Today's Little Lift
by Jim Bullington
The Israelites of old used to sing a shortlist of traits that God honors. The song began by asking two questions: “LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill?” (Psalm 15.1). One of the responses from the shortlist went as follows: “He who swears to his own hurt and does not change.” (Psalm 15.4c). In other words, God respects a person who gives his word and refuses to renege even if the fulfilling of it brings him hurt or pain.
God respects this characteristic because it is one of His characteristics. In one of Peter's earliest gospel sermons, Luke recorded this line: “But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled.” (Acts 3:18). The fact that the Christ would suffer was among the earliest promises of scripture. The bruising of the heel of the woman's seed foretold in Genesis 3.15 is a prophecy of the suffering of the Christ. David foretold these events graphically in Psalm 22 as did Isaiah in the fifty-third chapter of his book. Peter was so bold as to say that this prophetic truth was “foretold by the mouth of all His [God's] prophets.” The prophetic utterances regarding the suffering of Jesus were not few in number nor were they told in a corner: everyone who knew the Scriptures knew of this promise of God.
Calvary was the extreme of Messiah's suffering, but it was not the only occasion of hurt for Him. His anguish of spirit was evoked in a few recorded occasions and possibly on many other non-recorded occasions. He wept over the apostate city of Jerusalem, he wept over the unbelieving hearts assembled at the tomb of Lazarus, and He grieved over the hardness of heart of his accusers (see Mark 3.1-5). Jesus had the power to prevent all such suffering even as He said, “Do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?” However, Jesus knew the dilemma that such an action would cause; He quickly added, “How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?” (see Matthew 26.53-54). Yes, God swore to His own hurt but would not relent even in the most painful of times. The Sin Offering had to be made if there was to be any hope for man! God made that offering even at the cost of the dreadful suffering of His only Begotten Son!
Learn with me now a lesson about love. “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18). There is a love known as the love of word or tongue, but it is not the same as the love of God. The love of word or tongue is selfish love which serves self at the expense of others. It is a fair weather friend who vanishes when the storm clouds threaten. It is a buddy who loves our company as long as the wine is flowing and the money is free. This type of love is not only self-serving, it is forbidden love.
The love of God is the love that swears to its own hurt but refuses to renege when times get rough. It is the love that promises to stick by a brother's side even unto death- and performs its oath! The love of God is a love “in deed and in truth.” Unlike the love of word or tongue, there is action mandated by the love of God. It cannot sit idly by and see the oppressed mistreated, or the hopeless remain without help. The love of God stops by the wayside, puts the wounded on its own beast of burden, and does what it can to provide for those who are less fortunate. It is a love in deed and in truth!
The proverb, “Words are cheap,” is not a biblical quotation, but it certainly is a biblical sentiment. Anyone can talk a good game, but only those dedicated to the cause can consistently deliver. Our heritage as believers demands that we put love into action rather than merely offering lip service!
1. In everyday life, how is it possible to “swear to one's own hurt”? Are we relieved of our obligations because we find ourselves in such a situation?
2. Did Jesus have the ability to deliver Himself from His Passion? If yes, why didn't He?
3. What does it mean to love in word or in tongue? Do you like for others to offer that type of love to you? Do you think God is pleased when we offer that kind of love to Him? Why or why not?
4. How does the Good Samaritan typify the positive characteristic highlighted in today's devotional?
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