Genesis 48, Job 14, Psalm 46

Read Genesis 48, Job 14, and Psalm 46.

This devotional is about Psalm 46.

The world is a dangerous place. The same natural environment that nurtures us with air, water, and food can drown us, poison us, strike us with lightning, and kill us in any number of other ways.

The people who live in this world can be dangerous, too. Although most people have no intent to harm, there are plenty who want to rob, rape, and even kill. Some of these people become world leaders which enables them to marshal resources to kill on a massive scale through warfare. There are nations in this world, today, are at war or preparing for war. Innocent people will die because they were conscripted against their will into some man’s army or because that army will attack them and destroy their homes.

This is the world we live in. We feel secure most of the time, but that security is an illusion. If we paid attention to all the ways we could die, it would greatly increase our fears.

Psalm 46 invites us to contemplate a different world. It calls us to trust in God as “our refuge and strength” the one who is “ever-present” to help us in time of trouble (v. 1). This kind of faith gives us confidence, not fear, no matter what disasters happen around us (vv. 2-3).

But the world that the Psalmist envisions here in Psalm 46 is not a present reality yet. When God dwells in Jerusalem on earth (vv. 4-6), then we will see him protect us (vv. 7, 11), stop the natural disasters that kill (v. 8) and the wars that claim so many lives (v. 9). Instead, he will command the nations, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (v. 10).

The vision of life presented in this song won’t happen until Jesus reigns on earth in his kingdom. When his kingdom has superseded all the kingdoms of this earth, when he has defeated his enemies, then there will be peace, prosperity, joy, and eternal life. But better than all of those benefits is the opportunity to know God (v. 10a). Everyone will know him and we will all worship him in his kingdom (“I will be exalted, ” v. 10).

This is the hope that God’s word sets before us believers while we live on this earth. We are citizens of that kingdom but in exile for now until he fully establishes that kingdom on earth. While we wait, Jesus gave us to the gospel to call people all over the world to know the Lord, worship the Lord, and wait for that coming kingdom with us.

If you are harassed, feeling helpless, discouraged by the problems of this world and wondering why life has to be so hard, be encouraged. Things are a mess because the rebellion against the true Lord of this earth has not been defeated yet. But, when that kingdom comes, the joys and pleasures of worshipping the Lord in it will far outweigh the problems we lived through to get there. So don’t give up your faith; it will be rewarded when the king comes.

Genesis 32, Esther 8, Psalm 31

Read Genesis 32, Esther 8, Psalm 31.

This devotional is about Psalm 31.

During the Gulf War (the one in the early 1990s), U.S. Army General Norman Schwarzkopf held a famous press conference that made him into a celebrity. In that press conference, he showed a video of a car in Iraq crossing a bridge. Shortly after the car crossed the bridge, the bridge exploded from a bomb that U.S. forces dropped on it. Schwarzkopf referred to the driver of this car as “The luckiest man in Iraq” because he narrowly escaped a death he had no idea was coming.

If luck were real, David would be one of the luckiest men who has ever lived. He escaped death time and again–both in general when he went to battle and specifically when he was targeted by Saul and others. Here in Psalm 31 (as in other Psalms), we see past the brave warrior into the heart of this king. The dangers he faced were as stressful to him as they would be to any one of us (vv. 9-10). He dealt with these stresses by turning to God in prayer, pouring his heart out honestly to the almighty about his fears and pleading with God to be his “rock of refuge” his “strong fortress” (v. 2) and to deliver him (v. 1).

Because of the covenant God had made with David, God did deliver him over and over again. Although he was a skilled, prepared warrior, David’s success in battle and his longevity in life were more a matter of God’s protection and God’s will than anything else. David knew this, too. When he asked for God’s help and protection “for the sake of your name” (v. 3b) he was referencing the promises God had made to Israel and to him personally for Israel.

Even as he called on God for help, David knew that his days were determined by the sovereign will of God. When he wrote, “My times are in your hands” (v. 15a), he was humbly submitting to what God had determined for him. If God were to let him die in battle, that is his right as Lord.

Yet David was not deterministic about it. Recognizing that God had already decreed when and how he would die did not prevent David from asking God to “… deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me” (v. 15b-c). He was bold in asking for God’s help and giving God reasons why he should help; yet he was humble and submitted to whatever the Lord had willed.

Until Christ returns, death is a reality for each of us. People we love will die and someday, so will we. Fearing death (and other things in life) is natural. Crying out to God and looking to him for help and deliverance honors him in those moments. So does recognizing that your time and mine will come when God wills. These are all expressions of faith. Faith is not the absence of fear. Faith asking God for help when we are afraid as well as trusting his will when the time comes for us to go. We don’t need luck to protect us. Faith in our God is a much better defense.

VIDEO: The Luckiest Man in Iraq: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0AjCAuYkrgA

2 Chronicles 17 and Psalms 140-143

Read 2 Chronicles 17 and Psalms 140-143.

This devotional is about Psalm 143.

Few men in world history have faced the number of immanent dangers to life that David faced. In addition to fighting in several traditional battles, he also was hunted by his father-in-law the king and, later in life, by his own son as well. Many of the songs we read in the Psalms were written by David while he was on the run. His musical gifts provided comfort to him when he was afraid and gave God’s people a gift that enhanced their worship.

The Psalms we’ve read today are part of David’s “songs in the key of fear.” What impresses me so often in these songs is David’s concern for his walk with God even while he pleads with the Lord to spare his life. In verse 8 of Psalm 143, David sang, “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.” I take that phrase, “let the morning bring me word” to be a poetic and spiritual way of saying, “Please give me deliverance by tomorrow morning.” I think this because verse 9 echoes with, “Rescue me from my enemies, Lord, for I hide myself in you.” But, concerned though he is with his physical deliverance, he also sang, “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God….” That line shows that David wanted to walk with God in his moral life just as much as he wanted to save his neck. 

Think about how we and Christians in general pray. Many of us are completely prayerless until we or someone we love gets a serious diagnosis or is in financial distress, or has a wayward child, or faces some other kind of distress. There is nothing wrong, of course, with praying for God’s help and deliverance in these situations. David did, after all, pray for God’s deliverance.

But how often do our prayers cry out for God’s help in the immediate problems and circumstances of life but say nothing about learning holiness? Yet God is far more concerned to “teach [us] to do [his] will” (v. 10a) than he is with solving our immediate problems. In fact, the Bible teaches us that the problems of life are allowed into our lives by God because he wants to root our pride and self-dependence out of us, as well as loosening our love of this world. 

Of course we should pray for God’s help and deliverance from the difficult circumstances we face in life. But we should also, like David, learn to ask God to train us and others we pray for to live for his will.

Jonah 2

Jonah 2

Is God a mean tyrant who uses the problems of this life to torture us for his own amusement? Or, is something else going on when we suffer problems in life? This message explores that question.

This is a message from chapter 2 of the Old Testament book of Jonah by Pastor Brian Jones.

This message was delivered on Sunday, September 27, 2009 at Calvary Bible Church in Ypsilanti, MI.

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