; 2 Kings 2-13).

The Man Who Was a Model Leader

There is a striking difference between Elijah and Elisha, both of whom labored in the Northern Kingdom. Elijah’s name means, Jehovah my God and suggests the Law while Elisha’s name speaks ofgrace—Jehovah my Saviour.

Elisha left a peaceful occupation to become a model spiritual leader. Elijah prepared Elisha for his commission (2 Kings 2:1-14), and the two became devoted to each other. Elisha’s character is marked by mercy ( 2 Kings 2:21), disinterestedness (2 Kings 5) and toleration (2 Kings 5:19). He earned a wonderful posthumous influence (2 Kings 13:20, 21). What a victorious death was his (2 Kings 13:14-19)! Summarizing the life of this prophet who spoke with the authority of an oracle of God (2 Kings 3:16, 17), we see him etched as:

A man of indomitable faith (1 Kings 19:20, 21; 2 Kings 1-18).

A man of swift action (2 Kings 2:12-18).

A man of spiritual power (2 Kings 2:19-22).

A man of dauntless courage (2 Kings 3).

A man of deep sympathy ( 2 Kings 4:1-7).

A man of God (2 Kings 4:8-37).

A man of willing help (2 Kings 4:38-41).

A man who merited blessing (2 Kings 4:42-44).

A man of clear understanding ( 2 Kings 5:1-19).

A man of force and might (2 Kings 6:1-7).

A man who knew secrets (2 Kings 6:8-23).

A man of remarkable foresight ( 2 Kings 6:24-33; 7).

A man of unerring counsel (2 Kings 8:1-6).

A man of tears and sorrow (2 Kings 8:7-15).

Elisha suggests the ministry of Christ. On the whole, Elijah’s work was destructive—he was the prophet of fire. Elisha’s task was more merciful and beneficial. He had double the power of Elijah (2 Kings 2:8, 9, 15 ), and consequently performed twice as many miracles as his former master. The following contrasts between these two prophets can be noted:

Elijah was a prophet of the wilderness;
Elisha was a prince of the court.

Elijah had no settled home;
Elisha enjoyed the peace of a home.

Elijah was known by his long hair and shaggy mantle;
Elisha by his staff and bald head.

Elijah was mainly prophetical;
Elisha’s work was mainly miraculous.

Elijah’s ministry was one of stern denunciation;
Elisha’s task was that of teaching and winning.

Elijah was a rebuker of kings;
Elisha was a friend and admirer.

Elijah was a messenger of vengeance;
Elisha was a messenger of mercy.

Elijah represented exclusiveness;
Elisha stood for comprehension.

Elijah was fierce, fiery, energetic;
Elisha was gentle, sympathetic, simple.

Elijah was a solitary figure;
Elisha was more social.

Elijah had an extraordinary disappearance from earth;
Elisha’s death was ordinary.

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Myth: "God doesn't want me to have any fun."

Matthew 11:30

Growing up in a strict fundamentalist home, I wondered why God let the devil have all the good music. But I would never tell my parents that-they didn't even let us go to school dances, much less listen to pop music. Our church's summer camp had strict rules about PDA (public displays of affection). Mild flirting was tolerated, but there was absolutely no handholding. We had to sneak off in the woods with the boys just to kiss, and we often came home with mysterious patches of poison ivy.

When I got older, I guess I rebelled against my conservative upbringing. So much had been "off-limits" for so long that I kind of went wild once I was out on my own. I smoked pot with some friends in college and started drinking pretty heavily. For the first time in my life, I was popular with the right people. I was free and enjoying every minute of it.

I thought about God from time to time, especially when I would come home for school breaks. I knew he wouldn't approve of my new lifestyle (or my new boyfriend), but I did not intend to give up either. My boyfriend and I moved in together right after we graduated so we could both look for jobs in Boston, but that turned out to be a disaster. The job and the boyfriend. Now, five years after college, I hardly talk with any of my college friends, though the girls from work and I hit the bars after work every weekend.

I suppose it's time to grow up and settle into the routine of being a devout religious person again. I just keep putting it off. Maybe I'll wait till I have a real career and start a family. Even then, I'm not sure I'll be ready for high-maintenance Christianity again. There's a lot on God's list I'm not ready to forego just yet.

-Kim

Why do we think God's rules are designed to strip all the fun out of life? Perhaps for the same reason that kids think their parents' job is to make their lives miserable. We don't like to think of ourselves as children, but from God's perspective, that's exactly what we are (see John 1:12). Why is an indignant attitude toward God's commands childish?

  • We see what looks like fun-temptation has a beautiful face-but God sees the misery it would bring us.
  • We don't fully trust God. We suspect that he's holding out on us.
  • When God draws the line, we manipulate and stretch the rules to place a single toe over it.
  • We think God is trying to rein us in from experiencing all of life when in reality he is lovingly protecting us from dangers we're not smart enough to avoid.

If only we could see. If only we could see the suffering that our choices bring. If only we could see the lifelong consequences we'll face. If only we would take God's commands to heart. If only we'd take him at his word.

God wants us to respond to him with obedience, but not out of a sense of duty, resentment or compliance (see Isaiah 29:13). Not because he is a cosmic control freak. And not because keeping rules can earn his approval. God wants us to obey him for the love of him (see 1 John 5:3 ). Once we move from rule-keeping to a relationship with God based on love, we'll see his commands in a different light.

"God's will is what you would choose for your own life, if you had sense enough to choose it."

-Anonymous

"My yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Matthew 11:30

See also

Deuteronomy 28:2; John 14:15; Hebrews 12:10-11
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The Temptation of Jesus

Keith A. Mathison

It's an odd story. John the Baptist has just baptized Jesus. God has just spoken from heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." We would expect that the next item on the agenda would be the beginning of Jesus' Instead, we read that the Spirit of God leads Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. That's strange. Why is Jesus subjected to testing in the wilderness by the devil immediately following his baptism and immediately prior to the beginning of his ministry and the calling of his disciples? Is it merely to provide a moral example of endurance for believers? Or is there something more going on?

If we keep in mind the prophetic writings of the Old Testament, we recall that the coming age was often depicted in terms of a "new exodus" (See, for example, Hos. 2:14-15; Isa. 10:24-26;11:15-16; Jer. 16:14-15; Ezek. 20:33-38 ). The writing prophets wrote in the centuries before, during, and after the exile. The pre-exilic prophets warned Israel and Judah that continued rebellion against God would result in judgment, culminating in exile from the land. They also looked beyond the exile to a time of restoration. The exilic prophets maintained this forward looking perspective, and they looked back to the original exodus from Egypt to find the imagery needed to depict the coming eschatological restoration. When we turn to the Gospel of Matthew, we find that Matthew subtly draws on this prophetic theme in his depiction of the early life of Jesus. In the early chapters of Matthew, we find that experiences in the life of Jesus echo experiences in the life of Moses and in the early history of Israel.

Matthew's opening chapter presents Jesus as the culmination of the Old Testament prophetic hopes. He is the Son of Abraham, the promised seed through whom blessing would come to all nations. He is the Son of David, the one to whom was promised an eternal kingdom. His genealogy is divided into three sections of fourteen generations. The first section ends at the time of David, at which point the kingdom was established. The second section ends at the time of the exile, at which point the kingdom was taken away. The third section ends with Jesus, indicating that at this time the kingdom of God will be restored.

After Jesus' birth, an angel appears to Joseph in a dream warning him to flee to Egypt with Mary and Jesus because Herod is going seek to kill the child. These events remind the reader of Pharaoh's attempts to kill the infant Moses. Joseph obediently flees to Egypt where the family remains until the death of Herod. This is said to fulfill Hosea 11:1, which reads: "Out of Egypt I called my son." Since Hosea 11:1 refers to Israel's original exodus from Egypt, how is Jesus' flight to Egypt a "fulfillment" of the prophecy? In its context, Hosea 11:1 is part of a prophecy that looks back at the original exodus in order to point forward to a new exodus. Hosea promises that despite the coming exile, God will restore his people (Hos. 11:11 ). In Matthew's use of Hosea's prophecy, a couple of points are made. First, Jesus' flight from Israel is parallel to Moses' flight from Egypt. Israel has, in a sense, become like Egypt. In the second place, Matthew points toHosea 11 to indicate that with Jesus the time of the promised new exodus has begun. The day of eschatological salvation has dawned.

If the Exodus typology holds, then the baptism of Jesus is viewed by Matthew as being in some sense parallel to Israel's crossing of the Red Sea - Israel's "baptism" (See 1 Cor. 10:2). Why then the temptation? Israel spent forty years in the wilderness and failed the tests she faced. Jesus recapitulates Israel's experience, spending forty days in the wilderness, but unlike Israel, Jesus passes the test. If we look carefully atDeuteronomy 8:1-10 and compare it with Matthew 4 , the parallels become even clearer. These parallels between the Exodus narrative and the early chapters of Matthew indicate that Matthew is portraying Jesus as a new Moses-like redeemer who will inaugurate the promised final restoration by leading his people in the eschatological new exodus.

But why is the devil such a prominent character in this testing? The devil is the ancient archenemy of God. It was he who tempted Adam and Eve in the garden. Behind the scenes of redemptive history lies the cosmic conflict between God and Satan. Jesus comes to destroy the works of the devil ( 1 John 3:8). The first Adam faced the temptations of Satan in a bountiful garden...and failed. The second Adam faces the temptations of Satan in desolate wilderness and succeeds. He succeeds where Adam failed because He trusts the word of God. Satan twisted God's word, and caused Adam and Eve to doubt. He twists God's word and takes it out of context in his tempting of Jesus, but Jesus does not falter.

When faced with the worst temptations, Jesus relies on the Word of God. If trust in God's Word was necessary for Jesus in the face of temptation, how much more necessary is it for us? Like Jesus, we are to live by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4).

ministry. Instead, we read that the Spirit of God leads Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. That's strange. Why is Jesus subjected to testing in the wilderness by the Devil immediately following His baptism and immediately prior to the beginning of His ministry and the calling of His disciples? Is it merely to provide a moral example of endurance for believers? Or is there something more going on?

If we keep in mind the prophetic books of the Old Testament, we recall that the coming age was often depicted in terms of a "new exodus" (see, for example, Hos. 2:14-15; Isa. 10:24-26;11:15-16; Jer. 16:14-15 ). The writing prophets wrote in the centuries before, during, and after the exile. The pre-exilic prophets warned Israel and Judah that continued rebellion against God would result in judgment, culminating in exile from the land. They also looked beyond the exile to a time of restoration. The exilic prophets maintained this forward- looking perspective, and they looked back to the original exodus from Egypt to find the imagery needed to depict the coming restoration. When we turn to the gospel of Matthew, we find that he subtly draws on this prophetic theme in his depiction of the early life of Jesus. In the early chapters of Matthew, we find that experiences in the life of Jesus echo experiences in the life of Moses and in the early history of Israel.

Matthew's opening chapter presents Jesus as the culmination of the Old Testament prophetic hopes. He is the Son of Abraham, the promised seed through whom blessing would come to all nations. He is the son of David, the one to whom was promised an eternal kingdom. His genealogy is divided into three sections of fourteen generations. The first section ends at the time of David, at which point the kingdom was established. The second section ends at the time of the exile, at which point the kingdom was taken away. The third section ends with Jesus, indicating that at this time the kingdom of God will be restored.

After Jesus' birth, an angel appears to Joseph in a dream warning him to flee to Egypt with Mary and Jesus because Herod is seeking to kill the child. These events remind the reader of Pharaoh's attempts to kill the infant Moses. Joseph flees to Egypt where the family remains until the death of Herod. This is said to fulfill Hosea 11:1, which reads: "Out of Egypt I called my son." Since Hosea 11:1 refers to Israel's original exodus from Egypt, how is Jesus' flight to Egypt a "fulfillment" of the prophecy? In its context, Hosea 11:1 is part of a prophecy that looks back at the original exodus in order to point forward to a new exodus. Hosea promises that despite the coming exile, God will restore his people (Hos. 11:11 ). In Matthew's use of Hosea's prophecy, a couple of points are made. First, Jesus' flight from Israel is parallel to Moses' flight from Egypt. Israel has, in a sense, become like Egypt. In the second place, Matthew points to Hosea 11 to indicate that with Jesus the time of the promised new exodus has begun. The day of salvation has dawned.

But why is the Devil so prominent in this testing? The Devil is the ancient archenemy of God. It was he who tempted Adam and Eve ( Gen. 3:1-7). Behind the scenes of redemptive history lies the conflict between God and Satan. After Adam and Eve sinned, God proclaimed judgment on the Devil who tempted them. God said to the Serpent, "Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel."

Satan's temptation of Jesus in the wilderness continues the conflict. The first Adam had faced the temptations of Satan in a bountiful garden and failed. The second Adam faces the temptations of Satan in a desolate wilderness and succeeds. He succeeds where Adam failed because He trusts the word of God. Satan twisted God's word in his tempting of Adam and Eve and caused them to doubt. He twists God's word in his tempting of Jesus, but Jesus does not falter.

The significance of this is that Jesus, like Adam, acted as a representative head. The failure of Adam brought sin and death on the human race ( Rom. 5). In order to be our Savior, it was necessary for Jesus to live a life of complete obedience to God. His sinlessness was absolutely necessary for our salvation. In the wilderness, Jesus was tempted like Adam, but did not sin (Heb. 4:15).

Dr. Keith A. Mathison is an associate editor ofTabletalk magazine and is author ofDispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God?

INTO the WORD daily Bible studies from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.

Subscribe to Tabletalk magazine and receive daily Bible studies & in depth articles from world class scholars for only $23 per per year! That's only $1.92 per month. And you can try it out for three months absolutely free! Bringing the best in biblical scholarship together with down-to-earth writing, Tabletalk helps you understand the Bible and apply it to daily living.

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Unstaggering faith

‘And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb: he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God.’ Romans 4:19–20

Suggested Further Reading: Exodus 5:22–6:13

If your heart has been set upon any special object in prayer, if you have an express promise for it, you must not be staggered if the object of your desire be farther off now than when you first began to pray. If even after months of supplication the thing should seem more difficult now of attainment than ever it was, wait at the mercy seat in the full persuasion that although God may take his time, and that time may not be your time, yet he must and will redeem his promise when the fulness of time has come. If you have prayed for the salvation of your child, or husband, or friend, and that person has grown worse instead of better, do not cease praying. If that dear little one has become more obstinate, and that husband more profane even, still God must be held to his word; and if you have the faith to challenge his attributes of faithfulness and power, assuredly he never did and never will let your prayers fall fruitless to the ground; and I repeat the word, that you may be sure to bear that away with you, let not the fact that the answer seems farther off than ever be any discouragement to you. Remember that to trust God in the light is nothing, but to trust him in the dark—that is faith. To rest upon God when everything witnesses with God—that is nothing; but to believe God when everything gives him the lie—that is faith. To believe that all shall go well when outward providences blow softly is any fool’s play, but to believe that it must and shall be well when storms and tempests are round about you, and you are blown farther and farther from the harbour of your desire—this is a work of grace.

For meditation: The assumption that smooth progress indicates God’s favour and that trouble is a mark of his displeasure is not a safe one. Our circumstances often prove the opposite to be true (Luke 6:20–26).

Sermon no. 733
3 February (1867)

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The earnest of heaven

“That holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance.” Ephesians 1:13-14

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Corinthians 2:6-16

You remember the day, some of you, when you first learned the doctrines of grace. When we were first converted, we did not know much about them, we did not know whether God had converted us, or we had converted ourselves; but we heard a discourse one day in which some sentences were used, which gave us the clue to the whole system, and we began at once to see how God the Father planned, and God the Son carried out, and God the Holy Spirit applied, and we found ourselves suddenly brought into the midst of a system of truths, which we might perhaps have believed before, but which we could not have clearly stated, and did not understand. Well, the joy of that advance in knowledge was exceeding great. I know it was to me. I can remember well the day and hour, when first I received those truths in my own soul—when they were burnt into me, as John Bunyan says—burnt as with a hot iron into my soul; and I can recollect how I felt I had grown suddenly from a babe into a man—that I had made progress in Scriptural knowledge, from having got a hold once and for all of the clue to the truth of God. Well, now, in that moment when God the Holy Spirit increased your knowledge, and opened the eyes of your understanding, you had the earnest, that you shall one day see, not through a glass darkly, but face to face, and then you shall know the whole truth, even as you are known.

For meditation: The best teacher and interpreter of Scripture is God the Holy Spirit who moved chosen men to record his Word (2 Peter 1:20-21). Do you always seek his help when you are reading or studying God’s Word?

Sermon no. 358
3 February (1861)

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February 3, 2012

Learning To Breathe
Gwen Smith


Today's Truth

Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness (1 Timothy 4:7b, NASB).

Friend to Friend
Before our first child was born, my husband and I took a series of classes to prepare us for childbirth. I vividly remember being told by my Lamaze instructor that while in labor, I would need to breathe through each contraction. She would give us instructions like: "Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth" and "When you inhale, allow your belly to expand first, then your chest." She told us that the way we breathe would affect the way we would experience labor.

We spent a lot of time during those week-after-week classes learning how to breathe in a whole new way. We were taught that the breaths we would take during labor would need to be purposed and controlled. They required discipline and were not like natural breathing. So I practiced and I practiced the special breathing techniques in preparation for when the labor pains came a-knocking.

When the day arrived to welcome my firstborn son, Preston Miles Smith, into the world, I learned what a discipline breathing through contractions really is! There were times during labor that I felt like holding my breath instead of breathing. Times when the pain was so intense that my natural response was to scream instead of to breathe. Yes. This type of breathing was surely a learned behavior, a purposed discipline. And on the other side of this purposed discipline, in spite of all the pain endured, I was blessed to experience the wonderful joy of life.

I've labored through many hard life experiences since my child birthing days. I'm sure you have too. There are times when circumstances press us in waves, contractions of life that are seemingly endless. When the waves of trials hit our heart and home, the spiritual discipline of trusting God helps us to breathe through the squeeze of each pressure. I like to call it faith-breathing. When we hunker down and put into practice the act - the discipline - of faith.

But what do we mean by "the discipline of faith"? Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever (1 Corinthians 9:24-25 ). Just like I learned to breathe in preparation for going through labor pains, Christians learn to breathe through life pains when we implement spiritual disciplines in our lives like prayer, fasting, journaling and Scripture reading. They are purposed disciplines that bring joy and strength. The more we pray, the more we grow in intimacy with God. The more we read and know the Bible, the more we understand God's will and character. We see over and over again that He is good, faithful, compassionate, loving, gentle, just, holy, righteous and trustworthy in all things. We are encouraged and spurred on by the faith of others. We learn to faith-breathe!

The flames of fire have heated up and refined my faith on many occasions! Life is filled with challenges. God is always with us and will help us breathe through the difficult situations we face. He allows us to go through trials as a part of our refining process. Struggles send us running to God for help, for faith, for strength, for protection and direction. They are often pregnant with pain. Bursting with heartache. If we yield them to God, He uses to rid our lives of trust-barriers like fear and doubt, and to bring glory and honor to him. There are many life contractions that hurt us, but there is no earthly pain that can diminish the hope of our salvation. We must simply breath - continue practicing those spiritual disciplines that bind us to the heart of God.

Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work ( 2 Timothy 3:12, 14-17, NLT).

Trusting God takes discipline. We don't always feel like it. It's not always what we want to do. It's not natural. At times we feel overwhelmed and want to soul-scream. If we always acted on our feelings, our lives would be chaotic messes. As in childbirth, there finally comes the time of deliverance where what is birthed forth to joy is directly the result of the very pain we have gone through.

Let's Pray
Dear Father, please teach me to breath! Strengthen me through life's hard labor experiences and help me to practice the disciplines I have learned through your Scriptures. When I feel like screaming through the pain, help me to breath by reading and memorizing your Word, fasting and praying, and meditating on your Truth. Thank you for the strength you will give me as I trust in You.

In Jesus' Name I pray,

Amen.

Now it's Your Turn

Read over the verses below and write them on note card and review them until they are committed to memory.

"...all things are possible with God" (Mark 10:27b).

"I can do all things through Him who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13).

"I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." (Psalm 119:11)

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you" (Philippians 4:8-9).

How did today's devotion connect with your heart? How were you challenged personally? Let's talk about it on my Facebook page! Meet me at www.Facebook.com/GwenSmithMusic.

More from the Girlfriends
One of the ways we can learn to faith-breathe is to fix our hearts and minds Godward throughout each day. Music can help us do that. Gwen's new CD, Uncluttered is purposed to sweep you away from life-noise and to focus your heart and mind on the one thing that matters: your relationship with Jesus Christ. Uncluttered is now available on iTunes, Amazon or on Gwen's website: www.GwenSmith.net.

Today's devotion is an excerpt from Girlfriends in God's new 12-week devotion book, Trusting God. This is the perfect book for individual study or to work through with a group of friends. With impactful devotions, study questions, journal pages, free on-line video intros, and an index of trust-building Scriptures... this book has everything! Join the faith adventure here:www.GirlfriendsinGod.com/TrustingGod.

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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Great Crowds Follow Jesus

Matthew 4:23-25

If the preaching of the Gospel was central to the ministry of Jesus, we dare not suffer under the delusion that we are being faithful to His example if we fail to preach the Gospel today. As Christians, we are called to preach the good news, if not as part of a formal call to ministry then as a part of our everyday interactions with friends and family. It is also important to encourage those pastors who labor in the faithful exposition of God's Word.

For further study:

Proverbs 8

The Bible in a year:

Leviticus 7-9

For the weekend:

Matthew 26:1-35

Coram Deo from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.

Subscribe to Tabletalk magazine and receive daily Bible studies & in depth articles from world class scholars for only $23 per per year! That's only $1.92 per month. And you can try it out for three months absolutely free! Bringing the best in biblical scholarship together with down-to-earth writing, Tabletalk helps you understand the Bible and apply it to daily living.

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Wendy Blight

February 3, 2012

I Choose NOT to be Offended
Wendy Blight

"A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense." Proverbs 19:11 (NIV)

What did she mean by that? Why does she always hurt my feelings? Why does she treat me that way?

I didn't realize these words played through my head on a continual basis until my daughter pointed it out. She ended many of our conversations with, "Why do you get your feelings hurt so easily?" Or, "Mom, you're so sensitive."

At first, her words angered me. But over time, I began tohear what she was saying. For years, I allowed people's words to hurt my feelings. In turn, I harbored anger for those words. The anger took root. Satan fed the words to me over and over again. I re-played them in my mind. Each time the anger grew deeper roots.

Listening to a sermon in church, I would think, "I wish ______ was here. They really need to hear this!" Of course, the sermon by-passed my heart all together. The words of others consumed my thoughts and focus, and stole my time.

About this time, God called me to teach a Bible study on the book of Proverbs. I spent days and weeks absorbed in this amazing book of wisdom. One afternoon, this verse leapt off the page and into my heart, "A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense" (Proverbs 18:11).

I had a choice. Up until now, I heard people's words, jumped to a conclusion, and chose to be offended. But through His Word, God spoke and said, "Wendy, you can choose to look past their words and not receive them with an offended heart."

I discovered that I needed to LISTEN objectively and ask: What is driving their words? Do they have a valid point? Do they have a deep hurt? Do they need something I am not giving? Are they generally just plain mean and negative?

The responsibility was on me to stop the words from entering my heart and taking root. I discovered in this process that I WANTED the approval of others. Yet, God's Word clearly says that He is the only One whose approval I need. When I accepted this, my heart changed.

Yes, it took time, and I am a work in progress. But, now when someone speaks a hurtful word, I check it at the door of my heart. I hear the words, I recognize my issue, and I speak Truth over my heart. I literally say, "It is to my glory to not receive this as an offense."

It is a win-win for everyone because I do not ruin the rest of the day by pouting and making it all about me or soaking in self-pity. And, each time, I sense God is pleased as I honor Him by choosing NOT to be offended.

Heavenly Father, thank You that I am created in Your image. Thank You I find my identity in You. Thank You that it is only Your Word and Your opinion that matter. Lord, give me Your ears to hear. Help me not to be easily offended and easily angered. Help me lay down any offenses to which I am currently holding. Let me live in the freedom of Your love and forgiveness. Help me live not in my flesh, but supernaturally in the fullness and freshness of Your Spirit. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner: The Transforming Power of God's Story by Wendy Blight

All Things Wise and Wonderful (E-book) by Wendy Blight

Stop by Wendy's site Living Truth for a taste of one of her online Bible studies. They are currently in the middle of "Living a Cross-Centered Life: A Study of the Book of Hebrews."

Reflect and Respond:
Read 1 John 1:8-10 and meditate and reflect on its meaning in relation to this devotion.

Over the next week, I'll listen to my conversations and note if I am easily offended.

Has God placed people in my life to point out a spiritual truth? Today, I invite God to help me be free from being easily offended and angered by the words of others.

Power Verses:
Ephesians 4:26-27, "In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold." (NIV 1984)

Ephesians 4:32, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (NIV 1984)

© 2012 by Wendy Blight. All rights reserved.

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

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Peter Abelard: Scholar with Sex Appeal

Quote: "Our kisses far outnumbered our reasoned words."

Peter Abelard (1079 – 1142) was a freethinker by twelfth-century standards, not bound by the wisdom of archbishops or saints. He challenged philosophers and theologians, including Anselm and his theory of the atonement. Christ's death, he insisted, revealed his infinite love more than anything else. Abelard's views on the atonement are as controversial today as they were in his day.

Abelard combined philosophy and theology and turned Anselm's motto — "I believe in order to understand" — upside-down. In his volume Sic et Non (Yes and No), he set forth his guiding principle: "The first key to wisdom is the constant and frequent questioning. . . . For by doubting we are led to question, and by questioning we arrive at the truth."

From his youth, Abelard had been an inquisitive student. He debated the best teachers of the day, turning academic rivalry into a sport. From rhetoric and debate Abelard moved on to theology. Soon he was challenging and besting his theology professor, and his reputation soared even higher. The peak of his teaching career came in his late thirties, at the Cathedral School of Notre Dame. His future looked to be brilliant — but for Heloise.

Canon Fulbert, uncle and guardian of Heloise, was Abelard's superior at Notre Dame. He may have set aside his own better judgment when placing the sparkling teenager under the tutorship of the handsome teacher. Abelard conceded that he had more than dialectical discourses in mind. "I . . . decided she was the one to bring to my bed, confident that I should have an easy success."

Taking advantage of her eagerness to learn, he laid his snare. Heloise resisted, but Abelard was not easily dissuaded. "Under the pretext of study we spent our hours in the happiness of love," Abelard later confided. Heloise soon discovered she was pregnant. Fulbert was outraged not only by her pregnancy but also by Abelard's dismissive response of putting Heloise in a convent while he carried on with his successful academic career. Though both sides tried to resolve the situation, it eventually exploded, ending in Abelard's castration at the hands of Fulbert and his friends.

Abelard recovered from his terrible wounds, later reasoning that what happened was God's means of setting him aside as a monk at the Abbey of Saint Denis. For Heloise, God's mercy was not nearly so evident. Although she became a highly acclaimed abbess in her own convent, the Paraclete, she couldn't deny her love for Abelard and never fully came to terms with their separation.

Frustrated with his monastery's worldliness, Abelard tried to live as a hermit, but, constantly interrupted by eager students, he continued to teach, using philosophy as bait to interest students in theology — "true philosophy." His popularity exacerbated the fury of his enemies, who charged him with heresy and incarcerated him at a monastery in Soissons.

On release he retreated to a remote area, but again he was inundated with students. Fearing persecution from church authorities, he fled to another monastery. But he couldn't escape the clutches of critics — the most vitriolic being Bernard of Clairvaux, a leading reformer of Cistercian monasticism. Bernard was angered by Abelard's explanation of Christ's atonement and persuaded the pope to summon Abelard to appear at the Council of Sens in 1141, where his teachings were condemned. On his way to Rome to petition the pope, he was taken ill and died soon afterward. His body was interred on the grounds of the Paraclete abbey, where the grave was tenderly watched over by the abbess, Heloise. Some two decades later she was buried beside him.

The grave was not the end of Abelard, however. Although his writings had been condemned by the church, there was no going back on his "liberal" methodology. He, more than anyone else, introduced questioning and doubting of the sources — even the church fathers, who had been presumed authoritative.

Abelard's nemesis, Bernard of Clairvaux, desperately sought to hold the conservative line, ridiculing this new method as stultilogia (stupidology) but the current was too strong. Abelard's ideas would win the day in academia, while Bernard would go on to become a saint.


If you enjoyed the above article, please take a minute to read about the book that it was adapted from:

ParadeofFaith-Bookcover

Parade of Faith: A Biographical History of the Christian Church

by Ruth A. Tucker
Buy the book!
The story of Christianity centers on people whose lives have been transformed by the resurrected Lord. Tucker puts this front and center in a lively overview peppered with sidebars; historical "what if?" questions; sections on everyday life; drawings and illustrations; bibliographies for further reading.

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