Friday, July 31, 2020

A Most Valuable Treasure

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-50

I think it’s fair to say that we all like nice surprises.  If we start out with a little of a good thing, and then find that we have more than before, that’s a nice surprise.  If we find something of great value, and are then able to obtain it, that’s good, too.  And who wouldn’t like to find a buried treasure on their property! Tales of hidden, buried treasures have led people on great adventures.  Action-packed books and movies have told of these treasures, and the quests to find them.  In our Scripture today, we have several short parable examples like these that Jesus told His disciples, as He taught of the Kingdom of Heaven.

The first two examples that Jesus gave to describe what the kingdom of heaven is like, were two very small things that grew much larger (vs. 31-33).  The first was the example of the mustard seed.  A mustard seed is very small, many dozens can easily fit in a small bottle.  Yet, as Jesus described it, when planted, the mustard plant grows into a large bush, often at least 15 feet tall.  Out of something so small, comes something large and towering.

Jesus continues on with another example, that of leaven or yeast.  When making a loaf of bread, there are several ingredients, and yeast is often one of them.  The baker doesn’t use too much, but it is important, as it grows and grows, making the bread rise into a loaf and giving it a good flavor.  Otherwise it is a flat bread.  Again, it is something small, but grows into something much larger.

God’s kingdom has small beginnings, but it grows and produces great results.  The early church started out with a small number of disciples, and now there are believers all across the world.  Yeast permeates and changes all that it contacts.  It starts out small, but grows and grows, like God’s kingdom.  We need to affect and change in a good way all who we come in contact with, as well.

In the next several verses, Jesus gives short, little parables where people find something of great value, and give up what they have in order to obtain it (vs. 44-46).  Both examples picture salvation as something hidden from most people, but is so valuable that people who have it revealed to them are willing to give up all they have in order to possess it.  Buried treasures are exciting, but rare.  We can have a real treasure, which is accessible to all who confess their sins and also receive and follow Jesus.

We can look at both the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price as being God and His kingdom, and also as believers.  Jesus is like the pearl or the hidden treasure.  If we want to follow Him, we can’t be stuck on the things of this world.  It costs everything to follow Jesus, but once we do, we realize He is worth more than anything else.  Nothing this world offers will ever fulfill us as much as a relationship with Jesus.  The kingdom of heaven is more valuable than anything else we can have.  We must be willing to give up everything to obtain it.

We can also look at the parables as the pearl and treasures being Christians, and Jesus as the merchant.  He found us, and loved us so much that He gave up everything for us.  Jesus left His throne in heaven, coming to earth to live a poor, simple life, and giving His life for us upon the cross, shedding His precious Blood for our salvation.  The kingdom of heaven’s value is our life, paid for by the life of Jesus.

Our Scripture passage concludes with the parable of the dragnet, a large net that was thrown into the water and then pulled to shore with hopefully a catch of fish enclosed in it (vs. 47-50).  Just as a net that is thrown in a lake and then pulled out catches many objects besides fish, so within the church are many who claim and pose to be Christians, but are not.  At the time of God’s judgment the good and bad will be separated.

How much is Jesus worth to you?  It cost Him His life to pay the penalty for our sins.  Forgiveness of sin, a relationship with God, and a home in heaven is worth everything we have. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Bringing Good From Suffering

Romans 8:26-34

Today’s Scripture passage from the Book of Romans contains a very familiar verse for many Christians, verse 28.  It is a verse that many have found encouragement from, a verse that has carried them through many a difficult time.  Today we’ll take a closer look at that verse, along with the passage surrounding the verse.

Our Scripture today begins with Paul telling us some comforting words.  How many of you have come to God in prayer over some serious matter, and just didn’t know what to say or how to effectively pray?  You were confused or too upset, maybe even crying too much to even really pray.  Paul shares here in our Scripture that the Holy Spirit helps us in our prayers, and makes intercession for us (vs. 26-27).  We don’t always know how we should pray.  When we go to God in prayer, the Holy Spirit comes to our aid by translating our prayers according to God’s good purposes for our lives.  The Holy Spirit will pray for and through us.  He hears our inner cries and guides us by applying Scriptures.  He intercedes for us in accordance with God’s will.  The Father understands and agrees with what the Spirit thinks.

We now come to the verse (vs. 28) that many people have claimed during difficult times they have gone through.  People are encouraged to think that their trials are working for their good.  One thing we need to realize is that this verse applies only for Christians, those who have accepted the Lord Jesus as Savior.  The verse reads “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”  Things work for good to those who love God, not just anyone.  This is a promise for believers who love God and are seeking to live for Him.

God orchestrates every event in life, including suffering and temptations, to accomplish both our earthly and eternal benefit.  Though not all things we experience are pleasant in themselves, we are promised that God uses everything for our benefit.  We must have faith that He will turn our hardships and failures into something for our good.  God is able to turn every circumstance around for our long-range good.  He doesn’t work to make us happy, but to fulfill His purpose.  The devil may try to work out his evil schemes in our life, but God will work to bring good from it, and further His kingdom.

Paul continues on in verse 29 to remind us that God is in the process of forming us into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.  We were chosen to become like God’s Son, Jesus.  The Holy Spirit is in the process of moulding us into becoming like Jesus’ character.  That is God’s will for every believer.  It is a continual process, called sanctification.  God will remove from our lives whatever interferes with that, which is sometimes a painful or difficult process.  Have you ever worked on a project that has taken a while to complete?  Perhaps a sewing project or some woodworking craft.  You work on it steadily, day by day, when you can.  We are God’s personal project.  He is committed to the task of forming us into the image of His Son, Jesus.  God doesn’t always provide everything we want, but He will provide us with all that is necessary to fulfill His purpose for our lives.  His goal is to sanctify us, not simply to satisfy each immediate desire.

As we continue on, in verse 31 the word “if” would be better translated “since”.  Since God is for us, who can be against us?  Our spiritual enemies will not ultimately triumph over us.  We have a mighty team on our side as we pray.  We may have big problems, but we have an even bigger God!

Jesus has promised that nothing and no one can separate us from His love (vs. 32-34).  He is seated at the Father’s right hand, always interceding for us.  God, who did not spare His Son for us, will not abandon us.  God brought the greatest good, our eternal life, from the greatest suffering, Jesus on the Cross.  He can bring good from any suffering.

Monday, July 27, 2020

God's Word Stands Forever

Psalm 119:89-104

Today we have our weekly visit into the Book of Psalms.  Today’s passage comes from the longest psalm in the Book of Psalms, and by far the longest chapter in the Bible.  This psalm is divided into 22 sections of eight verses, each one beginning with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  In just about every verse of this lengthy psalm is a word or synonym for God’s law, such as law, precept, testimony, commandment, ordinance, judgment, etc.  I have selected a few verses from our passage to take a closer look at.

The first verse we’ll look more in-depth at is verse 89, “Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven.”  God’s Word, the Bible, is settled in heaven.  It stands firm and is unchangeable forever.  This is how important the Bible is.  It is not just a book with some good ideas and philosophies.  It is God’s Word, firmly fixed in heaven.  God will honor His Word.  Everything He has said will come to pass, and we can rely on that.

We can trust God’s promises, trust His forgiveness, trust the future that He has in store for us.  God is not a man, like us, and He does not lie (Numbers 23:19).  His Word is His bond, and it is anchored in heaven.  We can trust and believe it.  It is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  Despite so many countless attacks over the centuries, the Bible, God’s Word, is still standing strong.  No one has been able to prove it wrong or invalid, and nor will they ever.  God’s Word will not change, and is always spiritually relevant.

Let’s next take a look at verse 92, “Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction.”  When we are in the middle of our times of trouble and affliction, we should not just sit and wallow in our misery.  God’s Word can sustain us with joy and delight.  Our soul can be revived by God when we recall all He has done for us and for others.  We can fill our minds with God’s Word and promises when in the middle of periods of darkness and find His light.

In verses 98 - 100 we read, “You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; for they are ever with me.  I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation.  I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Your precepts.”  When we spend time studying God’s Word, it will give us wisdom and understanding, more than our enemies and people of the world.  We can have spent years of studying in universities, but without knowing God and His truths, we have nothing.  Yet studying God’s Word will bring us His wisdom, the wisdom of the Creator of the whole universe.  True wisdom is beyond and more than just amassing knowledge.  It is applying that knowledge into one’s life, allowing what God teaches to guide us.  The wisdom of God always far surpasses the wisdom of man.

The last verse that we will look at from our Scripture passage today is verse 103, “How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.”   Here the Scriptures uses the metaphor of taste to describe our experience of God, just as it does in Psalm 34:8.  Taste indicates a deep experience beyond the senses of seeing or hearing.  Here God’s Word is said to be sweeter than honey.  Honey is one of the oldest and most natural sweeteners.  It has also been known from ancient times to have medicinal use.  People have used it in treating burns and wounds, in coughs and sore throats, and other medicinal uses.  Like honey, God’s Word is sweet to our souls and of good help to us, as well.  Through God’s Word, we can deeply know that His love and salvation will transform and sustain us.

Though it is a long psalm, Psalm 119 is well worth reading in full.  It teaches us just how important God’s Word, the Bible is for us.  As we read and study the Scriptures, not just this psalm, but all of Scripture from Genesis through to Revelation, we will find that it is, indeed, sweeter than honey.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Good Start But Bad Finish

I Kings 3:5-12; 11:1-10

It’s always good to have a strong start in things, whether it is a race or a project.  However, what is more important is having a good finish.  One can start off a race at a good speed, but if you stumble and fall along the way, you will finish way back, or perhaps not even at all.  One can start a project doing fine, but get distracted, do a sloppy job, or lose interest, and the project is a failure.  This is especially true in life.  We can start out doing great with grand plans, and then get sidetracked with problems and sins, and life ends with disappointment.  This is particularly tragic when it happens in our spiritual life.  We have all heard of King Solomon, the son and heir of King David.  He is said to be the wisest king in history, and one of the wealthiest, as well.  As we read our Scripture passage today, we’ll see how he started out blessed by God, and then we’ll see what caused a tragic ending to his reign.

When King David died, his son Solomon inherited the throne.  Shortly after coming to the throne, God appeared to him in a dream, and asked Solomon what he would like to be given.  What would you say if God came to you and promised to give you anything that you would ask for?  Wealth and riches?  Fame?  Power?  Solomon took the responsibilities of being king very seriously, and he knew that at his young age (probably in his early 20’s) he was inexperienced.  To have wealth and fame wasn’t as important to him right then as having wisdom to rule the people properly, so he asked the Lord for an understanding heart, for wisdom (vs. 3:9).

Solomon saw his succession to the throne of his father David as evidence of God’s faithfulness to His promises (vs. 3:6), yet he was humble and knew his need for God’s wisdom to effectively rule.  God was pleased that Solomon didn’t ask for personal benefits, such as wealth or power over his enemies.  Asking for wisdom is always the best choice to make.  God encourages us to ask for wisdom from Him (James 1:5).

Solomon started his reign out on the right path with God.  However, he did not stay on that good path.  Within a few years he started heading down the wrong way, and as we read a few chapters later in the Book of Kings, his reign and life ended as a tragic disappointment in the eyes of God.

The first mistake Solomon made was to take many pagan women as his wives.  God had strictly commanded His people not to intermarry with pagan unbelievers, yet Solomon did not obey.  Solomon’s love for his wives led him to abandon his loyalty for the Lord, and he began to worship other gods.  He started the downward spiral that future kings would follow in their worship of pagan gods (vs. 11:1-6).  What is even worse is that Solomon erected many of the altars to these pagan gods and abominations right within sight of the Temple that he had built for the one true God, Yahweh.  Solomon had absolutely no excuse for doing what he did, as he had God’s Laws clearly written in the Books of Moses, and twice God had appeared to him in earlier years.

God has given strict commands throughout Scripture against a believer ever marrying an unbeliever.  Solomon’s choice of marrying pagan women led to their drawing him away from worshipping only Yahweh.  God will not tolerate compromise with other religions.  Believers need to stand against pressure to compromise our faith, and what we know to be true.

Compromise begins when we ignore God’s instructions, and follow the world’s practices.  When we start loving people, activities, or things more than we love God, we start on the downward path, just as Solomon did.  Compromise is a hidden danger, a hidden spiritual landmine.  It caused Solomon to drift from the Lord, so that after a few years he was sacrificing to pagan gods.  Don’t give Satan a toe-hold, which is what compromise does.

Solomon was different from his father, David.  Both had sinned in their lives more than once.  However, David truly confessed and repented of his sins, and made efforts to repair the breach with God.  Solomon never did, and he fell deeper and deeper into sin.  Solomon started out good, but ended so tragically with God.  As we go through our life, let us make sure that we do our utmost to end well, and not like Solomon.

Friday, July 24, 2020

The Wheat And Tares

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

One despair of a serious gardener is to find weeds growing side by side with their plants.  The gardener hates to go out and view their beautiful flowers and find an ugly weed poking up!  The same with the nice rows of carrots and peas, and there in the midst is a string of weeds.  I’m not much of a gardener, and occasionally it can be difficult to tell weeds from a good plant, especially when they first come up through the ground.  We have to be very careful to not mistakenly pull a good plant when going after those weeds!  In our Scripture passage today from the Gospel of Matthew, we read a parable that Jesus told about good plants and weeds.  Let’s take a look at the lesson that He wishes to teach His followers.

The parable begins with a farmer having planted wheat in his garden.  However, overnight an enemy comes in and plants a bunch of tares or weeds in among the good plants (vs. 24-25).  As the plants grow, the farmhands notice that there are tares in among the good grains of wheat, and they ask the farmer if he wants them to pull them out (vs. 26-28).  The farmer instructs his help to hold off pulling out the tares until it is time to harvest the crop, as he didn’t want any of the good wheat to accidentally get pulled out in the process of ridding the field of the tares (vs. 29-30).

After the crowds left, Jesus tells His disciples the meaning of this parable.  The good wheat represents Christians, those who have accepted Jesus as Savior and are following Him.  The tares are unbelievers.  What is a “tare”?  Tares were the plant “darnel”, which looks very similar to wheat until both plants are fully mature.  Jesus is telling us here that sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between a true Christian and someone who might be posing as a Christian, but is really an unbeliever.  Frequently we can tell a weed from a good plant right away, and often we can spot an unbeliever right away, too, just by the way they act.  However, that isn’t always the case.  A weed can look quite similar to a good plant for quite awhile, and sometimes some people may look and act “Christian”, but really are not.

Satan tries to deceive the church by mingling his followers with believers, and sometimes it is difficult to spot them.  The devil actively sows his followers in the church.  In churches today there are both true believers and the unsaved, who pose as true believers. They may be spreading dissension, spreading subtle false doctrine among the believers.  However, God is intent on preserving His people until the harvest, and He will make the separation (vs. 40-43).

Satan’s purposes are always to damage and destroy God’s purposes, just like the weeds overpower the good plants, robbing them of nutrients, water, and sunlight.  As believers we need to be on the lookout for these “tares” in the church. The weeds try to get believers to follow their errors, and we should be aware and prepared, checking every teaching with Scripture.  We are instructed, though, not to weed them out ourselves, as it is often difficult to really spot the tare.  There are weak believers, who might look like a “tare”, but are still a true “plant of wheat”.  God knows their heart.  True converts and believers produce fruitful lives.  If there is no fruit, there is no true root.  There are pretenders in the Body of Christ.  We must not let them influence our faith.  Instead, we should be influencing theirs.

Weeds (the unbelievers) and wheat (the believers) must live side by side in this world.  God allows the unbelievers to remain in the world for a while.  At the harvest time, when Jesus returns, the tares will all be uprooted and thrown away into the furnace of fire (vs. 41-43).  God’s Day of Judgment is coming.  On that day there will be sorrow, there will be pain, but it will be too late for them.  Be ready for that day by making sure your faith is sincere.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

It Will Be Worth It All

Romans 8:18-25

The hiker finally reaches the end of a grueling trail, but they think it well worth the struggle when they see the beautiful scenery that was at the end.  The student reaches the end of many years of difficult studies and exams, but feels it was worth it when they receive their diploma and a good career awaits them.  The new mother can overlook the many hours of painful labor, and perhaps even months of sickness, when she holds her baby.  It was worth it all for her.  We can all think of instances when struggles and toils we have gone through are worth it, compared with what is at the end of all those difficulties.  That is the message that the Apostle Paul seeks to remind the readers of his letter to the church in Rome in today’s Scripture passage.  Let’s take a closer look at Paul’s message.

We all have many struggles and difficulties throughout life.  No one is spared this.  No one will reach the end of their life’s journey without having gone through some difficult days, often difficult years.  This includes Christians.  Satan hates believers, and he makes a point of aiming attacks at them.  However, Paul reminds us of a blessed truth, that all of the suffering we go through during this life cannot even begin to be compared with the wondrous glory that we will have when we reach God’s kingdom (vs. 18).  A split second is nothing compared to eternity.  Our pain and trials won’t last for eternity, but we will.  The wonder of heaven will make the most difficult life a good bargain.

When we go through tough times, we can be confident that the Lord has a purpose in those struggles.  We can trust that God is good, even when the outcome is not.  He is good during times of famine, as well as times of feasting.  God’s blessings are worth the sacrifices and obedience we make.  When we are in despair we need to remember that God is still God.  Those of us who trust in Christ have a living Hope, One who does not disappoint (vs. 20).

Mankind is not the only thing that has suffered because of sin.  All of creation has, as well.  In this passage, the word “creation” refers to everything created, not just human beings.  Sin has caused all of creation to fall from the perfect state in which God created it.  After the Fall roses now grow thorns, the bee now stings, thistles with needles grow in the grass, and a tall tree falls victim to an infestation that kills it.  Creation is in bondage to decay.  But one day all of creation will be liberated and transformed.  All creation is longing for the curse to be lifted, and has hope for a future glory.

Adam’s Fall has caused misery from then until now.  Creation looks forward to when this curse will be lifted (vs. 22).   At the time when Jesus returns, the curse from the days of Adam will be lifted, and creation will be restored.  Until that day, all of creation groans.  That day is drawing closer, and the glory that creation will receive will be worth the wait.  However, waiting for our trials and burdens of life to end, even waiting for “the redemption of our body”, seems to take forever (vs. 22-23).  Waiting for Jesus to return often seems to take too long, and we might want to give up.  Time may drag, but don’t give up.  He will come again!

How can we know for sure that not only our bodies, but all of creation will be redeemed and restored?  The Holy Spirit is the down payment, the first installment, as a guarantee of our resurrection life (vs. 23).  He is the first installment of the glory yet to follow.  God cares for us, and He will bring what is best for us, even if it is not what we had planned.  Though people sometimes fail to keep their promises, God never makes a promise that He won’t keep (vs. 24-25).  Sometimes it takes some time, but we can put our confidence in His goodness and wisdom.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Fighting Problems With Praise

Psalm 86

What is the best and most effective way to rid oneself from depression and feeling blue?  Talking about your feelings with a trusted friend or a certified counselor can be quite helpful.  Going for a walk and enjoying the outdoors is good, as are some other ways to exercise.  King David, who knew what it was like to feel down and discouraged, knew the best way to fight that.  He learned that the best way to overcome his distresses, worries, and depression was through praise and worship of the Lord God.  When Satan and his demon hordes hear a believer speaking or singing forth their praises to the Lord Jesus, and lifting His Name high, they take flight.  The Book of Psalms are filled with many of the praises and worship songs that David wrote.

Do we really believe that God is truly good?  Sometimes, especially during difficult times, we may have our doubts.  Going through all the difficulties that David did, it would be understandable if he might have questioned God’s goodness.  David would have been a prime target of Satan, to bring him down with feelings of depression and hopelessness, and feelings that God was not good to him.  To fight those feelings, and the discouragement that would accompany that, David wrote psalms of praise to Yahweh. We need to remind ourselves that God is always good.  We do that by reading His Word, worshipping Him, and praising Him, especially for His goodness.  Our psalm today, Psalm 86, contains all the elements that our prayers should: petition, or making our requests to God (vs. 1-7, 11, 14-17), worship and adoration of Yahweh (vs. 8-10), and giving of thanks to Him (vs. 12-13).

In verse 2 David calls upon the Lord to rescue him because “I am holy”.   David realized, as we all also should, that on our own we are sinful.  David knew that he messed up plenty of times, as we all do.  However, as believers who have accepted Jesus as Savior, we are united with Him.  We now have Jesus’ righteousness, and are now sanctified, set apart, and holy through Him.  Both David and ourselves have the righteousness of Jesus, and are holy.

When our trouble and pain is so great, when there is no relief in sight, all we can do is cry out to God for His help (vs. 7).  We can be assured that the Lord hears us, and will provide for our needs when we seek Him.  David had this assurance.  He said in his psalm here that God will answer, not perhaps He will answer if He feels like it or if He’s not too busy.  The conviction that God answers prayer will sustain us through the difficult times we each go through.  We can know that we may call upon the Lord God with full assurance that He will help us.

David also knew that, unlike the pagan gods that the heathen worship, Yahweh is alive, and will do mighty deeds for those who love Him (vs. 8-10).  The pagan deities are powerless because they are false, not alive.  They are mere figments of the imagination of those who thought them up.  Yahweh is not one god among many.  He is God alone.  David prayed that he would have an undivided heart, single-hearted loyalty to the Lord (vs. 11).  As we praise His Name, we can trust that those demons take flight, and that the Lord will hear and answer our prayers.

We can be confident that God knows our situation, no matter how desperate it becomes, and we can be confident that He cares.  Difficult situations can lead to a deeper relationship with God.  This will happen when we call on Him to help us in our troubles, and when we seek to follow Him each day, and when we bring praise and worship to the Lord each and every day.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Dare To Be A Daniel

Daniel 1:1-20

It takes courage to stand up for what you believe, to stand for your convictions.  Sometimes we get afraid to speak up with our convictions when there is opposition.  This is especially true if that opposition is someone who is powerful and the consequences could be very serious.  In our Scripture passage today from the Book of Daniel, we read how the young man Daniel had courage to stand firm for what he believed, despite what the consequences could be.

Chapter 1 of the Book of Daniel takes place around 606 - 605 BC.  The Babylonian Empire has started their conquest of the Kingdom of Judah, and the first round of exiles have been taken eastward into Babylon.  This first round of captives were primarily young men from the wealthiest families, men that were good looking and were smart.  They were men who showed potential and were “the cream of the crop”.  Daniel, who was possibly a relative of the king, and his three friends were among those who were taken captive into Babylon.

King Nebuchadnezzar wanted to select from these young men some who he would train to become leaders of state.  Qualifications to be given this honor to be trained in affairs of state were to be free from any blemish or handicap, handsome, intelligent and mentally sharp, and socially poised and polished (vs. 4).  Daniel and his friends, who were probably teenagers at the time, were among those chosen.

One of the first things that the king’s court wanted to do with these chosen men was to facilitate a swift change of allegiance.  They wanted to make these young men into Babylonians, and one way was to turn them from anything Hebrew about them, including the worship of their God Yahweh.  To help with this was to give them Babylonian names that honored the Babylonian gods, rather than their Hebrew names (vs. 6-7).  Daniel, which means “God is my judge” was given the name Belteshazzar which means “Bel protects the king”.  Bel was the chief god of Babylon.  Hananiah, meaning “The Lord is Gracious” was given the name Shadrach, meaning “Command of Aku”.  Aku was a moon god.  Mishael, meaning “Who is like the Lord” was given the name Meshach, meaning “Who is what Aku is”.  And Azariah, meaning “The Lord is my Helper”, was named Abednego, meaning “Servant of Nabu”.  Nabu was a god of learning.  The Babylonian authorities did not realize with these four young men, however, was that although they changed their names to make them Babylonian, they could not change their character.  Daniel and his friends were fully committed to Yahweh.

The first major test that they faced was that of their diet.  The young men in training were given their food from the king’s court.  This pagan food and drink was devoted to their idols.  Eating implied honoring these deities. Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not compromise or be untrue to Yahweh (vs. 8).  He took a stand and was faithful to God.  This could have been very dangerous for Daniel to do, but God honored his trust and allegiance (vs. 9-16). Because of Daniel’s faithfulness, God moved to change the heart of the Babylonian officials.  God honors those who honor Him.

Although Daniel was in a culture that did not honor God, he still obeyed God’s laws.  Society today says there are no absolute moral truths, and that the Bible is irrelevant.  Society says each person can decide for themselves what is right.  Daniel was committed to stand for the Lord, even if it cost him his life.

Like Daniel, we must resolve to obey God, and be committed to following and living for Him.  It is possible to be obedient to God, even when surrounded by people who are disobedient to His Word.  Make up your mind to put God first, and hold an absolute commitment to honor Him above all else.  Do what is right and not give in to the pressures around us.  Never compromise your standards.  As the old-time hymn says, “Dare to be a Daniel, Dare to stand alone!  Dare to have a purpose firm!  Dare to make it known!”

Friday, July 17, 2020

What Type Of Soil Are You?

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Our Gospel reading from this past week’s Lectionary is one of the most familiar parables that Jesus told, the Parable of the Sower.  Let’s refresh ourselves today with the truths of this message that Jesus told His followers.

Frequently the Lord Jesus taught the people by means of parables, which were spiritual lessons or morals that were told, and sometimes hidden, within a story.  Often the parables were told without explanation, leaving the listener to contemplate and figure out the message on their own.  However after Jesus told the parable of the sower to the crowds, He gave the explanation to the disciples privately.  As Jesus was teaching the crowds of people who had gathered, He gave them this parable using illustrations that they would be familiar with, as most of them lived in the countryside.  A farmer is walking through his property, grabbing handfuls of seed and scattering them, where they land on various types of ground with varying results.  This parable is not just an observation of daily life in the country, as it shows a spiritual illustration.

The seed is the Word of God, and the sower is the Gospel evangelist or anyone who tells others the message of Jesus.  The various soils where the seed lands are various types of hearts of the people who hear the message.  One group of seed falls by the wayside, where it doesn’t even begin to take any root, and instead is eaten up by birds.  This seed represents those who have had the Gospel message told to them, but they have hard, closed hearts, and immediately reject and dismiss the Gospel.  The birds are Satan and his servants who snatch the Word away before it can take root in their hearts.  They give no response to the Gospel at all.  We all have seen people like that, who immediately reject or ignore the Gospel upon hearing the message.

The second group of seeds are those who fall upon the stony ground.  There is only a minimal amount of soil on top of the rocks, and though the seeds start to take root, the roots are very shallow.  The seeds sprout, but they quickly wither in the sun because they get very little moisture.  These seeds represent shallow-hearted individuals who quickly receive God’s message with joy, but when a trial comes, they wither away.  They are all emotion, but have worthless roots which cannot keep them grounded during a trial. These represent those who make an emotional, superficial commitment to salvation, but it is not real, not strong.  They abandon their faith when a trial comes their way or there is a sacrificial price to pay.  God uses trials to strengthen our faith.  Jesus said those who don’t truly believe will fall away when afflictions come.

The third group of seeds fall among the thorns and weeds.  This is ground that has not been plowed or prepared, as the thorns and weeds choke out the crop.  When we have a garden, if we don’t take care, the weeds will overgrow and our good plants cannot grow properly.  This represents the carnal, worldly convert, who never breaks with this world.  The world and materialism choke out any true strong faith and belief, and they are unfruitful.  Again, there is only a superficial commitment, but they cannot break with their love of money and the world.

The final group of seeds are those that fall upon good ground.  That is well-plowed and prepared soil.  This represents good, strong, faithful converts.  The Lord wants us to hear, understand, and put into practice His teachings.  His Word should be cultivated in our lives.  It should bear fruit in our life and the lives of others.  A fruitful seed will grow, bearing a good crop.  It will also put forth more seed, just like the sower, spreading the Gospel to others.  We need to be sowing seed in those around us.  Give out what God has put into us.  We need to faithfully sow the seed, and God will produce the harvest.

What type of soil are you?  Is your heart hard and unproductive, rejecting God?  Is it rocky, thin, and shallow, and will wither with the first storm?  Do we have too many weeds of the world in our heart? Or is it good and productive for Jesus?  Jesus gives us all a warning in this parable.  “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (vs. 9).  This implies more than just physical hearing, but also an inner, spiritual reception of the truth.  This is a deeper kind of listening that results in spiritual understanding.  Are we listening when God calls us, when He tries to speak to us from His Word?

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

You Are A Joint-Heir!

Romans 8:9-17

Picture a scene in an attorney’s office.  The children of a recently deceased father are gathered together for the reading of his will.  Several sons and daughters are there, including an adopted child.  What will the will reveal?  Will they each receive an inheritance?  Will one be overlooked, or one be more favored?  In some families that may be the case.  How about with God?  In our Scripture passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans, we read about how, if we have accepted Christ as Savior, we are sons and heirs of God.  But, are we each the same?

When we accept the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, our sins are forgiven and our soul is redeemed.  At that time, we also become adopted into God’s family, becoming His sons and daughters.  The Holy Spirit, which comes to dwell in our hearts at that time, gives us the assurance that we have been adopted into God’s family (vs. 14).  Are adopted children treated the same as natural born?  In many families that is so, but not always.  How about in God’s family?  What about when that will is read?

In Old Testament Jewish families, the firstborn son was always given at least half of everything, with the remainder being divided by the rest of the siblings, no matter how many children were in the family.  If the firstborn was a daughter, she was skipped over to the firstborn son.  Adopted children might or might not be included.  However in Roman law, adoption gave them all full rights of the family.  He became a full heir, equal to natural born children.  In a Roman adoption the inheritance was equally divided, including with any adopted children.  This was the type of adoption the Apostle Paul was referring to when he said that we are adopted into God’s family.  We become full heirs with full privileges.  We share in great treasures as co-heirs with Jesus (vs. 14-17).  Imagine, all that Jesus has will be shared with us, as we are joint-heirs with Him!  Not only that, but as God’s children we can come to Him without fear or hesitation.  We can call God “daddy” or “papa” with tenderness and without fear or anxiety (vs. 15).

In addition to sharing the good news about our adoption into God’s family, Paul also shares with us about how the Holy Spirit lives in every person who has accepted Jesus as Savior (vs. 9-11).  If there is no evidence of the Holy Spirit and His fruits in a life, there is no salvation (vs. 9).  Who controls our life, who is its master?  Jesus or our sinful nature?  We need to let the power of Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, take authority over our life.  Let the sinful nature know that Jesus is Master, and it’s time for it to die.

The Holy Spirit provides us with the energy and power to be putting to death our sinful nature (vs. 13).  Paul speaks in several of his letters of the need to regard as dead the power of sin in our life (Romans 6:11; Galatians 5:24).  When we regard sin as dead in our life, we can more easily ignore temptations when they come.  This is a process that is never completed in this life.  The Holy Spirit accomplishes this through our faithful obedience to the commands of the Bible.

We cannot live the Christian life in our own strength.  We can, though, through the power of the Holy Spirit.  God’s grace enables us to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to put to death our sinful desires.  When God’s Spirit indwells us, we are spiritually alive and can show forth true righteousness.  As believers, we need to turn away from earthly pursuits, and sow into the Kingdom of God.  Since we reap what we sow, we should sow what will please God and grow His Kingdom (Galatians 6:7-8).

God uses adversity to prune us, to refine us, to develop in us a Christ-like character (vs. 17).  Don’t let adversity harden us to God and to resist His work in our life.  View it as a positive thing that can prepare, equip, energize, and empower us as His children for the work He wishes to do through us.  The things in our life that are hindrances and stumbling blocks need to be discarded.  Let God transform our life to become more Christ-like.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Our God Who Hears

Psalm 65

Many people have felt, at one time or another, that nobody listens to them and hears what they are saying, or understands what they are feeling.  Perhaps it is your spouse, your parents, your boss or co-worker.  Sometimes we might feel like God doesn’t even hear us, that our words just echo back to us from heaven.  Our psalm today gives God’s word of truth that this is not the case.  Let’s take a look at this truth, and others that we find in this psalm.

In just about every religion, some type of prayer or supplication is made to their deity.  The petitioner will come to their idol at a shrine and bow to pray for a need.  Often they will bring an offering, sometimes a type of food, maybe flowers, or something of value.  However their god or goddess doesn’t hear a word they say, as they are non-existent.  An idol made of wood or stone has no ears to hear a word said.  The unfortunate petitioner returns home with their prayers having fallen on deaf, non-existent ears.  This is not the case with the one true God, Yahweh.  As we read in verse 2, He hears our prayers.  When people throughout the world realize this, when they come to understand that Yahweh, alone, hears and responds to our prayers, they will turn and come to Him.

One prayer that the Lord always hears and responds to is when we come to Him in confession and repentance (vs. 3).  God will forgive all of our sins when we turn to Him.  Not only does He hear us when we ask for His forgiveness, but Yahweh provided for our atonement.  He provided the means by which our sins could be forgiven.  Our sins separated us from God, and a perfect sacrifice needed to be made to bring us back to Him.  God, Himself, made that sacrifice with the sinless Blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.  In no other religion can it ever be said that their pagan deities loved them so much, that they sacrificed themselves for their people.  Yahweh loves His children, and forgives sins.  Nobody is beyond His redemption.  Nobody has too many sins, or sins that are too heinous, that God won’t forgive.

Not only does the Blood of Jesus provide us with the forgiveness of sins, but it also makes the way so that we can freely approach God (vs. 4).  In the days of the Old Testament only the tribe of Levi, the Levites, could enter the sacred rooms of the temple and tabernacle.  Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, believers today have access to God’s presence at any time (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Another difference between the one, true God, Yahweh, and the false pagan deities is that, unlike the local heathen gods, Yahweh is not just the God of one locality.  The pagan gods were often just a god of a small, local area, perhaps a small valley, or one or two neighboring hills, a stream, or if powerful enough, a mountain.  Some were gods of one type of animal, or maybe a type of weather condition, but only that.  Yahweh is God of the whole world, of all of creation, of the whole universe (vs. 5-6).

Our God is not limited by locality, nor does He have power in only one area or problem.  Jesus has power over every area of life (vs. 7).  He stilled both the raging waves (Mark 4:39), and also the angry mobs (Luke 4:28-30).  Both can be equally fearful, but were silenced by His power.  We can come to the Lord anywhere we are, and with whatever problem we have.  We can be in Chicago, London, or Tokyo, it doesn’t matter.  He will hear our prayers.  God isn’t just the God of headaches, but not of cancer, or the God of problems at work, but not of problems within the family.  We can come to Him with any need we have.  We can pray in faith and expect God to do amazing things on our behalf.

Because we have such a great, powerful, and loving God, He is worthy of all of our praise.  As our psalm concludes, we see that the beauty of nature glorifies God, the Creator.  He brings the rain and harvest.  He is the God who forgives.  He provides for all we need.  From the east, where the morning starts and the sun rises, to the west where the day ends and the sun sets, God is to be praised and worshipped (vs. 8).  As we see when we look towards our Savior (vs. 11-13), the paths of the Lord are overflowing with abundance to those who walk in them.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

God's Invitation To Us

Isaiah 55:1-11

On many a summer day in the past, my children and I have gone to open-air fairs, frequently historically themed fairs.  There are often food vendors there who call out to the folks walking by, beckoning them to come and buy their food or drink.  If you are hot and thirsty, their calls are enticing.  How lucky you might be if they are offering their food and drink free of charge!  And it’s even better if theirs is the best quality!  In that case it wouldn’t make sense to spend your money going to someone else and paying for something that isn’t even nearly as good.  Our Scripture passage today gives a similar scenario.  Today we read from Isaiah an invitation from the Lord.  Will people accept it, or will they turn to a poor substitute?

We all get physically hungry and thirsty everyday, and both want and need good healthy food.  We also, each of us, get spiritually hungry and thirsty, too.  How do we satisfy that need?  With physical hunger and thirst we would hopefully select good, wholesome, and nutritious food.  Eating a diet of only junk food will make a person overweight and sickly.  The choice of where and how we satisfy our spiritual hunger and thirst is even more important, yet too many people are more careless with that decision.  The Lord God gives us an invitation to come to Him to satisfy our spiritual hunger and thirst (vs. 1-2).

Salvation is for everyone who is willing to come.  The invitation here in Isaiah is to everyone.  It is not just for any one group.  It is not for just one nationality or race, not just for the rich or elite.  God even says that we can come if we have no money.  Salvation cannot be bought.  It is free because of Jesus’ redemptive work.  Jesus gives us the Bread of Life (John 6:32-35). It is not for sale, and cannot be bought, no matter what is offered in payment.  Here we have an open table filled with all that we could ever need for our spiritual hunger, and it is free for any who would come.  However so many turn to hundreds of other tables filled with poison cooking that brings eternal death.  They follow false religions and philosophies that bring damnation, and often pay for it by performing all sorts of religious rituals, rules, and regulations.  God pleads with us, asking why would we pay for something that is not really food, nor will it satisfy, when we can have what is good, and freely provided for us?

Salvation is available to those who seek the Lord, and who call upon Him (vs. 6-7).  It is accompanied by repentance and forsaking sinful ways.  Don’t wait until you have drifted far away from God to see Him. It is often more difficult to turn to Him the older one becomes.  Also one may die unexpectedly, or Jesus may return, and then it is too late.  Seek Him now, while you can, before it is too late.

This call to seek God isn’t only referring to seeking Him for salvation, though that would be the primary call.  When we, as Christians, have problems and need answers, to whom do we turn to?  Do we rush immediately to family, friends, or a therapist?  Or do we seek God first?  Getting godly counsel from qualified people is not wrong, but are they the first ones we run to, or do we first seek God?  And throughout our day, are we seeking Him?  Do we really desire God?  We should be seeking Him daily, diligently, and continually.

Isaiah continues on in our passage, speaking for the Lord, as He tells us that our thoughts and His are not the same (vs. 8-9).  How often do we get puffed up, thinking that our opinions, thoughts, and ways are the same as God’s, and thus, everyone should be listening and following us.  As God says here, there is a vast difference between our thoughts and God’s thoughts.  Our ways are not like His ways.  We have limited insight.  We are so often short-sighted.  God is beyond human comprehension.

As the prophet concludes our passage, we have the promise of God in verses 10-11 that, just as water and rain accomplish their purpose of watering the earth, God’s Word will accomplish its purpose, that of the salvation of souls (Hebrews 4:12).

God desires that we come, listen, seek, and call upon Him.  His salvation is freely offered, but it only benefits those who receive it.  I urge you all to seek the Lord, call upon Him.  Come to Him, just as you are.

Friday, July 10, 2020

True Rest

Matthew 11:25-30

The load can be heavy when the car breaks down away from home, and you’re forced to carry multiple bags of groceries back to the house.  Maybe you’re out hiking through some rather rough terrain, and you’ve over packed your backpack with heavy items.  Now it is soooo heavy to carry!  Your destination is far, and your feet are so weary.  Eventually, though, you’ll get to your destination, or you’ll get home with your groceries.  Since these are physical loads we can eventually put them down.  There are other burdens that we carry, such as emotional and spiritual burdens, which can be immensely heavy, and these can’t be put down as easily as a backpack can slide off our back.  If someone offers to help carry our physical burdens we are thankful, and quickly hand over some of the load.  How about if someone offers to lift the burden of our emotional or spiritual load?  Would we turn as eagerly to them?  In our Scripture passage today we read of Someone who offers to do just that.

What are some of the burdens that we are carrying through life?  Many of us carry a heavy load of stress, perhaps from work or family concerns.  We carry burdens of worry, worry over finances, over health, over family.  There are burdens of resentment and bitterness, perhaps being carried for many years.  We may be carrying a yoke of sin, or one from excessive demands of religious leaders, trying to work ourselves into favor with God, or weariness from searching for Him.  As we read in our passage, the Lord Jesus calls us to Him, to bring these burdens to Him to carry, and to have rest (vs. 28-30).

The burdens we often carry can weaken us, and make us less productive for God.  We are not called to carry the burdens of our life all by ourselves.  Jesus calls us to come to Him and exchange those burdens for His yoke.  As we surrender our baggage to Jesus, His load, His will for our lives, is easy and light.  Jesus tells us to cast every care on to God, because He really cares about us (I Peter 5:7).  Allow Jesus to take our stress as we take His rest.

Jesus promises to give us rest when we find our rest in Him.  We will find rest from the endless, fruitless efforts to save our self by works.  God promises to lift that burden and give rest to our souls, but we need to make the decision to turn to Him.

Sometimes we get very tired and weary on our path through life, and fail to see God’s majesty and glory.  Trying to carry that weary load of worry, of problems, of trying to handle things ourselves won’t work, and it only adds to the stress and weariness.  Turning to others is so often fruitless, as well, since they frequently don’t have the wisdom, and are carrying their own burdens.  Jesus is the One we are to give our burdens to.  Following any one or any thing else will get us nowhere but lost.

We can’t truly love Jesus without obeying His commands, nor will we find true rest unless we take His yoke upon our shoulders.  The world’s yoke may sound light, but it leads to sin and slavery.  Jesus’ yoke leads away from error, and leads us to the eternal fields of joy.

In closing, let us remember that Jesus promises to give us rest when we find our rest in Him.  Nothing is too great for Him.  Jesus promises to refresh our weary souls when we cry out to Him.  He will free us from these burdens we have been carrying on our own.  Jesus promises us love, healing, and peace with God.  Jesus is always ready to lift the weight of our burdens.  We just need to turn to Him.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Not Guilty

Romans 7:21-8:6

There is one heavy weight that many Christians bear that weighs them down, and that is feeling the guilt of sin, even sins that they have confessed and repented of, sometimes even many times over.  Newer Christians often feel this way, though sometimes even older Christians still carry this weight.  Christians often wrestle with this when they feel drawn to any particular sin they struggle with.  They wonder why, when they wish to follow the Lord, do they still feel drawn or tempted by certain sins.  This was something that even the Apostle Paul faced, and something that he addresses in our Scripture passage today.

As Paul begins our passage for today, he describes the battle that goes on within many believers (vs. 21-25).  The believer’s new nature no longer sides with sin, but instead sides with God.  As we strive to reckon our sin nature dead, it crops up and wages war with our desire to obey God.  Paul was often very frustrated with himself and the sin nature that kept a hold of him.  Though believers are saved, the sin nature is still there, continually inclining towards thoughts and deeds that yield only to death.  Whenever Paul felt discouraged by this draw and inclination that sin had, he would remember that Jesus had freed him from its power.  He knew God’s holiness and longed to be rescued from his sinful flesh.

We often feel guilty about sins we’ve committed, even if we’ve confessed and repented of them.  The devil tries to bring us down, throwing condemnation at us.  We feel the guilt within ourselves, and others will be sure to toss it our way.  Paul felt that way, himself.  However, God revealed to him a special truth, which he shares with us in chapter 8, verse 1, and that is there is “no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus”, that when we’ve accepted the Lord Jesus as our Savior, we will not be condemned for our sins, as Jesus has paid the price.  Satan tries to plague us with guilt for sins which we have been forgiven of.  This will discourage us from obeying the Lord, and from enjoying His abundant life.

If we are believers, our sin is completely forgiven.  When we accept Jesus as Savior, God then declares us “not guilty”, and sets us free from the death row that sin had placed us on.  Without Jesus we would have no hope at all.  No sin that a born-again believer can commit - past, present, or future - can be held against us since the penalty was paid by Jesus Christ, and His righteousness is imputed to us.  Believers are clothed in righteousness through His Blood, and will not face divine wrath.  No sin will ever reverse this divine legal decision.  When Jesus went to the cross on our behalf, He lifted the blame from our shoulders, and made us righteous before God.  Feelings of condemnation come from Satan.  The Christian’s sins are wiped clean and we are chosen and loved by God.  Condemnation is reserved for those who reject Jesus.

The Old Testament Law was powerless to produce righteousness (vs. 3).  Blood had to be shed before sins could be pardoned (Leviticus 17:11).  Animal blood could not really remove sins (Hebrews 10:4), and the presence of sin renders the believer powerless to do what the Old Testament Law demands.  God’s condemnation against sin was fully poured out on the sinless Son of God.  Jesus’ shed blood would pay the penalty for our sins.

The struggle to live the Christian life is a real one, and if we try to do it in our own strength, it will be a losing battle.  However, as we allow the Holy Spirit to, He will give us the power we need to live the Christian life.  People are in one of two categories - those who are controlled by their sinful nature, and those who follow after the Holy Spirit (vs. 5-6).  We can have our mind and life controlled by our flesh and sin nature, or we can be spiritually minded and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.  It is a spiritual battle that Satan is waging for control of our mind, because the way we think determines how we will behave.  Our weapon is the Holy Scriptures.  Fight back against Satan with God’s Holy Word.

Monday, July 6, 2020

The Last Psalm Of David

Psalm 145

Today’s psalm is the last one marked in the Book of Psalms as a Psalm of David.  The Book of Psalms is not laid out in any chronological order, so this is not necessarily the last one that David wrote, but it is the last one in the book that credits him as the author.  David wrote 75 of the psalms in this book, which would be half of the psalms.  Other authors include Asaph, the Sons of Korah, Moses, Solomon, and several whose author is unknown.  This psalm of David, the great king and sweet psalmist of Israel, celebrates the King of Eternity for who He is, what He has done, and what He has promised.

In this psalm, David gives four reasons to praise the Lord.  First, David says we should be praising Him because He is great (vs. 3).  The Lord’s greatness is unsearchable.  We all know some people we might consider great, but their greatness is human and comprehensible.  Yahweh’s greatness is beyond our understanding.  The second reason is that the Lord is gracious and merciful (vs. 8-9).  He is full of compassion to all of His children, forgiving us, and showing us tender mercy.  The third reason that David gives for praising the Lord is that He sustains all those who fall (vs. 14).  When we stumble throughout life, He is there to lift us up.  Lastly, we praise the Lord because He is righteous in His ways, and kind in His deeds (vs. 17).  Everything the Lord does is right.

We all have some days when it might be a bit more difficult to feel thankful, or feel like doing much praising.  David had plenty of those days.  One way that he found helpful in having a grateful heart, and would help to bring forth praises, was to recall personal victories that God had given him.  David pondered His attributes (vs. 5).  David looked around and beheld the glory of God throughout creation.  We can do that, as well.  Focus our thoughts on Jesus, not on our problems.

Sometimes our burdens seem more than we can bear.  We wonder how we can go on.  It is at these times that we need to turn to God for help (vs. 14).  When we are bending and bowing down under our burdens, and feel we are about to fall, the Lord will uphold us and raise us up (Psalm 55:22; I Peter 5:7).  The Lord is ready to lift us up, and bear our burdens.  We just need to be willing to part with them and cast them over on to Him.

David continues on in his psalm, telling us we need to look to the Lord to provide for all of our needs (vs. 15).  When we have a need in our life, whether great or small, who are we looking towards to fulfill that need?  Are we looking at our friends or family to fulfill that need?  To our boss, our job, or to the bank?  Each of them can, and so often will fail us, whether intentionally or not.  Many of us have seen this in these last several months.  The Scriptures here instruct us that we need to turn our eyes expectantly to the Lord.  He, alone, will provide our needs.  The Lord God is our Great Provider.  We can put our hope in His great love.

Every born-again child of God has equal access to the Father in heaven (vs. 18).  Yahweh is near to His children, not some far-off distant god, like the pagan deities.  Because of Jesus and the sacrifice He made for us upon the cross, we are able, and urged to come boldly to God’s throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16).  There we will find God’s mercy and grace to help us.

Throughout this psalm, David lists many attributes and promises of God.  When God makes a promise to us, it will be accomplished.  He does not lie (Numbers 23:19).  God is trustworthy.  We can count on Him to fulfill His promises.  God is faithful in all that He does (Deuteronomy 7:9).  For that we can join King David and praise His Name for ever and ever.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

The Coming King

Zechariah 9:9-12

If we take a survey of leaders, whether in politics or business, from the past or present, pride and power would be a common characteristic of many of them.  Humility wouldn’t show up too often.  In our Scripture passage today, taken from the Book of Zechariah the prophet, we will read of the greatest leader, that being the Lord Jesus Christ, and how He came into what will be His capital city, not in pride and power, but in humility.

In ancient times, both donkeys and horses carried a lot of symbolism in them.  A donkey was a more humble beast, whereas the horse symbolized power and strength.  One riding a donkey came in peace, where the horse was used in war.  As we look back in history, one powerful military leader in the ancient Middle East was Alexander the Great, who lived about 300 years prior to Jesus  He conquered the lands from Greece and Egypt to the borders of India and north into present-day Kazakhstan.  Alexander traveled and fought upon a very large and powerful black war horse named Bucephalus, who was as dear to him as any family member.  Everyone knew that when Alexander came riding into town, he wasn’t looking for peace.  He came to conquer and bring the countries into submission.

As we look into our passage, we see a contrasting King, one who comes into Jerusalem, not upon a conquering horse, but upon a donkey (vs. 9).  This prophecy was fulfilled by the Lord Jesus Christ, over 500 years after Zechariah prophesied it.  Just as the ancient kings of Israel would often ride a donkey to their coronation and other ceremonial occasions, Jesus rode a donkey, showing His rightful royal status as Messiah and King David’s heir.  The people at the time should have seen and recognized this prophecy.  As the Son of God and the Second Person of the Trinity, He could have conquered Jerusalem with just a word.  Instead He chose to ride into that city humbly, upon a donkey (Matthew 21:1-11; John 12:12-16).

There are four phrases in verse 9 that describe the Messiah.  The first being, He is King.  Second, He is just. He will rule with fairness and justice, not just to suit certain favored ones.  Third, He brings salvation.  Jesus died to save all mankind from sin and eternal death, and those who call upon Him will find this salvation.  And lastly, He is humble or lowly.  Unlike the proud and powerful leaders we all know of, Jesus is humble.

Verse 9 tells us to rejoice greatly and shout in triumph.  Often throughout history, when a foreign, conquering warlord came into a city, the people would cower and hide in fear, or else stare in sullen silence.  The crowds in Jerusalem shouted out Hosanna to Jesus when He came in.  Hosanna is a word that can mean both “save us” or “Praise to God”.

Verse 9 was fulfilled when Jesus came the first time.  Verse 10 will be fulfilled when He comes the second time. When we view two mountains in the distance, they can appear very close to each other, maybe even looking like they touch each other. Yet in reality they can be miles apart, perhaps even separated by a large valley.  Some prophecies, though versed together, have fulfillment years, even ages apart.  When Jesus comes the second time, He will bring peace to the nations, and His dominion will be from sea to sea, to the ends of the earth.

In verse 11 we read of the “blood of the covenant”.  God’s covenants are ratified or approved by blood sacrifices, as we read throughout the whole Old Testament.  The New Covenant, or New Testament has been ratified by blood, as well.  The new covenant that God has given man was ratified by the Blood of Jesus, which He shed upon the Cross.

The final verse of our Scripture passage speaks a promise that God has made to His children.  To those who have accepted the new covenant that He has made by claiming Jesus as their Savior, God has promised that He will replace the losses in our life with rich blessings.  These blessings will outweigh our losses, even restoring them double to us.  What a precious promise that we can look forward to!