Zephaniah 3:2

“She obeyed not the voice; she received not correction; she trusted not in the LORD; she drew not near to her God.”

Verse 1 of Zephaniah 3 reveals that this was said about Jerusalem. Like many of the prophets, Zephaniah was sent by the LORD to warn Israel against their idolatry, appealing to them to turn back to Him. While giving these warnings, God often pointed out the futility of turning away from Him. And in so doing, He revealed a heart for His people. He was not pointing these things out to harass them, but to get them to see that their best option really was to look to Him instead of their idols. Here were the things that showed the error of their ways.

First, they obeyed not the voice. In Exodus 19 and 20 the Lord told about Israel coming before Him at Mount Sinai. In chapter 20 is given what we know as the Ten Commandments. The people heard the voice of the LORD pronouncing His commandments. In chapter 19, they came near to Mount Sinai in preparation for meeting God. Verses 7 and 8 tell us, “And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him. And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.” The first commandment recorded in Exodus 20 was, “you shall have no other gods before thee.” They heard the voice of the LORD announce this commandment. But before long they were worshipping the golden calf. As Zephaniah put it, they obeyed not the voice.

Next, they received not correction. As noted, most of the prophets were sent to warn the people away from their idolatry. The LORD spoke in Amos 4:6,8,10, and 11 of the numerous trials He had brought their way, and in each of those verses He ended with, “… yet have ye not returned unto me.” Quoting from Proverbs 3:11, Hebrews 12:5-7 and 9 brings before us a principle, “And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? …Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?” God’s people should realize that their lives are always not in keeping with God’s ways. He desires to have His people live lives that please Him, which is the best possible outcome for them. His desire is that they turn to Him. So there are times when He sends trials into their lives to provide correction. According to Zephaniah, they didn’t accept His correction.

Then Zephaniah said that they trusted not in the LORD. Many examples could be mentioned. One of the first ones was after the LORD had defeated Egypt at the Red Sea. God lead them to a place called Marah where there was no water. They learned there that He would supply their needs. He provided water out of a rock for all of them to drink, as well as their animals. Then, in Exodus 16:1-3 we read, “And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness: and the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” After what they had learned about water at Marah, they didn’t trust the LORD with their supply of food. In spite of His care for them in supplying water, and His provision of a pillar of a cloud and fire to direct them in the way they should go, they didn’t trust Him for their food.

Finally, “…she drew not near to her God.” As noted before in the book of Amos, the LORD appealed to Israel to turn to Him. God’s desire is for His people. He wants them to look to Him and lean on Him in the events of life. The books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zephaniah as well as other prophets all include appeals to Israel to turn to Him, and thus away from their idolatry. In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” He also said in Matthew 6:31-33, “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? …for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” These appeals from Jesus to turn to God are in keeping with His heart for His people.

As believers in Jesus Christ, do we obey His voice? Do we accept His correction? Do we trust Him? Do we draw near to our God? This is what He desires.

Out on the mountain, sad and forsaken,
Lost in its mazes, no light canst thou see;
Yet in His mercy, full of compassion,
Lo! the Good Shepherd is calling to thee.

Refrain

Calling to thee, calling to thee;
Jesus is calling, Come unto Me;
Calling to thee, calling to thee,
Hear the Good Shepherd calling to thee.

Far on the mountain, why wilt thou wander?
Deeper in darkness thy pathway will be;
Turn from thy roaming, fly from its dangers,
While the Good Shepherd is calling to thee.

Refrain

Flee from thy bondage, Jesus will help thee,
Only believe Him, and thou shalt be free;
Wonderful mercy, boundless compassion,
Still the Good Shepherd is calling to thee.

Refrain (Fanny Crosby)

Hosea 13:9

“O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help.”

Like most of the prophets, Hosea’s job was to warn Israel against their idolatry. Many verses in Hosea reveal God’s heart about it. For example, consider these verses from Hosea 13:2,3, “And now they sin more and more, and have made them molten images of their silver, and idols according to their own understanding, all of it the work of the craftsmen: they say of them, Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves. Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud, and as the early dew that passeth away, as the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the floor, and as the smoke out of the chimney.” Fog, the dew, chaff before a tornado, and smoke are nothing. The fog soon vanishes, the dew evaporates, the chaff can never be found, and smoke is blown away. This was the result they endured for ignoring God.

From the time that Israel left Egypt, God warned them about idolatry. He told them to get rid of the idols of Egypt, which they had brought with them. This is told in Ezekiel 20: 6-8, “…in the day that I lifted up mine hand unto them, to bring them forth of the land of Egypt into a land that I had espied for them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands: then said I unto them, Cast ye away every man the abominations of his eyes, and defile not yourselves with the idols of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.  But they rebelled against me, and would not hearken unto me: they did not every man cast away the abominations of their eyes, neither did they forsake the idols of Egypt…” They did not obey, and Ezekiel, too, was sent to warn them.

Before God, Israel’s situation was dire. And, as Hosea said, they had destroyed themselves: it was of their own making. In spite of God’s frequent warnings, Israel continued rejecting Him. Hebrews 10:31 states, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.” This is where Israel stood before Him. They had ruined themselves. They knew what God expected of them and they turned their back on His ways. When He gave them the 10 commandments, as recorded in Exodus 20, They said, “All that the LORD has said will we do.” But they did not keep that promise. And by the time of Hosea, even long before that, they had destroyed themselves.

To this very day, the Ten Commandments are the standard of behavior which was given by God Himself. While they are actually so much more than that, we know that this is how we ought to behave ourselves. Yet many refuse to obey God’s commands, or acknowledge Him. Jesus said that the greatest commandment is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all they heart and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” (Matthew 22:37) But this command is disobeyed, along with all the others. And what is the result? Mankind is destroying itself. The daily news reveals that this is true. Murder, drug addiction, alcoholism, kidnapping, suicide, and multiple other problems, which are beyond mankind’s ability to repair, are evidence of this fact.

But, continuing in the verse above, God made an appeal to Israel concerning their situation. In the last half of the verse He said, “but in me is thine help.” How astounding! God was the One they had offended. His commandments were what they had broken. He was the one that was replaced when they took up their idolatry. Imagine, changing the living God for a chunk of metal or wood or stone. But His appeal was that they turn to Him: to look to Him for help.

In Amos 4:6-11, the LORD listed a number of trials that He had brought upon Israel. But He ended verses 6, 8, 9, 10, and 11 with, “…yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.” This shows His purpose in sending the trials. His intent was to get them to look to Him. He was seeking to have them turn to Him and away from their idolatry.

This is God’s character. He stands ready to help His people. All He wants is for them to look to Him. The same appeal that ends Hosea 13:9 holds to this day. God is appealing to mankind in the same way He did to Israel. “but in me is thine help.” 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Even to this day He wants people to turn to Him and His ways. And, since He made us, He does know what is best for us.

But, 2 Peter 3:10 brings a warning: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” God has a timetable and a plan for this world. By His plan, events will unfold and this world will come to an end. He will make a new heavens and a new earth. He won’t put off Hs plans forever. Opportunity to turn to Him is limited.

Echoing Hosea 13:9, Jesus said, as recorded in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” God is gracious and kind and good. He yearns for us all to turn to Him no matter what we have done, just as He did in the days of Hosea.

Just as I am—without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee—
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am—and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot—
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am—though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without—
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am—poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need in Thee to find—
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am—Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe—
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am—Thy love unknown
Hath broken every barrier down;
Now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone—
O Lamb of God, I come, I come. (Charlotte Elliott)

James 3:8-11

“But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?”

The teaching in James 3:1-12 concludes with these four verses. In this passage James discusses the tongue. Here he calls it an unruly evil full of deadly poison. With the same tongue we bless God and curse men who are made in God’s likeness. This shouldn’t be so.

Our Lord Jesus Christ referred to the tongue in Matthew 15:17–20 where He spoke about what defiles a person. The apostles had been accused by the Pharisees of not following the law because they had not washed their hands before they ate. To the Pharisees, this would make them unclean. The Lord Jesus Christ rebuked the accusers pointing out that it is what comes out of a man that defiles him, not what goes in. Later, while explaining it to His disciples, he told them, “Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.”

The problem with our tongue is our heart. According to Jesus’ words, what is in our heart will spill out of our tongue. We don’t want to be known as guilty of any of those things that Jesus listed. But Jesus said it is what fills our hearts. We have a sin nature that is untamed before God and refuses to have anything to do with Him or His ways. So, the tongue is untamable.

Jesus’ comments regarding this are nothing new. In Genesis 6:5 we read, “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” This was said before the flood. After the flood, God said, in Genesis 8:21, “…for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth…” This is what our hearts look like to God.

In Exodus 15:22-24 we read, “So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water. And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?”

God had mightily led the Israelites out of Egypt. He defeated the army of Egypt in the Red Sea. He led them in their journey day and night by a pillar of fire and a pillar of cloud. In leading them He brought them to the place called Marah. And what did they do? They complained about the lack of water. God provided them so much and in so many ways that they should have realized that He was also well able to provide them drinkable water. But their tongues wagged and complained about God and His care for them.

This shows what was in their hearts. It wasn’t God’s provision that was at the top of their mind. It was their need of water. Yet Jesus revealed (it should be obvious) that God knows what we need (Matthew 6:8). He made us, and He is good. He certainly didn’t lead Israel into the desert to let them all die. His goal was to teach them to look to and trust in Him.

Our tongue often gets us into trouble. The evidence James gives is how we treat our fellow man with our tongue. So long as they are agreeable to us, we speak nicely. But if they cross us, the things we think to say are embarrassing when we reconsider them. Sometimes we say what we think, and afterwards we wish we had not. By then the damage is done, and, perhaps, a sincere apology will begin to make things right. Sometimes, there is no repairing the damage.

To fix our tongue, our heart needs to be fixed. Romans 10:9,10 tells us, “…that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” And 2 Corinthians 4:6 says, “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

When God makes a change in our lives, He starts with the heart. When we accept His great gift of salvation through Jesus, our heart is changed, and our tongues will reveal that change. It is a life-long process, but through the change in our heart, God tames the tongue.

Savior, lead me, lest I stray,
Gently lead me all the way;
I am safe when by Thy side,
I would in Thy love abide.

Refrain

Lead me, lead me, Savior, lead me lest I stray;
Gently down the stream of time,
Lead me, Savior, all the way.

Thou the refuge of my soul
When life’s stormy billows roll;
I am safe when Thou art nigh,
All my hopes on Thee rely.

Refrain

Savior, lead me, then at last,
When the storm of life is past,
To the land of endless day,
Where all tears are wiped away.

Refrain (Frank M. Davis)

Ezekiel 33:11

“Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”

This is a view of God’s heart. But it is not how most people think about God. He is viewed as the opposite, as One Who supposedly delights in judgment, awaiting each and every opportunity to hand it out. He is seen as One Who watches each person carefully, looking for the slightest slip. And then applies judgment. But He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.

Since every sin is against God, every disobedience of His commandments is an afront to Him. He made us and He has given us His commands to follow. He surely knows what is best for us. The idea that God judges sin is not mistaken. He surely will. He promises. Scripture tells us that the wages of sin is death. But that is not what He desires; He doesn’t take pleasure in that.

We might view a movie, for example, in which is an unsavory character. As time passes through the movie, we may even become anxious to see this character get what is coming to him or her. And when it comes, we have a sense of relief. But this verse shows us how the LORD views it. No matter how vile a man or woman may be, in this verse stands a clear statement: God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.

But, here also is stated what does please God. Many scriptures speak of things that please God. Jesus said, “I do always the things that please Him.” (John 8:29) On at least two occasions, God the Father said, “This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17, 17:5) And, Hebrews 11:6 tells us, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him.” The verse above tells us that God is pleased when the wicked turn from their way. And He promises that having turned, they would live.

God went beyond what we can imagine to reconcile mankind to Himself. Romans 5:8-10 tells is, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” In 2 Peter 3:9 we read, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” The death of Jesus is how and why the wicked can turn and live. And, He rose again! And God is pleased!

In Ezekiel 33:11, God goes on to warn Israel about their idolatry. At the time Ezekiel wrote, Jerusalem was still standing. Years later, Jeremiah wrote about God’s judgment on Jerusalem by siege by the Chaldeans. In the above verse, God warns Israel, “Why will ye die?” It was not what He wanted, but His justice required that judgment should fall for their idolatry, ignoring Him. Their death would not be pleasing to God. What He wanted was for them to turn from their wicked ways, and live. This is the reason for the warning He gave them. “Why will you die?” And the promise He gave was that they would live if they would turn.

“Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live…” Does our heart beat like this? How does the death of the wicked affect us? God desires that they turn from their wickedness, and live, through Jesus Christ.

Sinner, hear the Savior’s call,
He now is passing by;
He has seen thy grievous thrall,
And heard thy mournful cry.
He has pardons to impart,
Grace to save thee from thy fears;
See the love that fills His heart,
And wipe away thy tears.

Why art thou afraid to come
And tell Him all thy case?
He will not pronounce thy doom,
Nor frown thee from His face:
Wilt thou fear Emmanuel?
Wilt thou dread the Lamb of God,
Who, to save thy soul from hell,
Has shed His precious blood?

Think, how on the cross He hung
Pierced with a thousand wounds!
Hark, from each as with a tongue
The voice of pardon sounds!
See, from all His bursting veins,
Blood, of wondrous virtue, flow!
Shed to wash away thy stains,
And ransom thee from woe.

Though His majesty be great,
His mercy is no less;
Though He thy transgressions hate,
He feels for thy distress:
By Himself the Lord has sworn,
He delights not in thy death;
But invites thee to return,
That thou mayst live by faith.

Raise thy downcast eyes, and see
What throngs His throne surround!
These, though sinners once like thee,
Have full salvation found:
Yield not then to unbelief!
While He says, There yet is room;
Though of sinners thou art chief,
Since Jesus calls thee, come. (John Newton)

Genesis 21:1

“And the LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as he had spoken.”

As recorded in Genesis 12, when Abram was about 75 years old, and Sarai 65, Abram was told by God to leave his kindred and go to a land that He would show to him. At God’s direction they went to a place that they did not know, which was many hundreds of miles from where they started.

As time went on, God visited Abram and Sarai two more times. On the second visit, God told Abram that He would give to Abram’s descendants the land on which he stood, to be theirs for all time. God made this promise to Abram with an oath. In the way He did it, God took full responsibility for keeping His promise. Though childless, Abram believed God, and as the scripture says, it was counted to Abram for righteousness. Upon that visit, God changed the names of Abram and Sarai to Abraham and Sarah.

God’s last visit to them was when God promised that Sarah would have a son. Abraham was about 99 years old, and Sarah about 90, 25 years after His first visit. God had promised Abraham that the land would be inherited by his children, and their descendants. But Abraham and Sarah had no children. When God met Abraham this time, He promised him that Sarah would have a son. Needless to say, both Abraham and Sarah could hardly believe this news. It is recorded that Sarah laughed. How could something like this happen?  But, in Genesis 18:14, God asked, “Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.” The verse above states that God did what He had said He would do.

The book of Jeremiah relates the destruction of the city of Jerusalem by a siege by the Babylonians. King Nebuchadnezzar surrounded the city for three years, literally starving them out. While this was happening, God directed Jeremiah to purchase a piece of land from his uncle’s son. The transaction was legally processed, and Jeremiah was told by the Lord to take action to preserve the documentation. Since Jeremiah was living in the city at the time of the siege, he knew what was going on. He questioned the LORD concerning the purchase. In Jeremiah 32:27, the LORD said, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?” God promised that in 70 years they would be back in the land, and land purchases would be important.

One day, Mary was visited by an angel. From the angel she learned about God’s plan to send a Savior to the world. She learned that she would be the mother of that special Child. She was surprised at this news, asking how could it possibly be? The angel’s answer included Mary’s cousin, Elisabeth. In Luke 1:36, 37, the angel said, “And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible.”

The sign read, “Faith is not believing that God can, but that God will.” This calls for an improper view if God. In fact, faith is believing that God can, that He is able. Whether or not God will is entirely up to Him. Our faith never forces His hand. Each of the above situations were cases of God making promises, and acting to bring them to pass. Abraham and Sarah believed that God could do what He had said. They didn’t see the 25 year wait. God kept His promise.

Clearly, when God’s says He is going to do something, it comes to pass. The time it might take, as we count it, is irrelevant. Each case above proves this. They had a son, but Abram and Sarah never saw their descendants. But He had promised. Jeremiah ended up staying in the land when Nebuchadnezzar took most of the city away. In Daniel’s time, the people returned to the city. Elisabeth’s barrenness was no match for God’s might, and neither was Mary’s virginity. All of these learned that with God, nothing is impossible.

I know not why God’s wondrous grace
To me He hath made known,
Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love
Redeemed me for His own.

Refrain

But I know whom I have believèd,
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.

I know not how this saving faith
To me He did impart,
Nor how believing in His Word
Wrought peace within my heart.

Refrain

I know not how the Spirit moves,
Convincing us of sin,
Revealing Jesus through the Word,
Creating faith in Him.

Refrain

I know not what of good or ill
May be reserved for me,
Of weary ways or golden days,
Before His face I see.

Refrain

I know not when my Lord may come,
At night or noonday fair,
Nor if I walk the vale with Him,
Or meet Him in the air.

Refrain (Daniel W. Whittle)

Amos 8:11, 12

“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: and they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.”

Famine is a lack of necessary things. When we think of famine, we usually think of a lack of food or drink, as this verse suggests. But God here promises a famine of His Word. What a loss that would be, far more significant than the loss of food or drink.

In Deuteronomy 8:1-3, Moses told the Israelites, “All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers. And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.”

The LORD’s intention was to teach the Israelites that they were entirely dependent on Him. His commandments were their life. As Moses told Israel, all of mankind lives not only by bread, but by the Word of God. As Israel wandered in the desert, God provided them with the bread that they ate and the water they drank, by which they lived physically. He guided them in the way they travelled. And, He gave them His law, by which they would live spiritually, if they were obedient to it.

In Matthew 6:25-33 Jesus said, “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

As God’s children we should be entirely dependent upon Him and His provision, just like Israel was. And, praise His name, He knows what we need, just as He knew what the Israelites needed. He made us, after all. But from God’s perspective, our biggest need is to firstly seek Him and His ways. He will add to us the things that we need.

Notice what the LORD further said in Amos. They would wander over the whole country trying to find God’s word, and they would not find it. They would seek His Word, to no avail. The context reveals that this judgment would be because Israel had taken up with idolatry, turning their back on the One True God. A judgment like above would be awful indeed. Imagine desiring, wanting, aching to hear from God, and hearing nothing. Imagine searching far and wide to hear from Him, and He has sent a famine of hearing Him. What recourse could there possibly be?

Praise the LORD that we have His written Word. His Word is that by which we must and can live. He knows our physical needs, and meets them. He also knows our spiritual needs, and He tells us to listen to His Word. As Job put it in Job 23:8-10, “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: on the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him:…” Were God to hide Himself, we would be done. His Word is that important. Job goes on to say, “…but he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake. (John Rippon)

Luke 5:8

“When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

Sooner or later we come to a point where we see how weak or small we are. The evidences are myriad and can range from breathtaking natural vistas, such as the Grand Canyon in the US, the Outback of Australia, or the Alps of Europe to an immense invention of man, such as the Empire State Building, the Eifel Tower, or the Petronas Twin Towers.

As recorded by Luke, Peter was one day confronted with the awesome power of God. The touch of the LORD came to the place in Peter’s life where he felt he was strongest: his profession of fishing. He and his fellow fishermen, including James and John, had just spent the night working. The night proved to be fruitless. In the morning, they put away their tools and cleaned the nets. Perhaps the next night would be better.

Jesus selected Peter’s boat as the place from which He taught the crowd about the things of God. After teaching, He told Peter to let down his nets for a draught. Peter replied, perhaps reluctantly, that he would let down a net. Regardless of his half-hearted obedience, the LORD Jesus provided a catch of fish that was so large that the net broke, and two ships were filled almost to sinking.

This is where the above verse comes in. When he saw the size of the catch, Peter was astonished. And his response was to fall down at Jesus’ knees. And, he requested that Jesus depart from him. The reason for his reaction and request was Peter realized that he was a sinful man, and not worthy to be in the presence of Jesus. At that moment Peter realized how small, weak and sinful he was.

Isaiah, too, had an encounter with God. In Isaiah 6:1-5 we read, “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” His reaction was similar to Peter’s. He realized his sinfulness, and declared himself to be undone.

And John saw the LORD, as recorded in Revelation 1:12-17. “And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not…” John fell at His feet as dead. He, too, realized his smallness, weakness, and sinfulness before Almighty God. And, Jesus told him not to fear!

On these occasions John, Isaiah, and Peter were overwhelmed by the vision of God they were given. Thankfully for Peter, Jesus didn’t depart. He rather told Peter, “… Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.” (Luke 5:10). The rest of the New Testament speaks often of Peter and what he did for the Lord. He even wrote two of the books in the New Testament. In fact, in each case the Lord gave them something to do for Him. Isaiah brought a message to Israel, recorded in the book with his name. And John reported the details of the end of the age.

When we are confronted with our smallness, weakness, and sinfulness the LORD tells us to not fear. And in it we should look to Him for what He would have us to do for Him. Like Isaiah said after his vision, “Here am I; send me.”

Jesus! what a Friend for sinners!
Jesus! Lover of my soul;
Friends may fail me, foes assail me,
He, my Savior, makes me whole.

Refrain

Hallelujah! what a Savior!
Hallelujah! what a friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving,
He is with me to the end.

Jesus! what a strength in weakness!
Let me hide myself in Him.
Tempted, tried, and sometimes failing,
He, my strength, my victory wins.

Refrain

Jesus! what a help in sorrow!
While the billows over me roll,
Even when my heart is breaking,
He, my comfort, helps my soul.

Refrain

Jesus! what a guide and keeper!
While the tempest still is high,
Storms about me, night overtakes me,
He, my pilot, hears my cry.

Refrain

Jesus! I do now receive Him,
More than all in Him I find.
He hath granted me forgiveness,
I am His, and He is mine.

Refrain (J. Wilbur Chapman)

Song of Solomon 5:16

“His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.”

Song of Solomon is one of the more mysterious books in the Bible. Some wonder why it is even in the Bible. But God in His wisdom has included it, so there is surely much that can be learned from it. One theme is married love. Parts of the book relate conversation between the husband and wife, while other parts are things they said about each other. She called him her beloved. Every time the word “beloved” is used in this book, the woman is speaking of her husband.

The Bible teaches that the church is the bride of Christ. In his teaching about marriage in Ephesians 5:32, Paul said, “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” The marriage relationship is a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church. So, the verse above provides things that the church, the bride, should say about her husband, who is Christ.

First, she said that his mouth is most sweet. That is to say, the things that come out of His mouth are sweet. For His bride, the Husband has nothing but kind and sweet words. He is not against her in what He says, but for her. And, His mouth is full of praise for His bride. This is how the Lord Jesus Christ speaks about His bride. As the bride perceived that her husband’s mouth is sweet, so the church can say the same about Jesus. He has paid the price of His life to win her. His love for her is unending. Not only are His words sweet towards her, they are sweet, or good, for her. Quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3, Jesus said in Luke 4:4, “…It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” His mouth is sweet and kind, and what He says is good for us. It is life to us.

The bride said that her Husband is altogether lovely. It could also be translated that she saw him as all delights. What a wonderful view she had of her husband. How much she adored him and loved him. Song of Solomon reveals her devotion to him, even searching for him in the city in which they lived. So it should be with the church for her Husband. His unparalleled sacrifice for the church puts Him at the pinnacle of loveliness. His love and care in that one event is glorious. He also promises to never leave us nor forsake us. The great occupation of the church ought to be in seeking out her Husband, desiring to be with Him at all times. He never leaves us, but our hearts often stray to other attractions. He is the only thing that really is altogether lovely.

In the verse above, the bride said that her beloved is her friend. In John 15:14, 15 Jesus said, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” As Proverbs 18:24 says, “…there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” Again, Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loveth at all times…” And, Jesus said in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” As the song goes, Jesus is the friend of sinners. And what greater friend could anyone have?

Consider what it is Jesus has done for His people. Philippians 2:6-11 tells us, “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” God has and will again exalt the Lord Jesus Christ, above all.

Isn’t the LORD Jesus Christ altogether lovely? Is His mouth sweet to us? Are we His friend?

Altogether lovely,
He is altogether lovely,
And the fairest of ten thousand,
This wonderful Friend divine;
He gave Himself to save me,
Now He lives in heav’n to keep me,
He is altogether lovely,
Is this wonderful Savior of mine. (Wendell P. Loveless)

Isaiah 8:11-13

“For the LORD spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying, Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.”

A few verses before this the LORD had promised that He would send the king of Assyria against Judah. Much had happened politically. The nation of Israel had been taken away by the Assyrians or would soon be. The people in Judah saw what was going on.

Now, the LORD spoke directly to Isaiah. God commanded him to not see things the way the people saw them. Herd mentality had overtaken the people in Judah, and they concluded, “a confederacy.” This word could be translated alliance, or conspiracy. The people in Judah saw everything going against them. The nations around them had fallen. Nations came from far away and carried away nations. Perhaps they had a sense that they were next.

The LORD told Isaiah that He was going to bring their enemies to Jerusalem. But God had a different perspective. Isaiah was told to not follow the people: he was not to say, “a confederacy”, as they did. He was told not to fear like the people feared. Isaiah was to see God in the events of life, no matter the political clouds. Verse 13 of this passage was the focus that Isaiah was to have: “Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.”

To sanctify the LORD is to hold Him up, to hallow Him in our thinking, to purify Him in our heart. That is, to think nothing but the best of Him. When fearful events come upon us, we think to blame God, if not out loud, at least in our hearts. We rightly understand Him to be Almighty, and we also rightly understand that all matters are under His control. With these two proper concepts of God in mind, we jump to the wrong conclusion that difficulties should not happen to us. When they do, we wonder if either we have done something terribly wrong, or if God missed something. This is when and where sanctifying Him should happen.

An equally important aspect of God’s character is that He is good. No matter our situation, if we must remind ourselves every second of God’s goodness, we must do it. In Nahum 1:7 we read, “The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble: and He knoweth them that trust in Him.” Jesus told the rich young ruler, “Why callest thou me good? None is good, save one, that is, God.” (Luke 18:19). After Job endured great losses, losing all of his wealth and children in one day, in Job 1:20-22 we read, “Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, and said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” Job sanctified the LORD in his heart. Though he was in great sorrow, he did not blame God for his losses. It would have been foolish to do so.

Isaiah was told by God that he should “…let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread.” In the turmoil of his time, Isaiah was told by God to hold to Him. He was to trust God no matter what were the events, no matter what his eyes could see, no matter what the people were saying. God was in control, and He is Almighty.

The fear of God is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7) and the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). In Psalm 46:1-3 the author states, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.” In other words, the author would trust God, he would not fear, though the world around him collapsed. “…let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread.”

Everyone that belongs to the LORD must sanctify the LORD. In Matthew 6:34, Jesus said, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

The world is filled with fear over health and divisions. But we are not to think like the world, neither are we to talk like them. Believers on the LORD Jesus Christ are to let God be their fear, and let Him be our dread. When Jerusalem fell, Jeremiah said, in Lamentations 3:57, “Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon thee: thou saidst, Fear not.”

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake. (John Rippon)

Matthew 6:31, 32

“Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.”

In this portion, part of what is known as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was teaching His disciples, and those that overheard. Consider His words; “take no thought” means “don’t be anxious”. Jesus told them that there are things about which we should not be anxious. He told them to not worry about food, drink, or clothing; things about which we worry most! It seems unreasonable to not be anxious about them because we are in need of them. Without any one of these we would not survive.

But the One that was talking was the One Who created mankind. He knows what we need. He made us that way. Moses, Elijah, and Jesus Himself all went for 40 days without food or water. The Israelites wandered 40 years in the desert, and their clothes did not wear out. And they received water out of a rock at least twice. God is also well able to provide.

Just prior to saying this, Jesus told them, “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” (Matthew 6:26-30).

This puts a further perspective on the matter. Lesser things such as fowls and lilies receive blessing, feeding, and clothing from God. If He provides for them, how could we conclude that He doesn’t care about us? He feeds the birds, He clothes the lilies, which last only a day. How much better are we than they?  Shall He not much more clothe us?

The most important concept in the verses above is that our heavenly Father knows that we need all of these things. Again, He made us, and He made us to need the things we need. Our needs are intended by Him to be an opportunity to learn to trust Him more, even with the littlest things, even with our needs.

Similarly, in Matthew 6:7, 8 we read, “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” The ending thought is the same as above.

But these verses touch on the matter of prayer. Some think that if they pray long enough and hard enough about a matter of concern, then God will answer. The unknown is how much is enough. The heathen think that long, even mindless, praying turns God’s ear. Quantity is the key, they think. In some cultures, wheels are set up that, when they are spinning, are supposedly sending prayers heavenward on behalf of the person that has started them spinning. All vain repetition. God promises us that He hears our praying. The often-asked question, “Does God answer prayer?” can be answered with a resounding, “Yes!”

Often, that question is asked out of disappointment over what seems to be a lack of an answer. A situation hasn’t changed, or a need has not been met. We are not to be like the heathen, who think that our much speaking impresses God. Faith, or trust in Him, is what pleases Him. The answer we await to our praying could be no, or it could be wait, or it could be yes. If we are trusting Him, then we conclude that He knows better. His timing, His will, His purposes are important. No matter the answer, or lack of answer, the bottom line is, He knows what we need before we ask!

Here is how we learn to trust Him. What do we need? Clothes? He knows. Water? He knows. Food? He knows. Money? He knows. Friendship? He knows. Health? He knows. ___________? He knows. We certainly should pray about these things; we should persist in our praying, for scripture tells us to. But it is not our much speaking that makes any difference. Our requests come to a Caring Person Who knows what we need before we ask.

Why should I feel discouraged,
Why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely,
And long for Heav’n and home,
When Jesus is my portion?
My constant friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

Refrain

I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

Let not your heart be troubled,
His tender word I hear,
And resting on His goodness,
I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth,
But one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

Refrain

Whenever I am tempted,
Whenever clouds arise,
When songs give place to sighing,
When hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to Him,
From care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

Refrain (Civilla D. Martin)

Come on Lets Talk