When Evil Wins

Matthew 14

January 14

What do you do when tragedy strikes? How do you respond when it looks like evil has triumphed? How do you handle great loss?

In Matthew 14 we get to see how Jesus reacted. He had just heard about the fate of his relative and fellow worker, the man who had prepared the crowd for his own arrival – John the Baptist. John must have been such a blessing to Jesus. John was the one who knew and believed and spoke for Jesus first. He had performed the baptism in which the dove and the voice of God announced that Jesus was the loved son of God. I am sure that had been an incredible bonding moment for both of them. And now John was dead. Too young to die, he was just a few months older than Jesus. He still had more work to do. He had been so faithful.

To compound emotions, John’s death had been a violent, vengeful, plotted beheading at the hands of Herod the tetrarch (which means he was a ruler of one quarter of the region formerly ruled by his father Herod the Great). Herod the Great had been the one who had ordered the death of all baby boys 2 years old and younger in the vicinity of Bethlehem, trying to assassinate young Jesus because the Magi had told him the star they were following signaled the birth of a new King of the Jews. Jesus had escaped the grasp of Herod the Great. But, now Herod’s son, with assistance from his twisted family tree, had murdered Jesus’ kin, John, who had boldly told Herod he had sinned by marrying his living brother’s wife. Evil had triumphed in this round. The righteous man John was dead while Herod, Herodias and her daughter lived and celebrated the death.

Jesus’ first reaction is to get away – alone. “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.” (Matthew 14:13). There may have been some tears. There may have even been some angry outbursts, perhaps. Or maybe not. We don’t know exactly. But he was wise in seeking a moment of stillness and quiet – just him and God. It doesn’t say he prayed – but we know Jesus. For example, see what he does next time he is able to be alone (Matthew 14:23).

The crowds aren’t sensitive to Jesus’ needs, but they know they need Jesus so they seek him out and disrupt his quiet time. Rather than rebuking them or running away, Jesus compassionately makes time for them and meets their needs. In fact, the next 24 hours are going to see some of the most amazing ministry and miracles Jesus has with the crowd and with his disciples. Many more sick are healed, thousands are fed with one small lunch, and Jesus and Peter walk on the water! And, between it all, Jesus gets in some more quiet time with his Father.

When faced with tragedy, loss, heartache and evil it is easy to be tempted to give up or give in. Jesus shows us how to give it to God (again and again) and continue the fight. Jesus knew the war was not over. This round went to Herod, but there was more to prepare for. There would be more battles. There would be more sick, hurting, hungry, and scared to care for. The victor has not yet been crowned. We look forward to that day! Until then, give it to God and continue the fight.

-Marcia Railton

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. What loss have you faced? During your lifetime when has it looked like evil has won a round? What was your first response? Were you able to get back in the game? Do you benefit from quiet alone time with God? If so, how? If not, what’s missing?
  2. Jesus invited Peter to get out of the safe boat and come join Jesus ON the water in the middle of the lake in the middle of the night. And Peter got out of the boat! What would you have done? What would Peter have missed if he had stayed in the boat? Can you think of a time you courageously tried something new for Jesus? What could you do with Jesus if you were willing to step out of the boat?
  3. Peter was walking on the water with Jesus!! He began to sink when he saw the wind and was afraid. What fears are you sinking in? What could you do with Jesus if fears didn’t hold you down? How can you keep your eyes on Jesus instead of on your fears?
  4. Jesus rescued Peter and said, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” What tone of voice do you think Jesus used? How do your own doubts affect your relationship with Jesus? Did John the Baptist ever doubt? What did he do? What evidence can you find to counter your doubts?

Resolution 4: Pump Some Iron

Zechariah 12-14

Sheep are notorious for two things. Being stupid and being easily spooked.  It is no wonder the scriptures use the comparison of sheep to the followers of Christ.  As a group, we have faith and access to God, yet it is often our last resort instead of our first instinct.  Additionally, when things start getting tough and someone flexes in our direction, we often are reduced to a cower. We may make the excuse that we are acting in a spirit of gentleness or turning the other cheek, but the truth is most of the time we are wonted weenies.  How many people stood against Goliath?  How many men stood in Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace? How many apostles were at the crucifixion of Jesus?  If you’re keeping count, all the answers fit on to a single hand.  We may have faith that triumphs over personal hardships, we may be able to pray for tough changes, or we may be able to move towards a difficult calling, but when a real, visible enemy comes, we often let out a bleat, tuck tail, and run with the flock.

Awake, sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me!” declares the Lord Almighty. Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn my hand against the little ones. In the whole land,” declares the Lord, two-thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one-third will be left in it. This third I will put into the fire;  I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people, and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’”  Zech 13:7-9

Zecheriah, Matthew, and John all allude that the tribulation will be a tough time to be on this planet, but even more so for those who call themselves a follower of Christ. There will not only be an uptick in geological and astronomical superevents, but Christian all over the world will be truly persecuted – no, not the butt of some late night TV joke – meaning it will be challenging to keep both your faith and your life at the same time.  It is too easy to say that we will not fall away or forsake our beliefs in this ever-coming-closer moment in history. Peter said he never-ever would fall away; Jesus tells him he won’t even make it 24 hours from speaking these words (Matt 26:33-34).  Fortunately, for Peter and for us, there is an opportunity to amend our mistakes, our denials, and our flight.  According to church tradition, and alluded to in the prophecy of Jesus (John 21:18-19), Peter is crucified for sharing the Good News.

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” – Matt 24:9

Like Peter, and so many others, we may have had weak moments and scattered the flock.  We may have diminished our faith in front of others, so we could be more accepted or avoid a consequence.  We are weak.  We need to pump some iron with the Word of God.  Let his Holy Spirit spot you (or really do the heavy lifting).  We need to train harder because standing up for our faith WILL NOT get easier.  We want to be like David, Esther, Stephen, Joseph, Mary, and so many more whose faith were purified with persecution.  Our time to be refined in the fire is coming, whether or not we live long enough to see the Great Tribulation.  How do we make sure we are prepared for this moment? Here is a small list of verses that can speak to us, to help us plant our feet and hold firm, today or any other, so when the fire comes and the dross is removed, there remains the precious things that we cling to with our faith: Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God.

No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,”declares the Lord. – Isaiah 54:17

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.Hebrew 11:7-10

For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” – Esther 4:14

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. – 2 Timothy 1:6-8

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? – Psalms 56:3-4

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. – John 14:25-26

-Aaron Winner

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Zechariah 12-14 and Revelation 20

Running from the Lord

Jonah 1-2

The story of Jonah is one of the most well-known stories in the Bible. However, the book of Jonah is one of the least read books in the Bible! Let this devotion serve as a challenge to read this book with fresh eyes this week.

Jonah is perhaps the most unique prophet in the Bible. Isaiah, Daniel, Elijah, and so many others serve as intensely righteous men who carry about the Lord’s message with great zeal. Habakkuk shows shocking honesty and transparency in his prayer life. Amos, as we just read, shows us that the most humble people– yes, even the shepherds– are called into ministry of some kind. But what about Jonah?

Jonah shows that rebellious streak that runs within all of us at some time or another. God has called him to preach to the city of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, and Jonah does not listen. It’s understandable; Nineveh is nearly 700 miles away from Jerusalem. That would take well over a month to travel there in his time! But wait– Jonah doesn’t just say no to God. He actually runs away in the opposite direction!

So Jonah runs away and God lets him know that there’s no running from God. In fact, throughout Jonah’s refusal to minister to the Assyrians, it still brings glory to God. The sailors he’s traveling with tremble with fear when they discover who Jonah’s God is. Notice that, in 1:11, the sailors want to please Jonah’s God, and instead of saying, “Let’s turn this ship around and head to Nineveh,” he says, “Just throw me overboard.”

But God wasn’t done with Jonah. Jonah’s saved. But more importantly, Jonah experiences a spiritual reckoning: Jonah has a moment of complete clarity and offers up a remorseful, prayerful praise to God. He recognizes that God is the one in control (2:3). And he recognizes that salvation comes only from the LORD.

So here are a few questions for us to consider in all this:

Do we listen for God’s voice like Jonah does? 

Do we reject God’s call like Jonah did? Probably more than we realize.

Do we expect God to call us to the “Nineveh” of our lives?

Do we learn from our mistakes like Jonah did, and pray about it? 

Will Jonah learn from these events, and change his ways? We’ll have to find out tomorrow.

-Levi Salyers

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Jonah 1-2 and Revelation 6

Pay Attention!

Revelation 2

When John begins to explain the revelation that he has received, he writes 7 letters to churches in Asia minor (modern day Turkey). As we read 4 of the 7 letters, we can notice that each letter contains the same important exhortation: “Anyone who has an ear had better listen to what the Spirit says to the congregations!” (vv. 7, 11, 17, 29). This is John’s way of saying “Pay attention!” While each one of his letters is not lengthy or full of details, they are nonetheless very specific about what they address.

In 3 of the 4 letters, John brings a harsh criticism against the congregation to whom he is writing. These criticisms are prefaced with a phrase such as “But I have this against you” (vv. 4, 14, 20). Only Smyrna is spared this criticism. It seems that there is something about the church in Smyrna that didn’t deserve the type of correction that the other churches received.

The message that John gives to the church in Smyrna is one of encouragement to endure through the persecution and suffering they were experiencing. One of the reasons that they were suffering was because other people were speaking evil of them. And apparently, it was going to get worse, so much so that some of them were going to be thrown in prison. But they were promised that if they would endure and be “faithful to death,” that they would receive the “crown of life” (v. 10).

What we can apply to our own lives from John’s encouragement to the church in Smyrna is the importance of remaining faithful to the Lord. While we may never face persecution and death in the way that they did, we each have been or will be at some point in our lives the object of another person’s evil words concerning our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Even though the ways in which we will suffer for our faith will differ, the reward that we all will receive is the same—the crown of life!

No trial is too small and no task too trivial to consider it worthy to endure for the sake of our Lord. We must always desire to honor him through every day and season of life no matter what may come, knowing that it is before him that we will stand one day judged for everything we have said and done.

-Jerry Wierwille

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading passages at BibleGateway.com here – Amos 3-4 and Revelation 2

What We Will Be

1 John 3

I John 3:2 reads in part, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and It has not appeared as yet what we will be….”   It has not appeared as yet what we will be.  I am now in my 50’s.  If you are my age or older, you have had the pleasure to watch the kids around you grow up.  When they were little, it was hard to imagine what they would become as adults.  Some of those little kids that I knew many years ago have grown into wonderful adults.  Even some of those irresponsible teenagers have done well for themselves.  Some have become doctors, nurses, professionals, experts in their field, responsible caring parents, teachers and business owners.  All I can say is “Wow.”  This was hard to imagine when they were very young.  “It has not appeared as yet what we will be…”  We can’t yet imagine what we will become. 

Of course, the 1 John 3:2 also adds, “…we know that when He appears , we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.”  This describes the transformation that we will experience at the return of Christ.  One day we will find ourselves in the very image of Christ. 

However, in the meantime, what will you become?  How will you change and grow?  John’s words here are hopeful and optimistic.  It has not appeared as yet what we will be…  The possibilities are great.  God, in Christ, has put you on a road to growth and transformation and new discoveries.  You will face joys and sorrows.  You will suffer.  You will be challenged.  You will be tempted.  You will have victories and defeats.  Yet, the Lord is leading you to Him.  It has not appeared as yet what we will be.  So, go out and discover and find that very thing.  Become the person that God has created you to be.  Grow into the image of Jesus Christ.

-Pastor Scott Deane

You can read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Hosea 3-4 and 1 John 3

Be the Right Person

At the Right Time in the Right Place

Daniel 11, 12

     Have you ever been the right person at the right time in the right place?  My wife and I were driving home one evening after dark.  We came upon a slow- moving vehicle that was being driven rather erratically.  It swerved from side to side.  It would speed up for a moment and then slow way down.  We even witnessed this vehicle cross the center line several times.  Oncoming vehicles sometimes were forced off the road to avoid this driver. We thought that we were about to see a terrible accident. Of course, this driver was impaired in some way.  I am sensitive toward the subject of drunk drivers.  I was badly injured and my best friend killed by one many years ago.  Of course, we called 911.  However, while my wife was talking to the 911 operator, we noticed that a police cruiser was sitting in a parking lot next to the road.  We pulled alongside and described the situation.  To their credit, the officers quickly sped off in pursuit and had the vehicle pulled over in less than a minute.  The driver, a middle aged woman, was clearly inebriated.  We hope that we helped to save some family from a devastating tragedy that evening.  Perhaps, our decision to get involved may have even saved that drunk driver from a life of guilt, prison, or from death itself.   However, we did nothing more than what many people would do.  If you found yourself in a similar situation, I know that you would act.  The right person is often given the right place and the right time to act, to get involved.

     The book of Daniel often describes events that are earth shattering and world changing.  People often get caught up in forces that are beyond their control and they feel helpless.  However, the book of Daniel also gives examples of those individuals who rise to the occasion by standing for their faith.  These individual acts of faith actually change the course of events: Daniel refused to eat the king’s food, Meschach, Shadrach and Abed-nego refused to bow to the image, and Daniel broke the law and risked the lion’s den to pray to the LORD. 

Daniel 11 and 12 describe the incredible times and events that will occur at the end of this age.  Forces will be at work that will be beyond our control.  Yet, it is still a moment for individuals to make a stand.  According to Daniel and the book of Revelation, the time of the end will be characterized by great deception.  Many people, even believers, will be fooled and tricked by the antichrist.   Daniel 11:32 reads, “By smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the covenant…..”  However, some make a stand.  Daniel 11:32 continues, “….but the people who know their God will display strength and take action…”  They will be the right people at the right time in the right place.

 Daniel 11:33 adds, “Those who have insight among the people will give understanding to the many….”  Yet there will be a price for this courage.  Daniel 11:33 continues, “…yet they will fall by sword and by flame, by captivity and by plunder for many days.”  However, Daniel 12:3 makes this promise: “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” 

We live in a time of great confusion.  We have become strangers to God while we worship the idols that we have created.   Many people fear the future and wonder how it is all going to end.  For all our worldliness, our country is confused about sexuality and gender.  People have forgotten what is right and what is wrong, what is truth and what is false.  This world needs a voice of reason.  It needs truth.  It needs people of courage and faith.  The answers are “hidden in plain sight.”  They are right here in the Bible.  Insight will be found by those who are looking for it and by those who thirst for it.  Those who have insight will shine like the stars.  Be the right person so that you can act when the right time and the right place comes to you.

-Scott Deane

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Daniel 11 & 12 and 1 John 1

Come Alive

Ezekiel 37-38

As a child of God, it is your duty to understand how to bring praise and worship to the LORD as a sacrifice to him. Worshipping our God should not only give you joy but also bring joy to our incredible God and to our Lord, Jesus Christ. 

The past two years have been a whirlwind for all of us. I don’t have to write it to remind you of the turmoil that our world has been in. In this historic time, its natural for us to become down–depressed even. It’s easy to think that hope is lost. 

This week, I encourage you to remember that we have a never failing — never ending — hope. In this series, I remind you of who you are– who God has made you to be — a worshipper for him. Our King has never lost a battle. He never will. I remind you that this world is going to fail you–it’s not the Kingdom of God. But, I urge you to remember that his kingdom is coming. Let’s worship while we wait for our coming King.

We call out to Dry Bones – Come Alive…

Each day, I am going to relate this devotion to a song in worship that connects to the scriptures we are focusing on. Today our song is, “Come Alive” by Lauren Daigle. I hope this song fills your heart as much as it does mine. 

“Come Alive”  is taken from Ezekiel 37.

3 He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”  Ezekiel 37:3-6

God always has a way of showing up doesn’t he? Our God is never late. And he proves that over and over again. In Ezekiel 37, we see a picture of hopelessness. I envision these bones to be turning to dust. If I saw this, I would be drawn toward the idea of death—nothingness—pure loss. But, somehow Ezekiel sees these bones as an opportunity for God. 

Ezekiel calls upon the LORD to make something out of what seems like nothing. The prophet believed so deeply in the giver of life that he had the courage to ask God to renew life in these bones! 

As a modern-day believer, I become convicted when I open my Bible and get a taste of the spiritual confidence that the men and women of the scriptures had. They didn’t just see and hear— they ran forward in action! 

After Ezekiel makes this act of faith, we see that these bones weren’t nothing! They belonged to the people of Israel. Before Ezekiel’s eyes, stood the men and women who sacrificed it all in order to achieve freedom. And, they did. 

Okay, I get where your head is likely going… “Les, what dry bones do I have that need to come alive?” 

For us, these scriptures are less about physical resurrection and more about being wholly rejuvenated in Spirit. How many people–this may include yourself–are giving the bare minimum for God? How many of you feel how hard it is to get up on Sunday morning? How many of you are simply…tired? 

This feeling is what leads us to having spiritually dry bones. 

We have to ask God to make us alive again in him. And we must pray for our spiritual brothers and sisters that they do the same.

“We call out to dry bones, come alive, come alive.” 

My prayer for you this Sunday is that you become spiritually alive – totally revived. I pray for your churches this morning, and for your pastors. Let us ask God to fill us with the breath of life–in order to be renewed, and to be strong once again.

-Leslie Jones

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Ezekiel 37-38 and Psalm 123-125

Praise Him

Psalm 111-113

Most of us say that we would like to have wisdom and good understanding. This seems pretty obvious but it is so easy to loose track of what brings these things. We search in books, on apps, listening to podcasts, and on websites. When we search in these and other places like these for wisdom and understanding we find that it all falls short if it is not based in faith. Thankfully we have a source of both wisdom and understanding. Psalm 111:10 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; All those who follow His commandments have a good understanding; His praise endures forever.”

When we search for wisdom we need to start with fear for the LORD. This does not mean we need to cower and hide when we think of God. He absolutely has the power that He could instill that type of fear but that is not who He is.  Instead it means that we need to have a respectful awe or reverence for the LORD. Although He is mighty and powerful beyond our capabilities, He is also loving and compassionate beyond our understanding. He is the God who is powerful enough to speak and create life as we know it and loving enough to send His Son to overcome death that we may live. David said that wisdom begins with this reverent fear of the LORD. When we know who we serve and the love He has for us we can truly focus on what is important. That is leading as many as possible to a relationship with God as we serve Him with our life. 

David does not stop there. He says that following the commandments of God shows “a good understanding.” We follow His commandments because we understand what has been done for us. We have a desire to serve the one that has blessed us so incredibly with hope, both now and in the life to come. We understand that we have been given a gift that we could not have possibly earned and as such we desire to show thanks in the best way we can. That is to follow His commandments. Jesus tells us that the two greatest commandments, upon which hang all the others, are to love God and love people!

David ends this verse by saying that “His (God’s) praise endures forever.” At first it may seem a simple statement of just four words. Upon further thought though we realize that this statement has long lasting reach. Also we find that His praise will endure forever. This means that even if I do not praise Him others will. It also means that His praise did not stop when David died, when Solomon died, when Job died, when the apostles died, and it will not stop when you and I die either. If His praise endures forever; this is an eternal statement with implications into the Kingdom of God! It is with great pleasure that I tell you that you can praise Him both now and FOREVER!

Those who have wisdom and have understanding will praise the LORD!

-Bill Dunn

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at SeekGrowLove.com here – Psalm 111-113 and Ezekiel 19-20

See a Victory

 

Psalm 108-110

When you think of a strong person what do you picture? Do you envision an Olympic weightlifter holding an impossibly heavy barbell over their head? Or maybe you go the route of imagining a superhero trying to hold back a speeding train.  While these examples do show strength, we need to remember that there is more to strength than flexing a muscle. More than brute strength is needed to have victory over evil.

In today’s passage, David continues to trust in God’s strength and might no matter the circumstance.  As David seems to go through a rollercoaster of emotions, he doesn’t wavier in his trust that God will be victorious at the end of the day. I love what it says in Psalm 108:12 in the Good News Translation, “Help us against the enemy; human help is worthless.”  David is gearing up for a battle and has an army by his side yet he is humble enough to recognize that compared to God’s strength, his army and any other human help is worthless.  If King David was able to humbly recognize that the only way to victory is through God, we should be able to do the same.

God promises that we will ultimately be victorious over evil if we walk in His ways and accept the gift of His Son.  Psalm 110:1 gives us a clear picture of what God has planned for the future.  This verse might seem repetitive at a glance, but as we look closer we can see that the first LORD is in all caps which means its referencing God while the second Lord that is not in all caps references the Messiah who we know as Jesus.  By placing Jesus at His right hand, God is putting His son in a position of authority until the time comes for Jesus to rule over the nations after which will come the Kingdom of God. With all the craziness going on in our world, it’s refreshing to know that God has a plan for us to have victory over evil through Him.

Today I’d like to leave you with the lyrics from a praise and worship song we like to sing at Garden Park.  Remember that no matter how dark it may seem, God has a plan and He will be victorious.

“See A Victory” by Elevation Worship

“The weapon may be formed, but it won’t prosper

When the darkness falls, it won’t prevail

‘Cause the God I serve knows only how to triumph

My God will never fail …

I’m gonna see a victory

I’m gonna see a victory

For the Battle belongs to you Lord.”

-Bill Dunn

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Ezekiel 17-18 and Psalm 108-110

Give Thanks to the LORD!

Psalm 107

“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, For His mercy is everlasting. The redeemed of the LORD shall say so…” (Psalm 107:1, 2a NASB2020)

We, the redeemed of the LORD, are to give praise to our God! This seems obvious when we think of the good things He has done for us. However, when we think of the struggles of life we tend to forget about the many blessings we have from above. It can be easy to get caught up in the stress of a job, the race of paying off debt, the chaos that is a college campus, the extra-curricular activities of high school, or even the pleasures of pet ownership. Some of these are good, some are not so good, and others depend on the day and context; but we find that anything that takes our eyes away from the LORD is a problem. The Psalmist here tells us that we need to give thanks in all situations. 

We will see that if we turn from the ways of the world and walk in the ways of God we will find peace and reason to give thanks! First, he says we are redeemed from the hands of our enemy and gathered from foreign lands. Although it is not as common now, in ancient culture it was quite common for citizens of defeated nations to be carried off and scattered to prevent the nation from rebuilding. This happened to Israel many times in the Old Testament; time and time again God promised he would gather His people and He did just exactly that. For this His people would give thanks to the LORD!

God also delivers His people from hunger, thirst, unjust imprisonment, foolishness, and even illness. This is not to say that we will always be delivered from these situations but we do find that God takes pleasure in caring for us. When we are in these scenarios we need to call to Him to deliver us and give thanks to Him for His goodness. 

There are certainly times that we can feel like we are tossed here and there as if by the waves of the sea during a storm. Your waves may come from any number of areas of life but what we hold in common in these times is that we can be found at our wits’ end as it says in the 2020 NASB. The Psalmist says that when we find ourselves here we can cry out to Him and He can cause the storm to be still and bring us to the end of our distresses. Once the wind and waves stop we must not be tempted to just think, oh the storm died down. We must acknowledge and give thanks to God for stopping the storm. 

In the last 5 verses of Psalm 107 we read of a concept that Jesus taught his disciples. Jesus said the first shall be last and the last shall be first, while here the proud will be humbled and the humble will be exalted. I find this to be encouraging because even when the world punishes us for doing what God has called us to do, we can have faith that God will raise us beyond the judgment of the world. For that we should alway give thanks to the LORD!

-Bill Dunn

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Ezekiel 15-16 and Psalm 107

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