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Day 259

God Loves Imperfect People

Wisdom Psalm 107:33-43
New Testament Galatians 2:11-3:9
Old Testament Isaiah 38:1-40:31

Introduction

I am far from perfect. I sometimes find it hard to believe that God really loves me – especially when I mess up, fail or make bad decisions.

Actually, no one is perfect – apart from Jesus. But God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son to die for us (John 3:16). Therefore, God must love imperfect people. In fact, ‘While we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8).

God knows that perfect people do not exist. We all fail. God’s love for you is bigger than your mistakes. God loves imperfect people.

Everyone knows that their marriage partner is not perfect, their children are not perfect, their parents are not perfect, and their friends are not perfect. But we love imperfect people. If we love imperfect people perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us that God loves imperfect people even more.

Wisdom

Psalm 107:33-43

33 He turned rivers into a desert,
    flowing springs into thirsty ground,
34 and fruitful land into a salt waste,
    because of the wickedness of those who lived there.
35 He turned the desert into pools of water
    and the parched ground into flowing springs;
36 there he brought the hungry to live,
    and they founded a city where they could settle.
37 They sowed fields and planted vineyards
    that yielded a fruitful harvest;
38 he blessed them, and their numbers greatly increased,
    and he did not let their herds diminish.

39 Then their numbers decreased, and they were humbled
    by oppression, calamity and sorrow;
40 he who pours contempt on nobles
    made them wander in a trackless waste.
41 But he lifted the needy out of their affliction
    and increased their families like flocks.
42 The upright see and rejoice,
    but all the wicked shut their mouths.

43 Let the one who is wise heed these things
    and consider the great love of the Lord.

Commentary

Meditate on how great God’s love is for you

Having rehearsed all the great things God has done for them, the psalmist concludes: ‘Consider the great love of the Lord’ (v.43). ‘If you are really wise, you’ll think this over – it’s time you appreciated God’s deep love’ (v.43, MSG). God has rescued his people so many times. He has answered their prayers.

God’s people were far from perfect. He responds to the failures of the people with discipline. Even here though, God’s love is in the foreground as he uses that discipline to draw them back to himself. As they return, the hardships turn to blessing. The ‘rivers’ (v.33) begin to return: ‘He turned the desert into pools of water and the parched ground into flowing springs… he blessed them, and their numbers greatly increased’ (vv.35,38).

Jesus said that the Holy Spirit within you would be like these ‘rivers of living water’ (John 7:38). Oswald Chambers writes, ‘The river of the Spirit of God overcomes all obstacles. Never focus your eyes on the obstacle or the difficulty. The obstacle will be a matter of total indifference to the river that will flow steadily through you if you will simply remember to stay focussed on the Source.’

Prayer

Lord, I meditate on your great love for me. I pray that by your Holy Spirit you will turn any deserts and dryness in my life into ‘pools of water’ and ‘flowing springs’ (Psalm 107:35).

New Testament

Galatians 2:11-3:9

Paul Opposes Cephas

11 When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

15 “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

17 “But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.

19 “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

Faith or Works of the Law

3You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? 4 Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? 5 So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? 6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

7 Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. 8 Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Commentary

Understand how personal God’s love is for you

The apostle Paul was far from perfect. In fact, he describes himself as the ‘chief’ of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15, KJV). Yet he can write, ‘I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me’ (Galatians 2:20).

This is the extent of the greatness of the love of God. The Son of God gave himself for me... and you. It is not just that God loves the whole world. He loves you. He gave himself on the cross for you and me. He died for you. If you had been the only person in the world, Jesus would have died for you. It is as personal as that.

God’s love for you is unconditional, wholehearted and continual. There is nothing you can do to make God love you more and there is nothing you can do to make God love you less.

When Paul finally understood this, it radically changed his life. His old life had come to an end. ‘I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central… The life you see me living is not “mine”’ (v.20, MSG). A new life had begun, ‘Christ lives in me’ (v.20). The Spirit of Christ had come to live in him. This new life was a life of ‘faith in the Son of God’ (v.20).

In this verse, Paul sums up the message of the gospel. It is so amazing and yet so simple. By adding to it, we only detract from it.

That is why Paul was vociferous in his defence of this gospel. That is why he had a ‘face-to-face confrontation’ with Peter (v.11, MSG). Peter himself knew the truth of this message. Yet, because of how ‘fearful he was of the conservative Jewish clique [that had] been pushing the old system of circumcision’ (v.12, MSG), he began to follow and promote the old Jewish laws and customs again (vv.12–13).

By doing this, Peter gave the impression that it was not enough to be a Christian – he was saying people must also follow Jewish customs (v.14).

But faith in Jesus Christ is all that is required. ‘We know very well that we are not set right with God by rule-keeping but only through personal faith in Jesus Christ’ (v.16, MSG).

God, in his great love, embraces all who put their faith in Christ, without distinction. You are justified by faith. This results in a totally changed life. Christ comes to live within you. You no longer live your old life, but a new one by faith in the Son of God.

You receive his Spirit (3:2). Faith and receiving the Holy Spirit is not only the way to begin the Christian life, it is the way to continue to live it out (v.3).

The Galatians clearly had an experience of the Holy Spirit, to which Paul could point: ‘Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?’ (v.2). When you put your faith in Christ, you received the Holy Spirit. ‘Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?’ (v.5).

On Alpha, I have often been asked the question, ‘What about those who lived before Jesus? What happens to them?’ This passage points to the answer.

The cross of Jesus works through all eternity. It works backwards, as well as forwards, in time. It was effective for Abraham: ‘He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness’ (v.6). ‘The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham’ (v.8). The cross was the defining event in world history to which the law and the sacrificial system pointed.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, thank you that you loved me and gave yourself for me. Help me trust in your great love for all the challenges I face today.

Old Testament

Isaiah 38:1-40:31

Hezekiah’s Illness

38In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”

2 Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, 3 “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes. ” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

4 Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: 5 “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life. 6 And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city.

7 “‘This is the Lord’s sign to you that the Lord will do what he has promised: 8 I will make the shadow cast by the sun go back the ten steps it has gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.’” So the sunlight went back the ten steps it had gone down.

9 A writing of Hezekiah king of Judah after his illness and recovery:

10 I said, “In the prime of my life
    must I go through the gates of death
    and be robbed of the rest of my years? ”
11 I said, “I will not again see the Lord himself
    in the land of the living;
no longer will I look on my fellow man,
    or be with those who now dwell in this world.
12 Like a shepherd’s tent my house
    has been pulled down and taken from me.
Like a weaver I have rolled up my life,
    and he has cut me off from the loom;
    day and night you made an end of me.
13 I waited patiently till dawn,
    but like a lion he broke all my bones;
    day and night you made an end of me.
14 I cried like a swift or thrush,
    I moaned like a mourning dove.
My eyes grew weak as I looked to the heavens.
    I am being threatened; Lord, come to my aid!”

15 But what can I say?
    He has spoken to me, and he himself has done this.
I will walk humbly all my years
    because of this anguish of my soul.
16 Lord, by such things people live;
    and my spirit finds life in them too.
You restored me to health
    and let me live.
17 Surely it was for my benefit
    that I suffered such anguish.
In your love you kept me
    from the pit of destruction;
you have put all my sins
    behind your back.
18 For the grave cannot praise you,
    death cannot sing your praise;
those who go down to the pit
    cannot hope for your faithfulness.
19 The living, the living—they praise you,
    as I am doing today;
parents tell their children
    about your faithfulness.

20 The Lord will save me,
    and we will sing with stringed instruments
all the days of our lives
    in the temple of the Lord.

21 Isaiah had said, “Prepare a poultice of figs and apply it to the boil, and he will recover.”

22 Hezekiah had asked, “What will be the sign that I will go up to the temple of the Lord?”

Envoys From Babylon

39At that time Marduk-Baladan son of Baladan king of Babylon sent Hezekiah letters and a gift, because he had heard of his illness and recovery. 2 Hezekiah received the envoys gladly and showed them what was in his storehouses—the silver, the gold, the spices, the fine olive oil—his entire armory and everything found among his treasures. There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them.

3 Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah and asked, “What did those men say, and where did they come from?”

“From a distant land, ” Hezekiah replied. “They came to me from Babylon.”

4 The prophet asked, “What did they see in your palace?”

“They saw everything in my palace,” Hezekiah said. “There is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them.”

5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord Almighty: 6 The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the Lord. 7 And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon. ”

8 “The word of the Lord you have spoken is good, ” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my lifetime. ”

Comfort for God’s People

40Comfort, comfort my people,
    says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
    and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
    that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
    double for all her sins.

3 A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
    the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
    a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be raised up,
    every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
    the rugged places a plain.
5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
    and all people will see it together.
        For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

6 A voice says, “Cry out.”
    And I said, “What shall I cry?”

“All people are like grass,
    and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
7 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    but the word of our God endures forever. ”

9 You who bring good news to Zion,
    go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,
    lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
    say to the towns of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
10 See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
    and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
    and his recompense accompanies him.
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
    He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
    he gently leads those that have young.

12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,
    or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?
Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,
    or weighed the mountains on the scales
    and the hills in a balance?
13 Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord,
    or instruct the Lord as his counselor?
14 Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him,
    and who taught him the right way?
Who was it that taught him knowledge,
    or showed him the path of understanding?

15 Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket;
    they are regarded as dust on the scales;
    he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.
16 Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires,
    nor its animals enough for burnt offerings.
17 Before him all the nations are as nothing;
    they are regarded by him as worthless
    and less than nothing.

18 With whom, then, will you compare God?
    To what image will you liken him?
19 As for an idol, a metalworker casts it,
    and a goldsmith overlays it with gold
    and fashions silver chains for it.
20 A person too poor to present such an offering
    selects wood that will not rot;
they look for a skilled worker
    to set up an idol that will not topple.

21 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
    Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
    and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
    and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
23 He brings princes to naught
    and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.
24 No sooner are they planted,
    no sooner are they sown,
    no sooner do they take root in the ground,
than he blows on them and they wither,
    and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.

25 “To whom will you compare me?
    Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
    Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
    and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
    not one of them is missing.

27 Why do you complain, Jacob?
    Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
    my cause is disregarded by my God”?
28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Commentary

Know how lasting God’s love is for you

God’s love for you is everlasting. It will not let you go: ‘In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back’ (38:17), wrote Hezekiah. God heard his prayer and saw his tears. He added fifteen years to his life and delivered him from the hand of the king of Assyria (vv.5–6).

The second part of Isaiah begins with the words that are quoted later by John the Baptist (40:3). The message of Isaiah 40–55 is this: ‘The exile will be over soon.’ When Jesus came, he was proclaiming the real end of exile. In these chapters, we get a foretaste as Isaiah proclaims the end of the physical exile Israel experienced in the sixth century BC.

Isaiah foresaw a new sense of the presence of God (40:3–5), a new confidence in the word of God (vv.6–8) and a new vision of God (v.9 onwards).

He saw the great love of God, and he wrote, ‘He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young’ (v.11; see also John 10).

No one can compare to God in terms of greatness. He is the Creator of the universe (Isaiah 40:12–14). Compared to him ‘the nations are like a drop in a bucket’ (v.15). It is absurd to compare God to an idol that is made by a craftsman (vv.18–20).

Compared to God, the people of this world, even its great leaders, are ‘like grasshoppers’ (v.22). He is the Creator of the entire universe, including the billions upon billions of stars (v.26). This is the God who loves you personally and carries you close to his heart. God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.

God is also a power-sharing God. He ‘energises those who get tired… those who wait upon God get fresh strength’ (vv.29–31, MSG). Quietly wait on God, study his word, pray, worship and meditate on his love for you. He will restore you, re-energise you and empower you to face everything you need to do.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for the greatness of your love. You are the Creator of this vast universe. You are all-powerful. Yet you love me, take me in your arms and hold me close to your heart. Please renew my strength as I wait on you.

Pippa adds

Isaiah 40:28

‘The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.’

The same God who created this entire universe cares for us: ‘He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart’ (v.11) as it says in verse 11. Our magnificent, all-powerful God is also a tender God.

Verse of the Day

Galatians 2:20

‘… the Son of God… loved me and gave himself for me’
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References

The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers. Used by permission.

Ben Cantelon, 'Love Came Down', Everything in Colour (Kingsway Music, 2012).

Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, ‘March 19’ (Discovery Books, 1992).

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 marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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