My father wanted to go to Russia before he died. We went there on holiday as a family. At that time Bibles were strictly illegal there. I took with me some Russian Bibles. While I was there I went to churches and looked for people who seemed to be genuine Christians. (Church meetings were often infiltrated by the KGB.)
On one occasion, I followed a man down the street after a service. I went up to him and tapped him on the shoulder. There was nobody about. I took out one of my Bibles and handed it to him. For a moment, he had an expression of utmost disbelief. Then he took from his pocket a New Testament, which was probably 100 years old. The pages were so threadbare they were virtually transparent. When he realised that he had received a whole Bible, he was elated. He didn’t speak any English and I didn’t speak any Russian. But we hugged each other and he started to run up and down the street jumping for joy.
The words of God are ‘more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb’ (Psalm 19:10).
Why are the words of God so precious? Jesus said: ‘People do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4). The original expression means ‘is continually coming out of the mouth of God’; it is like a stream pouring forth and, like the stream of a fountain, it is never static. God is continually communicating with us. He does so, primarily, through the life-changing words of the Bible.
Let the words of God transform youPsalm 19:7-14
We all need the transforming power of God’s word in so many ways. Whether you are seeking wisdom in stressful and complex situations, encouragement when you are downhearted, or guidance on the way forward, you can find help in the pages of the Bible.
David did not have nearly as much of the Bible as you have. But he did have ‘the law’, ‘the statutes’, ‘the precepts’ and ‘the ordinances’ of the Lord (vv.7a-9b).
He describes these words as being ‘perfect’ (v.7a), ‘pure’ (v.9a) and ‘precious’ (v.10a).
In this psalm, we see some of the life-changing effects of reading the Bible. It:
Revives your soul (v.7a)
Brings you wisdom (v.7b)
Gives joy to your heart (v.8a)
Gives light to your eyes (v.8b)
Warns you of danger (v.11a)
Brings you great reward (v.11b).
Reading the Bible and praying are very closely associated. Don’t simply read the Bible for information, but to hear God speaking to you. The natural response to that is prayer. It is a two-way process. That is why we finish each section of this Bible in One Year commentary with a prayer, responding to what God has shown us through his word. David goes straight from extolling the virtues of the word of God into a wonderful prayer. David’s prayer is my prayer (vv.12–14):
Lord, ‘forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from wilful sins; may they not rule over me… May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer’.
Be guided by the words of GodMatthew 26:47-68
Jesus clearly studied the Scriptures very carefully. His whole life was shaped by what he read. It was from his reading of the Scriptures that he understood what was happening to him when he was arrested. His companions try to resist but Jesus says, ‘… how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?’ (v.54). He explains to the crowd that, ‘… this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled’ (v.56).
It was the Scriptures that gave him the ability to deal with disloyalty, abandonment and false accusation. He set an example of how you can deal with these things in your own life:
Judas appears to be expressing his love for Jesus with a kiss, when actually he is betraying him: ‘The betrayer... embraced him and kissed him with [pretended] warmth and devotion’ (vv.48–49, AMP). It was the ultimate two-faced act.
Jesus knew exactly what Judas was doing. Nevertheless, he calls him ‘friend’ (v.50). However disloyal we are, Jesus remains loyal to us.
All his friends ‘deserted him and fled’ (v.56b). In the moments of triumph – when people get engaged, have a baby or do well in their exams – it is natural to want to make contact and be around them. When people are down, it is much harder to know what to say and the temptation is, in effect, to abandon them.
It is said, ‘When you are up in life, your friends get to know who you are. When you are down in life, you get to know who your friends are!’
Have you ever been falsely accused? It is a horrible experience. Jesus faced the terrible injustice of false witnesses testifying against him in order that they might put him to death (v.59).
He exercised extraordinary restraint. He did not answer back (v.63), but he allowed himself to be attacked physically (v.67), and he chose not to win the argument but rather to win the war (something for small group hosts on Alpha to remember!). He understood from the Scriptures that all of this had a purpose and would lead, ultimately, to a great victory.
Jesus’ understanding of his own identity and of his mission clearly came from his reading of the word of God. At his trial before the Sanhedrin, where Jesus appears to be a helpless victim, he is actually progressively revealed as the builder of a new temple (v.61), the Messiah (v.63), the Son of God (v.63) and the Son of Man who was to be enthroned at God’s right hand (v.64). In reality, the helpless victim is the one with all the authority and power.
The reference to being the ‘Son of Man’ is a quotation from Daniel 7:13. Jesus understood this as a messianic promise about himself, pointing to his coming suffering, his vindication and his God-given authority.
The irony is that it is the judges who are actually the ones on trial. Like them, we all have to decide what we think about Jesus (Matthew 26:66).
Lord, help me to follow the example of Jesus, studying the Scriptures and applying them to my own life.
Obey the words of GodExodus 6:13-8:32
Moses and Aaron listened to God’s words and did exactly what God commanded them to do (Exodus 7:6). They obeyed the word of God. On the other hand, in stark contrast, Pharaoh constantly refused to obey. He stubbornly disobeyed the word of God.
At this stage in history, Moses may not have had any written words from God. But the Lord spoke to Moses. He heard the word of God over and over again (6:13,28; 7:1,14,19; 8:5,16,20, and so on) and did what God commanded. The heart of God’s word was, ‘Let my people go, so that they may worship me’ (for example 7:16; 8:1; 9:1,13; 10:3).
We should not be surprised that the magicians and sorcerers ‘by their enchantments and secret arts’ (7:11, AMP) were able to perform some of the same miracles as Moses (7:22; 8:7). The devil is an imitator. He is able to perform destructive signs and even some that might appear constructive. His aim is always to deceive.
Today, God often works through the gifts of the Spirit, such as prophecy, healing, speaking in tongues and words of knowledge. The fact that the devil may attempt to imitate such gifts through telepathy, spiritualised ‘healing’ or even speaking in tongues, does not mean that you should avoid such things – but rather be discerning about them.
Look to the fruit. The Egyptian magicians imitated Moses’ miracles ‘by their secret arts’. The effect of these magicians was not neutral. They were evil and had the effect of hardening ‘Pharaoh’s heart’ against God (7:22).
It is clear that Pharaoh hardened his own heart against God, ‘He hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron’ (8:15; see also v.32). At the same time, he reaped what he had sown. God hardened his heart (7:3). The two are complementary. God’s hardening of the heart follows Pharaoh’s own hardening.
God gives people so many opportunities. Through Moses, God repeatedly spoke to Pharaoh. Pharaoh had plenty of opportunity to respond and ultimately, he refused to do so. Moses, on the other hand, walked in a very close relationship with God; praying to him often (8:12,30) and listening to his words.
Lord, thank you that in obeying your words there is great reward. Help me today not only to listen to your life-changing words but also to put them into practice.
It is encouraging to know that Jesus had ‘more than twelve legions of angels’ at his disposal. Even if he didn’t call on them at that time, hopefully they are being sent out all over the world to help us now!
Verse of the Day
‘May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer’ (Psalm 19:14).
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)