He was found

They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul. All who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, were to be put to death, whether small or great, man or woman. They took an oath to the Lord with loud acclamation, with shouting and with trumpets and horns. All Juda rejoiced about the oath because they had sworn it wholeheartedly. They sought God eagerly, and he was found by them. So the Lord gave them rest on every side.

2 Chronicles 15:12-15 (NIV)

I am amazed at the intensity with which Judah swore their oath to seek God. We’re not used to such excitement when it comes to commitment. Most people are consider themselves committed if they’re only five minutes late for church instead of fifteen and then are upset if someone happens to mention their perpetual tardiness. Be glad you weren’t in Judah at the time this covenant was made. You’d have been put to death.

A little much, you think? Perhaps. Or perhaps not. While the penalty for not taking the oath was great, the reward for taking it was even greater. And he was found by them. So the Lord gave them rest on every side.

We have a bad habit of looking at our faith as deeply personal. It is, don’t get me wrong, but it is not just for us as individuals. Our faith and our commitment to the the Lord is also for the entire body and the entire body is to reach a lost and dying world. When Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross, it was for you and it was for me. But it was also for the church—his bride. His death was meant to bind us all together like Judah’s covenant united them.

While death may not be a bit of an extreme punishment for a lack of commitment these days, we have somehow lost our connection to each other and forgotten the great importance of community and sharing a common covenant. We can all take an oath as individuals and experience a certain amount of peace, but look at the effects Judah’s nationwide oath had on the people—rest on every side. And that rest lasted as long as they kept the oath.

If the church—not just a church, but The Church—would stand up and make a serious covenant not only to seek God with all their heart and soul, but to keep each other accountable to it, imagine the effect it would have on our nation. If God is not found where we are, maybe we’re not seeking Him as eagerly as we thought. But if we would all join together as Judah did in that time of rejoicing over a renewed covenant, perhaps we’d find God along with our rest.

Read: 2 Chronicles 13-16, John 14

I’m working

Jesus took a lot of flack for the things that he did on the Sabbath day. Those that would seek to destroy him looked for any and every opportunity to see him come to ruin. It is interesting to think how often Jesus was “caught in the act” by the Pharisees. How did they know what he was up to unless they were following him? If Jesus told a man to get up and pick up his mat because he’d been healed, that was considered work? If getting up was considered work, getting dressed was surely work and we don’t read stories of the Pharisees walking around naked on the Sabbath.

It is true that God rested on the seventh day after spending six days creating the universe. He also instituted the Sabbath as a day of rest and reflection on Him. Work was to be set aside and the focus of the people was to be on God. The Pharisees, for all their not working, certainly set their focus on something—someone—else.

Let’s work this out, shall we? God created the Sabbath—a day of rest. Jesus is God. Jesus created the Sabbath. Jesus was sent to walk the earth. Jesus did stuff on the Sabbath. Jesus never went against God’s word. So was what Jesus did on the Sabbath to be considered work or not?

Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”

John 5:17 (NIV)

Well, how does Jesus get around this then? He’s working on a day where no one self-respecting Jew is supposed to work!

God rested on the seventh day from His work of Creation. But Jesus pointed to the continuous work of God as justification for His Sabbath activity. God sustains the universe, begets life, and visits judgments. It is not wrong for His Son to do works of grace and mercy on the Sabbath.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary

Just because God rested on the seventh day didn’t mean that His work stopped. God is always working on our behalf, even Sundays (or Saturdays, depending on which day you recognise as the Sabbath). Despite what religious leaders may think, God’s work cannot be put on pause or stopped. Because God’s work is never truly done, Jesus’ work was never done. No matter what we need or when we need it, God is ready and able to fulfill our needs, uninterrupted and without fail. A day of the week can’t stop Him if He’s working.

Read: 2 Kings 9-11, John 5:1-24

The seventh day

Read: Exodus 31-33, Matthew 22:23-46

When you think of something as being holy, what comes to mind? A certain place? The empty tomb. Jerusalem. A church or temple. A specific thing? The Bible. Communion elements—bread and wine. The ark of the covenant. Things that are holy usually generate a picture in our minds. But the very first thing that God set aside as holy was neither a place nor a thing.

And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Genesis 2:3 (NIV)

According to our religious way of thinking, once God had completed creation, we would expect that He would create a dwelling for Himself, a holy sanctuary where He could reside. But He didn’t. No such thing was made.

Things are only temporary. Out of sight, out of mind. Had God set aside a place or a thing, it could (and probably would) be easily forgotten. Instead, He set aside time, a regular occurrence at which point humanity was to set aside all else so that our focus could be on our Creator alone.

Exodus 31:13

We can set aside places and things to be considered holy, but unless we actually take time, God will not be glorified or worshiped. Even though western Christian tradition sets aside Sunday—the first day of the week—as the Sabbath. I don’t believe God is so concerned with which day or time we set aside as He is with the fact that we actually take the time to turn our focus off of everything but Him.

Our holiness is entirely dependent on God’s holiness. And we cannot be made holy if we do not know the One who makes us holy. Whether you take the first day, the seventh day, or the fourth day, take a day. Consider it holy. Don’t just abstain from work, but use that time to pursue God. Let it continue to stand as a reminder for the generations to come that He is the Lord, who makes us holy.

The great pursuit

Psalm 23 is one of my favourite passages in the entire Bible. I attribute this to my mother. While she was pregnant with me, she took up a project to cross stitch the entire chapter. She completed it in the hospital right before I was born. It’s now framed and hangs on the wall in my bedroom and is one of the last things I see before I go to bed every night.

Psalm 23

There is so much packed into these six verses. I can barely begin to scratch the surface, but I want to give you a little bit from each verse.

The Lord is my shepherd;
I have everything I need.

Psalm 23:1 (NLT)

If we follow Jesus like sheep do a shepherd, our needs will be fulfilled. God isn’t a magic genie to see to our needs and whims when we feel like rubbing the lamp. He is there to lead us and guide us. It’s under His guidance that our needs our met.

He lets me rest in green meadows;
He leads me beside peaceful streams.

Psalm 23:2 (NLT)

Turmoil and stress don’t have to be a part of our daily lives. Like being under God’s guidance allows for our needs to be met, if we follow His lead, we will be drawn to rest and peace.

He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.

Psalm 23:3 (NLT)

Strength is required to walk God’s path. There is nothing that says walking with God will be easy, but He does give us the strength to do it. And, if we’re not bringing honour to His name, we’re probably not on His path.

Even when I walk
through the dark valley of death,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.

Psalm 23:4 (NLT)

When, not if. We will go through dark times. That’s pretty much a guarantee. But even in those times, God has promised that He will be with us—guiding us, protecting us, comforting us.

You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You welcome me as a guest,
anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.

Psalm 23:5 (NLT)

Our enemies will not suddenly decide to leave us alone because we decide to put our trust in God. We will still have enemies. They may still surround us. Yet God is there, providing for us in the middle of the battleground. And there, we can even find blessings!

Surely your goodness and unfailing love
will pursue me.
all the days of my life,
And I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 23:6 (NLT)

We make a grave mistake when we believe we have to chase after God’s love. His love comes after us. His love is there in peaceful rest. His love is there in the dark valley of death. His love is there in the presence of our enemies. His love is there in His house.

It’s time to stop chasing after God’s love. If we’d only just slow down for a moment, it will catch up to us and overtake us. In His love, we will find peace, rest, strength, guidance, provision, anointing, blessing, and goodness.

We don’t have to pursue God’s love because He is always pursuing us.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 22-24, Acts 20:1-16

Be Still

Even when I seemingly have nothing to do, I have trouble being still. I almost always have something in my hands to keep me busy and productive. When reading my Bible, I often fiddle with my pens and pencils. I’m rarely still.

Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”

Psalm 46:10 (ESV)

In all of our overwhelming activity, not only do we forget to be still, we find it difficult to do so. And, in a culture where the idea of God is commonly spurned, we try to prove to others (and maybe even ourselves) His existence.

If you know that God is God, rest in that knowledge. One Bible school teacher said that our biggest fight in faith is the fight not to fight. God doesn’t require that we struggle in our belief, only that we do believe.

Today, I will attempt to be still and know that God is God. To know that, no matter my current circumstance, I am in His hands. He is in control. He is God.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 44-46; Acts 25

Peace

It is difficult these days to read the news and imagine peace of any sort. Over two thousand years ago, Jesus predicted this very thing. But he did more than that.

I told you these things so that you can have peace in me. In this world you will have trouble, but be brave! I have defeated the world.

John 16:33 (NCV)

Jesus not only warned of impending trials, he took care of the situation already.

As the Church, we often think that we have to fight back. While we do have to maintain the fight of faith, Jesus already won. Not just the battle, but the entire war. He didn’t say that he will defeat the world. He already has.

So rest in this truth – if you are in Christ and he is in you, you can have peace. Remember that God has already gone ahead and fought your battles for you.

There’s an old song we used to sing in church that went like this:

If I hold my peace
Let the Lord fight my battles
Victory, oh victory shall be mine

What an odd concept that is. Hold your peace and you will win the war. Your peace is Jesus. Hold on to him. He’s already won.

Daily Bible reading: 2 Chronicles 23-25; John 16:16-33