The Voice of the Lord

My voice is naturally loud, especially if I’m excited – like when I’m teaching about the Bible. Sometimes I want to type in all caps when I’m writing a devotional so I can pump up the volume. Voices communicate more than words. Our inflections reveal what’s happening in our hearts. The tone and timbre of my voice change when I talk to Joy depending on what I’m trying to relay to her. If we’re playing together, I will use a silly, happy voice. If I’m comforting her my voice is soft and gentle, and if she has picked up the cat for the third time, my voice is firm and somewhat sharp.

In Psalm 29 David was meditating on “The voice of the Lord.” He said the Lord’s voice “thunders over the mighty waters” (v. 3), it is “powerful” and “majestic” (v. 4). “The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars” (v. 5), “strikes with flashes of lightning” (v. 7), shakes the desert” (v. 8), “twists the oaks and strips the forest bare” (v. 9). Those are frightening images of the fierce power of God’s voice.

But God also speaks with a softer voice. The prophet Elijah was at his lowest point, running from the wicked Queen Jezebel who wanted to kill him. He was worn out and worn down. He told the Lord, “I have had enough” (1 Kings 19:4). He was hiding out in a cave when God called him. Elijah listened for the Lord, expecting to hear Him in “a great and powerful wind,” an earthquake, and a fire. But God was in none of these. He came to Elijah in a “gentle whisper,” in “a still, small voice” (vs. 11-13).

I have not always walked faithfully and obediently. I have made some big, ugly mistakes and fallen into sin. God has never once yelled at me or spoken to me in anger or disgust. He has always spoken in a gentle voice, especially when I am broken. Just as He speaks to you, Beloved. Even if he has to chastise you He speaks with grace. Those harsh voices that shout at you are never God. If you listen closely you will hear that the voice of the Lord is always the voice of love.

Deeper Roots

“Nana, I watered your flowers!” Joy burst into my study the other day and dragged me by the hand to the porch to take a look. “See! Didn’t I do a good job!?” I smiled down at her eager face and gave her a big hug. “Yes, you did! Thank you, sweet girl!” I said, noticing that the leaves glistened with moisture but the soil was barely damp. Her idea of “watering my flowers” was to sprinkle water across the tops of the plants. When she proudly ran off to play, I turned on the hose and gave the plants the good, long drink they needed to survive and flourish. I returned to my study with a fresh cup of coffee and my Bible. I checked the reading plan and turned to Psalm 119:9-16 to read. I started to close my Bible and get on with the chores that nagged me when I sensed a “Stop!” in my spirit. “Read it again. Slower.” So I sat back down and re-read the passage. I realized that the Psalmist wasn’t doing a quick reading of the Scriptures, He was soaking it in. Like my granddaughter’s idea of watering my plants, I was sprinkling God’s Word over the surface of my heart, but I wasn’t spending enough time in it to do my soul much good. When I looked further into Psalm 119 I found verse after verse after verse about the power of the Bible for those who will give it more than a quick read.

I’ve quit trying to read the Bible through in a year, I’m more focused on reading it. thoroughly. I decided to slow it down and take smaller, deeper bites that I can chew on all day. Peter called believers to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18). Growing in knowledge takes time, but it pays off with deep roots. Deep roots bear fruit (2 Kings 19:30, paraphrased). Jesus said that we were chosen and appointed “to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last” (John 15:16). That requires time in the soul-nurturing Word of God. Beloved, it’s time to put away the watering can and pull out the soaker hose. Go deep in the Word of God and let God’s Words go deep in you.

Jesus is . . .

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“We’re New Testament people, we don’t need to read the Old Testament.” “I just want to know about Jesus, so I’ll stick with the New Testament.” Ever thought or said anything like that? I’ve heard it many times. As Christians – Christ’s followers – we are focused on only what Jesus did and taught.  But the Old Testament looks ahead to Jesus Christ.  Check it out:

In Genesis, He is the Seed of the woman who will one day crush the head of Satan.

In Exodus, He is the Passover Lamb and the one who leads His people out of bondage.

In Leviticus, He is the great high priest and the perfect sacrifice.

In Deuteronomy, he is the Great Prophet to come.

In Joshua, He is the Captain of the Lord’s host.

In Judges, He is the one who faithfully delivers His people from the cost of sin.

In Ruth, He is our Kinsman Redeemer.

He is the anointed King in the line of David in the books of Samuel.

In the books of the Kings, He is the Spirit filling the Temple.

He is the great Teacher in Ezra and the Restorer of broken walls in Nehemiah.

He is the Interceder for His people in Esther and the coming Redeemer in Job.

He is the Shepherd in Psalms and the Source of all wisdom in Proverbs.

He is the Teacher in Ecclesiastes.

He is the Beloved Bridegroom in the Song of Solomon.

In Isaiah, He is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace and Suffering Servant.

In Jeremiah and Lamentations, He is the Man acquainted with sorrows.

In Ezekiel, He brings life to dry bones.

In Daniel, He is the Ancient of Days.

He is the faithful Husband in Hosea, the Hope of His people in Joel, the Judge of the nations in Amos, and in Obadiah the One who warns of coming judgment.

In Jonah He is the preacher of the Good News, in Micah He is the Ruler from Bethlehem.

In Nahum, He is the judge of His people’s enemy,  the Sovereign Lord in Habakkuk, and in Zephaniah, He is the God who is mighty to save.

In Haggai He is the Glory of the House of God, in Zechariah He is the Royal Priest and in Malachi Jesus is the Son of Righteousness.

Beloved, if you want to know Jesus, read the Old Testament. He is all over the place.  Then read the New Testament with a fresh understanding of Jesus who was and is and is to come.

Trading Gold for Bronze

“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie. . .” (Romans1:25).

I love to watch the Olympics.  I love to see people with great skill and talent at their best.   I admire the determination and dedication they show to hone and strengthen their skills; I am encouraged by their single-minded focus and discipline. Thousands of athletes come with the hopes of winning a medal for their country, with the gold as their ultimate goal. Silver medals are awarded to second place and bronze for third, but gold medals are the pinnacle of success in the competitive world of athletics. Gold is far more valuable than silver or bronze, thus it is awarded to the most worthy athlete.

Gold is also a show of one’s wealth. In fact, that can be taken to ridiculous extremes with gold cosmetics, gold clothing, a gold coffin, gold teeth caps or a gold slinky. And if you really want to show off, you can put a roll of gold toilet tissue next to your gold toilet. Silver and bronze just won’t cut it if you want to really make a statement.

Solomon was the wealthiest of all the Old Testament kings, so much so that the Bible says all the articles for his personal dwelling places were made of gold because “silver was considered of little value in Solomon’s day”(2 Chronicles 9:20).  Solomon had wealth that today’s richest billionaires can only dream about. I found a particularly interesting note in 2 Chronicles 9:15-16 which says: “King Solomon made two hundred large shields of hammered gold . . . he also made three hundred small shields of hammered gold.” Gold shields – that’s pretty wealthy, don’t you think?

Solomon eventually died and his son, Rehoboam ascended to the throne in his place. The young man did not inherit his father’s wisdom, nor his grandfather David’s love for God. 2 Chronicles 12 tells the story of Rehoboam’s turning away from the Lord – “he and all Israel with him abandoned the Lord” (v. 1). They soon came under attack from the king of Egypt, and God spoke through a prophet declaring, “You have abandoned me; therefore I now abandon you” (v. 5). At this the King and people recognized their sin and turned back to God for His protection. God relented and rescued, but they still were made subject to the Egyptian king for a season as the Lord said, “so that they may learn the difference between serving Me and serving the kings of other lands.” (v. 8).

While the Egyptian king did not destroy the people, he did strip them of much of the wealth that Solomon had amassed. Verse 9 says, “Shishak king of Egypt . . . carried off the treasures of the temple of the Lord . . . and of the royal palace. He even took the gold shields Solomon had made.” Wait, did you catch that. The gold shields – Solomon’s gold shields – were claimed as booty by the king of Egypt. Look at the next verse: “So King Rehoboam made bronze shield to replace them” (v. 10). Because of the sin of the king and his people with him, the royal gold shields were traded out for bronze – an inferior metal for an inferior king.

There are two points to consider here: first, God allowed the people some time with the enemy king so that they could see how much better they had it under His authority. Where they had once been the most feared and respected nation under David and Solomon, they were made a subservient nation under Egypt. Their freedom was taken from them and they were made to pay tribute to the Egyptian king. Their harvests were divided so that Shishak received his portion, whether or not they had any left themselves. The second point is this: they had been the wealthiest and most prosperous nation, but they had been forced to trade their gold for bronze because they turned away from their God. King Rehoboam’s entry ends with these sad words: “He did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the Lord” (V. 14). They squandered all the blessings God had given them for the false pleasures of the world. And in the end they lost more than all those worldly treasures were worth.

So I ask you – Are your trading gold for bronze – or even less? Are you trading the blessed life God longs to give you for the fool’s gold of the world?   The world we live in is ruled by an evil enemy – Satan, and he is constantly at work taking men and women captive under his cruel banner. God has offered us the safety and security of His Son, but we must set our heart on seeking Him, and receive His loving offer. We must turn to the Lord and commit ourselves completely to Him. I promise you will find that serving God, living under His authority and His golden shield is far superior to anything the world could offer you. Don’t throw away a golden life for worthless trinkets and momentary pleasures. Grab hold of the blessings God has for you and you will never lose the greatest treasure of all.

Holy Father, the world dangles worthless stones before our eyes, and so often we grab for them and forget about the real treasure that You give. Please help us to recognize the difference between fool’s gold and the pure and perfect gold that is only found in You. Amen.