We all have to take ownership for everything that we do, and in Colossians 3, Paul speaks about how we ought to act now that we are a new creation in Christ.
Col 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
Col 3:17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
We should be learning about God, worshiping God and working together for the glory of God. When we keep our focus on that, verse 17 will naturally fall into place. If we are doing that which is right, then we will be able to do it in the name of God.
We want to be able to bring honor to God when we do everything, so if we are comfortable with the fact that we are not only representing ourselves but also Jesus Christ, I think that will help achieve our mission. It is like being a member of a country. As you ask, you also are conscious that you are a representative of that country. Your actions reflect on that country, so if you want to bring honor to it, you would be very careful that you are acting in the right way. We need to understand that we are not only speaking for ourselves but for something bigger as well.
I think that is similar. Because we are members of the family of God, we need to make sure that we represent that family in the best light possible. We don’t want to do anything that would bring dishonor to the family. That would be explicitly against our mission for glorifying God if we are actually contributing to a demolition of God’s reputation.
I think there are times where we all feel underappreciated, and the ways we generally overcome that feeling is to promote ourselves. If somebody doesn’t notice that really nice thing we did for another person, we might mention what happened casually to get other people to realize that we have done. 2 Corinthians 10 urges us to consider something different.
2Co 10:17 But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
2Co 10:18 For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.
If God is pleased with us, we are approved. If we are only pleased with ourselves, that really does not mean very much. It really then becomes a matter of perspective. Why are we here, and why do we do what we do?
Paul is pointing out here that everything we do should bring glory to God. We don’t work hard to bring glory to ourselves. We don’t work hard to make money. We don’t work hard to make political gains. We should work hard because we want to bring glory to God. That really is the purpose of life.
Admittedly, this is really hard to do. I know that we all want glory. I think that we all want people to recognize when we do a good job, and I don’t think it is wrong when other people realize and recognize what we are doing. The difference is when we are actively trying to bring glory to ourselves.
Again, it is an issue of our motivation. If we are doing what we do because we are trying to glorify God through it and other people happen to notice and tell us we’re doing a great job, that’s awesome. If we are doing what we do simply to bring glory to ourselves, our perspective needs a little bit of changing.
Daniel 9 shows an interesting picture of a man who believed in the power of prayer. Daniel prayed to God to allow the children of Israel to return to their home in Jerusalem. However, the interesting part about that is Daniel knew that the people would be returning. It had been prophesied by Jeremiah in Jeremiah 25:12 that the children of Israel would be captive for 70 years.
Therefore, Daniel knew that the time was coming, but he still prayed for the people of Israel.
Dan 9:3 And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes:
Dan 9:4 And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments;
Dan 9:5 We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments:
Daniel could have easily assumed that the prophecy was going to come true because he did believe in the power of God. He knew that God would fulfill His promise, so he could have just operated in neutral and rolled along. However, he understood that there was something that needed to be done. He understood that it was important for himself and the people to be right with God.
Daniel remembered that the chief purpose of humanity is to glorify God, and we can do that by asking for forgiveness from God and living our lives in a way that imitates that of Jesus Christ.
God never leaves a promise unfulfilled, so I have no doubt that He would have come through even if Daniel had not prayed. It is not like God would have gone back on His word that he gave to Jeremiah. However, what we can learn here is that Daniel realized his responsibility to live his life in the right way. Like Daniel, we know that we can be saved through Jesus Christ, but there is then the desire to live our lives in a way that glorifies God.
Rom 6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
Rom 6:2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
I know that it is easy for us to complain about where God has put us. We might wish that we were born in different place, were born in a different time, were born into a different family situation, or talented in different ways or so many other things that might not be ideal in our lives.
In Jeremiah 29, the people of Judah are in the similar situation. They obviously are not happy about going to Babylon. They don’t like where God has put them, but God had surprisingly practical advice for the people as they departed.
Jer 29:4 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon;
Jer 29:5 Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them;
Jer 29:6 Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished.
God is pretty much telling them to settle down and become established because they are exactly where He wants them. Basically, God is reestablishing the fact that He is in control of the situation. It is not like the Babylonian captivity was the end of the chosen people.
I think that this relates to my introduction quite a bit. God puts us somewhere in life. For example, we don’t choose the talents that we have. Sure, we can work on developing or cultivating different talents, but we are all naturally predisposed to be better at certain things.
We can worry that we don’t have other talent, or we can build a house where we are at. We can use what we have to do what we can for God. This is more about being content and willing to do what God has designed us to do.
God was going to bring the people back from Babylon, and He told them that. However, they had to live a long time in Babylon, so it makes a lot of sense for them to get settled in on some level. Similarly, we are not going to get a different life in the sense that we have one right now on earth. The one we have is the one we are traveling through. Therefore, we ought to get settled in and work on using what we have been given to glorify God.
It is interesting how much Biblical imagery there is that uses trees. At the end of Psalms 92, we see what happens to the righteous. This is what will happen to those who have a relationship with God and walk with Him.
Psa 92:12 The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
Psa 92:13 Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God.
Psa 92:14 They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing;
Psa 92:15 To shew that the LORD is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.
A lot of this does sound familiar. We are talking about people growing up strong when they are planted near God, and when they are mature, they will bring forth much fruit. Even though the famous chapter talking about the fruit of the spirit had not been written yet, I think we can understand this in pretty much the same way. As we grow in God, we will produce good. The implication is that the good does not come from within ourselves, but it only comes about after we develop and grow in the presence of God.
Verse 15 is definitely the most interesting part. What is the result of the fruit that we produce? It seems to be that we are supposed to show that God is great. It is not for us to show that we ourselves are great but that God is the one behind anything good that we do.
We talk a lot about our purpose in life, and people are always trying to find out what that is. I think this verse provides a pretty vision of at least why we ought to do good things. We do good things because it brings glory to God.
1Co 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
Psalms 9 is basically an entire chapter discussing the justice of God. David is asking God to remember his struggles and the attacks of his enemies. David had plenty of them. However, he never doubted that God was in control, and he emphasized throughout the chapter that he was still going to praise God no matter what because of all the great things He had has done.
However, right before we hit the end of the chapter, I found something very interesting that I wanted to explore with you today.
Psa 9:19 Arise, O LORD; let not man prevail: let the heathen be judged in thy sight.
Psa 9:20 Put them in fear, O LORD: that the nations may know themselves to be but men. Selah.
David does not want any man to prevail, and he wants the nations to know that they are simply human. In other words, he wants people to stop thinking that they are God.
Unfortunately, it is easy to put ourselves up on pedestals. I think that having good self-esteem is great, but we are talking about something entirely different in this situation. These people don’t feel like they have any moral accountability. They have elevated themselves to such a point where they believe they can do whatever they want without repercussions. That is why David does not them to prevail. They need to be judged because they have this warped impression of themselves. They have not acknowledged God and His authority.
This is something that we need to be careful about. We need to make sure that we always attribute everything to God that belongs to Him. We are not the ones who are ultimately on top. We have to deal with the reality of God. How are we going to respond to Him?
As Christians, I hope that we respond by glorifying God and putting Him first. I hope we are not like these people that David is complaining about who perceive themselves as something greater than human. We need to understand where we belong in the universe and where God belongs.
In Nehemiah 12, we find out that the people of Jerusalem are having another party to glorify God. This time they want to dedicate everything that had been done to God, so they brought everyone into make this celebration happen.
Neh 12:27 And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites out of all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem, to keep the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgivings, and with singing, with cymbals, psalteries, and with harps.
I like these people. They will have a party for any reason, but the great part is that they are not just throwing the party to praise themselves. They are throwing the parties to praise God.
Neh 12:43 Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off.
These were intricate celebrations, and I kind of wonder if we need to have a similar attitude of praise. I’m not necessarily saying that we need to get all of our friends together and have a giant party, but if you look at the people, they were simply excited to praise God whenever they had the opportunity.
What if we took this mindset into our lives every day? When I think about all the possible ways that we are blessed every day, we could be praising around the clock. How long then do you think that God wants us to be praising?
Heb 13:15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.
What a coincidence. God wants us to be praising at every opportunity kind of like it seems like the people of Jerusalem were throwing giant parties to praise God at every opportunity. He has done so much for all of us that it only makes sense to show our thankfulness through praise.
Ezra 10 is kind of a difficult chapter. Basically, because God had told the Israelites not to marry outside of their own people, we see a massive separation. Anyone who had married a foreign wife had to basically get a divorce.
Ezr 10:11 Now therefore make confession unto the LORD God of your fathers, and do his pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives.
Ezr 10:12 Then all the congregation answered and said with a loud voice, As thou hast said, so must we do.
It is worth mentioning that there was more going on here than just separating from their wives. They also had to separate from all the people of the land. I think that this could also refer to the fact that if a woman married husband from that region, she had to separate as well. I’m not sure how often that would have happened given that I have a feeling that the woman’s father would not have been willing to give her away to a foreign man, but it seems as if the separation would apply to them too.
Now, put yourself in the position of one of these Israelite men. You may have married the best woman ever. She might have been everything you could have possibly wanted, but then order comes down from God that you need to separate from her. You need to separate from her because she is “strange.” In this context strange simply means foreign as far as I can tell from my Strong’s numbers.
You might wonder what God was doing. You might wonder why all of these people had the separate. What if the marriage was working out really well? What was going on here?
I think that we have to remember that originally God had told the people of Israel not to marry people from the land because they often times led to idolatrous practices. That was the commandment, so people needed to follow the commandment. If they didn’t, they were living in sin. However, at the same time in my scenario, maybe some of those people were outwardly happy.
I think that we see this kind of thing happen all the time just looking around. People can indeed be outwardly happy, and they can be living in sin.
However, external happiness is not the ultimate goal of our existence (and there is an interesting argument to be made for the fact that we cannot be truly happy outside of God, but I will not go into that today). We are meant to be on earth to glorify God and follow Him. Part of doing that means putting away sin.
I know this isn’t a popular thing to talk about, and I know that it is difficult to realign our thought processes. In society today, we are taught that fulfilling our own happiness is what should be most important. Biblically, that’s not true.
1Co 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
We should do everything to glorify God. I will meet you tomorrow in Nehemiah.
I know that I spent the past few days questioning whether or not Solomon really had a legitimate right to rule because of a promise from David or because of some last-minute political maneuvering.
Whatever the case, it turns out that he became a pretty good ruler beginning in 1 Kings 3. He was a good king because he had his priorities in order.
1Ki 3:5 In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee.
1Ki 3:6 And Solomon said, Thou hast shewed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.
1Ki 3:7 And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.
1Ki 3:8 And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.
1Ki 3:9 Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?
1Ki 3:10 And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.
Imagine being given a blank check from the most powerful Being in the universe. God can do anything, so this offer was huge. Solomon could have asked for power to be king over the entire world. He could have asked for money because I bet if you gave everyone on earth this promise, money would be the most common response. He even could have asked for health or maybe even immortality.
However, he knew what his job was on earth was. He knew that he was assigned to be the ruler of Israel. In order to be good at his job, he needed wisdom. His priorities were in the right place. He knew that by doing the job that he had to the best of his ability, he would be doing what God wanted. In fact, verse 10 says that God was indeed happy to hear Solomon say this.
Let me bring it forward to modern day. We all have talents, and I think that God can use any talent. Because God does want to use our talents, we need to be willing to use them in a position that needs them. For example, if you are a writer, you need to make sure that your writing honors God first of all. However, if you are a writer, you need to be willing to use that talent and not mope about perhaps not being a great enough public speaker or whatever other talent you might want.
We have all been given certain talents for certain roles, and we need to be willing to use them wherever God places us.
1Co 12:27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
1Co 12:28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
1Co 12:29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?
1Co 12:30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?
1Co 12:31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.
I love reading about angelic encounters, and we have another one of them in Judges chapter 13. I think the reason I like them so much is because nobody is quite sure how to handle them. Throughout the Bible, the reactions are all over the board, but today I actually want to focus on the angel who doesn’t have a name as far as we are told.
An angel appeared to the wife of Manoah, and she ran back to her husband. Maybe she was just really excited to tell him, but I think we also wanted to make sure she wasn’t dreaming or anything like that.
The angel explained that their son was going to be a Nazarite, and that must have been a bit of a surprise.
After that news, Manoah wanted to prepare a sacrifice for the angel assuming that he was God, but here was his response.
Jdg 13:15 And Manoah said unto the angel of the LORD, I pray thee, let us detain thee, until we shall have made ready a kid for thee.
Jdg 13:16 And the angel of the LORD said unto Manoah, Though thou detain me, I will not eat of thy bread: and if thou wilt offer a burnt offering, thou must offer it unto the LORD. For Manoah knew not that he was an angel of the LORD.
Angels are powerful beings, but even they realize that they should not be worshiped. They recognize that their job is to redirect glory to God just like we do as humans. There are definitely differences given that angels can survive in the presence of God where humans cannot, but they still realize that they were created for God.
I’m going to leave you with all of Psalm 148. Look at everything that worships. Angels are on there, humans are on the list and everything else is included. Don’t you think we ought to worship?
Psa 148:1 Praise ye the LORD. Praise ye the LORD from the heavens: praise him in the heights.
Psa 148:2 Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts.
Psa 148:3 Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light.
Psa 148:4 Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens.
Psa 148:5 Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created.
Psa 148:6 He hath also stablished them for ever and ever: he hath made a decree which shall not pass.
Psa 148:7 Praise the LORD from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps:
Psa 148:8 Fire, and hail; snow, and vapour; stormy wind fulfilling his word:
Psa 148:9 Mountains, and all hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars:
Psa 148:10 Beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl:
Psa 148:11 Kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth:
Psa 148:12 Both young men, and maidens; old men, and children:
Psa 148:13 Let them praise the name of the LORD: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven.
Psa 148:14 He also exalteth the horn of his people, the praise of all his saints; even of the children of Israel, a people near unto him. Praise ye the LORD.