7 I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; My heart also instructs me in the night seasons. 8 I have set the Lord always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope. 10 For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. 11 You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:7–11, NKJV)
Who is your counsellor? God had become David’s counsellor. God’s word instructed David and turned his heart to thankful praise for God’s guidance and assurances. In the night, David’s emotions yearned for God’s continual presence. The guidance and powerful comfort of God’s hand enriched his heart with gladness, removing doubts during troublesome times. David was secure because God was with him (“I shall not be moved,” v. 8). He lived in the hope of future life with God beyond the grave. God would make it so. His “Holy One” would not see corruption. David’s hope was fulfilled when Jesus, his seed, was resurrected (v. 10; Acts 2:27, 31; 13:35-37). David’s hope stirs our souls to follow the example of his faith. God’s “path of life” is where we, too, have “fullness of joy” in God’s presence (v. 11; 2 John 9; 2 Cor. 6:16-18). God’s word is the path of life that leads to eternal pleasures under the watchful guidance of God’s mighty hand (v. 12). Like David, let us praise God for the counsel of His word and rejoice in the hope set before us (Heb. 6:18-19).
3 The pains of death surrounded me, and the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me; I found trouble and sorrow. 4 Then I called upon the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I implore You, deliver my soul!” 5 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; Yes, our God is merciful. 6 The Lord preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me. 7 Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you” (Psalm 116:3–7, NKJV).
Hebrew tradition ascribes Psalm 116 to Hezekiah upon his deliverance from death by Yahweh (Isa. 38). Others view it as a psalm of thanksgiving on the occasion of some other imminent peril (Spence, Pulpit Commentary, Psalms III, 70). Three attributes are ascribed to the Lord in thankful praise of His salvation from the “trouble and sorrow” of death and despair (v. 3). (1) God is gracious (v. 5). His “throne of grace” is ever accessible to our pleas for help in times of need (Heb. 4:15-16). (2) God is righteous (v. 5). He has promised to hear and answer our prayers (1 John 3:22; 5:14-15). He is upright to keep His word. (3) God is merciful (v. 5). His compassion compels Him to protect and secure us in our time of danger and doubt (Matt. 11:28-30; Heb. 13:5-6). Christians learn to cast our anxious cares upon the Lord because we know He cares for us (1 Pet. 5:6-7). God still hears us and delivers our souls from the sorrow, despair, and terror of sin and death. Our souls rest in God’s character. He will deliver us from every evil work (Phil. 4:6-7; 2 Tim. 4:17-18). “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57). Let us rest in God and praise Him, for He has dealt bountifully with us in Christ Jesus (Ps. 116:7).
4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4–5, NKJV)
Faith is the victory that defeats the world of evil. A good brother reminded me that the righteous die victoriously (Sword Tips #2226), as assured in Revelation 2-3. Let us briefly note those assurances to “him who overcomes.” 1) Access to the tree of life (Rev. 2:7). Eternal life, forever sustained by God’s provisions. 2) Protection from the second death (Rev. 2:11). The faithful have no part in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14-15; 21:8). 3) Identification as God’s chosen (Rev. 2:17). This one is known and kept by God forever (Rev. 14:1; 22:4). 4) Share in the glory of Messiah’s victory over every evil enemy (Rev. 2:26-28). The faithful one will appear with Him in glory (Col. 3:4). 5) Confessed before the Father (Rev. 3:5). The pure life that unashamedly lived for Christ is written forever in the Book of Life (Mk. 8:38; Rev. 20:12). 6) Secure citizenship with God in His eternal kingdom (Rev. 3:12). Forever dwelling with God, serving Him in full fellowship is the reward of those who hold fast (Rev. 3:11; 21:2, 22). 7) Reign with Christ over sin and death (Rev. 3:21). To forever share in His great victory over every enemy of God will be the indescribable reward of the righteous (2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 22:5). These are our hopes and expectations in Christ. He will keep His word to us. Let us keep our word to Him and be faithful even to the point of death (Rev. 2:10).
32 Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. 34 And He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!” (John 11:32–36, NKJV)
The Son of God was deeply touched in His spirit when He saw the sorrow of Mary and Martha and those comforting them over the death of their brother, Lazarus. Mary fell at the feet of Jesus, weeping and confessing her faith in Him. If only Jesus had been there four days earlier, her brother would still be alive. Jesus knew Mary would soon embrace her beloved brother. Soon, Jesus would raise Lazarus from the dead (Jno. 11:38-44). Moved by their grief, the loving Savior wept. He is moved when we face the death of loved ones. Our assurance that Jesus is “the resurrection and the life” soothes us in moments of death’s sorrowful separation (Jno. 11:25; 1 Cor. 15:19-20). Death’s sorrow gives way to life eternal for God’s faithful. Jesus faced the agony of death for us. He knows death’s painful grief. He also knows victory over death by His resurrection. We share in His victory over death with confident hope as we weep when death takes those we love because Jesus knows and cares (1 Cor. 15:54-57).
14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Hebrews 2:14–15, NKJV)
Christ lived in the flesh to die for humanity. He was “made a litter lower than the angels” when He partook of “flesh and blood.” Through God’s grace, His “suffering of death” “for everyone” equipped and glorified Him as the captain of our salvation (Heb. 2:9-10). He blazed the trail for our redemption from the bondage of sin and the fear of death. By doing so, Christ destroyed the devil, rendering useless his power to use the fear of death against us. Christ has overcome sin and death by His death and resurrection. We view death with hope, release, and joy because of Christ (2 Cor. 4:16-18; Phil. 1:21-23; 2 Tim. 4:6-8). In Christ, life has its proper context – a temporary blessing on the road to eternity (2 Cor. 5:1). In turn, understanding death instills in us the faith to make the Lord’s will our own (Jas. 4:13-17). Death is coming for us all, but that is not the end of the story. Christ “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10). His gospel calls on us to die to sin and live with and for Him, now and forever (Gal. 2:20). Keep the faith, praise God, and have no fear; Christ has overcome the world (Jno. 16:33).
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” (James 4:13–15, NKJV)
Life can turn on a dime. Plans made are often interrupted by forces beyond our control. Life is uncertain and brief. Time and chance play in our lives (Eccl. 9:11-12). When we live as if we control time and events, we are shortsighted, unwise, and even reckless with our lives. Freewill certainly plays a role in our lives as we anticipate tomorrow. Not only our choices but the consequences of others’ choices can have dramatic, even deadly effects. The driver who chooses to drive under the influence of alcohol and other drugs is a hazard to himself and others. Innocent lives suffer. Combining these realities with life’s brevity (life is like a disappearing vapor) draws our attention to the Lord’s will instead of selfish desires. We live under His providence and should learn contentment in times of both good and bad. As Job said, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity” (Job 2:10)? Life happens. Be sure you are trusting the Lord’s will daily regardless of what happens.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1, NKJV)
Beginnings. Every New Year’s Day, people worldwide reflect on the previous year and resolve what they will do during our next 365-circuit around the sun. It is a perfect moment to remember who created the heavens and the earth and, therefore, time itself. With the precision that defies random chance, the earth sits on its tilted axis, rotating to produce night and day (not to mention gravity). This well-arranged order also gives the earth its seasons, protecting us from the sun’s otherwise harmful and deadly effects while sustaining plant, animal, and human life. God did that (Gen. 1; Psa. 33:6-9; Jer. 51:15-16). The hubris of humanity dares to think humans control this globe. God said to Job, “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place” (Job 38:12)? We neither control the morning light nor the dark of night; God does. How foolish it is to think humans control the heavens and the earth! “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:4-7)? Pause as another year begins to give thanks to God, our Creator, and Sustainer. Thank God for your life, and especially for the life He gives you in Christ (Rom. 6:23). There is no better beginning to your new year.
7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. (Galatians 6:7–8, NKJV)
Jeremiah said the human heart is deceitful (Jer. 17:5). Indeed. Since our hearts can deceive us, Paul’s warning is for us all. God is not mocked; we do not deceive God. We will reap what we sow. Like Israel (who sowed the wind and reaped the whirlwind, Hos. 8:7), we will reap the results of the life we choose. With this sober reminder, Paul begins to conclude his exhortation to walk in the Spirit and not the flesh (Gal. 5:16-6:10). Fulfilling the lust of the flesh produces the works of the flesh and results in eternal corruption (Gal. 5:16, 19-21; 6:8). But, walking in the Spirit bears the fruit of the Spirit that results in everlasting life (Gal. 5:16, 18, 22-25). Helping one overtaken by sin is sowing to the Spirit (Gal. 6:1-2). Envious conceit and self-promotion sow to the flesh (Gal. 5:26; 6:3). Sharing in all good things with our teachers is sowing to the Spirit, but refusing to do so is a trait of the flesh (Gal. 5:20; 6:6). Paul’s broader context bears out this principle. Those who tried to be justified by the law failed and forfeited being led by the Spirit (Gal. 5:3-4, 18). We are accountable to God for what we sow in life (2 Cor. 5:10). When judgment comes, will we reap sorrowful tears or joyful glory? Do not be deceived.
2 And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. 3 So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 8:2–3, NKJV)
Israel’s wilderness wanderings tested their faith in the Lord God. Would they obey Him? Or would they rebel in disobedience when faced with hardships, setbacks, and uncertainties? God disciplined their hearts through the trial of hunger and by the blessing of daily manna (and other provisions, Deut. 8:4-6). God meant for their trials and blessings to humble them and turn their hearts to Him. God taught Israel by trials and blessings to live by “every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.” God also lovingly teaches and corrects us by trials and blessings, like parents who love their children, Heb. 12:4-11). Life is more than bread. Life is more than comfort. Like Israel, life with God that lasts forever comes from God when we obey Him. Jesus knew this when the devil tempted Him to sin (Matt. 4:3-4). Let us accept God’s training during times of trial and blessing that we may humbly obey the Lord God and live with Him now and forever.
1 Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. 2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. 3 You turn man to destruction, And say, “Return, O children of men.” 4 For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night. (Psalm 90:1–4, NKJV)
Daylight Savings Time ended last night. We manipulate the clock, attempting to improve the human condition. Scripture teaches us God peers into the ebb and flow of time from His timeless, eternal throne. He is unhindered by the limitations of time; He is God “from everlasting to everlasting.” God created time for human survival (days and seasons), and with it, we measure our existence (Gen. 1:14-18; Psa. 90:10). There was a “beginning,” and there will be an “end” of earthly time (Gen. 1:1; 1 Cor. 15:24). When we are reflective, time teaches us “to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom,” because “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Psa. 90:12; Heb. 9:27). While God is not defined and detained by time, we are. Time teaches us our mortality, our fragility (Psa. 39:4-6). Our life is “a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (Jas. 4:14; Psa. 90:3). Time is a precious commodity. Use today to honor God by walking carefully and wisely because the days are evil (Eph. 5:15-16). “Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days!” (Psa. 90:14)