When God Sent a Famine

NOTE: Sorry that some of you received the draft of this email yesterday. Oops!


What happens when God brings a famine of His word? Take some time to meditate upon the following passages that contrast the attitude of Israel toward God’s word before and after their captivity.

Their attitudes toward God’s word BEFORE captivity:

The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, until there was no remedy.
(2 Chronicles 36:15-16)

Their descendants’ attitudes toward God’s word AFTER captivity:

Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the LORD the great God. And all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, explained the law to the people while the people remained in their place. They read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading. Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” All the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them.
(Nehemiah 8:5-12)

What happened in between? God brought a famine!

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the LORD. “People will stagger from sea to sea and from the north even to the east; they will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, but they will not find it. “In that day the beautiful virgins and the young men will faint from thirst.
(Amos 8:11-13)

It’s the old “Don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone” teaching. God basically told them, since you don’t want My Word, I’ll take it away from you. This was a hard lesson, but Israel needed to learn it.

Here are a few final passages about hunger for God’s word:

  • I opened my mouth wide and panted, for I longed for Your commandments (Psalms 119:131, also vs. 20,40,162,174,).
  • “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6).
  • I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food (Job 23:12).
  • Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious (1 Peter 2:1-3).

God’s Word Can Make You Wiser

O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever mine. I have more insight than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, because I have observed Your precepts.
(Psalms 119:97-100)

What power did the word of God have upon David? According to these verses, God’s word:

  • Made David wiser than his enemies.
  • Gave him more insight than all his teachers.
  • He was able to understand more than the aged.

I do not believe David was being arrogant and cocky when he said this. You can say these words out of a prideful heart thinking you are the cat’s meow of Christianity. And if we have that attitude, God will have to teach us some very difficult lessons in humility (Phil. 3:15)!

What I believe David is saying is that because of God’s word he was able to deal effectively with his enemies. We all have enemies, whether or not we follow God’s word. But when we listen carefully to the instruction of Scripture, we have an understanding and perspective that is foreign to the people of the world. It will truly stand out and shine.

God’s word did not make David the “smartest man on campus.” He was not more intelligent than his teachers. David wasn’t the man with his hand always up because he knew all the answers. This didn’t mean that David was condescending to his teachers and argued constantly with them because he knew better. You can look to Jesus at 12 years old as an example (see Luke 2). The teachers of the Word in the temple were just amazed at his understanding and answers. That is the power of the Word in a person’s heart. There is such growth and insight that comes from it.

Finally, the word of God made an old man out of David real quick. The Bible and its wisdom will make a young man or woman sound like they are decades older. Why? That’s the power of the Holy Spirit producing His wisdom within you through the word. How often do you see that young man or young woman at church who simply blows you away with their understanding? They may be 10, but they sound like they’re 40!

God’s word is just awesome and powerful, isn’t it?

Trust the Line

Last Friday, Shane Blackmer wrote about our need to “Hold the Line.” Today I want to write just about about the “line” itself.

My son, Joseph, and a friend, Noah, were working last week to put gutters on our garage. This garage is older, it wasn’t built properly, and clearly has some foundation issues; because of this the roof sags.

When Joseph and Noah snapped a chalk line across the fascia board, an optical illusion occurred. If you looked straight at the garage, the line looked like a frown, it looked much higher in the middle and lower on the ends. But the line wasn’t the problem. If you went over to the edge of the roof and looked down the fascia board you could clearly see that the line was straight as an arrow.

The line wasn’t the problem, it was the building.

I believe there is a lesson in that! We may have built our lives on the wrong foundation, or we may not have taken the care to upkeep ourselves spiritually. As a result, lives become crooked and sag, just like that garage. In fact we may become so crooked that we begin to think the line (God’s word and standard of authority) is the problem.

Trust the line. There is nothing wrong with the line. God’s word is straight; we are the ones who need correcting.

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways (Psalms 119:15, ESV).

“Fix your eyes” on the line. Use the line to help point out what needs to be corrected in your life. His commandments are true (Psalm 119:142,151), sure (Psalm 119:86) and they are right (Psalm 119:128,172).

The Word of the Lord Endures Forever

Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because “All flesh is as grace, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grace. The grace withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you (1 Peter 1:22-25).

Look at the above passage and see what God’s word says about itself. It is incorruptible. The word has power to transform someone so that because of the word a person is “born again.” God’s word “lives.” The word abides forever. Everything else on earth perishes, but God’s word endures forever. This word includes the gospel which saves men’s souls.

This is only one of many places in the Bible where such claims are made. The Psalmist wrote, “Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven” (Psalms 119:89). Jesus Himself claimed, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

The apostle Peter, as he knew his time was short on earth, promised to the brethren that they would always have access to these words which came from God. Read 2 Peter 1:12-21. Atheists, skeptics, and even some claiming to follow Jesus will claim that things have been lost over the years. They claim we cannot have any assurance that the Bible we have now is what they were given then.

A claim is not true just because someone makes it. A claim must be tested. So, test the claims of the Scripture. The truth never suffers from investigation.

The Word of the Lord Endures Forever

We just finished a meeting last week with Dr. H.E. Payne, Jr. (most know him as Buddy Payne). He is the President of Florida College. Among his other lectures on microscopic and macroscopic evidence for intelligent design, Dr. Payne also presented two lessons on “Can We Trust Our English Versions of the Bible?” I encourage you to listen to these two lectures. The overwhelming answer at the end of part 2 is “YES!!”

Can We Trust Our English Versions of the Bible? Part 1

Can We Trust Our English Versions of the Bible? Part 2

Do all that is in your heart

Listen to your heart. Follow your heart. That is the advice that is often given to people in a number of different avenues of life. Do all that is in your heart.

In some areas, everyone would agree that this bad advice. For example, if your friend comes up to you and says, “I am thinking about robbing a bank,” you wouldn’t respond with, “Listen to your heart and follow it.”

But what about when someone seeks to do what is clearly in our minds a “good work” for God? Would we see a problem with giving the advice, “Do all that is in your heart”?

Read the following interaction between King David, Nathan the prophet, and the Lord.

Now when David lived in his house, David said to Nathan the prophet, “Behold, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under a tent.” And Nathan said to David, “Do all that is in your heart, for God is with you.” But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: It is not you who will build me a house to dwell in'” (1 Chronicles 17:1-4).

Put yourself in Nathan’s sandals for a moment. Here is the man after God’s own heart, King David, and what does he desire to do? What is in David’s heart? He wants to build a temple for God! David is humbled by God’s blessings. He is observant and sees how he is living in a palace, while the ark of the covenant is still housed in the tabernacle (movable tent).

For me, I can see how Nathan quickly responded the way he did. Sure, David, go for it! God is with you! Do all that is in your heart! Who wouldn’t want to be a cheerleader for David in such a situation? Isn’t this a good work for God?

Do all that is in your heart

The problem with that is this: Nathan didn’t ask God first. Nathan gave the religious green light to David, but God came to Nathan and told him to go back to the king. Nathan gave approval for David building the temple, when God didn’t want David to build the temple. Solomon, David’s son, was going to build this sacred house for the Lord.

Here is a quote from a dear sister in our congregation as we were studying this text on Wednesday night in Bible class.

“Before we follow our heart, we should go to God and make sure we are following His heart.” Amen, Linda.

Let God and His word, not our hearts, define what a good work is. The heart is deceitful, Jeremiah wrote (Jeremiah 17:9-10), especially when we are considering how to live for, serve and worship God. Our intentions, like David’s, may be pure and noble. God honored and richly blessed David for having this in his heart. However, for David to be pleasing to God, he had to follow God’s voice and allow Solomon to build this temple.

Let us “do all” that is in God’s heart, not ours.

God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 5

We wrap up our look into Psalm 19:7-11 this week, “God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 5.” Friday’s theme for our blog is “the church family.” Let’s consider this passage in light of that theme today.

On Monday, we saw that the word of God has many aspects to it (law, decisions, witness, etc.), and all are valuable and profitable to us. Tuesday we looked at how David loved and cherished God’s words. Wednesday’s focus was on what the word of God is (perfect, sure, right, etc.). On Thursday we considered what the word of God does (restores the soul, rejoices the heart, enlightens the eyes, etc.).

Today we should simply consider the question: What is my response to God’s word?

GOD’S WORD: ITS VALUE AND POWER, PART 5

Fifth observation – Our response to His word.

Verse 11 says, “In keeping them there is great reward.” All of these wonderful benefits come when I commit to living out what God asked me to do. The value and reward is realized not in merely reading and reciting God’s word, but in keeping it.

Take a look at the rest of Psalm 19:

Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer (Psalms 19:11-14).

David’s heart is exposed here as he fully opens his heart to the Lord and His word. He is vulnerable, transparent and accountable to God, asking God to expose his sins. David wants the Lord and His word, not his sins to rule over him. He wants to be blameless and innocent before God. His prayer is that his words and even his deepest thoughts will be acceptable in God’s sight. That is the heart of David. This is why he was called a man after God’s own heart.

Finally, to be the men today God called us to be, we must have that very same mindset toward the Word. Keep it in our homes. Follow it at work. Seek to influence and encourage our church family that they also do the same.

“In keeping them there is great reward.”

God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 4

We continue our look into Psalm 19:7-11 this week, “God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 4.” Thursday’s theme for our blog is living as lights in a dark world. Let’s consider this passage in light of that theme today.

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward (Psalms 19:7-11).

God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 4

Fourth observation – What the word of God does…

  • Converting (restoring) the soul – God’s law turns the wayward soul back to Him. The Lord is our shepherd, and “He restores” our soul (Psalm 23:3). Because the Law of the Lord is perfect, only it has that power to transform the sinner to a saint.
  • Making wise the simple (naive, gullible) – Being naive and gullible is not a good place to stay (Proverbs 1:22; 7:7; 9:4-6). God wants His people to grow up and learn to discern good from evil (Ephesians 4:14-15). He wants us to be able to sort out the true from the false. That happens when we “exercise our senses” in using God’s word (Hebrews 5:11-14).
  • Rejoicing the heart – God’s statutes (precepts) lead to true joy. There is a “passing pleasure” in sin (Hebrews 11:25), but it fades quickly into darkness, pain, slavery and consequences. Doing “right” produces real happiness, freedom and fulfillment.
  • Enlightening the eyes – The word of God turns the light on for us. Our hearts were darkened, and so was our understanding. God’s commands shine the light both in our hearts and on our pathway in life. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).
  • By them Your servant is warned – If I am about to drive off a cliff, I really want someone to let me know BEFORE it happens! The same goes for the Scriptures; it helps put guardrails on the road. God loves us enough to put lots of big yellow caution signs and “Wrong Way” signs in His word. Being warned of danger is a blessing.
  • In keeping them there is great reward – Both in this life and in eternity (Luke 18:29-30), God pours out His blessings on His people when they follow His word (Proverbs 3:16-18). There are rewards in the things we avoid because we follow God’s will. We also have rewards in what comes exclusively to His people because we walk in His word (Galatians 6:7-9).

“The unfolding (entrance) of Your words brings light; it gives understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130).

God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 3

We continue our look into Psalm 19:7-11 this week, “God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 3.” Wednesday’s theme for our blog is training the children in our lives. Let’s consider this passage in light of that theme today.

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward (Psalms 19:7-11).

GOD’S WORD: ITS VALUE AND POWER, PART 3

Third observation – What the word of God is…

  • Perfect. This word also means blameless, complete, entire, and without defect. God’s law is just like that. There’s not a blemish on it…its perfect.
  • Sure. God’s testimony is established and firm. There are no uncertainties in God’s witness and promises revealed in Scripture. You can count on it. If God tells an old man with no kids that his descendants will be like the stars and sand, trust it. It happened to Abraham just like God promised.
  • Right. God is not fickle; He does not just abritarily come up with things. His statutes (precepts) are not made up on a whim. They are right.
  • Pure. There is no corruption in God’s commands. When humans make up laws, we often have politics and money behind our agendas, but not God. His commandments are pure.
  • Clean, enduring forever. Not defiled. This word clean is used repeatedly throughout the Old Testament in reference to being ceremonially clean versus being unclean. The “fear of the Lord,” which in this context is tied to the word of God, is clean. God’s words are “pure words” (Psalm 12:6). Through God’s word we can discern the difference between what is clean and what is unclean. By God’s word we are cleansed (John 17:17; 1 Peter 1:22). David says this “fear of the Lord,” endures forever. God’s word is not going anywhere (1 Peter 1:23-25).
  • True and righteous altogether. God’s judgments (verdicts, sentences, decisions) are true and righteous altogether. This is so important in our faith. Begin with the understanding when studying the word that God is right. His decisions are right. “Let God be true and every man a liar” (Romans 3:4). It is freedom, not slavery, to let God sit on His divine throne. When I stop trying to run the universe in my mind and settle myself into trusting God first, then I will begin to understand His word.
  • Sweeter than honey. Honey is incredibly sweet, but God’s word is sweeter. Question: When do we value it as sweet? Only when we agree with it? Only when it makes sense? John and Ezekiel both ate the scroll God gave them. It tasted sweet, but went down bitter. Sometimes God’s word has difficult and hard things, but His word is still the sweetest thing known to man. Is God’s word sweet to us?
  • More precious than gold. The value of God’s word exceeds the value of anything we consider precious on this earth. Its value is not given by men. Gold’s value goes up and down based on the market, but God’s word never changes in value. The Bible was made by God so it is inherently valuable. No church, scholar, ruler or any human being can give or take away its value.

Fathers, as we use this understanding to teach our kids, let us first model it in our lives. God’s word is right, and sure and true. It is awesome! May our children see that the Bible is sweet and valuable to us. When we reason with them, we begin with the understanding that God is right, and we trust His decisions.

Finally, I believe it would be helpful to look at the above list on what God’s word is and connect it to Philippians 4:8. Paul tells us to meditate on things that are true, right and pure, and that is exactly what David said God’s word is. Meditate (dwell, think) on these things!

God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 2

We continue our look into Psalm 19:7-11 this week, “God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 2.”

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward (Psalms 19:7-11).

God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 2

Second observation – David is writing a love song to the word of God. He does that more than once, the most prominent example is Psalm 119, a very long love song to God’s word! David was in love with the word of God; he cherished it and saw its value. He saw God’s word as sweeter than the sweetest things (honey) and more precious than the most valuable things (gold). In God’s word, he saw the blessings of God’s warnings. He didn’t view God’s warnings as oppressive and authoritarian, but as God loving him enough to keep him safe and on the right pathway.

What I find amazing is David had far less of God’s Word than we do today. We have 66 books, we have the complete set. David had at least the first 5 books, the books of Moses. He had some of the Psalms, but they weren’t all written yet. I believe he had Joshua, Judges, Ruth, and Job, also. But even then, that’s not 10 complete books.

Just think about it. David is writing a love song to God’s law and his statutes and commands. Many of those are contained in books like Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. Can you imagine writing a love song to Leviticus or Numbers? Most folks fall asleep reading them. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard someone say Leviticus was their favorite book. When someone commits to reading through the Bible, they often stall somewhere in Leviticus or Numbers.  What many find difficult, boring and maybe even unnecessary, David found beautiful and full of praise because it came from God.

Today is Tuesday, and our theme for Tuesdays on the MDB is honoring the women in our lives. Take a moment to consider how being deeply in love with the word of God, all of the word of God, will help you as a husband. How will that benefit our wives when our first love as husbands is God and His word?

O, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day (Psalm 119:97).

God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 1

This week, we are going to meditate upon Psalm 19:7-11 and make 5 observations from it, one for each day. Today is “God’s Word: Its Value and Power, Part 1.” Read the following passage slowly and carefully.

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward (Psalms 19:7-11).

God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 1

First observation – God’s word is called by several names here: law, testimony, statutes or precepts, commandment, judgments, etc. It is very helpful to think about how each of these words gives you a different aspect of God’s word.

  • God’s testimony – The word of God contains God’s witness to man, and it is sure.
  • His commandments – The word of God contains what God expects of us, and it is pure.
  • God’s judgments – The word of God contains His decisions (verdicts, sentences), and they are true and righteous altogether.

Scripture contains various types of writing styles and forms of literature (law, history, poetry, prophecy, apocalyptic writing). All of it is breathed by God, and all of it has a purpose in God revealing His mind to man (2 Timothy 3:15-17). Every bit of it is valuable to us and beneficial to growing our relationship with Him.

There are four separate accounts of the life of Jesus, coming from different backgrounds, styles and perspectives. Each account focuses on various themes and aspects of Jesus’ life and ministry. God must have seen the value in four instead of one.

Even the book of Revelation is to be read, understood and obeyed (Revelation 1:3).

It all matters…every word of God. Every book of the Bible has value and purpose. All the writing styles in Scripture are God-given and have a reason and a benefit for us. Cherish today the wisdom of God in how He wrote the Bible for us. There is no other book like it!

“The sum of your word is truth” (Psalm 119:160).

“Every word of God proves true” (Proverbs 30:5).