“But they deceived him with their mouths, they lied to him with their tongues, their hearts were insincere toward him, and they were unfaithful to his covenant.” – Psalm 78:36-37 (CSB)
When their situation turned for the better, Israel again wandered back into sin. Their repentance was not sincere. It was merely an effort to avoid the consequences of their sin. It’s easy to shake our heads at Israel but if we’re honest, we do the same thing. We honor God with our lips in an effort to get him to act on our behalf. But our motives are twisted. We want something from him so we feign contrition. In doing so we rob ourselves of the joy that comes from true repentance. May we honor God with our lips and in our hearts.
“Despite all this, they kept sinning and did not believe his wondrous works. He made their days end in futility, their years in sudden disaster. When he killed some of them, the rest began to seek him; they repented and searched for God. They remembered that God was their rock, the Most High God, their Redeemer.” – Psalm 78:32-35 (CSB)
Despite God’s miraculous provision of food in the wilderness, Israel was not satisfied. The nation continued to grumble, complain, and long for Egypt. Only when faced with calamity did some turn back to God. We too have a tendency to leave God out of the picture until we feel that we have exhausted all the other options. When our backs are against the wall, we are suddenly willing to cry out to God. Oh that we would remember God’s work on our behalf when times are good and when times are bad.
“I know both how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content — whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:12-13 (CSB)
Often times these verses are read in light of finding contentment in the hard times. That’s certainly part of what Paul says. But he also talks about being content in times of abundance. I’d argue that it’s as difficult – perhaps more difficult – to be content in times of abundance. The more you have, the more you realize what else you could have. Instead of enjoying the good gifts God has given, you tell yourself you need just a bit more to be satisfied. Ultimately, contentment is not about what you have. It’s about what you value. And the only way to value the giver above the gifts is through the enabling work of the one who strengthens you.
“When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and recognized that they had been with Jesus.” – Acts 4:13 (CSB)
Spending time with a man who was dead and then resurrected has a way of changing you. It gives you confidence in a way that transcends your training or qualifications. We may not have walked face-to-face with Jesus but we have the same opportunity to spend time with the living Savior. We have been united with him in his death, burial, and resurrection. The question is, would the people around us know that we have been with Jesus?
“For consider him who endured such hostility from sinners against himself, so that you won’t grow weary and give up. In struggling against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” – Hebrews 12:3-4 (CSB)
It’s tempting to think that Jesus’ struggle against sin was somehow different than ours. That misses the fact that he was fully God and fully man. He was equally and 100 percent both at the same time without any confusion or superseding of one nature over the other. From the time of the incarnation, Jesus became the ultimate picture of what it means to be fully and truly human. So when we think we can’t resist sin’s pull any longer, we are just getting started. We have not shed blood unwillingly yet alone willingly. Our struggle has not come close to his – a struggle that he won because of the Spirit’s power at work within him. That same power is in us who believe. The Spirit guides us, enables us, and empowers us. How can we not keep fighting?
But Pharaoh responded, “Who is the Lord that I should obey him by letting Israel go? I don’t know the Lord, and besides, I will not let Israel go.” – Exodus 5:2 (CSB)
Pharaoh’s inquiry is not sincere. He is not genuinely asking, “who is this Yahweh and why should I listen to him?” He could care less. He considers himself to be God. He will do whatever he pleases. It’s a frightening attitude to have toward the all-powerful God of the universe. Yet Pharoah is not alone. We too take this approach.
Every time we ignore God’s commands, every time we take matters into our own hands, every time we think we know better, we effectively say, “Who is the Lord?” We act as if we are God and that we are the ones who know best. Thankfully God deals differently with us than he did with Pharaoh. He gives inexhaustible grace because of what Jesus did on our behalf.
“Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us…” Luke 1:1 (CSB)
No one, even a hardened atheist, denies that Jesus of Nazareth was a real person who lived 2,000 years ago. His influence on the course of history is undeniable. The question is not “was Jesus important?” but rather “in what way was Jesus important?” Was he crazy? Was he just a man? Or was he something more?
Luke was a doctor. He was no intellectual slouch. And after doing a thorough investigation, he concluded that what happened in the life of Jesus was not just a series of remarkable events. It was the fulfillment of events prophetically foretold long ago. Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one whom God had sent to rescue his people. His coming was no coincidence. It was part of God’s eternal plan.