Foundations of Hope – Psalm 85:10-13

“Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs up from the ground,
and righteousness looks down from the sky.
Yes, the LORD will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him
and make his footsteps a way.”

Psalm 85:10-13

“Let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”
Jeremiah 9:24

“The beloved of the LORD dwells in safety.
The High God surrounds him all day long,
and dwells between his shoulders.”

Deuteronomy 33:12

“There is none like God, O Jeshurun,
who rides through the heavens to your help,
through the skies in his majesty.”

Deuteronomy 33:26

These first passages from the Psalms and Jeremiah establish a foundation for why these in Deuteronomy give us hope. They give detail to who our God is. The characteristics of this God who surrounds us and remains near, dwelling between our shoulders. This God who rides through the heavens to our help, a picture of the power and greatness of the One who hears us and comes to our aid.

Steadfast love. Faithfulness. Righteousness. Justice. Peace. This is what characterizes our God. He delights in these things.

So everything He does will have these elements flowing through it. Even if we can’t see them yet – they are there. “For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD” (Psalm 33:4-5). “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you” (Psalm 89:14).

Our God is going to provide. He is going to see us through. He is going to show up in our circumstances, because the truth is, He has already gone before us into where we are. He’s already here, already at work, perhaps just waiting for us to call out to Him for action.

However He shows up, rest assured His every movement will be filled with these characteristics. He will never fail you, because He will never change. He will never leave. He will never stop coming to your rescue, riding through the heavens in His majesty to your help.

“For the mountains may depart
and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
and my covenant of peace shall not be removed”
Isaiah 54:10


So Much More – Psalm 84:11-12

“For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
O LORD of hosts,
blessed is the one who trusts in you!”

Psalm 84:11-12

“Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed…
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!…
Those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.”

Psalm 34:5,8,10

“But I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, ‘You are my God.’
My times are in your hand…
Oh, how abundant is your goodness,
which you have stored up for those who fear you
and worked for those who take refuge in you,
in the sight of the children of mankind!”

Psalm 31:14-15,19

“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living!
Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD!”

Psalm 27:13-14

This morning I needed to take time to process some fears my heart has been having. Dwelling on these verses was the first step in that. Stirring my heart to hear truth and believe it.

So after reflecting on these verses, I then wrote out my fears. I won’t go into the details, but it came down to a fear that whatever my portion is, whatever God brings me, it will be less. Less than what my heart is hoping for. Less than what it could be.

And a question came to mind from a Bible study my church group just finished. Spoken to my heart as a personal, compassionate response from this God who is mine:

“Who told you that? Because it wasn’t Me.”

The one who stirred my fear, who told me that I would end up with something less, that good would be withheld from me – it wasn’t my God. It wasn’t the Sovereign Lord of the universe who holds all things in His hands, who has written my days with His steadfast love and faithfulness, and who has abundant goodness ready to pour out in perfect timing.

That is my God. My God who is good and powerful and who loves me so much He walked through fire for me, and He hears my cries and He draws near to me in struggle and pain and He speaks directly to my heart. Because the Father Himself loves me (John 16:27)! And how much more? How much more will this good Father, this God who is light and in whom is absolutely no darkness, give good things to those who are His?

How much more?

Exceeding abundantly beyond all that we could ask or imagine! (Ephesians 3:20)

Maybe it’s what I see in front of me that looks good. And if so, God will bring it together. Flawlessly.

Or maybe it’s something that’s even better.

Regardless, I do not need to fear my future.

My times are in His hands. The hands of my God who will give me so much more, withholding no good thing, and I will be radiant and never ashamed. Because this is the LORD my God who acts for those who wait for Him, and no eye has seen nor ear heard of a God like Him, a God besides Him, nor can the heart of man imagine what He has in store (Isaiah 64:4; 1 Corinthians 2:9). Because His dreams, His plans for each of us who are His, are so much better.

May our God send out His light and truth to lead us this morning. Because He is sowing light and joy into our paths, to spring up at the perfect time. There is abundant goodness ahead, and there are evidences of His abundant goodness around us if we will open our eyes and expand our perspectives to see it. “May the Lord direct [our] hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ” (2 Thessalonians 3:5). “For Your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in Your faithfulness” (Psalm 26:3).

Finest Wheat – Psalm 81:16

“But [the LORD] would feed you with the finest of the wheat,
and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

Psalm 81:16

The finest of the wheat.

Honey from the rock.

Satisfied as with the richest of foods (Psalm 63:5).

This is the picture of a life lived following God, trusting Him as He orders and establishes our steps.

A life in which goodness and mercy pursue us all the days of our lives (Psalm 23:6).

In which we are covered with favor as with a shield (Psalm 5:12).

It is a life that fills our hearts to overflowing.

There will be necessary trials – purifying our faith, which is of greater value than fine gold (1 Peter 1:6-7).

But we will flourish within and because of the difficulties. They bring us to the finest of wheat. The place of abundance. The place where we get more of the God who fills us, where He shows us that He is greater than we could have imagined.

Abundant life, filled with the fullness of joy. If we will abide in Christ (John 15:9-11). If we press into Him, surrendered to His will and His guidance. This is where we find it.

He is the source.

Only He knows how to get us to that life of finest wheat, of honey from the most unexpected of places. And He will lead us each step of the way, in wisdom, grace, and steadfast love.

Lord, You reward those who seek You.
May we recall this truth and the magnificent future You outline for those who are Yours.
A future with You, the One who fills all in all. A future that extends through all eternity
and in which You will pour out the immeasurable riches of Your grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus,
for all the coming ages.

Green Pastures – Psalm 23:1-2

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures”

Psalm 23:1-2a

My pastor has begun a study going through the 23rd Psalm. This past Wednesday, as he was detailing various things about sheep, one tendency he noted was for sheep to eat all the way to the root of the grass, causing it to not grow again. So shepherds have to keep moving them to different pastures to prevent this from happening.

And I began to wonder…how often do we become fixated on one “green pasture” to the extent that it loses its nourishing value for us? I don’t want to get too lost in metaphor here; I just feel like there is truth here that I pray God will unfold for us.

God our Father loves to give good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:11). He is our Father of Lights, from whom all good things come down (James 1:17). He delights to give us the desires of our heart – when we delight in Him (Psalm 37:4). And perhaps that is the protective connection point. God knows the wearying toll disappointments can bring. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12). But at the same time, He knows the danger of our getting caught up in those good gifts.

We all have the capacity to fixate so thoroughly on that good grass in front of us, which brings us strength and light and life and passion, that we consume it down to its very root. So that relationship, or that job, or that ministry, or that friendship – whatever it is that we poured all of our focus into – all that seemed life-giving in it is gone. Because we lost our sight of true treasure, and lost our sense of boundaries.

God does purpose those things to strengthen and enliven us. They can stir our hope and renew our faith. But they can’t become our all. They were never meant to. Only He fills that role fully. Only He is able to do so.

So He brings challenges. He moves us away from places where we become too comfortable. He brings to light our need for Him so that we will continually look to our Shepherd, not to the pastures around us, to fill our needs.

He brings us to green pastures and makes us lie down, compelling us to trust Him and stop striving. And He moves us around, to keep those pastures green and flourishing. So they continue to bring life and nourishment for us and for others. We just need to keep looking to Him and following where He leads. Because He leads us for our good. Seeing our need, giving us good things, and acting on our behalf to guard against the dangers we don’t see. Caring for us with such intention, because of His great love for us, His abundant mercy, and the immeasurable riches of His grace.

All That We Have – Mark 10:17-21

“And as [Jesus] was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him,
‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’…
And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have
and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come, follow me.’”

Mark 10:17, 21

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Mark 10:45

The conversation in that first passage happened as Jesus was setting out on His journey to the cross. He was en route to Jerusalem to give His all. Enduring the cross and despising its shame. Mocked, spit on, flogged, and killed. Even refusing a drink that might have lessened a bit of the pain. Holding back nothing in His mission to be the perfect sacrifice for us. And Hebrews 12:2 gives us insight into His focus: Jesus fixed His eyes on the joy that was set before Him.

This is what He calls us to as well.

To fix our eyes on the joy He has set before us. Taking hold of that for which Jesus Christ has taken hold of us.

Because that joy is worth everything. The joy of following Christ unreservedly. The surpassing worth of knowing Him in close, personal relationship.

We have treasure in heaven when we release our treasures on earth. When we set our eyes on Christ and determine to follow Him wholeheartedly, using all that God gives us for His glory.

He is able to bless us materially, and to give gifts of the Spirit and talents and strengths – but let us remember the intent of these, as we see in the riches given to the Israelites. As they left Egypt, God granted them favor in the eyes of the Egyptians, who gave them silver and gold jewelry and beautiful fabrics (Exodus 12:35-36). But look at how these were used – to build the Tabernacle. To create the magnificent items that would convey His glory and worth through the worship of His people.

All that we have is for Him. Our possessions, our talents, our very lives. And our God promises to pay us back a hundredfold, if we will trust and follow Him (Mark 10:29-31). Fixing our eyes on joy. Running after the One who saves us to the uttermost (Hebrews 7:25), and who gave His all to do so.

Choosing the Sabbath – Exodus 31:13-17

“Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths,
for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations,
that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you.
You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you…
It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel
that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth,
and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.”

Exodus 31:13b-14a, 17

Above all. Placing major importance here. After the intricate details of the Tabernacle, the altars, the ark of the covenant, the lampstand, etc., the Lord emphasizes the Sabbath as a significant priority.

A day holy to the Lord.

A day for refreshment.

A day made for man. For our good. For the refreshment of our mind, body, and spirit. For the strengthening of our relationship with God through this exercise of faith.

Because it is faith to stop striving. Faith to trust God to fill in the gaps.

It isn’t about being legalistic and setting up a bunch of rules. That’s where the religious leaders in Jesus’ day missed the mark.

This is about trusting God in choosing to set aside times to be refreshed. To stop our striving and rest in Him.

I’ve heard the Sabbath described in different ways. A specific day, moments throughout your week – I won’t presume to tell you what your Sabbath should look like.

I just know how God has been stirring my heart for mine recently, so the timing of this passage is notable for me.

I encourage you to seek His face for what your Sabbath needs to be. For your good. For your refreshment. For your strengthening. For your relationship with God and with others. It might not look like what other people tell you it “should” be. And that’s okay. This is about you and God, your time set aside for Him. Time made for you. Because Jesus showed us that is the heart behind the command (Mark 2:27).

The Sabbath wasn’t meant to bring us guilt. It was meant to bring a lightening of your load and rest for your soul. So if you find it adding to your burden, know that God understands, and He is here to listen and to guide with compassion and wisdom. He can show you what’s broken, and he can show you how to mend it. He will guide you to make your Sabbath what He desires it to be for you, so you can experience abundant life in Him as it is meant to be.

“And the LORD will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in.
If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath,
from doing your pleasure on my holy day,
and call the Sabbath a delight
and the holy day of the LORD honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways,
or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly,
then you shall take delight in the LORD,
and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth”
Isaiah 58:11-14a

Holy to the Lord – Exodus 30:37

“And the incense that you shall make according to its composition, you shall not make for yourselves.
It shall be for you holy to the LORD.”

Exodus 30:37

Reading this statement made me wonder – what do I have that is set aside as holy to the Lord? A piece of my life that’s just for Him, emphasizing His worth and holiness in its exclusivity?

Then it occurred to me: my whole life is to be like that. Every piece.

Because when I was recreated in Christ, made alive through salvation after my soul had been dead in my sins, my life was set apart (Ephesians 2:4-10).

I am not my own; I was bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). A price that was inexpressibly high, costing the life of the perfect, holy, infinite Son of God. The very blood of Jesus Christ bought me.

I am holy to the Lord. Set apart. One who is among the people for His own possession (Titus 2:11-14). Ransomed for God (Revelation 5:9).

Ransomed from sin and death and captivity and darkness and emptiness – but not for myself. For Him.

Yes, there is joy here. There is fullness. There is blessing. But all of it ultimately points not to me; it points to Him. And because I was created to find purpose and joy and life in worshiping and glorifying my Creator, my soul rejoices in magnifying His grace and majesty.

Abundant life, fullness of joy, fulfillment in purpose – these are found in living out my life as holy to the Lord.

No longer living for myself.

He’ll take care of my needs; I don’t need to worry about that. I just live for Him.

In my relationships, in my work, in my schooling, in my interactions, in everything I do – living for Him, not for myself.

I am set apart, holy to the Lord. That is what I am, as is every believer in Christ. I need to live like it.

That’s at the root of Paul’s instruction to walk in a manner worthy of our calling (Ephesians 4:1). We have been called to faith, to glory, to the position of ambassadors for God and sent out with His gospel of hope. Called to this holy, set apart life. Ready for an adventure that is much bigger than we are, because our God calls us into plans that require His greatness, wisdom, and might to accomplish.

That is where our life is found. That is where we live most authentically and discover freedom and purpose in the person God has designed us to be. Filling the roles He designed for us, realizing the surpassing joy in living in wholehearted abandon to the Lord.

Holy to the Lord. Set apart. Radiant over His goodness, rejoicing in the dance, running in the paths of His commands, for He has ransomed us, redeemed us from hands too strong for us, and set our hearts free (Jeremiah 31:11-13; Psalm 119:32).