Day 329

Know When to Kneel

Wisdom Psalm 133:1–3
New Testament 1 Peter 4:1–19
Old Testament Ezekiel 47:1–48:35

Introduction

Raniero Cantalamessa is a Capuchin monk. In 1977, he was sent by the Vatican to be an observer at a conference in Kansas City, USA where there were 20,000 Catholics and 20,000 other Christians. On the last day of the conference, after someone had spoken about the tragedy of all the divisions in the body of Christ (the church), 40,000 people knelt in repentance. As Father Raniero looked out, he saw the words ‘JESUS IS LORD’ on a big neon sign over the conference venue. He describes how, at that moment, he caught a glimpse of what Christian unity is all about – 40,000 people kneeling in repentance under the Lordship of Jesus.

He asked ‘a lay Protestant’ to pray for him to experience more of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit filled him. He experienced God’s love for him in a new way. He found himself speaking ‘in a manner like speaking in tongues’. The Bible came alive in a new way. He received a new ministry. In 1980, he was invited by Pope John Paul II to be the preacher to the Papal Household. This is what he has been ever since. In 2020, he was made a cardinal by Pope Francis. Three themes dominate his remarkable ministry: unity, love and the Holy Spirit. They are distinct, but closely linked.

Wisdom

Psalm 133:1–3

Psalm 133

A song of ascents. Of David.

    1 How good and pleasant it is
        when God’s people live together in unity!

    2 It is like precious oil poured on the head,
        running down on the beard,
    running down on Aaron’s beard,
        down on the collar of his robe.
    3 It is as if the dew of Hermon
        were falling on Mount Zion.
    For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
        even life forevermore.

Commentary

Live together in unity

God blesses ‘unity’ (v.1). I have seen that over and over again. He blesses unity in marriage, families, teams, communities, nations and in the church. When Christians from different churches, traditions and denominations come together in unity, ‘that’s where God commands his blessing’ (v.3, MSG).

The psalmist writes, ‘How wonderful, how beautiful when brothers and sisters get along!’ (v.1, MSG). There is a proverb: ‘weak things united become strong.’ The same is true of people: weak people united become strong.

The psalmist describes this unity as being ‘like precious oil’ (v.2, using an image from Leviticus 8:12). It is like ‘the dew of Hermon’ (Psalm 133:3). Mount Hermon is a vast area. It is usually snow-capped. It rises 10,000 feet above sea level. Its dew is thought to keep the whole land fresh.

These images of oil and dew are images of blessing. Where there is unity, ‘there the Lord bestows his blessing’ (v.3).

Prayer

Lord, thank you that you bless unity so much. May there be unity in our church and between the churches around the world.

New Testament

1 Peter 4:1–19

Living for God

4Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. 2 As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. 3 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 4 They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. 5 But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.

7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Suffering for Being a Christian

12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And,

    “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
        what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

Commentary

Love each other deeply

‘Love each other deeply,’ writes the apostle Peter (v.8a). The Greek word used for ‘deeply’ is the word used for a horse at full gallop. It means ‘stretched out’ and is sometimes translated ‘fervently’.

This kind of love ‘covers a multitude of sins (forgives and disregards the offenses of others)’ (v.8b, AMP). Love forgives faults in others because you know the loving, forgiving grace of God in your own life.

This is key to maintaining good relationships and avoiding falling out with others too easily. You know in your own life how much God loves you and has forgiven your own sins. Be willing to overlook offences and sins in others.

This does not mean that sin does not matter. On the contrary, Peter urges us to be ‘done with sin’ (v.1). Break with the old life of evil human desires and live for the will of God (v.2).

I remember well the reaction of some of my friends when I first encountered Jesus. They were surprised at the change and thought it strange. Peter writes, ‘You’ve already put in your time in that God-ignorant way of life, partying night after night, a drunken and profligate life. Now it’s time to be done with it for good. Of course, your old friends don’t understand why you don’t join in with the old gang anymore’ (vv.3–4, MSG).

You are called to live differently: to be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray (v.7); above all, to love (v.8), to be hospitable and to use your gifts (vv.9–10). ‘Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless – cheerfully’ (vv.8–9, MSG).

Like the apostle Paul, Peter sets the use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the context of love (vv.10–11; also see 1 Corinthians 12–14). The purpose of the gifts is love.

Even if you love fervently, that love will not always be returned. Expect opposition. Do not be surprised by it: ‘When life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process with glory just around the corner’ (1 Peter 4:12–13, MSG).

This is a type of suffering all Christians are called to. Suffering is part of the purifying process. God uses suffering to refine you and get rid of the sin in your life (vv.1–2). Insults are actually a blessing: ‘If you’re abused because of Christ, count yourself fortunate. It’s the Spirit of God and his glory in you that brought you to the notice of others’ (v.14, MSG).

Although insults are hurtful, all criticism is, ultimately, a blessing. In so far as it is true, it is a blessing because you can learn from it. If it is not true and you are ‘insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed’ (v.14). It is such an honour to be associated with Jesus that even sharing in his suffering is a blessing. Either way, once you grasp this, you should be able to see all criticism, however painful, as a blessing!

Sometimes we suffer because of our own sin (v.15), but suffering for being a Christian is not a cause for shame – it is a cause for rejoicing and praising God (vv.13,16). It should not put you off, rather keep on doing what is good: ‘So if you find life difficult because you’re doing what God said, take it in stride. Trust him. He knows what he’s doing, and he’ll keep on doing it’ (v.19, MSG). Martin Luther King said, ‘I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.’

Prayer

Lord, help us to be a community that loves each other deeply, and where love covers over a multitude of sins.

Old Testament

Ezekiel 47:1–48:35

The River From the Temple

47The man brought me back to the entrance to the temple, and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was coming down from under the south side of the temple, south of the altar. 2 He then brought me out through the north gate and led me around the outside to the outer gate facing east, and the water was trickling from the south side.

3 As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and then led me through water that was ankle-deep. 4 He measured off another thousand cubits and led me through water that was knee-deep. He measured off another thousand and led me through water that was up to the waist. 5 He measured off another thousand, but now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in—a river that no one could cross. 6 He asked me, “Son of man, do you see this?”

Then he led me back to the bank of the river. 7 When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river. 8 He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Dead Sea. When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh. 9 Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live. 10 Fishermen will stand along the shore; from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets. The fish will be of many kinds —like the fish of the Mediterranean Sea. 11 But the swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt. 12 Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing. ”

The Boundaries of the Land

13 This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “These are the boundaries of the land that you will divide among the twelve tribes of Israel as their inheritance, with two portions for Joseph. 14 You are to divide it equally among them. Because I swore with uplifted hand to give it to your ancestors, this land will become your inheritance.

15 “This is to be the boundary of the land:

“On the north side it will run from the Mediterranean Sea by the Hethlon road past
    Lebo Hamath to Zedad, 16 Berothah and Sibraim (which lies on the border
    between Damascus and Hamath), as far as Hazer Hattikon, which is on the
    border of Hauran. 17 The boundary will extend from the sea to Hazar Enan,
    along the northern border of Damascus, with the border of Hamath to the north.
    This will be the northern boundary.

18 “On the east side the boundary will run between Hauran and Damascus, along the
    Jordan between Gilead and the land of Israel, to the Dead Sea and as far as
    Tamar. This will be the eastern boundary.

19 “On the south side it will run from Tamar as far as the waters of Meribah Kadesh,
    then along the Wadi of Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea. This will be the
    southern boundary.

20 “On the west side, the Mediterranean Sea will be the boundary to a point opposite
    Lebo Hamath. This will be the western boundary.

21 “You are to distribute this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. 22 You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the foreigners residing among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. 23 In whatever tribe a foreigner resides, there you are to give them their inheritance,” declares the Sovereign Lord.

The Division of the Land

48“These are the tribes, listed by name: At the northern frontier, Dan will have one portion; it will follow the Hethlon road to Lebo Hamath; Hazar Enan and the northern border of Damascus next to Hamath will be part of its border from the east side to the west side.

2 “Asher will have one portion; it will border the territory of Dan from east to west.

3 “Naphtali will have one portion; it will border the territory of Asher from east to west.

4 “Manasseh will have one portion; it will border the territory of Naphtali from east to west.

5 “Ephraim will have one portion; it will border the territory of Manasseh from east to west.

6 “Reuben will have one portion; it will border the territory of Ephraim from east to west.

7 “Judah will have one portion; it will border the territory of Reuben from east to west.

8 “Bordering the territory of Judah from east to west will be the portion you are to present as a special gift. It will be 25,000 cubits wide, and its length from east to west will equal one of the tribal portions; the sanctuary will be in the center of it.

9 “The special portion you are to offer to the Lord will be 25,000 cubits long and 10,000 cubits wide. 10 This will be the sacred portion for the priests. It will be 25,000 cubits long on the north side, 10,000 cubits wide on the west side, 10,000 cubits wide on the east side and 25,000 cubits long on the south side. In the center of it will be the sanctuary of the Lord. 11 This will be for the consecrated priests, the Zadokites, who were faithful in serving me and did not go astray as the Levites did when the Israelites went astray. 12 It will be a special gift to them from the sacred portion of the land, a most holy portion, bordering the territory of the Levites.

13 “Alongside the territory of the priests, the Levites will have an allotment 25,000 cubits long and 10,000 cubits wide. Its total length will be 25,000 cubits and its width 10,000 cubits. 14 They must not sell or exchange any of it. This is the best of the land and must not pass into other hands, because it is holy to the Lord.

15 “The remaining area, 5,000 cubits wide and 25,000 cubits long, will be for the common use of the city, for houses and for pastureland. The city will be in the center of it 16 and will have these measurements: the north side 4,500 cubits, the south side 4,500 cubits, the east side 4,500 cubits, and the west side 4,500 cubits. 17 The pastureland for the city will be 250 cubits on the north, 250 cubits on the south, 250 cubits on the east, and 250 cubits on the west. 18 What remains of the area, bordering on the sacred portion and running the length of it, will be 10,000 cubits on the east side and 10,000 cubits on the west side. Its produce will supply food for the workers of the city. 19 The workers from the city who farm it will come from all the tribes of Israel. 20 The entire portion will be a square, 25,000 cubits on each side. As a special gift you will set aside the sacred portion, along with the property of the city.

21 “What remains on both sides of the area formed by the sacred portion and the property of the city will belong to the prince. It will extend eastward from the 25,000 cubits of the sacred portion to the eastern border, and westward from the 25,000 cubits to the western border. Both these areas running the length of the tribal portions will belong to the prince, and the sacred portion with the temple sanctuary will be in the center of them. 22 So the property of the Levites and the property of the city will lie in the center of the area that belongs to the prince. The area belonging to the prince will lie between the border of Judah and the border of Benjamin.

23 “As for the rest of the tribes: Benjamin will have one portion; it will extend from the east side to the west side.

24 “Simeon will have one portion; it will border the territory of Benjamin from east to west.

25 “Issachar will have one portion; it will border the territory of Simeon from east to west.

26 “Zebulun will have one portion; it will border the territory of Issachar from east to west.

27 “Gad will have one portion; it will border the territory of Zebulun from east to west.

28 “The southern boundary of Gad will run south from Tamar to the waters of Meribah Kadesh, then along the Wadi of Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea.

29 “This is the land you are to allot as an inheritance to the tribes of Israel, and these will be their portions,” declares the Sovereign Lord.

The Gates of the New City

30 “These will be the exits of the city: Beginning on the north side, which is 4,500 cubits long, 31 the gates of the city will be named after the tribes of Israel. The three gates on the north side will be the gate of Reuben, the gate of Judah and the gate of Levi.

32 “On the east side, which is 4,500 cubits long, will be three gates: the gate of Joseph, the gate of Benjamin and the gate of Dan.

33 “On the south side, which measures 4,500 cubits, will be three gates: the gate of Simeon, the gate of Issachar and the gate of Zebulun.

34 “On the west side, which is 4,500 cubits long, will be three gates: the gate of Gad, the gate of Asher and the gate of Naphtali.

35 “The distance all around will be 18,000 cubits.

“And the name of the city from that time on will be:

            the Lord is there. ”

Commentary

Long for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit

When the love of God is poured into your heart by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5), the Spirit of God brings abundant life, spiritual growth, increasing fruitfulness and healing to your life.

Ezekiel sees a picture of this when he sees water pouring out from under the temple. It gushes out and becomes a river that is first ankle deep, then knee deep, then waist deep and eventually ‘it was a river over my head, water to swim in, water no one could possibly walk through’ (Ezekiel 47:5, MSG). There are lots of trees on both sides of the river (v.7). Wherever the river flows, the Sea becomes fresh (v.8).

‘Wherever the river flows, life will flourish – great schools of fish – because the river is turning the salt sea into fresh water. Where the river flows, life abounds. Fishermen... casting their nets. The sea will teem with fish of all kinds...

‘But the river itself, on both banks, will grow fruit trees of all kinds. Their leaves won’t wither, the fruit won’t fail. Every month they’ll bear fresh fruit because the river from the Sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing’ (vv.8–12, MSG).

Jesus said that these promises of Ezekiel would be fulfilled not in a place, but in a person – Jesus himself (John 7:37–39). Through the Holy Spirit, the streams of living water will flow from you also. Jesus said, ‘Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flowing from within’ (v.38).

This river of living water is therefore a picture of the work of the Spirit, who brings life and abundance and blessing to you, and then flows out of you to have a positive impact on others. All the imagery points to life, growth, fruitfulness and healing. It is a picture of the church of Jesus Christ growing and bringing life wherever the river flows.

Ultimately, the river foreshadows and anticipates the new Jerusalem – the city where God lives. The name of the city is, ‘The Lord Is There’ (Ezekiel 48:35). This foreshadows the new heaven and the new earth (see Revelation 22:1–2), which Jesus will bring about when he returns.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for the Holy Spirit and the promise that rivers of living water will flow out of my innermost being. Please fill me today with the Holy Spirit so that I may bring life, love, unity and healing wherever I go.

Pippa adds

1 Peter 4:8

‘Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.’

When the world seems cross, divided, quick to judge or think the worst of each other, pouring love into a situation can begin to turn the tide.

Verse of the Day

1 Peter 4:8

‘Love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.’
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References

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

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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