Day 261

God is Nice and He Likes You

Wisdom Psalm 108:1-5
New Testament Galatians 3:26-4:20
Old Testament Isaiah 43:1-44:23

Introduction

‘This seemingly insubstantial fact revolutionised my life,’ wrote Adrian Plass, author of The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass Aged 37¾. He continued, ‘I became a Christian when I was sixteen years old, but it wasn’t until I was thirty-seven that I absorbed an essential truth. God is nice and he likes me.’

Sadly, deep down many people think that God is not that nice, he does not like us very much and he spends most of his time being cross with us. This could not be further from the truth.

In the passages for today, we see how much more than just ‘nice’ God is – his goodness, amazing love and faithfulness. We also see that not only does he ‘like’ you, he loves you – you are his ‘precious and honoured’ child (Isaiah 43:4).

Wisdom

Psalm 108:1-5

Psalm 108

A song. A psalm of David.

1 My heart, O God, is steadfast;
    I will sing and make music with all my soul.
2 Awake, harp and lyre!
    I will awaken the dawn.
3 I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
    I will sing of you among the peoples.
4 For great is your love, higher than the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
    let your glory be over all the earth.

Commentary

Higher than the created universe

Scientists today are discovering more of the vastness of our universe – how high the heavens are.

Yet, God’s love for you is so great. It is higher than the heavens. His ‘faithfulness reaches to the skies’ (v.4). ‘The deeper your love, the higher it goes’ (v.4, MSG).

David worships God with music and singing early in the morning: ‘I will awaken the dawn’ (v.2b). Focus your worship today on God’s love and faithfulness.

Prayer

Lord, thank you that your love for me is higher than the heavens. Thank you that your faithfulness reaches to the skies. ‘Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth’ (v.5).

New Testament

Galatians 3:26-4:20

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

4What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. 2 The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. 3 So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. 4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

Paul’s Concern for the Galatians

8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you know God—or rather are known by God —how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? 10 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! 11 I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.

12 I plead with you, brothers and sisters, become like me, for I became like you. You did me no wrong. 13 As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you, 14 and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. 15 Where, then, is your blessing of me now? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?

17 Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may have zeal for them. 18 It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always, not just when I am with you. 19 My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, 20 how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!

Commentary

Greater than any human love

Imagine the greatest human love in the world – for some people it might be the love a parent has for their child. Yet, God’s love for you is even greater.

When you put your faith in Jesus, you also became a child of God: ‘You are all children of God through faith in Jesus Christ’ (3:26). We were baptised into Christ. You have clothed yourself with Christ (v.27). This is how close your relationship with Jesus has become.

In Christ, no distinction of race, rank or gender exists: ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ (v.28). We are ‘all equal... all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ’ (v.28, MSG).

There is no excuse for discrimination, prejudice or hatred. Paul does not say that differences do not exist; rather, he says these differences simply do not matter.

You belong to Christ, you are an heir to all the amazing promises that God made to Abraham (v.29). You have now inherited ‘the whole estate’ (4:1).

Paul uses an analogy from Roman law. In ancient Rome, until the age of fourteen, an heir was under the control of a tutor who had been nominated by his father. Until this age a child was treated in the same way as a slave. Usually, the heir became a free agent at the age of fourteen. Paul explains that while the people of God were under the Mosaic law, it was much like being under a tutor. They were under a form of slavery (v.3).

But now, Jesus Christ has set you free: ‘Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance’ (vv.5–7, MSG).

How amazing it is to have the full rights of a child of God and that God sent the Spirit of Jesus to live in you. As a result, you can address God in the same intimate way that Jesus addressed him.

Paul continued to warn the Galatians against slipping backwards, as if they were still under the law. Before, they ‘did not know God’ (v.8). Now, they do know him – or rather they ‘are known by God’ (v.9). It is even more important to be known by God than to know him. But, of course, living in a relationship with God means that both are true.

He urged them not to go back to a kind of legalism (vv.10–11). False teachers were trying to lead them astray.

Paul pleaded with them. He reminded them of their love for him when he first preached the gospel to them. They welcomed him as if he was Jesus Christ himself (v.14). When he came to them he was ill. It may have been an eye condition, because he said, ‘You would have torn out your eyes and given them to me’ (v.15). That is how much they loved him.

Now the false teachers were trying to alienate them from him (v.17), but Paul’s love for them remained constant: ‘Do you know how I feel right now, and will feel until Christ’s life becomes visible in your lives? Like a mother in the pain of childbirth’ (v.19, MSG).

When you know God’s love for you – even greater than that of a parent for their child – and his Spirit comes to live within you, he gives you a love for others. This too is like a loving parent for a child. It was this kind of love that Paul had for the Galatians.

Sometimes not getting what you want can be the best thing that can happen. Paul felt frustrated at not being able to be with and speak face-to-face with those he loved. He did not want to be ‘reduced to this blunt, letter-writing language’ (v.20, MSG). If Paul had had his way, the letter to the Galatians would never have been written. As it was, he was forced to do something he did not want to do and countless millions of lives have been changed and blessed as a result.

Prayer

Lord, thank you that you have poured your love into my heart by the Holy Spirit. Help me, like Paul, to love others in this same way, to care passionately, even if it involves ‘the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in [them]’ (v.19).

Old Testament

Isaiah 43:1-44:23

Israel’s Only Savior

43But now, this is what the Lord says—
    he who created you, Jacob,
    he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
    Cush and Seba in your stead.
4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
    and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
    nations in exchange for your life.
5 Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
    I will bring your children from the east
    and gather you from the west.
6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
    and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from afar
    and my daughters from the ends of the earth —
7 everyone who is called by my name,
    whom I created for my glory,
    whom I formed and made. ”

8 Lead out those who have eyes but are blind,
    who have ears but are deaf.
9 All the nations gather together
    and the peoples assemble.
Which of their gods foretold this
    and proclaimed to us the former things?
Let them bring in their witnesses to prove they were right,
    so that others may hear and say, “It is true.”
10 “You are my witnesses, ” declares the Lord,
    “and my servant whom I have chosen,
so that you may know and believe me
    and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
    nor will there be one after me.
11 I, even I, am the Lord,
    and apart from me there is no savior.
12 I have revealed and saved and proclaimed—
    I, and not some foreign god among you.
You are my witnesses, ” declares the Lord, “that I am God.
    13 Yes, and from ancient days I am he.
No one can deliver out of my hand.
    When I act, who can reverse it?”

God’s Mercy and Israel’s Unfaithfulness

14 This is what the Lord says—
    your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“For your sake I will send to Babylon
    and bring down as fugitives all the Babylonians,
    in the ships in which they took pride.
15 I am the Lord, your Holy One,
    Israel’s Creator, your King. ”

16 This is what the Lord says—
    he who made a way through the sea,
    a path through the mighty waters,
17 who drew out the chariots and horses,
    the army and reinforcements together,
and they lay there, never to rise again,
    extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:
18 “Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.
20 The wild animals honor me,
    the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
    21 the people I formed for myself
    that they may proclaim my praise.

22 “Yet you have not called on me, Jacob,
    you have not wearied yourselves for me, Israel.
23 You have not brought me sheep for burnt offerings,
    nor honored me with your sacrifices.
I have not burdened you with grain offerings
    nor wearied you with demands for incense.
24 You have not bought any fragrant calamus for me,
    or lavished on me the fat of your sacrifices.
But you have burdened me with your sins
    and wearied me with your offenses.

25 “I, even I, am he who blots out
    your transgressions, for my own sake,
    and remembers your sins no more.
26 Review the past for me,
    let us argue the matter together;
    state the case for your innocence.
27 Your first father sinned;
    those I sent to teach you rebelled against me.
28 So I disgraced the dignitaries of your temple;
    I consigned Jacob to destruction
    and Israel to scorn.

Israel the Chosen

44“But now listen, Jacob, my servant,
    Israel, whom I have chosen.
2 This is what the Lord says—
    he who made you, who formed you in the womb,
    and who will help you:
Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant,
    Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.
3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
    and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
    and my blessing on your descendants.
4 They will spring up like grass in a meadow,
    like poplar trees by flowing streams.
5 Some will say, ‘I belong to the Lord’;
    others will call themselves by the name of Jacob;
still others will write on their hand, ‘The Lord’s,’
    and will take the name Israel.

The Lord, Not Idols

6 “This is what the Lord says—
    Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty:
I am the first and I am the last;
    apart from me there is no God.
7 Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it.
    Let him declare and lay out before me
what has happened since I established my ancient people,
    and what is yet to come—
    yes, let them foretell what will come.
8 Do not tremble, do not be afraid.
    Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago?
You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me?
    No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.”

9 All who make idols are nothing,
    and the things they treasure are worthless.
Those who would speak up for them are blind;
    they are ignorant, to their own shame.
10 Who shapes a god and casts an idol,
    which can profit nothing?
11 People who do that will be put to shame;
    such craftsmen are only human beings.
Let them all come together and take their stand;
    they will be brought down to terror and shame.

12 The blacksmith takes a tool
    and works with it in the coals;
he shapes an idol with hammers,
    he forges it with the might of his arm.
He gets hungry and loses his strength;
    he drinks no water and grows faint.
13 The carpenter measures with a line
    and makes an outline with a marker;
he roughs it out with chisels
    and marks it with compasses.
He shapes it in human form,
    human form in all its glory,
    that it may dwell in a shrine.
14 He cut down cedars,
    or perhaps took a cypress or oak.
He let it grow among the trees of the forest,
    or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow.
15 It is used as fuel for burning;
    some of it he takes and warms himself,
    he kindles a fire and bakes bread.
But he also fashions a god and worships it;
    he makes an idol and bows down to it.
16 Half of the wood he burns in the fire;
    over it he prepares his meal,
    he roasts his meat and eats his fill.
He also warms himself and says,
    “Ah! I am warm; I see the fire. ”
17 From the rest he makes a god, his idol;
    he bows down to it and worships.
He prays to it and says,
    “Save me! You are my god!”
18 They know nothing, they understand nothing;
    their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see,
    and their minds closed so they cannot understand.
19 No one stops to think,
    no one has the knowledge or understanding to say,
“Half of it I used for fuel;
    I even baked bread over its coals,
    I roasted meat and I ate.
Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left?
    Shall I bow down to a block of wood?”
20 Such a person feeds on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him;
    he cannot save himself, or say,
    “Is not this thing in my right hand a lie? ”

21 “Remember these things, Jacob,
    for you, Israel, are my servant.
I have made you, you are my servant;
    Israel, I will not forget you.
22 I have swept away your offenses like a cloud,
    your sins like the morning mist.
Return to me,
    for I have redeemed you.”

23 Sing for joy, you heavens, for the Lord has done this;
    shout aloud, you earth beneath.
Burst into song, you mountains,
    you forests and all your trees,
for the Lord has redeemed Jacob,
    he displays his glory in Israel.

Commentary

More valuable than anything else

All of us will face trials, tests and temptations. We will go through ‘fire’ and ‘rough waters’. There will be times when ‘you’re between a rock and a hard place’ (43:2, MSG). These are difficult times. Sometimes you may want to give up. You cannot understand what is going on.

God says, ‘Don’t be afraid... You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you... it won’t be a dead end’ (vv.1–2, MSG).

God is shaping you (44:21, MSG). He often uses the difficulties and challenges in our life like sandpaper – to smooth the rough edges. He uses them to strengthen your character, change you and advance his purpose in your life.

He is always acting in love: ‘I am God, your personal God... I paid a huge price for you... That’s how much I love you! I’d sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you’ (43:3–4, MSG).

You are precious and honoured in his sight because he loves you (v.4). Do you realise how valuable you are to God? Your value is what you are worth to God, and he paid a huge price for you. Jesus died for you.

In all the struggles and difficulties of life, God has a good plan for your future. He says, ‘I’m about to do something brand-new... I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands’ (v.19, MSG). If you are in a ‘desert’ or the ‘badlands’ right now, trust God that he has a good plan for your future.

God’s love and forgiveness are amazing. Later in the passage God says, ‘I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more’ (v.25). We know that this is what was made possible through Jesus Christ and what he did for you.

Isaiah goes on to warn of the absurdity of worshipping idols (see 44:6–23). When we worship anything or anyone other than the God who made us, we are worshipping a lie. We are worshipping ‘created things rather than the Creator’ (Romans 1:25).

The Lord urges his people to return to him. He says, ‘I’ve wiped the slate of all your wrongdoings. There’s nothing left of your sins. Come back to me, come back. I’ve redeemed you’ (Isaiah 44:22, MSG).

Prayer

Lord, thank you that in your amazing love for me, you paid a huge price for me. Thank you that I am precious and honoured in your sight. In all the challenges and difficulties, help me to keep on trusting that you have a good purpose for my life.

Pippa adds

Isaiah 43:1–5a

These are such wonderful verses and so encouraging when you, or someone you love, are facing some really difficult things. God may not take it away, but he has promised to be with you, to walk with you, to protect you as you go through it.

Verse of the Day

Isaiah 43:4, CSB

‘… you are precious in My sight and honored, and I love you’
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References

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

Adrian Plass, Clearing Away the Rubbish, (HarperCollins, 2000).

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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