Watching Daily At Wisdom's Gates

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

Ciao from Italia!

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Ciao from Italia, where I’m staying in my wife’s hometown, which was also the hometown of one of the most famous opera singers ever- Luciano Pavarotti. They’ve built a statue in his honour.

My sister in law babysat so my wife and I could enjoy a rare trip out…

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Mercy

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And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.
Matthew 12:7 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/mat.12.7.ESV

The religious people of Jesus’ day prided themselves on their knowledge and interpretation of the law of Moses. As they read the Sabbath rule, they wouldn’t even allow eating from the fields on that day if you’re hungry. But Jesus rebuked them for their lack of knowledge of how to interpret the law.

God desires mercy. If someone is hungry, God would have them fed. It’s interesting that if someone ate from a field not their own when hungry, Jesus sanctions that in the name of merciful gleaning. Nowadays we’d call that stealing, but that’s because we’re unmerciful.

The law of God may provide perameters, but it’s not meant to be restrictive. It’s meant to mark out the path of righteousness for us. God doesn’t require us to be sacrificially jumping through hoops in a very narrow reading of His law.

God’s law is summed up as loving God and our neighbour. So it doesn’t justify us letting our neighbour go hungry. If my understanding of the Sabbath makes me unmerciful to my neighbour, then I’m the guilty one, not my hungry neighbour.

“Merciful God, may we increasingly be conformed to Your likeness. Please help us to rightly understand Your word, and to realise that You have made the sacrifice on our behalf, so we don’t have to. Because of Jesus, amen”

Sing

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I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.
Psalms 9:2 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/psa.9.2.ESV

People often have a perception of religious people as killjoys. But as the old hymn goes, “religion never was designed to make our pleasures less”. As David says here, “I will be glad”.

What do you exult in? What inspires an overflow of praise from your lips? For David it was God Most High. So it should be with us.

David resolves in this verse to sing praise to God’s name. It’s in the future tense, so maybe he was so depressed at the time of writing that he couldn’t sing. But God is worthy of all our praise.

David describes God as the Most High. David might have been the king of Israel, but he never forgot the supremacy of the Lord over him. So it should be with us.

“Oh Most High, may Your praises be on our lips. Please make us glad in Your salvation, to exult in You and to sing Your praise forevermore, amen”

Fear

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And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
Matthew 10:28 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/mat.10.28.ESV

Jesus was preparing His disciples for the persecution that was to come. Church tradition has it that most of them were martyred for the faith, and John, an exception was exiled to a penal colony. It’s a tough message: people will persecute you, but don’t be afraid.

The reality is that those who would harm us cannot hurt us spiritually. We’re blessed when we’re persecuted because great is our reward in heaven. Nothing can seperate us from the love of God- not any form of persecution or anything else.

So we don’t need to be afraid of our persecutors. But we do need to fear God. Often when we define fear of the Lord we qualify it to say it means reverence. But this is more. It’s like a kid behaving well because he fears his father’s punishment if he misbehaves.

The fear of the Lord is not a blind terror that would have us running from Him. It’s the fear of a child who runs to their father to apologise before their wrongdoing is found out and punished. We are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

“God of consuming fire, may we fear You as we ought. May we run to You from the punishment we deserve, in confession and faith. And may we find in You a refuge from all our foes. In Christ’s name, amen”

Happy holiday in Italy!

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Hello from our holiday in Italy (for the next 10 days or so).

We’re visiting my wife’s family.

Here’s a photo of me in a shopping centre with our baby hiding behind the stroller’s bar! 🙂

I’m posting my usual devotionals while I’m here, but you might get some more holiday updates while we’re here as well.

Dio ti benedica (God bless),

Robert

 

 

Victory

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and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
Genesis 14:20 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/gen.14.20.ESV

Melchizedek, the shadowy priestly king who spoke this verse, foreshadows the Lord Jesus Christ. We’re told this in the book of Hebrews. Jesus is the great high priest and the King of kings.

Abraham recieved bread and wine from Melchizedek. We recieve the bread of Christ’s body, broken for us; and the wine of His blood, shed for us. We don’t know of Melchizedek’s origin or successors; and we don’t know of Christ’s, because He doesn’t have them. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.

Abraham may have had the victory against his enemies as he fought for his nephew Lot; but it was God Most High who granted the victory. The Lord is the one who will ultimately deliver our enemies into our hands. In Christ we ultimately win against all our adversaries.

If Abraham gave Melchizedek 10% of everything, then that is the least we can give our Saviour the Lord Jesus, the great high priest in Melchizedek’s line. We owe Christ the victory over sin and satan and death. 10% is nothing compared to the everything that God has given for us.

“God Most High, You have given everything for us, and in You we have the victory over all that is against us. May we be prodigiously generous in what we return to You for all that You have done for us. To the glory of Christ, amen”

Healing

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Be gracious to me, O Lord , for I am languishing; heal me, O Lord , for my bones are troubled.
Psalms 6:2 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/psa.6.2.ESV

We don’t know the exact circumstances David was writing from, but he was evidently in distress. He cried out to God to be gracious to him. People tend to forget to do that when things are going well.

David described himself as languishing. He was really struggling, whatever he was going through. We can’t just assume it was written early in his life because it’s an early Psalm, because they’re not chronological.

It seems that David was suffering from some kind of illness, because he cried out to God to heal him. Maybe this was written in his old age. Or perhaps it was earlier on in his life than the end.

He describes his bones as troubled, so it could be that in David’s old age he got arthritis or something similar. Whatever it was he was in pain, and he longed for the Lord to deliver him. He went to the right place for help.

“Oh Lord, even if You don’t heal us, we long for You to be gracious to us when we languish in illness. Please give us relief when we are in distress, in Christ’s name, amen”

Rules

Please note: the message in the picture is wrong!

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“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
Matthew 7:12 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/mat.7.12.ESV

This is commonly known as the golden rule. Do to others what you would have them do to you. You might think you would want someone to give you all their money, but would you really want to bankrupt someone else for your own greed?

Some better examples include these: would you have your children to honour you? Then honour your own parents, and don’t exasperated your children. Would you not be murdered, or even hated? Then don’t murder or hate someone yourself!

Would you not have someone commit adultery or lust after your partner? Then don’t commit adultery or lust after anyone else yourself. Would you have someone tell the truth? Then be honest yourself.

In summary, love others as you would want to be loved. Apparently most other worldviews have a negative spin on this command- don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want done to you. But Jesus puts a positive spin on it to put the onus on us to be proactively good rather than just passively neutral, if that were possible.

“Dear Lord, Your logic is so much better than the world’s, and if we put your words into practice, this world would be a better place. Please give us the supernatural power of Your Holy Spirit to live in a way that’s pleasing to You. To the praise of Your glory, amen”

Forgiveness

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and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Matthew 6:12 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/mat.6.12.ESV

We are indebted to God. Every good thing  is a gift of His. Every bad thing we do is an insult to His goodness. We don’t deserve His forgiveness, but that’s the whole point of forgiveness: it’s undeserved.

So we need to ask God to forgive us our debts. Only God can cancel our sin debt against Him. We can’t pay it off ourselves, because we’re adding to it all the time.  Our only hope is the merciful forgiveness of God.

We don’t forgive others in order to earn forgiveness from God. It’s not like we can bribe God into forgiving us. But as Jesus goes on to say, if we don’t forgive others, we can hardly expect God to forgive us.

Elsewhere, Jesus tells us a story to illustrate how essential forgiveness is. The King cancelled an astronomical debt. But the forgiven debtor wouldn’t forgive his own significant debtor. When the King found out, He jailed the unforgiving debtor indefinately.

“God, forbid us from having a spirit of unforgiveness. May we know Your forgiveness, and be forgiving to others. For the glory of Your name, amen”

Heart

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But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Matthew 5:28 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/mat.5.28.ESV

Apparently, some of the most fastidious Pharisees used to go around with their heads bowed down to avoid glancing at beautiful women and risk lusting after them! That’s not what Jesus is advocating here! He’s not saying you can’t appreciate beauty.

What Jesus is saying is that we can’t look at a woman with lustful intent. In other words, we’re not to imagine sleeping with someone who isn’t our monogamous, heterosexual marriage partner. As Paul says, if lust is something you struggle with, it’s probably best to marry to have a legitimate outlet for it.

Many people would claim not to have committed adultery. But Jesus here is saying that if you look at someone with lustful intent, it’s as though you’ve committed adultery with them in your heart. So most of us if we’re honest are guilty of breaking Jesus’ teaching.

You see, Jesus didn’t just teach the letter of the law. He wasn’t like some dodgy lawyer who teaches loopholes and how to get round demanding laws. Jesus taught the spirit of the law of God.

“Lord God, please forgive us the sin of adultery, whether in thought or deed. Please wash us clean in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. In His name, amen”