Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"Praise, thanksgiving and a love that endures forever!"

Day #326:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - November 19th

Scripture Reading:  Psalms 134 - 136 …

There's a saying that declares, "All good things must end!"  But it's not really true.  Through the knowledge of God we who believe in Jesus Christ become new creations and Jesus says that we "HAVE CROSSED OVER from death to life" (John 5:24).  That means that what we begin to experience now in our relationship with God will never end, but will continue throughout all eternity.  The word for that is "forever!"  There ARE things that will last forever, but only when attached to or connected with or flowing from God.  He alone is eternal, therefore, only that which is related to Him enters into the spiritual realm and extends and exists beyond time.

For those who do not know God, that will be eternal death - an eternal existence separated from God.  But for those who have been saved by God's grace, who have been born again by His Spirit and who have come to Him through faith in Jesus, there is an eternal existence in the very presence of the God who created us, for we have been reconciled to Him through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and declared righteous by faith in His shed blood.  Incredibly, the writers of the Psalms wrote about this future glory that lasts forever long before Jesus came the first time.  Therefore, they call those who believe to "Praise the LORD" by giving Him thanks for His love … which endures forever!!

Have you ever considered that those who do not know God do not want to talk about "forever."  Oh, they might talk about some kind of life-after-death, but they have no way of knowing what that is, or even IF it is.  All they can do is suppose, and the best some come up with is being re-incarnated (returning to the flesh time after time after time … even as an animal or an inanimate object).  How desperate is the hope of those who have no knowledge of God or of His promises, and who thus have no concept of forever!!  You and I who believe, on the other hand, understand that "what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (II Corinthians 4:18).

Surely the writers of the Psalms believed this, so much as they could, from what God had already revealed to them through His Spirit and through Moses and others.  It was because of their belief in God that they called the people of Israel to "Praise the LORD!"  To praise God is to acknowledge who He is … "the Maker of heaven and earth" (134:3), but there's more …  To praise God is to understand that He "has chosen Jacob to be His own, Israel to be His treasured possession" (135:4).  Why is this so important?  Because if God has not chosen YOU, you cannot know Him and you will not come to Him.

Why didn't any of the other nations of the world have the same relationship with God that Israel did?  God revealed Himself to Abraham, to Isaac and then to Jacob, from whom He made a great nation:  Israel.  The history of Israel recorded in the Old Testament is the history of the GOD of Israel, just as the history of the Church in the New Testament is the history of the God of those Jews and Gentiles who believe in Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, God's "Anointed One,"  who was foretold in the Old Testament and who came in the New.  As God revealed Himself to those whom He chose in the Old Testament, so He reveals Himself to those whom He chooses in the New Testament.  And it is only these who will "praise the LORD!"

Thus the reason for praise:  "for the LORD is good!" (135:3).  Some people dispute that statement.  Because of the trials of this life, many become weighed down and overcome by evil.  Why doesn't God do something?  As Christians we claim to believe in a sovereign God who rules over all things and who allows evil to exist for a time for His own purposes.  We could spend a lot of time talking about that, because God gives us some answers in His Word, but it's true that if you don't know God, no answer is good enough … and if you DO know God, no answer is necessary.  Evil exists because of the rebellion of Satan and his followers in heaven, and because of the sin of Adam and Eve and all who have followed after them, including you and me.

God, however, has determined to overcome evil, in His time and in His way.  There are hundreds, thousands of examples throughout the Bible and history.  People often take credit for the good things that happen - even miraculous things, but the truth is, ALL that is good comes from God.  When those who do not know or believe in God do good things, it is because God moved them to do so.  They get no credit (though many break their arms patting themselves on the back!).  God prevents people from being as bad as they would be, and He calls some to be His and works in us to point others to Him, the source of all that is good.  To us God says, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21).

The writer of Psalm 135 testifies, "I know that the LORD is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods.  The LORD does whatever pleases Him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths" (135:5-6).  He controls the clouds, the lightning and the wind.  He controls nations and kings.  He alone rules over the affairs of men, so He alone guides and directs the events of the world toward His appointed purposes.  And only those who know Him, who love Him and who worship Him reap the benefit of His love … which "endures forever!"  Why?  Because He is the only thing that IS forever!!  He alone is eternal, with no beginning and no ending.

With conviction, the Psalmist declares that "the idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by the hands of men.  They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but they cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths" (135:15-17).  The ignorance of mankind is revealed by their worship of dumb idols!  "Those who make them will be like them" (135:18).  But Israel's God, the one true God, is different.  He creates, He acts, He endures … forever!!  He alone is worthy of praise, so the Psalmist calls the people whom He has chosen to "Praise the LORD!"

Knowing that God is good and that He is worthy of praise moves His people to thanksgiving!  Who would say, "Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good most of the time and His love lasts for a while!"???  What would be the point?  Knowledge of God alone leads to thanksgiving, for we know that "HIS love endures forever!"  As that is the refrain of Psalm 136, that should be the refrain of our lives as believers.  HIS love endures forever because HIS love arises from the very core of His being.  God determined to choose Israel and to set His love on them.  Deuteronomy 7:6 is the foundation of Psalm 135:4 and of the refrain of Psalm 136:  "You are a people holy to the LORD your God.  The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be His people, His treasured possession" (Deuteronomy 7:6).

So God says to you and me today:  "You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light!" (I Peter 2:9). Yes, the knowledge of being chosen by God is what confirms the truth that "His love endures forever."  Paul writes to the Romans that "God demonstrates His love for us in this:  that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).  The Psalmist lists reason after reason as evidence of God's abiding love.  He alone is God, He has performed many wonders, He governs the sun, moon and stars, He delivers His people, He defeats our enemies, He cares for those in need … HIS love endures FOREVER!!!!  And we know MORE!!

As human beings, some imagine that we are so great as we begin to explore the solar system and the universe.  Yet the more knowledge mankind gains the more they reveal their ignorance in proclaiming THEIR wisdom and the more judgment comes upon them because they suppress the truth and worship technology, as they search for answers about where we came from … Really???  Yet, if you know Him, if you know God, and if you know that He chose YOU to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him, then you know that He is worthy of praise and you are moved to give thanks because the love He has shown to you in His Son Jesus Christ … that love "endures forever!"

Praise the LORD!  Give thanks for His gift of life through Jesus Christ.  Rejoice in His love daily and live to serve Him.  Then, as His love endures forever, you will experience the joy of His presence and you live to love Him in eternity … time without end … FOREVER!  Do it today and know that His is a love that endures forever!!

"Heavenly Father, it is so easy to get caught up in the trials of life and the evil that is all around me, and to forget the truth that You have revealed in Your Word.  Remind me today that Jesus is on the throne and that in spite of what I see with my eyes, the sun is shining above the clouds and the angels are singing, 'Holy! Holy! Holy! is the LORD God Almighty.  Heaven and earth are full of YOUR glory!'  Move me to live my life in constant praise and thanksgiving as I live to declare Your love in Christ Jesus to all I meet.  Use me, Father, to testify to Your goodness as I thank You for Your love and grace, in Jesus' name, Amen"

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