“Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” – James 1:18 (ESV)
Let’s take a moment to recognize how often we misunderstand the meaning of God’s promises because we use our own finite ability to reason out what makes sense. If a passage makes sense in our own reasoning there is no guarantee that we have a good understanding of what the Holy Spirit wants us to know of His inspired and authoritative words in Scripture. By example the promise in today’s verse teaches us that our regeneration is fully according to God’s will. He wills and it happens. “Of His will” a Greek. word that makes the point that regeneration is not just a wish. It is an active expression of God’s will. He always has the power to accomplish His will. James places this phrase at the beginning of the sentence in Greek, in order to emphasize that the sovereign will of God is the source of our new life. Regeneration, or the new birth is described as “He brought us forth.” We are God’s chosen “firstfruits” of the work Christ accomplished for us through His death. Let’s reflect back to the previous verses (James 1:16-17), where God promises us every perfect gift comes from our Heavenly Father.
“Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise, and apply your mind to my knowledge; For it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, that they may be ready on your lips. So that your trust may be in the Lord, I have taught you today, even you. Have I not written to you excellent things of counsels and knowledge, To make you know the certainty of the words of truth that you may correctly answer him who sent you? ” – Proverbs 22:17-21 (NASB)
Our longer than usual passage today is reminiscent of 2:1-5; and 5:1-2. It cautions us to be alert to hear and speak the wisdom of God. It is within human nature, which is fallen and without hope apart from God, that we will tend to disregard the words of the wise and even the words we read in our Scripture. The term in verse 20; excellent things, is literally “chief proverbs.” These verses which make up our passage is an introductory section of exhortation. What follows are a collection of words for the wise worshiper of God. The instruction “Incline your ear” is better translated “Bow down your ear,” Just as we might lean in and bow down to hear an elder person offer good words of advice or instruction and so that we will catch all that they have to say. Such words from God that follow and continue through Proverbs 24 are words of value and words we should heed with all diligence. If we do, there are many promised delivered to us as well as many warnings and cautions.
“Now, O Lord God, You are God, and Your words are truth, and You have promised this good thing to Your servant. Now therefore, may it please You to bless the house of Your servant, that it may continue forever before You. For You, O Lord God, have spoken; and with Your blessing may the house of Your servant be blessed forever.” – 2 Samuel 7:28-29 (NASB)
By this time in the life of David, King of Israel, he has accomplished a great deal. His major accomplishments have been to subdue the enemies of Israel and while he still has more to do in this task, David has secured Jerusalem as the City of David for the People of Israel. Through the profit Nathan, God has promised again that David’s royal line will be established forever. David turns to a prayer filled with humility and adoration of God. “Who am I, O Lord God,?” David asks. Today we focus again on the significance of how God makes promises to His people. David acknowledges “You have promised (spoken) this good thing…” Then in the next verse, “For You, O Lord God have spoken (promised);” The same original word is used in each instance. David, recognized as we should also that God’s spoken word is a spoken promise, a promise delivered. God made these promises which are promises we can trust. We took can trust that with God’s blessings our own houses, as His servants are blessed forever.” Forever means eternal and the life God has given to us is just that, an eternal life.
“Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.” – Psalm 25:5 (NASB)
When we believers have begun with trembling feet to walk in the way of the Lord, we can still ask to be led forward like a little child upheld by a parent’s helping hand. David knew much, but he felt his ignorance and desired to be still in the Lord’s school: four times over in two verses he applies for a scholarship in the college of grace. It would be better for many of us if instead of following our own devices and creating new paths of insight, we would inquire for the good old ways of God’s own truth and beseech the Holy Spirit to give us sanctified understandings and teachable spirits. “For you are the God of my salvation.” Our God is the Author and Perfecter of salvation to His people. If we believe this, we may use this as an argument for obtaining further blessings; if the Lord has ordained to save you, surely He will not refuse to instruct you in His ways. It is a happy thing when we can address the Lord with the confidence that David displays here; it gives us great power in prayer and comfort in trial.
“God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” – John 4:24 (NASB)
Worship is an essential element of the life of all who truly believe by faith in Jesus. True faith cannot be separated from the act of worship and remain true faith. We worship not what is a physical or material nature. We worship The Spirit with our spirit. Much more than the popular use of the word ‘spiritual’ which describes some metaphysical feeling or sense of being beyond the physical. This verse represents the classical statement on the nature of God as Spirit. The phrase means that God is invisible as opposed to physical or material. Therefore, when we worship God there is only one absolutely necessary way⸺we must worship God in spirit and truth. That may well relegate much of the ‘acts of worship’ used to day to the ‘unnecessary category.’ While these may help us focus on God, they are a physical and material means. The word “spirit” does not refer to the Holy Spirit but to our human spirit. Jesus’ point here is that a person must worship not simply externally with traditionalism to religious rites and rituals or places and outward appearance but inwardly (“in spirit”) with the proper heart attitude.
“ Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6 (ESV)
If we know a verse really well and have heard it and seen it posted many times, it becomes easy to let its power and meaning fade a bit. Let’s not do this with this verse. This is the sixth of seven occasion that John records Jesus using the “I AM” in his proclamations regarding who He is and what He has to give to all who believe. Thomas asks what all thought, “Where are you going? How do we follow you there?” One of the 12, Thomas and all the others had a ways to go to understand fully the mission and purpose that brought Jesus to earth. Jesus declared that He is the way to God because He is the truth of God* and the life of God*. In this verse, the exclusiveness of Jesus as the only approach, the only door, the only way to the Father is emphatic. Jesus emphasized that salvation, contrary to what many people think, is not obtainable through many ways. Only one Way exists*. Jesus is the only access to the Father because He is the only One from the Father.
*(cf. John 1:14; John 3:15; 11:25; Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy. 2:5)
“Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.” Psalm 25:5 (ESV)
How much do any of us enjoy “the wait?” Who has time to wait in our high-speed world to be put on hold? But waiting is very often a good thing, even the best thing for us to do. Especially in the Psalms of David we find suggestions to “wait” on the Lord. We all have many things to learn from the Lord. And how else will God have an opportunity to teach us what we need to learn if we don’t wait for Him to teach us? We have opportunities to wait for God to act. God’s time is perfect and very different than ours. We don’t care for the army way where it’s common to “hurry up and wait” By waiting we can constantly be ready with hope that God will teach us His ways and His paths. It is through expectation that we wait with hope for God to teach us His perfect way for us. “Lead me in Your truth and teach me” is what David wrote. We too can be at all times looking eagerly to God for Him to show us and teach us and lead us.
“The LORD descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the LORD. Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth;” – Exodus 34:5-6 (NASB)
While we are not expected to have experiences with God in the manner that Moses did, we find in these verses from Exodus a promise for us from God. He came down to Moses who had ascended to the top of the mountain. On this particular occasion God came down in a glorious cloud. This was what is called a theophany—a visible manifestation of the invisible God. God had appeared to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-9), so he appeared again on the mountain. The Bible says almost nothing about God’s appearance. Moses wanted to see God, but rather than telling us what he saw, the Bible tells us what Moses heard: The Prophet heard the promises which defined God’s character. Our LORD God is, compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness, truth and faithfulness, Verse 7 goes on; God maintains love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Each of these characters also define names of our LORD. For God’s name stands for his entire being. It is his nature. It is who He is—the God of creation and redemption, who made and saves His people.
Source: Philip Graham Ryken and R. Kent Hughes, Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005), 1040–1041.
“The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” – Psalm 145:18 (ESV)
Perhaps there are times when you feel distant from your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is not uncommon for those who believe to go through trials and testing of their faith. Sometimes it seems that what is before us is insurmountable and like a huge tidal wave it is about to wash over us and take us under. That is the time to remember this promise and call on God. If you have repented and believed on Jesus Christ, you have been saved from the wages of sin and are safe in Christ. Being in Christ is why we can believe that the LORD is near when we call on Him. He is not distant and He is not out of reach of our voice. In fact if we are truly in Christ, then He is in us with His Holy Spirit. This is not hocus-pocus as many who reject Jesus would claim. Our Almighty God is a spirit yet a true person who loves and cares for us enough to offer His only begotten Son, Jesus, as a sacrifice for our sin. He promised this long ago and what God promises, He fulfills.
“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.