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nChrist
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« Reply #360 on: January 05, 2007, 09:30:33 AM »

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning
Scripture Reference: Matthew 16:1-28

Practical Religion


And in the morning, It will be foul weather today: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?

Faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour transforms us from a shallow meaningless person into one filled with the Spirit of God. If we are born again and the Spirit resides within us, our religion ought to be as full of meaning as our lives are full of the Spirit. How terrible to see many religions in which there is absolute meaninglessness because of spiritual ritualism. Jesus encountered this very same thing in His day as well.

The Pharisees were always guilty of practicing an empty religion. This is why John the Baptist called them a "generation of vipers" (Matthew 3:7). The Pharisees were constantly interested in keeping the ceremonial law, but they had the wrong heart attitude toward God. When Jesus called Matthew to discipleship, the Pharisees were right there to question the Lord's disciples, "Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?" (Matthew 9:11). When He cast a demon out of a man who was dumb, the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out devils through the power of the prince of the devils (Matthew 9:34).

Always the Pharisees were seeking a sign from Jesus that He was the Messiah. Time and again He refused to give them such a sign saying that the sign of Jonah was all they would need. His resurrection after a death of three days would be the great sign to them that He was indeed the Messiah. If they would not believe that sign, neither would they believe any other.

At Magdala Jesus again encountered the Pharisees, this time in league with the Sadducees and Herodians, who again asked Him for a sign. As before, Jesus refused to give them such a sign but at the same time He taught them something about the emptiness and blindness of their spiritual ritualism. Jesus noted that the Pharisees and Sadducees could read the weather signs in the heavens. He said, "When it is evening you say, it will be fair weather for the sky is red." This is comparable to our axiom, "Red sky at night, sailor's delight." But Jesus continued, "And in the morning it will be foul weather today: for the sky is red and lowring" (Matthew 16:3). Or, as we would say, "Red sky in morning, sailors take warning."

Jesus then concluded with the assessment, "O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?" These religious leaders could read the skies with the best astronomers and mariners, but could not recognize that Jesus was the Messiah. This was where their expertise should have been, but because they had been involved so long with empty formalism instead of meaningful activity in carrying God's love to the world, they did not have the eyes of faith with which to see Jesus as their Saviour.

An item from a church bulletin clearly points out the inconsistency of pious religion which does not follow through in meeting the needs of people. It is a satirical rephrasing of Matthew 25: "I was famished and you formed a humanitarian club to discuss my hunger...I was imprisoned and you crept off quietly to your church to pray for my release. I was naked and you debated the morality of my unseemly appearance. I was sick and you knew it, yet did nothing but thank God for your own health. I was homeless and you preached to me of the spiritual shelter of the love of God. I was lonely and you left me by myself while you went and prayed for me. You seemed so holy, so close to God; but I am still very hungry, desolate, and cold!"

While the Pharisees had all the trappings of religion, all the robes, all the religious paraphernalia, they had none of the heart, none of what true religion is all about. Yet today as well there are many churches and denominations that have all the trap-pings of religion but none of the heart of the Lord Jesus. It is up to each of us to make sure that we attend faithfully those churches which show the heart of the Lord Jesus and not the heart of the Pharisee. Is your church following Jesus or following the Pharisees? Is your religion practical? Make it a point to pray for your church today.

MORNING HYMN
All Thy works with joy surround Thee,
Earth and Heav'n reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee,
Center of unbroken praise.

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« Reply #361 on: January 08, 2007, 12:22:52 AM »

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning
Scripture Reference: Genesis 20:1-18

A Lapse Into Sin

Therefore Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called all his servants, and told all these things in their ears: and the men were sore afraid.

Our folly and God's grace; if you see one, can the other be far behind? Frequent are the occasions when God's children foolishly mire themselves in difficulty only to have God graciously dig them out. Even the venerable Abraham found himself in this situation more than once.

After the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham departed from the groves of Mamre and journeyed south to the Negev. Here he dwelt between Kadesh and Shur, pitching his tent in Gerar. Upon arriving in the south country Abraham hatched a plan which he had tried unsuccessfully in Egypt some twenty years earlier. He instructed his wife, Sarah, to claim that she was his sister.

Because of the disastrous consequences which it previously had brought on the pharaoh of Egypt, it is almost inconceivable that Abraham would try this scheme again. Apparently the stern rebuke Abraham received from Pharaoh had by this time faded from his memory. Still, Abraham had only recently received God's assurance that Sarah was destined to be the mother of the promised seed. By spreading the half truth that she was his sister and therefore eligible for marriage, Abraham placed Sarah's virtue in serious jeopardy. This constituted a foolish lapse in Abraham's usually stellar performance as the friend of God.

The arrival of Abraham and Sarah brought a greeting from Abimelech, the warlike king of Gerar. Having heard that Sarah was unmarried, Abimelech immediately sent and brought her into his harem. This likely was done to ally himself with the rich nomad prince, Abraham. Sarah was by this time ninety years old and probably not the beautiful maid she used to be. Suddenly Abraham's lie had come back to haunt him once again.

The whole course of human history could have been different if it were not for God's intervention. Genesis 20:3 begins, "But God," words which usually indicate the turning point between man's foolishness and God's grace. Abraham had lied about his wife and she was now part of Abimelech's harem. Her virtue would undoubtedly be violated. But God warned the Philistine king in a dream that Sarah was already a man's wife. He also caused Abimelech to be afflicted with an illness which prevented him from coming near Sarah. Thus, miraculously and graciously, the mother of the chosen nation was kept from impurity, not because of the wisdom of Abraham, but because of the grace of God.

In the dream God revealed to Abimelech that, although he had done no wrong, nevertheless he must restore Sarah to her husband. If the king refused, his death and that of all his kingdom would ensue. This was enough to convince Abimelech. The king "rose early in the morning, and called all his servants," relaying the message to them (Genesis 20:8). Respecting the authority of the living God, Abimelech was anxious to heed the divine directives. The Philistine wasted no time in returning Sarah to her husband but not without a sharp rebuke to Abraham. Happy to have his wife back safe and sound, Abraham received the reprimand with a sigh of relief. In return he prayed to God and Abimelech was healed along with his wife and maidservants. The kingdom returned to normal.

Once again God's grace had prevailed over man's folly. The results could have been drastically different, however, had not God's providence overruled man's foolishness. Yet, how much anguish could have been spared both Abraham and Abimelech, both Sarah and the Philistine's wife, if there had not been that one lapse from righteousness. The knowledge that God's grace is waiting in the wings is insufficient grounds for contemplating foolish action. As Abraham finally learned, every friend of God must carefully guard against even slight lapses into the folly of sin (Romans 6:1-4).

MORNING HYMN
Sinners Jesus will receive;
Sound this word of grace to all
Who the heav'nly pathway leave,
All who linger, all who fall.

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« Reply #362 on: January 08, 2007, 12:24:24 AM »

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning
Scripture Reference: Joshua 5:13-6:16

God's

And Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the LORD.

As they had miraculously left the land of Egypt, Israel had now entered the land of Canaan by a similar miracle. All the people were safely across the swift waters of the Jordan. The army of Israel encamped at Gilgal. Having settled in the land, Joshua and the people were now ready for their first great test—the capture of the outpost of Jericho.

Since Jericho was the most secure stronghold in a string of fortifications defending the eastern front of Canaan, there were many anxious Israelite hearts the night before the conquest began. Joshua himself was pacing the ground at the edge of the Israeli encampment. While meditating on how to attack Jericho, a man appeared to Joshua with a sword drawn in his hand. Intrepidly Joshua asked, "Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?" (Joshua 5:13) The powerful figure identified himself as the Captain of the host of the Lord. This title, so often afterward applied to the Son of God, revealed to Joshua that this was none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Joshua must have known immediately the identity of this warrior for he fell on his face to the earth and worshiped Him.

Joshua 6:2 records, "And the LORD said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valor." Although it was the night before the once-a-day treks around the city of Jericho, the Lord's promise to Joshua was, "I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof." Their lines of battle had not yet been drawn. The fighting had not yet begun. Yet the victory was certain. Even before the event occurred, God said "I have done it."

How can this be? How can God say the battle is won before it is begun? The answer is that God is above time. He has no futures nor pasts, only an eternal present. He always deals in what is for Him the "now." Frequently God uses the words "I will" and "I have" interchangeably.

Consider the similar experience of Abraham, recorded in Genesis 17. Abram was ninety-nine years old when the Lord God appeared to him and, as Joshua did, he fell on his face before the Lord. The Almighty God was about to make a covenant with Abraham that he would become the father of many nations. To Abraham God said, "Neither shall thy name anymore be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee" (Genesis 17:5). To a childless ninety-nine-year-old man, whose wife was nearly that age, God said, "A father of many nations have I made thee."

In quoting that promise in Romans 4:17, the Apostle Paul notes, "And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb" (Romans 4:19). It did not matter that Sarah was well beyond the age of childbearing. God said He had made Abraham the father of many nations and we can count God's "wills" as God's "haves."

As twentieth century believers, the promises of God to us which have yet to be fulfilled are in the eternality of God already fulfilled. Thus the Lord Jesus promised, "I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again" (John 14:2-3). Although this is an event in history future, nevertheless, it is a promise as certain as if it had already been fulfilled. God calls things that are not yet as if they already are.

Hence, even though the battle plan was strange to Joshua, the defeat of the enemy was sure. Trusting the God of completed promises, "Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the LORD" (Joshua 6:12) and the children of Israel proceeded to the conquest of Jericho. Another great victory was won for the Lord God whose "haves" and "wills" are interchangeable.

MORNING HYMN
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.

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« Reply #363 on: January 09, 2007, 12:52:37 AM »

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning
Scripture Reference: Numbers 9:2-23

Divine Direction

And so it was, when the cloud abode from even unto the morning, and that the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they journeyed: whether it was by day or by night that the cloud was taken up, they journeyed.

Each of us who is active and aggressive in our service for the Lord finds one aspect of the Christian life more difficult than any other. We find it almost impossible just to sit and not to move when God is not moving us. The best antidote for anxiety is to trust in God and wait patiently on Him.

The movement of the nation of Israel through the wilderness graphically illustrates the need for God's people to wait on Him. Numbers 9 gives God's program for Israel's progression. The Jews were not on a steady march for forty years in the wilderness, neither were they at permanent rest. In fact, their journey was a long series of stops and goes. Both were at the command of God.

God never leaves His people alone, without a witness or guide. Living by faith sometimes means walking in the dark, it never means living without a light. God would provide the natural phenomena of a cloud and fire. On the day that it was erected, a cloud covered the Tabernacle so that it was entirely enshrouded during the day. At night fire appeared in the sky and prohibited Israel from losing sight of the abode of God. Numbers 9:21 summarizes, "And so it was, when the cloud bode from even unto the morning, and that the cloud was taken in the morning then they journeyed: whether it was by day or night that the cloud was taken up, they journeyed." Since the length of the stay at any one place in the wilderness could vary from two days, to a month, to a year, Israel's only obligation was to trust God and watch for the movement of the cloud.

Many are the occasions that we find ourselves awaiting direction from the Lord and wondering if it will ever come. But if we let Him be our guide, we will not only "Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him" (Psalm 37:7), but when He does move us we will be certain that our direction is the correct one.

Some years ago a party of fisherman took their small boat into the Gulf of Mexico. They came to their favorite spot, a place they had been many times before. The weather was balmy, the fish were biting, and they completely lost themselves in the hours of the afternoon. By nightfall a dense fog had moved in and they found themselves completely engulfed in the "soup" and could see only a few feet ahead of them. Their hearts raced with excitement. Then one of the fishermen remembered that he had a small compass in his pocket. They had already determined which direction they should go, but the compass pointed in the opposite direction. Now they were faced with a dilemma. Would they follow their own instincts, or the sure rule of the compass? All the men agreed to follow the direction of the compass. After what seemed an endlessly long time, they saw the shadowy outline of the shore emerging through the fog. They found themselves only a few yards from the dock where they started earlier in the day. The reliable compass had told them which direction to go, they trusted it, and they returned home safely.

Let us not be guilty today of attempting to move ahead of God when He says to "sit still." Likewise, when through the Word of God we are moved in a particular direction, let us not question that direction, but do the will of God. The clouds of concern may completely encircle us today but God will remove them in His own good time and will provide direction for us if we simply trust Him and wait upon Him.

MORNING HYMN
Lord, I would clasp Thy hand in mine,
Nor ever murmur nor repine,
Content, whatever lot I see,
Since 'tis my God that leadeth me!

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« Reply #364 on: January 10, 2007, 10:59:13 PM »

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning
Scripture Reference: Zephaniah 1:1-3:20

Morning Corruption

I said, Surely thou will fear me, thou wilt receive instruction; so their dwelling should not be cut off, howsoever I punished them: but they rose early, and corrupted all their doings.

Zephaniah is a book of contrasts. Perhaps no other prophecy in the Old Testament paints a blacker picture of God's judgment than does Zephaniah. It is a foreboding portrait of the day of Jehovah, the day of the Lord. Still, no prophet paints a brighter picture of Israel's future glory.

Zephaniah was a unique prophet. A contemporary of Jeremiah, more is known about the pedigree of Zephaniah than any other prophet. The first verse of this prophecy shows that his lineage was in the royal line; he was the great-great-grandson of good King Hezekiah. His royal heritage makes Zephaniah's rebuke of the nobles and princes all the more significant. He spoke to Judah and Jerusalem as one of their own, as royalty.

Taking occasion from the threat of invasion by the savage Scythian hordes from the north, Zephaniah preached of the coming of the great day of judgment on Judah and Jerusalem. With all the fervor of a revivalist, Zephaniah announced, "The great day of the LORD is near.... That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness.... And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD; and their blood shall be poured out as dust.... Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD'S wrath...for He shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land" (Zephaniah 1:14-18).

In the three chapters of this tiny book nearly every word is laced with a warning about God's wrath. In chapter 1 the utter desolation of Judah is predicted as a judgment for idolatry and neglect of the Lord. In chapter 2 Zephaniah predicts that the house of Judah as well as her enemies, Moab and Ammon, will be threatened with perpetual destruction. In chapter 3 he turns his attention to the city of Jerusalem, calling it "filthy and polluted" and "the oppressing city."

Hurling invectives at Jerusalem's princes, her judges, her prophets, and her priests, Zephaniah warns that "the just LORD is in the midst thereof; He will not do iniquity: every morning doth He bring His judgment to light, He faileth not" (Zephaniah 3:5). Literally, morning by morning God will bring His judgment on the wicked city of Jerusalem. No one who defies the Lord God ever escapes punishment. Still, the princes, prophets, priests, and inhabitants of Jerusalem paid no attention to Zephaniah's warning. Instead, "they rose early and corrupted all their doings" (Zephaniah 3:7).

Although this section of Zephaniah's prophecy ends with the failure of the people to heed his warnings, nonetheless the prophet concludes with a series of promises (Zephaniah 3:8-20). The general tone of this last portion is messianic, speaking of the day when Christ will gather the nations and assemble His kingdoms, the day in which He will be in the midst of Jerusalem on Mount Zion, and the faithful remnant of Israel will rejoice and sing praises unto Him.

Zephaniah's life as a prophet was a miserable one; he was unheeded and mocked. Still, the future fulfillment of all his prophecies will grant him eternal vindication. It would be Zephaniah's prayer that none of us today rise early to corrupt our ways. Let's answer his prayer.

MORNING HYMN
For the Lord our God shall come
And shall take His harvest home:
From His field shall in that day
All offenses purge away--
Give His angels charge at last
In the fire the tares to cast
But the fruitful ears to store
In His garner evermore.

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« Reply #365 on: January 10, 2007, 11:02:04 PM »

Daily devotions for 01-10-2007:

Title: God's Separation
Author: Woodrow Kroll
Devotion: Woodrow Kroll
Scripture References:
Exodus 8:1-32
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Title: God's Separation

And the LORD said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh; lo, he cometh forth to the water; and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Let My people go, that they may serve Me.

 In a great many respects the righteous and unrighteous appear to be treated alike in this life. God "maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:45). However, lest the righteous begin feeling sorry for themselves, we must not forget that a day of separation is coming when the Shepherd will divide His sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:31-33). The sun will not forever rise on the unrighteous.

But if we look more closely, even in this life God puts a division between His people and those of the world. Satan complained that God had made a hedge around Job. Solomon said that the Lord "is a shield to those who walk uprightly. He keepeth the paths of justice, and preserveth the way of His saints" (Proverbs 2:7-8).

A prime example of the Lord's protection for His people is the plagues of Egypt. After his death, there arose a king over Egypt who knew not Joseph. The Israelites became slaves with taskmasters set over them to afflict them. Moses was called of God to lead the Jews out of this land of bondage and into the promised land. But when Moses and Aaron confronted the Egyptian king about letting God's people go, the pharaoh only increased the burden on the Jews. The ruler hardened his heart and there began in Egypt a series of plagues the likes of which have not been seen since anywhere in the world.

First, their water supply turned to blood. Then frogs covered the land. Next, it was the plague of lice or gnats. After this the Lord said to Moses, "Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh" (Exodus 8:20). The man of God warned the Egyptian king that if he would not let God's people go, the land would become black with flies.

These were not ordinary houseflies but horseflies. They are described by the historian Philo and other travelers as a very severe scourge. More numerous and annoying than houseflies, these gadflies fasten themselves to the human body, especially around the edges of the eyelids, and suck blood from the agonized victim. They would swarm and fill the houses of the Egyptians causing severe pain and distress.

But here for the first time an additional promise is made. God said He would set apart the land of Goshen, where His people Israel dwelt, and absolutely no swarm of flies would enter there. A division between God's people and the people of Egypt was to be formed. In fact, this division meant redemption. God would redeem Israel and protect them from the devastating swarm.

The Bible clearly indicates the purpose of this division was "to the end thou mayest know that I am the Lord in the midst of the earth." God's setting apart of the land of Goshen was calculated to impress the worldly Egyptians that Jehovah alone is God. This was no trick of Egyptian magic; it was the direct intervention of God in human affairs. Jehovah caused a plague to fall on the unrighteous and peace to fall on the righteous.

Even today the Lord is separating a people for His name. The believer is set apart as a testimony to the world that Jehovah is God and He is in absolute control of the universe. God's people are to be a distinct and blessed group, in the world but not of it. We are set apart from the penalty of sin that plagues the world around us. Likewise we are set apart unto service for the God who saved us. Let's praise Him today for His grace in our behalf.

MORNING HYMN

O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast, And our
eternal home!

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« Reply #366 on: January 13, 2007, 10:12:57 PM »

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning
Scripture Reference: Daniel 6:1-28

Persistence

Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions.

We have all heard the adage "Persistence pays." There is one striking example in Scripture, however, when persistence did more than pay. In the case of Daniel persistence prospered.

The golden years of the Persian Empire were those of Darius the Great. Darius extended the empire from India to the Danube River, even to Greece itself. He also commanded his governors to aid in the rebuilding of the Temple at Jerusalem (Ezra 6:1-12). In his desire to rule well his kingdom, Darius set one hundred twenty princes over the whole kingdom as vice-regents. Over these were three presidents, of whom Daniel was the first. Daniel's prosperity as first president evoked the jealousy of the other presidents, who sought to destroy him. So godly was this man that the only way he could be destroyed was through wretched trickery.

The presidents knew that Daniel would not forsake the law of his God and therefore they proposed an unalterable decree that no one should pray to any person other than the king for a period of thirty days. Unaware of their vicious intent, King Darius signed the decree.

Although Daniel knew that the law had been signed, nonetheless he continued his practice of kneeling before a window opened toward Jerusalem and giving thanks to the Lord three times a day. His envious colleagues laid in wait to catch Daniel forsaking the unalterable law of the Medes and Persians. When they advised the king that Daniel had disregarded his decree, the king was greatly distressed, for he thought highly of Daniel. Nevertheless, he followed through on the punishment for disobeying his decree and cast Daniel into the den of lions. A stone was brought and laid over the mouth of the den so Daniel could not escape. His death was inevitable.

Throughout the night the king could not sleep, nor could his mind be soothed with music. He arose very early in the morning and went quickly to the den of lions (Daniel 6:19). Much to his amazement, Jehovah God had spared the life of Daniel and shut the lions' mouths. The king was glad to receive Daniel out of the lions' den safe and sound. After punishing those who had accused Daniel, Darius wrote a decree to all nations that the God of Daniel should be revered and respected as the living God.

The persistent prayer of Daniel may be viewed as a foolish practice, given the law of the Medes and the Persians. But persistence in godliness is never persistence in foolishness. In fact, persistence in doing what is right always leads to prosperity.

A South Carolina man passing out tracts once stopped at a house and rang the bell. He heard noises inside and knew that someone was in there, but no one came to the door. He rang the bell persistently. Finally a man appeared, grabbed the tract from his hand, and rudely slammed the door in his face.

A week later the Christian returned to that door and this time the man received him immediately. After he entered the house, the man took him to the attic to see a rope dangling from the rafters with a box beneath it. The man of the house said, "Friend, when you rang my doorbell last week, my head was in that noose, and I was ready to jump! But you were so persistent that I decided to go down and see who it was. While reading your tract God spoke to me. Instead of jumping off that box, I knelt beside it and gave my heart to the Lord."

Like Daniel of old, who was persistent in doing what is right, this Christian's persistence in ringing that doorbell led to another man's salvation. Regardless of what men may think, persistence in doing what is right always brings the prosperity of God.

MORNING HYMN
Truehearted, wholehearted, faithful and loyal,
King of our lives, by Thy grace we will be;
Under the standard exalted and royal,
Strong in Thy strength we will battle for Thee.

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« Reply #367 on: January 13, 2007, 10:14:13 PM »

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning
Scripture Reference: Judges 6:1-32

Discouragement

And when the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was cast down, and the grove was cut down that was by it, and the second bullock was offered upon the altar that was built.

The book of Judges recounts the history of Israel during the centuries which followed the conquest of the land of Canaan. These were checkered years in Israel's history, which frequently saw relapses into idolatry. After each time Israel turned aside from the Lord, Jehovah would graciously raise up a judge, who was a military not a judicial leader, to bring His chosen people back to Him. The cycle of relapse, repentance, and restoration occurred frequently during these turbulent centuries.

The narrative of Judges 6 opens with a record of the renewed idolatry of Israel. This time judgment came from the Midianites who swept down through the plain of Jezreel, terrorizing Israel as far south as Gaza. They did not permanently occupy the land, but each harvest season they would arrive unexpectedly and plunder the harvest. What spoil they could not carry away they destroyed. So insecure were the Israelites that they lived in dens, caves, and strongholds to seek safety for their possessions and for themselves.

But suddenly things changed. An angel of the Lord appeared under the great oak by Ophrah, a little township on the southwestern border of the territory of Manasseh. There Gideon, the son of Joash, was beating out wheat with a stick. He did so secretly and with constant apprehension that a wild band of Midianite Bedouins might sweep down on him, taking his grain and his life.

Gideon is typical of many believers today. Although the angel of the Lord called him a "mighty man of valor," Gideon's clandestine operations at his father's winepress did not exhibit great valor. For seven years his people had been oppressed by the enemy and this mighty warrior was despondent and discouraged. The angel of the Lord appeared unto him at his lowest ebb to encourage him.

Gideon was startled at first by this stranger, not certain who he was. When the angel proclaimed that the Lord was with him, Gideon's questioning response was, "If the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us?" (Judges 6:13). Gideon believed that if Jehovah had not withdrawn Himself from Israel, the present Midianite calamity would never have occurred. As well, this mighty man of valor, like Moses of old, questioned why the Lord would choose him to deliver Israel. His family was poor in Manasseh and he was the least of his father's household. But in the midst of Gideon's concern the Lord God promised, "Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man."

Gideon was still not convinced. How did he know this person was really the angel of the Lord? Thus Gideon asked for a sign and the angel of the Lord flash-fired the flesh of a kid and unleavened cakes which Gideon had placed on a rock.

Having felt the hand of God upon his life and claiming the promise of divine presence and power, Gideon proceeded to be the delivering judge of Israel. At the command of the Lord he threw down the altar of Baal his father had built. In its place he built an altar unto Jehovah God. "And when the men of the city arose early in the morning behold, the altar of Baal was cast down, and the grove was cut down" (Judges 6:28). Who had done such a thing? The answer--Gideon, the son of Joash. The fearful men of the city stormed the house of Joash and demanded that he hand over his son to be slain. But the acts of an encouraged Gideon bred encouragement in the heart of his father as well. Joash challenged the men to allow Baal to plead for himself, if he truly was a god. It was becoming increasingly evident to the men of Ophrah that Baal was not a god to be feared, as was Jehovah.

All that was necessary for a discouraged people to rise up against their oppressors was for the heart of one man to be impressed with the presence and power of the Lord. How much the Gideons of the twentieth century need to recognize the still small voice of the Lord saying to them, "Surely I will be with thee." Be encouraged and let God do something courageous through you today.

MORNING HYMN
Take my life and let it be,
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee
Take my hands and let them move,
At the impulse of Thy love,
Take my feet and let them be,
Swift and beautiful for Thee;
Take my voice and let me sing,
Always, only, for my King.

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« Reply #368 on: January 13, 2007, 10:16:09 PM »

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning
Scripture Reference: 1 Kings 3:1-28

Practical Wisdom


“And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold, it was dead: but when I had considered it in the morning, behold, it was not my son, which I did bear.”

“How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver” (Proverbs 16:16). These sentiments of Solomon, regarding the preference for wisdom over wealth, stem from a strange dream that changed his life.

Once Solomon attended a solemn procession to the altar at Gibeon, about five miles from Jerusalem. This is where the ancient Tabernacle yet stood. Here the king celebrated an elaborate, religious festival in which he offered a thousand burnt offerings on the altar built by Bezaleel nearly five centuries before. While at Gibeon, Solomon received a dream from the Lord, in which God demanded, "Ask what I shall give thee" (1 Kings 3:5). Solomon barely knew what to request from God. Then he remembered the great task that had been laid before him. He was the king of the chosen nation, a great people that could not be numbered for their multitude. Solomon asked for practical wisdom, the ability to discern between right and wrong and to make immediate judgments that were founded on the truth. He was not asking for spiritual discernment; he wanted to rule the people well. God was pleased with Solomon's concern to be a just ruler and thus granted Solomon's request and added riches, honor, and length of days as well.

An occasion soon arose to test this divine gift of practical wisdom. Two harlots came before the king bearing two children, one dead, one alive. Although their stories were conflicting they did agree both lived in the same house and recently, within days of one another, each gave birth to a child. One woman claimed that the dead child was the result of the other mother's carelessness in accidentally laying on the child during the night and suffocating it. She claimed that the other woman rose at midnight, took her living son from beside her, and placed the dead infant in its stead. When the woman arose in the morning to feed the child, she discovered it was dead (1 Kings 3:21). She also discovered in the morning, at the light of day, that it was not her child lifelessly lying beside her in bed. She claimed that the living child was hers. The other woman disputed the claim saying that the first woman's child had simply died and she was now trying to compensate for her loss by taking the live child to be her own.

The situation appeared hopeless. It was the perfect test for Solomon's practical wisdom. What would he do? The king resolved to appeal to the maternal instinct of the women He called for a sword to "divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other." Immediately the child's mother screamed and requested that the king give her own child to the other woman rather than see him slain. Solomon thus discerned which woman was telling the truth and presented the child to his mother.

The fame of this decision spread throughout all Israel, inspiring fear of the king's justice and a conviction that God had given Solomon exceptional discernment. Israel believed that he would carry out his administrative duties with supreme justice.

Solomon's wisdom, however, appears to have gone beyond mere practical shrewdness in everyday affairs: 1 Kings 4:29-34 indicates Solomon demonstrated significant literary ability in speaking three thousand proverbs and writing more than one thousand psalms. One of those proverbs was, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue" (Proverbs 18:21). On this occasion, a happy mother had just realized the truth of those words.

MORNING HYMN
Hover o'er me, Holy Spirit,
Bathe my trembling heart and brow;
Fill me with thy hallow'd presence,
Come, O come and fill me now.

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