Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Search The Scriptures: Amos

Amos begins with a humble description of himself - "one of the sheep farmers" (Amos 1:1). Being a prophet of God has nothing to do with  what we are in ourselves. It's all about God. It's all about His grace and His call. Looking after sheep - This is such an apt description of the ministry of a pastor. "The Lord roars from Zion" (Amos 1:2). These words make us think of a lion. This could be terrifying for sheep. Think of the lion - Aslan - from "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" (C S Lewis). It's a picture of Christ. His voice is more than a roar. It's the voice of love. The "roar" speaks of authority. The greatest authority is the authority of love. How does the Lord command our respect? He loves us. As we learn to appreciate His love, we learn to love Him. Our love for Him is inspired by His love for us. As we learn to love Him, our obedience to Him increases in strength. "The Lord has said this" (Amos 1:15). The prophet's voice is to be an echo of the Lord's voice. We speak because God has spoken.

"I brought you out of Egypt..." (Amos 2:10-11). God had done great things for His people. Sadly, this is followed by "You made the Nazirites drink wine. You commanded the prophets to stop prophesying." God has been good to us. How are we reacting to His love? Are we being changed by His love? His love is not only a gift to be received. It's a power to make us more like Him.   

Privilege and responsibility (Amos 3:2). "The Almighty Lord has spoken. Who can keep from prophesying?" (Amos 3:8). God's Word is not to go in one ear and out the other ear. It's to change us. It's to equip us for living as His people and being His witnesses.

"And still you didn't return to Me, declares the Lord" (Amos 4:8-11). What does God say to people who keep on refusing to return to Him? This is what He says: "Prepare to meet your God" (Amos 4:12).

 "Search for Me and live! ... Search for Me and live!" (Amos 5:4,6). Life can be tuned around. This isn't something that we can do for ourselves. It must done for us by the Lord. "Search for good instead of evil so that you may live" (Amos 5:14). The Lord gives us a new direction in life. When we read of the call to conversion, we must remember that we cannot answer this call in our own strength. The strength that we need must be given to us by the Lord.

"How horrible it will be ... " (Amos 6:1,3-6,13) - This is a prophecy concerning God's judgment. Such words need to be heard, if people are to be turned back into walking in the ways of the Lord. If we don't hear of God's judgment, we are likely to keep on walking in our own ways. There needs to be "an alarm to the unconverted" (Joseph Alleine). There needs to be an alarm to the converted. The danger of remaining apathetic and unconverted is not the only danger. There is also the danger that, after being converted, we become apathetic and backslidden. God is calling us to turn to Him. He's calling us to keep on being turned towards Him.

"Almighty Lord, please forgive us!" (Amos 7:2) - This is the prayer that the Lord is waiting to hear and answer. "Almighty Lord, please stop!" (Amos 7:5) - This is a prayer for God's mercy. We come to Him, deeply aware of our sin and His judgment. We cry to Him for mercy. Why should He have mercy on us? From our point of view, there is no answer to this question. From His point of view, there is an answer - the Cross. Upon Christ, there is our sin and God's judgment. To us, there is mercy and grace. There are people who do not want to hear the Word of the Lord. They say, "Don't ever prophesy again in Bethel" (Amos 7:13). Why did they tell the prophet to "run away to Judah! ... and prophesy there" (Amos 7:12). The reason is this - "This is the king's holy place and the king's palace" (Amos 7:12). Holy? - What is holy about a place when its people send away the prophet of God, and tell him to preach the Word of God somewhere else? If a place is really holy and the people are really holy, there would be a real desire to hear what the Lord has to say to us. What did Amos say about this? This is what he said - It was the Lord who said to me, "Prophesy to My people, Israel" (Amos 7:15). The Lord says, "Speak." The world says, for the Word of the Lord "Stop speaking to us." A true prophet will speak the Word of the Lord.

"The days are going to come, declares the Almighty Lord, when I will send a famine throughout the land. It won't be an ordinary famine of hearing the words of the Lord. People will wander from sea to sea, and roam from the north to the east, searching for the Word of the Lord, but thy won't find it" (Amos 8:11-12). There's a real sadness in these words. People are looking, and they're not finding.  They know they're looking for something, but they don't know what it is. It is the Word of the Lord. May God help us to continue speaking the Word of the Lord and looking to Him to send the blessing.

"I will restore and rebuild My people, Israel, as they were a long time ago" (Amos 9:11,14). This is not about good times and bad times. Sometimes, we have good times. Sometimes, we have bad times. This is about the blessing of God, which comes to us from the faithfulness of God. We must never forget the Lord. Real blessing comes from Him. God-given blessing is more than things turning out all right for us. It's having a real sense that the Lord is with us, that He's showing us how much He loves us, that He's leading us into a closer walk with Himself, and that He's leading us to give all the glory to Him.  

Search The Scriptures: Joel

There is to be prayer from “every one who lives in the land” (Joel 1:14). It is to be personal prayer - “O Lord, I cry to You for help!” (Joel 1:19). These two belong together - prayer for the nation and personal prayer. This is expressed so well in the words: “O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee. Send a revival. Start the work in me.”

We hear the words, “Return to the Lord, your God” (Joel 2:13). They are followed by some wonderful words about the character of God - “He is merciful and compassionate, patient and always ready to forgive and to change His plans about disaster” (Joel 2:13). How do we know that God is like this? We look at what He has done for us - “Be glad and rejoice. The Lord has done great things!” (Joel 2:21). Looking at all that the Lord has done for us, we trust His promise: “Whoever calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:32). This salvation is more than forgiveness for past sins. It’s more than the future glory of being in God’s everlasting Kingdom - “Mount Zion” (Joel 2:32). It’s also the power of the Spirit, here and now: “I will pour out My Spirit on everyone” (Joel 2:28).

“The Lord will be a Refuge for His people. He will be a Stronghold for the people of Israel. You will know that I am the Lord, your God” (Joel 3:16-17). The Lord is reaching out to us. He’s speaking to us His Word of salvation. As we learn to trust the Lord, we will find that God shows Himself to be the faithful God. May the Lord keep us close to Himself. 

Search The Scriptures: Hosea

God sees us in our sin. He says, “You are not My people.” He sees us in our Saviour. He says, “You are the children of the living God” (Hosea 1:10). This is grace. This is salvation. This is the love of God. When this great truth reaches us, we are changed. What “a great day” it is when the Lord’s people, gathered together in the Name of the Lord, are led forward with God and by God into true and lasting spiritual growth and blessing.

“I will make the Valley of Achor (Disaster) a door of hope” (Hosea 2:15). What a word of encouragement this is! Here’s another great word of encouragement: “Those who are not loved I will call My loved ones. Those who are not My people I will call My people.” The Lord has done great things for us. By His grace, we are able to say, “You are my God” (Hosea 2:23).

God says, “I will wait for you” (Hosea 3:3). The people were slow to respond to God’s love. God’s Word says, “They will come trembling to the Lord for His blessings in the last days” (Hosea 3:5). How wonderfully patient the Lord is! He doesn’t compel us to come to Him. He waits patiently, until we find it in our hearts to come and receive the new life which He, in love, is offering to us.

“The people of Israel are as stubborn as a bull” (Hosea 4:16). This is more than the story of Israel. It’s the story of every one of us. Resisting God’s Spirit and rebelling against God’s Word, we dig ourselves, more and more deeply, into a hole of our own making. It is a hole from which we cannot lift ourselves. We can only be saved by the Lord. The stubbornness must be taken out of our hearts. Love for Christ must be put into our hearts. It is His love which changes us. He breaks down our stubbornness. He builds in us a new and true love for Him.

Following many words about sin in Hosea 5, we have a call to “return to the Lord.” The people hear God’s call, and they say, “Let’s return to the Lord” (Hosea 6:1). This call to return to the Lord comes to us with the promise of His healing - “He will heal us” (Hosea 6:1), His revival - “He will revive us” (Hosea 6:2), and His life - “He will raise us so that we may live in His presence” (Hosea 6:2). We hear the bad news of our sin so that our hearts may be prepared by the Lord to receive the good News of His great salvation. Once we have returned to the Lord, we are called to give ourselves to him in loyalty - “I want your loyalty, not your sacrifices” (Hosea 6:8).

God wants “to heal Israel” (Hosea 7:1). Sadly, there is so much “sin” in the hearts of Israel - “I trained them and made them strong. Yet, they plan evil against Me” (Hosea 7:15). God wants to send His blessing. Sadly, “they don’t return to the Most High” (Hosea 7:16). This is Israel’s story. It’s also our story. God is calling us to return to Him, to be trained by Him, to live in His presence, to enjoy His blessing, to give praise and glory to Him.

In Hosea 8, we read about God’s judgment on the sinful nation of Israel. His standard is perfect holiness. Every one of us falls short. None of us can stand before God’s righteous judgment. There is, one Man who has not fallen short. God’s Son, Jesus, our Saviour, has taken our sin upon Himself so that we might receive His salvation. This is the Gospel. It is Good News for sinners.

“The prophet, along with my God, is the watchman over Ephraim” (Hosea 9:8). Being a watchman will involve speaking strong words of warning. It’s not easy to speak God’s Word. It’s not easy to hear His Word. His Word calls for change. IT calls us to come out of our sin and into His holiness. The watchman must speak of “days of punishment” and “days of reckoning.” He must speak about “sins” and “hostility” (Hosea 9:7). Why must he speak of such things? Before people can turn to the Lord, they must be shown that they need the Lord. The watchman does not do this work on His own. It is “the prophet, along with my God” who “is the watchman.” We must never forget the Lord our God. Without Him, we can never be real and true watchman. With Him by our side, we will listen to what men will say, “The prophet is considered a fool, the inspired man a maniac” (Hosea 9:7). We still say, “Being a fool for God is very different from being a fool.” “The fool says in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1). A fool for God is only a fool in the eyes of men. He’s not a fool in the eyes of the One who really matters - the Lord.

God speaks to His people with a promise of blessing and a warning against disobedience. The blessing is there, waiting for us. We lose out on the blessing when we continue to walk on the pathway of disobedience. God says to us, “Plough new ground for yourselves, plant righteousness, and reap the blessings that your devotion to Me will produce.” This is the promise of blessing, with its call to return to the Lord. Alongside this promise of blessing, with its call to turn to the Lord - “It is time for you will come and pour out blessings upon you” (Hosea 10:12), there is God’s warning against following a way of life upon which His judgment rests: “But instead you planted evil and reaped its harvest. You have eaten the fruit produced by your lies” (Hosea 10:13).

Love, given by God, is not returned by His people. “When Israel was a child, I loved him” (Hosea 11:1), “The more  I called them, the further they went away” (Hosea 11:2). “I was one who taught the people of Ephraim to walk. I took them by the hand” - This is the love of God, “But they didn’t realize that I had healed them” (Hosea 11:3) - This is the ingratitude of God’s people. “I led them with cords of human kindness, with ropes of love” (Hosea 11:4) - Again, we see the love of God. “They have refused to return to Me” (Hosea 11:5) - Again, we see the people of God, turning away from the God of their salvation. How deep is their rebellion against God - “My people are determined to turn away from Me” (Hosea 11:7). How deep is His continuing love for them - “How can I give you up, Ephraim?” (Hosea 11:8). What a great contrast there is between God and man: “I am God, not a human” (Hosea 11:9). He is so much greater than we are. His love is so much greater than our sin. The Word of Go is honest and forthright about our sin - “Ephraim surrounds Me with deceit. Judah rebels against God” (Hosea 11:12) - but is doesn’t end there. It speaks also about the faithfulness of God. This is the great though with which Hosea 12 ends. Judah’s rebellion is “against the Holy One who is faithful” (Hosea 11:12).

“I spoke to the prophets and gave them many visions. I taught lessons through the prophets ... The Lord used a prophet to bring the people of Israel out of Egypt. He used the prophet to take care of them” (Hosea 12:10,13). The ministry of the prophets was very important. It doesn’t begin with speaking to men. It begins with hearing from God. The question, “What does the Lord have to say to me?” comes before the question, “What will I say to the people?” When we listen to what the Lord is saying to us, we will have “power with God” (Hosea 12:3) - power to speak His Word in a way that will bring glory to Him and people to Him.

“You are against Me, your Helper” (Hosea 13:9). God is our Helper. This is grace. How does He help us? He is our “Saviour” (Hosea 13:4). “You are against Me.” This is ingratitude. It’s not only disobedience of a command. It’s rejection of a love, the greatest love of all, the love of God. If we do not turn to the Lord to save us, we will turn to someone else, someone who will not be able to save us - “Where, now, is your king, the one who is supposed to save you?” (Hosea 13:10). What does God say about others who claim to bring salvation to us? This is what He says: “There is no saviour except Me2 (Hosea 13:4). It is the Lord alone who “frees us from the power of the grave” (Hosea 13:14) and “gives us “the opportunity to live again” (Hosea 13;13).

“Return to the Lord your God ... Return to the Lord” (Hosea 14:1-2). Who is the God to whom we return? He is the God who loves us. He is the God who says, “I will love them freely” (Hosea 14:4). God’s love for us is His free gift to us. He does not love us because He has to love us. There is nothing about us that compels god to love us. He is the God of love. He is the God who chooses love. He is the God who chooses us. What wonderful promises of love He gives to us. In Hosea 14:4-5, God says, “I will.” He says this four times. In Hosea 14:5-7, He says, “They will.” He says this nine times. “They will” follows “I will.” The blessings are given to us. They come to us from the Lord. When we realize how much we have been blessed by the Lord, this leads us to make a fuller commitment of our lives to the Lord, turning from our evil ways - “The people of Ephraim will have nothing more to do with idols” (Hosea 14:8) - and turning to the good ways of the Lord - “The Lord’s ways are right. Righteous people live by them” (Hosea 14:9).  

Search The Scriptures: Daniel

Daniel was a faithful follower of the Lord. He refused to follow a worldly way of living (Daniel 1:8). He loved the Lord. He refused to follow a way of life which would harm his walk with God. He is a great example for those who take seriously the call to live in obedience to God. As we read about Daniel’s single-minded devotion to the Lord, we are challenged to live in obedience to God’s holy Word rather than following the ways of the sinful world which is always threatening to pull us away from the Lord.

In Daniel 2, we read about Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s interpretation. God is speaking to Nebuchadnezzar. God is speaking through Daniel. The heart of the message, given in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s interpretation, is summed up in Daniel 2:44 - “At the time of those kings, the God of heaven will establish a Kingdom that will never be destroyed ... It will be established forever.” These are prophetic words. They look far beyond Daniel’s time. They look ahead to God’s eternal Kingdom.

“Look, I see four men ... The fourth one looks like a son of the gods” (Daniel 3:25). These words of Nebuchadnezzar point beyond the servants of God - Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They point to the Son of God - our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. The Son of God saved His faithful servants. He saves all who put their trust in Him. He saved them from the fire of Nebuchadnezzar. He saves us from the fire of judgment.

“Stop sinning and do what is right” (Daniel 4:27). This was the Word that God spoke to Nebuchadnezzar. This is the Word that God speaks to us. “Now, I, Nebuchadnezzar will praise, honour, and give glory to the King of heaven. Everything He does is true, His ways are right and He can humiliate those who act arrogantly” (Daniel 4:37) - This was Nebuchadnezzar’s response to the Word of Lord. In Nebuchadnezzar’s response, there is a call to worship, addressed to every one of us. It is a call to humble ourselves before God. It is a call to learn from Him and live for Him.

The handwriting on the wall (Daniel 5) is a word of judgment. Numbered, Numbered, Weighed and Divided - This is the message that came to Nebuchadnezzar from God. God has numbered the days of your kingdom. He will bring it to an end. You have been weighed on a scale. You have been found to be too light. Your kingdom will be divided. It will be given to the Medes and the Persians. Down through the centuries, these words could be repeated, time and time again. Human greatness is brought to nothing so that the glory might belong to God alone.

Daniel in the lion’s den (Daniel 6) - What a remarkable miracle we have here. When we read about it, our thoughts move on to the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Jesus is a far greater miracle than the deliverance of Daniel. Daniel was delivered from the threat of death. Jesus was dead - and He was raised to life. We rejoice in what God did for Daniel. Our joy is so much greater when we think of what God has done for us through the mighty resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Saviour.

The visions, given to Daniel, concerned God’s eternal Kingdom (Daniel 7:27). This eternal dimension must never be lost. If we have nothing to which we can look forward, with confidence in the eternal God, we are, in the words of the Apostle Paul, “of all men most miserable.” When we look, through faith in Jesus Christ, beyond the earthly horizon, we catch a glimpse of the eternal glory, and our faith is increased. We come to believe, most firmly, that what happens, here on earth, is not the last word on our life. God is preparing us for His Kingdom. He is preparing His Kingdom for us.

“Daniel saw a vision” (Daniel 8:1). With this vision, there was the explanation. Daniel falls down. He hears these words, “Son of man, understand that the vision is about the end times” (Daniel 8:17). Daniel does not remain facedown. He is lifted up: “Then he touched me and raised me to my feet” (Daniel 8:18). Daniel 8 ends with these words - “The vision horrified me, because I couldn’t understand it” (Daniel 8:27). There is much, in God’s Word, that is beyond our understanding. We must keep on looking to the Lord. We must pray that He will lead us in His perfect way.

In Daniel 9, we see Daniel, the man of prayer. He confesses his own sin and the sin of the nation (Daniel 9:8). He looks to the Lord, the God of compassion and forgiveness (Daniel 9:9). He prays that God will move among the people, with His blessing (Daniel 9:19).

“Then he touched me and made my hands and knees shake” (Daniel 10:10). It is an awesome thing to be in the presence of the living God. What a reassuring thing it was, for Daniel, when he heard this gracious word: “Daniel, you are highly respected ... Don’t be afraid” (Daniel 10:11-12). When we are in the presence of God, we must listen to what He has to say to us - “Pay attention to my words ....” (Daniel 10:11). We dare not speak words until God gives us the words that we are to say: “I bowed down ... And was silent” (Daniel 10:15). When God gives the words, that is the time for speaking (Daniel 10:16). God gives us words to confess our need of His grace and mercy: “pain has overwhelmed me, and I’m helpless” (Daniel 10:16). When we look to God for His grace and mercy, He speaks His Word of encouragement: “Be strong! Be strong!” (Daniel 10:19). God’s Word makes us strong.

When, in Daniel 11, we read of the rise and fall of human kingdoms, we must remember this - God is building His eternal Kingdom. This Kingdom - God’s Kingdom - is the only Kingdom which will never come to an end. We put our trust in the Lord. Our trust in the Lord is well-founded. The Lord is absolutely trustworthy.

The Word of God points us forward to “the end times” (Daniel 12:4,7-9,13). There will be a time of salvation. There will be a time of judgment. Those who have believed in our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, are called to win others for Him. Along with the call to be faithful and fruitful servants of the Lord, we are given a great promise: “Those who lead many people to righteousness will shine like the stars for ever and ever” (Daniel 12:3). 

Search The Scriptures: Ezekiel

“Visions from God” (Ezekiel 1:1); “The power of the Lord came over Ezekiel” (Ezekiel 1:3); “A bright light” (Ezekiel 1:27); “A rainbow in the clouds” , “The Lord’s glory”, “Bowed down”, “I heard someone speaking” (Ezekiel 1:28). In these phrases, we have some suggestion of the kind of lines we must follow, as we think about the various elements of divine revelation.

In true ministry, there is both the Word of God and the Spirit of God. God’s Word is spoken to us in the power of the Spirit, so that we might speak His Word in the power of the Spirit (Ezekiel 2:1-4). Ezekiel is described as “a watchman over the people of Israel.” He was to speak the word of warning (Ezekiel 3:17). This is the kind of preaching which calls its hearers back from the wages of sin - death. The hearers are called to “change their wicked ways in order to save their lives” (Ezekiel 3:18).

God takes sin very seriously. He sends his judgment upon sin. The unleashing of His fury turns the sinful nation into a wasteland (Ezekiel 5:13-14). When we read of such things, we wonder, “Is there any hope?” When we are reading so much about sin and judgment, we must not lose sight of the love of God. In love, He calls men and women to return to Him.

In Ezekiel 6, we have a message concerning divine judgment. Note the emphasis - “you (they) will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 6:7,13-14). If we are to appreciate the greatness of God’s salvation, we must see the greatness of our sin and the greatness of the judgment from which we are delivered through God’s mighty work of salvation.

“The end is coming” - We read these words five times in Ezekiel 7:1-6. These are words of judgment. Ezekiel 6 ends with the words, “Then they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 7:27). In His judgment, the Lord is known as the holy God. If the people refuse to return to the Lord, there will be judgment. This is the word of warning. It comes as a call to repentance, a call to walk with God in obedience.

In Ezekiel 8, we have a description of sin - “very disgusting things”, even more disgusting things” (Ezekiel 8:6,9,13,17). When we read such “bad news”, we wonder, “Is there good news?” The answer of God’s Word is “Yes”! God does not leave us in our sin. He sends His Son to be our Saviour. This is the good news, for which the prophets paved the way. Their ministry exposed sin, so that sinners might see their need of the Saviour.

If holiness is to be preserved, there must be a divine judgment upon sin. We cannot grow in our love for God, if we continue to have love, in our hearts, for the ways of the world. “Abba, Father, let me be Yours and Yours alone” (Dave Bilbrough, Mission Praise, 3).

“The Lord’s glory rose from the angels” (Ezekiel 10:4); “The Spirit lifted me” (Ezekiel 11:1 - These prophecies of Ezekiel bring us into the presence of God. “he sound of the Almighty God when He speaks” (Ezekiel 10:5); “The Lord’s Spirit came to me and told me to say” (Ezekiel 11:5) - When we are in the Lord’s presence, He speaks His Word to us. He speaks to us, so that we might speak for Him. “The Spirit lifted me up” (Ezekiel 11:24); “The Lord spoke His Word to me” (Ezekiel 12:1) - The Word and the Spirit belong together. The Spirit inspires the Word. The Word expresses the mind of the Spirit. “This is the divine revelation” (Ezekiel 12:10); “This is what the Almighty Lord says, Everything that I say will no longer be delayed. Whatever I say will happen, declares the Almighty Lord” (Ezekiel 12:28). Through His Word and His Spirit, the Almighty Lord is leading us on to His future. He is lifting us up to glory - His heavenly and eternal glory. 

“Listen to the Word of the Lord” (Ezekiel 13:2). We must not “follow our own ideas” (Ezekiel 13:3). “Change the way you think and act” (Ezekiel 14:6). We are changed, as we pay attention to what the Lord has to say to us. What is the alternative to turning to the Lord, listening to Him and being changed by Him? We turn from Him, and our lives become a “wasteland” (Jeremiah 15:8). The message of the prophet, Ezekiel, comes as a call to choose - Turn to the Lord and be saved, or turn from Him and be lost.

Speaking through the prophet, God uses very colourful sexual imagery to describe Israel’s relationship with Himself and her revolt against Him. The last word, in Ezekiel 16, is not, however, a word concerning the revolt of Israel against the Lord. It is the message of redemption - the forgiveness of sins (Ezekiel 16:63).

“I am the Lord ... I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will do it” (Ezekiel 17:24). In His Word, God tells us who He is and what He has done for us. He is the God who loves us. He has shown us His love in the death of His Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

What a contrast there is between God’s salvation and man’s sin. God brought His people out of Egypt and into the promised land. They rebelled against Him and refused to listen to Him (Ezekiel 20:6-8). God had not given up on His people. He would draw them to Himself. He would make them His instrument of blessing to the nations (Ezekiel 20:40-44).

In Ezekiel 21 - 22, words concerning God’s holy judgment against sin are awesome. He does not take sin lightly. He takes sin very seriously. As we realize the seriousness with which He looks upon sin, we are called to repentance. We are called to return to the Lord, in sincerity and truth.

Samaria and Jerusalem behaved like prostitutes. In graphic language, the sin of turning from the Lord is compared to sexual immorality. Why does God expose their sin with such plainness of speech? He wants to show them the full extent of their rebellion, so that they may see the folly of continuing in sin and may be moved to return to the Lord - “Then they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 23:49).

In Ezekiel 24, we learn about God’s holiness and His love. If we are to appreciate the wonderful love God has for sinners, we need to become more deeply aware of the awesome holiness of God’s hatred of sin. We look at our sin. We look at God’s holiness. We learn about ourselves. We see how far we have fallen short of God’s glory. We learn about God. We come to know that He is the Lord. Deeply aware of God’s holiness and our own sin, we are led, by the Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures, to see Jesus, crucified for us. We hear about God’s holiness. This is the Word of His judgment upon our sin. This is not, however, the final Word that He speaks to us. He speaks His Word of love - His Word of forgiveness, peace and hope.

“Then you will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 25:4,7,11). “Then they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 25:17). God is in control. This is the message of the prophet. The events on earth express the purpose of God. It is so important that we do not lose sight of this spiritual dimension. People say, ‘Everything is politics.’ God’s Word tells us, ‘Politics isn’t everything.’ We must not imagine that we can leave god out of the reckoning. He will remind us of His presence - “That you may know that I am the Lord.”

In Ezekiel 26, we find an awesome Word of judgment, spoken against the city of Tyre. The Word, spoken by God through His prophet, is uncompromising - “Tyre, you famous city, you have been destroyed” (Ezekiel 26:17). The effect of Tyre’s fall is described: “Your defeat will make the people, who live by the coast, tremble. Your end will terrify the islands in the sea” (Ezekiel 26:18). This is the fear of the Lord. We become aware that it’s a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. The gospel tells us about the hands that were nailed to the Cross for us, so that we might pass from judgment to salvation, through faith in Jesus Christ.

This is a continuation of the Word of judgment, which began in Ezekiel 26. How final are the words at the end of Ezekiel 27: “You have come to a terrible end, and you will never exist again” (Ezekiel 27:36). This is the bad news concerning all of us. We are sinners. We are under God’s judgment. Our only hope is the God of grace and mercy. He has made Himself known to us as the One, who can turn everything around for us. He does through His Son, Jesus Christ.

God’s judgment on Tyre - This theme continues on from Ezekiel 26 - 27. The emphasis is on His judgment on the king - “the ruler of Tyre” (Ezekiel 28:1). Here, we look beyond “the ruler of Tyre.” We may look on from him to Satan. Like the king of Tyre, Satan will also “come to a terrible end” (Ezekiel 28:19). In Ezekiel 28:20-24, we have a prophecy of judgment on Sidon. In Ezekiel 28:25-26, we have a message of hope for God’s people, Israel - “they will know that I am the Lord their God” (Ezekiel 28:26).     

In Ezekiel 29, we read about God's judgment upon Egypt, that proud nation, who caused so much distress to His people, Israel. Egypt's time of power had come to an end. Their position of power had been taken by Babylon. The Lord is looking beyond the day of Babylon's power. He is doing a work that is eternal. His work centres upon His people, Israel - "On that day, I will make the people of Israel strong again ..." (Ezekiel 29:21).

In Ezekiel 30, we read about the fall of Egypt and the rise of Babylon. The history of our world is the history of the rise and fall of nations. Whatever happens, the Lord remains the Lord of history. Kingdoms rise. Kingdoms fall. The Kingdom of the Lord endures forever. This is a great encouragement to God's people. The knowledge that God is in control assures us that there is, in history, more than just the ever-changing flow of events. There is the God whose love remains forever.


Egypt will be conquered. This message, from Ezekiel 29-30, continues in Ezekiel 31. The time of Egypt's power will come to an end. The power of God is very different. He is the eternal God. His power is a very special power. It is the power of love. His love is as great as His power. When we sing, "How great Thou art", we do not sing only of His great power. We sing also of His great love. In the events of history, we must learn to see God at work - in power and love. The power of God's love is so different from Egypt's love of power.

Again, in Ezekiel 32, we read about God's judgment on Egypt. God's Word of judgment is awesome. There is a real sense of the holiness of God. Men cannot do what they like, and expect that God will not punish them. When we read of such things, it becomes clear to us that it is better to listen to God and obey His Word than to ignore him and invite Him to send His judgment into our lives.

In Ezekiel 33, we read about the ministry of "the watchman." He listens to God's Word and speaks the Word of warning  to the people (Ezekiel 33:7). He declares the love of God - "I don't want wicked people to die ... I want them to turn from their ways and live" (Ezekiel 33:10). The warning is spoken as the voice of love, calling sinners to draw back from the way that leads to death, to turn to the Lord and live.

In Ezekiel 34, there is the promise of a new Shepherd for the lost sheep. This is Good News. We are more than lost sheep. We are the Lord's sheep. Without the Lord, we are  lost. In Him, we are found. God says, "I will search for My sheep Myself and I will look after them" (Ezekiel 34:11). We read this, and our thoughts turn to Jesus, who came to seek and to save the lost. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, who laid down His life for us. He is the Great Shepherd, who rose from the dead for us. He is the Chief Shepherd, who is coming again for us. The Lord says to us, "You, My sheep, are the sheep of My pasture." He says to us, "I am your God" (Ezekiel 34:31).

In Ezekiel 35, we learn that it is through His judgment as well as His salvation that we learn that the Lord is God. It is important that we remember two things - (i) God's purpose is salvation (John 3:17); (ii) His judgment comes upon us as a result of our sin (John 3:18). The light of God's love shines brightly. It is sin which brings darkness into our world. The darkness of our sin is great. The bright shining light of God's love is greater. This is the great love of God, revealed to us in Jesus Christ, the Light of the world.

The great miracle of the new birth is described in Ezekiel 36:26 - "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you." We cannot change ourselves. We must be changed by the Lord. He forgives our sin. He gives us His Holy Spirit. He enables us to put the past behind us and live the new life in the Spirit.

To the valley of dry bones, the Word of God is spoken: "I will put My Spirit in you, and you will live" (Ezekiel 37:14). It is only through the working of the Holy Spirit that there can be blessing among God's people. It is only through the Spirit's power that God's work is carried forward in the blessing of many who are dead in their sins without God's saving grace. When the Lord comes in power, everything changes. The dead are brought to life.

In Ezekiel 38:23, we read about God's purpose in history - "I will show My greatness and My holiness. I will reveal Myself to many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord." It is important that we see the divine dimension in the events which take place here on earth. There are political events, but politics isn't everything. there's more than politics. There's the work of God. He is working out His plan,

"I will pour out My Spirit on the nation of Israel" (Ezekiel 39:29). True blessing comes when God pours out His Spirit. This is something for which we must always - the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

In Ezekiel 40-43, we have a description of the temple. We can measure the physical dimensions of the temple, but there is something that we cannot measure: "I saw the glory of the Lord fill the temple" (Ezekiel 43:5). This is the spiritual dimension. This is the presence of the Spirit of the  Lord. We look beyond the temple. We catch a glimpse of the glory of God. The glory of the temple fades. The glory of the Lord remains forevermore.

In Ezekiel 44-46, we read about the worship of God. The emphasis is on holiness. The place of worship is described as "the holy place" (Ezekiel 44:1). When we move into the New Testament, the emphasis is on the people. We are to be the holy people of God - "You are chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, people who belong to God." Why does God call us to be His holy people? - "You were chosen to tell about the excellent qualities of God, who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light." As we do this, there's something we must never forget - "Once you were not God's people, but now you are. Once you were not shown mercy, but now you have been shown mercy" (1 Peter 2:9-10).

In Ezekiel 47:1-11, we have a wonderful picture and an encouraging message - the river of God's blessing. In Ezekiel 48:35, we have a wonderful presence and an inspiring message - "The Lord is there."

Search The Scriptures: Lamentations

For Jerusalem, the situation seemed to be hopeless. Humanly speaking, everything looked very gloomy. This was the situation into which the word of the Lord came. Often, our feelings may tell us, “My enemies have triumphed” (Lamentations 1:9). These are the times when we must learn to look beyond our feelings, believing that God has His Word for us, and it is a Word of victory.

There is so much, in Lamentations 2, about God’s judgment. It is, however, encouraging to read the words of Lamentations 2:13 - God’s people are described as the “beloved people of Zion.” Beloved - This is a great word. God used this word to describe Jesus - His Beloved Son. We are in Christ. We are in the Beloved. We are God’s Beloved. We are loved with an everlasting love.

At the heart of this book, in which there is much lamentation, we find words of great encouragement - “Great is Thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23). The Lord is assuring us that, whatever may happen to us, here is something that never changes: the faithfulness of God.

We hear what Lamentations says to us about God’s judgment. We also hear what it says about His faithfulness. Through our sin, we have brought God’s judgment upon ourselves - This is the bad news concerning ourselves. Through His faithful love, we receive the forgiveness of our sins - This is the Good News of God’s love for sinners.

In Lamentations 5, we have a prayer of the prophet. As he prays for a return to the Lord - “O Lord, bring us back to You ...” (Lamentations 5:21), he affirms that the Lord is King - “You, O Lord, sit enthroned for ever” (Lamentations 5:19).      

Search The Scriptures: Jeremiah

This is an updated version. I've added notes on Jeremiah 34 - 52.
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Jeremiah was called into the service of the eternal God - “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart for My holy purpose.I appointed you to be a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). Jeremiah called the people back to the Lord, “the fountain of living (life-giving) water” (Jeremiah 2:13). He called them to be converted - to turn around. They were turning their backs on the Lord. They were replacing Him with something else, something useless, something that would never bring them real satisfaction (Jeremiah 2:13). Now, they were to turn their faces to Him (Jeremiah 2:27). To a returning people, God promises his mercy - “Come back, unfaithful Israel. It is the Lord speaking. I will no longer frown on you because I’m merciful, declares the Lord, I will no longer be angry with you.” returning to the Lord means confessing our sins - “Admit that you’ve done wrong! You have rebelled against the Lord your God ...” The message of Jeremiah is summed up in the words, “Come back, you rebellious people” (Jeremiah 3:12-14).

Jeremiah speaks of God’s judgment - “I’m bringing disaster and widespread destruction ...” (Jeremiah 4:6). This message comes to us as a word of warning, a plea to the people to return to the Lord and find His mercy - “So put on sackcloth, mourn and cry because the Lord’s burning anger hasn’t turned away from us” (Jeremiah 4:8). This is the call to repentance. We read of God’s burning anger, and we wonder,”Is there still the hope of God’s blessing?” God is speaking of His judgment - “Nation of Israel, I’m going to bring a nation from far away to attack you,declares the Lord, I won’t destroy all of you” (Jeremiah 5:15,18). God’s Word  concerning the threat of judgment is a call to the people to honour Him as God: “Pay attention to My warning, Jerusalem, or I will turn away from you. I will make your land desolate ...” (Jeremiah 6:8). The ministry of Jeremiah differs from the ministry of the false prophets. They say, “Everything is alright!” He says, “It’s not alright! (Jeremiah 6:14). Jeremiah calls upon the people to make a new beginning with God - “Stand at the crossroads and look. Ask which paths are the old reliable paths. Ask which way leads to blessings. Live that way, and find a resting place for yourselves” (Jeremiah 6:16).

God speaks to His people about their sin. He is not pleased with them. He is calling them to return to Him. The life of Israel is “like the desert” (Jeremiah 9:12). This moral and spiritual desert is described in Jeremiah 9:13-14 - “The Lord answered, They’ve abandoned My teachings that I placed in front of them. They didn’t obey Me, and they didn’t follow them, They followed their own stubborn ways and other gods ...” This was a serious situation. These words are very relevant to today’s Church and world. God is not being taken seriously. His Word  is being ignored. The situation goes from bad to worse. God is speaking. Few people are listening. He speaks through His Word. Few people are reading His Word. We must listen to what God says and do what He tells us to do.

“The Lord is the only God. He is the living God and eternal King” (Jeremiah 10:10). The contrast between God and the gods is simple. God made us. We made the gods. In the Lord our God, there is majesty and mystery - the majesty of the “eternal King”, the mystery that He is always beyond our understanding. Before this majesty and mystery, we bow down in worship. We acknowledge his greatness. We give Him glory. He is worthy of our worship.

“Listen and pay attention! Don’t be arrogant. The Lord has spoken” (Jeremiah 13:5). “Do something, Lord, for the sake of Your Name, even though our sins testify against us” (Jeremiah 14:7). We listen to God, and we call upon Him - “If you return, I will take you back ... I am with you, and I will save you and rescue you, says the Lord” (Jeremiah 15:19-20). Along with the great promise, “I am with you and I will save you”, there is also the call to return to the Lord. God knows what we are like - “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9). God knows that we cannot change ourselves. We can only be changed by Him. He calls us back from the way of the “fool” (Jeremiah 17:11). He calls us to Himself. The Word, given to the prophet, is also the Word, spoken to the people. It is the Word of salvation. “Where is the Word of the Lord? Let it come!” (Jeremiah 17:15). The Word of the Lord comes. It comes from above. It comes from the Lord. We cannot create the Word of the Lord. We must let it come to us. The Word is His. It’s not ours. We must pray, “Let the Word of the Lord come to us.” Let the Word of the Lord be God among us, God speaking to us, God working in us and through us.

“Where is the Word of the Lord? Let it come!” (Jeremiah 17:15). The Word of the Lord comes. It comes from above. It comes from the Lord. The Word of the Lord - This is God at work. He is speaking to us. He is working in us. We cannot create the Word of the Lord. We must let it come to us. The Word is His. It is not ours. We must pray, “Let the Word of the Lord come to us.” Let the Word of the Lord be God among us, God speaking to us, God working in us, God working through us.

Jeremiah’s message had been ignored. His faith was sorely tested. Despite all of this, he was able to say, “Sing to the Lord! Praise the Lord!” (Jeremiah 20:13). This was not his constant theme. In the very next verse, he says, “Cursed is the day that I was born.” We are pulled this way and that way by a turmoil of confused and confusing emotions. Our heart is a battleground. May the Lord lift us out of depression and defeat. May He lift us into vigour and victory.

The Word of God, spoken by Jeremiah, still needs to be heard today - “O land, land, land! Listen to the Word of the Lord!” (Jeremiah 22:29). God has much to say to this land and every land. Are we listening to His Word? or Have we closed our ears? Jeremiah speaks of our Saviour, Jesus Christ - “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will grow a righteous Branch for David” (Jeremiah 23:5). Like Jeremiah, we must direct attention to the Saviour. Speaking God’s Word, Jeremiah said, “I am a God who is near. I am also a God who is far away” (Jeremiah 23:23).We must maintain these two emphases in our preaching. God is greater than we can imagine, yet He has come near to us in Christ.  

There’s realism in the ministry of Jeremiah. He prophesies the Babylonian captivity. There is also hope. He looks beyond the Babylonian captivity: “They will be taken to Babylon and stay there.I come for them, declares the Lord. I will take them from there and bring them back to this place” (Jeremiah 27:22). The way we are led may not be easy. The destination will be glorious. When things are going badly, we must never lose sight of the final goal of God’s working in us and through us. Beyond the suffering, there is the glory.   

“The days are coming”: These words introduce a prophecy concerning the land (Jeremiah 30:3). The greatest blessing is not being in the land. It is belonging to the Lord. This is the blessing, spoken of by Jeremiah. When, speaking God’s Word, he writes, “You will be My people, and I will be your God” (Jeremiah 30:22).

God says to us, “I love you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). Through His love, we have “a happy song” to sing (Jeremiah 31:7). Through His love, we are “changed.” Our life is “turned around” (Jeremiah 31:18). The love of God for us is revealed most powerfully in His Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. He is the fulfilment of the prophecy in Jeremiah 31:31-34. When we consider Him - how wonderful He is - and all He has done for us, we will “give thanks to the Lord”, rejoicing in His goodness and praising Him for “His love which endures for ever.” We see His love - supremely - in “the righteous branch” - Jesus: “The Lord our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 33:15-16).

“Maybe the nation of Judah will hear about all the disasters that I plan to bring on them, and they will turn from their wicked ways. Then I will forgive their wickedness and their sins” (Jeremiah 36:3). Even in all life’s disasters, we must never lose sight of God’s love. He sends disasters. This is not because He hates us. He loves us. Through these disasters, He’s calling us back to Himself. He’s calling us to receive His forgiveness.

Jeremiah was not a popular prophet. He didn’t tell the people what they wanted to hear. He wasn’t concerned with gaining their approval. He was determined to keep on speaking God’s Word - whatever the people thought about him, said about him or did to him. The first priority is faithfulness. We must not make relevance the be-all and end-all. Relevance must be built on faithfulness. The two are to be held together - faithfulness and relevance. If we do not remain faithful to God’s Word, our words will be irrelevant. They will not be God’s Word for the people. “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17) - This must be at the heart of both our preaching and our living.

We are not to be afraid of those who oppose God and His Word (Jeremiah 42:11). We are to trust God. We are to stand on the promises that He has given to us in His Word - “I will have compassion on you” (Jeremiah 42:12).

Jeremiah’s ministry was a call from God to the people - a call to “listen to the Word of the Lord” (Jeremiah 44:24). Listening to what the Lord has to say to us will mean being ready to revise our own ideas. Our thoughts, without the guiding Word from the Lord, will be very different from thoughts which have been shaped by the Word of the Lord.

Jeremiah was fearless in his preaching of God’s Word. He spoke the truth. He spoke the Word which had been given to him by the Lord. When God speaks the Word of His holiness, the Word which exposes sin for what it really is, there is no place to hide. When we read Jeremiah’s words about Israel’s enemies, we must recognize that the Word of God concerning sin must be spoken clearly. It is only when there is conviction of sin that there can be conversion to the Saviour.

God’s Word speaks against us so that we might learn not to speak against God’s Word. God calls us to holiness - “Run away from Babylon! Run for your lives!” (Jeremiah 51:6). The final outcome is described in Jeremiah 51:8 - “Babylon will suddenly fall and be shattered.” God is warning us. It is folly to live the world’s way rather than the Lord’s way. In the light of the Lord’s Word, preached so faithfully by Jeremiah, we must learn to pray, “Your will be done, Lord.”    

Search The Scriptures: Isaiah

This is an updated version. I have added notes on Isaiah 55 – 66.
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The Word of God speaks to us of God, who is both holy and loving. This God calls for our response to His Word. In love, He calls us to come to Him and receive His forgiveness. In holiness, He warns us that rebellion leads to judgment (Isaiah 1:18-20). His Word gives us a glimpse of His love and His holiness. The God of perfect love and perfect holiness invites us to say, from the heart, “Let’s go to the mountain of the Lord, to the House of the God of Jacob” (Isaiah 2:3). God’s blessing is promised to those who will honour Him as their God - “Tell the righteous that blessings will come to them” (Isaiah 3:10). Alongside this promise, there is also the warning: “How horrible it will be for the wicked! Disaster will strike them” (Isaiah 3:11).

“The Lord will wash away the filth of Zion’s people ... His glory will cover everything” (Isaiah 4:4-5). The restoration of the divine glory is the goal of the divine cleansing. What God does for us and in us is the reversal of what sin does - “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). God’s people are His “vineyard”, “the garden of His delight” (Isaiah 5:7). Our response to the Lord is to love Him and worship Him: “Let me sing a love song to my Beloved” (Isaiah 5:1). We rejoice in the Lord because He has forgiven our sin (Isaiah 6:7). We sing praise to Him because all glory belongs to Him (Isaiah 6:3). Our sin, which is great (Isaiah 6:5), has been forgiven - All glory to God! This is the Lord’s doing. It is marvellous in our eyes. “The King” is among us. He reveals Himself as the King of love. Out of love for the Lord, we make our response - Here am I. Send me” (Isaiah 6:8). As we obey God’s command, “Go and tell the people” (Isaiah 6:9), we may find that there is much that causes us to be discouraged - “the cities lie in ruins ... The land is completely desolate ... A large area in the middle of the land will be abandoned” (Isaiah 6:11-12). We will also have some encouragement - “a stump is left - The holy seed will be the land’s stump” (Isaiah 6:13). When we are tempted to give up, when discouragement threatens to overwhelm us, we must remember that God is still on the throne. He is the King - and He still loves us. He is the King of love.

Isaiah speaks, prophetically, of the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who is also known as “Immanuel” (“God is with us”) (Isaiah 7:14).  “God is with us” - These words are spoken to God’s people in every situation of our life (Isaiah 8:10). Isaiah’s prophetic message concerns the transformation which brings “glory”, where there is “gloom”: “But there will be no more gloom ... But in the future He will bring glory” (Isaiah 9:1). This “glory” comes through our “Wonderful” Saviour, who is the “Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6). In Him, we have “peace”, “wise counsel” and “everlasting” life. Praise God! To Him be the glory! He has brought us to know Himself, as our Father, through Christ, His Beloved Son. What will it mean, for us , to know God? It will mean being changed by Him. He is teaching us to walk with Him. He is teaching us to follow Jesus. He is teaching us “to refuse the evil, and choose the good” (Isaiah 7:15). Standing upon the promise - “God is with us” - does not mean that we will take God’s presence for granted. God is not only comforting us. He’s also challenging us. We’re not to be conformed to the world’s way of living (Isaiah 8:11). We’re to be transformed. We’re to live the Lord’s way (Isaiah 8:13).

Isaiah 10 speaks of a divine judgment, in which the only “survivors” will be those who “depend on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 10:20). Isaiah 11 contains a Messianic prophecy. These are words, which point forward to our Saviour, Jesus Christ. They are word of the coming Kingdom (Isaiah 11:1-10). Isaiah 12 contains a hymn of praise to God: “I will praise You, O Lord” (Isaiah 12:1), which is followed by a call to praise God - “Praise the Lord ...” (Isaiah 12:4-6). This is a short chapter. It only has six verses. Its words are very precious. We can come to these words, again and again, and experience the fulfilment of the Lord’s precious promise: “With joy you will draw water from the springs of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3). This is the “living water”, which is Christ Himself.       

“The day of the Lord is near ... The day of the Lord is going to come. It will be a cruel day with fury and fierce anger. He will make the earth desolate. He will destroy its sinners. Its time has almost come. Its days will not be extended” (Isaiah 13:6,9,22) - what  solemn words of warning regarding divine judgment! Is there hope for anyone? Isaiah 14 speaks of the fall of Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12-17). Lucifer, also known as Satan or the devil, has fallen, and He’s determined to take us down with him. He has caused havoc on earth. In the face of his evil attacks,God’s people need this Word of encouragement: “The Lord has laid Zion’s foundation ... His humble people will find refuge in it” (Isaiah 14:32). This dual perspective - judgment and salvation - is also found in Isaiah 15. There will be “wailing”, but there will also be “survivors” (Isaiah 15:8-9).

Much of what we read in Isaiah 16 - 18 concerns divine judgment on the disobedient - Moab - chapter 16, Damascus and Israel - chapter 17, Sudan - chapter 18. In the face of God’s holy judgment upon sin, we must never forget that “He is the God of our salvation, our Rock, our Stronghold” (Isaiah 17:10). God does not wish to pass judgment upon us. He calls us to Himself, that He may be gracious to us (2 Peter 3:9; John 3:17). This is the love of God. His love is everlasting. He reaches out to us, in love, so that we, loving Him, might rejoice in the fact that we are His beloved - “loved with everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).

In Isaiah 19-21, there are words of judgment and words of grace: “The Lord will strike Egypt with a plague. When He strikes them, He will also heal them. They will come back to the Lord. And He will respond to their prayers and heal them” (Isaiah 19:22). The question is asked, “How can we escape?” (Isaiah 20:6). To this question, the Lord gives His answer: “When the people cry to the Lord because of those who oppress them, He will send a Saviour and Defender to rescue them” (Isaiah 20:20). From the words of Isaiah 21:9 - “Babylon has fallen! It has fallen! All the idols they worship He shattered on the ground”, we look on to Revelation 18:18 - “Fallen! Babylon the  Great has fallen! She has become a home for demons” and Revelation 18:4 - “Come out of Babylon, My  people.” God is calling His people turn from worldly ways “Come out of Babylon, My people.” He’s calling His people to turn to Him - “When the people cry to the Lord ...” He’s calling us to trust Him. He’s calling us to obey Him. He’s calling us to sing the song of salvation: “Hallelujah! Salvation, glory and power belong to our God” (Revelation 19:11).

In Isaiah 22 - 23, we read about God’s judgment on Judah, Shebna and Tyre. We read of “a day of confusion and trampling” (Isaiah 22:5). We read the words of judgment on “Shebna, the man in charge of the palace” - “Look, mighty man! The Lord will throw you out” (Isaiah 22:15,17). There is judgment on Tyre “for seventy years” (Isaiah 23:14). There is also hope for the future - “At the end of seventy years, the Lord will come to help Tyre” (Isaiah 23:17). Sadly, His help was not appreciated - “Then she will go back to earning money as a prostitute for all the world’s kingdoms” (Isaiah 23:17). The message of God’s judgment continues in Isaiah 24. This is hard for us to hear. There is, however, something else that we must never overlook: “In all these things, it is said of the Lord, He will be glorious” (Isaiah 24:23).

“The Lord will save us” (Isaiah 25:9). This is our hope, as we await the “Day” of the Lord. This our cause for joy and gladness. Death shall not triumph over us. Our hope is in the Lord - “He will swallow up death in victory” (Isaiah 25:8). The message of the Gospel comes to us as a declaration of God’s saving power - “The Lord, the Lord alone, is an everlasting Rock.” It comes to us as a call to put our faith in the Lord - “Trust in the Lord always.” In the Lord, there is “everlasting strength” (Isaiah 26:4).In our “pain”, we receive strength from the Lord. It is the strength which comes from knowing that, beyond our present suffering, there is eternal life (Isaiah 26:18-19). As we consider how great our God is and how much He has loved us and done for us, we “will come and worship” Him, giving all the praise and glory to Him (Isaiah 27:13). 

Isaiah speaks words of prophecy concerning Jesus Christ, the “Rock of our salvation”, the “precious Cornerstone”, the “solid Foundation” (Isaiah 28:16). Jesus Christ gives us the blessings of God’s salvation - “the deaf will hear the words, written in the book. The blind will see out of their gloom and darkness. Humble people again will find joy in the Lord” (Isaiah 29:18-19). With the Gospel proclamation - in Christ, there is full salvation - comes an appeal to come to Him and receive the blessings, promised to us by the God of love: “This is what the Almighty Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says, You can be saved by returning to Me. You can have rest. You can be strong by being quiet and by trusting Me” (Isaiah 30:15). The Lord is looking for our response. He longs to pour out His blessing on those who put their trust in Him: “The Lord is waiting to be kind to you. He rises to have compassion on you. The Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all those who wait for Him” (Isaiah 30:18). To those who put their trust in Him,the Lord gives His promise. He will lead them in the pathway of obedience, which is the highway of holiness - “You will hear a voice behind you, saying, This is the way. Follow it” (Isaiah 30:21).

There is a great contrast between the true God and false gods (Isaiah 31). God brings great blessing into our lives. He does this through the gift of the Holy spirit - “the Spirit is poured upon us from on high” (Isaiah 32:14). In Him, we receive “peace” (Isaiah 32:18). In Him, we receive “the riches of salvation”, which “are wisdom and knowledge” (Isaiah 33:6). We look away from ourselves in “the fear of the Lord.” We find our “treasure” in “the Lord” - “our Judge, our Lawgiver, our King, our Saviour” (Isaiah 33:6,22).  

Isaiah speaks of both God’s judgment (Isaiah 34:2) and His salvation (Isaiah 35:2). What a privilege it is to be called “the redeemed of the Lord” (Isaiah 35:9-10). This is the source of true happiness, real joy and lasting gladness - the redemption of God. As we read of what is happening among the nations, both in the Bible and today’s news, we must never forget this - the Lord our God is “enthroned over the angels.” He alone is the God of the kingdoms of the world.” He “made heaven and earth” (Isaiah 37:16). As we rejoice in this truth concerning God, we must pray that “all the kingdoms on earth will know that He is the Lord” (Isaiah 37:20).

As we read about kings - Sennacherib (Isaiah 37) and Hezekiah (Isaiah 38-39), we must remember that God’s Word concerns all of us. We are called to speak the Word of God with boldness - “Hear the Word of the Lord” (Isaiah 39:5) - and to receive the Word of God with humility - “The Lord’s Word that you have spoken is good” (Isaiah 39:8).

"Tell the good news! ... Here is your God" (Isaiah 40:9). "I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will support you with My victorious right hand"  (Isaiah 41:10)."I am the Lord, that is My Name. I will not give glory to anyone else or the praise I deserve to idols" (Isaiah 42:8). The preacher of the Good News is called to proclaim salvation, bringing glory to God alone - zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of sinners.

"I alone am the Lord, and there is no saviour except Me" (Isaiah 43:11). "I alone am the One who is going to wipe away your rebellious actions for My own sake, I will not remember your sins any more" (Isaiah 43:25)."Come back to Me, because I have reclaimed you. Sing with joy... Rejoice..." (Isaiah 44:22-23). "I am the Lord, and there is no other, I haven't spoken privately or in some dark corner of the world, I didn't say to Jacob's descendants, 'Search for Me in vain.' I, the Lord, speak what is fair and say what is right" (Isaiah 45:19). "There is no other God except Me. There is no other righteous God and Saviour besides Me. Turn to Me and be saved, all who live at the ends of the earth, because I am God, and there is no other" (Isaiah 45:21-22). In these verses, we learn of the unique, incomparable greatness of God in His gracious and mighty work of salvation.

In Isaiah 46 - 48, we read about Israel's conflict with Babylon and God's verdict on Babylon. We also have the precious promise which God gave to His people: "Our Defender is the Holy One of Israel" (Isaiah 47:4). Along with the divine promise, there is also the divine call to obedience. God sees that His redeemed people are not living in obedience to Him. He calls them back to a life of honesty and sincerity. He is calling them to walk in His perfect way: I am the Lord your God. I teach you what is best for you. I lead you where you should go" (Isaiah 48:17). He promises to bless them, if they will follow His leading: "If only you had listened to My commands! Your peace would be like a river that never runs dry. Your righteousness would be like waves on the sea" (Isaiah 48:18).  

What "joy" there is in the Lord's "comfort" and "compassion" (Isaiah 49:13). He reaches out to us in compassion. He reaches out to us with His comfort. We rejoice in Him - the God of compassion, the God of comfort. "The Almighty Lord helps me" (Isaiah 50:7,9). What help there is in the Lord! The Maker of heaven and earth is our Helper. "The people ransomed by the Lord will return. They will come to Zion, singing with joy" (Isaiah 51:11). How does the Lord help us? He has "ransomed" us. We have been "bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 6:20). We have been "redeemed with the precious blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1:18-19).

"Clothe yourself with strength" (Isaiah 52:1). Our strength comes for our Saviour. In ourselves, there is sin. In Him, there is salvation (Isaiah 53:6,10-12). We look to our Saviour's sacrifice for our sin. From the Cross, we hear His Word of love: "My kindness will never depart from you. My promise of peace will never change, says the Lord, who has compassion on you" (Isaiah 54:10). This Word from the Lord brings strength into our lives. The Lord leads us in His way of victory. He says to us, "Their victory comes from Me" (Isaiah 54:17).

When God sends out His Word, He sends it with a promise; "My Word... will not come back to Me without results, but it will accomplish whatever I want and achieve whatever I send it to do" (Isaiah 55:11). The Lord is looking out. He's looking beyond those who are already worshipping Him. He says, "I will gather still others besides those I have already gathered” (Isaiah 56:8). When we find, in our hearts, a desire to praise God, where does this spirit of praise come from? God says this, “I’ll create praise on their lips” (Isaiah 57:19).  

“Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the foundations of past generations. You will be called the Rebuilder of Broken Walls and the Restorer of Streets where people live” (Isaiah 58:12). How important it is that we build on a solid foundation, and not shifting sand. We are to build on Christ, who is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). If the broken walls are to be rebuilt and the streets are to be restored, we need to recognize our great need of this work of rebuilding and restoration - “Truth has fallen in the street, and honest can’t come in” (Isaiah 59:14). We need to rediscover truth. We need more than a respect for human honesty. We need faith in , appreciation of and love for divine truth.  - Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). When there is rebuilding and restoration, based on the truth of God, it will be said of God’s people: “You will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise.”It will be said of their God: “the Lord will be your everlasting light. Your God will be your glory” (Isaiah 60:18-19).

In the Lord, we have joy - the joy of His salvation: “I will find joy in the Lord. I will delight in my God. He has dressed me in the clothes of salvation. He has wrapped me in the robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10). This joy of salvation comes to us through our Saviour, Jesus Christ. God has fulfilled His gracious promise: “The Lord has announced to the ends of the earth: Tell My people Zion,Your Saviour is coming” (Isaiah 62:11). In the Lord, we have victory. We rejoice in Him. He gives us the victory. He announces His victory - “It is I, the Lord, I am coming to announce my victory. I am powerful enough to save you” (Isaiah 63:1).

God is “our Father” (Isaiah 64:8). He says to us, “Here I am” (Isaiah 65:2). He waits, in love, for us to come to Him and receive the blessing He has promised: “Whoever asks for a blessing in the land will be blessed by the God of Truth” (Isaiah 65:16). He sets before us this glorious future: “I will create a new heaven and a new earth” (Isaiah 65:17). The Lord’s blessing is like “an overflowing stream” (Isaiah 66:12). The more we experience His blessing, the more we come to realize that this is just the beginning. God has much more blessing for us. There is no end to His love. His love is eternal. This eternal love is the source of His blessing. This is the basis of our eternal hope - “The new heaven and earth that I am about to make will continue in My presence” (Isaiah 66:22).     

Search The Scriptures: Song of Solomon

This book can be read at two different levels. At the human level, it’s a celebration of the love between a man and a woman. At the spiritual level, it inspires us to appreciate, more truly and more fully, the great love which Christ has for us. As we grow in our awareness of Christ’s amazing love for us, we are called to love Him more. His love comes first. We must never forget this. His love is an everlasting love. Our love for Him can never be any more than a response to His love for us.

Search The Scriptures: Ecclesiastes

Life “under the sun” is depressing (Ecclesiastes 1:3,9,14). When life is seen in an earthbound way, with nothing above and beyond it, there is no hope, no glimmer of light. The preacher is not saying that this is the only way we can look at life. He is saying that this way of thinking about life is a dead-end street. He is inviting us to see the meaninglessness of a life that is no more than life “under the sun.” He shows us the hopelessness of life “under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:17,20,22). We can never be satisfied by life “under the sun.” There is always a sense of something more. This dissatisfaction, this longing for something more, comes from God: “He has put a sense of eternity in people’s minds” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Life “under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 4:1,3) offers nothing to those who are searching for a real sense of meaning, purpose and direction.There is an emptiness at the heart of life “under the sun.” Attempting to find something more, through our own efforts, is a never-ending task, a fruitless exercise - “trying to catch the wind” (Ecclesiastes 4:6,8). We need more than life “under the sun.”. We need life in the Son. We need the One who came from above - Jesus Christ, our Saviour. He alone can bring something different into our life. He brings something lasting - eternal life (1 John 5:11-12). As we read Ecclesiastes in the context of the whole of Scripture, our thoughts turn towards another life, a better life - life in the Son. This is a life that is filled with glorious, heavenly, eternal hope. Without God, life is hopeless.With Him, life becomes hopeful. By placing before us these two very different ways of life - life without God and life with God, Ecclesiastes invites us to choose. We are to choose life - the life that comes from above, the abundant life, which is the gift of God’s grace to all who put their faith in Jesus Christ (John 10:10). When we receive life in the Son, our life is transformed. It is transformed by the life of Christ - new life, eternal life.

The book of Ecclesiastes is one of the books of Wisdom. Much of it reads like the wisdom of the writer, as he reflects on his life. There is, however, another dimension in this book. There is God. We are encouraged to see our life in the light of God: “God is in heaven and you are on earth” (Ecclesiastes 5:2). The call to “fear God” (Ecclesiastes 5:7) lies at the heart of this book. This is more than human wisdom. This is the wisdom that comes from above. It’s the wisdom of God. This wisdom comes to us from divine revelation. True wisdom always recognizes that God is at the centre of life. There are times when this book seems to be the writer’s own practical philosophy of life. Sometimes, it seems like God isn’t in his thoughts. In chapter 6, God is only mentioned in verse 2. We should not, however, ignore the fact that he recognizes the reality of God. It is one thing to mention God only occasionally. It is something else when we ignore Him altogether.  The fact that Ecclesiastes (the Preacher) does not have ready-made answers for every question does not mean that he is not listening for the word of the Lord. It does mean that he recognizes that the answers lie with the Lord - not with ourselves. This is what he means when he says, “God is in heaven and you are on earth” (Ecclesiastes 5:2).     Our wisdom is limited. Sometimes, we are wise - but we are not always wise. True wisdom comes from God. As we seek Him, we find that He gives His wisdom to us. It comes to us in and through Christ, who is “the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:30). As we look at our life, we are to “consider what God has done” (Ecclesiastes 7:13). When we look at the good things in our lives, we must not forget to say,”this is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 5:19). True wisdom is given to us when we recognize that God is the living God, the God who has done great things for us, the God of our salvation. Recognizing that He is the living God, the God of revelation, doesn’t mean that we’ll understand everything. Throughout our life on earth, there will be matters which are beyond our understanding. We must be content to put our trust in the Lord, with this simple confession of faith: “As for God - His way is perfect.” This is the point the Preacher makes in Ecclesiastes 8:16-17. This is a call for humility. It’s based on the fact that only God understands all things. We must learn to content ourselves with trusting in His wisdom, even we don’t understand all that He’s doing.
 * As we learn to trust Him, He teaches us that the quality of our life - learning to live according to His purpose for us - is more important that the quantity of our years - living for a long time without really understanding what our life is all about, without coming to know the true joy that He alone can give to us (Ecclesiastes 5:3-6).
 * As we learn to trust the Lord, He teaches us that “patience is better than pride” (Ecclesiastes 7:8). We learn to stop acting like we know it all. He teaches us to say, “God loves me. He knows what’s best for me. He will not fail me - even when I fail Him. He gives me His peace and His joy - even when I don’t really understand much of what’s going on in my life.”
 * When we are learning to walk with God, He teaches us that it’s better to seek God-centred holiness - “God made mankind upright” - rather than self-centred happiness - “men have gone in search of many schemes” (Ecclesiastes 7:19).
 * As we seek to put the Lord first in our lives, He teaches us that His way, for us, is not the way of seeking “power” for ourselves (Ecclesiastes 8:4,8). We’re not to assert ourselves - ‘I did it my way.’ We’re to submit to Him - “Not my will, but Yours be done.”
The Lord is leading us beyond our own human “power” to achieve our human ambitions. He’s showing us His way. As we walk in His way, we learn that there’s a greater power  - the power of the Holy Spirit. His power is at work in us - to give us a real sense of meaning, purpose and direction: less of ourselves and more of the Lord.

We are to “pay more attention to calm words from wise people” (Ecclesiastes 9:17). This combination of calmness and wisdom is highlighted also in James - “the wisdom that comes from above is first of all pure. Then it is peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good deeds, impartial and sincere.” This description of wisdom is followed by these words of comment: “A harvest that has God’s approval comes from the peace planted by peacemakers” (James 3:17-18). In Ecclesiastes 10:2, the wise person and the fool are contrasted - “A wise person’s heart leads the right way. The heart of a fool leads the wrong way.” At the heart of the call to wisdom, there is the call to remember our Creator (Ecclesiastes 12:1-6). How are we to remember our Creator? - “Fear God and keep His commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).  

Search The Scriptures: Proverbs

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). The Lord calls to us as the voice of wisdom, ‘Turn to Me when I warn you. I will generously pour out My Spirit for you. I will make My words known to you” (Proverbs 1:23). “The Lord gives wisdom ... Wisdom will come into your heart ... Wisdom will save you  from the way of evil ... So walk in the way of good people and stay on the paths of righteous people” (Proverbs 2:6,10,12,20). Trusting the Lord and fearing the Lord belong together: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart ... Fear the Lord, and turn away from evil” (Proverbs 3;5,7). Wisdom brings great blessing into our lives: “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom and the one who obtains understanding. The profit gained from wisdom is greater than the profit gained from silver. Its yield is better than fine gold. Wisdom is more precious than jewels” (Proverbs 3:13-14). 

The call to “acquire wisdom” (Proverbs 4:5) is a call to”walk away from evil” (Proverbs 4:27). The importance of walking away from evil is grounded in the fact that “Each person’s ways are clearly seen by the Lord” (Proverbs 5:21). We are not to give the appearance of living a godly life while remaining far from God in our hearts. There is to be a true commitment to living to please God in all things - in the places which are seen only by Him as well as the places that are seen by other people. Living to please will involve clearly identifying the ways that do not please God, so that we can avoid such ways and seek the better way of doing the Lord’s will. 

In Proverbs 7, we are warned against the foolishness of going the way of the world. In Proverbs 8, we hear the voice of wisdom, calling to us; “Now, sons, listen to Me. Blessed are those who follow My ways” (Proverbs 8:32). The call of wisdom continues in Proverbs 9. The call of wisdom comes to us as the call of the Lord, who, from His Table, calls us to His Supper: “Come, eat My bread, and drink the wine I have mixed” (Proverbs 9:5).

The contrast between wisdom and foolishness corresponds to the contrast between righteousness and wickedness (Proverbs 10:1,7). God calls us to be “the wise in heart.” He calls us to show forth “the fruit of a righteous person.” He calls us to be “a winner of souls” (Proverbs 11:19-30). If there are to be the fruits of righteousness, there needs to be the roots of righteousness. In words of warning and promise, we hear of the contrast between a life based on wickedness and a life based on righteousness: “A person cannot stand firm on a foundation of wickedness, and the roots of righteous people cannot be moved” (Proverbs 12:3). The connection between righteous roots and righteous fruits is emphasized in Proverbs 12:12 - “The roots of righteous people produce fruit.” The final outcome of righteousness is stated in Proverbs 12:28 - “Everlasting life is on the way of righteousness.” The Gospel brings hope for the future as well as guidance for the present. We look beyond our present life to the glorious blessing of everlasting life. We move in the direction of this great future, as, in our present life, we reaffirm our choice to walk “on the way of righteousness” with Christ, our great Saviour and Lord, leading us in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake. As we walk with the Lord, we look forward to our ultimate goal - We will “dwell in the House of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6).

“Whoever despises God’s words will pay the penalty, but the one who fears God’s commands will be rewarded” (Proverbs13:13). This principle applies to the nations - “Righteousness lifts up a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any society” (Proverbs 14:34). “A
joyful heart makes a cheerful face” (Proverbs 15:13) - True happiness comes from within. It is more than an outward thing. It does not depend on the things that we have. It comes from the Lord. In Him, we have true and lasting joy.

“Whoever gives attention to the Lord’s Word prospers, and blessed is the person who trusts the Lord” (Proverbs 16:20). Here, we are reminded of the most important thing in life - keeping the Lord at the very centre of our life. “The Name of the Lord is a strong tower. A righteous person runs to it and is safe” (Proverbs 18:10). God’s Word teaches us that the Lord is faithful. He will never fail us. We can entrust ourselves into His loving care, confident that He will fulfil His promises to us.

“Wait for the Lord, and He will save you... The Lord is the One who directs a person’s steps” (Proverbs 20:22,24). The Lord saves and keeps: “The victory belongs to the Lord” (Proverbs 21:31). Saving and keeping us, as He leads along the pathway of discipleship, the Lord brings us to our final victory. This is the great triumph, described in the jubilant words of 1 Corinthians 15:58 - “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In Proverbs 22 - 24, we learn about promise and danger. At every stage in our journey through life, there is both promise and danger - the promise of God’s blessing to those who keep Him at the centre of their life, the danger of coming under God’s judgment when we ignore His way and go the way of the world. This kind of instruction, combining both promise and warning, is important. It teaches us about both the way we are to take and the way we  are to avoid, what we are to be and what we are not to be, how we are to live and how we are not to live.

Practical wisdom, wisdom for living  - this is what we have in Proverbs. The teaching of Proverbs is base on the principle: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 1:7). This does not mean that God is mentioned frequently. In Proverbs 25 - 27, there is only one mention of God (Proverbs 25:2). The concern is with life on earth, our relationships with our fellow human beings. These relationships are to be lived out from the godly perspective which comes from "the fear of the Lord."

Again and again, Proverbs calls to make a decision. We must choose - righteousness or wickedness. The way of righteousness is the way upon which God sends His blessing. The way of wickedness is the way upon which there can be no blessing from the Lord. The situation is well summed up in Proverbs 29:18 - "Without prophetic vision people run wild, but blessed are those who follow God's teachings." We are to come to God with humility: "I'm weary and worn out, O God... I don't have knowledge of the Holy One" (Proverbs 30:1,3). When God hears this prayer, He answers, giving us this confidence in Him: "Every word of God has proven to be true. He is a shield to those who come to Him for protection" (Proverbs 30:5). The book of Proverbs ends by reminding us that "the fear of the Lord" is the most important thing in life, if we are to be praised - not only be men, but by God.

Search The Scriptures: Psalms


God calls us to follow “the way of righteous people” (Psalm 1:6). He directs our attention to His “Son”, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ (Psalm 2:7). He promises blessing to those who “take refuge ... In Him” (Psalm 2:12). There is much opposition: “O Lord, look how my enemies have increased! Many are attacking me. Many are saying about me, ‘Even with God on his side, he won’t be victorious’” (Psalm 3:1-2). We need not be afraid of these enemies - “Victory belongs to the Lord! ... You, O Lord, are a shield that surrounds me” (Psalm 3:8,3).

The Psalmist is experiencing great pain. His honour is being insulted; his enemies are spying on him; he is being harassed by troublemakers (Psalm 4:2; Psalm 5:8; Psalm 6:8). As well as pain, there is prayer, protection and peace. He prays with confidence in God - “The Lord has heard my plea for mercy. The Lord accepts my prayer” (Psalm 6:9). He stands upon God’s promise - “The Lord protects those who take refuge in Him” (Psalm 5:11). He rests in the peace of God (Psalm 4:8).

In Psalms 7 - 10, there is a real sense of the greatness of God. He is “majestic” (Psalm 8:1). He is “enthroned forever” (Psalm 9:7,11). He is “King forever and ever” (Psalm 10:16). He is our “Judge” (Psalm 7:8). The Psalmist teaches us to see our life in the light of God. His light shines brightly upon us. His light exposes our darkness. He’s calling us to walk in His light. He calls us to take refuge in Him: “O Lord my God, I have taken refuge in You” (Psalm 7:1). He calls us to rejoice in Him: “I will be glad and rejoice in You” (Psalm 9:2). He calls us to seek His help: “Those who know Your Name trust You, O Lord, because You have never deserted those who seek your help” (Psalm 9:10). If we are to answer God’s call - take refuge in Him, rejoice in Him and seek His help, we must leave behind the way of the wicked: “In his pride the wicked does not seek Him; in all His thoughts there is no room for God” (Psalm 10:4). When we answer God’s call, He starts changing us - our way of thinking and our way of living. He is the caring and sharing God: “You have heard the desire of oppressed people, O Lord. You encourage them. You pay close attention to them in order to provide justice for orphans, and oppressed people, so that no mere mortal terrify them again” (Psalm 10:17-18). He’s calling us to be like Him. Let’s not keep His love and His blessing to ourselves. Let’s show His love. Let’s share His love.

The Lord is the sovereign God - “The Lord is in His holy temple. The Lord’s throne is in heaven” (Psalm 11:4). The Lord is the God of salvation - “But I trust Your mercy. My heart finds joy in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord because He has been good to me” (Psalm 13:5-6). The sovereign God, the God of salvation is our Helper - when we feel alone, forgotten and oppressed (Psalm 12:1; Psalm 13:1; Psalm 14:3-4). His salvation is not to be kept to ourselves. His joy is not only for ourselves. We are to pray that others will receive His salvation and His joy: “Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!When the Lord restores the fortunes of His people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!” (Psalm 14:7). In the face of all that opposes God, exalting itself against Him, God is calling us to keep close to Him and to walk with Him: “O Lord, who may stay in Your tent? Who may live on Your holy mountain? The one who walks with integrity, does what is righteous, and speaks the truth within his heart, the one who does not slander with his tongue, do evil to friend, or bring disgrace on his neighbour ... He who does these things will never be shaken” (Psalm 15).

Our complete joy, pleasure and satisfaction is found in the Lord. We say, with the Psalmist, “Complete joy is in Your presence. Pleasures are by Your side forever ... I will be satisfied with seeing You” (Psalm 16:11; Psalm 17:15). We join, with the hymnwriter, in singing praise to our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: “O Christ, in Thee my soul hath found, And found in Thee alone, The peace, the joy I sought so long, the bliss till now unknown. Now none but Christ can satisfy, None other Name for me. There’s love and life, and lasting joy, Lord Jesus, found in Thee.”

In Psalm 18, the Psalmist praises God, who delivered him from his enemies. It begins and ends with the thought of God as the Rock upon which our faith is built. He is the rock of our salvation: “I love you, O Lord, my Strength. The Lord is my Rock and my Fortress and my Saviour, my God in whom I take refuge, my Shield and the Strength of my Salvation, my Stronghold” (Psalm 18:1-2). “The Lord lives! Thanks be to my Rock! May God, my Saviour, be honoured!” (Psalm 18:46).

“The heavens declare the glory of God ...” (Psalm 19:1). In God’s creation, we see His glory. “The teachings of the Lord are perfect. They renew the soul” (Psalm 19:7). He reveals Himself to us through His Word. We make our response to Him, as we worship Him - “We will joyfully sing about Your victory ... The Lord will give victory to His anointed king ...We will boast in the Name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:5-7). “Arise, O Lord, in Your strength. We will sing and make music to praise Your power” (Psalm 21:13). “Through the mercy of the Most High, we will not be moved” (Psalm 22:7).

“The Lord is my Shepherd” (Psalm 23:1). He is “my Saviour”(Psalm 25:5). He is also “the King of glory” (Psalm 24:8-10). He has promised to “lead us in the paths of righteousness for the sake of His Name” (Psalm 23:3). This promise is fulfilled, as we open our  hearts to Him - “Be lifted,you ancient doors, so that the King of glory may come in” (Psalm 24:9), when we pray for His leading in our lives: “Make Your ways known to me, O Lord, and teach me Your paths.Lead me in Your truth, and teach me because You are God, my Saviour” (Psalm 25:5). The Lord fulfils His promise to us: “The Lord advises those who fear Him. He reveals to them the intent of His promise” (Psalm 25:14). 

The Psalmist loved to worship God in the company of God’s people: “O Lord, I love the House where You live, the place where Your glory dwells... I will praise the Lord with the choirs in worship” (Psalm 26:8,12). “I have asked one thing from the Lord. This I will seek - to remain in the Lord’s House all the days of my life in order to gaze at the Lord’s beauty and to search for an answer in His Temple” (Psalm 27:4).”Hear my prayer for mercy when i call to You for help, when I lift my hands towards Your most holy place... Thank the Lord! He has heard my prayer for mercy! The Lord is the strength of His people and a fortress for the victory of His Messiah. Save Your people, and bless those who belong to You. Be their Shepherd and carry them forever” (Psalm 28:6-9).

“Give to the Lord glory and power” (Psalm 29:1) - God is calling us to worship Him.
“O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever” (Psalm 30:12) - We respond to His call. “Thank the Lord!... Love the Lord, all you godly ones!... Be strong, all who wait with hope for the Lord, and let your heart be courageous!” (Psalm 31:21,23-24). We, who have heard God’s call to worship and are learning to worship Him, are to call upon others to join with us in worshipping the Lord. Worship is to lead to witness, which will bring others to worship.

“Be glad and find joy in the Lord, you righteous people” (Psalm 32:11). “Joyfully sing to the Lord, you righteous people” (Psalm 33:1). Our joy is in the Lord. It is from Him that our “joyous songs of salvation” come (Psalm 32:7). It is “in Him” that “our hearts find joy” (Psalm 33:21). We “look to Him”, and we are “radiant” (Psalm 34:5). Even thought there are many obstacles to our spiritual growth, we are able to face all who oppose us in our walk with God. We are able to say, with confidence in the God who helps us to be strong in Him and victorious through His power, “Mt soul will find joy in the Lord and be joyful about His salvation” (Psalm 35:9).

In Psalms 36 and 37, we see the conflict between the righteous and the wicked, the godly and the ungodly. By drawing this radical contrast between these two types of people, God’s Word calls us to make our choice. What kind of people will we be? How will we live? There is no more important than the question of character. Will our lives be shaped by the character of God? or Will thy be shaped by a very different character - Satan, the evil one?

In Psalms 38-40, we have the Psalmist’s prayer and his testimony that God had heard and answered his prayer. “Do not abandon me, O Lord. O my God, do not be so distant from me. Come quickly to help me, O Lord, my Saviour... Listen to my prayer, O Lord. Open Your ear to my cry for help... I waited patiently for the Lord. He turned to me and heard my cry for help. He pulled me out of a horrible pit, out of the mud and clay. He set my feet on a rock and made my steps secure” (Psalm 38:21-22; Psalm 39:12; Psalm 40:1-2).

In Psalms 41-43, we see the Psalmist encountering great difficulties. He is not, however, overwhelmed by his problems. Each of these Psalms ends on the triumphant note of praise: “Thank the Lord God of Israel through all eternity!” (Psalm 41:13); “Put your hope in God, because I will still praise Him. He is my Saviour and my God” (Psalm 42:11; Psalm 43:5).

The people of God faced many obstacles, but the Lord gave them His victory and they praised Him - “All day long we praise our God. We give thanks to You forever” (Psalm 44:8). The words of Psalm 45 point forward to Jesus Christ, who is “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16). Concerning Him, the Word of God says to us, “He is your Lord. Worship Him” (Psalm 45:11). Let our response be, “I will cause Your Name to be remembered throughout every generation. That is why the nations will give thanks to You forever” (Psalm 45:17).

The Lord, our God, is “King of the whole earth. He rules the nations” (Psalm 46:10; Psalm 47:7-9). The Lord is great. He is “the great King” (Psalm 48:14). The Lord does not remain detached from us in isolated heavenly glory. He comes to us as the God of our salvation - “God will buy me back from the power of hell” (Psalm 49:15). By His Word, spoken to us and acted out on our behalf, God involves Himself with us as our Saviour. He is not a God who keeps His distance from us - “Our God will come.” He is not a God who keeps His silence - “and will not be silent” (Psalm 50:3). This God comes to us with His promise of salvation - “Call on Me in times of trouble. I will rescue you, and you will honour Me” (Psalm 50:15). Along with this promise of salvation comes God’s call to live in faith and obedience: “Bring your thanks to God as a sacrifice, and keep your vows to the Most High” (Psalm 50:15). To those who walk in His way, the Lord promises His blessing: “Whoever offers thanks as a sacrifice honours Me. I will let everyone, who continues in My way, see the salvation that comes from God” (Psalm 50:23).

We must trust in God’s “mercy”, which “lasts all day long” (Psalm 51:1; Psalm 52:1). We need God’s mercy, because we are sinners - “Everyone has fallen away. Together, they have become rotten to the core. No one, not even one person, does good things” (Psalm 53:3). When we come, as sinners, to the Lord, we find that He is our Saviour. We pray to Him, “O God, save me by Your Name” (Psalm 54:1). He hears ans answers this prayer for salvation. We say, “God is my helper! The Lord is the provider for my life... Your Name rescues me from trouble” (Psalm 54:4,7). Knowing the Lord as our Saviour, we are filled with a spirit of praise to Him. We say, from the heart, “I will give thanks to Your good Name, O Lord” (Psalm 54:6).          

“I call on God, and the Lord saves me” (Psalm 55:16) - This is the Psalmist’s testimony. It is followed by his call to others to turn to the Lord and discover how good He is: “Turn your burdens over to the Lord and He will take care of you” (Psalm 55:22). “I praise the Word of God, I trust God, I am not afraid. What can mere flesh and blood (mortals) do to me?” (Psalm 56:4,10-11). “My heart is confident, O God, I want to sing and make music... I want to give thanks to You among the people, O Lord, I want to make music to praise You among the nations because Your mercy is as high as the heavens. Our truth reaches the skies. May You be honoured above the heavens, O God. Let Your glory extend over the whole earth” (Psalm 57:7,9-11). As we praise God, He leads us forward in His triumph.

When the Lord’s people face hostile persecution, their only hope is in the Lord: “God is my Stronghold, my merciful God” (Psalm 59:9,17). Looking to the Lord, we pray, “Give us help against the enemy because human assistance is worthless” (Psalm 60:11). Trusting in the Lord, we have this confidence: “With God, we will display great strength. He will trample our enemies” (Psalm 60:12). Knowing that god is with us as the God of our salvation, we can say, with glad assurance of faith, “I will triumph!” (Psalm 60:6). We are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). Whatever Satan does, he will not succeed. We have the victory in Christ.
"Listen to my cry for help, O Lord" (Psalm 61:1). God is the God of power and mercy: "Power belongs to God. Mercy belongs to You, O Lord" (Psalm 62:11-12), "I look to You in the holy place to see Your power and Your glory. My lips will praise You because Your mercy is better than life itself" (Psalm 63:3). When we consider how great God is - great in power, great in mercy, we are filled with thanksgiving, praise and joy - "I will thank You as long as I live ... My mouth will sing Your praise with joyful lips" (Psalm 63:4-5).
"Righteous people will find joy in the Lord and take refuge in Him" (Psalm 64:10). "You are the One who hears prayers ... You are the One who forgives our rebellious acts ... You answer us with awe-inspiring acts done in righteousness" (Psalm 65:2-3,5). In the Lord, there is true happiness. This blessing comes to us as we bring our sins to Him and receive His forgiveness. The blessing of forgiveness is a wonderful work of divine grace for which we give thanks to God - "All of them shout triumphantly. Indeed they sing" (Psalm 65:13).
The Psalmist calls upon all of us to offer our praise and thanksgiving to God - "Shout happily to God, all the earth! Make music to praise the glory of His Name. Make His praise glorious" (Psalm 66:1-2). "Let everyone give thanks to You. Let the nations be glad and sing joyfully ... Let the people give thanks to You, O God. Let all the people give thanks to You" (Psalm 67:3,5). 
“Our God is a God of victories. The Almighty Lord is our escape from death ... He gives strength and power to His people. Thanks be to God!” (Psalm 68:20,35). These words turn our thoughts to the great words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:57 - “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This victory is the triumph of Christ, risen from the dead. The risen Christ - our Saviour and Lord - gives us victory over our greatest enemy - “death” (1 Corinthians 15:26). It is Christ’s triumph over the devil - “Jesus took on flesh and blood. He did this so that, by dying, He would destroy the one who had power over death (that is, the devil)”; “The reason that the Son of God appeared was to destroy what the devil does” (Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8).
Out of a situation of great distress, the Psalmist prays to the Lord: “O God, out of the greatness of Your mercy, answer me with the truth of Your salvation” (Psalm 69:13). “Answer me, O Lord, because Your mercy is good. Out of your unlimited compassion, turn to me” (Psalm 69:16). “Let Your saving power protect me, O God” (Psalm 69:29). When God answers our  prayer for salvation, this is cause for much praise and thanksgiving: “I want to praise the Name of God with a song. I want to praise its greatness with a song of thanksgiving” (Psalm 69:30). “Let heaven and earth, the seas and everything that moves in them, praise Him” (Psalm 69:34).
The Psalmist is calling upon the Lord to be his “help and Saviour.” He is looking to the Lord for an immediate response - “Come quickly to rescue me, O God! Come quickly to help me, O Lord! ... O God, come quickly to me ... O Lord, do not delay” (Psalm 70:1,5). The Psalmist continues to pray for the Lord’s help: “”O God, do not be so distant from me, O my God, come quickly to me” (Psalm 71:12). In these prayers, we become aware of the Psalmist’s great pain. He speaks of “those who seek his life” and “want his downfall” (Psalm 70:2), his “enemies” who “talk about him” as “they watch him and plot to take his life” (Psalm 71:10). Through all his suffering, we see the light of faith shining brightly - “Because of Your faithfulness, O my God, even I will give thanks to You, as I play on a lyre. I will make music with a harp to praise You, O Holy One of Israel. My lips will sing with joy when I make music to praise You. My lips, which you have rescued, also will sing joyfully. My tongue will tell about Your righteousness all day long” (Psalm 71:22-24).
“May His Name endure forever. May His Name continue as long as the sun shines” (Psalm 72:17); “May He rule from sea to sea” (Psalm 72:8) - These words inspired the hymn, “Jesus shall reign ... “ The words of this Psalm find a glorious echo in the triumphant words of Philippians 2:9-11 - “At the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord.”
In Psalms 73 - 75, there is inner turmoil, as the Psalmist wonders what to make of the success of the wicked who oppose the Lord and His people. There are times of great confusion - “But when I tried to understand this, it was too difficult for me” (Psalm 73:16). There are times when the Psalmist is on the edge of despair - “Why, O God, have You rejected us forever? Why does Your anger smoulder against the sheep in Your care? ... How long, O God, will the enemy insult us? Will the enemy despise You forever?” (Psalm 74:1,10). Despite all that runs counter to God, the Psalmist remains strong in faith. He triumphs over all that opposes the purpose of God in his life - “God remains the foundation of my life and my inheritance forever ... From long ago, God has been my King, the One who has been victorious throughout the earth ... We give thanks to You, O God; we give thanks. You are present, and Your miracles confirm that ... I will speak about Your miracles forever. I will make music to praise the God of Jacob” (Psalm 73:26; Psalm 74:12; Psalm 75:1,9).
“God is known in Judah. His name is great in Israel ... What god is as great as our God” (Psalm 76:1; Psalm 77:13). God is great. He’s greater than we can put into words, or even imagine. As we think of the greatness of God, we worship Him, singing, “How great Thou art”, “Great is Thy faithfulness.” To the Lord be all glory for all that He is, all that He has done for us, and all that He says to us.
Divine grace - “But He is compassionate. He forgave their sin. He did not destroy them. He restrained His anger many times. He did not display all of His fury” (Psalm 78:38) - and human sin - “How often they rebelled against Him in the wilderness! How often they caused Him grief in the desert! Again and again, they tested God and they pushed the Holy One of Israel to the limit. They did not remember His power ... “ (Psalm 78:40-43): This is the story of human history. When God’s love is thrown back at Him by persistently rebellious sinners, there will be divine judgment - “They tested God Most High and rebelled against Him ... When God heard, He became furious ... “ (Psalm 78:56-64). Where God is angry, it can lead to restoration - “ ... He struck His enemies from behind He built His holy place to be like the high heavens ... He chose His servant David ... ” (Psalm 78:65-72).
Blessed by the God of love, called to be “His people, the flock of His pasture”we “praise” Him and “give thanks” to Him (Psalm 79:13). He is our “Shepherd” (Psalm 80:1). He restores our soul. He leads us in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake (Psalm 23). He is “our Strength.” In Him, we rejoice with true happiness (Psalm 81:1). “All the nations” belong to the Lord (Psalm 82:8). He is “the Most High God of the whole earth” (Psalm 83:18). Those who know the Lord as their Shepherd and their Strength, the One who “saves” (Psalm 80:19) and “satisfies” (Psalm 81:16), are to pray and work, with the goal of bringing others to the knowledge of Him.
The way of blessing is the way of praising God and finding strength in Him (Psalm 84:4-5). As we worship God, our strength is restored. He answers our prayer - “Restore us, O God, our Saviour” (Psalm 85:4). As we worship God, our joy is restored - “Give me joy, O Lord, because I lift my soul to You” (Psalm 86:4). What a joy it is to know the Lord. He’s the Source of all our blessings (Psalm 87:7). Knowing that it is God’s desire to bless us, we come to Him, earnestly seeking His blessing: “I cry out to You for help, O Lord, and, in the morning, my prayer will come into Your presence” (Psalm 88:13).
Psalm 89 begins and ends with the faithfulness of God (Psalm 89:1,49). As we think of God, we say, concerning Him, “Your faithfulness stands firm in the heavens” (Psalm 89:2). “O Lord, the heavens praise your miracles and Your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones” (Psalm 89:5). “Mighty Lord, even Your faithfulness surrounds You” (Psalm 89:8).
“You are God, from everlasting to everlasting” (Psalm 90:2). “You are my Refuge and my Fortress, my God, in whom I trust” (Psalm 91:2). “You, O Lord, are highly honoured forever” (Psalm 92:8). As we read the Psalms, we learn of God - how great He is, how much He is worthy of praise, trust and obedience. As we centre our life on Him, we will be blessed by Him.
The Lord comes to us as our Saviour - “When I said, ‘My feet are slipping’, Your mercy, O Lord, continued to hold me up. When I worried about many things, Your assuring words soothed my soul... The Lord has become my Stronghold. My God has become my Rock of refuge” (Psalm 94:18-19,22). We are to come to him as His worshippers - “Come, let’s sing joyfully to the Lord. Let’s shout happily to the rock of our salvation.Let’s come into His presence with a song of thanksgiving. Let’s come, let’s worship and bow down. Let’s kneel before the Lord, our Maker” (Psalm 95:6). “Sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord! Praise His Name!” (Psalm 96:1).
As well as the joy of the Lord, there is also to be the fear of the Lord in our worship. Psalms 97, 98 and 100 speak of the joy of the Lord: “Find joy in the Lord, you righteous people” (Psalm 97:12). “Shout happily to the Lord, all the earth. Break into joyful singing” (Psalm 98:4). “Shout happily to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord cheerfully. Come into His presence with a joyful song” (Psalm 100:1-2). Psalm 99 emphasizes the importance of the fear of the Lord: “The Lord rules as King. Let the people tremble. He is enthroned over the angels. Let the earth quake” (Psalm 99:1).
The Psalmist faced many difficulties. There were the problems caused by “unfaithful people” (Psalm 101:3-5). He had health problems (Psalm 102:3-5). He takes his problems to the Lord, convinced that “from everlasting to everlasting, the Lord’s mercy is on those who fear Him” (Psalm 103:17).
God is the God of providence. He is the God of redemption. He provides food - “All of them look to You to give them their food at the right time” (Psalm 104:27). He has provided salvation for His people - “... He brought His people out with joy...” (Psalm 105:42-45). We think of all that the Lord has done for us, and we say, from the heart, “Thanks be to the Lord God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting. Let all the people say, Amen. Hallelujah!” (Psalm 106:48).
Psalm 107 calls us to “give thanks to the Lord” (Psalm 107:1,8,15,21,31). When we hear the call to “give thanks to the Lord”, our response is to be ‘I want to give thanks to You among the people, O Lord” (Psalm 108:3). “With my mouth I will give many thanks to the Lord, I will praise Him among many people” (Psalm 109:30).
The opening words of Psalm 110 are applied, in Hebrews, to our Lord Jesus Christ: “The Lord said to my Lord, Sit in the highest position in heaven until I make Your enemies Your footstool.” As we consider the mighty triumph of our Lord Jesus Christ, our hearts are filled with worship - “Hallelujah!” (Psalm 11:1; Psalm 112:1; Psalm 113:1,9).
The Lord “turns a rock into a pool, filled with water, and turns flint into a spring flowing with water” (Psalm 114:8). The “Hallelujah” arises from the hearts of God’s people (Psalm 115:18; Psalm 116:19; Psalm 117:2), “The Lord is responsible for this, and it is amazing for us to see” (Psalm 118:23).
Psalm 119 is a personal prayer of devotion to the Lord. It is clear, throughout this Psalm, that our relationship with God is maintained as we build our lives upon his written Word. What blessing the Word of God has brought into the life of the Psalmist! This is still the way of blessing today - “Your Word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my faith” (Psalm 119:105). It is with the Word of God at the heart of our life that we face the future with confidence: “My hope is based on Your Word” (Psalm 119:147).
We call upon the Lord, and He answers us - “When I was in trouble, I cried out to the Lord, and He answered me” (Psalm 120:1). The Lord is our Helper - “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2). We worship the Lord - “I was glad when they said to me, Let’s go to the House of the Lord” (Psalm 122:1). We put our trust in the Lord - “we depend on the Lord our God” (Psalm 123:2).
“Our help is in the Name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 124:8). This is something we must never forget. When we are conscious of being helped by the Lord, we can say with confidence in Him: “Those who trust the Lord are like Mount Zion, which can never be shaken” (Psalm 125:1). Knowing the blessing of God in our lives, we have this joyful testimony: “The Lord has done spectacular things for us. We are overjoyed” (Psalm 126:3). The Lord “builds the house” of our life (Psalm 127:1) - This is the blessing which He promises to those who walk with Him: “Blessed are all who fear the Lord and live his way” (Psalm 128:1).
“Praise the Lord” (Psalm 134:1). “Praise the Name of the Lord” (Psalm 136:1). “Give thanks to the Lord” (Psalm 136:1). God is calling us to worship Him. In a world where worshipping the Lord has been abandoned by so many people, it isn’t easy to keep on worshipping Him - “How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:4). Even though many people have stopped worshipping God, we must renew our commitment to Him: “I will give thanks to you with all my heart” (Psalm 138:1). “If no one joins, still I will worship. No turning back.”
“Examine me, O God, and know my mind. Test me, and know my thoughts. See whether I am on an evil path. Then, lead on the everlasting path.” (Psalm 139:23-24). The Lord leads us away from the “evil path”, and on to the “everlasting path.” He “hears our plea for pity.” He hears our cry to Him,”Come quickly.” He comes to us as “the strong One who saves us” (Psalm 140:6-7; Psalm 141:1).
God is our “Refuge” (Psalm 142:5). In His “mercy”, He leads us in His way. He protects us and rescues us from our enemies (Psalm 143:8-9). The Lord, “the One in whom we take refuge”, is described by the Psalmist as “my Rock... My merciful One, my Fortress, my Stronghold, my Saviour, my Shield” (Psalm 144:1-2). The Lord is “great.” He is to be praised “every day.” He is to be praised “forever and ever” (Psalm 145:1-3).
Hallelujah! Each of the final five Psalms begins and ends with the word, “Hallelujah!” Again and again, in these Psalms, we hear the call to praise God: “Praise the Lord, my soul!” (Psalm 146:1), “Praise the Lord, Jerusalem! Praise your God, Zion!” (Psalm 147:12). “Praise the Lord from the heavens,Praise Him in the heights above” (Psalm 148:1). “Sing a new song to the Lord. Sing His praise in the assembly of godly people” (Psalm 149:1). “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:6). This outburst of triumphant and glorious praise, in these final five Psalms, is a fitting conclusion to the book of Psalms. Hallelujah!