Monday 26 January 2015

"OUR REFUGE AND STRENGTH" Thoughts from today's Bible Readings - Jan 26th

        Today's Psalm 46 fills us with a sense of awe; one cannot avoid concluding it is a prophecy that has its ultimate application to the climax of the era in which we live - an age when God is ignored and is believed by most not to exist. We are living in a time when people are saying, as Peter put it in his final letter in warning about the last days, "all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation." [ch. 3 v.4] – a time when "they deliberately" ignore the records of God's actions in the past, discounting them as fiction,.
            Let us memorise this Psalm as our prayer for this year.  It is the year when, the final '2 blood moons' (after 2 last year), for more than the next 100 years (according to NASA) will occur in succeeding years first at Easter (the Passover), and then during the Feast of Tabernacles.  Remarkably they occurred like this for the first time in about 500 years in 1949/50 as Israel was reborn and repelled all efforts to destroy it!  Then again in 1967/68 when the 6 day war occurred and they again took control of the Holy City.
             A ‘blood moon’ is when the shadow of the earth momentarily blots out the reflected light of the moon and, what is called, a lunar eclipse occurs and the ‘shadow’ of the moon reflects as a dull red.  We ponder the prophecy the LORD gave to Joel,  “The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to bloodbefore the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. “ [ch. 2 v.31]
            Back to our Psalm!  It tells us, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,   though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble ... The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.   The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. " [v.1-3,6,7]
            Those blessed of the LORD  to live in and through that time will be told, " Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. " [v.8]   Then the wonderful news, "He makes wars cease to the end of the earth" [v.9]  This vision concludes by telling us, " 'Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!'  The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress." Imagine how urgently we are going to seek shelter in that fortress as, in some sense “the earth gives way”!  Our LORD and Saviour will truly be, more than ever “our refuge and strength” at that time.
              And the final chapter of the Gospel of Matthew we also read, concludes with the words of our Lord, "behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Let us believe, with all our heart, the word that God has caused to be written and preserved.

Sunday 11 January 2015

PSALM 23 Thoughts from Today's Bible Readings

“THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD”                                                                                                                                                
            What is really so special about Psalms 23?  There are several popular hymns based on its words.  These must not be just words to us.  God’s words need to ‘live’ in our heart – not just go in one ear and out the other, as the saying is, which can happen so easily in today’s non-stop world. Thankfully today is a Sunday and for most there should be more time to pause and to meditate. 
            The Psalms’ words’ encourage peace of mind – and this can be a rare blessing for many today!  “The LORD is my shepherd!”  Have you ever thought that Jesus would have seen his Father as his shepherd and what these words would have meant to him? See John 16 v.32 and ponder Isaiah 60 v.6-9 and how our Lord knew the scriptures, they came alive in his mind!   And in ours?  
            The LORD shepherded David throughout his life, he “put away” his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah even before he asked, because he knew the overall condition of his heart.  However, David’s life went through more turmoil after that; but ponder the kind of Psalms this event caused David to write!  Then reflect on the value of those Psalms to many individuals ever since!   Truly, in God’s foreknowledge “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" [Romans 8 v.28]  Some of these things at first seem bad!  Have you had that experience?
            Good sheep are ever listening for their shepherd’s call.  If their motive is right they will never be in dire need, there will be “still waters” - and when life gets difficult the shepherd will make his presence felt and open the way forward..
            Of course the need for restoration indicates some difficult or even desperate situation when the sheep might, for the moment, cry out, “My God why have you forsaken me?”  We read this in Psalm 22 v.1 which surely indicates David had some moment of desperation himself – before his greater son used those words before giving his climaxing cry, “It is finished” [John 19 v.30]
            “He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his names sake”  [v.3] Notice it is “for his name’s sake”- it is because we bear his name, we belong to him;  that happened when we took on his name in baptism – but it might be that you haven’t done that yet?  When we have done that we can say,  “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for you are with me” [v.4]
            There are few if any who have not experienced “valleys” at some stage – but it is the valleys that help us to appreciate the high hills and the vision they give to us.  Life that is lived on a flat plain provides no vision.
            What are the “rod and staff” that comfort us?  They are symbols, we suggest, of strength and support and the control (when needed) exercised by the shepherd.  How marvellous is the vision of the last verse, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever” 

Wednesday 7 January 2015

"KEEP ME ... HIDE ME ..." Thoughts from Today's Bible Readings - Jan 7th

"KEEP ME ... HIDE ME IN ..."

            How inspiring are the Psalms of David.  We perceive that the more troublesome the circumstances that surround him, the closer he comes to God. In today's Psalm (17) we read his prayer, "Deliver my soul from the wicked by your sword,  from men by your hand, O LORD, from men of the world whose portion is in this life." [v.13,14] He is able to say, at this stage of his life, "You have tried my heart, you have visited me by night, you have tested me, and you will find nothing; I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.   ...  by the word of your lips ...  My steps have held fast to your paths ..." [v.3-5]
            "The word of your lips" is of course, God's word; God’s words gave David the strength to hold fast to godly ways: but do we use his word today as earnestly as David did then?   David wrote, "I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God" [v.6]  David established an intimacy in his relationship with his God.  What an example this is for us - and we have the wondrous further blessing of a mediator and Saviour!
           David next prays, " Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings,  from the wicked ..." [v.8,9]  How urgently may we be making such a prayer as our world grows even more wicked, although it is already really bad in some countries?  Later this month we will read our Lord's anguished prayer for the people of Jerusalem, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!" [Matt 23 v.37]
            May our steps hold fast to God's paths that we may be “willing” as God’s judgements falls on our world, as they fell on Jerusalem long ago. May we, especially at that time, say to our Saviour as David said to God in this Psalm, "Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings, from the wicked who do me violence ..." [v.8,9]
            David then says, " Arise, O LORD!”  - and we read again his word,  “Deliver my soul from the wicked by your sword, from men by your hand, O LORD, from men of the world whose portion is in this life." [v,13,14]  Our "portion" is in the life to come.  The same Hebrew word occurred in the previous Psalm, which the A V translated as "inheritance".  May our Lord "keep" and "hide" us in safety - especially spiritually - until we receive our inheritance.