God Our Rock


“For You are my lamp, O LORD; The LORD shall enlighten my darkness.
For by You I can run against a troop; By my God I can leap over a wall.
As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the LORD is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him.

“For who is God, except the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?
God is my strength and power, And He makes my way perfect.
He makes my feet like the feet of deer, And sets me on my high places.
He teaches my hands to make war, So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.

“You have also given me the shield of Your salvation; Your gentleness has made me great.
You enlarged my path under me; So my feet did not slip. (2 Sam 22:29–37, NKJV)

These words, sung by King David, are part of a song that David composed toward the end of his life. The song is quite lengthy, beginning in 2 Samuel 22:2 and continuing through verse 51. It is a kind of memoir of David’s life, an ode to the LORD, with its primary theme being how the LORD was David’s light, his strength, and his deliverer.

David describes how the LORD is like a lamp in his own life: He brings light to David’s darkness, which, in context, probably refers to how the LORD delivered David time and time again from death at the hands of the Philistines, Saul, Absalom, and everyone else who tried to kill him. The LORD illuminated David’s mind and heart, giving him wisdom on the battlefield and to overcome even the most challenging obstacles in his life.

We, too, have a lamp in the LORD our God. We were in a state of spiritual darkness. But when we surrendered to Christ and trusted in Him, the Light of the World became the Light in our lives, delivering us from the power of darkness and delivering us into the marvelous light of His eternal kingdom (1 Col 1:13).

In the second stanza David shifts his analogy to the idea of the LORD as his rock. The LORD made David into a man of war and used him to lead Israel in subduing the surrounding nations and expanding the borders of ancient Israel. So I think its interesting that David first speaks of the LORD as his rock, strength and power regarding his feet. But a warrior is only as effective as his foundation. And David’s foundation was the LORD God Almighty. There is no surer foundation than the LORD. And with the LORD as our champion, leading us into battle and teaching us the art of spiritual warfare, we need not fear the Enemy. We need only to trust and follow the LORD.

Similarly, our hope for eternal life rests on our foundation in Jesus Christ. He is both the author and finisher of our faith (Heb 12:2), a faith based on the sacrificial love of our Savior who died the death we deserved and payed the ransom for our sins with his death on the cross. A faith secured by a proclamation on the cross, “it is finished.” A faith that was proven true when Christ conquered sin and death and rose victoriously from the grave on the third day.

In both verses 31 and 36, David describes the LORD as a shield—first, as a shield for all who trust Him, and second, as a shield of salvation. With David’s many run-ins with near-death experiences, both as a shepherd (with wild animals) and as King (from enemies trying to kill him), David surely knew first-hand about the saving power of the LORD, Who, as we’ve already mentioned, rescued David from death numerous times throughout his life.

As David surrendered his heart to the LORD Who delivered him from death many times, so we, too, receive the “shield” of the LORD’s salvation when we surrender our hearts to the LORD and trust Him with our eternal destiny. Then, as we learn to trust the LORD daily in our lives, His shield grows from a tiny buckler, barely big enough to protect our souls, to a giant Roman shield capable of deflecting the Enemy’s arrows and inflicting incredible damage when we use it properly in spiritual combat.

So, the LORD is our light, our rock, and our shield. All of these speak to God’s immense power to guide, strengthen, and protect us. And yet, David confesses, it is the gentleness of the LORD that raised him up. There are some who think that God is some kind of sinister overlord, actively checking a naughty list ready to zap us if we get out of line. Well, it is certainly true that God is righteous and just, punishing evil and wickedness. But God’s righteousness and justice flow from His love.

God’s love is so great that He decided to share it. So He created an entire universe and populated it with living creatures to share His love with them. Then, when  we humans rebelled against Him, we received the just penalty of death for our rebellion. But the LORD, not willing to condemn us without a means of deliverance, gave us a promise of salvation, and made good on that promise by sending His One and Only Son to live the sinless life we never could, die the death that we all deserved, and usher in a new era of salvation for everyone willing to trust in the name of the Son–Jesus Christ.

He Goes With You


Then Moses went and spoke these words to all Israel. And he said to them: “I am one hundred and twenty years old today. I can no longer go out and come in. Also the LORD has said to me, ‘You shall not cross over this Jordan.’ The LORD your God Himself crosses over before you; He will destroy these nations from before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua himself crosses over before you, just as the LORD has said. And the LORD will do to them as He did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites and their land, when He destroyed them. The LORD will give them over to you, that you may do to them according to every commandment which I have commanded you. Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.
(Deut 31:1–6, NKJV)

In Numbers 13, we read that the LORD brought the children of Israel to the Wilderness of Paran, on the southern border of the Promised Land. From here, Moses sent 12 spies into Canaan, 10 of whom feared the inhabitants and instigated the Israelites’ refusal to enter Canaan. Moses interceded for the people and the LORD forgive Israel’s sinful disobedience, but as a consequence, none of that adult generation were permitted to enter the Land except Caleb and Joshua, the other two spies who brought back a good report. Even Moses and Aaron were not permitted to enter the Land because of their unfaithful representation of the LORD at Kadesh (Numbers 20). Our passage today begins Moses’ farewell speech to the second generation of Israel before Moses’ death and Israel entered the Land.

The children of Israel, including Moses and Aaron, suffered severe consequences for their unfaithfulness to the LORD. However, while God prevented the adult generation from entering the Land, He did not forsake His promise to Israel as a nation. The LORD raised up Joshua to lead the second generation of Israelites into the Promised Land. God always keeps His promises. We may not always understand the terms, and we often forsake many potential blessings because of our sins of unfaithfulness and unbelief, but God is always faithful.

I want to you notice two details about this promise that Moses recounted to the second generation of Israelites. First, notice that God promised that the children of Israel would go to war. The Canaanite tribes were strong, numerous, and many would not leave the land willingly. But because of their sinfulness, which included ritual human child sacrifice to the gods Baal and Molech, God dispossessed the Canaanites and promised the land to the children of Israel (Deut 12:29–31, c.f., Jer 32:25). But Israel would have to take possession of the Land by force.

But notice also how God promised to go with the children of Israel. Not just to go with them passively, watching the battle from the sidelines. But actively going before Israel, weakening the hearts of the Canaanites, as well as going behind Israel, protecting the rear ranks which included noncombatants—women, children, and livestock—the weaker, defenseless ranks. Thus, the LORD tells the Israelites not to fear, because the all-powerful presence of Almighty God is among them, fighting for them and protecting them in and through the war.

For me, the daily grind of life is filled with uncountable battles with mixed results—many failures, a few victories, and many stalemates promising to revisit us again in the near future. But, in a similar way that the LORD promised to go with Israel through the war, fighting for her and protecting her, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ makes us a similar promise in our war against sin and death. Food was one of my battlefronts. But praise be to God who has given me the victory over gluttony and enabled me to better lead and care for my family in the way I eat, exercise, and prepare meals for our household.

Christ goes before us in our salvation experience and in the daily struggles throughout our lives. Indeed, Christ went before us in death (1 Pet 3:18–20); He went before us in resurrection (1 Cor 15); and He has gone before us into heaven to prepare a place for us (John 14:1–4). So then, we do not fear the final judgment, nor its servants—sin, flesh, and Satan—because the live of Christ has rescued us from the fear of judgment by delivering us from death and giving us eternal life (1 John 4:17–19).

Immanuel, God With Us


This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.

As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
which means ‘God is with us.’” (Matt 1:18–23, NLT)

I don’t know about you, but for me, the Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s is a bit awkward. It’s kind of a twilight zone, sandwiched between the excitement and stress of the Christmas season and the anticipation and trepidation of the New Year with all of the hopes, dreams, and possibilities that go along with turning the page from one year to the next.

For me, Christmas is a time to look back on the previous year, asking the Lord to show me when and how He was working in my life. It brings to a close the season of thanksgiving that for many of us began on that fourth Thursday in November. New Year’s is a time when I look forward, asking the Lord for direction and wisdom to show me when and how He wants me to follow Him. It sets in motion many of the experiences I will have throughout the new year, or at least, through the first three-to-six weeks. But this in-between week is a bit of a let-down. There’s leftovers and gifts to enjoy but it’s time to take down the decorations, go back to work, and settle back into the daily grind of life.

Matthew records how the angel told Joseph that the child’s name is Jesus, “for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21). As we look back at the last year, let’s not miss all that God’s done for us. In fact, let’s look back a little further, say, nearly 2000 years. Let’s look back and remember how God the Son added a human nature to Himself, became a human baby named Jesus, and entered the world with all the pomp and circumstance of a poor, humble peasant child. And let’s remember that world-changing, earth-shattering, veil-tearing moment 33 years later when Jesus the Son fulfilled his eternal calling by taking the sins of all people, who ever did and ever would live, as his own, enduring the excruciating pain of crucifixion, and the even more agonizing wrath of the Father toward sin, so that His blood sacrifice could provide an eternal, once-for-all sin-offering for everyone who trusts in Him. And let’s not forget that moment in our own lives, maybe only a few days or weeks or years in recent past, when the joy of His salvation entered our hearts for the first time in that moment we trusted in Him as Savior and Lord.

Matthew also tells us that Jesus’ birth fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy, that this babe is called “Immanuel, which means God with us” (Matt 1:23). It doesn’t say, “God who was with us.” It says, “God with us.” Salvation isn’t a one-time event. Jesus doesn’t say, “hey, trust me just this once, now here’s your get-into-heaven-free card.” Salvation has a moment of beginning but it has everlasting results. Think about it—salvation from what? From sin, from death, from hell. But I’m still a sinner! And I’m still gonna die! Exactly! Which means salvation isn’t complete this side of heaven. It’s not complete until we escape the final judgment and enter the eternal state, abiding in the presence of our triune God.

As we look forward to a New Year, I want to encourage you with this: The Father is looking forward to spending more time with you this New Year. The Father is looking forward to wrapping his arms around you, just like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son did when his wayward child returned home. The Father is looking forward to answering your prayers, changing your heart, and transforming your mind. The Father is calling to you, inviting you to fellowship with Him. But, you say, “I’m a sinner, a wretch, a nobody, how can this happen?” It happens when we, covered by the blood of Christ, carried by the power of the Spirit, receive the invitation of God Almighty to commune with Him in prayer. It happens when we abide in His eternal presence. And when we mess up, we go to Him, humble ourselves, confess our sins, ask for forgiveness, and let our loving heavenly Father restore us back to full fellowship with Himself.

Christmas has come and gone this year. A New Year begins tonight. Whatever your goals, hopes, dreams, and resolutions, the Father is calling to You—to all of us—inviting us to dwell in His presence, ask Him for guidance, confess our hurts and fears and pains, and even vent our frustrations to Him. Our loving heavenly Father is continually inviting us to live every moment with Him. So, in this New Year, let’s embrace our spiritual adoption as children of the Almighty God and draw near to our loving Father, carried by the power of the Spirit, and entering His presence through Jesus the Son—God with us.

Rivers of Living Water


On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37–39, NKJV)

Verse 37 begins, “on the last day, that great day of the feast.” Chapter 7 describes a series of interactions Jesus had with the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. Verse 2 tells us that Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles.

The Old Covenant instructed the Jews to celebrate several festivals throughout the year. The Feast of Tabernacles (Booths, Shelters) was the third of the three major yearly festivals (the first was Passover and Unleavened Bread, the second was Pentecost). It was called the Feast of Tabernacles because on the first day of the feast every household constructed a very simple shelter from tree branches which they lived in for the rest of the eight-day festival.[1]

The first day of the Feast of Tabernacles was a Sabbath day and no secular work was permitted. Every day a series of sacrifices was required including bulls, rams, lambs, and goats, as well as grain and drink offerings. Also, by New Testament times, a tradition developed where each of the seven days of the Feast a priest led a parade of people making joyful music to the Pool of Siloam, where he drew water using a golden pitcher and brought it back to the temple.[2]

On the eighth day, a Sabbath day, each household took down its shelter and there was a great community feast, but the priest didn’t go down to the Pool of Siloam. This is the day and the great feast when Jesus stood up and said, “He who believes in Me, … out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38).

So on the eighth day, the priest stopped going to get water at the Pool of Siloam. And on the eighth day, Jesus stood up and claimed to offer Living Water. John tells us plainly in verse 39 that Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit. So here, Jesus used the symbolism of the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles and the water from the Pool of Siloam to share the promise of the Holy Spirit for all who believe with everyone at the Feast.

But the timing of Jesus’ statement about himself being the source of Living Water—the Holy Spirit—has additional significance. The Feast of Tabernacles was instructed as a festival of remembrance for the time the Israelites spent wandering in the wilderness.

It might seem like the shelters were a form of fasting—depriving them of the comforts of living in their own homes. And in a literal sense they were, but spiritually, something else was going on. The shelters were a physical reminder of how God delivered the Hebrew people from bondage in the house of Egypt and into freedom that comes through trusting God for everything they need.

In Exodus 16, the Israelites complain to Moses about not having food and the LORD provided Bread from Heaven for their daily sustenance. In Exodus 17, the Israelites complain to Moses about not having any water and we see how the LORD provides water for Israel. Water that flows from the rock, the rock which was stricken, in the wilderness, so that the Israelites might live. That rock is a picture of Jesus Christ, and the water is a picture of the Holy Spirit.

When Jesus spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob in John 4, he said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water” (John 4:10).

On the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles—the Jewish festival that celebrates God’s provision for the Israelites in the wilderness—Jesus stood up, quoted Isaiah 55:1, and proclaimed, “If anyone thirsts, let Him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, … out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

Christ is the Rock of our salvation. And for all who are willing to come to him and ask, He gives us eternal life. But God didn’t intend for our eternal inheritance to be characterized by a dry, arid wasteland of legalistic intellectualism. Nor did He intend it to be a wild-eyed, unrestrained exhibition of unbridled emotionalism. God intends for his gift of eternal life to be characterized by the outpouring and overflowing of His life-giving Spirit, Who nourishes us daily, fill us with God’s love, grace and mercy, leads us in all truth, empowers us to serve His Kingdom, and comforts and strengthens us even in our darkest times of grief, frustration, and heartache.

But such a vibrant life in the Spirit has one recurring condition. We can’t do it on our own power and He won’t force it on us. To experience the life-transforming power of the Spirit in our lives, day-by-day and moment-by-moment, we have to humble ourselves and draw near to our Lord Jesus Christ. As the Scriptures say, we must go to Him to drink.

[1] R. K. Harrison, “Booths, Feast of,” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Rev. ed., ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988), 535. Logos Bible Software.

[2] Merrill F. Unger, “Festivals,” in The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, ed. R.K. Harrison (Chicago: Moody Press, 1988). Logos Bible Software.

God Our Good Shepherd


For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search and find my sheep. I will be like a shepherd looking for his scattered flock. I will find my sheep and rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day. I will bring them back home to their own land of Israel from among the peoples and nations. I will feed them on the mountains of Israel and by the rivers and in all the places where people live. Yes, I will give them good pastureland on the high hills of Israel. There they will lie down in pleasant places and feed in the lush pastures of the hills. I myself will tend my sheep and give them a place to lie down in peace, says the Sovereign LORD.
(Ezekiel 34:11–15, NLT)

Earlier in the chapter, Ezekiel prophesies against the leaders of Israel, whom the LORD rebukes for being “bad shepherds.” These bad shepherds are guilty of (1) feeding themselves instead of their flocks, (2) taking the best food and clothing while the people starve, (3) forsaking the weak, sick, and wounded, (4) ignoring the wayward and lost, and (5) ruling harshly with cruelty. This is a picture of Israel’s political and religious leaders. But when we look long and hard at what’s going on in our country and in the world, I think maybe we can relate.

Anyway, Israel’s leaders bore a significant amount of the blame for Israel’s sinful ways. Israel’s kings, queens, prophets, and priests, for the most part, instead of leading the people in worshipping the LORD, led the people in worshipping idols. And instead of turning to the LORD in times of need, like invasion of foreign armies or famine, they turned to foreign nations, especially Egypt and Babylon, and many others. This is in addition to all of the previous ways we mentioned about how they amassed their own wealth while exploiting the people.

But at the end of the day, that’s what we do. We’re all sinful. Even as believers, while we wait to receive our eternal bodies and heavenly abode, we wrestle with our sinful flesh and it’s ugly selfishness. That’s why it’s so important for us to seek the LORD daily, dying to ourselves moment-by-moment, so He can live through us, especially those of us who are leaders, in our church, in our workplaces, in our homes.

We are like sheep, easily distracted, not very smart, and biting, kicking, screaming, when we don’t get our own way. When that doesn’t work, we run aimlessly to the world. That’s what Israel did. And that’s what we do, too.

But the LORD is a good shepherd. He is not like Israel’s leaders or our world leaders today. He is holy, righteous, and true. He is always good, whether in dispensing justice or mercy. When we run, He comes after us. When we bite and kick and scream, he lets us throw our fit, then He sets us right again. Sometimes he bops us with His rod, other times He holds us down until we listen. And always He’s calling to us, gently beckoning us to come back to Him.

In these verses, the LORD promises Israel that He will bring them back to their land, make them prosper in the land, and give them peace. These are special promises for God’s chosen nation Israel. Not because Israel deserved it. The entire Old Testament shows us that they didn’t. But because Yahweh chose them.

The land promise was specific to Israel, but our Lord Jesus Christ makes us a similar promise about our eternal inheritance. In John 10, Jesus says,

“I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.” (John 10:14–16)

And in John 14, Jesus says,

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.” (John 14:1–4, NKJV)

We are those other sheep, not of Israel’s sheepfold, but of the same spiritual flock, following the same Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. And though Israel’s land promise, may not be for us, the LORD promises us eternal life abiding with Him, if we will only trust in Him.

So, when your life is going great, trust the LORD. Don’t be like Israel’s bad shepherds, hoarding your wealth, ignoring those who are suffering, and exploiting those around you. Instead, generously share whatever blessings the LORD has given you with those around you. And when your life seems like it couldn’t get worse, know that if you’re trusting in Jesus Christ, this world is the closest to hell you’ll ever get. Because we have a Good Shepherd who promises us a future of eternal glory abiding with Him.

Jesus in Psalm 1

Oh, the joys of those who do not
follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.
But they delight in the law of the Lord,
meditating on it day and night.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
and they prosper in all they do.
But not the wicked!
They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.
They will be condemned at the time of judgment.
Sinners will have no place among the godly.
For the Lord watches over the path of the godly,
but the path of the wicked leads to destruction. (Psalm 1, NLT)

Psalm 1 is a tale of two people: the righteous person and the ungodly person. It employs parallelism to compare the behaviors, influences, consequences, and spiritual destinies of each person while holding up a mirror in front of us, inviting us to see how we align with these characters in our own lives.

Much of the Psalm focuses on the righteous person. The righteous person is like a healthy tree growing by a river. The tree receives ample nourishment from the river so it grows, bears fruit, and thrives instead of withering and dying. Likewise, the righteous person receives ample nourishment from the Lord, both in Word and Spirit, growing spiritually, living as a blessing to others, and finding success in living for the Lord as the Lord bestows special favor on the righteous person, helping them to find their happiness in Him.

But the ungodly person is like chaff. Chaff is the outer husk that grows on grain stalks. It is dead and worthless, having no nutritional or economic value. In the ancient world, grain was harvested by tossing it into the air. The wind would blow the lighter chaff away while the heavier seeds would fall to the ground. Similarly, the ungodly person is spiritually dead, living for self, oscillating among influences of ungodly counsel, and impeding God’s work. The Lord withholds special favor from the ungodly person, who does not find happiness in the Lord.

Clearly, Psalm 1 speaks to the dual nature of humanity and the natural consequences that the Lord has ordained for our sources of counsel and lifelong pursuits. But in application, I suggest to you that Psalm 1 is also about Jesus.

Who is this person who always delights in God’s law? Jesus.
Who is this person who never takes counsel from the ungodly? Jesus.
Who is this person who always prospers in everything he does? Jesus.

And in at least three ways, Jesus is the prototype of righteousness living as well as our example for how to find true happiness in the Lord.

1. Jesus is always and only about the Lord’s work. As Jesus replied to the religious leaders of his day John 5:30, 36, “I can do nothing on my own. I judge as God tells me. Therefore, my judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own will. … But I have a greater witness than John—my teachings and my miracles. The Father gave me these works to accomplish, and they prove that he sent me.”

2. Jesus is our example for living and loving. Just prior to the transfiguration, Jesus told his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me” (Matt 16:24). And after washing the disciples’ feet in the upper room, he told them, “I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message.” (John 13:15–16).

3. Jesus enables and empowers us to live for God. As Peter explains, “For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.” (1 Pet 2:21–24).

So by way of application, Jesus is the righteous person. And each of us, apart from Christ, is the ungodly person:

  • We were powerless to save ourselves.
  • But Jesus, God the Son, became a man and died in our place to save us.
  • And now, through the blood of Christ and the power of the Spirit, we can live for God.

The LORD wants to bless us. He wants to find happiness in Him. But that only happens when we listen to His voice and live for Him. Let’s listen to the Word, and live by the Spirit, and find happiness in Him.