Watching Daily At Wisdom's Gates

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

Month: August, 2019

Clouds

I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.

Psalms 57:9‭-‬10 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/psa.57.9-10.ESV

At the time of writing, David was hiding in a cave from murderous king Saul. So verse nine took a lot of faith for David to declare. He had faith that he’d get out of his cave and give thanks to God among the peoples.

David believed that he would sing praises to God among the nations. And now his exemplary Psalms of praise are sung the world over to the Lord our God. We might be stuck in metaphorical caves. But we can have faith that we can have a great impact on the world through our trust in the Lord.

Why do we thank God? Why do we praise Him? Well, His unfailing love is great to the heavens. He’s caused a new day to dawn upon us, and we’re one step closer to an eternity with Him in glory, as we journey on by faith.

God’s faithfulness is great to the clouds. We might not like clouds, but they bring us rain which brings us crops which bring us food. Even the metaphorical clouds in our lives can be God faithfully working faithfulness in our lives, as He causes us to cling more closely to Him for shelter from the storms.

“Oh Lord, we declare Your love and faithfulness are the foundations of our lives. Even in the caves and clouds of life, You are with us, and we thank and praise Your holy name, now and forevermore, amen”

Promise

I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you. For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.

Psalms 56:12‭-‬13 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/psa.56.12-13.ESV

Why should we keep promises we make to God? I think of the first line of the old hymn, “Oh Jesus, I have promised to serve you to the end”. Why shouldn’t we just give up on our faith and go with the flow of the world as it rushes to destruction?

Hopefully the answer is as clear to you as the Psalmist here. He knew he had a lot to be thankful for to his God. Our decision to follow Jesus isn’t like a decision as what to eat for breakfast, where we may change our minds on a whim.

God has delivered our souls from death if we trust in Him. He’s granted us eternal life. He picks us up every time we fall down. Why would we cast off our only spiritual hope?

In God, we can walk through life with confidence that we will see His goodness in every step, and our heart directs us to seek Him in all that we do (to paraphrase a modern Christian song). Without God we stumble in the darkness of this evil world that we’re part of. With Him, we walk in the light of His Word of life.

“Oh God our Lord, we thank You for the light of Your Word. May we never forsake You, but always be faithful to honour You and walk in Your ways, for the honour of Your name, amen”

Wisdom

“But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Man does not know its worth, and it is not found in the land of the living.

Job 28:12‭-‬13 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/job.28.12-13.ESV

At face value, these verses seem to make “Watching Daily At Wisdom’s Gates” a fruitless exercise. After all, Job suggests that wisdom is not found in the land of the living. So we’re not necessarily going to find it in newspapers, TV, or the internet.

Wisdom isn’t necessarily found in the corridors of power, an ivory tower, or even (or perhaps especially!) the cloisters of a cathedral. Man doesn’t know the worth of wisdom. Mankind values things like money, sex and power, not understanding of true meaning.

Thankfully, Job goes on to explain where true wisdom is found. Wisdom is transcendent of all of this world, it’s supernatural. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, because He is the fount of all knowledge. Biblical knowledge isn’t just about understanding what truth is, but also why it is true.

Understanding is to turn away from evil. Wisdom means to do good, because that is what our omniscient Creator made us for. Cunning and craftiness are perversions of true, godly wisdom, which is always righteous.

“Lord, You are great, and greatly to be praised. You are the source of all wisdom, and fearful in Your holiness when we consider our own folly and evil in the face of Your omniscience. Please make us wise by Your Word. In His name, amen”

Contempt

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:

Luke 18:9 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/luk.18.9.ESV

To be honest, we often need this parable even as Christians! It’s not just for religious, Pharisaical people. Too often as Christians we look down on people of other religions. So this story is for us…

… two men went to the temple to pray- one religious and one a tax collector. The religious man prayed about himself in a self congratulatory prayer about how he wasn’t like other people who were known sinners. But are we as Christians guilty of “thanking” God that we’re so wonderfully unlike religious hypocrites?

The tax collector was what the media today might characterise as some scrounging immigrant, sponging off the system. But he prayed to God to have mercy upon him, and God did! God’s more interested in a humble, repentant heart than good deeds done in pride.

So before we look down on the self righteous religious hypocrites with contempt, maybe we should hold up the mirror of God’s Word to our own lives! And before we write off the tax collecting immigrant, maybe we should resolve not to judge people’s hearts. God, have mercy upon us, sinners that we are!

“God, be merciful to us sinners, and justify us by the blood of Christ we pray, in His name, amen”

What makes you happy?

Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Luke 10:20 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/luk.10.20.ESV

Jesus had sent His followers out to tell the good news of His kingdom, to heal, and to drive out evil spirits. Understandably, the disciples were pretty happy that they could deliver people from demonic oppression. But Jesus told them not to derive their joy from that fact, joyful as it was.

Most of us may not have delivered anyone from satanic oppression. But we can easily fall into the same trap as those first disciples. Basically, they were idolising work as the counterfeit source of their joy.

The American Dream is that you can be whatever you want to be if you work hard enough, and most people want to be happy. A story is attributed to John Lennon who as a small child was asked what he wanted to be when he was older, to which he replied, “happy”. He was told he hadn’t understood the question; he replied that they hadn’t understood life.

It’s not just Americans who assume that personal happiness is the meaning of life; I think it’s safe to say that most Westerners assume that. But Biblically the meaning of life is as the Beatles famously sang is that “all you need is love”- God’s love, and to love Him and others.

Happiness and joy are simply byproducts of love. It’s because God loves us that He gives us work to do for Him, and even more wonderfully, prepares us a home in His new creation. It’s the eternal love of God, manifest in our hearts, that give us a deep rooted joy that no one can pluck away from us (although it can get choked by the weeds of this life’s cares).

So yeah, to be able to serve God is a great joy. But greater by far is the joy we will have to be in His loving presence forevermore, nevermore to sorrow, amen!

Serve

So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'”

Luke 17:10 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/luk.17.10.ESV

A servant doesn’t expect to feast with his master after a hard day’s graft out in the fields or in the mansion. When his master gets back from his business, he continues to order his servant around. And his servant can’t necessarily expect any thanks.

Our thanks is our wage. That is our reward for the work we do. Heaven is like a reward, not for our own intrinsic goodness, but for the good work that God has prepared in advance for us to do.

So when this earthly labour is done, there’s no room for patting ourselves on the back. We’re not worthy to serve the Holy One, sinners that we are. We simply do our duty.

I can’t remember the exact context, but I remember my dad quoting this verse. He is a very humble, faithful servant of the Lord, an elder in his local church. But however well he’s serving, he knows he’s just doing his duty. But I admire him for his faithfulness, and hope that I can develop the same consistency and integrity in my life.

“King of kings, may we serve You with distinction, as You deserve. But may we not be self congratulatory, but simply be satisfied in our work for You, knowing we’re doing our duty, for Your glory, amen”

Aysgarth Falls

Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.
Psalms 42:7 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/psa.42.7.ESV

Yesterday, I visited Aysgarth Falls in the Yorkshire Dales. It impressed me that the waterfalls were at once relaxing with the sound of rushing water, and also awesome in the power of the flow of the river.

What seemed peaceful to me would have been ferociously violent if I’d have fallen in.

Then I thought of this verse. We often quote the first half to talk about the bond of fellowship we have as believers in Christ. But in the context, the Psalmist refers to God as an overwhelmingly terrifying force.

I’m not sure I would have survived if I’d have fallen into Aysgarth Falls. But reassuringly, while we were there, a mountain rescue team were doing training. So if at any time I might have been saved from falling in, it would have been yesterday afternoon.

Similarly, the only way we can survive the wrath of God at us for falling into sin is by trusting in God’s Son Jesus to save us from His wrath.

Feast

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.

Luke 16:19 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/luk.16.19.ESV

When Jesus tells stories with spiritual meanings (parables), the gospel writers usually tell us that that’s what they are. So although we might assume that this story is a parable, it could well be a true story, seeing as we’re not told otherwise. Whatever the case may be, there’s definately spiritual lessons to be learnt from this story.

When we read of a rich man, we may think favorably of him, after all, God must have richly blessed him. But he was a selfish man who didn’t lift his finger to alleviate the suffering of poor Lazarus at his gate. When they died however, the tables were turned.

The rich man went to the torment of hell, whilst Lazarus went to heaven. The thirst in hell was so excuciating that the rich man wanted just a drop of water for his tongue. Lazarus however was feasting with the likes of Abraham in the kingdom of heaven.

We have such a low view of God and such a high view of ourselves that we often baulk against the concept of hell. But God is holy and we are sinners, destined for hell, unless we believe God’s Word and have it credited to us as righteousness. The Bible is enough to teach us how to avoid hell- we don’t need miracles.

“Holy God, may we recognise Your goodness and our badness. May we trust in Christ for our salvation to avoid hell and become part of Your kingdom, for the honour of Your name, amen”

Eyes

And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!

Job 19:26‭-‬27 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/job.19.26-27.ESV

The resurrection of the dead is a shadowy truth in the old testament, but we get a glimpse of it here. These verses follow on after one of the most famous statements in Job, and the title of a classic hymn: I know that my Redeemer lives. Job’s flesh was ravaged by illness, but he knew that after death he’d see God in the flesh.

These verses offer a glimpse into another truth. Many people accept that God is a Spirit- unseeable. But it’s less widely believed that God is triune: Father, visible, tangible Son, and Holy Spirit.

Job however, despite the very limited Scriptural revelation he would have had, had faith that He would see God in the flesh. Jesus explains this miracle as being like a seed, that seems to die as it is planted, but grows into a plant. So it is with the resurrection of the dead.

As Paul puts it, outwardly we’re wasting away, buy inwardly we’re being renewed daily as we are conformed into the likeness of Christ. We’re like butterflies in a cocoon: at the resurrection we will be revealed for what we are- children of Almighty God. Like Job this truth should stir our hearts with longing.

“God Almighty, our hearts long for You. Thank You that we will see You face to face, not disapproving, but welcoming us into glory because You have redeemed us. To Your eternal praise, amen”

A Mangled Verse Of Scripture…

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.

Proverbs 18:21 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/pro.18.21.ESV

It really annoys me how this verse and others like it are mangled by people who subscribe to “Word Faith” or “Name It And Claim It” teaching. Proverbs are general truths. You can’t build a doctrine on a few verses taken out of context.

Don’t get me wrong. I know that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” isn’t true. If Solomon condemned someone to death it was game over. If he promoted someone, life would get better for them.

But we’re not kings. Much less are we God Himself- whose Word is final. I could say I wished someone dead, but unless I murder them or drive them to suicidal despair they won’t die. I could wish a terminally ill person life. But even if I have faith, it may be misplaced, knowing that God has appointed us all to death, unless Christ returns first.

If you want to nuance your understanding of words, read the letter of James. He views our words with sober judgement- yes, sometimes we may speak life, but other times we speak death.

It really annoys me how people equate life with positivity and death with negativity. What then do they do with entire books like Job and Lamentations, and the cross of Christ Himself?

If life’s going negatively for you, you don’t have to pretend to be positive. You can be honest with God. And if life’s positive for you, great, praise God. But you cannot serve both God and money. So don’t let your “positive” desire for a comfortable, prosperous life get in the way of your desire to leave all and follow Christ.

I read so many blogs about “the power of positivity”. Have you swallowed the lie? Or are you more realistic about the ups and downs of life and death?

If you do ascribe to “positive” thinking, please, let’s have a discussion about it. But don’t let us be “Job’s comforters” to those who are having a negative time of it and aren’t afraid to be honest about that fact…