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« Reply #7335 on: August 10, 2021, 08:45:22 AM »

The Hand of the Lord

“This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him.” (Ezra 7:6)

Neither Ezra, who was a scribe, nor Nehemiah, who was apparently a butler, had been prepared by either study or experience to supervise a great construction project, rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem and the wall of the city, both of which had been destroyed many years before by the armies of Babylon. Yet God called them to these ministries and led them and protected them as they carried them out.

They were both careful, then, to give God the credit for what they had accomplished. No less than six times in Ezra and twice in Nehemiah they reminded their readers that God’s hand had been upon them as they supervised the work (see Ezra 7:6, 9, 28; 8:18-22, 31; Nehemiah 2:8, 18).

There had been many difficulties and much opposition, but as Paul would later say: “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

We also need to be careful to give God the credit for anything He enables us to accomplish in His service. Even such a great and useful Christian as the apostle Paul had to say: “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).

We remember, however, that the hand of the Lord can be a chastening hand as well as a guiding and providing hand. When a certain false prophet tried “to pervert the right ways of the Lord,” Paul said: “The hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind” (Acts 13:10-11). And so it was. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). HMM
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« Reply #7336 on: August 11, 2021, 09:11:29 AM »

God Loves the Wicked

“And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.” (Jonah 4:2)

Jonah understood that God loves wicked people. Indeed, our text verse tells us that this was the very reason he ran away from God! Jonah wanted God to destroy the sinful people of Nineveh and feared that God might forgive them if they repented. Ironically, Jonah acted wickedly by disobeying God’s command to preach to the inhabitants because of his lack of compassion for wicked people (Jonah 1:1-3).

Even after Jonah was swallowed by the “great fish” (1:17) and agreed to preach in Nineveh, he still had no love for the city’s cruel inhabitants. As a prophet, Jonah undoubtedly wished to see God’s sinful people of Israel repent and be spared from God’s judgment, but he did not want God’s mercy extended to their enemies. He was furious when God forgave these repentant sinners (4:1). Jonah apparently failed to realize that he needed God’s mercy as much as the people of Nineveh. Praise God that He “is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

The world is full of wicked people who hate God and His people. God created these sinners in His image (Genesis 1:27). Even though they reject Him and His commands, Jesus loves them and wants them to come to Him for salvation. May every Christian be loving enough to tell people the truth: that they have sinned against their holy Creator and incurred His righteous wrath, “but God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). WP
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« Reply #7337 on: August 12, 2021, 10:06:16 AM »

God Our Savior

“But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared.” (Titus 3:4)

Six times in the pastoral epistles Paul refers to God (evidently meaning the Father) as our Savior (1 Timothy 1:1; 2:3; 4:10; Titus 1:3; 2:10; 3:4). Usually, however, he and the other New Testament writers identify Jesus Christ as our Savior. “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18, for example). In the same fashion, Paul relates that his commission to preach the gospel came from “God our Saviour” (Titus 1:3), while elsewhere he says his commission came “by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:12).

Is this a contradiction? No! In fact, references to God as our Savior should not surprise us, for it is found in numerous places in the Old Testament. (See, for example, Psalm 106:21.) Furthermore, our understanding of the Trinity insists that all three persons of the Godhead are One in God. Of course, Christ made many references to the fact that He was not acting on His own but came to do “the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38). Paul himself seemed to be comfortable with this seeming overlap, for in one sentence he wrote, “God our Saviour;...Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour” (Titus 1:3-4). Such usages further confirm also that Jesus is God.

While Christ was the primary instrument of salvation as the perfect sacrifice for sin, God the Father is the source of all human salvation, and the application of the title Savior to Him is proper. Indeed, we derive great comfort as we see the role of all three Persons of the Godhead involved in our salvation.

“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). JDM
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« Reply #7338 on: August 13, 2021, 12:26:15 PM »

The Righteous Judge

“The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.” (Psalm 145:17)

When Abraham was interceding with God to spare Sodom if even 10 “righteous” people were there, he asked: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25). The Hebrew word (mishpat) refers to a formal judgment about right and wrong and is more commonly translated “judgment.”

Indeed, the divine Judge will do right and give right judgments in all things, for He “is righteous in all his ways” and “canst not look on iniquity” (Habakkuk 1:13).

Ever since Adam disobeyed the Word of God, however, all his descendants have been unrighteous in their ways. God’s righteous judgment has been that “there is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10).

Thus, a truly righteous Judge would not only have to consign Sodom to destructive “brimstone and fire from the LORD” (Genesis 19:24) but every one of us as well “into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15) forever.

But God, being not only the righteous Judge but also “a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:19), had a plan whereby He could “declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past” and both “be just, and the justifier” of those who had been lost sinners (Romans 3:25-26). “God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh” (8:3). Those who believe on the Son of God as their substitute and Savior are now “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (3:24).

So, Christ has been “made unto us...righteousness” (1 Corinthians 1:30). Furthermore, our loving Savior has now Himself become our righteous Judge, for “the Father...hath committed all judgment unto the Son” (John 5:22). HMM
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« Reply #7339 on: August 14, 2021, 09:29:00 AM »

Questioning God

“Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?” (Romans 9:20)

Whenever one begins a question with “why,” he should realize that the answer must necessarily be theological, not scientific. Science can deal with the questions of “what” and “how,” sometimes even with “where” and “when,” but never with “why”! The “why” questions have to do with motives and purposes, even when dealing with natural phenomena. (“Why does the earth rotate on its axis?” “Why do we have mosquitoes?”) Even though we can partially explain such things by secondary causes, we finally encounter a “first cause,” and then the “why?” can be answered only by God.

The wise thing to do is simply to believe that He has good reasons for everything, whether we can discern them now or not. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25). God the Creator “worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Ephesians 1:11), and it is our high privilege simply to trust Him, not to question Him.

On the other hand, He often asks us: “Why?” “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” Jesus asked His disciples when they thought they were in great peril (Matthew 8:26). “If I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?” (John 8:46), He would say to those who question His Word.

Then, to those who doubt His deity, the apostle Paul, speaking in His name, asks: “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?” (Acts 26:8). As the popular chorus goes: “God specializes in things thought impossible!” Our God is omniscient and knows what’s best; He is omnipotent, so He can do it. He is all-loving and will surely do what’s best for those who trust Him. HMM
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« Reply #7340 on: August 15, 2021, 09:29:29 AM »

Bewitched

“O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?” (Galatians 3:1)

The Greek word for “bewitched” is used only this once in the New Testament and does not necessarily refer to witchcraft as such. The connotation is “fascinated” or “deceived.” Unlike most of his other epistles, the book of Galatians includes no commendations from Paul, nor even any prayer requests. Paul evidently was very disappointed in this church and its ministry.

He had clearly preached the gospel to them, setting forth “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2) among them, and they had apparently believed and started out well. They seemed to understand the great doctrines of salvation by grace and of liberty in Christ, and it was hard for Paul to understand how they had been so quickly led astray.

If anything, this is even a greater problem today than in Paul’s day. Professing Christians are being “tossed to and fro... with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14)—not only with legalism (as in Galatia) but also with evolutionism, hedonism, emotionalism, materialism, and many other unscriptural heresies. Many who profess to be Christians have, like the Galatians, been “bewitched” by clever persuasion and peer pressure into such deceptions.

They may consider themselves especially enlightened in some way, or intellectual, or just up-to-date, but Paul would call them “foolish” just as he did the Galatians. In Christ alone—our Creator, Redeemer, and Lord—are “hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). As Paul concluded his letter to the Galatians: “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Galatians 6:14). HMM
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« Reply #7341 on: August 16, 2021, 09:21:16 AM »

Fearing God for Nothing?

“Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?” (Job 1:9)

Satan’s challenge brings up an important question: Why should a person serve God? His question suggests that Job had no real love for God; his righteous behavior was motivated purely by a desire to receive material blessings.

Job’s friend Eliphaz apparently had precisely the outlook on life that Satan wrongly accused Job of. Eliphaz believed God took no pleasure in human righteousness. He believed a person should serve God purely out of self-interest, a desire that God would reward him with material prosperity (Job 22:2-3, 23-30). God has created the world such that wrongful behavior normally leads to unpleasant consequences while upright behavior normally brings good results (Proverbs 12:21). However, Eliphaz was fundamentally wrong; God did take pleasure in Job’s righteousness (Job 1:8; 42:7).

Death and suffering are results of sin (Romans 5:12). The first people God created rebelled against Him and brought death and suffering into the world (Genesis 3). However, suffering is not necessarily occasioned by a specific sin in the life of the sufferer, as Eliphaz and his two friends seemed to believe.

A person who truly loves God will serve Him in good times and bad times. In this sin-cursed world, sometimes wicked people prosper and righteous people suffer, but Job recognized that perfect justice awaits the day when the Creator returns to Earth (Job 19:25-27). This is probably the reason Job maintained his faith even when God allowed Satan to take everything—including his children and his health.

Job often spoke rashly from his pain (Job 6:1-5; 7:11). Yet his declaration of faith in God is a wonderful example for all believers: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15). WP
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« Reply #7342 on: August 17, 2021, 05:23:30 AM »

Long Enough

“And the LORD spake unto me, saying, Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you northward.” (Deuteronomy 2:2-3)

This was the second time God rebuked Israel for staying too long in one place. Here they were camped adjacent to the region controlled by the descendants of Esau and thus kinsmen of the Israelites, but God told them to go on north toward Canaan.

Long before, they had wanted to stay too long at Mount Sinai (same as Horeb) where God had given the law to Moses. Finally, “the LORD our God spake unto us in Horeb, saying, Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount:...Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers” (Deuteronomy 1:6, 8).

It is possible for a Christian to become too satisfied with his level of attainment, when the Lord may well have something more for him to do. Possibly, like Israel at Sinai, we may be content to stay in a situation where we have seen God work in the past. Or, like Israel at Edom’s Mount Seir, we want to stay in what we think may be friendly surroundings, rather than venture into overtly enemy territory. Perhaps we have stayed long enough at a certain stage in our Christian growth or service, and God wants us to go further.

Paul wanted to continue preaching near his home in Asia, but God said for him to go on into Europe (Acts 16:6-10). Peter asked Jesus what John was going to do, but Jesus said, “What is that to thee? follow thou me” (John 21:22).

God may, indeed, want us to continue all of our lives right where He has placed us now, as far as location and position are concerned, but He does want us to go on further with Him. The last words written by Peter are profoundly important. “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). HMM
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« Reply #7343 on: August 18, 2021, 09:19:55 AM »

The Spiritual Senses

“O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” (Psalm 34:8)

Frequently, Scripture uses our five physical senses in a figurative way to help us comprehend our interaction with the heavenly realm of God’s presence and power.

We can “see,” for example, with spiritual eyes. Paul prayed thus for the believer: “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18).

Similarly, we are privileged to hear the voice of the Lord with spiritual ears. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). “A stranger will they not follow,...for they know not the voice of strangers” (John 10:5).

The sense of touch is the sense of feeling, and God can both touch and be touched. We read, for example, of “a band of men, whose hearts God had touched” (1 Samuel 10:26). Of Jesus Christ, it is said that He is not a remote deity “which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15). Even people who never knew Him can perhaps “feel after him, and find him” (Acts 17:27) if they truly desire His great salvation.

We can even become “unto God a sweet savour of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:15). To the world, the faithful Christian life and testimony can either be “the savour of death unto death” to those who refuse it, or “the savour of life unto life” (2 Corinthians 2:16).

Finally, we are exhorted actually to taste the Lord and see that He is good! His Word will be, according to our needs, either “sincere milk” (1 Peter 2:2), “strong meat” (Hebrews 5:14), or “sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10). HMM
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« Reply #7344 on: August 19, 2021, 09:05:53 AM »

Jeremiah and Inspiration

“Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.” (Jeremiah 20:9)

Contained within the books of the Old Testament are nearly three thousand claims to its precise trustworthiness. Over and over again, the various authors claim to be communicating the very words of God.

A number of such claims were recorded by Jeremiah in his book. As we see in our text, Jeremiah was somewhat discouraged with the lack of response to his ministry. But, just as he decided to refrain from passing on God’s Word to the people, he felt an inner burning, recognizing that these words were much too important to ignore. These words had come from God Himself!

On other occasions, he heard the words of God directly and was commanded to pass them on with precision. “Thus saith the LORD; Stand in the court of the LORD’s house, and speak unto all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the LORD’s house, all the words that I command thee to speak unto them; diminish not [literally ‘to shave,’ or ‘to lessen in effect’] a word” (Jeremiah 26:2). This straightforward teaching of verbal inspiration is applied to the written accounts, as well: “The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD God of Israel, saying, Write thee all the words that I have spoken unto thee in a book” (Jeremiah 30:1-2).

This book, which throughout contains such strong condemnation of falsehood, and which was written over a period of more than two thousand years by numerous authors, yet without any contradiction between these writers, surely is the Word of the eternal, holy God. It is the information our Creator knows we need. JDM
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« Reply #7345 on: August 20, 2021, 08:51:06 AM »

The Lord Jehovah

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2)

The English name usually written LORD in English Bibles stems from the Hebrew word Yahweh, the meaning of which cannot be fully put into words. Although scholars differ (some even claiming there is no real meaning to the word at all), the consensus is that it seems to be a compound of the three tenses of the Hebrew verb “to be,” implying the ever-living nature of God to which Christ was referring when He said, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8). Note also the similar implications in God’s announcement of Himself to Moses: “And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am” (Exodus 3:14).

On 49 special occasions (seven times seven), the name Jehovah is contracted to Jah. Many consider this to be an abbreviation of Jehovah, but no satisfactory explanation as to why it is so used has been offered. Perhaps a better suggestion is that this name is the present tense of the verb “to be,” and therefore the name Jah emphasizes the present activity of the Lord. In nearly all occurrences, the passages are strengthened by noting the present work of God. The first usage of the term Jah is found in Miriam’s Song upon deliverance from Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea. “The LORD [Jah] is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation” (Exodus 15:2).

On several occasions, such as in our text, we see that the two names are combined, celebrating both the present and future deliveries of Jah Jehovah. “Trust ye in the LORD [Jehovah] for ever: for in the LORD [Jah] JEHOVAH is everlasting strength” (Isaiah 26:4). JDM
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« Reply #7346 on: August 21, 2021, 08:41:35 AM »

Sealed by the Holy Spirit

“In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14)

From very ancient times it has been the custom to confirm and guarantee an agreed-on purchase by sealing the contract with a seal that could only be broken by the buyer when he was ready to take possession of his purchase.

The marvelous transaction seen by John at God’s throne in heaven was in reference to this practice. There, only the Lamb is found worthy to open the seven-sealed scroll on which is recorded the title to the whole creation. “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the [scroll], and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood” (Revelation 5:9). The purchase price had been paid on Calvary, and the resurrected Lamb had come to claim His possession.

And we are part of that possession! The price has been paid for our redemption from sin’s bondage, but we have not yet entered on the inheritance which our great Redeemer has promised us. In the meantime, our individual title deed, as it were, has been sealed by none other than the Holy Spirit. He is not only the seal, but also the “earnest”—that is, the down payment, the earnest money—who guarantees the total “redemption of the purchased possession.”

His personal presence in our lives is our assurance that the full promise will be fulfilled, and we are urged to “grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). He “hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts” (2 Corinthians 1:22). HMM
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« Reply #7347 on: August 22, 2021, 09:37:14 AM »

The Face of Jesus Christ

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

The light that shines in the soul of a lost sinner when he first comes to know Jesus Christ can only be compared to the light that Christ called forth on Day One of the creation week. We met this God of glory spiritually when we first beheld in our hearts the face of Jesus Christ.

But the face of Jesus Christ was not always deemed so glorious. We read of a time when ungodly men “did...spit in his face” (Matthew 26:67), then took a blindfold “to cover his face” (Mark 14:65), and finally with a rain of terrible blows “struck him on the face” (Luke 22:64). Once His “countenance [was] as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars” (Song of Solomon 5:15), but when they finished their assault, “his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men” (Isaiah 52:14).

“The face of the Lord is against them that do evil” (1 Peter 3:12), however, and the time is coming very soon when all those who have turned their faces from Him will call “to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb” (Revelation 6:16). When finally they will have seen the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ in all its consuming strength, not even the world itself could stand, “from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away” (Revelation 20:11).

For those who have looked on Him in faith, however, this will not be a time of judgment but blessing, for “they shall see his face” (Revelation 22:4). The face of Jesus Christ, fierce as devouring fire to those He must judge, is glorious in beauty and love to those who believe. HMM
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« Reply #7348 on: August 23, 2021, 09:07:18 AM »

Offering Willingly

“Then the people rejoiced, for that they offered willingly, because with perfect heart they offered willingly to the LORD: and David the king also rejoiced with great joy.” (1 Chronicles 29:9)

As the people brought gifts for the construction of the temple in Jerusalem, it is mentioned no less than six times in this chapter that their offerings were willing offerings (once in verses 6 and 14, twice each in verses 9 and 17). In fact, they were not only willing but also joyful in their giving.

Joyful giving is not the usual response to a fundraising effort for a religious cause. The great proliferation of causes today—not only for churches but for multi-church or para-church projects, usually associated with high-pressure solicitations by professional money-raisers—has developed a growing cynicism in Christians toward all such appeals.

That is not the way it should be, “for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). The churches of Macedonia, though going through “a great trial of affliction” and in “deep poverty,” nevertheless “abounded unto the riches of their liberality,” and they did so in “the abundance of their joy” (2 Corinthians 8:2). What made the difference was that they “first gave their own selves to the Lord” (2 Corinthians 8:5).

No doubt another vital factor leading to the joyful offerings of the people for the building of the temple was the example set by David’s great personal joyful generosity, followed by that of all the other leaders of Israel (1 Chronicles 29:3-8). This encouraged the people also to give “with perfect heart” (today’s verse). They had evidently, like the Philippians of Macedonia, also first given themselves to the Lord. David had led them by example, not coercion, reminding himself and his people as he prayed a prayer of thanksgiving that “all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee” (1 Chronicles 29:14). HMM
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Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
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« Reply #7349 on: August 24, 2021, 09:18:24 AM »

Our Rock of Salvation

“He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.” (Deuteronomy 32:4)

Here in the song of Moses, which God instructed him to write for the children of Israel as they were about to enter the Promised Land (note Deuteronomy 31:19), is the first of at least 40 references in the Bible to God as the Rock. There are four others just in this song. In verse 15, He is the “Rock of [Israel’s] salvation.” In verse 18, He is “the Rock that begat thee.” See also verses 30 and 31.

Note some of the other wonderful metaphors picturing God as our great foundation stone. He is “my strong rock” in Psalm 31:2 and “the rock that is higher than I” in Psalm 61:2. In Psalm 62:7, He is “the rock of my strength” and “the rock of my refuge” in Psalm 94:22. Isaiah calls Him “a great rock in a weary land” and “the rock whence ye are hewn” (Isaiah 32:2; 51:1).

During the wilderness wanderings, the Israelites were supplied continually with water from the rock, and the apostle Paul tells us “that spiritual Rock that followed them...was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4). And, of course, Christ told His disciples that Peter’s confession of Himself as the “Son of the living God” was the Rock upon which He would build His church (Matthew 16:16, 18).

But to unbelievers He is “the stone which the builders rejected” (Matthew 21:42), “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word” (1 Peter 2:8). “Therefore,” said Jesus, “whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock” (Matthew 7:24-25). HMM
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Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
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