What does staying on track mean to you? What are the benefits of staying on track? What helps you stay on course? What can you do to help those who are following you also stay on track? How can you encourage them to stay on course? How will you keep from getting lost or off course? What can you do to ensure those who are following after you from getting lost or off course?
Day 27: Bible In One Year 2017 Devotional, Psalm 17:1-5, Matthew 19:1-15, Job 4, Job 5, Job 6, Job 7
Today’s devotional shares 3 ways to help us stay on track…
1. Determine to stay on God’s tracks
2. Stay on God’s tracks in your relationships
3. Help others stay on God’s tracks
Determine to stay on God’s tracks … Psalm 17:1-5
1Hear me, Lord, my plea is just;listen to my cry.Hear my prayer—it does not rise from deceitful lips. 2Let my vindication come from you;may your eyes see what is right. 3Though you probe my heart,though you examine me at night and test me,you will find that I have planned no evil;my mouth has not transgressed. 4Though people tried to bribe me,I have kept myself from the ways of the violent through what your lips have commanded. 5My steps have held to your paths;my feet have not stumbled.
–from Psalm 17
Do you see God’s path ahead of you? Will you watch your step and stay on it? Will you focus on staying on the path God has set before you so that you can stay on track and complete the work, the good work that He has prepared in advance for you to accomplish?
Here are three things today’s devotional calls out from God’s Word to help us stay on track…
In order to stay on God’s tracks you need to watch:
- Your heart (what you think about)
- ‘Though you probe my heart, though you examine me at night and test me, you will find that I have planned no evil’ (v.3a).
- Your words (what you say)
- ‘I have resolved that my mouth will not sin’ (v.3c).
- Your feet (the places that you go)
- ‘My feet have not slipped’ (v.5b).
Stay on God’s tracks in your relationships … Matthew 19:1-15
1When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. 2Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. 3Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” 4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” 7“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” 8Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” 10The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” 11Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” 13Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. 14Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.
We need to track our lives against Jesus’ words. We need to align ourselves with His ways for He is calling us to a higher standard! We don’t want to live average or the average will continue to lower.
Today’s devotional describes this in the following ways…
Importance of marriage
The Pharisees ask Jesus about divorce, but he replies by speaking about marriage. He goes back to the creation account. Jesus quotes from Genesis 2:24, stating that, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ (Matthew 19:5). This verse from Genesis is seen as the blueprint verse for marriage – not only in the Old Testament and by Paul (Ephesians 5:31) but also by Jesus himself.
Marriage involves the public act of making a lifelong commitment to your partner that takes priority even over your parental relationships. It involves being ‘united’ with one’s partner – the Hebrew word means literally ‘glued’ together – not just physically and biologically but emotionally, psychologically, socially and spiritually. This is the Christian context of the ‘one-flesh’ union. The biblical doctrine of marriage is the most exciting and positive one that exists. It is also the most romantic view. It sets before us God’s perfect plan.
Concession of divorce
The Pharisees persist with their questions about divorce. They speak of Moses’ command (Matthew 19:7). Jesus replies by saying Moses permitted it ‘because your hearts were hard’ (v.8) and robustly confronts those men who (in a society in which women had far fewer rights) used the provision of the law to walk away from their wives (v.9).
Moses’ provision for divorce reminds us of God’s grace and compassion in situations where we fall short of his ideals. But Jesus is saying that divorce is never ideal.
Many of those who have experienced the pain of a broken marriage will identify with Job’s description of his suffering in today’s Old Testament passage. We need to do all we can to guard marriages (ours and others) and do all we can to comfort those who have been divorced (not by casting blame like Eliphaz).
Calling to singleness
Jesus speaks of three types of singleness. First, genetic – ‘they were born that way’ (v.12a) and ‘never give marriage a thought’ (MSG). Second, there is involuntary singleness (v.12b) – those who ‘never get asked – or accepted’ (MSG). Third, there is voluntary singleness – those who ‘decide not to get married for kingdom reasons’ (v.12c, MSG). Singleness can be temporary or permanent, but it is never regarded in the New Testament as second best. Both marriage and singleness are high callings and, according to the New Testament, there are advantages and disadvantages to both.
Priority of children
The words of Jesus challenged the attitude of many of his contemporaries towards children. In ancient societies children were often kept on the periphery of society – to use an old-fashioned British saying, they were to be ‘seen but not heard’.
God’s tracks are very different. Jesus places his hands on the little children and prays for them (v.13a). When the disciples feel that Jesus should not be distracted by them, Jesus replies, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these’ (v.14). He demonstrates the high priority children should have in our lives.
As parents it is very important to prioritise our children and not to see them as distracting us from our work or ministry. As a church, we need to see that our children and youth have priority in terms of resources and facilities because the kingdom of heaven belongs to them as much as anyone else.
God’s ways are not our ways! His thoughts are not our thoughts! He can see beyond our present circumstances! His ways are better! His ways are higher! His plan is to give us a hope and a future! His ways are right!
Help others stay on God’s tracks … Job 4:1-7:21
1Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied: 2“If someone ventures a word with you, will you be impatient? But who can keep from speaking? 3Think how you have instructed many, how you have strengthened feeble hands. 4Your words have supported those who stumbled; you have strengthened faltering knees. 5But now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged; it strikes you, and you are dismayed. 6Should not your piety be your confidence and your blameless ways your hope? 7“Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed? 8As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it. 9At the breath of God they perish; at the blast of his anger they are no more. 10The lions may roar and growl, yet the teeth of the great lions are broken. 11The lion perishes for lack of prey,
and the cubs of the lioness are scattered. 12“A word was secretly brought to me,
my ears caught a whisper of it. 13Amid disquieting dreams in the night, when deep sleep falls on people, 14fear and trembling seized me and made all my bones shake. 15A spirit glided past my face, and the hair on my body stood on end. 16It stopped,
but I could not tell what it was. A form stood before my eyes, and I heard a hushed voice: 17‘Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can even a strong man be more pure than his Maker? 18If God places no trust in his servants, if he charges his angels with error, 19how much more those who live in houses of clay, whose foundations are in the dust, who are crushed more readily than a moth! 20Between dawn and dusk they are broken to pieces; unnoticed, they perish forever. 21Are not the cords of their tent pulled up, so that they die without wisdom?’
–from Job 4
1“Call if you will, but who will answer you? To which of the holy ones will you turn? 2Resentment kills a fool, and envy slays the simple. 3I myself have seen a fool taking root, but suddenly his house was cursed. 4His children are far from safety, crushed in court without a defender. 5The hungry consume his harvest, taking it even from among thorns, and the thirsty pant after his wealth. 6For hardship does not spring from the soil, nor does trouble sprout from the ground. 7Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward. 8“But if I were you, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before him. 9He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted. 10He provides rain for the earth; he sends water on the countryside. 11The lowly he sets on high, and those who mourn are lifted to safety. 12He thwarts the plans of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success. 13He catches the wise in their craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are swept away. 14Darkness comes upon them in the daytime; at noon they grope as in the night. 15He saves the needy from the sword in their mouth; he saves them from the clutches of the powerful. 16So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts its mouth. 17“Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. 18For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal. 19From six calamities he will rescue you; in seven no harm will touch you. 20In famine he will deliver you from death, and in battle from the stroke of the sword. 21You will be protected from the lash of the tongue, and need not fear when destruction comes. 22You will laugh at destruction and famine, and need not fear the wild animals. 23For you will have a covenant with the stones of the field, and the wild animals will be at peace with you. 24You will know that your tent is secure; you will take stock of your property and find nothing missing. 25You will know that your children will be many, and your descendants like the grass of the earth. 26You will come to the grave in full vigor, like sheaves gathered in season. 27“We have examined this, and it is true. So hear it and apply it to yourself.”
1Then Job replied: 2“If only my anguish could be weighed and all my misery be placed on the scales! 3It would surely outweigh the sand of the seas—no wonder my words have been impetuous. 4The arrows of the Almighty are in me, my spirit drinks in their poison; God’s terrors are marshaled against me. 5Does a wild donkey bray when it has grass, or an ox bellow when it has fodder? 6Is tasteless food eaten without salt, or is there flavor in the sap of the mallow? 7I refuse to touch it; such food makes me ill. 8“Oh, that I might have my request, that God would grant what I hope for, 9that God would be willing to crush me, to let loose his hand and cut off my life! 10Then I would still have this consolation—my joy in unrelenting pain—that I had not denied the words of the Holy One. 11“What strength do I have, that I should still hope? What prospects, that I should be patient? 12Do I have the strength of stone? Is my flesh bronze? 13Do I have any power to help myself, now that success has been driven from me? 14“Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty. 15But my brothers are as undependable as intermittent streams, as the streams that overflow 16when darkened by thawing ice and swollen with melting snow, 17but that stop flowing in the dry season, and in the heat vanish from their channels. 18Caravans turn aside from their routes; they go off into the wasteland and perish. 19The caravans of Tema look for water, the traveling merchants of Sheba look in hope. 20They are distressed, because they had been confident; they arrive there, only to be disappointed. 21Now you too have proved to be of no help; you see something dreadful and are afraid. 22Have I ever said, ‘Give something on my behalf, pay a ransom for me from your wealth, 23deliver me from the hand of the enemy, rescue me from the clutches of the ruthless’? 24“Teach me, and I will be quiet; show me where I have been wrong. 25How painful are honest words! But what do your arguments prove? 26Do you mean to correct what I say, and treat my desperate words as wind? 27You would even cast lots for the fatherless and barter away your friend. 28“But now be so kind as to look at me. Would I lie to your face? 29Relent, do not be unjust; reconsider, for my integrity is at stake. 30Is there any wickedness on my lips? Can my mouth not discern malice?
1“Do not mortals have hard service on earth? Are not their days like those of hired laborers? 2Like a slave longing for the evening shadows, or a hired laborer waiting to be paid, 3so I have been allotted months of futility, and nights of misery have been assigned to me. 4When I lie down I think, ‘How long before I get up?’ The night drags on, and I toss and turn until dawn. 5My body is clothed with worms and scabs, my skin is broken and festering. 6“My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and they come to an end without hope. 7Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath; my eyes will never see happiness again. 8The eye that now sees me will see me no longer; you will look for me, but I will be no more. 9As a cloud vanishes and is gone, so one who goes down to the grave does not return. 10He will never come to his house again; his place will know him no more. 11“Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul. 12Am I the sea, or the monster of the deep, that you put me under guard? 13When I think my bed will comfort me and my couch will ease my complaint, 14even then you frighten me with dreams and terrify me with visions, 15so that I prefer strangling and death, rather than this body of mine. 16I despise my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone; my days have no meaning. 17“What is mankind that you make so much of them, that you give them so much attention, 18that you examine them every morning and test them every moment? 19Will you never look away from me, or let me alone even for an instant? 20If I have sinned, what have I done to you, you who see everything we do? Why have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you? 21Why do you not pardon my offenses and forgive my sins? For I will soon lie down in the dust; you will search for me, but I will be no more.”
–from Job 7
Ever considered what you are going through against God’s promise that He won’t give you more than you can handle? Ever considered the importance of sticking with Him who has told us that “nothing is impossible for God” or “nothing is too big for God to handle”? So don’t lose hope! Put your hope and trust in God! Lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight! Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and He will take care of the rest! Worry changes nothing, prayer changes everything!
Today’s devotional closes in relations to today’s reading from Job as follows:
I am so thankful for my friends who have helped me stay on track. However, sometimes it is possible even for our friends to misunderstand or get things wrong. In this passage we see a contrast between Job who helped others stay on God’s tracks (4:3–4) and Eliphaz who was ‘no help’ to Job (6:21).
Sometimes people ask, ‘Is every word in the Bible true?’ My reply is always, ‘Yes, but like every other book it needs to be interpreted.’ One of the rules of interpretation is that we have to interpret according to the context.
In this passage today we read the words of Eliphaz, one of Job’s ‘friends’. We have to read these words in the light of the fact that in the end, the Lord says to Eliphaz the Temanite, ‘I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has’ (42:7). The words that we read in this passage are not all true. Job’s friends give far too simplistic an answer to the issue of suffering. Their diagnosis is often naïve, pious and unrealistic.
Job, on the other hand, is realistic and honest as he struggles with pain, sleepless nights, grief and suffering. His suffering is not as a result of his own sin as Eliphaz and his friends suggest. Job rightly asks, ‘Show me where I have been wrong’ (6:24). God’s Spirit will always convict us of specific sins whereas Eliphaz and his friends say to him in effect, ‘You must have done something wrong to be suffering like this.’ Those who are suffering have not necessarily caused their suffering by their own sin. If we have, then God will convict us and show us the specific sin.
Eliphaz and his friends give advice that is a mixture of truth and falsehood and their words need to be interpreted as such. One thing Eliphaz says that is probably true is that Job was a man who helped people stay on God’s tracks: ‘Think how you have instructed many, how you have strengthened feeble hands. Your words have supported those who stumbled; you have strengthened faltering knees’ (4:3–4).
Your task is not just to stay on track yourself but, like Job, to help others as well by your actions and by your words.
So what path are you following? So what are you using to help keep you on track? If the path climbs a mountain don’t lose hope for you can celebrate at the top! If your path brings you through the valley don’t lose hope for God is with you and He will comfort and guide you! If your path brings you around don’t lose hope for you will arrive on the other side! If your path is hard and you are going through the mountain that is before you, don’t lose hope for although it will be hard, we can take hope because Jesus has already overcome!