Day 340

Find Your Balance

Wisdom Proverbs 29:19–27
New Testament 2 John 1:1–13
Old Testament Haggai 1:1–2:23

Introduction

My body is so inflexible. I was told once by a professional fitness trainer, who happened to notice the way I was walking, that I was one of the worst cases of stiffness he had ever come across. I am now trying to do more stretching!

I had considered myself reasonably fit (for my age!), as a result of still playing squash and biking everywhere. But in other ways, I realised I am not. Physical fitness is a balance of strength, flexibility, aerobic and anaerobic fitness. Some people are exceptionally strong but cannot even run to catch a bus. Others are aerobically fit (they could run a marathon), but they are not very strong.

However, spiritual fitness is far more important than physical fitness. It also involves balancing a number of areas of your life.

Wisdom

Proverbs 29:19–27

  19 Servants cannot be corrected by mere words;
   though they understand, they will not respond.

  20 Do you see someone who speaks in haste?
   There is more hope for a fool than for them.

  21 A servant pampered from youth
   will turn out to be insolent.

  22 An angry person stirs up conflict,
   and a hot-tempered person commits many sins.

  23 Pride brings a person low,
   but the lowly in spirit gain honour.

  24 The accomplices of thieves are their own enemies;
   they are put under oath and dare not testify.

  25 Fear of man will prove to be a snare,
   but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.

  26 Many seek an audience with a ruler,
   but it is from the Lord that one gets justice.

  27 The righteous detest the dishonest;
   the wicked detest the upright.

Commentary

Humility and confidence

I find it very hard to maintain the balance between humility and confidence. There have been times in my life when I have been humbled (perhaps by some failure) and not felt very confident. At other times, I have felt great confidence but, perhaps, lacked humility.

There is much to ponder in today’s passage in Proverbs about not speaking before we think (v.20), controlling anger and hot-temperedness (v.22), and trusting God as being the ultimate source of justice (v.26).

In particular, I notice this balance between humility and confidence: ‘Pride lands you flat on your face; humility prepares you for honours’ (v.23, MSG). This is a constant theme in Proverbs (11:2; 18:12; 21:4; 22:4).

Be confident in the Lord. Do not live in fear of what others may think or do. ‘To fear anyone will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe’ (29:25).

The key to keeping this balance is to avoid self-confidence and to practise humble God-confidence, ensuring that your confidence comes not from your own abilities or successes, but from trusting in the Lord.

Prayer

Lord, help me to have a confidence that comes from trusting in you, to avoid fearing anyone and to walk humbly before you.

New Testament

2 John 1:1–13

1 The elder,

To the lady chosen by God and to her children, whom I love in the truth —and not I only, but also all who know the truth — 2 because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever:

3 Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.

4 It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us. 5 And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. 6 And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

7 I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. 9 Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. 11 Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work.

12 I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

13 The children of your sister, who is chosen by God, send their greetings.

Commentary

Truth and love

Here is another difficult balance to maintain. Love becomes soft if it is not strengthened by truth. Truth becomes hard if it is not softened by love. Sometimes in my life I have been passionate about ‘the truth’, but perhaps have not been very loving. Other times I have tried to be very loving but perhaps have failed to care enough about ‘the truth’.

In this second letter of John (probably written to a church referred to as ‘the chosen lady’, v.1), he warns them of the danger of false teaching that denied the fact that Jesus had come to this earth in bodily form and was therefore both fully divine and fully human. John urges this beautiful balance of ‘truth and love’ (v.2). Indeed, he intermingles the two, even in the greeting.

He writes, ‘I, your pastor, love you in very truth. And I’m not alone – everyone who knows the Truth that has taken up permanent residence in us loves you’ (v.1, MSG).

Because he loves them, he wants to see them in person and ‘have a heart-to-heart talk’ (v.12, MSG). Letter writing, emails, texts, phone calls, WhatsApp and even Zoom or FaceTime are no substitute for being with someone ‘face to face’ (v.12) and talking heart to heart.

He urges them to ‘love one another’ (v.5) and to ‘walk in love’ (v.6). Love should be the aim of our lives. Study love, talk about it and practise it.

The test of love is obedience to Jesus: ‘Love means following his commandments, and his unifying commandment is that you conduct your lives in love’ (v.6, MSG).

Truth and love are not opposed to each other. Indeed, they complement one another. John is delighted to find this church ‘living out the Truth’ (v.4, MSG). Truth really matters. Truth is found in a person. Jesus said, ‘I am… the Truth’ (John 14:6). Listen to the truth. Teach the truth. Love the truth.

There are many deceivers out there (2 John 1:7–8). Cling to the truth and do not be deceived or you will lose out.

Only by knowing the truth and holding fast to it and continuing in the teaching will we have ‘both the Father and the Son’ (v.9).

The next verse does not sound very loving – ‘If anyone shows up who doesn’t hold to this teaching, don’t invite him in and give him the run of the place. That would just give him a platform to perpetuate his evil ways, making you his partner’ (v.10-11, MSG). But actually, John’s passion for the truth stems from his love for this church. Because he loves them, he is not willing to tolerate falsehood. False teachers may seek to lead you astray, but ‘do not lose what you have worked for’ (v.8).

Prayer

Lord, help me to maintain this balance between truth and love and always ‘speak the truth in love’ (Ephesians 4:15).

Old Testament

Haggai 1:1–2:23

A Call to Build the House of the Lord

1 In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest:

2 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house. ’”

3 Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin? ”

5 Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”

7 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 8 Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honoured, ” says the Lord. 9 “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. 10 Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. 11 I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labour of your hands. ”

12 Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord.

13 Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, gave this message of the Lord to the people: “I am with you,” declares the Lord. 14 So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people. They came and began to work on the house of the Lord Almighty, their God, 15 on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month.

The Promised Glory of the New House

In the second year of King Darius, 2 on the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: 2 “Speak to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, to Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people. Ask them, 3 ‘Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing? 4 But now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ declares the Lord. ‘Be strong, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the Lord Almighty. 5 ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’

6 “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. 7 I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory, ’ says the Lord Almighty. 8 ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. 9 ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace, ’ declares the Lord Almighty.”

Blessings for a Defiled People

10 On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Haggai: 11 “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Ask the priests what the law says: 12 If someone carries consecrated meat in the fold of their garment, and that fold touches some bread or stew, some wine, olive oil or other food, does it become consecrated? ’”

The priests answered, “No.”

13 Then Haggai said, “If a person defiled by contact with a dead body touches one of these things, does it become defiled?”

“Yes,” the priests replied, “it becomes defiled. ”

14 Then Haggai said, “‘So it is with this people and this nation in my sight,’ declares the Lord. ‘Whatever they do and whatever they offer there is defiled.

15 “‘Now give careful thought to this from this day on—consider how things were before one stone was laid on another in the Lord’s temple. 16 When anyone came to a heap of twenty measures, there were only ten. When anyone went to a wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were only twenty. 17 I struck all the work of your hands with blight, mildew and hail, yet you did not return to me,’ declares the Lord. 18 ‘From this day on, from this twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, give careful thought to the day when the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid. Give careful thought: 19 Is there yet any seed left in the barn? Until now, the vine and the fig tree, the pomegranate and the olive tree have not borne fruit.

“‘From this day on I will bless you.’”

Zerubbabel the Lord’s Signet Ring

20 The word of the Lord came to Haggai a second time on the twenty-fourth day of the month: 21 “Tell Zerubbabel governor of Judah that I am going to shake the heavens and the earth. 22 I will overturn royal thrones and shatter the power of the foreign kingdoms. I will overthrow chariots and their drivers; horses and their riders will fall, each by the sword of his brother.

23 “‘On that day, ’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”

Commentary

Vision and action

A top management consultant once told me that ‘no chief executive was ever fired for lack of vision’. But many are unable to put their vision into action.

Visions don’t work unless you do. In this little book of Haggai, we see a wonderful balance between vision and action.

Five times, the Lord Almighty said through the prophet Haggai: ‘Give careful thought’ (1:5,7; 2:15 and twice in 2:18). Vision starts with thinking – grasping in our minds a picture of what could be.

Get your priorities sorted out. Haggai challenged God’s people about their priorities. They were living in comfortable homes while the house of the Lord remained a ruin (1:4). Yet they were saying, ‘The time has not yet come for the Lord’s house to be built’ (v.2).

The people had decided to rebuild the temple. They had good intentions, but they had not done it because it was not their priority.

The prophet Haggai urged them to think carefully about their ways (v.5). Their primary concern should be to see God’s name honoured (v.8), yet they left God’s house as a ‘ruin’ (vv.4,9).

Eugene Peterson writes that there are ‘times in our lives when repairing the building where we worship is an act of obedience every bit as important as praying in that place of worship.’

Some of the people were dismayed that the new temple was not as splendid as the old had been. The LORD spoke to them through the prophet Haggai: ‘“Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing? But now be strong... For I am with you… And my Spirit remains among you. The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house… And in this place I will grant peace”’ (2:3–5, 9).

These are the verses through which God spoke to Sandy Millar, and others, about HTB Onslow Square in July 1981, when the church building was about to be closed and sold to a property developer. It was the theme of our 2010 thanksgiving service celebrating the 150th anniversary of the church, and the official reopening after three years of restoration work.

Now it is the thriving centre for The Marriage Course and other family-life courses and hundreds of young people worship Jesus there every Sunday. Our prayer and hope for the future is that ‘the glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house’ (v.9).

In the book of Haggai, having seen this vision, they had to ‘Get to work, all you people! – God is speaking... Put into action’ (v.4, MSG). And so the work began (1:14).

As you look around at the church in your own nation give careful thought to your ways. It is not right to live in comfort while God’s house remains a ‘ruin’. God wants people in your nation to come to know him and be part of his church. Visualise how God could be even more glorified in his church today than he was in the past (2:9).

First, ‘be strong’ (v.4). Do not weaken in your resolve because of attack, criticism or discouragement. Second, ‘work’ (1:14; 2:4). It is hard work but there is nothing wrong with that. There are times when you need to work exceedingly hard. Third, ‘do not fear’ (v.5). This suggests that there will be things that could cause fear.

You can trust God with the finances. The Lord declares, ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine’ (v.8).

The key is that the Lord says, ‘I am with you… And my Spirit remains among you’ (1:13; 2:5). You can overcome all your fears because you know that God is with you.

Prayer

Lord, help me to balance humility and confidence, love and truth, vision and action, to trust that you are with us and to work hard to see your name glorified.

Pippa adds

Haggai 1:7,9

‘Give careful thought to your ways… my house… remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.’

There is so much to do in looking after a home, replacing broken things, changing light bulbs, washing, cleaning, tidying. It seems never ending. And I’m sure God wants us to be good stewards of our own homes, but the verse reminds us to be equally concerned about God’s house. So many churches are in a really bad state of repairs and not fit for the King of kings.

Verse of the Day

Proverbs 29:25

‘Fear of human opinion will prove to be a snare;
  but whoever trusts in THE LORD is kept safe.’

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References

Love becomes soft if it is not strengthened by truth. Truth becomes hard if it is not softened by love. This is a combination of excerpts from two of John Stott’s writings: God’s New Society: The Message of Ephesians (IVP, 1980), p.172 and Epistles of John: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale, 1964), p.205.

Eugene Peterson, The Message: *‘*Introduction to Haggai’ (Navpress, 2007), p.1300.

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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