Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"The blessings of a relationship with the God of Jacob …"

Day #270:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - September 24th

Scripture Reading:  Psalms 114 - 116 …

Though there is more talk today about having a relationship with God than perhaps ever before, most people still do not seem to grasp what this means or to live accordingly.  Are these just words or is having a relationship with the one, true and only living God really possible … and if so, does it make any difference in the way you live your life?  The answer is, "YES! and it changes your perspective on life - and death - and the way you live every day."  Having a relationship with God is not a fantasy or an invention of man's imagination, but a living reality for those who know Him as the "God of Jacob,"  the God who has entered into covenant with His people and who sent His Son Jesus Christ to seal the covenant with His blood!

Before Jesus ever came there were a chosen few who understood what a relationship with God was all about.  These were given the Spirit "ahead of time," if you will.  Though they could not know or understand what God would do to "atone," to pay for their sin, they trusted God's promise to send a Savior and they responded to God in willing and joyful obedience.  It is this relationship that the writers of the Psalms often express in their songs.  Theirs was not a faith in some imaginary God, but a God who had a history, who had acted in the past on behalf of His people and who was faithful and true to His Word.  He was not and is not the generic "god" of today or one of the myriad of gods worshiped by people through the centuries.  He IS God … the God of Jacob, the God of Israel.

So the Psalmist writes in Psalm 114, "When Israel came out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of foreign tongue, Judah became God's sanctuary, Israel His dominion" (114:1-2).  Like it or not, this is how God has chosen to reveal Himself.  As we read in 115:15, He is "the Maker of heaven and earth."  That's always where we need to begin in acknowledging who the one true God is:  Creator!!  As men celebrate sending a spacecraft to the planet Mars, we are but a tiny speck in the amazing universe that God has created for His glory.  Yet, He revealed Himself to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob and made His Covenant of Grace with them, promising to send a Savior, to forgive their sin and to give those who believed in Him eternal life.  No god of human invention can do such things.

For good reason, the Psalmist writes, "Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob …" (114:7).  God cannot be ignored or pushed aside.  It is not God who exists for us, but we for Him.  "Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Your Name be the glory, because of Your love and faithfulness" (115:1).  "OUR God is in heaven!!" (115:3).  When the leaders of the nations speak at the United Nations and boast about what they will do, little do they know that unless God allows them to do something, they are utterly and totally helpless, as they will one day discover.  OUR God reigns!! So he urges, "TRUST IN THE LORD!!"  (115:9).  He is our help and our shield.  He blesses those who fear Him, who come before Him with awe and reverence.  "It is WE who extol the LORD, both now and forevermore" (115:18).

What a privilege it is to KNOW God!  Do you know Him?  Do you have a relationship with Him?  Have you come to Him through faith in Jesus Christ?  People believe they can approach God any way they want … they believe they can state their belief in Him and live any way they desire, but they store up wrath for His day of judgment, when Jesus returns.  Those of us who KNOW God understand that we are sinners who are worthy of His judgment no less than anyone else, but God has given us His Spirit and given us eyes to see, minds to understand and hearts to believe in Jesus, to place our trust in Him.  So we join the Psalmist as he says, "I love the LORD, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy.  Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live!" (116:1-2).

Loving God is so easy when you know Him, understand your sin and HIS holiness, and rest in His grace and mercy.  "The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.  The LORD protects the simple hearted; when I was in great need, He saved me" (116:5-6).  Every true believer will echo the Psalmist's words.  Oh, how great is my need for forgiveness; for a righteousness that will stand before the holy God.  And that righteousness is mine through faith in Jesus!  Only the "simple hearted" will give up on their own futile attempts to offer God something that will please Him, that will take away our guilt.  I have often asked people who do not yet know God and who have not yet received Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, "What do you do with your guilt?"

What have you done with yours?  You know you are guilty … everybody does.  We have all done wrong, even by our standards, let alone God's!  But in God's mercy and grace through the sacrifice of Jesus we, like the Psalmist, find rest for our souls.  "Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you" (116:7).  Our question then becomes, "How can I repay the LORD for all His goodness to me?" (116:12).  All that you and I have and are is already God's!  Yet, He delights in our joyful obedience!  As the Apostle Paul explained the purpose of His preaching the Gospel in his letter to the believers in Rome, he said, "Through Him (Jesus) and for His name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith" (Romans 1:5).  And he addresses his letter, "To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints" (Romans 1:7).  Joyful obedience is the offering we bring to God, not to earn His favor, but because He has already shown His favor to us!

As John writes in his letter to the churches, "We love, because He FIRST loved us!" (I John 4:19).  So, "I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all His people, in the courts of the house of the LORD …" (116:14,18-19).  In life and in death, I belong to the LORD, my God.  "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints" (116:15).  There is no doubt that  the God of Jacob desires to have a relationship with His people and that we who know His love respond to Him by loving Him back and by worshiping Him, praising Him and serving Him every day.  There just is no other reason to live!  Those who are "simple hearted" understand these things because His Spirit gives us wisdom that cannot be measured by an IQ test.  He is God … He loved us … we love Him!

What a blessing to have a relationship with the God of Jacob, the one and only true God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth.  I will praise Him now and forever and will fulfill my vows in the presence of all His people.  "Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Your Name be the glory, because of Your love and faithfulness!" (115:1).

"Heavenly Father, I come to You with so much joy and hope and love and thankfulness for Your mercy and Your grace to ME!  I have found rest for my soul in You, my God, for I acknowledge that You are the God of Jacob, the Maker of heaven and earth, and that You are gracious AND righteous, and full of compassion.  You have delivered me from death, and given me eternal life in Your Son.  With all my heart, I can say, 'I love You, LORD!'  For I AM BLESSED to have a relationship with YOU, my Savior and my God, in Jesus' name, Amen"

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