Then God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters subsided (Genesis 8:1, NKJV).
Noah “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” in a world of growing wickedness ripe for destruction (Gen. 6:5-8). The description of Noah is impressive: “Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God” (Gen. 6:9). This man of faith obeyed “all that God commanded him” concerning the ark, saving his family while declaring the world’s guilt (Gen. 6:13-22; Heb. 11:7). The worldwide flood teaches us God punishes sin (2 Pet. 3:5-10). Noah received God’s mercy because of his obedient faith. Remarkably, God saw Noah amid a wicked and corrupt world. God also sees Christians who are “blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15). God remembered Noah after the evil world perished. His compassion extended beyond the moment of crisis, sending wind to dry the earth, restraining the rain, and sealing the fountains of the deep (Gen. 8:1-2). To this day, God remembers His promises not to leave or forsake His people (Heb. 13:5-6). God sees the evil and the good and provides all we need for life and godliness (Prov. 15:3; 2 Pet. 1:3-4). He will not abandon people of faith (those who trust and obey His word). Scripture says, “Noah became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Heb. 11:7). Like Noah, our faith must obey God to be saved by grace. Obedient faith is “accounted for righteousness” and remembered by God (Rom. 4:5-6).
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).
10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” 12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:10–12, NKJV).
Jesus silenced the hypocrites who tried to entrap him at the expense of a sinner’s soul (John 8:2-9). None of her accusers were willing to cast the first stone of condemnation against her (John 8:7). Jesus was not obligated to throw a stone under the Law of Moses (hence, “Neither do I condemn you,” v. 11). When Jesus finally spoke to her, it was not with a scolding tone of damnation; She knew her sin, and so did Jesus. He did not condone or excuse her sin; He warned her to repent and bear its fruit (“go and sin no more”). Then Jesus turned spoke again to the people who observed this encounter unfold (John 8:2). They must follow Him to keep from walking in the darkness of evil; He is the light of the world. The scribes and Pharisees (John 8:3), the woman taken in adultery (John 8:4), and the people listening to Him teach had to choose whether to follow Jesus. So do we. Jesus is merciful and forgiving when we follow Him (Matt. 11:28-30; Acts 2:37-41, 47; 1 John 1:6-9). Walk in His light and have the light of (eternal) life.
9 But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain (Galatians 4:9–11, NKJV).
The Law of Moses defined and identified sin but could not redeem sinners from sin’s bondage and death (Gal. 3:10-14, 21; Rom. 3:20). The gospel of Christ is the good news that Christ redeems sinners from the curse of the law (that is, the law condemned the sinner but could not save the sinner, Gal. 3:10-11. It was “weak and beggarly” to justify sinners, Gal. 4:9). For Christians to return to the Law of Moses would be a return to sin’s bondage and its curse of death. The Law of Moses contained the observance of “days and months and seasons and years,” but these observances were never an end in themselves. Through Hosea, God told Israel, “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6). Here are two crucial lessons from today’s passage. (1) Do not add man-made rites and rituals to God’s revealed will. Religious ceremonies that God’ has not commanded dishonor men and God by violating God’s truth (Lev. 10:1-3; Matt. 15:9). (2) Do not ritualize what God has commanded. To turn God’s worship and service into mere ceremonies removes the heart from one’s service to God (Luke 18:12; Ps. 51:16-17). Binding the Law of Moses as a means of salvation makes void God’s grace in Christ (Gal. 1:6-7; 2:21). Making man-made holy days and observances Christ has not commanded do the same thing (Matt. 28:20; Gal. 1:8-10).
1 O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger, nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure. 2 Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled. 3 My soul also is greatly troubled; But You, O Lord—how long (Psalm 6:1–3, NKJV)?
David’s soul experienced deep agony due to his sin that was always before him (Ps. 51:3). David’s sin greatly displeased the Lord, but David repented with a contrite heart, and the Lord was merciful to him (Ps. 51:1-2, 7-13, 17; 2 Sam. 12:13). Nevertheless, enemies and “workers of iniquity” would grieve and afflict David; Sin brings consequences (2 Sam. 12:10-11, 14; Ps. 6:6-7). Today’s psalm reflects David’s distress before his enemies who were sinning against the Lord. He prayed to the Lord for mercy to relieve his pain (Ps. 6:1-7). He also prayed to the Lord for justice against his enemies (Ps. 6:8-10). Like David, our sins and the sins of others bring hardships into our lives (Prov. 13:15; 2 Tim. 2:9; 3:12). If you are groaning and suffering because of your sin, turn to God for mercy. Do not remain silent before Him (Ps. 32:1-3). God will forgive you when you come to Him through His Son (John 6:44-45; Matt. 11:28-30; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Acts 18:8). Christian friend, do not become embittered if you are suffering because of someone else’s sin. In prayer, turn to God for strength to faithfully endure (Heb. 4:15-16; 10:35-39). Ultimately, He will right every wrong (2 Thess. 1:5-10). Praise God today for His mercy. Depend on Him today for the strength to remain faithful went confronted with evil.
31 And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” 33 But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” 34 Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me” (Luke 22:31–34, NKJV).
Peter, the stone, would soon crack under temptation, although he was sure he would never deny Jesus (Luke 22:54-62). Peter’s sin was grievous, but it would not define him. Jesus looked beyond Peter’s transgression to a future faith that would bless others. Indeed, Peter returned to Christ and, as an apostle, strengthened his fellow apostles and countless others. We can see ourselves in Peter. Satan wants to sift us as wheat like he tried to destroy Peter’s faith. When we yield to temptation in times of weakness, we have a friend in Jesus, an Advocate with the Father who intercedes for us when we confess our sins (1 John 1:9-2:2). Do not let your moment of weakness and sin define your faith. Like Peter, return to the Lord with godly sorrow and repentance (Luke 22:62; Acts 8:22-24). With revived faith, be a blessing to others. What a friend we have in Jesus! He will never leave or forsake us (Heb. 13:5-6).
5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin” (Romans 4:5–8, NKJV).
Justification is acquittal from sin’s guilt; to render innocent and free from sin’s penalty of eternal death (Rom. 6:23). Today’s passage explains justification is synonymous with forgiven by God. When forgiven, our sins are “covered,” removed from God’s sight (remembered no more, v. 7; Heb. 8:12; 10:17; washed away to exist no more, Acts 22:16). This forgiveness occurs by faith, not by the works of law (v. 6; Rom. 1:16-17; 3:21-26; Rom. 5:1; Gal. 2:16). Note that the sinner’s faith is “accounted for righteousness” so that his sins are not imputed to him (v. 5, 8). Just as Abraham’s faith was imputed to him for righteousness, our faith is imputed to us for righteousness (Rom. 4:3). The “works” of Romans 4:7 are works of law, i.e., law-keeping. Righteousness by works (law-keeping) can only occur through sinlessness (which would remove the need for grace, Rom. 4:2, 4). But Abraham sinned and needed grace like us all (Rom. 3:23-24). Faith, not works, was reckoned to him for righteousness. (1) This passage does not say God imputes Christ’s righteousness to us. The sinner’s faith is imputed for righteousness (Rom. 4:5). (2) This passage does not say obedient faith attempts to merit salvation (Eph. 2:8-9). Obedient faith (like Abraham had) is the faith that justifies the ungodly (James 2:17-24; Rom. 4:5). Trust and obey Jesus, and your faith will be accounted for righteousness. You will be forgiven (Mark 16:15-16).
Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 2, NKJV).
How healthy is your soul? Would you be in good physical health if it matched your spiritual health? In this age of Covid, we are inundated with information and misinformation about being healthy, safe, and protected. Prudent measures for good physical health are important (1 Tim. 5:23; Luke 10:34). Exercise helps slow the rate of decay of our death-destined bodies (1 Tim. 4:8). But the gospel compels us to look at the health of our souls as more essential (1 Tim. 4:7-8). It is the remedy to our sin and death; salvation in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; John 5:24-25; Rom. 1:16; 6:23). A cure for Covid would be a worldwide bestseller. Yet, the cure for sin is cast aside by countless souls rushing headlong toward eternal death. Why is that? Why are people more afraid of their physical death than their eternal death (Matt. 10:28)? Because they do not believe God and the words of His Son, Jesus. Why is the death of God’s saints precious in His sight (Ps. 116:15)? Because they are the ones who “take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord,” serving God faithfully all their days (Ps. 116:13-14, 16-19). With Ananias, we ask, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). The remedy for your sins is available through the sacrifice of Jesus (1 Pet. 1:17-19; 2:24; Rom. 6:3-4; Eph. 2:1-10). Believe and obey Jesus and be saved from sin and death (Rom. 6:17-18; Heb. 5:8-9).
Jesus has warned us not to judge lest our unrighteous measure of judgment condemns us (Matt. 7:1-2). Jesus forthrightly judged (condemned) hypocritically judging others while ignoring ourselves (Matt. 7:3-5). James reinforced this truth, “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). Jesus went on to imply we must judge several things: (1) What is holy and what are pearls, and (2) Who are dogs and swine. Holy things are pure, blameless, and set apart to God and His service. Your pearls would be your precious things. The gospel, salvation, faith, and heavenly treasures are among the holy and valuable things we judge to be great treasures. Dogs and swine were unclean under the Law of Moses and used by Christ as figures of impure, contemptible character and conduct (cf. Deut. 23:18; 2 Kings 8:13). But the dogs and swine in this passage have two legs, not four. So, take care to live holy and not defile yourself with evil companions (1 Cor. 15:33). Judge error from the truth and avoid the “dogs” who hold God’s truth in contempt and with their false doctrines (Phil. 3:2-3). Oh yes, we must judge what is right to abhor what is evil and cling to what is good (Luke 12:57; Rom. 12:9). God’s word of truth is holy. It identifies our pearls, and those whose sin and error identifies them as dogs and swine. Beware. They will turn on you when given a chance. Come out, be separate, and do not touch what is unclean (2 Cor. 6:17-7:1).
16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:16–18, NKJV).
After elaborating on prayer’s motive, method, and manner in Matthew 6:5-15, Jesus returns to the motives of personal piety in today’s passage. Fasting often accompanied prayer. Like prayer, hypocrites used fasting as their chance to be praised by others for their voluntary deprivation and affliction of the soul. While not commanded under the new covenant, fasting was (is) a period of intense spiritual devotion. It was associated with recognizing one’s sin with godly sorrow and repentance (Nineveh, Jonah 3:5-10; Luke 11:32; Saul, Acts 9:9-11). The broader principle Jesus taught applies to every action of self-sacrifice. Instead of bragging and displaying religious practices to be praised by others, we aim to please the eyes of our heavenly Father. The reward of human praise momentarily feeds pride and fades quickly. But attentive, faithful service to the Lord will be evident and eternally rewarded. When we love the praise of men more than the praise of God, we confess ourselves, not Christ (John 12:42-43). So, go about your daily service to the Lord without regard for whether others see you. The Father sees you, and that is enough.