The House of God (March 30)

Scripture:        Judges, chapter 8; Psalm 42; 1 Corinthians, chapter 15

Psalm 42 (NIV) – As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?

My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”  These things I remember as I pour out my soul:  how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon – from Mount Mizar.  Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.

By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me – a prayer to the God of my life.  I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me?  Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?”  My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Observations: Yesterday was the second Sunday of virtual worship for us, and for most churches in the United States.  One of the news programs yesterday did a story about churches, and they showed video of several pastors leading worship in their empty churches.  It was a sobering reminder of our current circumstances, and it would be easy to begin to despair.  That’s why today’s reading from Psalm 42 hit home.  The first phrase that stood out to me is this:  These things I remember as I pour out my soul:  how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.  How I used to go to the house of God…

The fact is that as a culture, we have become far too comfortable with not going to the house of God.  I’ve seen a number of posts on Facebook recently which say something like this:  “Now is the time for us to show that church is not about the building.”  It is true that “the church” is not a building, but the collective people of God – but how do we know that we’re “the church” if we’re never together?  When Paul wrote to “the church at Corinth” or “the church at Rome” – or any of the other churches to whom he wrote – it is apparent that the expectation was that there was a time when those people would be together to hear that letter be read.  While there was no building where those churches would gather, there must have been times and places where people met for worship and instruction and encouragement – the very things that “the church” still does.

We are blessed to have the technology to be able to stream our worship services, so that our church can join together in worship.  But we must not become so comfortable with this that we forget the importance of physical gathering:  “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV).

The other thing that I notice is that the psalmist says:  “My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you…”  When we are discouraged, we tend to look for things that we can do:  how can I fix this?  How can I make myself feel better?  The key is to not focus on ourselves at all, but to focus on God.  When we remember God, and all that he has done for us, our thoughts turn from what we can do – or cannot do – and turn toward God, the Mighty One.

Application:    This sentence occurs twice in Psalm 42:  Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God (vv 4, 11).  God is reminding me how important it is to intentionally put our hope in him.  That means that we don’t just do our own thing, turning to God when we run into problems; it means that each day we look to him for direction and strength. As we spend time with God, allowing his Word to saturate our hearts, we find that Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.  When we allow the waves of God’s love to flow over us, we can praise him, no matter what we face.

Prayer:   Father, I praise you for your faithfulness to us.  In every situation, you provide the strength that we need.  Bless us with your presence and strength, we pray, that we may honor you and reflect the light of your love to those around us.  Amen.

Participation Medals (March 24)

Scripture:        Joshua, chapters 18-20; 1 Corinthians, chapter 9

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NIV) – Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.  No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Observations: When I was young, I loved to compete in all kinds of sports.  I started playing golf when I was about 5; I played football and basketball in grade school, and then in junior high.  (There were no “travel leagues” or year-round training then; football in the fall, basketball in the winter, track in the spring, and golf in the summer.)  We kept score; we all knew at the end of the game whether we had won or lost.

Today, people can start their children in sports at a very young age, with soccer and t-ball being very popular sports.  In many of those “pee wee” leagues, they don’t keep score, and they don’t say who won or lost (even though the parents and many of the children know).  The reason for that is that they are trying to encourage the children to participate; they’re also trying to protect young children from the sense of failure that can accompany losing.  This mindset has given rise to the phrase “participation trophy” or “participation medal,” and many people decry this development as leading children to not understand that, in life, not everyone “wins.”

But in God’s kingdom, everyone can win!  Paul starts this passage by saying that those who compete in the games go into strict training, but only one gets the prize.  The contrast – which he does not come out and state plainly, but is clear nonetheless – is that in the race of life, the prize is available to all of us.  We are called to “run in such a way as to get the prize,” and Paul tells them that he “trains” by being intentional about what he does.  I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.  No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave…

The point is that what we do matters.  The small acts of devotion and obedience which God calls us to each day are the training for what lies ahead.  We can be sure that if we follow His training guidelines, we will indeed get the prize – because our ability to get the prize does not depend on our efforts, but on what Jesus has already done for us!  Our obedience is our demonstration that we accept what God offers us, and that our trust is in Him, rather than ourselves.  God knows our hearts, and he sees our efforts.  If we run in such a way as to get the prize, we can rest assured that God will help us.  In this “race,” everyone can win!

Application:    God is reminding me that following Jesus is not a competitive thing; we’re called to try to make sure that other people get the prize.  There is no shortage of the abundant life which Jesus invites us to share!  If we run the race to the end, following the directions of our Leader, we will all win the prize – the best “participation medal” ever!  We do not trust in our own efforts, but we strive to do our best as an expression of our trust in God.

Prayer:   Father, thank you for your great love for us.  You have made abundant life available to us, and you offer it to everyone.  Help us to “stay in training,” to demonstrate our trust in you by living your way; help us to remember that this is not a competition, and that we are called to help as many people as possible to also “run in such a way as to win the prize.”  Help us to experience the joy of sharing that life with you and with each other.  Amen.

Eating in an Idol's Temple (March 23)

Scripture:        Joshua, chapters 15-17; 1 Corinthians, chapter 8

1 Corinthians 8:9-13 (NIV) – Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.  For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols?  So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge.  When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.  Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.

Observations: There are a number of things that stick out to me from this passage.  First – and probably most important – is Paul’s admonition that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.  Probably the reason that stands out to me is our insistence on receiving our “rights.”  As long as our primary focus is on our rights, our focus is on ourselves – not on God, and not on others.  

The example that Paul gives made perfect sense in his day, but it loses most of its power when we read it.  We don’t have idol temples where animals are sacrificed, and we don’t take part in those sacrificial meals, so there’s no danger to those with a weak conscience from that direction.  But there are other examples that we could use.  Many Christians believe that they have the “right” to drink alcohol, and Scripture does not tell us that all drinking is sinful.  I belong to a denomination whose members covenant with each other to not drink alcohol, because we believe (in part) that the exercise of that “right” might prove to be a stumbling block to others.  Now, it’s not my job to judge those who can exercise that “right” without any harmful effects to themselves or others; I need to be mature enough in my faith not to judge them, and not to allow their exercise of that “right” to cause me to stumble.  There are other examples that we could use to explain how the exercise of our “rights” might be harmful to others.  The point is that our default position should not be to demand our “rights,” but to consider how we might encourage others and build them up in the faith.  As long is our focus is on our “rights,” we’re still focused on self.

Another idea that stands out to me from this passage – and which goes along with this idea of our “rights” – is Paul’s comment about “eating in an idol’s temple.”  I mentioned earlier that we don’t really have pagan temples where animals are sacrificed, but are there other “idol temples” in our culture that we should consider?  Again, it’s not my job, nor my intent, to judge what others might consider to be “idol temples.”  I need to be open before God and ask him, regularly, to review my heart, my life, my habits and attitudes, to help me to recognize if there are “idol temples” that I am frequenting – and to show me how that might be harmful to me, or to others.  

I’ve cited this passage numerous times, but I don’t think we can be reminded too much of what Paul writes in Philippians 2:  “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8, NIV).  He had every “right” to claim his equality with God, to use that status to his advantage – but he emptied himself, made himself nothing, for us.  And we are called to have the same mindset as Jesus!

Application:    As I read and reflect on this passage today, the thing that keeps coming to my mind is how often we fall into the trap of trying to control what other people do – whether by claiming our “rights,” or by demanding that they not exercise their rights.  God is reminding me to fix my eyes on Jesus, rather than on myself or the people around me.  When I fix my eyes on Jesus, he will lead me in the way that I should go, to the people that I should minister to, for his glory.  I need to stay away from the “idol temples” that call people to worship self and serve self, and remember that I have been created to live in the presence of God.

Prayer:   Father, thank you for reminding me to be careful about the “idol temples” of our culture that invite us to serve ourselves and focus on ourselves.  Help me to have the same mindset as Jesus, looking to serve others for your glory.  Help me to lift Jesus up, so that people may be drawn to him.  Amen.

Inquiring of the Lord (March 21)

“The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord” (Joshua 9:14, NIV).

Scripture:        Joshua, chapters 9-11; 1 Corinthians, chapter 6

Joshua 9:1-15 (NIV) – Now when all the kings west of the Jordan heard about these things – the kings in the hill country, in the western foothills, and along the entire coast of the Mediterranean Sea as far as Lebanon (the kings of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites) – they came together to wage war against Joshua and Israel.  However, when the people of Gibeon heard that Joshua had done to Ai, they resorted to a ruse: They went as a delegation whose donkeys were loaded with worn-out sacks and old wineskins, cracked and mended.  They put worn and patched sandals on their feet and wore old clothes.  All the bread of their food supply was dry and moldy.  Then they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and the Israelites, “We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us.”

The Israelites said to the Hivites, “But perhaps you live near us, so how can we make a treaty with you?”

“We are your servants,” they said to Joshua.

But Joshua asked, “Who are you and where do you come from?”

They answered:  “Your servants have come from a very distant country because of the fame of the Lord your God.  For we have heard reports of him: all that he did in Egypt, and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan – Sihon king of Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth.  And our elders and all those living in our country said to us, “Take provisions for your journey, go and meet them and say to them, ‘We are your servants; make a treaty with us.’  This bread of ours was warm when we packed it at home on the day we left to come to you.  But now see how dry and moldy it is.  And these wineskins that we filled were new, but see how cracked they are.  And our clothes and sandals are worn out by the very long journey.”

The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord.  Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath.

Observations: It is a measure of how powerful God is that the people of Gibeon were ready to do anything they could to try to avoid being destroyed by Israel.  You would think they would realize that God would be able to see through their ruse; if God was powerful enough to part the Red Sea, stop the flow of the Jordan, and bring down the walls of Jericho, God could certainly alert the Israelites to the fact that the Gibeonites were trying to deceive them.  But they were so desperate that they concocted a plan to go to the Israelites with moldy provisions and worn-out sandals, and to try to convince the Israelites that they had come from far away to make a treaty with them.

And it worked – but not because God was not able to see through the deception.  The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord.  How quick we are to trust in our own wisdom, our own understanding, and our own strength – particularly when God has already given us some success!  The Israelites had seen the evidence of God’s presence and his strength in fighting for them at Jericho, and again at Ai.  Those were just the latest examples of God’s work on their behalf.  They had God’s promise that he would be with them, and that they should be strong and courageous.  So after some big victories, they no doubt started to believe that God would automatically lead them, and that he would jump in and stop them if they started off in the wrong direction.

But God didn’t – and God usually doesn’t.  As James writes, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5, NIV).  The key there is that we have to ask. God is ready to give us wisdom. As we read the Word each day, listening to what God is saying and allowing him to direct us, he gives us the wisdom we need.  But the Israelites didn’t ask God before entering into a treaty with the people of Gibeon; they sampled their provisions – trusting in their own understanding and discernment – but did not inquire of the Lord.

We need to be careful not to minimize this failure on their part.  We might look at the story and say, “No harm done; they subjected the people, making them serve as woodcutters and water carriers, and the Gibeonites agreed to do that.  It all worked out okay.”  But it didn’t work out the way that God had directed.  God had told them not to make a treaty with any of the surrounding peoples, but they did, because they trusted in themselves rather than inquiring of the Lord.  Even though we may not see any direct “bad results” in this passage, the fact is that when we get comfortable trusting in our own judgment and abilities rather than inquiring of the Lord, we are setting ourselves up for disaster.

Application:    God is reminding me that although he has given us wisdom and discernment, that does not mean that we do not need to inquire of him when decisions need to be made.  The more we build the habit of seeking God’s direction, spending time in prayer even over “small” decisions, the more we become able to sense God’s direction and understand it.  That doesn’t mean that we get to the point that we don’t need to inquire of the Lord; it means that we become more and more able to recognize God’s voice and understand what he is saying.  That’s why it is so important to spend time in the Word each day, reflecting on what God is saying to us. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV).

Prayer:   Father, I thank you for reminding me that you are ready to answer our prayers for wisdom and direction if we will inquire of you and wait for your answer.  Give us the faith to trust in you; give us the patience to wait for your answer.  No matter how urgent our situation may seem to us, you are the One who truly understands – and you have the right course laid out for us.  Help us to trust in you with all our hearts, rather than trusting in our own understanding or abilities.  Amen. 

Stand Up! (March 20)

Scripture:        Joshua, chapters 7-8; Psalm 69; 1 Corinthians, chapter 5

Joshua 7:6-12 (NIV) – Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the Lord, remaining there till evening.  The elders of Israel did the same, and sprinkled dust on their heads.  And Joshua said, “Alas, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us?  If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! Pardon your servant, Lord.  What can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies?  The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth.  What then will you do for your own great name?”

The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up!  What are you doing down on your face?  Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep.  They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions.  That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction.  I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.”

Observations: As I read this passage today, it struck me that Joshua’s lament was the same kind of complaint that the Israelites had raised to Moses every time something happened that they didn’t like:  “Why did you bring us out of Egypt to let us die here in the desert?  Why did you bring us out here where there is no food or water?  Why did you bring us out here to perish at the hands of these enemies?”  And the first time that something bad happens to Israel, here’s Joshua:  Why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us?  If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan!

It’s surprising how quickly and easily our emotions can cause us to stop thinking logically, much less spiritually.  First, if God had wanted to deliver them into the hands of the Amorites, he could have much more easily done it at Jericho, which was a bigger city with more troops and defenses.  The town of Ai – and that’s all it was – was hardly big enough to threaten the Israelites; their own scouts had told Joshua not to send the whole army. And, looking at it logically, 36 casualties out of an armed force of three thousand would not really be considered a “rout.” But emotionally, the people had come to assume that they would never suffer any casualties, so when they did, “the hearts of the people melted in fear and became like water” (7:5).

Second, after listening to the complaints of the people in the desert – and seeing God’s response to them – you would hardly think that Joshua would slip into that same mindset.  But he did.  The degree to which he had stopped thinking clearly is reflected in his statement, “If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan!”  They didn’t stay on the other side of the Jordan because God had commanded them to cross over into the Promised Land.  They were able to do that because God had stopped the flow of the river so they could cross on dry ground.  God had given them a great victory at Jericho without them even having to do anything; God made the walls of the city fall down so the Israelites could take it.  They had not crossed the Jordan because they were dissatisfied with the other side; they crossed it because God had called them to, and God had led them to a great victory.  What Joshua calls “contentment” would actually have been disobedience – but the people’s fear caused Joshua to fear, so much so that he forgot God’s call to be strong and courageous, because God would be with him.

Sometimes, we just need God to say: “Stand up!  What are you doing down on your face?”  When we allow fear and uncertainty to overwhelm us, we need to hear God say, “Stand up!”  God has proven both his faithfulness and his power to us; we do not need to cower in fear before any attack the enemy may unleash against us.  We need to seek God’s face, to ask for his direction, and then to walk in obedience, rather than allowing fear to consume us and paralyze us.

Application:    It would be easy for someone to read this and think that I’m suggesting that we should ignore the coronavirus, ignore the government’s orders and recommendations, ignore what the medical professionals are saying, and blindly press ahead; that’s not what I’m saying at all.  As I’ve mentioned recently, Scripture tells us to submit to the ruling authorities.  God has given us the ability to develop medical treatments and procedures for our benefit.  What I am saying is that we should not allow fear to paralyze us.  God has a plan in the midst of every situation, and we need to focus on learning what God is doing, and understanding what he wants us to do in the midst of it.  These are times when people need to see God’s people acting wisely, but also demonstrating the peace that only comes from knowing that God is in control.  We need to demonstrate our love for others by doing what we can to help them – practice social distancing, observing the governmental directives, and finding ways to be the hands and feet of Jesus to those who need help.  We don’t need to be lamenting our situation; we need to stand up and do what God directs us to do.

It’s important to remember that Joshua was not down on his face before God confessing sin; he was complaining to God about what had happened to them. That’s why God tells him to stand up – because in that case sin was the problem. But there are times – and our current circumstances may well be one of those times – when the situation is not the direct result of sin. When we come before God, seeking his direction, he will make it clear if the problem is the result of our sin. We need to come before him seeking his direction, committed to obeying him no matter what the answer is.

Prayer:   Father, thank you for the peace that only comes from knowing you, and for the confidence that comes from knowing that you are in control.  None of this has taken you by surprise, and you are at work for our eternal good in the midst of this.  Help us to listen to you as you direct us how we can bear witness to the love of Christ in these trying times; help us to demonstrate the peace that Jesus gives.  Lead us in your way today, and give us the courage to stand up and follow Jesus today.  Amen.

“Whose Side Are You On?” (March 19)

Scripture:        Joshua, chapters 3-6; 1 Corinthians, chapter 4

Joshua 5:13-15 (NIV) – Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand.  Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”

“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”  Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”

The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.”  And Joshua did so.

Observations: Imagine the thoughts that must have been running through Joshua’s mind at the beginning of this passage.  God had appeared to him, encouraging him to be strong and courageous, because God would be with him.  God had demonstrated to the Israelites that he was with Joshua by stopping the flow of the Jordan River so all of Israel could cross over.  Joshua had to be feeling confident, ready to take on the defenses of Jericho – and once that great city with its defensive wall had been conquered, the Israelites would know that God was with them.

So as Joshua stands near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand.  What must Joshua have thought?  “Who is this man with a drawn sword, standing before me?  Has he come to challenge me?  Has he come to join me and the army of Israel?”  So he asks him, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” In other words, “Whose side are you on?”

From the human perspective, that’s a reasonable question – because we tend to think of everything in black and white terms.  If you’re not on our side, you’re the enemy.  If you’re not for me, you’re against me.  Either you’re all in, or you’re out.  But the “man” standing in front of him challenges that “black and white” way of looking at things, because he answers:  “Neither, but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”  

Think about that answer.  First – and probably most important for us to grasp – is the fact that God is not on our side, because it is not “our side” that is important.  What is important is God’s side.  God determines what the right side is; it is up to us to join him.  When we assume that God is on our side, we act presumptuously.  The difference is very important:  when we acknowledge that it is God’s side, we also acknowledge that God sets the parameters.  He decides who else is on his side.  He decides what steps his side will take.  He decides what “success” or “victory” looks like.  We are far too ready to assume that what we want is what God wants, rather than seeking God’s will and God’s way and joining him.

Joshua gets it, immediately; he fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”  Falling facedown demonstrated his submission to God and God’s plan.  Asking, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” allows God the freedom to set the agenda, to dictate what steps we will take, and to determine what “victory” or “success” look like.  Joshua models the appropriate response for all of us: submit to God’s authority, and seek to know what God wants us to do.

Application:  Whatever our circumstances may be, we can always seek God’s will and God’s purposes.  We can always ask, “What message do you have for your servant?”  The problem is that we are far more likely to determine what we think the “right” result is, and pray for God to make that happen.  No matter how much I pray, no matter how much I study God’s Word, I should never assume that I know how God is working and what God’s plan is.  God will reveal to me as much of his plan as I need to know, and he will lead me to do my part to bring his purposes to pass.  I can trust his plan, because he is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all good.  I’m reminded of Abraham Lincoln’s famous quote:  “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”  I need to keep my focus on figuring out what God is doing, and what he wants me to do, trusting that he is always right and his plans are always best.

Prayer:   Father, thank you for reminding me that you are good, and your mercy endures forever.  You are always at work according to your great purposes, to draw people to yourself.  Lead me each day to know your will for me, and to do it, that you may be glorified.  Thank you for the privilege of joining you in your purposes!  Help me to join you faithfully each day.  Amen.

Under the Lord’s Care (March 18)

Scripture:        Joshua, chapters 1-2; Psalm 37; 1 Corinthians, chapter 3

Psalm 37:18-19 (NIV) – The blameless spend their days under the Lord’s care, and their inheritance will endure forever.  In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.

Observations: My attention was drawn to these verses today by the phrase, “In times of disaster they will not wither.”  As our country – indeed, the whole world – seems to be blown to and fro by the winds of the coronavirus, God’s people should rest in his peace.  That does not mean that we are somehow immune to the virus, nor does it mean that we should ignore governmental directives, medical recommendations, and common sense.  It simply means that we trust in the Lord no matter what happens to us.  As Job famously said, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him” (Job 13:15a).

The important thing from these verses is the statement, “The blameless spend their days under the Lord’s care, and their inheritance will endure forever.”  As followers of Jesus, we are not focused on the wealth and power and prestige – or even the physical health – that this world chases.  We have abundant life in Jesus now, and we know that all who believe in him will live, even though they die (John 11:26).  Our inheritance will endure forever, because it is the promise of life in God’s eternal kingdom.  There is no virus, no government, no criminal, no economic collapse, that can take that away from us.

These two verses are only a sample of the promises and reassurances that David offers us in Psalm 37.  Consider these verses:  “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this:  He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun” (vv 4-6); “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; although he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand” (vv 23-24); “The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble.  The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take delight in him” (vv 39-40).

Application:    In the midst of confusion and fear, God reminds us to “fear not.”  Again – I can’t stress this enough – that doesn’t mean that we ignore the medical professionals and the governmental agencies and do whatever we want; as I remarked the other day, Scripture teaches us to submit to those in authority, because God has allowed human authority to exist for our benefit.  But at the end of the day, our trust is not in medical professionals; our trust is not in governmental agencies; our trust is in the Lord, who made heaven and earth.  So wash your hands, practice social distancing – but remember that social distancing doesn’t include staying away from God!  When we draw near to him, he will draw near to us, and will give us the strength and the peace to stand as things swirl all around us.

Prayer:   Father, I thank you for the peace that comes from knowing you.  I thank you for the promise that we are under your care.  We recognize that that has never meant that you protect us from any physical harm; it means that you are with us in the midst of whatever trials we face, and you give us the strength to come through them to your glory.  Help us to reflect the light of Christ into our world, which so desperately needs that light; help us to bear witness to the peace that you promise to those who know you.  Amen.