Following Christ

“And he left all, rose up, and followed him” (v. 28).

Jesus’ call is very simple. All He asked Levi to do was follow Him. There were no requirements and no application process. The only thing Jesus asked for was a response and commitment. On the surface, the response is also very simple. Levi simply had to stand up out of his seat and begin to walk with the Master. However, beneath the surface, we see a much deeper response and a greater commitment. Levi was leaving behind the only life he knew. He was leaving behind not only his occupation but also the source of his wealth as a tax collector. He was leaving his friends and the life style of feasts and parties.

Yet Levi saw something in Jesus that made all he was leaving behind seem worthless because what he was gaining had infinitely more value. No doubt the pull of Levi’s old life sometimes seemed very strong. Perhaps he had to deal with the implications of walking off the job and leaving everything behind. We don’t know that part of the story, but what we do know is that he stayed with Jesus and became one of the twelve apostles and a founder of God’s new Church. Jesus called a very diverse group of men to follow him. Perhaps the only thing they all had in common was their response and commitment to His call. (Kevin R. Askew)

Trust and obey For there’s no other way To be happy in Jesus But to trust and obey. — John Sammis

Have you left all and followed like Levi?

Submission to the Father

“And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt” (v. 39).

We have this idea that Jesus went through His life, happily looking forward to the cross. We sing, “He had no tears for His own grief, but sweat- drops of blood for mine,” from Charles Gabriel’s otherwise wonderful hymn “My Savior’s Love.” In these last moments, before He would begin rushing headlong for the cross, Jesus was asking His Father if there was any other way. Jesus did not want to go through the agony of crucifixion.

We get several English words from the Latin crux. One of them is “excruciating,” which we use to describe unbearable pain. Unbearable pain was the point of crucifixion. Nails were driven through the wrists and ankles, but that was only the beginning. The nails were driven in such a way that one was supported by the nail in the ankles, but had to pull one’s self up on the nails in the wrist in order to breathe. Very often the victim had been whipped, so the lacerated back scraped up and down the rough wood of the cross. Added to this was the humiliation of being naked and held up for public spectacle.

Why would Jesus submit Himself to the Father’s will and embrace the cross? Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus went to the cross “for the joy set before him.” The joy set before Him was the salvation of sinners. His obedience even to death has saved us. (Randy J. Bland)

How marvelous, how wonderful! And my song shall ever be: How marvelous, how wonderful! Is my Savior’s love for me. — Charles Gabriel

Will you follow Jesus’ example and be obedient to the Father?

Giving Sacrificially

“And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites” (v. 2).

Does the Lord need our money? Right now, you may be formulating an answer in your mind. A church treasurer may say – absolutely! A pastor may be thinking — I need my salary. A missionary president may reflect upon the many needs upon the foreign field. Yet, I ask, does God really need our money?

Note three thoughts in our text verse: 1) God knows if you are giving to His cause: “he saw.” Indeed, we do have a responsibility to give our tithes and offerings to God’s work (Mal. 3:10). 2) A poor widow gave. She wanted to give to the Lord. What a wonderful attitude she displayed. “God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). 3) She gave a small offering — only two mites. Yet, it was sacrificial, for she gave all she had (Luke 21:4). Do we likewise give sacrificially and cheerfully?

I believe that God rewarded this widow for her devoted service, and He will bless us also when we are faithful to give. (James O. Baker)

There’ll be show’rs of blessing from our Father’s hand, On His word of promise we may firmly stand; There’ll be rains refreshing on the thirsty land When the tithes are gathered in. — Mrs. C. H. Morris

What is my attitude in giving to the Lord?

A Lesson from God

“O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel” (v. 6).

Maybe like you, I have some pieces of pottery in storage somewhere that I made in grade school. They are in storage because I am not proud enough of them to put them on display. But they have been “fired” in the kiln, and are beyond improvement. They can only be changed by breaking them, and then they are just trash.

I am so glad that God always has a way of reshaping the clay! Lives of abuse and neglect sometimes seem to create a permanent piece, and people despair that anything new or beautiful can come from their piece of clay. But God has a unique way of reshaping even lives that have been made hard by sin.

A year ago our church began a ministry called Celebrate Recovery. Every other Wednesday night we watch a testimony supplied by the national organization of the transforming grace of God. When the testimony ends, the words I hear most in our men’s group are, “I would have given up on that person long ago.” But God didn’t. Instead He reshaped the clay.

Do you think you are beyond reshaping? Do you feel the hurts of life have made it impossible for you to be the person you were meant to be? (Gordon L. Snider)

Give God the broken pieces!

Job’s Response to Trouble

“In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly” (v. 22).

Satan’s plan has now been put into action. Job has just received word of the loss of his wealth, and the devastating loss of his children. Anyone of these things would be enough to cause anyone to have a tremendous emotional reaction — a reaction from the base of one’s being; a reaction that would reveal the true heart of one’s character. It did this for Job. At this point, Satan should have given up and gone away. What was revealed about Job’s surrender to and trust in God is here made absolutely clear by the way he reacted to this news. In verse 21 we see that Job considered everything that had been taken away to be some- thing that was from God and had never ceased to belong to God. It was God’s to do with as He so chose. Job had a human reaction of grief, but the spiritual reaction of unwavering faith was the witness of where his heart was. The witness given of him by God is here found in verse 22. God, who saw his heart, didn’t observe any sin nor doubt as to how com- pletely Job trusted Him. (Tim J. Brubeck)

“Perfect submission, all is at rest . . . lost in His love” (Fanny J. Crosby).

Esther’s Courage

“Now it came to pass on the third day, that Esther put on her royal apparel, and stood in the inner court of the king’s house, over against the king’s house: and the king sat upon his royal throne in the royal house, over against the gate of the house” (v. 1).

The Jewish people were on the verge of extinction. The royal seal was affixed to the dreadful death document. Mordecai had rightly declared that Esther had no guarantee of her life just because she was queen. The countdown of destiny was underway. Esther weighed her options — death by Haman’s plot or death because of disrespecting royal protocol. Perhaps there was another: a slim chance she could be spared by right of her position and favor. However, she was aware that if that happened, it would have been a hollow victory. Who could enjoy life without her remaining family after the genocide of her people? The situation being serious, she called for a fast. Then she acted.

She restrained herself from a blurting and bawling plea. She had already planned a banquet. Thus her petition came in the form of an invitation. (The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.) She was going to condition her advocacy with good table provisions. Further, her invitation included her strongest enemy, and of course, we know that at the banquet came another similar invitation. All was a part of divine strategy. (Lonnie R. Witt)

The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and the impetus to confront evil.

Hannah Praises God

“There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God” (v. 2).

Some years ago, there were a number of people who were stricken with polio. One of these was a young mother of two by the name of Mar- lene. Some who contracted this disease were devastated and lived under a shadow of gloom throughout their lives. Marlene did not do so. She determined that she was going to continue to live her life for God, her family, and others. In time, she had seven more children and, with the help of a godly, loving husband, she pushed herself to live a productive life. There were times when she would sit on the floor and, dragging her body across the floor, scrub her floors to polished perfection. At an advanced age, she continues to be one of the most joyful Christian ladies you would ever meet.

Hannah certainly was such a woman who understood the priority of praise. God had turned her sorrow into singing and her tears into tri- umph. There are at least three significant things that happen when a man or woman praises God: Praise exalts God, it elevates our own spirit, and it provides an example to three worlds that our God is praise-worthy! Peo- ple who praise are truly a blessing to everyone around them. (Michael R. Williams)

Are you a member of the “Praise Committee”?

A Secret Kindness

“And let fall also some of the handfuls of purpose for her, and leave them, that she may glean them, and rebuke her not” (v. 16).

When Naomi returned, with Ruth, to the Bethlehem area, Boaz was presented with an obligation as well as an opportunity. Being related to Naomi as a near kinsman, there was some community expectation that he would be complicit in making provision for their needs to be met. Yet this must be done delicately allowing them to maintain personal dignity and responsibility in taking care of themselves. Ruth showed initiative in this by going to glean in the fields. As kinsman-redeemer Boaz secretly arranged for grain to be left purposely for her — it was her salvation.

Perhaps our case was direr than hers, for when we tried to straighten out our lives we found our efforts exhausting, but also fruitless. Our efforts to glean for a better life always fell short; we could not save ourselves. However, the Creator was our near kinsman, He had created us in His own image, and He stepped forth in loving kindness, quietly, yet purposely, sending His own Son to be the atonement for us — to be our Savior, our salvation! (Rodney B. Stearns)

A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord, He taketh my burden away; He holdeth me up, and I shall not be moved, He giveth me strength as my day. — Fanny Crosby

A secret kindness is His presence, giving us strength for each day!

God Calls Gideon

“And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?” (v. 14).

It was during the Friday night missions service at the annual camp meeting in Petersburg, Michigan. The missionary leader had preached. Now he was appealing to everyone, especially young people, to offer themselves to God for Christian service.

A large number of people responded by going to the altar and front of the tabernacle. I was a preteen in that service fifty years ago and was one of many who responded to the invitation. When I offered myself to God, He responded by calling me into His ministry. The assurance of His call has inspired and impelled my life since that day.

Gideon had a “God moment.” The angel of the LORD who met with Gideon was probably Jesus Christ himself! This is what theologians call a theophany — an Old Testament appearance of Jesus.

The message of the Lord was clear and specific. Gideon was to rescue Israel from the Midianites. Gideon was very confident of His inability to be used by God, but God assured Him of His presence.

Someone said, “God doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called.” While God does often use people who have natural abilities, He seems to specialize in gifting people who have few natural gifts but who surrender themselves to His call. (Mark D. Avery)

Are you listening? Will you hear when God speaks to you?

A Prayer of Moses

“And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my LORD be great, according as thou hast spoken” (v. 17).

Moses and Aaron had been voted out; Israel was ready to stone them! When God threatened to wipe out these grumblers, Moses stood in the gap. In his prayer, Moses used God’s own promises of protection and provision to implore Him to cancel the death sentence. Other nations had observed God’s provision for this great throng and to wipe them off the map would destroy the nations’ respect for God.

“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much,” (James 5:16b). We should never underestimate the power of a single prayer. As pilgrims on this planet, we have a Christian duty to pray for those who have spiritual or physical needs. This begins with our families and extends to the far reaches of the world. Prayer is an investment that pays extraordinary dividends for eternity. Heaven will reveal the miracles wrought through prayer!

We are the seed-sowers, and God delivers the harvest. The prayers of Moses are scattered throughout the Books of Exodus and Numbers. Sometimes the “people cried to Moses,” and at other times he discerned the spiritual void in his people. Thank God for forgiveness and that His mercies are new every morning. We don’t want our children to reap the remunerations of our sins. Stand in the gap for your family and generations to follow! May God keep us faithful in prayer and shower His blessings of mercy to a thousand generations. (Beverly K. Tatum)

Be Thou my Guardian and my Guide; And hear me when I call; Let not my slippery footsteps slide, And hold me lest I fall. — Isaac Williams

Lord, help us to be faithful to our generation and leave behind road signs pointing to the heavenly path!