Saturday, August 31, 2019

Following The Wrong Crowd

Proverbs 1:10-19

It’s a sad story when we hear of a good and promising young man or woman, with so much potentially going for them, who somehow gets sucked into the wrong crowd and gets into some serious trouble.  Maybe it is the teenaged son or daughter of a friend or acquaintance, or the child of someone we know through church or work. Or perhaps a youth in the neighborhood who we watched grow up from a young child.  What went wrong? They were never the neighborhood troublemaker who, when we hear they landed in jail, we are not surprised. But now we hear that Johnny or Mary are in serious trouble, and we shake our heads, wondering what happened.  So often the answer lies in who they started to associate with and listen to. How many times does it happen that a young man finds himself sitting in jail awaiting trial, and he says to himself, “If only I hadn’t listened to that person, if only I hadn’t gone along with their plan!”  Now it is too late.

In our Scripture passage today, from among the opening words of the Book of Proverbs, we read a warning from a parent to a child that all should listen to.  A large part of the Book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon, and a portion of that came from lessons he learned from his father, King David. As our passage begins, Solomon is speaking to his son, giving him warnings, that if listened to and heeded, will help him avoid much trouble in life.  The number one lesson here, that he wishes his son to learn, is to not follow or go along with the wrong bunch of people (vs. 10). Scriptures here label them as “sinners”, those who do not know the Lord God, and do not follow His Word. When they try to lure us to follow their path, one that does not line up with what God has told us in His Word, we need to refuse.

Years ago there was an anti-drug campaign which used as one of their slogans the phrase “Just Say No!”  Some people laughed at that as being too simplistic, but in reality the thought is true, and comes straight from the Bible, “do not consent” (vs. 10).  When we give in, we choose to act against God’s will. The path of sin leads to devastation. However, following the Lord leads to wisdom and life.

Sin is enticing.  The lure that our troublemakers in this passage are using to entice this young man with is getting rich with stolen goods.  As we read this passage they plan on committing robbery, attacking some innocent person, and possibly even committing bodily harm or murder, all with the hope of getting money and riches.  The troublemakers think this is a quick route to prosperity, and our misguided young man is tempted to become one of the crowd. The sin entices him to go along with the others, and not listen to the truth (vs. 11).  Peer pressure can be very strong, and godly parents need to take the time to instruct their children, starting at an early age, to be able to withstand that with God’s wisdom.

We all need to realize that sin is deadly.  We cannot be friendly with sin and remain unaffected.  Sin must be rejected at the first temptation. We must refuse even the slightest association with it, avoiding even the beginnings of sin.  If our young man here followed the advice of his father, and told these others “no!” right from the start, he would not end up in jail facing charges of robbery, bodily assault, and possibly murder.  God warns us all here to “not walk in the way with them” (vs. 15).

Who is behind all of this?  On the surface it is those sinners who have turned away from God, those thieves, murderers, gang members, drug dealers, etc.  Behind all of them is Satan. He is the one who is ultimately trying to lure all of our young people to follow his path, and not God’s.  He is the one tempting this young man, and all of us, to go after some evil, making us feel we cannot live without some possession or more money (vs. 19).  We need God’s wisdom to recognize these greedy desires before they destroy us, as they have many a young person.

As we read this passage, seeking to learn its lessons, both for ourselves and our young people, we need to be wary of the subtle traps that Satan sets for us all.  When someone sets a trap, they don’t set it while the intended victim is watching us (vs. 17). They want to do it in secret, which is exactly what these sinners, and Satan behind them all, is doing.  We need to warn our young people, and ourselves as well, to not be a fool and walk right into it. “When sinners entice you, do not consent!”

Friday, August 30, 2019

Be Sure To Choose The Right Path

Luke 13:22-30

A number of years ago I was on vacation visiting a national park in the mountains of the west.  One day while there I was looking over the guidebooks, deciding what to see next. One place I wanted to see was described as a hidden lake, crystal blue, surrounded by stately pines.  The only way to reach this hidden lake was taking a path that branched off of a main hiking path. The path to the lake was more difficult to hike, as it was narrower, and over rougher and more challenging terrain.  The main path was an easier one to walk. It was wider, well-worn, even with occasional benches to rest on. Many more people chose to just stay on that path, as it was easier to walk. But choosing to go off on the other, more difficult path, was well worth it, once you reached the lake.

In our Scripture reading today, Jesus describes a narrow gate, the gate that those who would be saved must enter through, in order to enter God’s eternal kingdom.  Though many people show a casual, surface interest in Jesus, and things “spiritual”, true committed followers are not great in number. Jesus does not want half-hearted followers.  He tells us here in this passage, and in Matthew 7:13-14, that the way is narrow, and few find it. This shows clearly that those who say that “all are saved”, and everyone will get to heaven, are mistaken.

Entering the narrow gate is difficult because of its cost in our human pride, our love for sin, and because of the world and Satan’s opposition to the truth (vs. 24).  We cannot work to earn our way to heaven. Salvation is not by works, as so many Scriptures attest. However, one must put forth some effort to go in through the narrow gate.  We must earnestly desire to know Jesus, and diligently strive to follow Him, whatever the cost.

Jesus continues on in His teaching, and says that come Judgment Day there will be many who will protest that they are not in Heaven.  They will knock and pound on the door, seeking to enter, but God will tell them to depart, as He does not know them (vs. 25-27). They had no true salvation, no saving relationship with Jesus.  Just being religious or going to church will not guarantee entrance. Neither is just knowing who He is. Many people know something about God, but only a few have acknowledged their sins and accepted His forgiveness.  Just hearing a sermon is not enough. We must turn from our sin, and trust in God to save us.  Some people we may have thought we’d see in heaven, some of the big “religious leaders”, and people who proclaimed to be so holy, will not be there.  This passage again shows that not everyone gets into heaven, as is popularly believed.

Those who are true believers, though, come from all parts of the world (vs. 29).  What matters to God is not a person’s earthly popularity, status, wealth, heritage, or power.  Those things matter to so many here in today’s society, but not to God. Instead, what is important to Him is whether one has made a commitment to His only Son, Jesus.

Contrary to the popular saying, not all roads lead to heaven.  Only one does, and that is through Jesus Christ. Jesus wants to draw all men to Himself (John 12:32).  He offers salvation to everyone, and would never turn anyone away who truly puts their faith and trust in Him (Romans 10:9-13).  However, Jesus is the only door, and the only way for us to come to God (John 10:7; John 14:6; Acts 4:10-12).  Everyone does have the opportunity to come, but only a few choose to go down the correct path.

Everyone has the opportunity to choose the more difficult path in the national park to go to the hidden lake.  Only a few ever do. Those who don’t miss out on something special. Have you accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?  Have you chosen to enter in through the narrow gate, the only way to come to God? If not, I urge you to not hesitate another moment, as no one is guaranteed tomorrow.  Enter that narrow gate, and be welcomed into God’s Kingdom.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Mt. Sinai Or Mt. Zion?

Hebrews 12:18-29

Many of you might have seen the classic 1956 movie “The Ten Commandments”, with Charlton Heston, which doesn’t stray too far from the Biblical account of events in the Book of Exodus.  Some of the more impressive and spectacular scenes in the movie are those on Mount Sinai, showing the clouds, lightning, and terrible majesty of God speaking to Moses. These are the Biblical scenes from Exodus 19-20 that our writer of Hebrews is referring to in our passage.  Let’s take a look at what the Lord has to say to us out of His Word today.

When the Israelites left Egypt and came to Mount Sinai to receive the Law, the mountain was foreboding and terrifying to the people.  They were strictly warned not to approach the mountain, or even touch it (vs. 18-21). Only Moses was allowed up the mountain to meet with God.  In contrast Mount Zion (this not referring here to Jerusalem, but rather to God’s heavenly abode) is inviting and gracious. No one could please God on Mt. Sinai’s terms.  To accomplish that one would have to keep the whole Old Testament Law. However, Mt. Zion is accessible to all who come to God through the Lord Jesus (vs 22). He is the Firstborn (vs. 23), and the Church is comprised of all believers, who are also fellow heirs with Him.

In the previous chapter our author had listed many heroes of faith, the first one being Abel.  Abel’s offering, though pleasing and offered in faith and obedience, had no atoning power. Jesus’ Blood alone can cleanse our sins and bring salvation (vs 24).  We find that Blood through Mt. Zion, not Mt. Sinai, through the Lord Jesus, not the Old Testament Law.

We are strongly warned of the dire consequences of refusing the sacrifice made through Jesus’ Blood (vs. 25).  The apostates, those who refuse this sacrifice of Jesus’ Blood, will pay a terrible price. If the punishment was severe at Mt. Sinai, how much more severe will it be for those who turn away from Mt. Zion, and hold the Blood of Jesus lightly?  The terror and judgment far exceeds that of Mt. Sinai. God shook the earth when He came to Mt. Sinai. From Mt. Zion He will shake the whole universe (vs. 26-27). Only things eternal will remain.

Everything on earth we rely on can be shaken.  What can we count on in perilous times? What rock can we build our lives on?  God wants us to stop trusting in earthly things, and turn completely in trust to Him.  God is unwavering and immovable (vs. 28). Only His kingdom will endure. We need to build our lives on the foundation of God’s love, truth, and faithfulness.  He will hold us steadfast. For those who accept Jesus as Savior, no matter what happens here on earth, our future is built on a solid foundation that cannot be destroyed.  We should not put our confidence in what can be destroyed, but instead build our lives on Jesus and His unshakeable kingdom. Through Him we have a kingdom that cannot be moved, shaken, or fall apart.  Instead of looking at what we can see, focus instead on what we can’t see.

The flame of a candle can easily be put out, but the raging blaze of wildfires often cannot be contained.  God cannot be controlled, either (vs. 29). We cannot force Him to do anything. Yet He loves us and saved us from our sins.  Everything that is worthless and sinful will be consumed by the fire of His wrath. God is loving, but He is also a consuming fire.  He will not ever condone sin! Only those who come to God through Jesus Christ will be saved.

There was punishment for disobeying the Old Testament Law.  It is far worse for rejecting salvation through God’s Son, Jesus.  Have you come to the Father through the shed Blood of Jesus? He is waiting, right now, to accept you.  As the old-time hymn says, “Come to the Savior, make no delay. See in His Word, He’s shown us the way.”

Monday, August 26, 2019

Our Eternal Refuge

Psalm 46

Many of us have lived through at least one type of natural disaster or another.  Some live in areas that are prone to hurricanes, others where earthquakes happen.  Where I live tornadoes frequently occur, and blizzards in the winter. Any natural disaster can be scary to go through, especially since they often come without much or any warning, cause so much destruction, and can be deadly.  Another scary thing to go through, one that comes from the hands of man, is war. I can only imagine the horror of having an all-out war in one’s own area, the fear of death and destruction at the hands of enemies. Today’s psalm speaks of both types of events.  Let’s take a look, and see how our psalmist went through them.

We usually think of the earth as stable, and the mountains as strong and steadfast.  However, when the earth starts to quake, buildings fall, roads split apart, and the fires that often follow start to burn everything, we begin to fear.  Imagine seeing the once tall and majestic mountains come crashing down! That would be enough to scare the strongest of us! Our psalmist describes what appears to be a very strong earthquake, and possibly a tsunami which followed (vs. 2-3).  However, he is not falling into a panic or becoming paralyzed with fear. Instead, he turns to the Lord, and puts his faith and trust in Him (vs. 1).

With God in our lives, we do not need to fear when what we once believed was stable becomes unstable, for He is immovable.  The roaring floods cannot erode God’s power or protection (vs. 3). Instead of the destruction in the world’s floods, we can be refreshed from the waters of God’s river (vs. 4).

Another disaster our psalmist writes about is that of wars and attacks of enemies (vs. 6, 9).  Wars were frequent occurrences in ancient days, with absolutely no concern for the civilian population or property.  Enemy nations would come into an area, killing everybody they saw, including women, children, and the elderly. They would literally flatten the towns.  Again, he tells us that we need have no fear, and the Lord is with us and is our refuge (vs. 7, 11). The personal presence of God secures the safety of His people.  We are commanded not to panic, and to recognize God’s sovereignty. He is over all the nations and their rulers, no matter how big a ruckus they may make. God is completely adequate in delivering us from the treats of both nature and that of enemies.  Wars and destruction will happen, but God will have the final victory. Everyone will stand quiet before Him.

Many of us will never go through a terrible, life-threatening natural disaster, nor go through a war right in our own neighborhood.  However, we all go through various types of storms in our life, such as major illnesses, financial crises, family problems, etc. Sometimes they may feel like an earthquake or war!  Our psalmist assures us that God is right there, as well. The LORD of hosts is with us! Through this psalm God is telling us to take our hands off our problems. Let Him deal with them.  The outcome is in His hands. Go to Jesus with our problems. He invites us to rest in Him (Matthew 11:28-30).

God wants us to cease striving and know that He is God.  Let go and relax in Him. Be at peace and lean on Him. Sometimes God allows all of our earthly security to fail us so that we will learn to depend upon Him better.  When chaos threatens, whether in our personal lives or in the world at large, remember to seek God. Only then will we have peace.

Life can be like a dark tunnel, and we don’t know what lies ahead.  The future can be full of trouble. We need to put our confidence in God, trusting that with Him we are in good hands.  From our knowledge, the situation may seem hopeless. However, God’s knowledge exceeds ours. He is our helper, and we can have peace and security.  Even if the world ends, we do not need to fear. God is able to save us and take care of us. He is our refuge, even in the face of total destruction.  He is our eternal refuge.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Where Are You Building Your Foundation?

Isaiah 28:14-19

Architects and engineers will tell you that a good foundation is vital to ensure the stability and safety of any building.  Building upon good, solid ground is important, as well. Without a good, sturdy foundation, and if the ground isn’t good and solid, the building can lean, and the whole structure will be unbalanced.  It can be in danger of falling. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a good example of building on poor soil. Fortunately it hasn’t fallen. Many homes and buildings have fallen when landslides happen because of where they were built.  One can watch news videos of some very expensive homes in California go crashing down the sides of cliffs! When a foundation isn’t laid properly, and it begins to crack and crumble, the building can be in danger of falling apart, too.

In our Scripture reading for today from the Prophet Isaiah, we read about having a sure foundation.  Throughout the history of Israel and Judah, the people had wavered in their faithfulness to Yahweh, the Lord God.  They frequently forsook the true worship of God and began worshipping the false gods and idols of the surrounding nations.  The message of Yahweh given to the people from the days of Moses, and through the days of the prophets, was a solid foundation if the people would have accepted and followed it, applying it to their lives. Instead they turned to false idols, and worshipping them.  They wanted to be like the other nations, accepting their way of life. However, that was a faulty foundation, one not laid upon good soil, one that would crumble and come crashing down upon them like the houses in a California landslide!

Another faulty foundation that the Prophet Isaiah warned the people about was their tendency to go running to other nations for help, instead of turning to the Lord God, and trusting in Him.  In particular at the time of our passage, the nation of Judah was feeling threatened by the nation of Assyria who had been slowly attacking and conquering many surrounding countries, including their sister nation of Israel.  Rather than returning to the Lord, getting rid of all idol worship, and trusting in Him for protection, they called upon other pagan nations for help, particularly the nation of Egypt. God called that a “covenant of death” (vs. 15), and it was a faulty, weak foundation.  God wanted them to turn to Him, and trust in Him alone, a strong and sure foundation.

In verse 16 we read that God was going to lay a sure foundation, a precious cornerstone.  The cornerstone is Jesus, the Messiah, the foundation on whom we build our faith and our lives.  The Apostle Paul said that our faith is built upon the foundation of the teachings of the apostles and prophets, and Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20), and that no one can lay any other sure spiritual foundation, other than in Jesus (I Corinthians 3:11).

A cornerstone is the basis of the foundation, forming the base of the building, joining the two main walls.  Without a good, strong cornerstone, the foundation is out of joint, and the building’s safety is compromised.  Jesus is that cornerstone. However the religious leaders of Israel rejected that Cornerstone, preferring instead their weak, crumbling, and unsure foundation (Psalm 118:22; Matthew 21:42).

What kind of foundation are we laying in our life?  Are we forsaking the Lord Jesus and turning instead to false religions and philosophies, or to things of this world, and building our life’s foundation on them?  When a storm comes in our life, how well will that foundation stand? Will it hold up, or come crashing down? Jesus gave us the example of the wise man who built his house upon the rock, and the foolish man who built his house upon the sand (Luke 6:47-49).  If we build our life (house) upon the Lord Jesus, who is the Rock, the sure foundation, it will stand no matter how strong a storm comes. It will stand throughout eternity. If we build our foundation upon anything or anyone else, it will surely crumble and fall.  Be sure your foundation is only in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Friday, August 23, 2019

A Family Feud

Luke 12:49-56

“Family Feud” is the name of a fun game show in the United States.  However, real fighting among family members is anything but a fun game.  No one is happy when there is estrangement between parents and children, between siblings, between in-laws, and we will often try as much as possible to resolve such conflicts.  In our Bible reading today from the Gospel of Luke, Jesus gives some rather surprising words about family conflicts. Let’s take a look at what our Savior said.

As our passage opens, Jesus is continuing to teach His disciples and followers spiritual lessons and truths.  He begins this passage of Scripture by saying that He came to send fire on the earth (vs. 49). Fire symbolizes judgment.  Most people picture Jesus in their minds as kindly and gentle, like the image of the Good Shepherd, gently holding a little lamb in His arms.  He is that, but He is also our Warrior-King, who will come to bring judgment against sin. Jesus continues to speak of the baptism of suffering that He must go through (vs. 50).  Jesus’ human nature was naturally distressed over the pain and horror of His coming scourging and crucifixion. Even worse than the physical pain was knowing that during those hours Jesus would be completely separated from the Father.  That was because all of the sins of the world would be laid on Him. Yet Jesus knew that this was the work He came to do, and He set His face steadfastly towards accomplishing it.

In the next several verses we read some startling words from Jesus (vs. 51-53).  Here He says that He came to bring division. What did Jesus mean here? We usually think that He came to bring peace, not division.  Isn’t Jesus called the Prince of Peace? As we read further, He explains what He meant. Because of Jesus, households will be divided, family members will turn against each other.  Accepting Jesus as Savior often brings conflict between families and friends. When one family member accepts Him and others don’t, there can be dissension, and sometimes even outright hostility.  A father turns against his son when that young man accepts Jesus as Savior. A mother-in-law doesn’t accept her daughter-in-law because she is a Christian. Siblings or best friends stop talking to each other when one or the other follows Jesus.  There is no middle ground with Jesus. Loyalties must be declared and commitments made. Sometimes that will severe a relationship. When that happens we have to decide - will we choose the family members or friends, or will we stand with the Lord Jesus?

Jesus closes up this passage by telling His followers that they need to be alert to the signs of the times (vs. 54-56).  There will be signs to indicate that Jesus’ coming is near. When I was a child I learned the weather related poem “Red sky at night, sailors delight.  Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.” If the sky has a nice, red or orange sunset, the next day should be a nice one. If the sky is red or orange in the morning when the sun rises, there could be rain coming.  We know when there are large, dark cumulonimbus clouds a thunderstorm is likely. A south wind will usually bring warmer temperatures, whereas a strong north wind will bring colder ones. We use other things of nature to be other weather related indicators.  I eagerly await the first robins here in Chicago to signal the coming of spring. Another weather folklore is that the length of the red color on a woolly bear caterpillar will determine how harsh or mild a winter we will have.

Jesus warns us that if we are able to know all these weather forecasters, why do we, His followers, not know the signs of His return (vs. 56).  We need to be alert and also reading and studying our Bibles, knowing exactly what it says about Jesus. The people of Jesus’ day should have known their Old Testament Scriptures well enough to realize that He was the Messiah, and realize the fulfillment of the messianic prophecies by Him.  They should have been able to discern those times. Today we need to be just as diligent in studying the whole Bible so that we, too, can discern our time. Do you know the Lord Jesus as your Savior? One day, possibly soon, He will return. No one should be caught that day without having asked Him into their heart, even if that decision might cause a rift in one’s family.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Running The Race

Hebrews 12:1-13

Our Scripture passage today from the Epistle to the Hebrews brings up two main topics, each of which is important and helpful for our Christian life and walk.  The first is running the race of faith in verses 1-2. The second is receiving the discipline of God in verses 3-11. Let’s see what we can learn from God’s Word today.

Although I am not an athletic person by any means, I do enjoy watching some sporting events, especially the Olympics every four years.  One that is fun to watch is track and field, especially the races. One thing that you’ll never see is the runners competing wearing heavy backpacks, or wearing bulky, constricting clothes.  Athletes strip away anything unnecessary before running a race. They want nothing on them that will hinder their progress down the track. The writer here in Hebrews compares our Christian life to that of an athlete running a race (vs. 1-2).  Just as an athlete does, we must let go of anything that hinders our relationship with God. We cannot succeed in this race with things of this world and sins that would weigh us down. Anything that keeps us from running wholeheartedly and with determination and endurance must be cast off.

One thing that helps an athlete to keep going is to think of the finish line.  They keep their mind focused on one thing - the goal. They also can hear the cheering of the crowds, which helps in urging them onward.  When we run the Christian race, we are inspired by the examples of those who have gone before us (vs. 1). Our eyes should be fixed on Jesus, just like the runner’s eyes are on the finish line (vs. 2).  We will stumble if we look away from Him to ourselves, our circumstances, or to others. The best way to walk a straight line towards something is to keep one's eyes fixed on that point, not looking down or around.

The author continues on in his epistle to give the readers encouragement.  Many of them had become discouraged through the trials they were going through.  We all go through struggles, and some of them can be very difficult. Here in Hebrews we are encouraged not to give up (vs. 3-4).  If we decide to give up we are choosing to believe that Satan and his power is stronger than Christ, who is within us. That is not true (I John 4:4).  We are letting Satan win a battle if we give up on letting God see us through a difficulty. Do not give up before you receive God’s blessing.

The second important point that the author has in this passage has to do with receiving discipline from God (vs. 5-11).  We’ve all seen children who have not received any discipline from their parents. They run all over, getting into all sorts of trouble.  They are never told “no”, and do whatever they want. They are nothing but trouble, and ultimately they come to no good. A good parent will give godly and loving discipline to their children.  They aren’t abusive, but they don’t let their children run wild.

God is a loving Father to us, His children, and accordingly will discipline us like a loving father would (vs. 5-6).  God uses trials and sufferings in our life to educate and discipline believers. They are evidence that He truly loves us.  All of us are imperfect and need discipline and training. All true children of God are chastened at one time or another. No one likes to be disciplined because it requires a change in our behavior and attitude.  Our deeply entrenched sinfulness and attitudes are dug out. It is painful and difficult.

How do we respond to discipline?  Do we accept it with resignation, or with self-pity, thinking we don’t deserve it?  Are we angry and resentful towards God? We need to accept it with gratitude to a loving Father.  Cooperating with God when He corrects us helps to make us more like Him (vs. 11).

God is also like a dedicated, firm coach, who pushes the athlete to do their best, pushing on to victory.  We must not allow circumstances to get the best of us. Endure, get our second wind, and continue the race (vs. 12-13).  Run the race in Jesus’ strength, not our own, keeping our eyes fixed on Him.

Monday, August 19, 2019

When Leaders Will Give An Account

Psalm 82

Just about everyone would agree that it is good when a country’s political leaders and judges are good, honest, and upright men and women.  When leading a country, sitting in congress or parliament, and making laws, we like to know that these are decent people doing so. If one has to go to court, we surely want to know that the man or woman in the long black robes behind the courtroom bench is honest, above reproach, and will give us justice.  Our psalm for today is a plea for the rulers, leaders, and judges to give justice to the people.

One doesn’t have to watch or read the news too long to know that there are plenty of crooked politicians and leaders around.  They seem pretty special when they are running for office. We rally around our favorite candidate, cheering every word they say, and cynically scoffing at what the other ones say.  However, oftentimes once they’re elected, they quickly change. Our psalmist, Asaph, brings us the warnings that God has for these leaders here in this psalm.

As we read this psalm we read the words “God” and also “gods”.  They are both the Hebrew word “elohim”, which can have several definitions.  It can mean the word that we typically translate as God, referring to the one true God, Yahweh.  Here in this psalm, when we see the word “God” with an uppercase G, in verses 1 and 8, it is referring to Yahweh.  Another definition of the word “elohim” is “rulers”, “judges”, or “mighty ones”. That definition is also used in our psalm today, when we see the word “gods” with a lowercase g, found in verses 1 and 6.

Psalm 82 focuses on the injustices of tyranny.  It pictures Yahweh standing in the middle of earthly leaders to whom He has given authority, and condemning their injustices.  Yahweh is the great Judge and Ruler, presiding over lesser judges and rulers (vs. 1). The psalmist Asaph prays that God will take control of the affairs of the world.  As Yahweh sits in judgement, He finds that the rulers on earth have been guilty of injustices over the people, particularly the poor, the needy, widows, and orphans (vs. 2-4).  These leaders and judges are in “darkness” (vs. 5). They are in both intellectual ignorance and moral iniquity. When leaders rule unjustly, the divinely established moral order is undermined.

In verse 6, the word “gods” refers to the judges and leaders of Israel, who were to represent Yahweh before the people, and were to teach them His Word.  They were to represent Him in executing good and righteous judgments. The Israelite leaders were to be agents of Yahweh’s revelations and will.

Jesus quoted verse 6 to defend His claim to being the Son of God (John 10:34-36).  The Pharisees had said that Jesus was blaspheming when He used terminology referring to God as His Father, and He God’s Son.  Jesus wished to show the Pharisees that He is the true Son of God, and to emphasize the privilege of receiving the Word of God.  If God would, in His Word, call mere men “gods”, why was it blasphemous for Jesus, the true Son of God, to declare Himself equal with God?  He is the Son of God in a unique, unparalleled relationship of oneness with the Father.

The message that Asaph would like us to learn from God’s Word is that those who have achieved the roles of leaders and judges of the people should use their positions to defend the people from injustice.  Our leaders need to help the poor and defenseless. They should not become proud and arrogant, as they are only men, and will die like everyone else (vs. 7). On that day they will stand before Yahweh, the Judge of all, and give an account of what they did while in their exalted position.  We all need to remember that, we too, will one day have to give an account to God for our lives, as well, for how we treat our fellow man.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

You Can't Hide From God

Jeremiah 23:23-29

Our Old Testament reading this week from the Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer takes us to the writings of the Prophet Jeremiah.  This passage brings up two points for us to look at and consider, each one important.

When you were younger, did you like to play Hide and Seek with your playmates?  Little children hide in places that are easily found, and as they grow older the places where they hide are more secretive.  Hide and Seek isn’t just a child’s game. Adults play that game, as well. Not usually with other people, but instead, they sometimes play it with God.  Only this time it’s not a game. Those who are trying to hide from God do not want to be found by Him. They don’t want their sins and weaknesses uncovered, and be forced to confront and acknowledge them.  They don’t want God in their lives. Sometimes Christians try to hide from God, as well. Maybe they have fallen and failed Him, and are ashamed. Rather than come to Him for forgiveness, they try to hide, like a little child.

Jeremiah brings God’s message to those who are trying to hide from God (vs. 23-24).  God tells us that there is no place where someone can hide from Him, whether on earth or anywhere in the universe.  No one can hide from God. He sees all we do, and He hears all we say. We can’t hide anything from Him. This passage is reminiscent of Psalm 139:7-12.  King David, who wrote that psalm, knew that we can’t hide from God. Perhaps he tried to after his sin with Bathsheba. However, he found that it is impossible.  No matter where we go, God knows where we are, and He sees us. He is never too busy managing the universe that He has no time to be intimately concerned about each one of us individually.

The Prophet Jeremiah also had a word from the Lord to give to false prophets, preachers, and religious leaders (vs. 25-29).  As he just finished saying, Jeremiah reminded those false preachers that the Lord knows them and hears all they say (vs. 25).  False prophets and preachers did not only exist in the days of the Old Testament. There are many in this day, as well. They come speaking a message, claiming it is from God, but it is really a message from their own heart and mind.  What does the Almighty God say about their message? He says that they are speaking lies (vs. 26). He calls their words the “deceit of their own heart”.

True preachers and teachers of God’s Word, and false preachers, whether they preach from the pulpit, teach or speak on TV or radio, are as different from each other as straw is from grain (vs. 28).  Good grain is nourishing. Eating straw will only make a person sick. Christians have a great responsibility when they share the Gospel to present it truthfully and accurately. They must not take God’s Word out of context.  Preachers who claim to come in the Name of God must not only say what their listeners want to hear, or what “seems appropriate” for the times. That was a big problem in Jeremiah’s day. Many of the prophets and religious leaders only spoke words that the people wanted to hear, not what God wanted the people to hear.  Back then, as well as today, they only speak positive and uplifting messages that made people feel good, not about their sins and need for repentance. False preachers pretend to come in His Name, but don’t bring His message. God didn’t like it then, and He doesn’t like it now.

God warns us that His Word is like both a fire and a hammer (vs. 29).  When the false religious teachers and leaders twist God’s Word for their own purposes, it will destroy them.  That is what fire does when it is mishandled. Fire is good and useful when used correctly, but when someone uses it the wrong way, it brings destruction.  God’s Word is also a hammer. A hammer is an important tool, but here God will use His Word to smash and destroy false teachings and those who bring them.

Let’s remember Jeremiah’s warning here, and be sure that when we speak to others the Word of God, we are speaking it in truth, and not our own message, remembering that nothing is hid from God.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Watching And Waiting

Luke 12:32-40

The concern of a possible thief breaking into one’s house is a real one for many people.  No one wants to come home and find his home ransacked, and his valuables stolen. That is why selling home security systems is a big business.  Twice in our brief passage today from the Gospel of Luke Jesus mentions thieves. The first time in respect to stealing one’s treasure, and the second in respect to being prepared and ready.

As Jesus is talking with His disciples and the crowds of people gathered around to His teachings, He teaches a lesson on treasures.  Back in the 1980’s there was a television show, “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”, which showcased the extravagant houses, cars, and belongings of wealthy people.  Big houses filled with expensive items, pricey cars, designer clothes, and more jewels than you’d see in a showcase at Tiffany’s. One of the effects of that TV show was making the viewers to wish they had such houses and belongings.  However, Jesus warned us about seeking such treasures (vs. 33-34). Those houses will age and start to fall apart. Those cars will get rusty and also fall apart. Moths eat up fancy clothes just like they do cheap ones. Which house is more likely to be a target for thieves - one with a lot of valuables, or one without?

Jesus wants His followers to have a much different attitude towards wealth and treasures than the world does.  Keeping their wealth and belongings safely within their grasp is many people’s goal. However, Jesus wants us to use our money for God’s purposes, not in seeing how much we can accumulate for ourselves.  When God’s love touches our money we are storing up treasures in heaven. The safest place to put one’s treasure is a place where it can never be stolen by a thief, where it can never grow old or rusts away.  There is no such place here on earth. The surest place to put one’s treasure is in heaven, not here on earth. Our heavenly treasures are safe from thieves or decay, for our security does not lie in material resources.

What we think about most, where we put our time, money, and our energy in is where our treasure is.  What we talk about most, what we keep returning to in our minds reveals what is really in our heart (vs. 34).  Jesus wants our treasure to be in His kingdom, not in things here on earth.

Jesus then continues in His teachings about being ready for when He will return (vs. 35-40).  He gives two examples of the necessity of being ready - that of servants whose master is out, and a homeowner being ready if a thief should break in.  Good servants are ready for the master when he returns, standing waiting at the door to open it for him, no matter what the hour. They will be rewarded (vs. 37).  If the homeowner knew when the thief would break in, he would be ready to catch him, probably with the police there, as well. Jesus is teaching us to be ready for His return at all times, for we don’t know when it will happen.  We don’t want to be caught off guard and unprepared. Jesus is coming again, and we need to be living productively for Him. He will bless those who are when He returns.

Who is the thief that is waiting to break into our lives and steal what we have, the one we need to be on guard for?  Jesus tells us in John 10:10 that the devil, Satan, is the thief, and he comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy. We need to be on our guard at all times against him and his attacks.  Christians need to be vigilant at all times, both watchful against Satan’s attacks, and also looking for and ready for Jesus’ return. Christians who are ready for Jesus’ return are sincere, not hypocrites.  They are ready to witness to others. They are not always worried, but trusting in God. They are generous, and diligent to do His work.

When Jesus opened this passage, He called His followers “little flock”, an endearing term (vs. 32).  He is the Good Shepherd, who loves His flock, and is willing to lay down His life for them (John 10:11).  When we remember His tender care and love for us, His little flock, we do not need to be anxious or worried.  As a good shepherd, Jesus wants us to live in the safety and security of knowing that He loves us, and is with us wherever we go.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

What Kind Of Faith Do You Have?

Hebrews 11:1-6

Most of us have heard of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, or the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  Wikipedia lists hundreds of different Halls or Walks of Fame. One that is not listed is the one of Faith. The eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews has sometimes been called Faith’s Hall of Fame.  In the opening few verses of this chapter, before the author lists several people who had shown great faith in their lives, he gives a brief description of what faith is. Let’s take a look at that.

In verse 1 our author gives a definition of faith.  Faith is a solid conviction and assurance of a future reality, not based on physical evidence, but on divine assurance.  For the most part we have faith in what certain people tell us, we have faith that the appliance we just bought will work when we plug it in, or the new car will start when we turn the ignition.  We don’t give it a second thought. How about believing what God has said, even though we don’t actually see it right at this moment? That is faith. Our faith wavers when we apply human thinking to our circumstances, when we allow our feelings to overcome our faith.  It fails when we fail to see God at work in our circumstances, when we have guilt over sin, and when we listen to the enemy, Satan’s lies.

How many times we read God’s promises in the Bible, we pray, but we don’t see anything happening?  Some crisis happens in our lives, and we fear God has forgotten us, or question His love for us. True faith is finding certainty in uncertain territory.  God, on the sunny, clear day is the same God in the foggy night. He is with us regardless of our circumstances. Faith is absolute conviction that God is both willing and able to accomplish all He has promised.  Our faith is never in vain, for He who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).

Two words can describe faith - sure and certain.  Faith believes God’s character - He is who He says He is.  Faith believes in God’s promises - He will do what He says He will do.  When we believe that God will fulfill His promises, even though we don’t see it yet, we show true faith.

In verse 6, our author tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God.  It is impossible to walk closely with Him. Genuine faith doesn’t just believe that a divine being exists.  It believes in the God of the Bible, that He, alone, is the only real and true God.  True faith also believes that He will reward people’s faith in Him because He promises to do so.  It is not enough to just believe that God exists. Even demons do that (James 2:19). We must have a personal relationship with Jesus.  We must believe and seek Him. Faith is a conviction that Jesus can, and a hope that He will.  Faith believes God is real, that He is good, and will do what is right.  We cannot serve God unless we both believe He exists, and that His plans for us are good.  We must trust and obey.

Every miracle in the Bible came as a result of obedience.  God told the people to step out in faith, and when they did, He provided what they needed at that time, whether it was healing or some type of deliverance.  That is the key to a life of abundant joy in God. Faith is the inescapable condition of successful prayer. To pray in faith we have to truly believe that God is real, that he cares deeply about everything that concerns us, and is listening intently to everything we pray.

In the opening verses of this great chapter, before he goes on to describe many men and women of faith, the author gives the example of the brothers Cain and Abel (vs. 4).  Both brothers knew what God required. Abel obeyed. Cain did not. Abel acted in faith, while Cain acted in unbelief. Abel’s faith made him righteous, not his offering. He had faith and was obedient.  Cain did not have faith.  Cain was just going through the motions of ritual in a disobedient manner, with no authentic faith.  Faith was the missing factor in Cain’s sacrifice. True saving faith works in obedience to God. Do we have this type of faith?

Monday, August 12, 2019

Who Can We Trust

Psalm 33

Being trustworthy and a person of integrity is something, I believe, that all of us would like to be known as.  Is there someone you know whose word is one that you can trust, no matter what? If he or she said it, then you know that it is absolutely true.  Perhaps you’ve known someone who is just the opposite. If they said it was raining outside, you’d feel that you ought to take a look out the window just to check, as their words meant nothing.  There is also the need to be able to trust someone to help you when you are in a time of need. If you have a pressing need or crisis, you know that you can call on this or that person, as they will always be there to help.  They will never let you down. They are trustworthy. In our psalm today one of the points the psalmist makes is that the Word of God is absolutely true. He is trustworthy in every respect.

As most of us know, just because we see something in print doesn’t mean that it is true or can be relied upon.  We learn rather quickly which newspapers, magazines and websites are ones we can trust that most of what they write is reliable, and which ones are filled mostly with gossip, exaggerations, and outright lies.  Where can we go to in order to find truth? There is one place where we can go for the truth, knowing that every single word of it is trustworthy and reliable, and that is the Word of God. God’s Word is right and true (vs. 4).  It can be trusted. God does not lie, or change His Word (Numbers 23:19; Titus 1:2) He doesn’t say one thing on Monday, but by Thursday or Friday He is saying something totally different (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8). God does not leave His promises unfulfilled.  God and His Word is holy, trustworthy and unchangeable.

The foundation of any relationship is trust.  If there is no trust, the relationship is on shaky ground.  It is important to know that one can trust their spouse, along with trusting their friends.  When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we have entered into a relationship with God, one of trust and love.  If we have trouble believing that God’s Word is true, then we are doubting His character. When we question God’s Word, we are agreeing with Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44).  When God tells us something, we can trust Him. We can take His promises to the bank!

God’s Word also has great power.  People in positions of authority, such as corporate executives and political or military leaders, only have to issue an order and their underlings hurry to do their bidding.  God’s Word is so powerful that He just spoke and created a universe out of nothing (vs. 6, 9). Yahweh is the Lord of Creation, not just a coordinator of random natural forces.  Jesus is the Word (John 1:1). Everything came into being through Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16). When God speaks a word, the thing that the word expresses immediately leaps to life.  He sustains all things by His powerful Word (Hebrews 1:3).

More and more in today’s world we are seeing that putting our trust in one’s government or military is futile, as they cannot or will not always help us.  Their promises frequently fall through. However, again, we know that we can put our trust in the Lord. Man’s plans are shaky, but God’s plans are sovereign (vs. 10-11).  God is completely trustworthy. His intentions never change (James 1:17). He is completely consistent. God rules over all nations (vs. 16-17). Military might should not be the ground of our hope.  It should only be in the Lord God.

As we look around our world and the people we know, we struggle to find those who are completely trustworthy.  So many let us down. However, as our psalmist reminds us, we can completely trust in the Lord God, for He alone, is completely true.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

The Lord Was With Joseph

Genesis 39:1-23

Watching large waves crash against the shore can be an impressive and grand thing to see.  It is a different thing, though, if one is caught in those waves, and one is struggling to get out.  Wave after wave comes pounding against you, knocking you back down every time you try to stand up and move.  Sometimes life seems to be like that for some people. Problems and struggles keep coming, like endless waves.  Problem after problem in a never-ending parade. One can barely get their head up to catch a breath before the next problem comes to knock them over.  If we go through a period in our life where the waves of troubles keep coming, how do we react? Some people curse God and turn their back on Him. Others crumble, feeling that God has abandoned them, and their faith breaks and withers away.   Joseph, Jacob’s beloved son, went through some rather horrific trials. Let’s see how he came through.

The Old Testament patriarch Jacob had twelve sons.  Joseph, son number 11, was his favorite, as he was the first son that his beloved and favorite wife Rachel bore him.  When Joseph was about 17 years old, Jacob sent him to check on his ten older brothers as they watched the flocks and herds in a distant pasture.  We read what happens in Genesis 37:17-28. The brothers plotted to kill him, and be rid of their father’s favorite, as their jealousy and hatred against him was so strong.  Jealousy can get so strong and out of control that it can lead to murder. The brothers threw Joseph into a pit, probably after beating him up quite a bit. As he lay, bleeding and bruised at the bottom of the pit, having had his robe torn off of him, he undoubtedly heard his brothers discussing how they would kill him and tell their father.  Imagine the fear that coursed through him at this time, in a dark pit, hearing his life would end in some painful, brutal way! In the end, the brothers decided to make some money, and sold him to passing slave traders, and told their father he was killed by wild animals.

Our passage picks up after Joseph has been sold as a slave to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s army.  After being beaten by his brothers, dropped into a pit, and then sold as a slave, after walking in the hot sun in shackles several hundred miles, one could understand if Joseph had lost all faith in God.  Joseph was a slave, and there was no one to have pity on him. What do we read in verse 2? “The Lord was with Joseph.” God had not abandoned Joseph.  Through the beatings, the humiliation, the long, hot journey, with the sting of the whip at his back, God was with Joseph.  God honored his faithfulness, as well, by blessing him in the household of Potiphar so that he quickly rose to being chief steward in the household.

This position didn’t last too long, though, as we further read.  Potiphar’s wife, angry that Joseph didn’t succumb to her advances, told some vicious lies about him, which landed him in prison.  There was no trial, as he was a slave and his owner a high ranking political figure. Prisons in Biblical times were horrid places, but even there, Joseph made the best of things.  As we read in verses 21 and 23, “The Lord was with Joseph”. He did not abandon him, even in the prison cell. Joseph’s faithfulness to the Lord was honored, even here, as the prison guard trusted him with the overseeing of the place.

Joseph never gave up his faith or trust in the Lord God, even though at this time, he did not have any of the Scriptures that we have to turn to, to bring him comfort and peace.  We can learn several things from the adversities that Joseph went through, and his strong faithfulness to the Lord. Serving God faithfully can bring testing. Joseph was faithful, no matter what he went through, and God did not forget him and his obedience.  At the right time He blessed Joseph by raising him to live in the palace and become second only to Pharaoh.

Difficulties will continue until God’s purpose is accomplished.  God was preparing Joseph to rescue his family, and thus save the line of the Messiah.  We often learn more during trials than we do during the easy times. Joseph learned to reject temptation and trust God’s faithfulness.  Nor did he let the problems in his life make him a bitter or angry man, as unfortunately so many people do during trials. Joseph did not focus on himself.  Adversity is painful, but the Lord uses it to further His purposes, and equip us for His plan.

As we saw, Joseph went from a pit, to a prison, to a palace.   God is with us even when our circumstances scream that He has deserted us.  Remember the verse repeated three times in our passage, “The Lord was with Joseph”, and He is with us in our trials, as well.

Friday, August 9, 2019

The Rich Fool

Luke 12:13-21

I recall reading in my history studies that when the stock markets crashed back in 1929 there were several suicides across the country.  Stock markets rise and they fall. There were several big crashes in the 19th century, several in the 20th century, and there will be more throughout this one, as well.  For many people their whole life is caught up with investing their money and gaining wealth. When something like a crash happens, they have nothing to hang on to. Some might seek death, others turn to alcohol or other drugs.  Depression and hopelessness follows. Where have they been laying up their treasures? Jesus asks us this question in our Scripture reading for today. Let’s see what He has to say regarding this topic.

As our passage starts, a man comes to Jesus, asking Him to arbitrate between him and his brother about the dividing of their inheritance.  Jesus does not accede to his wishes. People in that day, and certainly today as well, believed that the rich are blessed by God, and the poor are not.  We see a lot of that talk with the “health and wealth” preachers. However, the Scriptures do not support that at all. A blessed life has nothing to do with being wealthy (vs. 15).  Jesus warns us to be on guard against greed, and desiring what we don’t have. We were created to enjoy a relationship with God. Wealth can never substitute for that.

Jesus then tells the crowds another parable, a story that teaches a spiritual lesson.  This one was about a man who was a very successful farmer, whose crops had done so well, probably year after year, and he had accumulated significant wealth (vs. 16-20).  Things were going so great for him that he wanted to build even bigger and better barns for his property. What he has right now isn’t big enough. He is feeling happy and satisfied that his future is secured.  However, God tells him that he is a fool, as his life will end, and then all that he has accumulated will mean nothing for his future eternity.

This rich fool made three mistakes in his life.  First, he provided for himself, and not others. When he became so rich, having enough money to provide for him and his family, he should have then turned and looked at others, seeing their needs.  Then he could have taken of his wealth and helped the poor and needy. Throughout Scriptures, the Lord tells us to care for those who do not have as much as we do.

His second mistake was that this rich man provided for his body, but not his soul.  That is a mistake that so many people today make. They are so concerned in making sure that their bank and retirement accounts are full and secure, but pay no attention to the condition of their eternal soul.  They feel that God and eternity are not as important as the here and now. That is the third mistake - providing for this life, and not the next. This man tried so hard to keep all he had, and ended up with nothing of eternal value.

There is nothing wrong with planning for retirement and one’s financial future.  That is a wise thing to do. However, it is far more important to have settled one’s life after death, and to be laying up treasures in heaven.  There is nothing wrong with making plans, but we need to be in a posture of humility to God, and our plans need to be in submission to Him.

Jesus wants to teach us to have a correct attitude towards the accumulation of wealth.  Life is more than material goods. Our relationship with God is far more important. Jesus spoke of this in His Sermon on the Mount, where He told us not to lay up treasures here on earth, but instead to be making sure we lay up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21).  The ones on earth do not last, as banks can fail, markets can crash, thieves can steal all we have. What we invest in heaven and in our eternal life will always be safe and secure. We need to think beyond earthbound goals, and use what we have been given for God’s kingdom.  Don’t enter eternity empty-handed!

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

A Pattern To Live By

Colossians 3:5-17

No one likes to be caught wearing clothes that have a stain or spot on them.  Neither do we like to be caught in the wrong outfit. If it’s a formal occasion, we don’t like to be wearing something casual to somewhere a nice suit or dress would be more appropriate.  In any of these occasions we need to go and take off the wrong outfit, and put on a new one. Take off and put on. That is a theme for today’s Scripture passage from Paul’s letter to the Colossian church.

When each of us were saved, we all had some bad habits, behaviors, and activities that we were involved in that we needed to get rid of, and new behaviors and actions that we needed to start incorporating into our lives.  In our daily life Paul instructs us that we need to make a conscious, daily decision to remove anything that draws us to those actions and sins, and instead seek the Holy Spirit’s power. As believers we need to rid ourselves of these evil practices and immorality.  Just like we take off a dirty or inappropriate outfit, we need to rid ourselves of the old life, and put on the new way of living in Jesus Christ (vs. 5-10).

When Paul talks about “putting off”, he means to stop living like unbelievers.  Their thinking is ignorant and futile. Their hearts are hard and spiritually insensitive.  Their lives are given over to sensuality and self-indulgence, impurity and greed. “Putting on” means to live in accordance with the truth of the Gospel.  Take off the old, and put on the new, just like we change clothes every day. Our conduct and actions should match our faith.

So what does Paul instruct us to put on?  He wants us to put on the actions and character traits that the Lord Jesus showed while He was here on earth, the fruits of the Spirit.  He listed the old behaviors that we are to put off in verses 5-9. The new behaviors to put on Paul lists in verses 12-17.

The Apostle Paul gives us a pattern to live by in the last half of our Scripture.  We are to be compassionate and forgiving. We need to let love guide our lives, and let peace rule in our hearts.  A believer should be thankful. We need to live our lives as representatives of the Lord Jesus. To do this we have to keep God’s Word inside of us.

The “tender mercies” Paul speaks of in verse 12 is showing compassion to others.  That is when we think of others before we think of ourselves. It is achieved through a God-centered, God-focused life.  Paul speaks of having peace in our hearts in verse 15. Heavenly peace is a state of tranquility or quiet, no matter what trials or problems surround us.  God’s peace will remain despite the problems. We can rest in His promises. He also challenges us to forgive others who have hurt or wounded us (vs. 13). Christians are to forgive because Jesus forgave us.

Another character trait of Jesus that we are to put on is to be thankful (vs. 15).  That’s not too difficult when everything is going great, but often we quit being thankful when things are difficult in our lives.  Martin Rinkart was a German pastor during the 17th century. He was pastor during the Thirty Years War, and had to deal with the worst of conditions that a bloody and cruel war could dish out.  In 1636 alone, he buried 5,000 people from his area, and during that year and the next there was also a terrible plague. Of the four clergy in his area, one ran away and he buried the other two.  Yet in the midst of this time, Martin Rinkart wrote the great hymn “Now Thank We All Our God”. He never failed to be thankful to the Lord Jesus.

As believers we need to bring honor to Christ in every aspect and activity of our daily living.  We should represent Jesus wherever we go and with whatever we say. We are children of the King. Don’t throw off our royal robes to put on filthy rags, and go wallowing in the muck and mire of the world again!

Monday, August 5, 2019

Where Is Our Treasure?

Psalm 49

Perhaps you’ve seen a cartoon drawing of a hearse with a trailer hitched to its back, containing the deceased person’s belongings.  It is meant as a humorous joke, since one would never really see that, and no one can take their worldly belongings with them after they die.  One of the themes of today’s psalm is that pursuing after wealth and belongings in life is a futile pursuit, as it means nothing in the end.

We see this all the time, and maybe if we’re honest, we also fall into the trap of wanting more, more, more.  People want bigger and better this and that. We want the latest phones, computer software and games, better cars, bigger houses, latest fashions to wear, etc.  Many people are in a mad pursuit to climb the corporate ladder. They have to get the best position in the company, one that pays the top salary, even if such a pursuit will damage, or even cost them their family.  What good is all of this? We see it today, and our psalmist saw it in his day, and he made several important observations.

For one, our psalmist saw that both the rich and the poor die alike.  No one escapes from death. All of one’s wealth and possessions cannot keep the rich man from dying, just like the poor man, and everything the rich man spent his life pursuing is then left to others (vs.  10). Death is the great equalizer, to the rich and famous, and to the poor, the unknown, and despised. Oh, the rich may get to have a fancy funeral, and a magnificent tombstone, monument, or mausoleum, but will he be bragging in the afterlife of what a stunning mausoleum he has?  As we all know, the psalmist reminds us that we cannot take our riches and possessions with us after we die (vs. 16-17).

Another observation the psalmist makes is that all the wealth in the world cannot redeem one’s soul (vs. 7-8, 15).  In the ancient world sometimes people were sold as slaves because of a large, unpaid debt. In order to be set free a large amount of money had to be paid - a ransom paid in order to be redeemed.  No one can escape the first death, physical death, no matter how rich one is. Also, money cannot spare someone the second death of hell. Trusting in worldly possessions is futile. We cannot take those possessions with us when we die, and they cannot buy the forgiveness of our sins.  Only by putting one’s faith and trust in Jesus can we be spared that second death. He paid the only possible payment - His Blood on the cross. Jesus paid that ransom price for us in His Blood so we could be set free from slavery to sin (Mark 10:45; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:12). Only God can redeem a soul.  We cannot buy our way into heaven.

What Jesus said in the Gospels is so very true - What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?  (Mark 8:36). The rich fool of the parable in Luke 12:13-21 learned this. All the money in the world means nothing if one dies and goes to hell.  All the time and effort that was spent accumulating that wealth was a waste when one is dead and gone, especially if one is now in hell.

Are we spending our time making investments on earth or in heaven?  The investments on earth won’t matter for eternity. What we invest in God and heaven will.  Those investments we keep forever. To have treasure in heaven we need to put our faith and trust in Jesus, obey Him, and use all we have for His kingdom.