Good Soil Hearers of the Word

Jean-François_Millet_-_The_Sower_-_Walters

The good soil represents those who hear and understand and accept the preaching of God’s Word (Matt.13:23; Mark 4:20). They have an open, receptive heart toward the Word of God. Furthermore, they seek not only to understand what it means, but also to strive to obey it, to put it into practice in their life. They are not just hearers of the Word but doers (James 1:22). As a result, the Word continually produces results in their life. They experience true, lasting change as a result of the sermons they listen to.

The presence of fruit is the only thing that sets the good soil apart from the other three soils in this parable. Every true Christian will consistently bear spiritual fruit in their lives (Matt.7:16; Gal.5:22-23). …There is no such thing as a fruitless Christian. Granted, not all Christians are as fruitful as others. The issue is not the amount of fruit in a person’s life, but the presence of it. Jesus said, ‘My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples’ (John 15:8 [NASB]). Does this describe your heart? Do you have a soft, receptive heart that produces the fruit of a true believer?

And then, after examining Jesus’ other teaching as recorded in Luke 8 – the entire context of the parable of the sower – the author ends with this:

In other words, the ultimate evidence that proves you are a Christian is that you hear and obey God’s Word. This entire portion of Luke was designed to emphasize the importance Jesus placed on listening to the Word (vv.8,18,21). Good soil yields the fruit of obedience from the Word of God. That fruitful life is a light that shines for all around to see, and it is the only real demonstration that you are spiritually identified with Jesus.

What kind of soil does the Word find when it falls on you? What kind of heart do you have for the Word of God?

Taken from Expository Listening: A Handbook for Hearing and Doing God’s Word by Ken Ramey (Kress Biblical Resources, 2010), Chapter 2 – “Hearing with Your Heart” (pp.31-33). We are currently taking time to read and draw on some of the author’s good thoughts concerning our calling to listen believingly to God’s Word proclaimed.

The Gospel Cure for Dishonor of God and Neighbor

Into our second week of this month, it is time to get acquainted with the February issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier ministry’s monthly devotional magazine. The theme this time is “Honor,” perhaps one we might dismiss lightly; but we ought not, as the twelve special articles developing this theme demonstrate. Those special articles treat such subjects as “What is Honor?”, “Honoring Marriage,” “Honoring Parents,”The Blessing of Honor,” and “What If Honor Is Lost Altogether?”

Burk Parsons gives us a “foretaste” of honor’s importance in his sobering editorial “The Disappearance of Honor.” Here is some of what he has to communicate:

It should not surprise us that many young people are leaving and despising the church when their parents have long dishonored weekly congregational Lord’s Day worship, dishonored their own membership vows to the church, and dishonored their elders, pastors, and fellow congregants. Nor should it surprise us how many who profess faith in Christ have such little regard for the sacred Word of God when so many pastors have exchanged the preaching of the Word of God in season and out of season for watered-down, attractional, sociocultural, pop-psychological anecdotes and stories combined with ear-tickling, emotionalistic entertainment. Such preaching honors only the pastor and not the God of Scripture. Although honor may be rapidly disappearing in the world, we must never let it disappear from our hearts, homes, or churches that we might always honor everyone (1 Peter 2:17) and honor our Lord whose honor will not be mocked.

One of the featured articles I have chosen to highlight in this post is the one by David W. Hall – “Honoring God.” As he shows, this is where all honor begins and ends. Read and reflect on these thoughts, and then read more to strengthen yourself in the duty to “show honor to whom honor is due,” beginning with the Great Sovereign of heaven and earth.

Romans 1:21 vividly depicts what happens when honor disappears. This clear verse is a mirror that shows what honor is and what it is not and how honoring God is tied to our essential moral fabric. Yes, morality begins with theology. Though the dishonorable retain some spiritual sense, Paul, in fleshing out the doctrine of total depravity, lists some of the consequences of dishonoring God, including not giving thanks, becoming “futile in their thinking,” and having “their foolish hearts . . . darkened.”

Note that verse’s three degenerative components. First, not honoring God is compared to not giving thanks. Thanks is the expressed gratitude for another. Honor, thus, is a more comprehensive concept than gratitude. Nonetheless, they are united here. Failing to give God thanks often, sincerely, and regularly reveals that one does not, practically speaking, view God as one’s superior.

A second consequence is that when one fails the “Honor-God-by-Thanking Test,” things neither remain neutral nor improve. Indeed, failing to honor God negatively affects one’s cognition; one’s very thinking becomes futile or dysfunctional. Disobeying God by dishonoring Him leads to systemic deterioration.

Third, not only one’s mind but one’s heart and emotions become blurred, confused, and darkened. Once again, something as basic as honor, if absent, harms our rationality and emotions.

The only cure is found in Romans 1:16. The gospel is the power of God that changes us from self-absorbed egotists into those who want instead to exalt and honor our Sovereign.

Should there be a recovery of honor, we might find increasing order, flowering humility, and revived civility. Maybe, rather than exalting ourselves to be like the Most High (Isa. 14), we can excel in giving honor to those whom we are called to honor—and, above all, to God.

To continue reading this article, visit the link below. To read more in the issue, visit the Tabletalk link above.

Source: Honoring God

A New Year’s Resolution from M. Henry (plus Commitment to and Plans for Reading God’s Word)

New Year’s Day has traditionally been a time to make resolutions, by which one resolves (determines and promises) to do certain things in the new year that is before one. And while the people of the world make theirs today too, Christians are able to make genuine and meaningful resolutions. And there is a proper place for them in our lives, as long as we make them biblically and from the heart. (I may mention here that Burk Parsons has a fine article on this that was published yesterday on Ligonier’s website – “New Year’s Resolutions for God’s Glory, Not Our Own.”)

Today’s “Grace Gem” devotional contains the brief but beneficial resolution of Puritan pastor and commentator Matthew Henry, which may serve as a model for us. Based on Psalm 31:15, “My times are in thy hand,” it reads as follows:

Firmly believing that my times are in God’s hand, I here submit myself and all my affairs for the ensuing year, to the wise and gracious disposal of God’s divine providence. Whether God appoints for me . . . .
health or sickness,
peace or trouble,
comforts or crosses,
life or death–
may His holy will be done!
All my time, strength, and service, I devote to the honor of the Lord Jesus–and even my common actions. It is my earnest expectation, hope, and desire, my constant aim and endeavor–that Jesus Christ may be magnified in me.

In everything I have to do–my entire dependence is upon Jesus Christ for strength. And whatever I do in word or deed, I desire to do all in His name, to make Him my Alpha and Omega. I have all from Him–and I would use all for Him.

If this should prove a year of affliction, a sorrowful year to me–I will fetch all my supports and comforts from the Lord Jesus and stay myself upon Him, His everlasting consolations, and the good hope I have in Him through grace.

And if it should be my dying year–then my times are in the hand of the Lord Jesus. And with a humble reliance upon His mediation, I would venture into the eternal world looking for the blessed hope. Dying as well as living–Jesus Christ will, I trust, be gain and advantage to me.

Oh, that the grace of God may be sufficient for me, to keep me always a humble sense of my own unworthiness, weakness, folly, and infirmity–together with a humble dependence upon the Lord Jesus Christ for both righteousness and strength.

The devotional closes with some other profitable items, which I include here:

“Remember that your life is short, your duties are many, your assistance is great, and your reward is sure. Therefore faint not, persevere in ways of holiness–and Heaven shall make amends for all!” Thomas Brooks

~  ~  ~  ~

You may want to read J.R. Miller’s insightful one page article, “A New Year“.

~  ~  ~  ~

On this New Year’s day, you might want to ponder and seriously consider The RESOLUTIONS of Jonathan Edwards.

One thing we can and ought to commit to in 2019 is diligent reading of God’s Word. There are many good devotional plans, including in the daily devotions found online on the PRC website.

Ligonier always publishes one this time of year; you may find that here. And Crossway has a useful devotional plan to start the year that makes use of Paul Tripp’s fine book New Morning Mercies; you may find that here, as well as information on other reading plans.

And, while you are there (Crossway’s site), you might consider reading Donald Whitney’s article “Ten Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year.” Need some motivation? Here you go:

Consider the Direction of Your Life

Once, when the people of God had become careless in their relationship with him, the Lord rebuked them through the prophet Haggai. “Consider your ways!” (Haggai 1:5) he declared, urging them to reflect on some of the things happening to them, and to evaluate their slipshod spirituality in light of what God had told them.

Even those most faithful to God occasionally need to pause and think about the direction of their lives. It’s so easy to bump along from one busy week to another without ever stopping to ponder where we’re going and where we should be going.

The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up, and get our bearings. To that end, here are some questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God.

December “Tabletalk”: Jesus is the Promised Messiah (and Paying Attention in Worship)

We are midway through this last month of 2018 and I have not yet referenced the December issue of Tabletalk, so tonight I will. I was able to get a lot of reading in it done today, and this new issue is once again packed with beneficial articles.

As you will see from the cover, the appropriate theme is “The Promised Messiah,” and there twelve articles based on OT passages showing how Jesus is the true Christ of God (Messiah). Editor Burk Parsons introduces the theme with his editorial “The True Israel of God,” part of which includes these important comments:

Jesus repeated, advanced, and fulfilled the history of Israel in the climax of His work. He suffered the exile of His death on the cross (Matt. 27:32–50), where He also fulfilled His role as the greater High Priest and the sacrificed Passover Lamb (26:1–13; 27:51). There, the temple of His body was destroyed (26:61; 27:40), but on the third day He was restored from the exile of death in His resurrection, raising up the temple of His body (28:1–10) and becoming the cornerstone of the new temple, His church, which is the fulfillment of God’s plan for His true people Israel (1 Peter 2:4–8). God’s sovereign plan and promise could not be thwarted, for now Jesus Christ has all authority in heaven and earth, and is with us to the end of the age, and He will return as our King and take us to the heavenly Promised Land.

The article I focus on tonight, however, is one written by John R. Muether for one of the regular rubrics – “For the Church.” His title forms part of the title of this blog – “Paying Attention in Worship” – and follows nicely on my blog post of last night. The author has some helpful thoughts about avoiding distractions in worship and being focused on our main purpose for being present – fellowship with and adoration of our God. Here are some of his closing words – good for the end of this sabbath day (read the rest at the link below):

Single-minded attention is strange to us, even in worship, because we take pride in our ability to navigate our busyness with speed and nimbleness. In a multitasking world, Marva Dawn rightly concedes that worship is a “royal waste of time” because we are focused on something that our frenetic culture dismisses as inefficient. And yet, neuroscientists have come to the consensus that multitasking is a myth. We accomplish far less when we juggle several tasks than when we focus on one thing at a time. What is worse, our digitally enhanced distractions are becoming addictive: our brains crave constant stimulation and instant gratification. How ironic, then, that we program our phones with “alerts” and “notifications” for so-called breaking news when they have the effect of diminishing our alertness, prompting thoughtlessness and negligence to the task at hand. In sum, the spirit of our age is inimical to the careful and sustained attention that public worship demands.

Is it possible anymore to resist the persistent distractions of our digital age that obscure the message of the gospel? We need not abandon such a hope. Traditional church practices refocus our attention on the gospel and enable our worship of the transcendent God. Public worship and Sabbath keeping are the most culturally disruptive witnesses for Christians to practice. On a day designed for the soul to feast, we must resist habits that distract us and others. I am trying to go completely offline during the day. It is proving to be a great struggle, but I trust that it will awaken me from the stupor that can come from living in a culture that prizes distraction.

The stakes may be higher than we think. As distraction dulls our senses, it can lead even believers to indifference about heavenly matters. The book of Hebrews (which many commentators believe was originally a sermon) speaks powerfully to our digital age when it warns, “We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it” (Heb. 2:1).

Source: Paying Attention in Worship

Expository Listening – Introduction

As a representative of the King of kings, preachers have been given the responsibility and authority to boldly herald forth what God has said in His Word. But the hearers have a responsibility too, one that’s equally pressing: They must engage themselves as wholehearted, blood-earnest listeners who respond to the call of God on all mankind; ‘Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth; for the LORD speaks’ (Isa.1:2).

In the pages ahead, we will explore God’s call to listen. …After all, if you are like most Christians, you listen to at least one or two sermons a week. Let’s say you came to Christ at age ten [the author does not share our Reformed covenantal perspective, but his point is still valid] and you live to be seventy-five. If you average two sermons a week, you will listen to over seven thousand sermons during the course of your life. And at the end of your life you will stand before God and give an account for every sermon you heard. On that day, God will essentially ask you, ‘How was your life changed as a result of the thousands of times you have heard My Word preached?’ So we see that it is vital that you are ever welcoming the Word of God and diligently seeking to put what you hear into practice, thus proving ‘yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves’ (James 1:22). [NASB]

At the beginning of this introductory chapter the author referenced the Thessalonian Christians who had this testimony of the apostle Paul concerning how they listened to the preaching he brought them: “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.” (I Thess.2:13) He returns to this at the end of this chapter:

The Thessalonians understood this supernatural dynamic [the “dynamic duo of faithful herald and fervent listeners”] and it caused them to have a great appreciation and affection for the preached Word. They loved to listen to Paul preach. They could be truly described as preaching enthusiasts, preaching fanatics even. Augustine urged his congregation to attend preaching with ‘burning thirst and fervent hearts.’

…My desire within these pages is to create congregations that share this passion to honor God by being discerning hearers of His Word, diligent doers of His Word, and devoted lovers of His Word, preaching fanatics even, who come to church like a thirsty man craving something to drink and whose hearts fervently long to hear the Word preached because they know that in it God speaks to them.

expository-listening-ramey-2010Taken from Expository Listening: A Handbook for Hearing and Doing God’s Word by Ken Ramey (Kress Biblical Resources, 2010), the “Introduction: Welcoming the Word.” In the months ahead I plan to draw on some of the author’s good thoughts concerning our calling to listen believingly to God’s Word proclaimed.

This section begins with these words from the Puritan Thomas Watson: “When we come to the Word preached, we come to a matter of the highest importance, therefore we should stir up ourselves and hear with the greatest devotion.”

Put on Love – H. Hoeksema

col3-14Put on, therefore…

Holy and beloved, elect of God, above all put on love.

How strange an exhortation. …How utterly impossible it appears to heed it.

…this love of God was not poured out in their hearts as one pours water into a dead and earthen vessel that is utterly passive and in no way affected by the contents it receives; but as conscious and rational and willing children of God they tasted this love of God. They became co-workers of God, his imitators. God’s eternal purpose of love became their purpose by his grace. They will to love God and to walk before him unblameably in love, to manifest themselves in the light of love, that he may be glorified. And this manifestation of the love of God that is in their hearts, this walking in love in the midst of the world, in every relationship of life, is the putting on of love.

Put on, therefore!

Yes, put it on as a garment, but as a garment that is but the outward manifestation of the love of God that was realized in your hearts. Put it on in the word of your mouth, in the look of your eye, in the work of your hand, in the direction of your foot. Put it on in your thinking and willing, in your every desire, and in the expression of them all in your whole life, individually, in the midst of the brethren, in the midst of the world.

Through the power of his marvelous grace, let this love dominate all the manifestation of your life as a co-worker with God.

Communion_with_God-HHTaken from the meditation “Put on Love” (based on Colossians 3:14) in the collection of meditations Communion With God (Reformed Spirituality series, volume 2) by Herman Hoeksema, edited by David J. Engelsma (RFPA, 2011), 327-29.

Rhythms of Piety – Jon D. Payne on the Importance of the Weekly Sabbath

It should be no surprise, then, that God designed the Christian life to possess rhythms of piety. These rhythms of piety include the weekly cadence of the Lord’s Day, as well as regular (even daily) times of private and family devotion (Westminster Confession of Faith 21.6).

The Lord’s Day has fallen on hard times. We need to recover the day that God Himself established to be a spiritual blessing to His church—a weekly occurrence of rest from our ordinary activities for the purpose of God-centered worship, renewal, and fellowship (Gen. 2:1–3; Ex. 20:8–11; Mark 2:27). Our loving heavenly Father set apart an entire day of the week for us to cease from our hectic schedules, to “be still, and know that [He is] God,” and to abide in Christ through the soul-nourishing means of grace (Ps. 46:10; Acts 2:42; WCF 21.5).

The weekly observance of the Sabbath— especially in the gathering of the church for morning and evening worship—is intended to be a primary rhythm of Christian discipleship in order that our faith might grow and mature (Ps. 92:1–2). It’s no wonder that Matthew Henry wrote, “The streams of religion run deep or shallow, according as the banks of the Sabbath are kept up or neglected.”

The rhythms of piety are not limited to the Lord’s Day, however. We also seek God during the week through regular Bible reading and prayer. A consistent rhythm of private and family devotions, in addition to weekly Lord’s Day observance, helps to foster a consistent and growing walk with the Lord (Deut. 6:7–9; Ps. 63; Mark 1:35; Eph. 6:4).

To neglect these rhythms of piety can leave one vulnerable to the attacks of Satan, the seductive temptations of the world, and the sinful wanderings of our own hearts. The disciplines of grace are means by which we daily put on the full armor of God (Eph. 6:10–20).

Dear Christian believer, perhaps it’s time to renew your commitment to the rhythms of piety.

Drawn from the weekend Tabletalk devotional for Oct.20-21 (cf. link below). After describing how God has designed and built the “beautiful and instructive rhythms of nature” into the creation, Dr. J. Payne writes about the “rhythms of piety” God has also designed and built into the Christian life.

Good food for thought as we begin this new week and seek ” a consistent and growing walk with the Lord.” Fellow believers, shall we renew our commitment to God’s “rhythms of piety”?

Source: Rhythms of Piety – October 2018

Reading for Virtue’s Sake: A Conversation with Karen Swallow Prior and Joshua Gibbs | Public Discourse

The authors of two new books on reading agree: reading good literature well is not only enjoyable, it is also a veritable school of virtue. The pleasure to be gained by reading well is a skill that, like virtue itself, is achieved through practice.

Such is the brief description of this instructive interview with authors Karen Swallow Prior and Joshua Gibbs. Both present an interesting perspective on the power and purpose of good reading, by which we also mean reading good literature, books that teach universal virtues and, of course, book that teach distinctively Christian virtues.

We post a portion of the interview here; there is plenty more to read and digest in the rest of it. Follow the link below for that.

David Kern: Both of your books are about the ways literature can cultivate virtue in readers, so I have been thinking about the extent to which a teacher should explicitly state that the books she is teaching have been chosen for that end. Should a teacher directly tell her students that she is teaching, say, Persuasion, because of its capacity to make readers virtuous? Or should she let the book do its work secretly, if you will?

Joshua Gibbs: I think it depends on the audience. When I read my little girls The Velveteen Rabbit or Frog and Toad Are Friends, I don’t tell them that I want these books to help them develop virtue. Similarly, on the rare occasion that I teach a room full of adults, I don’t often lay all my cards on the table and say, “All right, people, let’s learn to be good.”

High school students are a little different, though, because they are more apt to believe that the value of a book depends on its being entertaining, enjoyable, thrilling, funny. If a lit teacher passes out copies of Augustine’s Confessions to high school sophomores and pretends the book is going to be a page-turner, he is deceiving his students. If you give a high school student a book that is difficult and dull (when compared with, say, The Maze Runner), you need to explain why these qualities should not turn them off from reading it. “When the book is difficult to read, the book is doing its work on you.” Acknowledge that the difficulty comes from the moral gauntlet the book throws down. A book suited to virtue often requires multiple readings, although exciting books generally do not. That is what makes them exciting. But explaining that a book is hard to read (yet worth reading) will usually lead to a discussion of virtue.

What you do not want is for high school students to believe that adults find Augustine’s Confessions as enjoyable to read as they find The Maze Runner, and that once you’re forty, Augustine is downright titillating.

Karen Swallow Prior: When I teach general education courses in English, the students are usually first- or second-year students who are not majoring in English. I like to begin these classes with something that I refer to as the biblical basis for the study of literature. I’ve found that students, especially Christian students, are so utilitarian and pragmatic in their worldviews that describing the sheer goodness of literary study helps them overcome barriers to reading literature and reading it well that they don’t even realize they have. I cover over a dozen points in this lecture, and only one of them addresses virtue directly. In other words, there are many, many reasons to read good literature (particularly for the Christian), including the joy of it. Yet all of these reasons contribute to cultivating virtue in the reader who reads well.

How do you respond to these initial thoughts about reading and virtue? Would you consider this a goal of your own reading? What type of books are going to help you accomplish this goal?

Source: Reading for Virtue’s Sake: A Conversation with Karen Swallow Prior and Joshua Gibbs | Public Discourse

Young Men, Be Strong! ~ Rev. Josh Engelsma

sb-logo-rfpaThe latest issue of the Standard Bearer includes the next installment of Rev. Josh Engelsma’s series on biblical manhood, penned under the rubric “Strength of Youth.” While he intends to write on biblical womanhood too, pastor Engelsma is addressing young men first, because that too is biblical. To men God gives the position of headship and the charge of leadership in marriage, the family, and the church. So men – young men too – bear the responsibility to grasp this position and to grow in leadership.

This particular article focuses on the calling to “be strong.” And by that Rev. Engelsma means in the sense of Eph.6:10 – “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” Listen as he explains what this strength is:

When you think about what it means to be a mature man, one of the things that probably comes to mind is his strength. Generally speaking, men are physically stronger than women. If the woman is the “weaker vessel” (1 Pet. 3:7), this implies that the man is the stronger vessel.

Especially is it the case with young men that they are characterized by strength. When I was a teenager it was not uncommon for me to work all day in the scorching heat of the summer and then after work spend the entire evening running up and down the basketball court. The point is not to make you think that I was so strong (I wasn’t), but rather to illustrate the point that young men in general are strong.

The Bible speaks of young men in the same way. Proverbs 20:29 says, “The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the gray head.” We read in 1 John 2:14, “…I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong…” And in Isaiah 40:30, when it describes our dependence upon Almighty God, it speaks of young men as the epitome of earthly strength: “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall.”

But when the Bible speaks of the strength of youth, it does not have in mind merely muscles. After all, God “taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man” (Ps. 147:10, a verse oft repeated to a sports-crazed young man by a wise grandmother).

Rather, the Word of God has in mind spiritual strength. This is evident from the rest of 1 John 2:14 when it says to young men, “… because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.” What ought to characterize mature Christian men, and young men in particular, is that they are strong spiritually.

He then goes to define what this spiritual strength is, and does so from a specific point of view, that of saving faith. After explaining what this faith looks like, he begins to make application, pointing out this practical truth:

It seems almost paradoxical, but the reality is that spiritual strength is found in acknowledging that you are weak. The proud man, the one who imagines himself to be strong, falls. The humble man, the one who knows he is weak and depends entirely on Christ for strength, stands. “When I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).

If the strength of youth is faith, then one who is spiritually strong is one who possesses this hearty trust in and dependence upon Christ.

And this is strength! By faith in Christ we are strong to withstand the fiery darts of the devil. By faith in Christ we are strong to overcome the world and its pressures. By faith in Christ we are strong to wage war against our old man of sin. By faith in Christ we are able to bear up under heavy burdens. By faith in Christ we are able to carry out our callings in life. By faith in Christ we are able to be strong and courageous leaders.

Young men, you are strong! Because you’ve received the gift of faith!

Read the rest of this edifying article in the October 1 issue of the SB. And if you are not yet receiving it so as to read it, visit the subscription page of the website and get signed up!

The Destructive Power of Idols – Derek Thomas

The three cultural giants of the nineteenth century – Ludwig Feuerbach, Sigmund Freud, and Friedrich Nietzsche – insisted that mankind is fueled by a propensity to idolatry. Of course, in their eyes, Christianity is an example of such idol worship. But they were right in pointing to this human weakness and failure. Calvin said the same when he wrote in his Institutes of the Christian Religion that the human mind is a perpetual factory of idols.

An idol is something or someone inflated to function as God. Sometimes conservative Christians are little better at identifying idols than modern secular individuals.

Yet the prohibition is clear.

You shall have no other gods before me. (Ex.20:3)
Little children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:21)

Isaiah will return to this theme again in chapter 45, speaking of those who carry gods around, praying to those that have no power to save (Isa.45:20).

Ancient idols required the sacrifice of a life. Make no mistake: modern idols do too. Idols want all of you. They promise everything and deliver nothing. We sacrifice to them, and they in turn manipulate and control. Idols are abusive and tyrannical. They cheat like the characters in a trashy daytime soap opera.

Not only that, they are powerless to save, heal, or restore. They offer hope and a purpose but return only disappointment and guilt. Like the One Ring, so captivatingly referred to as ‘the Precious’ in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, idols allure and beckon only to return to total, uncompromising evil.

We may find it hard to believe that Israel would be so allured by man-made objects so as to displace the Lord who had saved them. But the truth is, we give our allegiance to idols, too. We sacrifice to them. We believe they will bring us true and lasting purpose. They go by different names: money, power, houses, ambition, sports, or leisure.

As an antidote to this idolatry, Isaiah called upon God’s people to consider the Lord. He alone offers something better and surer – a new thing [Isaiah 43:19-21]:

Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.
The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen.
This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.

Strength-weary-thomas-2018Taken from Derek W.H. Thomas’ new book Strength for the Weary (Reformation Trust, 2018), chapter 2 “Who Rules the World?” based on Isaiah 43:10-11 (pp.28-30).