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 77 – Has God Forgotten?

This psalm has been seen both as a national (or community) lament and a personal lament.  It is appropriate for both because the underlying question is the same in either case – “has God abandoned me?”  The psalmist raises the questions not disrespectfully, but in genuine wonder and distress.  The problem is not an uncommon one for any of us.  How do we deal with the doubt that can come over us when there are times in lives that result in grave trouble or great sorrow?

crying_002No matter whether the trials are from illness, loss of a loved one, loneliness, or any kind of suffering at all, how do we come to terms with the pain and suffering we feel and reconcile those feelings with a loving, just, and gracious God? When the trials continue for long periods of time with seemingly no relief, do we not have the same questions of God that this psalmist has?  (“Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” “Has His steadfast love ceased forever?” “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?”)

The devil uses those feelings to bring our doubts to their fullest heights in the hope that our faith will ultimately fail.  Little by little (or sometimes a lot by a lot) he tries to wear us down and bring doubt to our Christian hearts.  There is no reason to suppose that God is offended by the questions.  We already have the answers after all.  God is love – His love never ceases.

He cannot forget to be gracious because His grace is everlasting.  Repeatedly, the Scriptures tell us that “The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression” (Numbers 14:18).  Remember Psalm 27:14: Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage” – and again, verse 14 of this chapter “You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples.”

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.