Answers and Promises, Day 4

Today’s reading is drawn from Joel 2:12-13 and Joel 2:18-19.

Observation

Often an answer from God will come packaged and delivered in a promise — as something potentially available. That is how God dealt with his people through the prophet Joel. He answered their pleas with a call to return to him so that he could make good on promised blessings.

Application

We’d rather the answer come in concrete form — fully assembled and ready to use, with a full guarantee. But God has spoken more than 7,000 answers to our problems and questions in promise form. So how do we get these answers wrapped in “potential packaging” to become reality? God gives his answers in potential form because his greatest goal for us is not making us comfortable, it is building our characters. He makes promises reality, not through obligation, but through obedience. God’s promises are converted from potential into reality by steadfast faith and adherence to his commands. God’s promises require us to walk with him in a covenant — his promises are converted from potential into present reality through patiently waiting on him.

As we understand why his answers come in promise form, we better understand how “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:3 – 4).

Prayer

Father, help me to be obedient and faithful, not only to benefit from your promises, but also to partake in your divine nature — to look more like you and give you glory!

Bible Gateway

Elizabeth, A Spiritual Mentor, Day 3

Today’s reading is taken from Luke 1:5-25 and Luke 1:57-66.

Elizabeth is described by Luke as a woman of integrity and obedience (Lk 1:6). As both the daughter and wife of a priest (v. 5), she lived a righteous life, even though she carried a quiet sorrow because of her childlessness. Then a miracle occurred. Her husband Zacharias, who served in the temple at Jerusalem, was the first person in four hundred years to receive a direct word from God that is recorded in Scripture. While he was burning incense, an angel appeared to announce that his wife Elizabeth would have a child who would be named John (v. 13).

Elizabeth was the first to recognize Mary of Nazareth as the mother of the Messiah. When Mary came to visit during Elizabeth’s sixth month of pregnancy, John leaped inside Elizabeth’s womb when Mary spoke (v. 41). Elizabeth understood immediately the imminence of the Messiah’s birth. What a joyful time the two expectant mothers must have had as the godly Elizabeth shared hospitality and wise advice with her young cousin. Her interaction with the young Mary clearly distinguishes Elizabeth as an outstanding mentor (see Titus 2:3-5).

Mary left after three months, but Elizabeth’s joy continued with the birth of her own child (see Lk 1:14,24-25). Not only did Elizabeth miraculously conceive a child in her old age, but also God once again came to his people in fulfillment of centuries of eager anticipation. John the Baptist became a powerful preacher of the message of repentance and the forerunner who introduced the Messiah. Jesus said that no one was greater than this son of Elizabeth (Mt 11:11).

Elizabeth could have faced her old age with a sense of failure and waning faith, but her vibrancy of spirit serves as a reminder that God watches over every woman with loving care. Elizabeth trusted and God rewarded her. She shared herself liberally with Mary, and undoubtedly she trained her son in the Lord while she lived out her faith before him.

Bible Gateway

Morning Evening

Morning
“Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away.” — Son_2:10
Lo, I hear the voice of my Beloved! He speaks to me! Fair weather is smiling upon the face of the earth, and he would not have me spiritually asleep while nature is all around me awaking from her winter’s rest. He bids me “Rise up,” and well he may, for I have long enough been lying among the pots of worldliness. He is risen, I have risen in him, why then should I cleave unto the dust? From lower loves, desires, pursuits, and aspirations, I would rise towards him. He calls me by the sweet title of “My love,” and counts me fair; this is a good argument for my rising. If he has thus exalted me and thinks me thus comely, how can I linger in the tents of Kedar and find congenial associates among the sons of men? He bids me “Come away.” Further and further from everything selfish, groveling, worldly, sinful, he calls me; yea, from the outwardly religious world which knows him not, and has no sympathy with the mystery of the higher life, he calls me. “Come away” has no harsh sound in it to my ear, for what is there to hold me in this wilderness of vanity and sin? O my Lord, would that I could come away, but I am taken among the thorns, and cannot escape from them as I would. I would, if it were possible, have neither eyes, nor ears, nor heart for sin. Thou callest me to thyself by saying “Come away,” and this is a melodious call indeed. To come to thee is to come home from exile, to come to land out of the raging storm, to come to rest after long labor, to come to the goal of my desires and the summit of my wishes. But Lord, how can a stone rise, how can a lump of clay come away from the horrible pit? O raise me, draw me. Thy grace can do it. Send forth thy Holy Spirit to kindle sacred flames of love in my heart, and I will continue to rise until I leave life and time behind me, and indeed come away.
Evening
“If any man hears my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him.” — Rev_3:20
What is your desire this evening? Is it set upon heavenly things? Do you long to enjoy the high doctrine of eternal love? Do you desire liberty in very close communion with God? Do you aspire to know the heights, and depths, and lengths, and breadths? Then you must draw near to Jesus; you must get a clear sight of him in his preciousness and completeness: you must view him in his work, in his offices, in his person. He who understands Christ receives an anointing from the Holy One, by which he knows all things. Christ is the great master-key of all the chambers of God: there is no treasure-house of God which will not open and yield up all its wealth to the soul that lives near to Jesus. Are you saying, “O that he would dwell in my bosom?” “Would that he would make my heart his dwelling-place for ever?” Open the door, beloved, and he will come into your souls. He has long been knocking, and all with this object, that he may sup with you, and you with him. He sups with you because you find the house or the heart, and you with him because he brings the provision. He could not sup with you if it were not in your heart, you finding the house; nor could you sup with him, for you have a bare cupboard if he did not bring provision with him. Fling wide, then, the portals of your soul. He will come with that love which you long to feel; he will come with that joy into which you cannot work your poor depressed spirit; he will bring the peace which now you have not; he will come with his flagons of wine and sweet apples of love and cheer you till you have no other sickness but that of “love overpowering, love divine.” Only open the door to him, drive out his enemies, give him the keys of your heart, and he will dwell there forever. Oh, wondrous love, that brings such a guest to dwell in such a heart!

From The Sword Study Bible

Devotional Sermons

Jesus before Pilate

When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death: And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor — Mat_27:1-2
Pilate the Last Roman to Manage Jews
By the Jewish law, no sentence of death could be passed by night, and therefore, when the morning dawned (Mat_27:1), a second meeting of the priests and elders was convened. It was then that their formal sentence of death was passed on Jesus, and it was then that they deliberated how they should best present their case to Pilate, so as to ensure that Jesus would not escape. We know very little about Pilate, save from the Gospel story. He was a typical Roman, self-centered and self-seeking, not devoid of the Roman love of justice. But his love of self-outweighed his love of justice; and his shameful past had so eaten the heart out of him, that in the great crisis of his life he went to ruin. He was the last man in the world to manage Jews. He had outraged their feelings in the most wanton manner. We do not wonder to read in an old historian that Pilate fell into disgrace in after years, and, wearied with misfortunes, killed himself. Those who have read Scott’s story, Anne of Geierstein, will know the legend of Mount Pilatus—the mountain with the bare and jagged peaks, opposite the Rigi, at the west end of the Lake of Lucerne. The legend is that Pilate spent years of torturing remorse on that mountain, and at last drowned himself in the lake; and “a form,” says Scott, “is often seen to emerge from the water, and to go through the motions of one washing his hands.”
Accusation That Jesus Was Implicated in a Political Plot
Now the usual residence of the Roman procurator was not Jerusalem. Jerusalem was an intolerable city to the man who had revelled in the gay life of Rome. The usual residence was Caesarea, a mimic Rome down by the seashore. But whenever Jerusalem was thronged with strangers, as it was on the occasion of all the great feasts, it was the duty of the Roman governor to be there in person, to see that the peace was kept. So Pilate was in Jerusalem at the Passover, and he was living in the magnificent palace of the Herods when the hour came that flashed on him a light that was to make him visible to all the ages. In the early morning, Jesus was brought to Pilate, not into the palace (for to enter that would have been pollution to a Jew), but into the court, with its colonnade, in front of the palace. And the first question which Pilate asked showed how cunningly the charge against Jesus had been colored. Pilate did not ask, “Art Thou the Messiah?”—what did he care for Jewish superstitions? But he did ask, “Art Thou the King of the Jews?” (Mat_27:11). The question indicates how craftily the priests had gone to work. They had given a political and civil turn to the spiritual claims of Jesus, in order to play on the Roman governor’s heart. They had hinted that here was a rival to Tiberius, and Pilate would do well to silence him. Jesus did not deny the accusation. There was a glorious sense in which He was a King. And when the accusers began to heap charge on charge, and Jesus neither retorted nor retaliated, I think that Pilate began to feel His kingliness. He marveled greatly (Mat_27:14). He had never met a Jew at all like this. There was something subduing in this silent Man. Pilate resolved to do all he safely could to get this strange, sad prisoner acquitted.
Pilate’s Wife Attempted Intervention
A powerful influence now appeared to back his efforts—it was the unlooked-for intervention of Pilate’s wife. Do you remember how she had heard of Jesus? Well, perhaps in the idle days of Caesarea the tale of His deeds had enlivened the dinner table. Or perhaps that morning, when Jesus was gone to Herod, Pilate had told his wife about the Man. And then, for it was still early, Pilate’s wife had fallen asleep again, and God had visited her in a dream. Did God reveal the glory of Christ to her, so that she became a disciple of the Lord? Every Christian in Russia believes that, and the Eastern Church has made a saint of her. At least, while she slept, God touched her conscience, and she saw the unutterable horror of the deed in hand. She wakened in terror—could something still be done? She despatched a messenger to warn her husband. She bade him have nothing to do with that just Man. And again Pilate resolved to do all in his power to get this haunting prisoner acquitted.
With the Hosannas of Palm Sunday Fresh in Mind, Pilate Tried an Appeal to the Populace
Now Pilate had formed the shrewd suspicion that jealousy was at the back of the indictment (Mat_27:18). Who knew but that the prisoner might be a popular hero—had not the provincial crowds been crying Hosanna to Him? It flashed on Pilate (always thinking of self) that there was one way of releasing Jesus that might rebuild his own shattered popularity. It was a Roman custom at the Passover to liberate one prisoner chosen by the people. And it came as an inspiration to Pilate that if he summoned the people they might ask for Jesus. He summoned the people and laid two names before them—that of Jesus and the other of Barabbas. And we have a hint that Barabbas—which means “son of the father’—had another name, and it was Jesus too! Now we never can tell how the mob would have chosen had they been left alone to make their choice, for the Pharisees were busy in the crowd; they whispered that Jesus was favoured by that odious Pilate. And they so played on these poor city-hearts, and so touched the chords of their cherished prides and hates, that there grew and gathered a hoarse shout, “Barabbas”; and Jesus—”Let Him be crucified.” There was no gainsaying a hoarse mob like that. The more they were checked, the wilder grew the clamor. It was infinitely disgusting for a patrician Roman to have any discussion with such shouting beasts. He called for water, and standing on the balcony where all could see him, he washed his hands. It was an act that every Jew would understand. A silence fell on the flushed and eager crowd. What was that they heard from the balcony—Pilate protesting his innocence? Another terrible cry rang out in an instant, “His blood be upon us and on our children.” Then Pilate released Barabbas unto them, and when he had scourged Jesus, delivered Him—to be crucified (Mat_27:26).

From The Sword Study Bible