“My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” – Psalm 73:26 (ESV)
Can’t we all agree that we have a weakness when it comes to holding the line on what we know and believe faithfully? Literally the verb in this verse is simply “fail,” not “may fail.” Asaph was enraptured by God. His testimony is, “I have failed! I am despairing! I am dejected! I am overcome with depression!” Then he fires a broadside against all this despondency: “But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” This is our promise for when the blues attack. Refuse to yield to their effects. Instead, battle our unbelief; respond with a strategic counterattack. It comes down to this if we trust the promises of God: when in ourselves we feel weak and unable to cope; when we are physically spent and have lost heart, that is the time to not yield to whatever the reason is for our despondency. We trust God and not ourselves. We have hope because God is our strength and our portion forever. These testimonies in the Bible are for our use to fight the unbelief of despondency. And, we fight with the blast of faith in God’s promises.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.” – Psalm 51:10-11 (ESV)
David, King of Israel, made a serious error in judgment and broke God’s Law. His lust for Bathsheba led him into adultery and the murder of Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband. David, about whom God testified to be “a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do,” (1 Samuel 13:6; Acts 13:22) failed to do so always. It does not have to be any acts of such serious consequence in order to reflect on our own lives and the times when we have failed in obedience to God’s commandments. David writes this Psalm after he is confronted by Nathan, God’s prophet who was sent for that purpose. David confesses his sin and begs forgiveness from God. This promise, we have from God, is found throughout the Scriptures – God is merciful and loving. God will forgive all who come to Him in repentance, confessing their sins. Just as 1 John 1:9 confirms for us, God is faithful and just. He promises to forgive and cleanse us from sin and its residue. David’s request was for a clean heart and a right spirit within himself. God promises that when we acknowledge our failings.
Read 2 Samuel 11-12 – For context
“Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.” – 1 Samuel 12:24 (ESV)
Ever tested the word ‘only’ in a sentence to see how different positioning makes for different emphasis? Here is an example: “Only fear the Lord…” might read, “Fear only the Lord…” or, “Fear the only Lord…” or, “Fear the Lord only…” Each arrangements represents a true instruction and each has a slightly different emphasis of why we are to “Only fear the Lord…” The people of Israel had just crowned their first King, Saul, the son of Kish. He was handsome, taller than all others and must have had a wining personality. Samuel the prophet and judge cautioned the people to remain faithful to their true King, the Lord God. It was going to be easy for the people to begin to view their king and admire him too highly. Saul easily let it all go to his head and went astray, disobeying God. Let’s remember what Samuel said to the people for God has done great thing for us also. He provides for us salvation, gives us wisdom, comforts us, guides us, and blesses us abundantly. Plus much more – He is worthy of our awesome praise and worship. Great things in our past, present and future.
“Examine me, O Lord, and try me;
Test my mind and my heart.
For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes,
And I have walked in Your truth.” – Psalm 26:2-3 (NASB)
The love God promises to all who love Him is always before us. It is always for our benefit and never fails. We are the ones that fail in this love. David, who wrote this song seeks vindication that he has not failed. He calls on God to examine, try, and test his inner self – deeper emotion than what he might show to others. It is interesting that the phrase “test my mind and my heart” is translated from the Hebrew original “test my kidneys and my heart.” The use of kidneys is a figurative way to speak of the seat of emotion and affection; hence, it is involving character. It was seen as the most sensitive vital part of a person, thus, the “mind” as we today see the mind as the most vital part of a person along with the heart. These three invitations to divine scrutiny are essentially synonymous ways of testing, refining, and purifying. If we include the first verse, we can understand that David wanted confirmation of his faithfulness and trust in God. Can we claim that our integrity guides our way and our trust is steadfast? Let’s commit to that today.
“For our heart rejoices in Him, Because we trust in His holy name. Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you. ” Psalm 33:21-22 (ESV)
There is joy in the Christian life and our verse reminds us that we rejoice because we trust in Him, in His name. Why is it that trusting the Lord results in joy? Because He is trustworthy. When we trust the Lord we are trusting someone who is dependable. Because we can trust in His name we have a certain hope in what He has promised This whole Psalm, when we read through it, is packed with the magnificence of our Lord God. He looks down from heaven and watches over us. He knows everything we are going through, every challenge we face, every need we have. That is why, when we trust in Him it brings joy to our hearts. And when we look to Him for help and He responds by giving us what we need, our hearts respond and rejoice. That had been the experience of the Psalmist and it can be our experience too. Let’s join with the Psalmist and say as he did, “Because of Him we are happy! We are trusting him. And we trust his holy name.”
“…because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” – Romans 10:9-10 (ESV)
God saves us because He chose to do so. Our salvation happens when we believe that truth and confess with repentance to God. Our verse of promise says, “Confession is made unto salvation.” We are not saved by our mouth’s confession, but rather, our mouth testifies readily of the grace of God in Christ which we received by a gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8). This is not a simple acknowledgment that He is God and the Lord of the universe, since even demons acknowledge that to be true (James 2:19). This is the deep personal conviction, without reservation, that Jesus is our own master or sovereign. Paul emphasizes the importance that this comes from our heart. The heart is not merely the seat of affection or emotion. As used in the Bible, our heart is the hub of the wheel of human existence and life – intellectual, emotional, and volitional. First of all there must be faith in our heart. Without such faith a confession with the mouth would be mockery. But even if there is faith in our heart, confession with our mouth is altogether natural when our faith is genuine.
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” John 14:27 (NASB)
Jesus, when he was nearing the time of His arrest, illegal trials and Roman crucifixion demanded by the mob, spent some hours with the twelve who He appointed as Apostles. He promised them (and us) many things and taught them (and us) even more. He knew they did not yet comprehend and that soon they would flee in terror confused and deeply saddened. So he says, I have something I am leaving with you. It is my peace to settle your heart. It is like no peace you have ever found on this earth. Peace is the third of the first three fruit of the spirit. Love, Joy and now Peace. Jesus is the source for all of those. When our lives demonstrate Love and Joy and Peace because of our obedience to His teaching we are producing the fruit of the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit of God within us that gives us the desire and the ability and the power to overcome the most difficult times and respond with Peace in our hearts. Why? Because Jesus has left it there for us. He faced some very difficult moments soon after so He knew what He said.
“Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the night watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord!” Lamentations 2:19 (ESV)
For the final visit on this blog for this year, we are sharing some words and thoughts from “365 Days with C.H. Spurgeon.” Slightly modified for our time this is from Spurgeon’s watchnight sermon on New Year’s Eve 1855.
“Dear friends, may grace be given unto us, that we may be able to pour out our hearts this night! Remember, my hearers, it may seem a light thing for us to assemble tonight at such an hour, but listen for one moment to the ticking of that clock! It is the beating of the pulse of eternity. We hear the ticking of that clock! Each time the clock ticks, death’s footsteps are falling on the ground close behind us. We will soon enter another year. This year will be gone in a few moments. 1855 (2020) is almost gone; where will the next year be spent, my friends? One has been spent on earth; where will we spend the next? But do we know how to estimate our time, my hearers? Do we know how to measure our days? Do we know that every hour we are nearing the tomb? That every hour we are nearing judgment? We do not live stationary lives, but we are always going on, on, on, towards the grave. Do you know where the stream of life is hastening some of you? We who have harkened to the call of God know where we are to be. What shall the end of those be who obey not the gospel of God? We will not have so many years to live as we had last year!”
Spurgeon must have the last word: “Now, my friends, in the highest and best sense, I wish you all a happy New Year.”
“But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” Luke 2:19 (NIV)
Jesus taught us to store up treasures in heaven. Today we read how Mary, the mother of Jesus, reacted after hearing the words and testimony of the shepherds the night Jesus was born. Mary and Joseph were interrupted by them in the middle of the night, just a short time after Mary gave birth to the Son of God. We have been hearing and talking about the events of the Christmas story and now today is the day we focus on celebrating the birth of Jesus our Savior. The shepherds had some marvelous things to report of what they had seen and what the angel had told them. When Mary heard all this she received and believed it and she made the news her very own. It became part of her life story. It became very precious to her like a rich treasure. We are told that Mary gave much thought to what she had heard for it was very meaningful. How about us? Let’s give much thought to the promise of a savior whose birth we celebrate today and let’s also treasure it in our hearts as we ponder on what it means for us.
“For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:3 (NASB)
We hear many remarking how difficult this year has been and nearly everyone has been affected by the chaos in our world. They’re hoping hope next year will be better and are eager for this year to be over. How can we know if it will be any better? We can know that Jesus experienced much worse in His life for our lives sake. These words were written to encourage us when we are tempted to give up when it becomes really tough. The verse just before this one encourages us to fix our eyes on Jesus Christ our Savior which will help us to avoid giving up. Sometimes we may be tempted to think that it is not worth all the trouble involved in following close to the Lord. Then we should remember that Jesus came to earth to do his Father’s will and He encountered a lot of suffering. The leaders of the people hated Him and were hostile to Jesus and eventually killed him. But He endured it all, shame and death on the cross, and now He is in heaven’s glory and we’ll be there someday too. Let’s fix our eyes on Him today.