“Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.” – Haggai 1:5-6
In light of Christmas this hits home. It is hard to watch people get so greedy at this time of year wanting more and more and for me not to get wrapped up in it all. Forgive me Lord on this day for taking even the slightest amount of glory away from You. Help me to give you praise today and great thanks for coming to this earth as one of us, to die for us. Help me to remember the reason for this day and to give and receive with gladness in the spirit of your love because you loved me first and gave me the most precious present in all the world. Thank you!
Today’s Daily Bible Reading in Amos chapters 4-6 is so relevant in light of what is happening this very day in Israel. With the worst snow fall in over 50 years and many being evacuated from homes not prepared for weather like this I wonder if Yahweh (God) is trying to, yet again get the attention of His people. I pray every day for revival in Israel. With over 6 million Jews living in Israel and an estimated mere 20,000 Messianic Jews let us all pray for Yahweh to continue to reveal himself to His people and that they would soon find their Messiah in our Lord Jesus Christ! Revive your people O Lord!!! Bring them back to you!
לחשוף את עצמך לבני עמך יהוה (Reveal Yourself to your people O LORD)
By Alyssa Cuccia
“I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them.” Hosea 14:4
In the reading in Hosea and Revelation, there is this constant willingness of God to receive back the people who turn from Him time and time again. Israel had rebelled against the Lord big time, turning to idols and forgetting their God, yet the Lord continued to be gracious to them! This steadfast love is unimaginable and yet this is the same love the God extends to His people today! Once we have been saved, we are secured in the family of God as His children and He will not let us go, despite our wanderings. May we cling to this promise today and remember that the Lord is gracious to us when we rebel against Him (as our hearts so easily wander) and He wants only that we will come to Him in humble repentance and turn from our sin so that He might cleanse us of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). If there is anything hindering us from closeness with God today, may we repent of it, knowing that our loving Father welcomes us and will love us freely and gently. What a wonderful Father and friend we have in the Lord! He is our Healer!
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. – James 1:16 (ESV)
This short verse is a transitional verse, however, there is much to be learned from it. “Deceived” in Greek expression means to go astray or wander. Deceived in our present day language seems to have less impactful weight than it did in James’ time. They may have thought of Isaiah 53:6 (ESV) “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned-every one-to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
A sheep wandering off for me today has less weight than a shepherd of James’ time because I don’t fully get the scary thought of that. I suppose I need to consider what they considered and fully understood: if I wandered off I would get slaughtered by a fox. It was my choice to wander. Lesson to be learned: Be careful not to blame God for my sin.
Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. – James 1:15 (ESV)
Desire is used in the feminine way here based on the Greek word and therefor closely relates it to that of a mother. In Proverbs the loose woman who lures her prey into the depths of shoal is set in contrast to the wisdom also depicted as a woman. See Proverbs 8:32-35 This goes to James writing style to relate back to verse 5 which helps tie it all together. He leans heavily on his readers intense Jewish knowledge of the Old Testament to catch his every meaning. This allows him brevity. To put it simply, desire itself is not a thing to fear, however protecting yourself from conception is key.
And now, O sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD, – Proverbs 8:32-35 (ESV)
As James relates this female analogy, I cannot help but expand on it. Conception only happens when we get in bed have sexual intercourse. That is the most intimate form of communication known to humans. Outside of marriage it is a sin, so looking at it from that perspective how do we “protect” and “shield” ourselves from sin? Looking back on verse 14, I know to understand myself first and what makes me want something or causes me to react. When I know my triggers, I can stave them off more readily. This means staying out of certain circles of friends, not going to certain events, reaching out to different people, and constantly asking myself to be quiet and humble.
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. – James 1:14 (ESV)
We find in verse 14 that again James uses common language that relates to people’s every day lives with fishing terms and hunting terms. It is sort of like our thousands of baseball analogies. This adds to his personable nature and ability to relate to his reader. The word “lured” was a word at that time meant to describe the idea of an animal being lured into a trap. The word “enticed” was a fishing term which meant to catch with bait. To put this verse in different words, everyone has their own personal struggles and desires. We need to be aware of our triggers and not fall into the ideas and thoughts and things that look too good to be true.
So, that leaves me to answer a very important question. What do I struggle with? What am I easily lured and enticed with? For me it’s the need to be right. The desire to “know better” than everyone else. The desire to be perfect. God has been at work chipping away at these things in my life. What are your struggles? How do your stay true to who you are and more importantly to God in the eyes of the world? How do you keep your credibility with people and also show them God through you? How do we stay salty to those around us. Salt when it looses is saltiness is useless, but also consider that salt when it is too salty is detestable.
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. – James 1:13 (ESV)
The words for inner temptation and outer trial are similar: (Peira-). Readers of the time needed to be reminded that they are different and while God often tested with certain trials to strengthen our faith, he never temps us to lose our faith. The verse also talks about one of God’s characters and attributes as being Holy. He is set apart. Be careful not to blame God for your own sin and temptations. His desire is to test you and make you stronger, not break you.
I appreciate testing to strengthen my faith in God. My humanity often gets in the way and I struggle with why God would allow such testing right up to the breaking point at times. I know he wants me to succeed and perhaps he knows or rather I know he knows my limits. I feel sometimes I get confused between testing and proving my faith and consequences for my sins. If I’m honest I know I get angry at God sometimes for allowing Satan to play games with me but perhaps my limited perspective in blaming God when all along I cannot see from his angle and something entirely different is happening. So, I must leave it in God’s hands as mine are so feeble.
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. – James 1:12 (ESV)
James is bringing back the topic of trials, testing, and endurance which encompasses the idea of steadfastness.
The word “crown” (stephanos) refers to a laurel wreath that is given to a winning athlete. The word “life” is referring to eternal life as our reward.
Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. – Revelation 2:10, ESV
We are not to think our salvation is dependent on being victorious over our trials however we should use the thought in anticipation of our inheritance and reward to keep us going. Celebration and rewards after hard work is great motivation. Because of this, God asks us many times in the New Testament to look to our reward when we think about the trials we face. We must practice steadfastness if we want to receive and achieve a settled character.
I teach my students that in life we must reward ourselves for a job well done. Too often we glaze over accomplishments and brood over our failures. The more we are able to recognize and celebrate even our mini accomplishments over sin and trials the stronger we will become. It is like exercising a muscle: use it or lose it. Understanding there is an eternal, glorious, joy-filled eternal life is the ultimate reward and I intend to make up for any lost time by focusing daily on God’s Word and His will