I recently had to stop in the road because two little dogs had dashed into the street. One crossed the road, but the other got confused and was wandering. I prayed for the poor things, but then I realized what they’d been after and was floored.
A large dog was jogging beside a woman. He stayed right at her side, never seeming to even notice the little yapper that was chasing after him. He never broke stride, never looked away. He was doing EXACTLY what he’d been trained to do.
And he was carrying his own leash. Literally. He held it in his mouth as he jogged down the sidewalk beside a woman who obviously had total trust in him. And the two made me think.
In a sense, we’re all like that dog. God calls us to run along beside Him, but though He gives us a guide (the Word and the Spirit) that He could use as a leash to control us, He ultimately leaves the decisions up to us. What do we do? What do I do? Do I actively choose to walk faithfully beside Him, not turning to the right or left?
But seek for (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right], and then all these things taken together will be given you besides.
But seek for (aim at and strive after)
This is no small thing. Whatever it is I’m seeking, I’m to aim carefully for my goal. Someone told me once that in the earliest archery targets there was nothing but a mark in the center of a plain field that was called ‘sin.’ If you “hit the mark” you did well, but if you fell outside the mark you were “in sin.” I don’t know if this story is true or not, but it does illustrate the importance of proper aim. The fact is that in anything we do “hitting the mark” is the only fully acceptable result.
And then there’s the word “strive.” According to Webster’s 1828 dictionary, it means, “To make efforts; to use exertions; to endeavor with earnestness; to labor hard.” This is a meaty word, one that implies the necessity of WORK on our part.
first of all
Before anything else!
His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right]
So here is what we are to work so hard to attain.
His way of doing and being right
I’m told that one translation says we are to seek first the expansion of His kingdom and that makes sense too, considering Jesus’ command to go into the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. (Mark 16:15)
And if we do this, then…
all these things taken together will be given you besides.
“All these things” would be the things He talked about in verses 25 through 31, the things the Gentiles seek and the things that He commands us not to worry about. He is, after all, our heavenly Father who knows we need them. If we just do things His way, those other ‘things’ are automatically ours.
1Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with scoffers.
“Oh the joys…” These words (or, in KJV, “blessed”) make one want to continue reading. Who wouldn’t want to know about something that would bring them joy? Who is this joyful one?
First, he is one who does not follow the advice of the wicked. At a quick glance, it is easy to say that of course we wouldn’t do such a thing, but can we be so sure? In my day-to-day life, whose advice do I take, really? I remember a friend telling me once that she and her husband had been working with a credit counselor who had advised (commanded, actually) them to stop paying tithes and giving offerings until they were out of debt. Now, I understand that it may have been their own actions that got them into debt in the first place, but tithing certainly wasn’t one of these destructive actions. Indeed, in taking advice that ran counter to God’s Word, they limited His freedom to bless them financially. I don’t remember ever hearing about things getting better after this. I’m sure it never occurred to them that they were following the advice of the wicked; they just wanted to get out of debt and failed to realize that they were actually going into debt with God while working on paying off man.
And do we stand around with sinners? Yes, we are in this world even if we are not of it. Too, spreading the Gospel is our responsibility and for others to receive from us usually requires at least some level of relationship. This does not mean, however, that it is appropriate for us to have sinners as our bosom buddies, those with whom we are closest and who influence us. It has been said that you can’t fly with the eagles if you hang with the turkeys. The Bible states it slightly differently. “Whoever walks with the wise will become wise; whoever walks with fools will suffer harm.” (Prov 13:20) While I may have sinners as friends, they should not be my primary companions. No one should be able to say of me, “She is the companion of fools.” Sinners, in God’s eyes, would certainly fall into the category of fools.
Join with the scoffers? Me? I don’t make a practice of it, certainly, but can I honestly say I have never done this? One who practices the “art of scoffing” is quite good at what he does. In belittling a person, project, or idea, he can make those who disagree with him feel foolish, small, and lacking in judgment. This type usually finds it easy to persuade at least a few to join with them. Indeed, it is possible that the only one more able in his “art” is the one who gossips, which is another act that God abhors.
2But they delight in doing everything the LORD wants; day and night they think about his law.
The King James version reads, “But his delight [is] in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” I like both versions. The New Living Translation makes it clear why this man’s delight is in the Law of the Lord. It’s not that he loves The Law for The Law’s sake, but because it is The Law that tells us what the Lord wants us to do. This man delights in The Law because in doing what it tells him to do he is pleasing his Lord.
What is meditating on The Word, on The Law? It is thinking about it, really thinking about it. It is paying close attention to what it says, what it means, and how I can apply it to my life. The one who delights in God’s Word chews on it like a steak lover chews on a prime piece of sirloin cooked to perfection; he takes his time and savors every bite, every word, wringing from the experience the greatest possible satisfaction. And the one who does this does it continually.
I kid you not; it is not unusual for me to wake up in the middle of the night thinking about specific Scriptures. I have not always done this of course; it is a habit that developed over time. First, I simply made a point of slowing down, of looking deeply at individual verses during my prayer time. Before long, however, I discovered that these verses would hang around in the back of my mind all day, asking questions about themselves and demanding answers. Now they hang quite close, ready to race to the forefront whenever I have a few moments to sit and think about them. Indeed, it’s astounding how much work goes on “on the back burner.” You hardly realize you’ve been thinking about something, meditating on it even on a subconscious level, until you are abruptly hit in the face with what feels like brand new revelation.
This is delight in itself. Even beyond the delight of knowing this much more about how to please your Lord is the joy of feeling like the Holy Spirit has just whispered a new revelation in your ear. Yes, the Bible makes it clear that there really isn’t anything new under the sun, but this revelation feels new, like a special gift from God to you. There are times when this revelation will seem too radical to be right. In such times I always check it against Scripture and I usually don’t share it with many people; I simply write it down. In almost all cases, my pastor or some other minister eventually shares the same revelation, which is a tremendous confirmation of my ability to hear from God.
3They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season without fail.
And here are the promises. I love how God not only tells us what we need to do to be pleasing to Him, but promises wonderful gifts to those who strive to do those things.
He says we will be like trees planed along the riverbank. I live in an area with many rivers and know well that it is the trees planted on the riverbank that are healthiest. Hardly ever suffering drought, they grow tall and strong. All things being equal, they produce fruit in season without fail and the fruit is excellent. Oh, let this always be me! It is my desire to continually produce the fruit of the Spirit as well as the other fruit that brings glory to God and expands His kingdom. This being my desire, I must certainly go back and pay special attention to verses one and two.
Their leaves never wither,
God marked this section with a spiritual highlighter years ago, bringing these specific words to my attention one evening during prayer. He had been speaking to me loudly about age, and about how it should and should not affect me, pointing out certain passages and saying, “This has to do with age, Tammy.” He said these words again when we reached this verse. “Their leaves never wither.” Again, as is true so much of the time, I’d spent years of my life reading the words without paying real attention to what they were saying. (Of course, until I turned forty I had little reason to care in this case.) The leaves withering on a tree is one of the things that mark the passing of time, an effect of age and environment. If a tree’s leaves don’t wither, we lose one of the signs of the changing of the seasons. Those who love a beautiful autumn display might be distressed by such an occurrence, but anyone transitioning into what is commonly referred to as the autumn of her life would greatly appreciate entering this time without showing any physical signs of age and the effects of environmental conditions.
The more God shows me on this topic, the more convinced I become that His perfect plan for us is that our bodies and minds continue to function perfectly until the day we give up this life for the next. I know it’s possible, because many have walked out the evidence, living this life fully until its end. The challenge is in overcoming the reality that surrounds us, the expectation that says, “Now, you know this is what happens as you get older.” I contend, however, that God’s truth is higher than reality and Psalm 91:4 says that His truth is my shield and buckler. His truth has the power to defend me from reality as long as I do what I must do – be fully persuaded of this truth, and be a good steward of the body and mind He has given me. Am I there yet? Not even, especially where being a good steward of my body is concerned, but I am working on it.
and in all they do, they prosper.
Here we have seven words that would, should, make anyone sit up and take notice. After all, who doesn’t want prosperity? I know there are those who have concerns about “the prosperity message,” but a careful study of Scripture shows that prosperity is God’s desire for us. How, then, could we excuse denying Him the right to give it?
Mention the word “prosper” and most seem to think of money, but according to this verse we are to prosper in all we do. Yes, we are to prosper in our businesses, but we should also prosper physically and mentally as I mentioned in my notes on the last phrase. Too, we should prosper in parenting, relationships, ministry…in every thing we do. Since God has said that if I do all he talks about in verses one and two then this prosperity will happen, I cannot help but conclude that it is my fault if I am walking out those two verses and still not prospering in all I do. I must be doing something to put a wall up between me and the prosperity God wants for me. What is that wall made of? Unbelief is the most obvious thing, and I can think of a few other possibilities as well. It is my mission to seek and destroy those things so that I may walk in the fullness of what God has made available to me.
4But this is not true of the wicked. They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind. 5They will be condemned at the time of judgment. Sinners will have no place among the godly. 6For the LORD watches over the path of the godly, but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.
I seldom include verses such as these in my written mediations, because my intent is to concentrate on what I need to do and ensure that these verses can never apply to me. It is sad to think of these verses when they apply to specific people I know. Put in a name where it mentions the wicked, see what happens to the wicked and all that they lose, and you are more motivated to reach out to that person, to help them find the light. I don’t want anyone to be worthless chaff, scattered on the wind. I want no one condemned. I want everyone to have God watching over their paths.
To show an image of the One who is looked at you. Let the Refiner see His face in you just as the silver refiner can see his face in the pure silver. This only happens when your heart is pure.
Insight comes from reflection, from studying the reflection. How accurately do I reflect Him? Where am I a little (or a lot) off?
Glory comes only in His presence. We can be mirrors reflecting His glory out into the world just as mirrors have been used to send messages from place to place through history. Everything we need and desire is found in His glorious presence. Let us stay there.
HOLY SPIRIT HELP
We must have the Holy Spirit’s help in all things. Without God we are nothing, and without Him we can achieve nothing of eternal value. We must humble ourselves, seek His help, and follow His instructions.
When He speaks to us, be it through the Word, a minister, a friend, or directly to our spirits, we must not simply hear what He says; we must also think about it, meditate on it, and chew on it. Only then will it truly change us, making us more like Him.