He Is Our Dread and Our Sanctuary

Highlighted Text: Job 28:28
Full Text: Job 28; 1 Cor. 14

Advances | Today, we have thousands of ways to access information and tons of timesaving devices. But do we have more wisdom or time? In 1934, T.S. Eliot reflected,

The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion but not of stillness …
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? [1].

Wisdom | Job, too, praised modern technology in his time: “Man puts his hand to the flinty rock … He dams up the streams so that they do not trickle“ [2]. Yet he wondered whether those advances brought more wisdom: “But where shall wisdom be found? … Man does not know its worth … God understands the way to it … And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding“ [3].

Picture | What is the fear of the Lord? John Piper offers a picture. Imagine a small child meeting a large German shepherd. The dog greets the unfamiliar child with barks and growls, but – in time – becomes calm and friendly. Nonetheless, the owner warns the child, “Don’t run from him.” But the child forgets and, when the dog trots behind him, the child starts to run because he can only remember the dog’s scary barks, not its friendly licks. Then, as expected, the dog barks and growls again. As Piper says, this is the fear of the Lord: “Do not fear to draw near, but keep the fear of the dog (the fear of the Lord) before your eyes, lest you try to run away (lest you start to fall into sin)” [4]. In other words, “God is a joy to be near and a terror to those who flee” [5].

Prayer | Lord, Let us not run from you, but to you. As we grow wiser and shun evil, let us fear fleeing from your fellowship because we want it so much. Warm our hearts in your refuge and strength so that we know that our peace and hope is found in wisdom, not information. Then we will say with Isaiah, “The Lord of hosts … let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he will become a sanctuary” [6]. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] T.S. Eliot. “The Rock.” (1934): entire text here.  |  [2] Job 28:3, 9, 11 ESV  |  [3] Job 28:12, 13, 23, 28 ESV  |  [4] See John Piper, “A Woman Who Fears the Lord Is to Be Praised.” 10 May 1981.  |  [5] Id.  |  [6] See Isaiah. 8:13

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Do This In Remembrance of Me

Highlighted Text: 1 Cor. 11:26
Full Text: Job 24; 1 Cor. 11

Passover | The Hebrews were enslaved by the Egyptians. So they called to God who heard their cries. He raised up Moses to lead them out of slavery. He told him of His plans for the Egyptians – to slay every firstborn son. But He would save His people who put the blood of an unblemished lamb on their doorframes. They were to reserve the lamb on the 10th of Nisan and slaughter it on the 14th. On Passover night, there was wailing in Egypt for there was not a house without someone dead. But the Hebrews were passed over. And finally Pharaoh let God’s people go.

Lamb | In the same way, Jesus was set aside on the 10th of Nisan when he entered Jerusalem and was sacrificed on the 14th. Those who believe in him are passed over because his blood is on the doorframes of their hearts. For Jesus, God’s firstborn and only Son, was not passed over so that we could be. Jesus Christ is our Passover Lamb, who led us out of slavery to sin and into freedom in him.

Communion | Today, just as the Hebrews commemorated the exodus with the Passover meal, we commemorate the death of Christ with the Lord’s Supper. We eat the bread and drink the wine, just as the Israelites did – even the disciples on the night he was betrayed. And when we do this, we proclaim his death until his return: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” [1].

Prayer | Lord, Our faith is not a new-age spirituality. It is rooted in historical facts. Jesus is a real person who had a body that bled. He died publicly on a cross as the ultimate Passover lamb so that anyone who believes in him might be passed over. Therefore, as we solemnly approach the communion table, let us nourish ourselves with the benefits that our Lord Jesus Christ obtained for us for eternity. Amen.

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Want to see a video of this devotional? Click below.


This video was originally made to advertise our Subway Series: Passover 2010, but its truths are still relevant today. Enjoy on your Friday or over the weekend!

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Footnotes

[1] 1 Cor. 11:26 ESV

When God Seems Distant

Highlighted Text: Job 23:10
Full Text: Job 23; 1 Cor. 10

Faith | As Job processes his suffering, his faith wavers. On the one hand, he sings, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth” [1]. On the other hand, he wonders, “Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! … Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him” [2]. What good is a living God if you don’t know where He is?

Distance | Some say that reaching God in suffering is easy. But that’s not everyone’s experience. David, a man after God’s heart [3], writes, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? [4]. Then, hundreds of years later, Jesus quoted these words of David on the cross [5].

Fact | When Christ experienced the Father’s distance, he secured the Father’s nearness for us forever. Today, therefore, although God may seem distant, He is near [6]. Thus, our faith can waver as we try to make heads or tails of our suffering. For our redemption is not based on the strength of our faith, but on the strength of the object of our faith.

Illustration | As Tim Keller illustrates, if you’re falling off a cliff and see a branch that might hold you, your being saved isn’t dependent on your faith in that branch. You can think, “Nah, it’ll never save me.” Yet, in your doubt, if you would just reach out, that branch will save you if its roots are strong [7]. And Job knows this. As his faith wavers, he still proclaims, “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold” [8].

Prayer | Lord, Your roots are infinitely strong, even when our faith is weak. Sometimes, in our suffering, we wonder where you are. Yet we know that you are near. For the Psalm that Jesus quoted on the cross did not end with your distance; it ended with praise for what your distance accomplished: “Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it” [9]. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Job 19:25 ESV  |  [2] Job 23:3, 8 ESV  |  [3] See Acts 13:22  |  [4] Ps. 22:1-2 ESV  |  [5] Mark 15:34 ESV. See also Matt. 27:46.  |[6] John Piper, in his sermon Ask Your Father in Heaven, gives a wonderful description of the different levels at which God makes Himself available. Looking at Matthew 7:7-11, he writes, “Ask. Seek. Knock. If a child’s father is present, he asks him for what he needs. If a child’s father is somewhere in the house but not seen, he seeks his father for what he needs. If the child seeks and finds the father behind the closed door of his study, he knocks to get what he needs. The point seems to be that it doesn’t matter whether you find God immediately close at hand, almost touchable with his nearness, or hard to see and even with barriers between, he will hear, and he will give good things to you because you looked to him and not another.”  |  [7] Tim Keller gave this illustration in a sermon about doubt several years ago. I couldn’t remember the exact illustration, so I emailed Kathy. Helpfully, she offered two additional illustrations of this truth. (1) Skating on ice – the skater who worries, “Oh, the ice might be thin. It might break,” and the skater who thinks, “Nah, it’s February. The ice is probably a foot think,” are neither going to be saved or lost on the basis of their fears/confidence. It is the strength of the ice that matters. (2) Two fliers on a plane – one a phobic flier who spends the entire flight thinking at every bump, “We are going to crash! I know it!” and the other who has millions of frequent flier miles and sleeps through the flight. Neither the little faith nor the big faith matters, but the competence of the crew and the integrity of the aircraft.”  |  [8] Job 23:10 ESV  |  [9] Psalm 22:30-31

When the Name of Jesus Is in Bright Lights Above the Big City

Highlighted Text: 1 Cor. 9:22-23
Full Text: Job 22; 1 Cor. 9

Bright Lights | A few weeks ago, I had the wonderful privilege of attending City Wide Worship, a praise night hosted by several New York City churches. At one point, we sang about the name of Jesus being high and lifted up [1]. In my head, I pictured the name of Jesus in lights above Times Square with all of us gathered below and exalting his name. Immediately, however, I became sad – for as much as I knew that those of us in that room would be overjoyed at the return of Jesus, I knew that many others – including some of my friends and family – would not. At the end of this age, everyone – believers and unbelievers alike – will all bow their knees and confess that Jesus is Lord [2]. That day, there will be much rejoicing, but there will also be much weeping [3].

All Things | To the extent that we don’t feel this reality, we don’t sense the sadness and urgency that Paul felt for the lost around him. In everything he did, he tried to adapt as much as possible – without sinning – to his culture. Why? To win others, to save others, and to share in the blessings of the gospel: “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them … I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” [4].

Prayer | Lord, How can we use our freedom like Paul did – not as a license for sin, but as a means for sharing the gospel so that we might partake in its blessings? Give us a sense of the reality of the end of this age so that we might also feel sorrow and urgency for our loved ones. For we know that Jesus is more than a solution to our psychological problems; he is the redemption to our condemnation: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” [5]. Thus, he is not just good news; he’s the best news and, therefore, we long to share him with everyone we love. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] John 12:32 ESV  |  [2] See Phil. 2:9-11  |  [3] See Lk. 13:28  |  [4] 1 Cor. 9:19, 22-23 ESV  |  [5] Rom. 8:1 ESV

Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power?

Highlighted Text: Job 21:7
Full Text: Job 21; 1 Cor. 8

Mysterious | There are some things that I may never understand this side of heaven. Why does God take both of my friend’s parents before she’s thirty – even as I still have both of mine? Why does God give children to some people who aren’t married and desperately want to avoid getting pregnant – even as others are married and long for children? Why do some Christians live in persecution and imprisonment for their faith – even as we live in freedom? [1]

Confusing | Knowing his own righteousness, Job looks around at the prosperity of the wicked and asks, “Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power? … They spend their days in prosperity, and in peace they go down to [the grave]. They say to God, ‘Depart from us! We do not desire the knowledge of your ways’” [2] Yes, he agrees with his friends in theory – that “the exulting of the wicked is short, and the joy of the godless but for a moment” [3] – but he fails to see how this plays out: “Have you not asked those who travel the roads, and do you not accept their testimony that the evil man is spared in the day of calamity, that he is rescued in the day of wrath? … How then will you comfort me with empty nothings? There is nothing left of your answers but falsehood” [4].

Winning | When we see Jesus on the cross, however, we see how difficult it is to assess the Lord’s mysterious ways [5]. Jesus was mocked and murdered. Evil won in the short-run. Yet Jesus was the only perfectly obedient Son. He secured the victory of His people for eternity when he conquered death and rose from the grave [6].

Prayer | Lord, You move in mysterious ways to perform your wonders. Yet sometimes we fear the clouds that hang overhead. Let us not, however, give into that fear. Instead, show us how those clouds will break with mercy and blessings upon us. For behind a frowning providence, you hide a shining face. Our blind unbelief is sure to err, as we scan your work in vain. Yet you are your own interpreter and you will make it plain [7]. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Perhaps my favorite Psalm that confronts this reality is Psalm 73. What causes the Psalmist to stop questioning the Lord’s ways? He questions and questions and questions … Then he “went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end” (v. 17). In His presence, the Psalmist was quieted. He recognized his own lack of knowledge about his situation.  |  [2] Job 21:7, 13-14 ESV  |  [3] Job 20:5 ESV  |  [4] Job 21:29, 34 ESV  |  [5] See Psalm 103:7; Deut. 29:29.  |  [6] Matt. 27:32-44; Heb. 12:2-3  |  [7] This prayer is taken from William Cowper’s famous hymn, God Moves in a Mysterious Way. (warning: this site has music). The story behind this hymn gives light to its lyrics.