A stroke left my beloved uncle Leonard with a vocabulary of three words, one of which was “today.” In his attempts to communicate, sometimes he’d say, “Today and today and today…”
Life is a series of todays. That was the case also for the Israelites as they traveled through barren wilderness under Moses’ leadership. Every day for 40 years God provided food for them—manna that appeared miraculously on the ground to be gathered enough for one day’s needs. Every day for 40 years God guided them by His presence, visible in the form of a cloudy pillar (fire at night). Wherever it stopped, there they stopped and set up camp—no mean job for two million people! They never knew whether the pillar was going to stay for one night or a year, but whenever it moved, they pulled up stakes and followed. No long-range planning on their part, just living today—and today—and today!
Just now I heard about someone who is planning to celebrate a significant anniversary two years early, because one cannot know what will happen by that time. I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow either. Though some advance planning is needed, I want to focus on living in the present with my Lord, not worrying about whether He’s going to provide, guide, and protect me. (He will!) I want to savor every moment, every blessing, and seize every opportunity He offers to bless someone else.
Day by day,
Dear Lord, of thee three things I pray:
To see thee more clearly,
Love thee more dearly,
Follow thee more nearly,
Day by Day.
Waiting for my flight, I smile as I remember a man in the check-in area carrying a box with holes in it and tail feathers sticking out the end.
Now I watch passengers going down the jetway just a few yards, then out the side exit and down the stairs to the tarmac. There, they are offered bright yellow umbrellas for the one-minute walk to the airplane. I should add that it’s a bright, sunny day.
Another thing I notice is smiling faces, even the guards. I appreciate that friendly spirit.
Whenever I set out on a trip (even just a short flight), I have to reorient my thinking. I need to release to the Lord my “need” for security and familiar surroundings and remind myself that He is my Companion, my Guard and my Provider Nothing’s going to happen that He has not planned already and made provision for. And I must say, He has never let me down–whether the trip was extra delightful (such as a nice chat with the taxi driver) or more complicated. Getting out of my nest provides a chance to trust Him in different ways and delight in His company.
These lines of a song, by Keith Getty, have been running through my mind a lot lately:
May this journey bring a blessing
May I rise on wings of faith
And at the end of my heart’s testing
In Your likeness let me wake.
As Jesus sent out his disciples on their first mission trip—to preach, heal, and cast out demons—He gave them these instructions. But they are also for us today who represent Him to the world. (See Matthew 10)
1. Give and serve freely. (v. 8)
2. Trust God for your needs. (v. 9-10)
3. Focus on those who will listen. (v. 11-14)
4. Be prepared to suffer. (v. 16-28)
5. Trust the Holy Spirit for what to say when put on the spot. (v. 19)
6. Don’t give up! Endure to the end! (v. 22)
7. Don’t be afraid. (v. 26-31)
8. Never deny the Lord. (v. 32-33)
9. Prioritize God over your own family and even your own life. (v. 34-39)
10. Humbly accept what people give you as a gift to God. (v. 40-42)
Malachi (the last book of the Old Testament) was addressed to people who were getting tired of God. Let’s try on their shoes and if they fit us today:
1. We have not recognized how much God loves us. (1:1-5) This is foundational. All those that follow hinge on this one.
2. We have disrespected the Lord by failing to give Him our BEST. (1:6-14)
3. We have not carefully and faithfully passed on God’s instruction to those we are responsible for (e.g. our children). (2:1-9)
4. We have not kept our commitments to God, to our marriage partners, and to others. (2:1-16)
5. We say that evil is good and that God is pleased with evildoers (e.g. praying God’s blessing on abortionists) . (2:17)
6. We don’t really trust God to provide for us if we give first to Him—so we don’t. (3:7-12)
7. We devalue serving God and instead prioritize our own desires and applaud those who prosper in their godless lifestyles (3:13-15)
In the end, however, God says that everyone will see the difference between those who serve Him and those who do not:
–For those who rebel against God: “The LORD Almighty says, “The day is coming when all proud and evil people will burn like straw. On that day they will burn up, and there will be nothing left of them.” (4:1 TEV)
–For those who love and obey God: “But for you who obey me, my saving power will rise on you like the sun and bring healing like the sun’s rays. You will be as free and happy as calves let out of a stall. On the day when I act, you will overcome the wicked, and they will be like dust under your feet.” (4:2-4 TEV)
If one believes the proverb, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise,” then I ought to be doing pretty well right now. Jet lag is luring me to bed way too early in the evening. (My husband had to keep waking me up as we watched a documentary last night about diamonds.) And in the morning I’m popping out of bed too early again. (That’s why I’m writing a blog in the morning!)
But as for being healthy, wealthy, and wise—my Scripture reading just now reminded me of the real secret of success in all those areas:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.
WISE: Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.
Instead, fear the LORD and turn away from evil.
HEALTHY: Then you will have healing for your body
and strength for your bones.
WEALTHY: Honor the LORD with your wealth
and with the best part of everything you produce.
Then he will fill your barns with grain,
and your vats will overflow with good wine. (Proverbs 3:5-10)
So, Benjamin Franklin, move over. Here’s a better plan for success!
“Taking a sabbatical” is something I associate with professors or pastors. But this morning I was reminded that the first sabbatical was associated with farmland. One of God’s instructions to the Israelites (Leviticus 25) was to give the land a rest every seventh year. A wise conservation principle, right?
But what would they eat? Along with this command, God made this promise:
But you might ask, ‘What will we eat during the seventh year, since we are not allowed to plant or harvest crops that year?’ Be assured that I will send my blessing for you in the sixth year, so the land will produce a crop large enough for three years. When you plant your fields in the eighth year, you will still be eating from the large crop of the sixth year. In fact, you will still be eating from that large crop when the new crop is harvested in the ninth year. (Leviticus 25:20-22)
Jesus reiterated this principle in Matthew 6:31-33:
So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
Paradoxically, God helps those who put Him first, not “those who help themselves.” Do I trust Him to care for me, enough to “recklessly” and follow Him with my whole being and then enjoy a life of fulfillment? The other alternative is unthinkable.
If you want to know what would happen if the Israelites failed to give the land its sabbatical, and whether they actually did it and the actual outcome, read Leviticus 26:14,34-35 and 2 Chronicles 36:20-21.