Archive for August, 2011

Keeping the Law

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

Proverbs 29:18

I have heard many sermons and read many things about the first part of this verse, and for good reason.  “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”  We need to have a vision for people, for righteousness, and for our Lord.  But I want to look at the second half of the verse.

“…he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”

When it comes to “the law,” we basically have the Ten Commandments.  There are quite a few people out there who think that, in giving a list of ten “commandments,” God is somehow punishing those would try to follow them and obey them.  There are those who think that adhering (or trying to adhere) to these commandments will put a damper on their fun and will reduce their enjoyment of life.  But nothing could be further from the truth!

Far from keeping us from enjoying life, obeying the Lord will increase our enjoyment of life.  This verse tells us that “he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”  Think about the ten commandments.  Think about how happy we would be if we obeyed them.  Of course, no one is perfect and no one has perfectly kept all of the commandments, as the Jesus pointed out in the New Testament.  But think how happy we would be if we would have no other gods before the Lord.  Think about how nice our lives would be if we didn’t commit murder (or go around hating our brother- I John 3:15).  Think about how content we could be if we truly followed the 10th commandment: Thou shalt not covet.  If we didn’t covet our neighbor’s possessions, we could live happily content with what we have.

None of the commandments are evil.  None of them are given to us to hurt us or keep us from happiness.  On the contrary, if we will obey the Lord and follow Him, as this Proverb says, we will be happy.

What the Lord Does

Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God: Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever: Which executeth judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry.  The LORD looseth the prisoners: The LORD openeth the eyes of the blind: the LORD raiseth them that are bowed down: the LORD loveth the righteous: The LORD preserveth the strangers; he relieveth the fatherless and widow: but the wicked he turneth upside down.

Psalm 146:5-9

This passage starts off with the phrase: “Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help…”  That is so true.  We should be happy and thankful every day that we know the Lord and that He is our help.  We should be even happier when we look at all that He does.  This is by no means a complete list, but look at the things mentioned in this passage:

1. He made the heaven and earth and sea and everything therein.
-It’s nice to serve the God who created everything.

2. He “keepeth truth for ever.”
-We do not have to worry about God lying to us.  We do not have to worry about God deceiving us.  He is truth.

3. He “executeth judgment for the oppressed.”
-Sometimes, we feel oppressed and abused.  God will make everything right in His time.  He will execute righteous judgment.

4. He “giveth food to the hungry.”
-He feeds us spiritual food that we can get nowhere else.

5. He “looseth the prisoners.”
-We were bound by our sins.  He loosed us to experience freedom in Him.

6. He “openeth the eyes of the blind.”
-Just like Bartamaeus, we were blind and He gave us sight.

7. He “raiseth them that are bowed down.”
-He picks us up when we are weak and stumbling.

8. He “loveth the righteous.”
-Christians are called “the righteous,” not because of anything that we have done, but because of our position in Christ Jesus, Who is “the Righteous.”

9. He “preserveth the strangers.”
-We were strangers to God, now we are “pilgrims and strangers” in this world.  He preserves us.

10. He “relieveth the fatherless and widow.”
-He helps those who have no one else to help them.

11. He “turneth upside down” the way of the wicked.
-His judgment is always right.

How could you not be happy and thankful for a God like that?  How could you not love the Lord even more when you think of all these things?  What a wonderful Saviour!

Don’t Trust “Princes”

Put not your trust in prices, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.  His breath goeth forth, he returned to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.

Psalm 146:3-4

In the Bible, the term “princes” refers to those who have political authority over us.  Now, personally, I enjoy studying and discussing politics and economics.  Being a history teacher, I am interested in the way governments work and in the history of politics.  And, from reading these verses (and others like them), it seems that little has changed in the realm of politics since the Bible was written thousands of years ago.

We are told to “put not our trust in princes…”  How often have we been disappointed by politicians?  Has anyone ever heard a politician say something while campaigning and then seen him change his mind once he got into office?  Has a politician ever broken a promise?  Of course, the answer to these questions is a resounding “yes.”  But that should not disturb us too much because we are not to be putting our trust in politicians.

And it goes even beyond politicians: we are not to put our trust in any other people, either “…nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.”  When you look around, other people are struggling with the same problems that we are.  However, there is one Person to whom we can turn for help.  There is One that we can most definitely trust.

Verse 5 goes on to say “Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help…”  That describes us!  We can trust in the Lord.  We can have the God of Jacob for our help.  And, knowing that can make us happy even when others around us are disappointing us!  What a comfort to have God Himself helping us.  As we come up on another year of elections and campaigning, let us remember to make sure that our trust is in the Lord, not in the politicians!

Give Me That Old Time Religion (Hymn)

Give Me That Old Time Religion

Give me that old time religion
’Tis the old time religion,
’Tis the old time religion,
And it’s good enough for me.

It was good for our mothers.
It was good for our mothers.
It was good for our mothers.
And it’s good enough for me.


Makes me love everybody.
Makes me love everybody.
Makes me love everybody.
And it’s good enough for me.


It has saved our fathers.
It has saved our fathers.
It has saved our fathers.
And it’s good enough for me.


It will do when I am dying.
It will do when I am dying.
It will do when I am dying.
And it’s good enough for me.


It will take us all to heaven.
It will take us all to heaven.
It will take us all to heaven.
And it’s good enough for me.


This is another one of those old hymns that gets stuck in your head when you think about it.  Fortunately, the “old time religion” is good enough for me.  I have heard other verses, like “It was good for Paul and Silas…” and all of them are good.  Now I will be humming this all day!

A Great Vow

Praise ye the LORD. Praise the LORD, O my soul.  While I live will I praise the LORD: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.

Psalm 146:1-2

The Psalms are all encouraging, but this one is a great one.  What a great vow: “While I live will I praise the LORD: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.”  The Psalmist tells us in the first verse that we are supposed to praise the Lord.  We all know that.  We all know that we should be praising Him for all that He has done for us.  We are told that over and over again in the Psalms.  But I love the forcefulness of these verses.

“Praise ye the LORD.”  “Praise the LORD, O my soul.”  We are to praise the Lord.  Period.  And that praise is supposed to come from our very soul.  It is supposed to be from the heart, not just a superficial and outward praise.

The next verse continues the thought.  The Psalmist is saying in this verse that, as long as he has life and breath, he will praise the Lord.  What a great vow to make: as long as I am still alive, I will praise the Lord.  No matter what happens around me or to me, I will praise the Lord.  No matter what our circumstances, I will praise the Lord.  That is just what I am going to do.

We need to echo the Psalmist here.  We need to make up our minds that, come what may, we will praise the Lord as long as we have life and breath.  What a great promise to make!

“Psst… Did you hear….?”

Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself; and discover not a secret to another: Lest he that heareth it put thee to shame, and thine infamy turn not away.

Proverbs 25:9-10

The Bible has much to say about “big” sins.  We know that we shouldn’t kill people.  We know that we shouldn’t steal things.  We know that we shouldn’t lie.  And, assuming we are not doing those things, we find it easy to preach about them to others.  We can find the verses that tell us not to do those things.  We nod in agreement when the preacher mentions one of the “big ones.”  But the Bible also has much to say about “little sins.”  Sins like pride (which, if we are breaking them into “big” and “little,” should be a big one), deceitfullness, gluttony, wasting time, etc.  One of the “little ones” that is mentioned in the Bible is the old sin of gossip.

This is one of those places.  In this verse, we are told that, if we have a problem with someone, we are supposed to go to that person.  This problem solving strategy is repeated in the New Testament.  It seems simple: if you have a problem with someone, go to them and discuss it.  But it is often easier (and, more often than not, more enjoyable) to discuss it with everyone but that person.

Starting to gossip about someone is very easy.  It is easy because the person to whom you are gossiping is probably agreeing with you.  They are only hearing one side of the story (yours) and, of course, you are making your side seem reasonable.  It becomes easy to paint a picture of the other person that may not be accurate.  When we gossip, we are, in essence, tearing others down in an effort to build ourselves up.  So, our “small sin” of gossip is actually feeding our much larger is of pride.  If we can make someone else look smaller, we look bigger.  And that is never the goal.

Small Strength

If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small.

Proverbs 24:10

This is one of those Proverbs that I have heard all my life.  I have read it over and over again, and I have heard lessons and sermons on it.  But, like most other proverbs, it is deeper than it first appears.  To me, the Proverbs are great on two levels: one the first level, they are great to just read through.  They give you nice, concise, good advice for everyday, practical matters.  Many people try to read one Proverb a day (which is easy because there are conveniently 31 chapters in the book) and that is a great approach.  On the second level, you could take just about any verse in the entire book and meditate on it for quite a while and get quite a few blessings out of it.  In the book of Proverbs, there is gold on the surface, and there is gold beneath the surface.  I say all of that to say this: there is something “under the surface” of this verse.

I have always understood this verse to mean that, if you fail when things get tough, you are weak.  And I think that is a good application.  There are all kinds of sayings that second this truth: “when the going gets tough, the tough get going, etc.”  But something else occurred to me as I was thinking about this verse: my strength is always small.  That is not an easy thing for any person (especially a guy) to say, but it is true.  Without the Lord, I wouldn’t have the strength to get out of bed in the morning.  That got me to thinking about this verse in this light: anytime I go into an “adverse” situation in my own strength, I can pretty much guarantee that I will faint, because my strength is small.  But when I face adversity relying on His strength, that is when I can stand.  My strength is always small and will always fail me.  His strength is perfect and will never allow me to faint or fail in the day of adversity.

Paul said in II Corinthians 12:9 that “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”  What a truth.  It’s a shot to our pride to realize how small our strength is, but what a help to realize that we have all the strength we need available in Him!

Remembering Thy Works

I remember the days of old: I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands.

Psalm 143:5

This is a Psalm of David.  I do not know when exactly in his life that this particular Psalm was written.  But David had a lot of “days of old” to remember.  David had been through quite a few things in his life and walk with the Lord, both good and bad.  He had seen some incredible, miraculous victories and he had seen some incredible failures.  Imagine those victories: killing the lion and the bear with no real weapon.  Killing Goliath with nothing but a stone and sling.  Then cutting the giant’s head off with his own sword.  Going from being a lowly shepherd to playing beautiful music for the King.  Being anointed to be the future king, and having to hide from King Saul many times and seeing God deliver him every time.  And all of those things happened before he even actually became king.  What an amazing life David had led.

Yet, despite all of his grand adventures and exploits, the great King David was not looking back on his own achievements when he looked back at the “days of old.”  He was instead going to “meditate on all thy works.”  He was instead going to “…muse of the work of thy hands.”  David realized that all of his accomplishments paled in comparison to the accomplishments of God.  He also realized that any accomplishments he had experienced were due entirely to the grace of the Lord.

It was for that reason that he looked back not at his own doings, but at the doings of the Lord.  When we look back, that is what we should be looking back to.  The works of the Lord are the things upon which we should “muse.”  Do we meditate on His works or do we meditate on our works?  When we take a minute and “remember the days of old,” what do we think about?  Him or us?  That really is what it always comes down to, isn’t it: Him or us?

The Basis for Answered Prayer

Hear my prayer, O LORD, give ear to my supplications: in thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy righteousness.

Psalm 143:1

I may have written about this verse before, but I came across it in reading the Psalms and  can’t help but write about it because it is so encouraging to me and it is such a perfect prayer for us to pray.

This Psalm is a psalm of David and he prays that the Lord would hear his prayer and “give ear to my supplications…”  That is what we want, is it not?  We want the Lord to hear our prayers, and not just “hear them,” but “give ear to them.”  We want Him to really hear our requests that we make known unto Him.  That is the basis of prayer: that we are giving our thanks and praise to God, and that we are bringing things before Him that we would like Him to act on in one way or another.  And, we should have some basis for expecting Him to answer our prayers.  That is what this verse gives us: the basis for our expectant prayers.

“In thy faithfulness answer me…”  and “in thy righteousness.”  We do not expect God to listen to us and grant our petitions because of anything that we have done.  We can not pray to God and expect Him to answer us because we have been so faithful to Him and so righteous.  Because we have not always been faithful to Him.  We have not always been righteous.  If our prayers being answered were based on our perfect faithfulness and perfect righteousness, we would never get a prayer answered.  Fortunately, our prayers are based on HIS faithfulness and HIS righteousness.  I don’t know about anyone else, but that encourages me.

What Became of Jonah?

And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd?  And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.  Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?

Jonah 4:9-11

We have spent the last couple of weeks going through the book of Jonah and looking at his successes and failures.  Jonah will always be a great example of a Christian, who, with the help of the Lord, will win some great battles, and because of his own sinful flesh, fail time and time again.  In Jonah, we see a picture of ourselves.  We have all failed the Lord at one time or another.  And we have all cried out to the Lord for help and mercy at one time or another.  We have all obeyed the Lord and we have all disobeyed the Lord.  We have all found ourselves occasionally having the wrong attitude toward people that God loved and gave His Son for.  We have all been given second chances to get things right and we have all been a little self centered at times.  In short, we all have a little Jonah in us.

I have always found it interesting how the book of Jonah ends.  It ends with God trying to teach Jonah an important lesson.  But we never learn whether or not Jonah learned that lesson.  We don’t know if he got his attitude toward the people of Nineveh right or continued in his selfish bitterness.  We do not know what became of Jonah after Jonah 4:11.  The question is this: what will become of us?  Are we learning the lessons that He is trying to teach us?  Maybe that is why the “end of the story” is not given.  We can easily see ourselves in Jonah, but our own “end of the story” will depend on what we do with the lessons that the Lord is teaching us.  So I ask: what became of Jonah?  I don’t know.  A more important question: what will become of us?