Deuteronomy 32:4

“He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.”

This was part of what Moses told the people about the Lord. He put before the Israelites Who God is. They had seen His might displayed in so many ways. Joshua and Caleb could tell first-hand what God had done for the Israelites as He freed them from Egypt and brought them to the Promised Land. God had defeated the Egyptian Army at the Red Sea.

Many more of the Israelites could testify about how God maintained their clothing for the 40 years that they wandered in the desert. He supplied food and water throughout the whole trip. He supplied them with bread from heaven that sustained all of them for the whole time. One time He even brought so many quails that the whole crowd of 600,000 was able to eat. At the least, some gathered 10 bushels of quail! Though this was a judgment for their disobedience, God was well able to do such a thing.

He is the Rock. This term is used a number of times in reference to deity. Even idolators referred to their idols as a rock. In 1 Samuel 2:1-3, when Hannah praised the Lord about the birth of Samuel, she said, “…My heart rejoiceth in the LORD, mine horn is exalted in the LORD: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation. There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God. Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.” There is no Rock like our God. The idols of the world are dead. Our God is living.

His work is perfect. His deeds are without blemish, complete, and full. Israel witnessed or had heard the stories about God’s workings on their behalf. He lead them through the desert with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night. They were about to enter the Promised Land, which He said that He would give to them. As noted, even their clothing did not age. While bringing them to the Promised Land, God met all of their needs for food, shelter, and clothing. In Matthew 6:8 Jesus reminds us, “…your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” His work is perfect.

All His ways are judgment or lawful. Isaiah 30:18 tells us, “And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.” In Revelation 15:3,4 we read this worship to the Lord, “Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.” His judgments bring glory to His name. He does only what is lawful.

He is a God of truth. There is something that the Bible says it is impossible for God to do. Hebrews 6:18 says, “That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us…” Other scriptures tell us that He cannot lie, such as Titus 1:2, “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began…” In John 17:17, Jesus told His Father, “Thy Word is truth.” He is a God of truth.

He is without iniquity. In Genesis 18:25, Moses said to the Lord, “That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Consider the last phrase here. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? He surely will. He will do only right. He is without iniquity.

And, He is just and right. Concerning God, Romans 3:26 tells us, “…to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” God is the justifier of them that believe in Jesus, and He is just in doing so, because Jesus endured God’s wrath against our sin. Psalm 71:19 tells us, “Thy righteousness also, O God, is very high, who hast done great things: O God, who is like unto thee!”

This is our God, our Creator. To Him be all glory!

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
His holy will abideth;
I will be still whate’er He doth;
And follow where He guideth;
He is my God; though dark my road,
He holds me that I shall not fall:
Wherefore to Him I leave it all.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
He never will deceive me;
He leads me by the proper path:
I know He will not leave me.
I take, content, what He hath sent;
His hand can turn my griefs away,
And patiently I wait His day.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
His loving thought attends me;
No poison can be in the cup
That my physician sends me.
My God is true; each morn anew
I’ll trust His grace unending,
My life to Him commending.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
He is my friend and Father;
He suffers naught to do me harm,
Though many storms may gather,
Now I may know both joy and woe,
Some day I shall see clearly
That He hath loved me dearly.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
Though now this cup, in drinking,
May bitter seem to my faint heart,
I take it, all unshrinking.
My God is true; each morn anew
Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart,
And pain and sorrow shall depart.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
Here shall my stand be taken;
Though sorrow, need, or death be mine,
Yet I am not forsaken.
My Father’s care is round me there;
He holds me that I shall not fall:
And so to Him I leave it all. (Samuel Rodigast, translated by Catherine Winkworth)

Luke 22:33

“And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.”

The Lord, Peter, and the other disciples were in the comfort of a quiet Passover time. They had enjoyed a meal, and were enjoying each other’s company. All was warm and comfortable. They were amongst friends. Yet there was a dark shadow over the time. Jesus had said that He would not eat of the Passover again with them until it would be fulfilled in the kingdom. He also spoke of His betrayal and death. Yet, He also spoke of the role the disciples would have in His coming kingdom.

Then, Jesus told Peter in Luke 22:31,32, “…Simon, Simon, behold, satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” Luke 22:33, above, is what Peter said to Jesus after He had told him this. Peter’s confidence was strong in the comfortable surroundings. But in verse 34 Jesus told Peter that he would deny Him three times. And, by the end of the chapter, that is exactly what happened.

Night came and one of their number betrayed Jesus in the garden. Jesus was arrested and taken away by a mob. Peter followed to the place where Jesus was interrogated by the leaders, and was among the waiting crowd. They huddled around a fire because of the cold. A young woman looked at Peter, and told those around them that he was one of Jesus’ followers. Peter denied it, and so it went. The confidence of the upper room melted away through of a series of difficult events. Everything that Peter thought was secure seemed to fall apart. It was such that a young woman was able to get Peter to forget all of that, and deny Jesus.

Aren’t we the same way? In the comfort of the church meeting, or among fellow believers, we have great confidence and are greatly encouraged in God and His things. But, when the meeting is over and we head back to our homes and we come in contact with the world, our bravado wanes. Someone may question our thinking if we claim to follow Jesus. The looks and sarcastic words may even cause us to wonder if we are thinking rightly. Our courage fades.

Jesus warned His followers that they would be hated by the world, because the world hated Him. In John 15:18,19 Jesus said, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” They didn’t treat Jesus very well, and neither will they treat us well.

But, notice what Jesus said to Peter. “…I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not…” Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please (God): for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” The most important thing in life is faith, or trust, in God. It is the way to please Him. Without faith it is impossible to please Him. So, consider what Jesus said He had prayed for Peter. His prayer for Peter was that the thing in his life that pleased God would not fail!

Concerning Jesus, Hebrews 7:25 promises, “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Just like Jesus prayed for Peter, He ever lives to make intercession for His people. And what is He praying? Could it be that our faith will not fail? Does He see the trials and traps that lie before us, and pray to His Father that our faith will not fail at those times? In our darkest moments He is praying for us.

Hebrews 13:5 says, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Peter was not abandoned by the Lord when he denied Him. It certainly was a difficult time for him, and he may never have gotten over it. But Jesus said that He would never leave us nor forsake us. As Betsy Ten Boom said, “There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still.” Though all of Peter’s boldness, stated in the above verse, melted with the words of a young woman, Jesus told him, “…when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” Peter’s faith did not fail.

Mindful of our human frailty
Is the God in whom we trust;
He whose years are everlasting,
He remembers we are dust.

Man is like the tender flower,
And his days are like the grass,
Withered where it lately flourished
By the blighting winds that pass.

Changeless is Jehovah’s mercy
Unto those who fear His name,
From eternity abiding
To eternity the same.

All the faithful to His covenant
Shall behold His righteousness;
He will be their strength and refuge
And their children’s children bless. (Isaac B. Woodbury)

Zechariah 8:6

“Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If it be marvellous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvellous in mine eyes? saith the LORD of hosts.”

Zechariah’s prophecy came during the reign of King Darius, as noted in Zechariah 1. Darius was a Persian king, and he reigned during the time when Israel returned to their land, after they were carried away by Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah prophesied that the captivity would last 70 years. Zechariah prophesied at the end of that time. He was the second to last prophet that God had sent, Malachi being the last, and his writings date to around 520 BC.

Zechariah 8 is a wonderful prophecy of the restoration of Israel to their land. From the start of the chapter the LORD of hosts speaks, telling of His coming blessing on them. Zechariah 8:1-5 says, “Again the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury. Thus saith the LORD; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the LORD of hosts the holy mountain. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof.”

Before they went into exile the LORD had told Israel that there would be neither old people nor children in the city, such as Jeremiah 9:21, “For death is come up into our windows, and is entered into our palaces, to cut off the children from without, and the young men from the streets.” Because they had ignored God and His ways, He sent judgment on them. But in Zechariah 8 God promised that He would restore the city, and it would be teeming with old and young.

As noted above, the things that He promised concerning Jerusalem would be marvelous, or wonderful, in the eyes of the remnant of the people. When the things described in Zechariah 8:1-5 come to pass, it will be a day of great rejoicing for the people of Israel. It will be wonderful. Imagine the marvel, the wonder, the joy of the people of Israel when they were restored to Jerusalem.

This verse also gives a view of God’s heart. God’s heart is for His people, even though His justice required that judgment must fall. Notice in Zechariah 8:6 that that promised day will also be wonderful in the eyes of the LORD of hosts! He will rejoice in that day! Because of the LORD Jesus Christ and His sacrifice that reconciles mankind to the Father, God is free to deal mercifully and kindly with His people. After all, that is His nature, as shown in Exodus 34:6,7, “And the LORD passed by before (Moses), and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…”

For the church, one wonderful truth is God’s faithfulness to His people. What He promises He will surely bring to pass. It is impossible for Him to lie. If He failed to keep His promises to Israel, what hope would the church have? But, He will keep His promises to Israel. And, He will keep His promises to His church.

In Zechariah 8:22,23 we read, “Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.” Israel will not only be back in their land, but the nations of the world will come to Jerusalem to worship the LORD! How marvelous, how wonderful, in the eyes of the LORD!

I stand amazed in the presence
Of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how He could love me,
A sinner, condemned, unclean.

Refrain

O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
Is my Savior’s love for me!

For me it was in the garden
He prayed: Not My will, but Thine.
He had no tears for His own griefs,
But sweat drops of blood for mine.

Refrain

He took my sins and my sorrows,
He made them His very own;
He bore the burden to Calvary,
And suffered and died alone.

Refrain

When with the ransomed in glory
His face I at last shall see,
’Twill be my joy through the ages
To sing of His love for me.

Refrain (Charles H. Gabriel)

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)

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