Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
The one treasure that lasts for ever – the treasure of salvation.
‘A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies… Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised’(Proverbs 31:10, 30). We are to seek ‘treasures in heaven’ rather than ‘treasures on earth’(Matthew 6:19-21). The riches of this world will not last for ever: ‘All your riches and splendour have vanished, never to be recovered… “Woe! Woe, O great city, dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls! In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!”’ There is one treasure which lasts forever – the treasure of salvation. Let us praise our Saviour: ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and power and glory belong to our God’(Revelation 18:14-17; 19:1).
Great blessings for those who “delight in the law of the Lord”
The first Psalm contrasts two ways – the way of the Word and the way of the world, the way of blessing and the way of judgment. Encouraging us to build upon the solid foundation of God’s Word, the opening Psalm sets the tone for what is to follow in the next few Psalms – stability in the Lord (Psalm 1:1-2); service for the Lord (Psalm 2:11); salvation of the Lord (Psalm 3:8); sanctification from the Lord (Psalm 4:4-5); singing to the Lord (Psalm 8:4); strength in the Lord (Psalm 9:9). These are some of the blessings promised to those who ‘delight in the law of the Lord’(Psalm 1:1-2). With a God like this – full of so much blessing for us – what else can we do but rejoice in Him?
“Now” – the time for obedience to God’s Word
God speaks His Word to us. He calls us to obedience. He says to us, ‘Obey My voice’. Sadly, however, the story of our life is often summed up in the words: ‘They did not listen or pay attention. They did not obey’(Jeremiah 11:7-8). God’s Word is not just ‘something to think about. When God calls us to obedience, we’re not to say, ‘I’ll think about that later’. ‘Now’ is the time for obedience to God’s Word: ‘Obey now the voice of the Lord’(Jeremiah 38:20). We must not put this off until tomorrow. God is looking for our obedience today: ‘Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts’(Hebrews 4:7). To those who were deeply involved in religious ritual – ‘burnt offerings and sacrifices’ – , God said this, ‘To obey is better than sacrifice’(1 Samuel 15:22). Obedience involves our whole life – not just ‘never missing a service’!
Don’t try to run away from your problems. Take them to the Lord.
The Psalmist had problems – ‘Strangers are attacking me; ruthless men seek my life – men with no regard for God’(Psalm 54:3). There was, however, something else troubling him. Someone else was causing him problems – ‘my close friend, with whom I enjoyed sweet fellowship, as we worshipped together at the House of God’(Psalm 55:13-14). He felt like running away from it all – ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest – I would flee far away and stay in the desert… I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm’(Psalm 55:6-8). This is what he felt like doing. He had almost forgotten – ‘God is my Helper’(Psalm 54:4). With God, he faced and overcame his problems: ‘I will call upon God; and the Lord will save me’. ‘Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you’(Psalm 55:16, 22).
Don’t fight to get your own way. Ask God to show you His way.
So much harm can be done by a hurtful word. so much good can be done by a word of witness. An evil ‘fire’ can be turned into a godly fire: ‘It only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon all those around can warm up in its glowing. That’s how it is with God’s love, once you’ve experienced it. You spread His love to everyone. You want to pass it on’ (James 3:5; Mission Praise, 348). Use your words with wisdom – ‘the wisdom that comes from heaven’(James 3:17-18). Don’t fight to get your own way. Ask God to show you His way (James 4:2). Be careful how you speak: ‘Do not slander one another…Who are you to judge your neighbour?’(James 4:11-12). May God deliver us from hypocrisy – ‘out of the same mouth come praise and cursing’(James 3:10). May He give us ‘more grace’ – to be ‘humble’ and not ‘proud’, submitting to God and resisting the devil (James 4:6-7).
Less self-confidence and more confidence in God – This is what we need.
‘Our God is able’(Daniel 3:17). Do we believe this? There is no doubt about God’s power. What about our faith? We come to Jesus, saying, ‘If you can’. Jesus turns things around: ‘If you can! All things are possible to him who believes’(Mark 9:22-23). This is not so much an appeal for positive thinking. It is a call to prayer (Mark 9:29). Less self-confidence and more confidence in God – This is what we need. God’s greatness is more important than our ‘greatness’(Mark 9:33-35). Are there things that you don’t understand? Don’t be afraid to ask (Mark 9:32). You may even learn from those who ‘don’t belong to our group’(Mark 9:38-40). They don’t belong to our group? So what? Do they belong to Christ? That’s what matters. ‘It is better’(Mark 9:43, 45, 47) to be Christ’s – than anything else! May our faith, though ‘tested by fire’, grow strong – to God’s glory (Mark 9:49-50; 1 Peter 1: 6-7).