Bible Reading Blog
BIBLE READING: Psalm 39
“Oh LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am.” (Psalm 39.4)
If you knew you would die tomorrow, you would live very differently today. But what if that date were a month from now? What about a year from now? To be faced with the eminent nature of that date would certainly affect our behavior; but the longer it is pushed out, the less concerned we tend to be.
The central concern of the psalm is that we ought to think about our end. We each have a single, short time on this earth. We will experience many things in this life (Ecclesiastes 3), but the daily ebbs and flows of life (which are legitimate in themselves) cannot become magnified into the meaning of life itself. We must think soberly about death because it dictates the trajectory of our life. To ignore this reality, sets us up for regret and failure. Life as we know it will end... Then what? The bible offers glimpses into the afterlife, and it’s all in the hands of our Creator.
Certain life circumstances bring this into focus: a debilitating illness… social and political unrest… the death of a close friend or family member. David appears to be in-tune with life’s brevity due to negative events in his own life (see Psalm 39.10-11). But in his musing, David’s heart burned for something greater than this life. “…I am a sojourner with you, a guest, like all my fathers.” (Psalm 39.12b)
Like David, we know there is an end for all of us. But David’s plea God was not for information, but personalization. Knowing our end ought to prompt a response in the present. It challenges us to ask, “what should I do with this life I have been given?” A clear understanding of life’s transience prompts changed behavior to make the best use of the remaining time (Ephesians 5.16-17).
Given what we know, this is the only wise and appropriate perspective to life. Peter Craigie wrote, “It is healthy… to combine an awareness of the transitory nature of human life as a whole, with the wisdom that ‘sufficient for the day is the evil thereof,’ … [it] is a starting point in achieving the sanity of a pilgrim in an otherwise mad world.”
Generations have come and gone from this world, and we will all join them some day. Life’s vanity reminds us of eternity. But we must not become callous and comfortable as we endure (Ephesians 4.17-19). We are stewards of the time we have and must give an account to God. If you know you are going to die, how are you using the time you know you have left?
“…you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4.14-15)
BIBLE READING: Psalm 35
“…O LORD, who is like you, delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him, the poor and needy from him who robs him?” (Psalm 35.10)
David was a successful man of war (1 Samuel 18.7), and yet he unashamedly cries to God for help. It is rare to see a man of his position with such a low view of himself (compare with Goliath in 1 Samuel 17.8-10; 42-47). Valient men are often preceded by pride and pretense.
But David was “a man after God's own heart” (Acts 13.22), which meant he didn’t allow his foolish pride to dominate or drive him to despair. David learned early on it was God who fought and won his battles, so he made no pretense of his own greatness (1 Samuel 17.45-47; Psalm 35.10). Instead, he habitually humbled himself to God’s power and sovereignty. He knew it was only with God and through God that he would defeat his enemies and find lasting success.
In our spiritual warfare, we sometimes forget it is God who fights and is victorious for us (Romans 8.31-39; 1 Corinthians 15.57; Ephesians 6.10). We may be able to confront temptation and sin with our best efforts; but our “success” will always be short-lived. I'm not saying we don't have to show up for the battle, but our 10 steps to success are not what allows us to overcome sin and temptation. It is only through the power of God, through the Spirit of God and the blood of Jesus that we overcome the evil we face in this world (Ephesians 6.10; Philippians 4.13).
God has revealed that our battles are not against flesh and blood but against unseen forces that cause stress, tension and conflict (Ephesians 6.12). We need to acknowledge that the challenges we face at work, at home and in our relationships are the result of Satan’s manipulation and lies. He wants you to look at your coworker, spouse, children or whomever it might be and see them as the enemy, instead of engaging your issues on a spiritual level.
Naturally we don't think this way. If we truly believed God to be the Creator and Sustainer of this world and our lives, we would immediately humble ourselves in desperate appeal for his vindication and help. Every. Single. Moment. If you choose to fight your battles alone, see how far you can get, and tap God when you’re tapped out, you’re not trusting God—you’re letting God know you don’t need him.
We will face challenges that are too much and too strong for us, and on our own, we will succumb to sin. But we are not without help or hope. “God is a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46.1) and we can “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Ephesians 6.10-11). Like David, we need to trust God and use the tools he has given us to reconcile difficult situations and restore relationship. But above all, we must be humble enough to accept that we need him.
“…my soul will rejoice in the LORD, exulting in his salvation.” (Psalm 35.9)
BIBLE READING: Psalm 33
“By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.” (Psalm 33.6-9)
Evolution, agnosticism and other forms of philosophy offer compelling ways of thought. They appeal to curious thinkers because they offer a self-guided path without definite truths, allowing “freedom” of thought and action. To accept that there is a Creator immediately puts one in a position of subjection, which largely does not appeal to an individualistic society. Fewer and fewer people accept these truths as more than a story in an old book. Even Christianity has become diluted at times by cultural philosophy (Colossians 2.8).
And so, we must regularly rehearse and engage this fundamental truth: “In the beginning, God created…” (Genesis 1.1). It is foundational to our entire Christian belief system. “whoever would come to God must believe that he exists…” (Hebrews 11.6).
Our faith is predicated on God as THE Creator. There are not multiple forces at work in this reality. We, and our world, are not some accidental science experiment from a random universe. It was designed with pattern, power and precision. Everything we see, and everything we are, were made with intentionality and purpose.
The evidence of a Creator is revealed in our world, a fact we would be foolish to ignore (2 Peter 3.5). God gave a witness both in his design and in his word (Psalm 19.1-6). Honesty stripped of pretense must follow logic to this conclusion: By his word, all things were made from nothing (Psalm 33.6; Hebrews 11.3).
If this is so, we must not only fear him, but we must subject ourselves to his will and purposes. He fashions and inspects all of creation (Psalm 33.15). He expects it to respond in the way he designed it (Job 9.3-12; Psalm 19.1-6). To live thoughtless of this fact is to ignore the most fundamental premise of our reality. We are created beings who are subject to our Creator (Colossians 1.16).
Ultimate purpose and fulfillment are realized by utter submission to him. This is highly unpopular and even presents an affront to human ingenuity; but it is reality. We are made in His image (Genesis 1.27), not the other way around. Thus, we must be diligent to learn his ways, and take seriously the patterns he sets forth. To know these things is to know life and purpose and joy (John 17.3; Romans 15.13).
“…from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth… Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love.” (Psalm 33.14, 18)
BIBLE READING: Ecclesiastes 8
“...Keep the king’s command, because of God’s oath to him.” (Ecclesiastes 8.2)
We live in a time when it is popular to criticize authority. Especially right now, many are decrying the poor choices and corruption of those in positions of authority. We are given the freedom and liberty to do so without immediate consequences. But look at the news and you can see what human passions unleashed creates: strife, division and unrest.
I hate some of the things I see in our world. Injustice exists in places of authority (Ecclesiastes 3.16; 4.2). Men with bad character and upside down morality lead in all corners of our world. In your lifetime, you will experience leadership with which you may completely disagree.
While we cannot control how leaders will behave, we can control how we respond to them. In wisdom, we must temper our perception of power abused with an understanding that all forms of leadership have their shortcomings. No one can predict the future or operate with perfect foresight (Ecclesiastes 8.7).
I don’t say this to dismiss or excuse ungodly behavior, but to offer perspective. Although leadership may be imperfect at times, it is necessary to have structure and government in a society. This is God’s pattern (Romans 13.1-2), and it is not only practical, but imperative to the stability of any society. “...rulers are not a terror to good conduct but to bad” (Romans 13.3). God’s hope is not to establish the perfect earthly government — he has already set his king on the throne (Psalm 2)!— but to create a context in which his people can fulfill their mission: to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with their God (Micah 6.8)
“... I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Timothy 2.1-2)
God expects believers to pray for, and to humbly submit to the authority of earthly leaders. Our subjection to human authority despite its corruption shows our submission to God (Romans 13.1-2), and gives a greater platform for the gospel of peace through Jesus Christ.
It is evident our cultural forms of conflict resolution are not only defective but destructive. The attack on governing bodies has only deepened the divide along cultural and racial lines. God’s people need to take a stand during these times of cultural tension and model God’s patterns of respect for one another and authority. The peace we promote is not of this world. And so, let us obey God rather than man by putting our passions aside, seeking justice in our own life and character, and humbly submitting to authority for the sake of God‘s kingdom
“Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2.17)
BIBLE READING: Ecclesiastes 1
“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1.9)
It’s exciting to start something new. It energizes our spirit and produces hopefulness because of its potential. But the honeymoon always ends. Ecclesiastes snubs the pleasantries of feel-good philosophy and blasts us with a concentrated dose of reality. Any experience, at its very best, is temporary and futile. If you’re doing it, it’s already been done and proven to be unsatisfying. Just pack up and go home already.
Life experience teaches this brutal truth; so it makes sense to cut to the chase rather than muddle our way to this reality. We've all heard people say, “there’s nothing new under the sun” as a complaint against life’s futility. When Solomon wrote the statement, he was emphasizing the cyclic nature of human life on earth and the emptiness of living only for the “rat race.” He observed that despite human efforts, the world continues unchanged. All the activity of a man during his lifetime is lost in the grander scheme of things. Part of Solomon’s frustration from this observation is that “no one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them” (Ecclesiastes 1.11). People tend to forget the past, repeating its mistakes as a result.
The futility of life can be depressing and debilitating. But one thing we all have in common is that in desperation we see honesty. When pretense is stripped away and reality acknowledged, we have no choice but to objectively evaluate our existence.
So, does the fact that there is nothing new under the sun mean we should give up trying? The entire book of Ecclesiastes should be read before jumping to any conclusion. In the end, Solomon writes this: “Now all has been heard... here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12.13–14).
In other words, life involves more than what happens “under the sun.” Living for God and His glory is the goal of life. Those who do not seek this goal will not only be left wanting, but will ultimately be judged by God (Romans 14.12; 2 Corinthians 5.10). Even our good deeds that have gone unnoticed in this life are seen by God and will be rewarded in the future. This knowledge should result in a life lived for God, with a deep love for others and desire to make a difference.
There may be nothing new under the sun, but Jesus promises, someday, to make all things new (Revelation 21.5). So, while we must accept the futility of life under the sun, we can live a life of purpose a meaning filled with hope beyond this life.