Watching Daily At Wisdom's Gates

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

Good

“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil.

Deuteronomy 30:15 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/deu.30.15.ESV

Moses was a great preacher. Preachers aren’t dictators- they give their hearers a choice, and it’s a stark one. Moses showed the people what life and good look like; and also what death and evil look like.

People in the world often associate life, or the meaning of life, with evil stuff. They live for the weekend- idolising food, drink and sex. They’re all good things in and of themselves, but all in moderation and the right context.

Moses decouples life and evil however. He urges his hearers to not buy the lie that the meaning of life is the pursuit of evil. Instead, he marries life and good. The good life is one lived in God’s will- loving Him and others, and enjoying His good gifts.

We are naturally evil, which is why we face death unless Jesus returns first. Thankfully His goodness can be credited to our spiritually bankrupt accounts through faith in Him. And so we can have eternal life because of Christ Jesus our Lord.

“Dear God our Lord, we’re really thankful that evil and death don’t have to be our fate. We praise You for the life and goodness we enjoy in You. In the name of Jesus, amen”

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Holy

The Lord will establish you as a people holy to himself, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in his ways.

Deuteronomy 28:9 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/deu.28.9.ESV

This verse of promise to the Israelites seems like legalism. We know as sinful human beings that it’s impossible for us to keep the commandments of the Lord our God and to walk in His ways. Nothing may be impossible with God, but holiness is impossible for is to attain by our own efforts.

Holiness simply means to be set apart. When God does the setting apart for Himself, holiness is possible for sinners like us. In the new covenant, the commandments of the Lord are simple: to repent, to turn from our sins and to trust in God for our salvation.

God commands us to walk in His ways. Well Jesus Himself is the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except though Him. So we are to trust in Christ and find in Him our holiness and acceptance before the Holy Father.

How can sinners like us keep God’s commandments and walk in His ways? Not in our own strength, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. We won’t be perfect in this life, but by the grace of God we won’t be what we were, we will be conformed into the likeness of Christ.

“Lord our God, how we worship You for making sinners like us holy and acceptable in Your perfect sight, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Please help us to keep Your commands and walk in Your ways, in His name, amen”

Thanks

It is good to give thanks to the Lord , to sing praises to your name, O Most High;

Psalms 92:1‭ ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/psa.92.1.ESV

When we see a beautiful sunrise/sunset, when we have a delicious meal, when we have an enjoyable time with our families; it’s good to give thanks to God. The unbeliever might appreciate these things to some degree, but they think they’ve no one to be thankful to.

The apostle Paul goes as far as to say “give thanks in all circumstances”. We may not give thanks for the bad circumstances. But we give thanks that in the midst of bad circumstances, God can bring good out of them.

Singing is, it could be argued, an overflow of thankfulness. We sing at weddings and civic occasions. We sing football chants when our team scores. And we sing at least weekly to God Most High.

We sing to the Lord to express something of our thankfulness to Him. We reflect back to Him something of the beauty of His nature. We sing of His love in the morning, and His faithfulness at night.

“Oh Lord God Most High, we sing our thanks and praise to You for Your steadfast love and faithfulness towards us in all circumstances. For Your honour, amen”

Fortress

I will say to the Lord , “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

Psalms 91:2 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/psa.91.2.ESV

Who is God to you? An impersonal force? A grumpy, even senile, old man in the sky? To the Psalmist God was the Lord, the great “I am”, the self existent one. Not only so, but the Lord was his refuge.

Where is your “safe place”? Maybe it’s under the duvet, or on the sofa. Perhaps it’s out in the beauty of the countryside. Well for the Psalmist, the Lord Himself was His safe place. And with God being “omnipresent”- present everywhere- as long as God is Your God, you’re safe.

God was the Psalmist’s fortress. It’s not that the Psalmist was a coward. But in the spiritual realms we have satan as our enemy if the Lord is our God. So we need our God to defend us and protect us from all that would harm us.

I believe American coins state “In God we trust”. Well this Psalmist certainly trusted in God. He knew that whatever life threw at him, he was secure in the everlasting arms. It’s not bravery to want to be independent of our Sovereign Protector; it’s foolishness.

“Sovereign Protector, we’re grateful that we’re safe in Your care. We pray that this fact would give us confidence as we walk through life, trusting in You to look after us through all our days, amen”

Gospel

“Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.

Acts 14:15 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/act.14.15.ESV

Paul and Barnabas healed a lame man in Lystra in what was the Roman Empire and is now in modern day Turkey. The pagan people assumed they were gods come down in human form, and attempted to worship them. This verse is the start of Paul’s reply.

“We’re only human, like yourselves!” he insisted. Paul then turned a bad situation into an excuse to declare the good news about the living God, who dispels the myths of former years. Nowadays many people assume the world runs on “survival of the fittest” and “might is right”, but God calls us to love one another as He has loved us.

There is an element of truth in the idea that “fortune favours the brave”- in the sense that selfish people often do forcefully get their own way. But that is a vain thing. It’s not how God our creator calls us to live.

God is the maker of all things. He created heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. He’s our master, the one to whom we’re answerable to. So we need to live His way of love, not our own selfish ways.

“Living God, we’re really thankful that You’ve revealed Your good news to us that there is salvation in Your name from meaninglessness. Please help us to live lives defined by love, not selfishness, for the honour of Your name, amen”

Crooked

and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?

Acts 13:10 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/act.13.10.ESV

These words of Paul to Elymas the magician seem pretty strong and harsh. If we just took this verse in isolation, we might assume he was over egging the rebuke. But in the very previous verse we’re told that Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit.

We think of the Spirit of God as being the Spirit of peace. These words of Paul don’t seem very peaceful. But the main purpose of God’s Spirit is to bring people to faith in Christ, and Elymas was trying to stop that. If we’re on the wrong side of the Spirit, we’re on the wrong side of history.

So Paul shows us there is a time and a place for stern rebuke. He’s in good company too with the likes of John the Baptist who called the religious people a “brood of vipers” and the Lord Jesus Himself who called them whitewashed tombs. In fact, Jesus coined the term sons of the devil for the religious people who opposed Him.

The Lord’s paths are straight. They may not always be easy- they may sometimes lead through the valley of the shadow of death. But God’s ways are straightforward, and if people try and complicate them, they’re trying to make them crooked. The gospel is simple: trust Jesus wholeheartedly, and He’ll make your paths straight, and dispel doubts.

“God, may You forbid that we should complicate the gospel. Thank You that it is so straightforward to come to Christ, and that He leads us on good paths, for His name’s sake, amen”

Poverty

“If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother,

Deuteronomy 15:7 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/deu.15.7.ESV

Some old testament laws clearly don’t apply any more. For example Jesus declared all foods to be clean. And by His sacrifice on our behalf, He fulfilled the old testament sacrificial system. But I don’t think we can rule out this law for today.

Clearly, as one of the ten commandments states, we are not to murder. But as this verse states, neither are we to be stingy. I suspect this verse is where we got the phrase “tight fisted” from for someone who is a miser.

A bit later, Moses, like Jesus, says that we’ll always have the poor with us. But they don’t use that as an excuse for defeatist inaction. Instead Moses insists that we’re always to be generous.

It’s similar to what James says. If a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food, and we said “all the best, keep warm and well fed” and did nothing about their needs, what good would it be? So faith without deeds is dead. We need to put our money where our mouths are!

“Lord our God, forgive us we pray that we are so often tight fisted towards the poor. Please help us to be generous, and to share good news, and let Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven, amen”

Glorify

When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

Acts 11:18 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/act.11.18.ESV

Peter was reporting back to the church in Jerusalem how God had sent him to the Gentile Roman centurion Cornelius’ household. This was controversial for some of the rather patriotic Jewish believers. But when Peter told how they’d recieved the Holy Spirit, their criticisms were silenced.

The Holy Spirit is in the business of turning critics into believers, and critical believers into believers who glorify God. He was at work in the Jewish Christians, breaking down barriers they had towards Gentile believers. We don’t need to become Jewish to become Christian.

The Jewish believers realised that God had granted repentance that leads to life to the Gentiles. If the angels in heaven celebrate one repentant sinner, then we would so well to join in the celebration! God doesn’t show favoritism.

We might look down on the Jewish believers for being slow to accept Gentiles. But in doing so we’re putting up our own barriers within the family of God. And if we’re honest, we’ve probably got our own prejudices. How would we feel if a Muslim or homosexual came to trust in Christ? I trust that we would rejoice and glorify God.

“God, You have flung salvation’s gates wide open, and all who would enter can do so. May we rejoice at every report of conversion, whoever it is who is saved. To You be the glory, now and forever, amen”

Equality

And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.

Acts 10:28 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/act.10.28.ESV

Talk about a tactless intro! Peter had been unduly influenced by “Judaisers” in the church, who said Gentiles had to become Jewish before they could become Christians. And Jewish culture did have a superiority complex over other cultures.

Before we’re too judgemental of Peter and the Jewish people, what of the self professedly “Great” British people? Aren’t we in danger of showing favoritism? If God told us to go and visit a Muslim refugee family, how would we feel (hopefully very happy and willing!)?

Britain is becoming increasingly xenophobic and hostile to the strangers in our midst. But Biblically, as Christians, we are to be hospitable. Hospitality literally means “kindness to strangers”.

As the nationalistic Peter had to learn from God, we shouldn’t call anyone common or unclean. We’re all made in the image and likeness of God. Christ died so that everyone might have an opportunity to be saved. Are we sharing the good news with anyone who might hear?

“God, we want to thank You that You’re not like us. We praise You for Your equity in how You treat us. Please help us not to look down on people, but to treat everyone the same. For Jesus’ sake, amen”

Poverty

For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”
John 12:8 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/jhn.12.8.ESV

Does what Jesus is saying here mean that we don’t have to fight against poverty, as some people argue?

No.

For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’
Deuteronomy 15:11 ESV
https://bible.com/bible/59/deu.15.11.ESV

The fact that there’ll always be poverty in this life means that we always have to be generous, not that we can always turn a blind eye!