Philippians 4 – Whatever is Honorable

In this last chapter of the epistle, Paul’s affection for the people of Philippi comes through clearly, calling them his “joy and my crown” in verse one. His first congregation in Europe was still strong and he was certainly proud of them, and the great hope of salvation for them surely brought him joy in his confinement. Appealing to them to “stand firm thus in the Lord,” he uses no less than four terms of endearment. Although not naming the nature of the disagreement, he addresses two women, Euodia and Syntyche, by name asking them to mend their differences. He had evidently done much work in Philippi aided by them, as well as someone named Clement. 

On Paul's Second Missionary Journey, Paul and Silas were imprisoned at Philippi. But when God freed them with an earthquake, the Philippian jailer tried to kill himself (Acts 16:16-40).

On Paul’s Second Missionary Journey, Paul and Silas were imprisoned at Philippi. But when God freed them with an earthquake, the Philippian jailer tried to kill himself (Acts 16:16-40).

The rest of this chapter contains so much wisdom and so many familiar verses that they hardly need comment at all, yet they certainly cannot be ignored here. Beginning with the words that make up the totality of a familiar hymn, he tells them to “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” The intentional repetition is significant, as the words to follow are intended to encourage them to live their lives in a joyous manner that demonstrates to the world what righteous living does for those who live it – as well as how it reflects to others around them (us).

First, there is the peace that the righteous can have in their relationship with the Lord:

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.
The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything,
but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving
let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

And he extends that further with the righteous living that will inspire and capture the hearts of wayward souls:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable,
whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely,
whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence,
if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things,
and the God of peace will be with you.

Paul closes the letter by thanking them for their concern, for their support, and for the gifts they sent with Epaphroditus. Seeking to put their minds at ease about him, Paul then gives the following inspiring words that we all would do well be able to honestly use to describe our own attitudes in the face of adversity:

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.
In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret
of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

That last line, most often taken out of context, is not meant to imply that we can always be on top of the world no matter what. Rather, it lets us know that with the Lord’s help, we can get through the times when life may not be going so well.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

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Psalm 88 – My Soul Is Full of Troubles

1894 sculpture by William Wetmore Story - Angel of Grief

1894 sculpture by William Wetmore Story – Angel of Grief

As one of the lament psalms, this one is truly written by one whose condition is most pitiable. In a vote for the saddest psalm of the book, Psalm 88 could easily win. Opinions vary as to the origin of the psalm. Some believe it was written by one of the exiles to Babylon during the worst of his times. Others have postulated that it is the song of a dying leper. I read a first-hand account of a visit to a leper colony that occurred over 50 years ago, and I shall spare you the details of that account. Suffice to say that I find it very plausible that such indeed could be the source of the psalm.

One thing to note is that although the psalm begins and ends with the deepest despair and no real hope that things will get any better, the cries made by the psalmist to the Lord are accompanied by faith nevertheless. And the psalmist makes it clear that he will continue in his faith to the bitter end, fully expecting to begin each new day with his prayers to the Lord.

2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” So why is this psalm in the Bible? What teaching or training could such bleak words hold for us today? I believe Derek Kidner offers as good an explanation as I have heard (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Book 16),IVP Academic; Reprint edition (April 17, 2009)). Burton Coffman aptly summarizes Kidner’s words (which I will leave you with) as follows:

“(1) This psalm reveals the truth that Christians may sometimes be subjected to the most unrelenting and terrible misfortunes in passing through this earthly life. It happened to Job; it happened to this psalmist; and it can happen to any child of God.

What a joyful thing it is that… the Christian today has the advantage of the blessed hope of the resurrection ‘in Christ’ and the hope of eternal glory in heaven.

(2) There is the lesson of this psalm that no matter how discouraging and terrible one’s lot in life may be, he should not fail to lay the matter before the Lord in prayer. God always answers the prayers of his saints, even if their specific requests must be denied, as in the case of Paul’s ‘thorn in the flesh.’

(3) Our lives upon earth are only a moment compared to the ceaseless ages of eternity; and our attitude during the very worst of experiences should be the same as that of Job, who cried, ‘Though he slay me, yet will I trust him’ (Job 13:15)”

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

Proverbs 14 – The End of Joy May Be Grief

depression_anxiety_003Verse 10 says that “The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy.” No matter how close we get to someone, rarely does anyone ever reach the point that we share every detail of the heart. Almost without exception it is just human nature to hold something back – at a minimum, the darkest moments are not shared. By the same token, nobody who is not close truly shares the joy that comes to us at those rare times when fortunes are at their best.

Verse 13 says “Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief.” Outward appearances can sometimes be deceptive; and we do not always know what is in another’s heart. Many times, people surround themselves with those they believe will make them happy, hoping the sorrow will go away. But often, the charade ends up leaving them still in need of support.

The answer to these enigmas is prayer. The Lord knows our needs and wants to listen to us when we are in despair. Casting our burdens on him is not simply a good thing to do – it is scriptural; and develops the trust in Him that we need.

Psalm 34:18 – The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Psalm 147:3 – He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

1 Peter 5:7 – Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Job 17 – Where Then Is My Hope?

storm-01In chapter 17, Job is, of course, still at his lowest, and in so many words – a shadow of his former self.  His pain and immense grief having long given way to despair, he tells his friends to speak to him again (verse 10).  But he is certain that they will not offer anything better than they have already (“come on again, all of you, and I shall not find a wise man among you”).

But contrary to how it may seem, Job is not saying that he has given up hope.  Surely, he says, his days are past and his plans are broken off (verse 11).  But he pleads with God to “put up security” for him (verse 3).  Certain that he has closed the hearts of his friends to true understanding, he asks God not to allow their assessment of him to be vindicated in his death.

For then, he says in verse 15, “Who will see my hope?”  Job still has held on to one thing even at this point – his trust in the Lord, that He is just.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Psalm 44 – Why are you sleeping, O Lord?

This lament psalm has been the subject of much speculation as to when it was written, and under what circumstances.  Some of the proposed answers for those questions have been the reign of Jehoiachin (2 Kings 24), the time of the Macabees (inter-testamental), the reign of Hezekiah (2 Kings 18), and even the time of Babylonian captivity (2 Kings 25). It is reasonable however to more narrowly define the circumstances in terms of a group or community of people who are simply persecuted unjustly.

The time and circumstances really do not matter though.  It begins in verses 1-8 as a wonderful hymn of praise to God.  From there, it becomes much like several other lament psalms that cry for help from God, while it appears to the psalmist that God not only is ignoring their pain, but may well be responsible for some of it; and the psalmist cannot understand what they could have done to deserve such.   We may even read in shock at the way the psalmist addresses the Lord, as in verses 23-24:  Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord?  Rouse yourself!  …Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?

In that respect, the psalm is of great value to God’s people today in a couple of ways.  First, it demonstrates without a doubt that even in keeping with God’s will, godly and righteous people do often suffer undeservedly.  The apostle Paul pointed this out very well in Romans 8:36, as he linked the sufferings of persecuted 1st century Christians with that of God’s people in this psalm, quoting verse 22:

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

Rembrandt - Apostle Paul - WGA19120

Rembrandt – Apostle Paul – WGA19120 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The second thing that we can take away from this psalm, which is the inspired word of God, is that when we are hurting it is not wrong to cry out to Him – and yes even to express the unfairness of it all and our grieving disappointment that He has not yet taken away our pain.    It may be His will that we have that pain eased soon, or He may have more important plans for us and for those we influence.  But no, it is not sinful to be hurt, nor to plead for His mercy for us.  But keeping our eyes on the promise to which He will surely be faithful, we can know that He loves us even in those times.  And we should keep close Paul’s words that follow in Romans 8:37-39:

“in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Proverbs 17 – The Lord Tests hearts

crucible

Proverbs 17:3: “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts.”

A crucible is a container that is used to melt metal on a furnace. A crucible for silver would usually be made of clay/graphite, and would have to withstand extremely high temperatures, possibly ranging from 1800 – 2500 degrees Fahrenheit.  In the process of refining these precious metals, the impurities float to the surface as “dross” where they can be removed.  The extreme heat makes the precious metals better – richer, and even more pure.

The Lord does test our hearts (1 Chronicles 29:17), for He looks upon man in a different way than other men do (1 Samuel 16:7).  And James tells us that we should “count it all joy” when we encounter trials (James 1:2-4).  So what do we do when those times of trial seem too much to bear?

Ahhh… that’s the part that is most difficult to accept, at least it is for this blogger.  Let’s look closely at what James says in verses 5-8:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

Most of my life, I have failed to put verses 5-8 together with verses 4-6.  James is trying to tell us that if we do not know how to “let steadfastness have its full effect,” if we do not seem to be able to cope -to stand the heat, we should ask for God to give us the wisdom to do so.  He has promised to give it “without reproach.”  And God always keeps His promises.  That means He does not disapprove of our asking for it.  He will not chastise us for our weakness, nor will he belittle us for any ineptitude on our part.  But we must ask with faith, not just believing, but knowing that God will deliver that wisdom to us.  That is the kind of faith for which I must continually pray.  I am still working on it.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Introducing Job – Chapter 1

Tennyson, as Poet Laureate, used verse to prom...

Among the books of the Bible widely classified as “wisdom and poetry literature,” one would naturally think of Psalms among the poetry.  But the book of Job is not one that comes to the mind of most people when they think of poetry.  The great poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, however, would disagree.  Tennyson called Job “the greatest poem, whether of ancient or modern literature.”  A common statement made about Job is that it is about the question of why good people suffer.

Well, that question certainly was raised in Job, but there is a problem with that description after a careful reading – that question was never really answered.  Oswald Chambers said it better when presenting a summary of all five of the wisdom books.  Speaking of Job, he said it describes “how to suffer.”   And that is just about as good of a description as you will get, for much of the book does teach us how the righteous should face suffering, when it comes into their lives.  And in fact, Job is overflowing with poetry, as well as wisdom.  Every Thursday this year, we will read a chapter from this great book.

One question that constantly comes up about Job is whether it is fiction or history.  Defending the (correct, I solemnly believe) view that the Book of Job is the real story of a real man who suffered unimaginably difficult times is beyond the scope of this blog – except maybe to point out that God’s word treats it as such, and His inspired writers in other books refer to Job as a historic figure (Ezekiel 14:14, 20 and James 5:11, for example).  For a more in-depth  look at the historicity of Job, please see this article at ApologeticsPress.org.

Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Philistia, although once united with Judah against Babylon, had abandoned Judah and rejoiced to see its ruin. But these nations were as sinful as Judah and would also feel the sting of God's judgment.

Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Philistia, although once united with Judah against Babylon, had abandoned Judah and rejoiced to see its ruin. But these nations were as sinful as Judah and would also feel the sting of God’s judgment.

We will start off chapter one by stating that there is much we do not know.  We do not know who the author was or when it was written.  The absence of reference to a Levitical priesthood (as demonstrated in verse 5) along with Job’s longevity (see Job 42:16), however, suggest roughly a time in Genesis after the flood.  We also do not know where, geographically, Job’s home in Uz was either, other than it was in the east (verse 3) and near a desert (verse 19).  It could be related to the northern home of Uz, the grandson of Shem (Genesis 10:22-23), Noah’s son, of whom the historian Josephus wrote in “Antiquities of the Jews” (book 1, chapter 6, paragraph 4), crediting him with the founding of Trachonitis and Damascus.  It could also be the land of Abraham’s nephew Uz (Genesis 22:20-21).  It could even be the land of the Uz the descendant of Seir, who had been related to Esau by marriage (Genesis 36:28).  It could also be the same land spoken of in Jeremiah 25:17-29 and Lamentations 4:21, which would be near or even include Edom to the south and east of the Dead Sea.

There is a lot of speculation also about verses 6-12.  Some say that the “sons of God” in verse 6 were angels.  Others make the perfectly good point that the term “sons of God” is used elsewhere in the scriptures to speak of people who serve the Lord (e.g. Romans 8:14 “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God”).  Along those lines, it is noteworthy that six times in these six verses, the Tetragrammaton (the Hebrew letters usually transliterated as YHWH or JHVH, which many refer to as Jehovah, rather than Yahweh) are used for God.  This use of the proper covenental name of God would seem to suggest a gathering of worshipers in which Satan asserted himself.

What we do know is that Job was a wealthy man who lived an upright life in the fear of the Lord (verses 1-3),

Messengers tell Job of his losses.

Messengers tell Job of his losses.

even to the point of offering sacrifices to God for his ten children (verse 5).  He seemed to have everything one could desire in life.  Then came the news from messengers, one after another, each telling of the great calamities that had fallen upon Job.  The Sabeans came from the south and killed his oxen and donkeys, and then murdered his servants that were with them (verses 14-15).  Then what we could assume as lightning had struck and killed his sheep and the servants that tended them (verse 16).  Before the second messenger had finished, another came and told Job that the Chaldeans, coming from the north, had taken his camels and killed the servants that were with them as well (verse 17).  The worst blow came again before the third messenger finished delivering his news.  All of his children, having been at the feast at his oldest son’s house had been killed by what must have been a great tornado that destroyed the house (verse 19).

Of Job’s immense grief at all of this loss, we get only a sense, as he tore his robe and shaved his head (signs of mourning) in verse 20.  He then fell upon the ground and worshiped God, rather than cursing him as Satan had hoped.  Verses 21-22 begin the real lesson of this book:

“And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’  In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.”

Many have suffered great loss in this world (though few as great as this in such a short time), but who has not known someone who blamed God for their troubles, even those that were really self-inflicted?  How often have we been inclined to do the same?  Any loss, however great, is not the end of eternity.  Not for us, nor for any of the loved ones we may have lost.  Every blessing we have received in this life has come from God (James 1:17), unearned by us, and all of those blessings will be only a memory by the end of this life.  But as James, the Lord’s brother, also wrote in 1:12:

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”

But Job’s story is only beginning.  We will take up chapter 2 next Thursday.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy

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___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.