This chapter puts much emphasis on the heart, the place of feeling, thinking, and choosing what to do or not to do. We are to guard the heart above all else, for it is the index to what we really are and the source of all our attitudes and actions. The best way to keep the heart is by seeking, from the Lord Jesus, that living water, the sanctifying Spirit, from whom comes everlasting life. It is by His strength and wisdom that we are given help to put away rebellious words and attitudes, to keep our eyes from looking at vanity. In everything, always look to the Lord and do not be sidetracked. What steps can you take to get wisdom and guard your heart?
From: Family Worship Bible Guide, Joel R. Beeke, general editor (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2016), p. 452 (the devotion for Proverbs 4).
Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer! (Psalm 4.1)
The conduct of the Pharisees, who attempted to conceal their hatred of our Lord under the semblance of zeal for the law, should be full of warning to us. Of all kinds of hypocrisy, that surely is the worst which not only assumes the garb of outward piety, but does so for the very purpose of concealing sin and even of accomplishing the ends of malevolence. The just rights of conscience are peculiarly sacred but, for this very reason, so much more aggravated is the sin of prostituting its rights to an unholy end. Let us beware of contenting ourselves with the letter while we neglect the spirit of ordinances. Let us keep sacred and entire the Sabbath of the Lord. To us, let it be as, indeed, the day of rest which God Himself has given, a type of the everlasting rest which remains for the people of God, in which there shall be no more sorrow nor toil nor suffering, but everlasting jubilee in the presence of God and of the Lamb. – Alexander Turner, commenting on Matthew 12.1-21.
From: The Family Worship Bible Commentary, by 180 Ministers of the Gospel from the 19th Century: Volume 3 – New Testament, edited by Andrew W. Camp (no place: Present Reign Publications, 2018), p. 25. Originally published in 1842.
First-time readers of the Old Testament sometimes wonder how people can be so thick as not to learn from the repeated cycles of rebellion and punishment. Rats in a maze learn to adapt to external stimuli; to some extent, well-brought-up children learn to conform to cultural expectations and hide their worst instincts. Why doesn’t Judah learn from the history of the northern kingdom? Or even from her own checkered history? Although some behavioral modification can be achieved by training, biblical history demonstrates that the problem is bound up with human nature. We are a fallen breed. Sinners will sin. Creeds and covenants and vows and liturgy may domesticate the beast for a while, but what we are will not forever be suppressed. Israel’s history demonstrates the point, not because Israel is the worst of all races, but because Israel is typically human – and fallen. Even people as privileged, chosen, and graced as these cannot escape downward spirals. How naive for us to think that we can!
From: For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Treasures of God’s Word: Volume Two by D. A. Carson (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1999), from the devotion for July 12 on Jeremiah 8.
So little of a sectarian am I that I look on the distinction between Presbyterianism and Independency,* or even between your Adult** and our Paedo-baptism, as a downright bagatelle when compared with the moral and Christian good of the population. – Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), in a letter to Charles Spence (February 28, 1846).
*now generally called Congregationalism
**that is, believers-only baptism
From: Letters of Thomas Chalmers, edited by William Hanna; reprint (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2007), p. 454. Originally published in 1853.
Fervency unites the soul and directs the thoughts to the work at hand. It will not allow diversions and denies all foreign thoughts seeking to intrude. Pray fervently or you do nothing. Cold praying is no more prayer than a painting of fire is fire. How can prayers that do not even warm your own heart move God’s? A fervent prayer will never find a cold reception with God. Elijah’s prayer called fire down from heaven because it carried fire up to heaven. – William Gurnall (1616-1679)
The epitome of Israel’s failure is that the people turned from the living God to worship idols (verse 58). Idolatry is foundational to what is wrong with the human race (Romans 1.21-25). Anything that is functionally more important to you than God is an idol. Anything you love more than God – even a good thing, like a spouse or a child or a social cause – is a false god. Because we love them too much, we are wracked with uncontrollable fears and anger when they are threatened and with inconsolable despair when we lose them. Until you can identify your idols, you cannot understand yourself. Until you turn from them, you can’t know and walk with God. – a meditation on Psalm 78.54-58.
From: The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms by Tim Keller, with Kathy Keller (New York: Viking, 2015), p. 190. Devotion for July 9.
. . .and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning-hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. (Isaiah 2.4b)
Oh, that these happy times were come! At present, the nations are heavily armed and are inventing weapons more and more terrible, as if the chief end of man could only be answered by destroying myriads of his fellows. Yet, peace will prevail one day – yes, and so prevail that the instruments of destruction shall be beaten into other shapes and used for better purposes.
How will this come about? By trade? By civilization? By arbitration? We do not believe it. Past experience forbids our trusting to means so feeble. Peace will be established only by the reign of the Prince of Peace. He must teach the people by His Spirit, renew their hearts by His grace, and reign over them by His supreme power – and then will they cease to wound and kill. Man is a monster when once his blood is up, and only the Lord Jesus can turn this lion into a lamb. By changing man’s heart, his bloodthirsty passions are removed. Let every reader of this book of promises offer special prayer today to the Lord and Giver of Peace, that He would speedily put an end to war and establish concord over the whole world. – Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), from The Checkbook of Faith, devotion for December 15.
Arise, O Lord! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. (Psalm 3.7)
Thankfulness is a sure evidence of our sincerity. Thanksgiving is a self-denying grace. It takes the crown from ourselves and sets it on the head of our Creator. It is a grace that gives God supremacy in our hearts, thoughts, desires, words, and works. Thankfulness is a free-will offering. Nothing so fully and clearly speaks of your sincerity. The little birds, after a sip of water, never fail to look up as if they meant to give thanks. So we should give thanks for every drop of grace. – Thomas Brooks (1608-1680)