The Barebones of a Godly Legacy

Just before he died, Joseph gave his sons instructions concerning his bones, and for this he is commended as a man of faith (See: Heb. 11: 22) . He died and was embalmed in Egypt, among foreigners, leaving his progeny to the whims of a future and hostile king (“Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.” Ex.1:8) So concludes the book of Genesis–the historical account of the generations of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

The land of their prospering and multiplying had become the place of their enslavement. God foreknowing this, had told Abraham generations earlier that this would be their lot– “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years!” Gen. 15:13-16 But God had also promised that this bondage would not be the end; in the fourth generation He said He would bring them back to the land where Abraham now only camped and they would settle there, displacing its inhabitants, becoming a people among whom God would dwell–a nation unlike any other, on whose behalf God would show Himself strong. (See: Deut. 4: 32-35)

Abraham had not seen this promise fulfilled but he had believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. Rom.4:20ff  Now three generations later, Joseph lay dying in a foreign land. Still God had not brought His people into their inheritance. But Joseph was confident He would. And on his death bed he said: ‘God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.’ Joseph died far from the land God had promised to his descendants. But God had promised… and Joseph knew in his bones God would keep His Word. This was the legacy he left–this God-confidence that despite his own helplessness to contribute to their redemption God would somehow, sometime, bring it about!

I’ve been reading day by day the account of the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt–how God let his people fall into harsh oppression there. Perhaps this was the only way they’d ever have wanted to leave behind its lushness and plenty, its leeks and garlic?  Cf.Num. 11:5 . In their oppression they cried out to God and He sent a saviour, a kinsman– Moses, to intercede on their behalf with Pharaoh.

It was a hard won victory. Pharaoh wasn’t quick to release them from such a lucrative enslavement. But this too God used on their behalf (and for the enlightenment of all the nations watching!), that they might never forget His greatness and power, that they might ‘tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.’ Ex.10:2

For generations to come they would recall this night of their deliverance, this night when the blood on their doorposts would save them from the death angel, this ‘night of watching by the Lord’ (Ex.12:42) to deliver them from bondage. They would recount God’s mighty deliverance again and again for generations to come, (eg.Ps.107) , that night of the tenth plague: the death of every firstborn in Egypt, the urgent summons to Moses and Aaron, the emancipating edict: “Up, go out from among my people…and serve the LORD as you have said. Take your flocks and your herds… and BE GONE!” and the desperate plea from Pharaoh: “and bless me also!”.

This was the night of their deliverance. It had come just as God had foretold it would, not one day early, not one day late. “At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.” Ex.12:41 And in their hasty exit Moses took the bones of Joseph with him in accordance with Joseph’s dying wish: “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones with you from here.” Ex.13:19

Joseph is only one of many in the great Hall of Faith who died not having received what was promised. But physical death is not the end all. Being interred, embalmed, cremated… for those who believe these are just the commencement of life as we have yet to know it. Joseph believed. And it was counted to him as righteousness, the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. (Phil.3:9) And it occurs to me that this is the very best legacy we can leave our children and all those who have known us in this lifetime–this confidence that ‘God will surely visit you…’

My own father sits slumped in a wheelchair, beyond reach of human reassurances but having lived his life in faith that God is to be trusted and served come what may. His body is in bondage to decay. Day by day he grows weaker in mind and body but not so his spirit. The Spirit within is helping him in his weakness. The Spirit himself is interceding for him with groans that words cannot express, bringing about the fulfillment of God’s purposes in his body, the redemption of which is just around the corner. Yes, Dad, God will surely visit you…

He may not come with signs and wonders but the upward call will come and it will be glorious! Whether in life or in death the Saviour is coming for each one who has trusted in His salvation. God is not slow concerning His promise (II Pet. 3:9) He is accomplishing His purposes in us, in our progeny, in the world around us… Those God has chosen, He justifies. Those He justifies, He glorifies. (Rom.8:30-34)  A glorious day is coming when these bodies will be freed from their bondage to sin’s decadence and brought into the glorious freedom prepared for the children of God. We can live and bless and die in this assurance: “God will surely visit you…” Let this be our legacy.


I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Rom.8:18

According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. Phil.1:20

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Phil.1:21

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. Heb.11:13-16

Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. Heb.10:35

Teach us to number our days…

I was in a Bible study group lately where the question was posed to a couple of retired couples—“So, what’s it like being retired? What do you do with your time?” Free time is one of those coveted commodities in the busy-ness of our ‘working’ years.  We’re sure that if we had more of it we would be able to fulfill all our dreams, develop our talents and find true contentment.  We would be… well, Happy!

I remember being in the throes of homeschooling family life—that was my career–designing and implementing curriculum to shape the minds and hearts of the five young people under our roof, and making our house a home besides. They were busy times.

“So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom”

was emblazoned on my teacher notebook.  I didn’t want us to be just busy; I wanted us to end up wise and God-fearing, knowing His thoughts in all the areas we studied…  Friday was Lesson Plan making day.  I loved setting goals and  filling in the squares for each weekly assignment sheet.  I am a lover of order and books and learning new things in a bookish way.  My career seemed a perfect fit.  God knew.

Considering my own school days, this was really no surprise. I thrived on a rigid schedule, prescribed reading, regular lectures, note-taking, gaining head knowledge irrespective of its practical value… ahh yes, school was my ‘thing’. And there was even homework to take home to give direction to the free hours of time and provide an excuse not to do extracurricular social things…Then the bells would ring and another predictable school day would commence.  I was good at regurgitating a fixed array of knowledge and the tidy rows of A’s on my report cards made it all seem worthwhile.  Life was simpler then, but it left whole parts of me underdeveloped, neglected in the satisfying busy-ness of achieving grades and filing knowledge away on paper…

Being busy can be a great stand-in for being truly significant.  So long as you’re busy in approved practical ways, you are OK in North American culture. And better yet if you’re making lots of money at it.  It’s generally recognized that to be busy is to be important.

“How are you doing?”

–“Oh, I’ve been busy….” is the unquestioned right response.

To ‘read books all day’ is irresponsible, lazy, and frowned upon. As are other occupations that don’t appear ‘productive’. But what is God’s measure of our days?

I find myself now neither making money nor directing a busy household and yet  confident that God has directed us to this place and time.  We have abandoned the American dream and are in fact both jobless and homeless by some definitions.  And worst of all for this ISTJ personality of mine which functions best with a carefully delineated job description and a schedule, my days lie uncharted, free for the filling.  But don’t be too quick to say, “I wish.”  With freedom comes responsibility and decisions!  How do I best fill my days?  What will be my priorities?  How can I best use this stage in my life to prepare for the next unknown one?  I wrestle with these questions on a daily basis.  I’ve even considered drawing up a schedule and Lesson Plans for myself to keep me on track.  I’m just not sure how to fill them out, for now I am the pupil.  But my  Master Teacher hasn’t changed.  The promises I held onto back in the busy homeschool/parenting stage of my life are still relevant.  Though they were not given directly to me—they speak of God’s covenant with Israel—they stand as warnings and reminders of the character of God and of man.  These have not changed.

In Isaiah 30 the Lord addresses His people:  [here’s the warning part!]

Ah, stubborn children, who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit…unwilling to hear the instruction of the LORD.”

To this people God speaks that oft repeated promise:

“In repentance and rest you shall be saved: in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”Is.30:15

Alas, His people weren’t wiling.  They couldn’t wait. They looked to the nations around them for direction; they copied their worship and were led astray by their idols.

So Isaiah reminded them: “…the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and he exalts himself to show mercy to you…blessed are all those who wait for Him.”

I’ve read and re-read these words over the years when decisions have had to be made, and curriculum developed and schedules arranged.  They remind me still that God is eager to direct our steps.  He only asks that we give Him our attention and wait for Him to point the way:

The passage continues: “your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.  And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” (Isaiah 30:20,21)

So these days I bring my heart back to these evidences of God’s character and my propensity to doubt His guidance, and my prayer continues to be that of Moses:

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations…
from everlasting to everlasting you are God…
the years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty;
they are soon gone, and we fly away….
So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom…
Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands!

And as I have prayed asking for guidance to direct the nitty-gritty of my days these six principles point the way:

A heart of wisdom…

1-—trusts that God’s Spirit within is leading through thick and thin and in the plain mundane, regardless of the seeming ‘significance’ of the product.  It is the privilege of the child of God to be led by the Spirit of God.  He only asks that I present this life of mine a daily sacrifice at His disposal. “Take my yoke and learn of me…”

2—makes the Word of God a priority.  I read and meditate to know God’s heart, to see what matters, to hear His voice.  His Word is light and life to me. (Ps.119:105)

3—knows that the value of an action (or even apparent inactivity!) is not in its tangible product.  Virtue does not derive from check-off lists of accomplishments but from the motive and dependence with which they are done. No good thing will be accomplished apart from the empowering of the Spirit.  Apart from abiding in Christ and learning to live with my ear to His directives, whatever I fill my days with is nothing!  By the same token, my day may appear a ‘wasted’ bunch of time but if the Spirit has directed it that’s enough.

4—discovers that faith working itself out in love is all that matters, not how much I got done but how.  Have I done it all to the glory of God, in conscious dependence on Him and in gratitude for His enabling.  Are my actions driven by love? (Gal.5:6)

5—learns to just do the ‘next thing’ when there are too many choices to prioritize.  My worth in God’s eyes is not based on my time management skills. Wasting time is not the unpardonable sin.  I can relax and enjoy this stage of life as I learn to walk by the Spirit.  It’s a process He is glad to accompany me on, without condemnation!  (Rom.8:1)

6—pauses often, not just to smell the roses (or to look up and notice that the first snow of the season has begun to fall just now!) but to thank her constant Companion for this daily bit of life, as is. (I Thess. 5:17)

Thirty-two years ago this song was sung at our wedding.  It is still the song of my heart::

Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in endless praise….

Take my hands, my feet, my voice…

Take my lips, my silver and my gold, my will, my heart…

Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.


I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.
Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD.
Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart! Ps.32:8-11

Loved, Still.

When our sin has made us miserable enough to cry out for His mercy—God is there welcoming our return.  His love has never stopped.

I’ve been stalled over Jeremiah 31 for a week or so now. It is a beautiful must-read holding out hope and reassurance of God’s love for ones who’ve resisted His overtures and sought satisfaction elsewhere. And who of us hasn’t at one time or another?

It is of course directed specifically to Israel but points forward to the covenant God will establish in Christ, a covenant that goes well beyond Israel to include every one whom He has called to be His own. Despite Israel’s failure to keep God’s commandments, despite her unfaithfulness and chasing after other lovers, God remains faithful to Israel. Yes, he has disciplined her severely; this is a critical part of His faithfulness. He will not allow her to find joy or satisfaction in her wandering. He sends her into exile. As a good father God disciplines his sons and daughters, for their own good. (Cf. Heb.12:7)   Discipline is painful but never intended as a shunning from the Father.  Rather it is intended to turn us back to Him, to bring us into subjection to Him so that we may find LIFE! and share His holiness. (See Heb.12:9,10) So it was with Israel. So it is with us.

And in this joyful passage the Lord makes all manner of promises to faithless Israel based on His tender love.  The discipline of letting her be taken captive by her enemies has worked wonders. Joy is just ahead. He’s bringing her home!

But I will let His words speak for themselves. Let them be salve to your own heart if you have found yourself in misery far from any sense of God’s pleasure in you. He welcomes your return.

“The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, the LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you…”

With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back, I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble, for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.

“Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’  For the LORD has ransomed Jacob and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.  They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the LORD, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall be like a watered garden, and they shall languish no more. 

Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow. I will feast the soul of the priests with abundance, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, declares the LORD.”

Thus says the LORD: “Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears, for there is a reward for your work, declares the LORD, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy.  There is hope for your future, declares the LORD, and your children shall come back to their own country.

I have heard Ephraim grieving, ‘You have disciplined me, and I was disciplined, like an untrained calf; bring me back that I may be restored, for you are the LORD my God. …

Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he my darling child? For as often as I speak against him, I do remember him still. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, declares the LORD. Jer.31:9-14,16,18,20


Jeremiah’s prophecy looked toward the time God would send Jesus and through Him provide forgiveness once and for all to all who believe. It pointed to a time when God’s very own Spirit would reside in man—the promised Comforter, sent in token of Jesus’ ascension to the Father–writing His law upon their hearts, making them righteous, enabling obedience, inclining their wills to do His will out of love for the One who has so loved them.

We live on the other side of this event! We who are ‘in Christ’ are blessed indeed.  I was reading Ephesians 1 the other morning.  Have you pondered it lately? 

  • We’ve been chosen before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.
  • We’ve been predestined for adoption as sons which will bring him praise because of His grace
  • We’ve been bought from the slave market of sin, forgiven all the ways in which we’ve violated God’s commands
  • We’ve been lavished with the riches of his grace
  • We’ve been made heirs of God!
  • We’ve been marked as His by His Holy Spirit within us….

And all this so that we can be included in God’s plan to culminate all of history in the glory of the Son.  We, as recipients of His lavish grace actually bring Him glory as we revel in His lovingkindness.

It is God’s design for us that we be satisfied with His goodness.  He will stop at nothing less; His heart yearns that we return and find in Him our satisfaction:

“Set up road markers for yourself; make yourself guideposts; consider well the highway, the road by which you went. Return, O virgin Israel, return to these your cities. How long will you waver, O faithless daughter? … For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.” …  And it shall come to pass that as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring harm, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, declares the LORD. … 

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. … 

Thus says the LORD: “If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, declares the LORD.” Jer.31:21-22,25,28,33,37

Are you satisfied with the goodness of the Lord, or weary and languishing?  He longs for your return. 


I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,  having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might… Eph.1:16-19

But Am I Pleasing?!

If you, like me, go a little crazy sometimes with wondering if God is pleased with you, may I share some things I’ve been pondering this week?

It is the most natural thing in the world for a believer indwelt by the Holy Spirit to want to please God.  It would indicate a serious problem if this desire were not present to some degree in the heart of a believer.  BUT I’m pretty sure it is not God’s intention that we be obsessed and doubtful as to whether or not this, that and the other thing is just exactly what He would have us be doing at any given moment.  It is not His desire for us to be continuously anxious about how well we’re doing?  Are we praying enough, giving enough, doing enough of the right things… Are we pleasing to Him or is He just a bit exasperated with us and well, just putting up with us and wishing we were doing better…

This is not faith. This kind of thinking casts God in a bad light, as if He were a begrudging Father, exacting and hard-to-please.  So it’s a kind of thinking I want to be rid of!  It is not as ‘spiritual’ as it may sound on the surface, because it is not based in faith or in truth.  The fact is mankind can’t and doesn’t please God apart from His intervention.  For this we have Jesus.  He is very pleased with His Son.

We were discussing Jesus’ baptism in Bible Study this week.  Why was He baptized if He was sinless?  There are various conjectures but the primary reason we have to go by is of Jesus’ own insistence in the face of John the Baptist’s reluctance: “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Mt.3:15 ESV  Jesus never failed to please the Father. In every circumstance He knew and did the Father’s will.  And God was pleased with Him and said so on more than one occasion: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Mt.3:17

Now the application that is commonly given at this point is that God said this of His Son before He had even ‘done anything’ (as though living a sinless life for the thirty years up to this point were nothing!) and since we too are God’s children, this is naturally true of us regardless of what we’ve done or left undone.  And quickly the attention is diverted from Jesus as God’s perfect spotless Lamb to assuring ourselves that God is saying this to us despite our spotty histories, because we too are His children.  It makes us feel very special and fills up that craving to know we are pleasing, at least for a split second…But if you’re like me, one affirmation is never quite enough.  One more is always nice. Where does it end?  Maybe we’ve missed the primary point being made in this passage?  Maybe it’s not about us.

In this historical moment in history Jesus is being presented to the world asThe Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ Jn.1:29  It is crucial that the lamb offered for a sin offering be spotless. This, in my opinion, is  the significance of God’s affirming voice from heaven.  This is the Lamb of God who has come to die in our place. This statement from heaven is not about us.  But that’s a good thing.  We are not always pleasing, anymore than a two year old having a temper tantrum is especially pleasing at that moment to his parents.  We are not naturally good, or sweet, or loveable.  But God provided the Lamb and that has made all the difference.

We are no longer dependent on our own virtues or law-keeping or dutiful sacrifices to gain favor with God. We don’t have to be obsessed with ‘am I pleasing’.  God, knowing our inability to please Him provided the Lamb.  And we can be glad Jesus was baptized as a part of ‘fulfilling all righteousness’ because we never could do this on our own.  Instead, what the law was powerless to do, God did, by sending Jesus as a sin offering and so he condemned sin in the flesh  ‘in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Rom.8:4

Jesus’ baptism was a part of fulfilling the righteous requirements of God’s law on our behalf.  This is the wonder of this moment. We don’t need to try to get the passage to say that God is pleased with us. God is pleased with His Son and it is our response to His Son that determines whether He is pleased with us.

[As a side note, it is a fact sometimes overlooked that though God loves everyone in the whole wide world, He is not pleased with everyone.  Most have rejected the sin offering provided in Jesus.  God is not pleased. Apart from faith it is not possible to please God.  Unless one in faith lays his hand, so to speak, on the head of the Lamb and claims His blood as having been shed on his behalf, sin will still separate him/her from God and the wrath of God will abide on him instead.  But I digress…}

So, what then is the ‘take away’ cure for my obsessive desire to ‘be pleasing’?  Better to look on the Son and revel in God’s words about Him and thank God for this perfect sacrifice on my bumbling behalf.  In Him I am complete despite my weaknesses and failings, my inherent inadequacies and even my floundering doubts.   By faith in the Son I can walk in confidence that I am loved without doing anything and any ‘pleasing’ that follows will be on account of the life of the Son lived through me by His Spirit.

Faith is evidenced not in struggling to ‘be pleasing’ but in rejoicing to have been adopted, ‘accepted in the Beloved, holy and perfect in God’s eyes because of Christ.  He sees  the end from the beginning and those He’s justified are as good as glorified in the eternal scheme of things! (See Rom.8:30). It’s hard to imagine, but isn’t that what faith is for?

But practically speaking, surely there are specific things that please God. I did a quick concordance look-up and these are things that popped out at me:

What pleases God?

His Son pleases Him.

The glad doing of His will pleases Him.

Faith pleases Him.

A contrite heart pleases Him.

Seeking Him, fearing Him, praising Him, thanking Him, making much of Him—all these things please Him.  I didn’t find any grounds for a petulant insistence on asking ‘Am I pleasing’.  It’s the wrong question.  Rejoicing in the pleasing Son might make a better focus!

A few other considerations have been helpful to me in re-framing my mindset.

  • God is the one who leads me in ways that please Him, who works in me to make me willing and able to accomplish His pleasure. Phil 2:13 The pressure is off. I am dependent on the Spirit to lead me in ways that are pleasing to Him–to direct me into all His perfect will.
  • I cannot please God by any effort of my own apart from that which His Spirit accomplishes in and through me. “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Jn.15
  • Without faith, active dependence on Him, it is not possible to please Him. Doubt is no virtue here. Heb.11:6
  • Though sin does not please Him–He hates it–a contrite heart does. An acknowledgment of my sin, including my doubts, pleases Him. Ps.51
  • The best gift I can offer is my grateful praise for who He is and what He’s done on my behalf! Ps.69:30 I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving. 31 This will please the LORD more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs.
  • Generosity pleases Him, perhaps because it shows I am truly trusting in Him to supply all I need and am aware how generous He has been with me! He’s pleased to give us the Kingdom! Why do we sweat the small stuff–food, clothes, cares of this world…Luke 12:22

And those are my scattered ponderings of the week. This area is somewhat of a stronghold in my life so I welcome your prayers for me as I continue to take these truths to heart in a way that liberates me to live as God has intended for His children.

I’d also welcome your feedback in the Comments below.  Is this an area where you have struggled.  What has been of help to you?


Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,  make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom [be] glory for ever and ever. Amen. Heb.13:20,21

“…but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.” Ps.147:11

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,  so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,  giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. Col.1:9-12

The Best Advice a Befuddled Sinner can Hear

Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil.  Yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart.

And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver for they are empty.

For the LORD will not forsake his people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you a people for Himself.

Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way.

Only fear the LORD and serve Him faithfully with all your heart.  For consider what great things he has done for you.

But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king. I Sam.12:20-25

I love these words of Samuel!
They hold out hope for the one who knows they have blown it.  They point out a path of restoration.  They demonstrate both the justice and the mercy of our King.  And they invite us to follow Him still though we have failed Him grievously.

They are addressed to the people of Israel after they have rejected Samuel as their judge and God as their King and have insisted on having a ‘real’ king like the nations around them. They wanted a king to be their judge and most of all to go ahead of them and fight their battles. After all, Samuel, their priest and judge, was getting old. His sons were corrupt.  And besides, the Ammonites were attacking! They were sure they needed a mortal king like the ones the nations around them had, despite Samuel’s warnings of what this would cost them–He will take your sons for his chariots and horsemen, his farmers, his arms makers.  He will take your daughters as perfumers and cooks and bakers.  He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and orchards.  He will take from your grain and your vineyards to feed his household.  He will take your servants, and your donkeys to work for him.  He will take from your flocks and “YOU SHALL BE HIS SLAVES”.  (I Sam.8)

They were willing to be slaves for the perceived benefit of being safe and secure. And they would not be denied.  They demanded to have a mortal king to reign over them in place of Almighty God!  So God granted them their request and instructed Samuel to fulfill it.  Tall, dark and handsome Saul was anointed king.

But in his final address to them Samuel is clear that this is not cause for rejoicing, as they have been doing up till this point (I Sam.11:15).  He recites his own faithful track record in being their judge and then he recounts God’s righteous deeds on their behalf despite their apostasy.  On each occasion that they have forgotten the Lord He has allowed them to be dominated by their enemies.  And on each occasion that they have cried out to Him, God has sent a judge to deliver them and restore their peace and safety.  God has been faithful but they have insisted on having a human king instead.

There is no indication up to this point that they even comprehend the evil they have committed.  So now for the object lesson:  It is the dry season, time for the wheat harvest.  Samuel calls on God to send untimely thunder and rain as a demonstration of His might and His anger toward them.  As He had once thundered to rout the enemy (I Sam.7:10), now God thunders against His own people to instill in them the fear of the LORD.  They are terrified, and convicted and desperate for Samuel’s prayers on their behalf: “Pray for your servants to the LORD your God, that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king.” (I Sam.12:17)

And this is the point at which Samuel gives them the best advice a convicted sinner can hear:

Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil, [it is true], yet don’t turn aside from following the Lord…

The fear of the Lord is not meant to drive us from Him but toward Him.  For He is the only one who can acquit us of sin and spare us from judgment. Unless we turn toward Him in repentance God remains our worst Enemy.  This God of love who extends the offer of reconciliation to all who will come and bow the knee, will be our Judge if we opt to find peace and safety apart from Him. Why then do we run? Why do we hide? Why do we turn our backs even temporarily on the only One who can deliver us from our worst Enemy, the only One with whom we are safe!

I find Samuel’s words compelling.

  • They compel me to pray for ones who have rejected God’s Kingship in pursuit of things that cannot profit or deliver.
  • They encourage me with the reminder that the Lord will not forsake His own for His name’s sake. Our bad judgment, even our rebellion, is not the final word.  He goes to great lengths to rescue lost and wandering sheep.
  • And they show me the path back—the fear of the Lord that brings to conviction and repentance and a fresh zeal to follow Him.  It is never too late to turn around.

Ours is a jealous God who will contend with all suitors that would draw our hearts away from His own.  He is the One to whom all our praise and devotion is due.  He will not yield it lightly to another.  He hates the sin that would destroy us yet looks with compassion on the contrite sinner.

These are the things I am pondering this week, for myself and for so many others who have yet to realize, or have forgotten, the tender mercies of our fearsome God.


You will say in that day: “I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me.  Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”  Isaiah 12:1-2

Consider the following passages that beautifully demonstrate both the discipline and the mercy of our God:

“Thus says the LORD: Behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob and have compassion on his dwellings; the city shall be rebuilt on its mound, and the palace shall stand where it used to be. Out of them shall come songs of thanksgiving, and the voices of those who celebrate. I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will make them honored, and they shall not be small. Their children shall be as they were of old, and their congregation shall be established before me, and I will punish all who oppress them.  Their prince shall be one of themselves; their ruler shall come out from their midst; I will make him draw near, and he shall approach me, for who would dare of himself to approach me? declares the LORD.  And you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” Jer.30:18-22


‘…my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the LORD.” Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.  But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” …  For the Lord will not cast off forever,  but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love;  for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men. …I called on your name, O LORD, from the depths of the pit; you heard my plea, ‘Do not close your ear to my cry for help!’ You came near when I called on you; you said, ‘Do not fear!’  You have taken up my cause, O Lord; you have redeemed my life.  Lamentations 3:17,19-24,31-33,55-58 ESV


And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted.  Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth.  Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” Is.12:4-6