10 Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; But he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him. 11 Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous; And shout for joy, all you upright in heart (Psalm 32:10–11, NKJV)!
David concealed his sins from others but could not hide them from God (Ps. 32:3; 2 Sam. 11-12). His futile effort caused distress to the depth of his soul (Ps. 32:3-4). Only when he acknowledged his sin to God did he find relief when God concealed (forgave) his transgression (Ps. 32:5, 1-2; 2 Sam. 12:13). Even now, sorrow attends the wicked, but God’s mercy surrounds those who trust in the Lord (Ps. 32:10). Jesus will give you rest from sin’s burden when you come to Him (Matt. 11:28). Forgiveness in Christ is available, and God wants to save you (Acts 10:34-35; 1 Tim. 2:3-4). When God forgives us, sorry is turned to gladness (Ps. 32:11). Our faith is accounted for righteousness when we (like David) act in faith, repent before God, and obey the gospel from the heart (Rom. 4:5-8; 6:17-18). Come to the Lord in faith and follow His gospel to be saved from your sins (Acts 2:37-41). Christians are privileged and eager to praise God daily with joy and gladness for His merciful grace in Jesus Christ. Trust in the Lord, and His mercy will envelop you. Freed from the burden and death of sin, you may “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice” (Phil. 4:4)!
And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven (Acts 2:5, NKJV).
Devout men gathered in Jerusalem to observe the feast of weeks (Pentecost, Acts 2:1; Lev. 23:15-21). Yet, the apostle Peter indicted these devout Jews along with the house of Israel for crucifying the Messiah (Acts 2:36). Devout means to be cautious and circumspect, hence “pious,” religious. The gospel teaches Christians to be devout in faith and life (Eph. 5:15; James 1:26-27). Consider what the Scriptures say about being devout. (1) Being devout does not necessarily mean one is saved. These devout men were guilty of crucifying Jesus (Acts 2:23). Cornelius was devout yet lost without the gospel (Acts 10:2; 11:13-14). (2) Devout people are convicted of their sins when they hear the word of God. They were “cut to the heart,” pierced to the quick, when the word of God exposed their sin. (3) Devout people want to know what to do to be forgiven by God of their sins. Therefore, they said, “Men and brethren, what shall we do” (Acts 2:37)? (4) Devout people gladly accept the gospel and obey it to be saved. “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them” (Acts 2:41). (5) Devout Christians will continue to follow the apostles’ teaching (Acts 2:42). Let us be careful to hear, accept, and obey the gospel, being devout in word and deed each day.
And the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all (Luke 6:19, NKJV).
We are told of “a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear Him and be healed of their diseases, as well as those who were tormented with unclean spirits. And they were healed” (Luke 6:17-18). Significantly, “power went out from” Jesus that healed them all. These healings were not the trickery of an illusionist or a scam artist. Divine power cured the sick and banished tormenting spirits. It is not lost on us that Jesus knew when healing power went out from Him. Jesus knew a woman with faith touched His garment and was healed even as the throng pressed around Him (Mark 5:27-34). “But Jesus said, ‘Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out of Me” (Luke 8:46, 43-48). Here is today’s lesson: God knows when even one sinner reaches out to Him in faith, repents, and obeys His word for salvation (Luke 15:3-7; Mark 16:15-16; Heb. 5:9). He is aware of each of us and saves us one at a time. God’s saving power in Christ goes out from heaven’s throne and heals each lost soul with divine forgiveness (Luke 15:17-24). God cares and knows your plight. He loves you so much His Son died for your salvation (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8). Like the woman whose faith compelled her to touch the garment of Jesus for physical healing, may each of us reach out to Jesus in faith, trusting Him to heal our souls from eternal death (Rom. 6:1-4, 16-18, 22-23).
42 Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God (John 12:42–43, NKJV).
Were the many rulers who believed in Jesus saved? If so, they were saved without confessing Jesus. Yet, Jesus said, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32-33). Although the rulers believed in Him, they were lost (Rom. 10:9-10). Again we ask, were the many rulers who believed in Jesus saved? If so, they were saved by loving the praise of men more than the praise of God. Yet, Jesus said we must love God “with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). Those who love others more than Jesus are not worthy of Him (Matt. 10:37-39; Luke 14:26-27). Like the parents of the blind man Jesus healed, they feared being put “out of the synagogue” (banished from the congregation of Israel, John 9:22). Although the rulers believed in Him, they were lost. Faith only does not save sinners. Faith only did not save the Jewish rulers who failed to confess Jesus. It did not save demons (Luke 8:27-33; James 2:19). It will not save you and me. Believers in Jesus Christ have “the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). What we do with our faith is the difference between being lost and being saved. Faith prompts submissive and enduring obedience to do the will of God (Heb. 5:9; Phil. 2:12-13). That is the faith that saves the soul (Heb. 10:36-39).
Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not (Luke 3:15, NKJV).
John was not the Messiah. He came to “prepare the way of the Lord” (Luke 3:4; Isa. 40:3). As the Lord’s messenger, John preached “a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins,” preparing hearts for the Lord’s coming (Mal. 3:1; Mark 1:4; Luke 1:17). He was the promised Elijah (Mal. 4:5-6; Matt. 11:7-10; 17:10-13). John’s work excited the people’s expectations of the Messiah (Luke 3:15). Sadly, those expectations were often misguided. Many looked for a military leader to deliver Israel from Rome (John 6:15, 26; Luke 24:21). Others expected Him to support the traditions they bound (Mark 7:1-13). What are your expectations of Christ? (1) Some expect faith in Christ to bring them wealth and health (the prosperity gospel); A perverted gospel (1 Cor. 4:11-13; 2 Cor. 12:7-10). Many faithful ones are impoverished (Heb. 11:37-38). (2) Some expect Christ’s grace to allow them to continue living in sin; A perverted gospel (Rom. 5:21-6:2). Grace will not abound when we continue in sin. (3) Some expect Christ to save them by faith only; A perverted gospel (Mark 16:15-16; Heb. 5:8-9). An obedient faith saves, not faith only (James 2:24). (4) Some expect Christ to save them because of their sincere conscience; A perverted gospel (Rom. 10:2). The blood of Christ washes away sins, not sincerity (Acts 23:1; 26:9; 22:16). (5) We should expect Christ to bring salvation to sinners without the doctrines of men. He does (Acts 4:12; 10:34-43; Rom. 1:16-17; Gal. 1:6-12; Col. 2:20-23). Expect Jesus to save you when you believe and follow Him (John 8:12, 31-32; Matt. 7:21-23).
But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say (Luke 6:46, NKJV)?
Why do you say yet not obey? That is the penetrating question Jesus asked those who followed Him from place to place during His ministry. Disciples (followers) learn and live the training received from their Master (Luke 6:40; John 8:31). Jesus is not our ‘Lord’ unless we obey Him. Like them, the Master challenges us to investigate our motives for saying He is Lord while disobeying His word. The Scriptures help us examine ourselves to discover and remove obstacles preventing salvation and hindering discipleship. (1) A hard heart (John 12:37-40). An open, receptive, and responsive heart accepts the word of God and is fruitful by doing the Lord’s will (Luke 8:15; Acts 17:11-12). (2) Fear and favor of men (John 12:42-43). Fearing rejection from others, many still prefer men’s favor over God’s approval. (3) Love of the world (1 John 2:15). Genuine love for Jesus obeys His commands (John 14:15). When we misplace our love and disobey Jesus, we deceive ourselves to think we love Jesus. (4) Deceived by false teaching (Luke 8:15). A popular doctrine convinces many souls that Christians cannot fall from grace (be lost). Yet, the gospel warns disciples against falling away (Gal. 5:4; Heb. 3:12-13). This false doctrine opens the door to complacent, neglectful faith (Heb. 6:11-12; 10:39). Jesus said it is foolish to hear His words and do nothing (Luke 6:49; Matt. 7:26-27). But it is wise to hear and do His words (Luke 6:47-48; Matt. 7:24-25). Yes, we must do more than say, “Lord, Lord,” to be a disciple and enter the kingdom of heaven. We must hear and do the words of Christ (Matt. 7:21-23).
23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does (James 1:23–25, NKJV).
Jesus repeatedly taught people to listen to His teaching with “ears to hear” (Matt. 13:9; Luke 14:35). Some had ears that could not hear (accept) His word because their hearts were dull and hard (Matt. 13:14-15). “Ears to hear” reminds us that faith is produced by hearing (receiving) God’s word (Rom. 10:17). Since Jesus also said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments,” we conclude hearing (accepting) His word compels us to obey His word (John 14:15). James picks up the theme of hearing and obeying God’s word to identify the saved, those favored by God, and practice pure, undefiled religion (James 1:21-22, 25-27). We deceive ourselves if we think God is pleased with us only hearing His word but not doing His word (James 1:22, 26). This deception keeps people lost in their sins (much like the man who ignores his reflection in a mirror). James equates being a doer of the word with being a doer of the work of the perfect law of liberty, the gospel (James 1:23, 25). Therefore, we must implant God’s word in our hearts, deeply rooted by putting away all wickedness and meekly obeying the Lord (James 1:21). Doers of the word (work) obey in faith and are fortunate, blessed by God with salvation in Christ (James 1:25, 21).
“Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” (1 Samuel 18:1, NKJV)
Jonathan (the son of king Saul) and David were dear friends. Jonathan did not see David as a threat, far from it. Their souls were knit together, even closer than brothers (Prov. 18:24). Friendship is a marvelous blessing to be cultivated and nurtured. Like Jonathan and David, friends are more than neighbors. Friends are familiar, trusted, and devoted as they share life (1 Sam. 18:3-4; Ps. 41:9). Jonathan and David’s friendship was strong due to their common mind and faith. Their love for one another was great (1 Sam. 18:3-4; 2 Sam. 1:25-26). When Jonathan’s father Saul threatened David’s life, Jonathan endangered himself to protect his friend (1 Sam. 20:4, 16-42). Facebook may say you have many “friends,” but the Bible defines true friendship differently. Consider the following: (1) A friend gives sound counsel even when it hurts. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Prov. 27:6). A friend does not try to manipulate you. A friend’s counsel may hurt, but its goal is to help us, and so, “the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel” (Prov. 27:9). (2) Choose your friends carefully. “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, For the way of the wicked leads them astray” (Prov. 12:26). Like Jonathan and David, a shared faith will see you and your friend through life’s trials (1 Sam. 20:12-17). Friends can also hinder your faithfulness to God (1 Cor. 15:33). Choose wisely. (3) Be a friend to Jesus. “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14). Jesus will be your true friend. Are you His? Obey Him and it will be so.
22 So Samuel said: “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king” (1 Samuel 15:22–23, NKJV).
The Lord of hosts had commanded king Saul to execute His judgment against the Amalekites by utterly destroying them (1 Sam. 15:2-3). Instead, Saul and the people spared their king and the choice animals, being “unwilling to utterly destroy them” (1 Sam. 15:9). When confronted by Samuel about this clear violation of God’s word, Saul was confident he had “performed the commandment of the Lord,” making an excuse the people spared the animals for a sacrifice to the Lord (1 Sam. 15:13-15). But Saul was wrong. God’s prophet spoke of God’s displeasure and condemnation of this disobedience. Saul had led the people in stubborn rebellion. Because he had rejected the word of the Lord, God rejected him as king of Israel (1 Sam. 15:22-23). There is an obvious lesson for us; The end does not justify the means. Like Saul, we have no right to change the command of God and rationalize our alteration with a “good deed” we put in its place. Living by faith is about trusting God’s commands are correct and following them with devoted allegiance. “The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart” (Ps. 19:8). To obey God is better than offering sacrifices He has not commanded.
16 For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? 17 Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief (Hebrews 3:16–19, NKJV).
Read today’s passage again, carefully. The writer has urged Christians to “hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.” Israel’s sins and failure to enter the rest of the promised land warns us (Heb. 3:6-15). Now, he summarizes for emphasis; Christians can fall and fail to enter God’s rest like Israel. (1) Israel rebelled after hearing God’s word (v. 16). We must hear God’s word, but that alone does not bring our souls into God’s rest. (2) God’s people do not escape wrath and punishment when they sin and rebel against God (v. 17). Israel’s sin stirred God’s wrath against them, and they died in the wilderness. Even so, Christians who “depart from the living God” will face His wrath (Heb. 3:12-13). (3) Without obedience, God’s people do not enter God’s rest (v. 18). Disobedient, rebellious Israel stands as a stark warning that Christians cannot live in disobedience without forfeiting eternal rest (Heb. 2:1-3; Matt. 10:28). (4) Unbelief is identified by disobedience (v. 19). Far from separating unbelief and disobedience, the Holy Spirit joined the two here. Unbelief produced Israel’s disobedience and God’s punishment (the forfeiture of Canaan’s rest). Even so, belief produces obedience leading to God’s eternal rest in heaven. Let us learn and live the lesson of Israel in the wilderness, lest we fall short of God’s rest like they did (Heb. 4:1, 11).