Watching Daily At Wisdom's Gates

A Yorkshireman's take on life, death, and eternity

Month: October, 2016

Lordship

The Lord says to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”
Psalm 110:1

David was a sovereign king of Israel, not a vassal to a superpower. But he was a worshipper of the Lord God. Here though he mentions another Lord at the right hand of the Lord God. Who was he on about?

Jesus was referred to as the Son of David. David was promised a Son who would have an everlasting kingdom. But as Jesus said, how can David refer to his son, which suggests they’re on a parr; as his Lord, which suggests he is greater?

This is the mystery of the gospel: that God should become a man in order to establish his Kingdom of righteousness. According to the flesh Jesus was the son of Mary, descendant of David. But according to the Spirit Jesus is the eternal Son of God.

Having been crucified and having risen again, Jesus is now sat at the right hand of the Father, until He makes all His enemies a footstool for His feet. Now is the time to abandon enmity with God and be reconciled to him through the Lord Jesus Christ!

“Lord God, I don’t want to be at enmity with you. I ask that you would reconcile me to yourself through your Son, my Lord Jesus. In His name I pray, amen”

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Hope

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
Romans 15:13

An atheist flatmate came to church with me one time, in my university days. This was the text preached on. At first glance it wouldn’t be very appropriate because it’s addressed to believers, but it showed him what he was missing.

God is a God of hope. Although he is also judge, he is never described as the God of condemnation. He doesn’t want to condemn us but to give us hope of eternal life. This isn’t pie in the sky when you die, this is a sure and certain confidence in the unfailing promises of a faithful God.

God isn’t some cosmic killjoy out to destroy our fun. He wants to fill us with all joy and peace in believing. There’s no joy and peace in believing that all we’re destined for is to become worm food. But in God there is because he is the source of all happiness and contentment.

How can we abound in hope? It’s by the power of the Holy Spirit, God within us, transforming us to his likeness and giving us confidence in him. People accuse believers of being weak. Well we’re honest enough to recognise our human frailty. But in Christ we are strong in hope of the resurrection to come.

“God of hope, thank you that I need not despair when you are at work in me. Help me to abound in joy, peace, and hope. And please forgive me when I have an unbelieving heart- make me undivided in my devotion to you I pray. For your glory, amen”

Complaint

Woe is me, my mother, that you bore me, a man of strife and contention to the whole land! I have not lent, nor have I borrowed, yet all of them curse me.
Jeremiah 15:10

I can vividly remember weeping through a talk on this passage on mother’s day (!) a few years ago when I was mentally ill. Jeremiah’s complaint is understandable considering the abuse he got from his people. But his extreme reaction, wishing he’d never been born, is sinful.

God’s response however is not to condemn Jeremiah’s sin. Instead he gently reminds him of all His goodness to him. And God goes on to assure Jeremiah that he will have the strength to continue serving him in a hostile environment.

It must have been really wearing to be a pariah in the land, a source of derision and contempt. It had all got too much for Jeremiah. But God gently listened to his complaint and then empowered him to keep on in His service.

Jesus was the same with the disciples. On the night he was betrayed he wanted his disciples to watch and pray with him, but they were sleeping for sorrow. Rather than rebuke them however he just sadly questioned, “could you not keep watch with me for one hour? But watch and pray that you won’t fall into temptation”.

“Heavenly Father, help me to watch and pray that I won’t fall into temptation. Forgive me for times I feel sorry for myself, but thank you that you give me the strength I need for each day. In Jesus’ name, amen”

Good

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

Do you love God? If so there’s a great promise for you here. We have every reason to love God. He’s given his Son to reconcile us to himself. And if we do love him this promise becomes ours, and he hadn’t broken one promise yet.

It’s a very wide reaching promise: “all” things work together for our good. There’s nothing it doesn’t cover. It doesn’t matter if it’s an earthquake, a divorce, a bereavement, or whatever: God will make it work together for our good.

This is a promise for those who are called. I take it that this is a different sense to “many are called; few are chosen”. This is for those who have responded to the call of salvation, and are being transformed by the grace of God

This promise is for those who are part of God’s purpose. God’s purpose is to bring to himself peopled from all over the world to unite in worship of him. If that is God’s purpose for you, there’s nothing that can stop his will for you being done.

“Heavenly Father, thank you that nothing can get in the way of your purposes for me. I praise you that your design for me is good and that your will will be done in my life. Help me to trust you even in the hard times. In Jesus’ name, amen”

But the Lord is the true God;
he is the living God and the everlasting King.
At his wrath the earth quakes,
and the nations cannot endure his indignation.
Jeremiah 10:10

The context of this verse is a man who chops down a tree and decorates it with silver and gold, presumably in honour of the god of materialism for the winter solstice festival. Probably in the context it was actually in honour of Asherah, the goddess of sex. People worship all sorts of false gods, but the Lord is the true God.

He isn’t made by human hands, he forms human hands in the womb and causes them to grow through childhood. He is the creator of the heavens and the earth, not the creation of some enterprising idol merchant. Our 21st century idolatry might be more seasonal than 6th century BC- focused around Christmas and Easter and Halloween, but it’s no less offensive to the one true God.

Earthquakes aren’t something that has God wringing his hands in helplessness. They are expressions of his wrath at our sinful and rebellious world. God is sovereign over all things, including natural disasters. He can cause good to come out of bad circumstances like they are, whether judgement or causing people to cry out to him.

Perhaps an even worse judgement than natural disasters is when God leaves nations to their own devises: tearing themselves apart in war. But when the nations reject God, how can they expect him to help them out when they destroy themselves in violence?

“Lord, you are the true God. Forgive us our rebellion and idolatry, and in your wrath please remember mercy. Help us to worship you alone, for your glory, amen”

Boasting

but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”
Jeremiah 9:24

Are you wise? Don’t boast in your wisdom? Are you strong? Don’t boast in your strength. Are you wise? Don’t boast in your wisdom. There’s only one thing worth boasting about in this life, and that is that you understand and know the Lord.

What do you know of the Lord? Do you know of his steadfast love, that sent his Son to die for you? If you believe in him you’ll have eternal life, and won’t perish, because of his great love. His love never fails, it never gives up on us.

Do you know of the justice of the Lord? He’s able to reconcile it with his love by punishing Christ in our place so that we can go free. God’s justice demands that our sin is punished, but he did so at the cross for all who will trust in him.

Our sin might be lovingly and justly dealt with, but in order for us to be restored to a right relationship with God we need to be made righteous. That’s where God offers the righteousness of Christ to be credited to our account. If that’s happened to you it’s a cause for great boasting! God delights in his faithful people.

“Lord God, thank you for delighting in me. I boast in your love, justice and righteousness and praise you for them. Forgive me for when I boast in anything else, in Jesus’ name, amen”

Justification

For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
Romans 3:28

This is good news: we don’t have to keep God’s law to be justified and made righteous by him! Does that mean to say we can be lawless? By no means! Paul goes on to say that he upholds the law. But how do the law and faith work together?

James says that faith without works is dead. Is he contradicting Paul? Not at all. Paul is saying that we are saved through faith in Christ alone. James goes on to say that saving faith in Christ is never alone is always accompanied by works. Works are the evidence of faith as movement is evidence of life.

Even the law implied the truth of this. The 10 commandments begin, “I am the Lord who brought you out of slavery in Egypt.” The gospel tells us of the Lord who brought us out of slavery to sin. The implication of that is not that we can do whatever we like, but that we should live righteous lives.

The law isn’t bad; it’s us who are bad. But Christ is better: he is the lawgiver and the fulfilment of the law. If we seek to obey him we will be doing the right thing. The law makes us aware of our sinfulness; Christ makes us aware of his righteousness credited to our account.

“Father God, thank you for making me aware of my sin through your law. But I praise you for Christ who has dealt with my sin and is my righteousness. Help me to give a righteous life, for your glory, amen”

Judgement

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.
Romans 2:1

This should be a popular verse in our world, which judges people to be bigoted if they judge the behaviour of others. It’s all very well being judgemental, even of judgementalism, but ultimately God will judge us all, and he does not show favoritism between the religious and the irreligious.

It’s all very well the religious judging the irreligious for their depravity, but they are no better. You who condemn adultery, do you lust? You who condemn murder, do you hate? You who condemn falsehood, are you a hypocrite?

God who judges the heart knows that we all fall short of his glory, whether we try not to or we couldn’t care less. Under God’s law, we all stand under condemnation. By it none of us will be declared righteous in God’s sight; by it we become aware of sin.

If we are all in the same boat, there’s no point fighting with each other. Instead we should be working together to seek a rescuer to bring us to shore. If God judges us all the same, his salvation will be the same for all people as well.

“Heavenly Father, have mercy on me for my judgementalism. Forgive me my hypocrisy. Please have mercy upon me not because of anything I’ve done but because of Jesus, your perfect law keeper. In His name, amen”

Water

for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water.
Jeremiah 2 : 13

God’s people had committed two evils. Not only had they forsaken him, but they had tried to carve out their own salvation, and abjectly failed. Salvation is of the Lord alone!

What does it take for God’s people to forsake him? Well firstly they are not drawing deeply from the wells of life: reading God’s word and praying. Secondly they seem to have strayed into the wilderness from the wells of life. They’ve got bored with God. And thirdly, as they’ve got into trouble in the wilderness of life they gave sought refuge in other places than the Lord.

Not only had God’s people forsaken him, but they had hewn out their own attempted means of sustainance. They looked to politics and idols and people for the solutions to their problems. If anything is put put before God; whether it be wine, women, wisdom, work, wealth or whatever; it is an idol. Worship has to come first in our hearts.

No one other than the Lord can truly satisfy. Five pillars or ten commandments or whatever else are only setting us up to fail. But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Come to him and draw deeply from the wells of salvation, forsaking all others.

“Lord God, forgive me when I run after my own gods and idols. Help me to worship you alone and find all my fulfilment in you. Thank you that you do truly satisfy. In Jesus’ name”

Performance

Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.”
Jeremiah 1:12

The Lord describes himself to the young Jeremiah as the master playwright. The play is history, and God is watching as it unfolds. He’s not just a passive observer though, he’s also the narrator who spoke it all into being.

At Jeremiah’s stage in the play of history, God is promising his people that he will enter into the story and deliver them from their sins. And oh how they need it. For their sins they are about to be carted off into exile from the promised land to Babylon. Only when they are brought back will the stage be set for his entry into the scene.

When Jesus finally stepped onto the stage about 600 years later, his people were under the yoke of the Roman Empire. He didn’t come as a political Messiah however, but as a spiritual Saviour. God’s people have more eternal concerns than who is going to rule over them for the next few years.

And so we come to our stage in human history. Christ has returned to heaven, where he prays to God the Father for his own, who await his return. In the meantime, we tell others of his salvation and offer of eternal life.

“Lord God, thank you that you are the great divine orchestrator who has everything in hand. Help us to trust you to fulfil your word, and to play our parts in your purposes. In Jesus’ name, amen”