He asked life of thee, and thou gavest it him, even length of days for ever and ever
When poor men make requests of us we usually answer them as the echo does the voice—the answer cuts off half the petition. We shall seldom find among men Jael’s courtesy, giving milk to those that ask water, except it be as this was, an entangling benefit, the better to introduce a mischief. There are not many Naamans among us, that, when you beg of them one talent, will force you to take two; but God’s answer to our prayers is like a multiplying glass, which renders the request much greater in the answer than it was in the prayer.
Hardman, Samuel G., and Dwight Lyman Moody. Thoughts for the Quiet Hour. Willow Grove, PA: Woodlawn Electronic Publishing, 1997. Print.
Morning, September 8 Go To Evening Reading
“From me is thy fruit found.”
Our fruit is found from our God as to union. The fruit of the branch is directly traceable to the root. Sever the connection, the branch dies, and no fruit is produced. By virtue of our union with Christ we bring forth fruit. Every bunch of grapes have been first in the root, it has passed through the stem, and flowed through the sap vessels, and fashioned itself externally into fruit, but it was first in the stem; so also every good work was first in Christ, and then is brought forth in us. O Christian, prize this precious union to Christ; for it must be the source of all the fruitfulness which thou canst hope to know. If thou wert not joined to Jesus Christ, thou wouldst be a barren bough indeed.
Our fruit comes from God as to spiritual providence. When the dew-drops fall from heaven, when the cloud looks down from on high, and is about to distil its liquid treasure, when the bright sun swells the berries of the cluster, each heavenly boon may whisper to the tree and say, “From me is thy fruit found.” The fruit owes much to the root—that is essential to fruitfulness—but it owes very much also to external influences. How much we owe to God’s grace-providence! in which he provides us constantly with quickening, teaching, consolation, strength, or whatever else we want. To this we owe our all of usefulness or virtue.
Our fruit comes from God as to wise husbandry. The gardener’s sharp-edged knife promotes the fruitfulness of the tree, by thinning the clusters, and by cutting off superfluous shoots. So is it, Christian, with that pruning which the Lord gives to thee. “My Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away; and every branch that beareth fruit he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” Since our God is the author of our spiritual graces, let us give to him all the glory of our salvation.
Go To Morning Reading Evening, September 8
“The exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead.”
—Ephesians 1:19, 20
In the resurrection of Christ, as in our salvation, there was put forth nothing short of a divine power. What shall we say of those who think that conversion is wrought by the free will of man, and is due to his own betterness of disposition? When we shall see the dead rise from the grave by their own power, then may we expect to see ungodly sinners of their own free will turning to Christ. It is not the word preached, nor the word read in itself; all quickening power proceeds from the Holy Ghost. This power was irresistible. All the soldiers and the high priests could not keep the body of Christ in the tomb; Death himself could not hold Jesus in his bonds: even thus irresistible is the power put forth in the believer when he is raised to newness of life. No sin, no corruption, no devils in hell nor sinners upon earth, can stay the hand of God’s grace when it intends to convert a man. If God omnipotently says, “Thou shalt,” man shall not say, “I will not.” Observe that the power which raised Christ from the dead was glorious. It reflected honour upon God and wrought dismay in the hosts of evil. So there is great glory to God in the conversion of every sinner. It was everlasting power. “Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.” So we, being raised from the dead, go not back to our dead works nor to our old corruptions, but we live unto God. “Because he lives we live also.” “For we are dead, and our life is hid with Christ in God.” “Like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Lastly, in the text mark the union of the new life to Jesus. The same power which raised the Head works life in the members. What a blessing to be quickened together with Christ!
Spurgeon, C. H. Morning and Evening: Daily Readings. London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896. Print.
September 8: Resilient Hope and Red Herrings
Joel 3:1–21; Acts 7:54–8:25; Job 19:1–12
The death of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, must have crushed and discouraged the early church. But in this event Luke shows us glimmers of hope. He reminds us that God is working behind the scenes.
Facing death, Stephen prayed for his persecutors, asking that God “not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60). God answered that cry of mercy in a generous way. As we watch Stephen being forced out of the city and stoned to death, Luke introduces us to another character present in the crowd: “The witnesses laid aside their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul” (Acts 7:54).
This detail seems like a red herring, but by introducing Saul (later Paul) to us before his conversion, Luke gives his readers hope in desperate circumstances. Saul was determined to squelch this dangerous new sect coming out of Nazareth, but soon Paul would become its greatest advocate. By placing Stephen’s death alongside Saul’s persecution, Luke shows that the church is resilient. Stephen was a source of encouragement and godly leadership for the church. Similarly, and in spite of his beginnings, Paul would expand the influence of the Church far beyond the expectations of its first followers.
In the end, Paul’s presence at Stephen’s stoning is not an irrelevant detail at all. God already had plans to use Paul’s life to further His kingdom work beyond Jerusalem and into the nations of the world. Paul’s conversion would be one of the greatest testaments of God’s saving work, demonstrating that God works to gather His community in ways we might not see. Even when circumstances seem grim, He is active behind the scenes, ready to use characters in His grand narrative for His good purpose.
How can you turn to Jesus for hope in your hopeless circumstances?
Rebecca Van Noord
Barry, John D., and Rebecca Kruyswijk. Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012. Print.
Do it yourself
Determinedly Demolish some Things.
Casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God. 2 Cor. 10:5.
Deliverance from sin is not deliverance from human nature. There are things in human nature, such as prejudices, which the saint has to destroy by neglect; and other things which have to be destroyed by violence, i.e., by the Divine strength imparted by God’s Spirit. There are some things over which we are not to fight, but to stand still in and see the salvation of God; but every theory or conception which erects itself as a rampart against the knowledge of God is to be determinedly demolished by drawing on God’s power, not by fleshly endeavour or compromise (v. 4).
It is only when God has altered our disposition and we have entered into the experience of sanctification that the fight begins. The warfare is not against sin; we can never fight against sin: Jesus Christ deals with sin in Redemption. The conflict is along the line of turning our natural life into a spiritual life, and this is never done easily, nor does God intend it to be done easily. It is done only by a series of moral choices. God does not make us holy in the sense of character; He makes us holy in the sense of innocence, and we have to turn that innocence into holy character by a series of moral choices. These choices are continually in antagonism to the entrenchments of our natural life, the things which erect themselves as ramparts against the knowledge of God. We can either go back and make ourselves of no account in the Kingdom of God, or we can determinedly demolish these things and let Jesus bring another son to glory.
Chambers, Oswald. My Utmost for His Highest: Selections for the Year. Grand Rapids, MI: Oswald Chambers Publications; Marshall Pickering, 1986. Print.