Day 326

How to Grow Up Spiritually

Wisdom Psalm 131:1–3
New Testament 1 Peter 1:1–2:3
Old Testament Ezekiel 41:1–42:20

Introduction

I remember that first night so well. Every time we heard the slightest sound, we leapt out of bed and picked him up. He was so tiny – not that much bigger than a hand. This was a new life. Our first child had been born. We were so proud. Three or four times a night, he would wake craving milk. Pippa would feed him regularly. Of course, he grew up. Now as I look at him, almost twice the size of Pippa, it is hard to believe that he was once so small.

New birth is an exciting moment. So is new spiritual birth. Jesus said, ‘No one can see the kingdom of God without being born again’ (John 3:3). In our passage for today, Peter writes about ‘a new birth’ (1 Peter 1:3). ‘Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for’ (v.3, MSG).

This spiritual birth is contrasted with natural birth, which led only to a ‘dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in’ (v.18, MSG).

New birth means you can now call God your Father (v.17). In fact, the whole Trinity is involved: ‘God the Father has his eye on each of you, and has determined by the work of the Spirit to keep you obedient through the sacrifice of Jesus’ (v.2, MSG).

Physical birth will one day end with physical death. But spiritual birth leads to eternal life – ‘a future in heaven – and the future starts now!’ (v.3, MSG). Physical life is like grass that withers. But this brand new life is conceived by God himself and goes on and on for ever (vv.23–25, MSG).

In today’s passages, we see the implications of this new birth, the various stages of spiritual growth as a son or daughter of God and how ‘you may grow up in your salvation’ (2:2).

Wisdom

Psalm 131:1–3

Psalm 131

A song of ascents. Of David.

    1 My heart is not proud, Lord,
        my eyes are not haughty;
    I do not concern myself with great matters
        or things too wonderful for me.
    2 But I have calmed and quieted myself,
        I am like a weaned child with its mother;
        like a weaned child I am content.

    3 Israel, put your hope in the Lord
        both now and forevermore.

Commentary

Trust like a baby

Sometimes I get worried, anxious and even fearful. That is why I love this psalm. It is a beautiful picture of total trust: ‘Like a baby content in its mother’s arms’ (v.2, MSG). When I look at any of our baby grandchildren in their parents’ arms, I see a picture of total trust and security.

How does this total trust happen? First, resign as managing director of the universe. Stop trying to control everyone and everything. The psalmist writes, ‘I’m not trying to rule the roost, I don’t want to be king of the mountain. I haven’t meddled where I have no business or fantasized grandiose plans’ (v.1, MSG).

Second, put your trust in God in the same way that a baby has total trust in a parent: ‘I’ve kept my feet on the ground, I’ve cultivated a quiet heart. Like a baby content in its mother’s arms, my soul is a baby content’ (v.2, MSG).

Prayer

Lord, please give me your peace today like that of a weaned child with its mother.

New Testament

1 Peter 1:1–2:3

1Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood:

Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

Praise to God for a Living Hope

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire —may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.

Be Holy

13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For,

    “All people are like grass,
        and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
    the grass withers and the flowers fall,
        25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

And this is the word that was preached to you.

2Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Commentary

Grow like a child

Life as a child of God is exciting. The apostle Peter writes about being ‘filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy’ (1:8). It comes as a result of ‘new birth’ (v.3). Peter tells us that ‘new birth’ leads to:

  1. Security in spite of ageing

    Your future is certain because it is based on the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus was buried. God raised him from the dead (v.21). One day, the same will happen to you.

    You are an heir to the greatest inheritance. Nothing in this life is perfect – all earthly possessions will ultimately decay or be destroyed. But your inheritance will ‘never perish’: it will never ‘spoil’, it will never ‘fade’ (v.4). It is guaranteed, ‘kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time’ (vv.4–5). It has your name on it.

    C.S. Lewis wrote: ‘As we grow older, we become like old cars – more and more repairs and replacements are necessary. We must just look forward to the fine new machines (latest Resurrection model) which are waiting for us, we hope, in the Divine garage.’

  2. Rejoicing in spite of suffering

    Rejoicing is not dependent on circumstances (vv.6–7). Life is not always easy: ‘In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials’ (v.6). This letter was probably written from Rome, around AD 62–64, in the days immediately before the persecution by Nero. The Christians were already suffering. My suffering may be very small compared to theirs, but we all suffer bereavements, disappointments, opposition, temptation and all the struggles in life.

    Peter says, ‘you greatly rejoice’ (v.6, see also James 1:2) for three reasons:

    • the relative shortness of the trials (‘for a little while’, 1 Peter 1:6) compared to what lies in the future.
    • because there is a purpose behind them: our ‘faith – of greater worth than gold’ (v.7) is being refined.
    • their result is ‘praise, glory and honour’ (v.7) when Jesus Christ is revealed.
  3. Intimacy in spite of invisibility

    Peter had actually seen Jesus. Those to whom Peter is writing had not, yet: ‘Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy’ (v.8). Like them, you have never seen Jesus – but also like them, you too can experience a personal and daily relationship with Jesus, and receive the goal of your faith – the salvation of your soul (v.9).

It is an extraordinary privilege to live in a time after the first coming of Jesus. You live in the age of the Spirit. You have received the grace to which the whole Old Testament pointed. The ‘Spirit of the Messiah’ was at work in the prophets, pointing to Jesus’ suffering and glory. Jesus was active in the Old Testament, but they had to wait for his full revelation.

He is coming back. Be prepared.

In the meantime, grow up: ‘As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, “I am holy; you be holy”’ (vv.14–16, MSG). Only the Holy Spirit, who brings about this new birth and now lives in you, can make you holy.

Leave behind the empty way of life and, instead, live a life of ‘sincere love’, loving one another deeply from the heart (v.22). This is the ultimate goal of the Christian life: love for Jesus who died to make all this possible (vv.19–20) and a passionate love for one another (v.22).

‘So,’ the apostle Peter writes, ‘clean house! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretence, envy and hurtful talk. You’ve had a taste of God. Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God’ (2:1–3, MSG).

Prayer

Lord Jesus, I have not seen you, but I love you. Help me to grow up and become a strong, healthy child of God, loving others deeply from my heart.

Old Testament

Ezekiel 41:1–42:20

41Then the man brought me to the main hall and measured the jambs; the width of the jambs was six cubits on each side. 2 The entrance was ten cubits wide, and the projecting walls on each side of it were five cubits wide. He also measured the main hall; it was forty cubits long and twenty cubits wide.

3 Then he went into the inner sanctuary and measured the jambs of the entrance; each was two cubits wide. The entrance was six cubits wide, and the projecting walls on each side of it were seven cubits wide. 4 And he measured the length of the inner sanctuary; it was twenty cubits, and its width was twenty cubits across the end of the main hall. He said to me, “This is the Most Holy Place. ”

5 Then he measured the wall of the temple; it was six cubits thick, and each side room around the temple was four cubits wide. 6 The side rooms were on three levels, one above another, thirty on each level. There were ledges all around the wall of the temple to serve as supports for the side rooms, so that the supports were not inserted into the wall of the temple. 7 The side rooms all around the temple were wider at each successive level. The structure surrounding the temple was built in ascending stages, so that the rooms widened as one went upward. A stairway went up from the lowest floor to the top floor through the middle floor.

8 I saw that the temple had a raised base all around it, forming the foundation of the side rooms. It was the length of the rod, six long cubits. 9 The outer wall of the side rooms was five cubits thick. The open area between the side rooms of the temple 10 and the priests’ rooms was twenty cubits wide all around the temple. 11 There were entrances to the side rooms from the open area, one on the north and another on the south; and the base adjoining the open area was five cubits wide all around.

12 The building facing the temple courtyard on the west side was seventy cubits wide. The wall of the building was five cubits thick all around, and its length was ninety cubits.

13 Then he measured the temple; it was a hundred cubits long, and the temple courtyard and the building with its walls were also a hundred cubits long. 14 The width of the temple courtyard on the east, including the front of the temple, was a hundred cubits.

15 Then he measured the length of the building facing the courtyard at the rear of the temple, including its galleries on each side; it was a hundred cubits.

The main hall, the inner sanctuary and the portico facing the court, 16 as well as the thresholds and the narrow windows and galleries around the three of them—everything beyond and including the threshold was covered with wood. The floor, the wall up to the windows, and the windows were covered. 17 In the space above the outside of the entrance to the inner sanctuary and on the walls at regular intervals all around the inner and outer sanctuary 18 were carved cherubim and palm trees. Palm trees alternated with cherubim. Each cherub had two faces: 19 the face of a human being toward the palm tree on one side and the face of a lion toward the palm tree on the other. They were carved all around the whole temple. 20 From the floor to the area above the entrance, cherubim and palm trees were carved on the wall of the main hall.

21 The main hall had a rectangular doorframe, and the one at the front of the Most Holy Place was similar. 22 There was a wooden altar three cubits high and two cubits square; its corners, its base and its sides were of wood. The man said to me, “This is the table that is before the Lord.” 23 Both the main hall and the Most Holy Place had double doors. 24 Each door had two leaves—two hinged leaves for each door. 25 And on the doors of the main hall were carved cherubim and palm trees like those carved on the walls, and there was a wooden overhang on the front of the portico. 26 On the sidewalls of the portico were narrow windows with palm trees carved on each side. The side rooms of the temple also had overhangs.

The Rooms for the Priests

42Then the man led me northward into the outer court and brought me to the rooms opposite the temple courtyard and opposite the outer wall on the north side. 2 The building whose door faced north was a hundred cubits long and fifty cubits wide. 3 Both in the section twenty cubits from the inner court and in the section opposite the pavement of the outer court, gallery faced gallery at the three levels. 4 In front of the rooms was an inner passageway ten cubits wide and a hundred cubits long. Their doors were on the north. 5 Now the upper rooms were narrower, for the galleries took more space from them than from the rooms on the lower and middle floors of the building. 6 The rooms on the top floor had no pillars, as the courts had; so they were smaller in floor space than those on the lower and middle floors. 7 There was an outer wall parallel to the rooms and the outer court; it extended in front of the rooms for fifty cubits. 8 While the row of rooms on the side next to the outer court was fifty cubits long, the row on the side nearest the sanctuary was a hundred cubits long. 9 The lower rooms had an entrance on the east side as one enters them from the outer court.

10 On the south side along the length of the wall of the outer court, adjoining the temple courtyard and opposite the outer wall, were rooms 11 with a passageway in front of them. These were like the rooms on the north; they had the same length and width, with similar exits and dimensions. Similar to the doorways on the north 12 were the doorways of the rooms on the south. There was a doorway at the beginning of the passageway that was parallel to the corresponding wall extending eastward, by which one enters the rooms.

13 Then he said to me, “The north and south rooms facing the temple courtyard are the priests’ rooms, where the priests who approach the Lord will eat the most holy offerings. There they will put the most holy offerings—the grain offerings, the sin offerings and the guilt offerings —for the place is holy. 14 Once the priests enter the holy precincts, they are not to go into the outer court until they leave behind the garments in which they minister, for these are holy. They are to put on other clothes before they go near the places that are for the people. ”

15 When he had finished measuring what was inside the temple area, he led me out by the east gate and measured the area all around: 16 He measured the east side with the measuring rod; it was five hundred cubits. 17 He measured the north side; it was five hundred cubits by the measuring rod. 18 He measured the south side; it was five hundred cubits by the measuring rod. 19 Then he turned to the west side and measured; it was five hundred cubits by the measuring rod. 20 So he measured the area on all four sides. It had a wall around it, five hundred cubits long and five hundred cubits wide, to separate the holy from the common.

Commentary

Bear fruit into old age

Some people never lose their beauty. It moves from their faces to their hearts. There is an old English proverb, ‘the older the fiddle, the sweeter the tune.’ At the age of ninety-eight, Titian painted his magnificent picture of the Battle of Lepanto. Old age can be a time of great fruitfulness.

Ezekiel continues his description of the new temple. As he describes the ‘Most Holy Place’ (41:4), he seems to focus on ‘cherubim’ and ‘palm trees’ (v.18). We may assume that their function was merely decorative, but actually they are richly symbolic.

Since we know from our New Testament passage that these words were inspired by the ‘Spirit of Christ’ (1 Peter 1:11), perhaps it is not too much to see significance in the two faces of each cherub; one of a man and one of a lion, pointing forward to the one who was both fully human being and ‘the Lion of the tribe of Judah’ (Revelation 5:5) – that is, Jesus Christ.

The psalmist writes, ‘the righteous will flourish like a palm tree... They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green’ (Psalm 92:12–14).

The palm trees were probably date palms – one of the world’s oldest food-producing plants. Dates provide energy, vitamins, minerals, fat, fibre, protein, sugar, riboflavin and niacin. The palm trees speak of strength, nourishment and endurance.

Prayer

Lord, thank you that you take me through all the stages of life, from new birth to being a new born baby craving pure spiritual milk, to an obedient child growing up in my salvation, right the way through to bearing fruit even in old age. May I be like a palm tree – a source of strength, nourishment and endurance.

Pippa adds

Ezekiel 41:23

‘Both the outer sanctuary and the Most Holy Place had double doors.’

We don’t have to get stuck behind double doors in the outer or inner courts of the temple, trying to get near to God. Through Jesus, we can go straight into the presence of God.

Verse of the Day

1 Peter 1:8

‘Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.’
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References

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

C. S. Lewis, Letters to an American Lady, (W. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 1967) p.78 © C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. 1967. Use by permission.

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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