Day 307

Destiny Defining Decisions

Wisdom Psalm 119:145-152
New Testament Hebrews 4:1-13
Old Testament Joel 2:18-3:21

Introduction

Every day we make decisions – what to wear, what to eat and what to do. There are little decisions and big decisions. Perhaps, for most people, the biggest decisions in life are about relationships, marriage (whether to marry and whom to marry) and work.

But these decisions pale into insignificance beside the great decision. The great decision is how you respond to God. Bernard Levin, perhaps the most influential Times columnist of the twentieth century, described his experience of trying to decide about the Christian faith in these terms: ‘People such as me who hover on the edge of the swimming pool, simultaneously longing and fearing to jump…’

All the way through the Bible, the importance of this destiny defining decision is stressed. We can see it in all of today’s passages. There is a division of destiny between those who are far and those who are near (Psalm 119). There is a division of destiny between those who hear the gospel and respond with faith, and those who do not combine it with faith (Hebrews 4:2). In the book of Joel, there is a division of destiny between those who call on the name of the Lord and those who do not (Joel 2:32).

Joel goes on to say, ‘Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision’ (3:14).

Wisdom

Psalm 119:145-152

ק Qoph

  145 I call with all my heart; answer me, Lord,
   and I will obey your decrees.
  146 I call out to you; save me
   and I will keep your statutes.
  147 I rise before dawn and cry for help;
   I have put my hope in your word.
  148 My eyes stay open through the watches of the night,
   that I may meditate on your promises.
  149 Hear my voice in accordance with your love;
   preserve my life, Lord, according to your laws.
  150 Those who devise wicked schemes are near,
   but they are far from your law.
  151 Yet you are near, Lord,
   and all your commands are true.
  152 Long ago I learned from your statutes
   that you established them to last forever.

Commentary

Decide to meet with God first

I love this verse: ‘I rise before dawn and cry for help’ (v.147). Over forty years ago I wrote next to it in my Bible, ‘How vital it is to meet with the Lord before the day starts – “before dawn”. From now on I intend always to read and pray immediately when I get up in order to be prepared for the battles each day brings.’ I have not always succeeded in doing this. However, that decision has made a huge difference to my life.

There is a distinction, according to the psalmist, between those who are far from God and those who are near to him. The psalmist writes, ‘Those who devise wicked schemes are near, but they are far from your law. Yet you are near, O Lord’ (vv.150–151).

The psalmist has made a decision to ‘call \[to God\] with all my heart… I call out to you; save me’ (vv.145–146).

As those who are out to get him come closer and closer, the psalmist is able to say: ‘But you’re the closest of all to me, God’ (v.151, MSG).

Prayer

Lord, thank you that you are near when I call upon you. Today, I cry out to you for help…

New Testament

Hebrews 4:1-13

A Sabbath-Rest for the People of God

4 Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. 2 For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed. 3 Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,

  “So I declared on oath in my anger,
   ‘They shall never enter my rest.’”

And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world. 4 For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “On the seventh day God rested from all his works.” 5 And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.”

6 Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience, 7 God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted:

  “Today, if you hear his voice,
   do not harden your hearts.”

8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. 9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.

12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Commentary

Decide to believe God’s promises

Are you experiencing ‘God’s rest’ in your life? Or are you worn out trying to control everything and everyone around you? Maybe it is time to resign as general manager of the universe and start believing God’s promises and trusting God to do what only he can do.

The way to find ‘rest’ for your soul is to listen to God’s promises, believe them and show that you believe them by living in obedience to the word of God.

Many people hear the gospel. When you hear the gospel you have to make the most important decision of your life. Do you respond with faith and believe? Or do you respond by hardening your heart and disobeying?

The writer of Hebrews says, ‘We received the same promises as those people in the wilderness, but the promises didn’t do them a bit of good because they didn’t receive the promises with faith’ (v.2, MSG). He urges them not to harden their hearts (v.7) or to fall through disobedience (v.11).

God’s promise to everyone who believes in the gospel is that they will enter his rest (v.1): ‘If we believe… we’ll experience that state of resting’ (v.3, MSG).

In this life, there will always be trials and testing. It is never going to be without times of turmoil. However, the moment that you believe the gospel, you have the promise of God’s eventual and eternal rest: ‘And at the end of the journey we’ll surely rest with God’ (v.10, MSG).

One day, every human being will have to give an account before God: ‘Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account’ (v.13).

In the meantime, you have an amazing opportunity to experience a foretaste of that ‘rest’ as you open your heart to the word of God, for ‘the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword… it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart’ (v.12).

As you open yourself day by day, the word of God penetrates your inner being, revealing areas of your life (‘the thoughts and attitudes of the heart’) that you need to sort out. At times, this may seem painful and challenging. However, the purpose is to prepare you for entering God’s rest.

Today, you can enjoy God’s rest and peace as you trust in him and his word believing that he will take care of you and provide for all your needs.

Prayer

Lord, I believe your promises. Thank you that I can look forward to entering into an eternity of your rest. Thank you that even now I get a foretaste of that rest.

Old Testament

Joel 2:18-3:21

The Lord’s Answer

  18 Then the Lord was jealous for his land
   and took pity on his people.

19 The Lord replied to them:

  “I am sending you grain, new wine and olive oil,
   enough to satisfy you fully;
  never again will I make you
   an object of scorn to the nations.

  20 “I will drive the northern horde far from you,
   pushing it into a parched and barren land;
  its eastern ranks will drown in the Dead Sea
   and its western ranks in the Mediterranean Sea.
  And its stench will go up;
   its smell will rise.”

  Surely he has done great things!
   21 Do not be afraid, land of Judah;
   be glad and rejoice.
  Surely the Lord has done great things!
   22 Do not be afraid, you wild animals,
   for the pastures in the wilderness are becoming green.
  The trees are bearing their fruit;
   the fig tree and the vine yield their riches.
  23 Be glad, people of Zion,
   rejoice in the Lord your God,
  for he has given you the autumn rains
   because he is faithful.
  He sends you abundant showers,
   both autumn and spring rains, as before.
  24 The threshing floors will be filled with grain;
   the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.

  25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten —
   the great locust and the young locust,
   the other locusts and the locust swarm—
  my great army that I sent among you.
  26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,
   and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,
   who has worked wonders for you;
  never again will my people be shamed.
  27 Then you will know that I am in Israel,
   that I am the Lord your God,
   and that there is no other;
  never again will my people be shamed.

The Day of the Lord

  28 “And afterwards,
   I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
  Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
   your old men will dream dreams,
   your young men will see visions.
  29 Even on my servants, both men and women,
   I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
  30 I will show wonders in the heavens
   and on the earth,
   blood and fire and billows of smoke.
  31 The sun will be turned to darkness
   and the moon to blood
   before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
  32 And everyone who calls
   on the name of the Lord will be saved;
  for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
   there will be deliverance,
   as the Lord has said,
  even among the survivors
   whom the Lord calls.

The Nations Judged

  3 “In those days and at that time,
   when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem,
  2 I will gather all nations
   and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat.
  There I will put them on trial
   for what they did to my inheritance, my people Israel,
  because they scattered my people among the nations
   and divided up my land.
  3 They cast lots for my people
   and traded boys for prostitutes;
   they sold girls for wine to drink.

4 “Now what have you against me, Tyre and Sidon and all you regions of Philistia? Are you repaying me for something I have done? If you are paying me back, I will swiftly and speedily return on your own heads what you have done. 5 For you took my silver and my gold and carried off my finest treasures to your temples. 6 You sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks, that you might send them far from their homeland.

7 “See, I am going to rouse them out of the places to which you sold them, and I will return on your own heads what you have done. 8 I will sell your sons and daughters to the people of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, a nation far away.” The Lord has spoken.

  9 Proclaim this among the nations:
   Prepare for war!
  Rouse the warriors!
   Let all the fighting men draw near and attack.
  10 Beat your plowshares into swords
   and your pruning hooks into spears.
  Let the weakling say,
   “I am strong!”
  11 Come quickly, all you nations from every side,
   and assemble there.

  Bring down your warriors, Lord!

  12 “Let the nations be roused;
   let them advance into the Valley of Jehoshaphat,
  for there I will sit
   to judge all the nations on every side.
  13 Swing the sickle,
   for the harvest is ripe.
  Come, trample the grapes,
   for the winepress is full
   and the vats overflow—
  so great is their wickedness!”

  14 Multitudes, multitudes
   in the valley of decision!
  For the day of the Lord is near
   in the valley of decision.
  15 The sun and moon will be darkened,
   and the stars no longer shine.
  16 The Lord will roar from Zion
   and thunder from Jerusalem;
   the earth and the heavens will tremble.
  But the Lord will be a refuge for his people,
   a stronghold for the people of Israel.

Blessings for God’s People

  17 “Then you will know that I, the Lord your God,
   dwell in Zion, my holy hill.
  Jerusalem will be holy;
   never again will foreigners invade her.

  18 “In that day the mountains will drip new wine,
   and the hills will flow with milk;
   all the ravines of Judah will run with water.
  A fountain will flow out of the Lord’s house
   and will water the valley of acacias.
  19 But Egypt will be desolate,
   Edom a desert waste,
  because of violence done to the people of Judah,
   in whose land they shed innocent blood.
  20 Judah will be inhabited forever
   and Jerusalem through all generations.
  21 Shall I leave their innocent blood unavenged?
   No, I will not. ”

   The Lord dwells in Zion!

Commentary

Decide to enjoy life in the Spirit

The prophet Joel instructs the people: ‘Be glad... Rejoice in the Lord your God’ (2:23). As Joyce Meyer writes: ‘Joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. However, it is released only by making the decision not to allow adverse circumstances to rule your emotional and mental attitudes. Through joy, you can receive strength to do things that would otherwise be impossible.’

God makes a remarkable promise that is recalled in the New Testament: ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ (2:32; see Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13).

This comes at the end of the great prophecy that Peter quoted on the day of Pentecost: ‘And afterwards, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days… And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ (Joel 2:28–32; see also Acts 2:16–21).

Others may have discriminated against you, but God does not discriminate on the basis of your age, gender, ethnicity or situation in life. The promise of salvation and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is for everyone – male and female, young and old. We see this on the Alpha weekends when countless people’s lives are transformed by this promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

There are many still in the ‘valley of decision’ (Joel 3:14). The decision of whether or not to call on the name of the Lord has far reaching implications. The New Testament makes absolutely clear that the name of the Lord is Jesus: ‘If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved... for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”’ (Romans 10:9,13).

Joel promises those who do this that ‘the Lord will be a refuge for his people’ (Joel 3:16). He promises wonderful blessings. He also warns that there is a winepress of God’s judgment (v.13; see Mark 4:29; Matthew 13:39). The book of Revelation refers to the wine press as a description of the judgment of Jesus on the last day.

God’s hope in this passage is that the people will hear this call to make a decision and turn to him. ‘It’s not too late’ (Joel 2:12, MSG). The Lord will ‘take pity on his people’ (v.18): ‘I am sending you grain, new wine and oil, enough to satisfy you fully’ (v.19). He promises, ‘I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten’ (v.25). This is a wonderful promise, especially for those who feel that much of their life has been ‘devoured by locusts’.

As Joyce Meyer puts it, God promises us ‘double for our trouble’. He restores, redeems, renews and revives us by his Spirit. He promises, ‘In that day the mountains will drip with new wine, and the hills will flow with milk; all the ravines of Judah will run with water. A fountain will flow out of the Lord’s house’ (3:18, see also John 7:37–39).

This is all astonishing, good news that you can bring to those who are in the valley of decision.

Prayer

Lord, thank you that you promise to restore the years the locusts have eaten and to pour out your Holy Spirit on me. Please fill me with your Spirit again today.

Pippa adds

In Joel 2:28 it says, ‘I will pour out my spirit on all people.’

God's Spirit is what I need personally – for my family, for our church and for our world.

reader

App

Download The Bible with Nicky and Pippa Gumbel app for iOS or Android devices and read along each day.

reader

Email

Subscribe now to receive The Bible with Nicky and Pippa Gumbel in your inbox each morning. You’ll get one email each day.

reader

Website

Start reading today’s devotion right here on The Bible with Nicky and Pippa Gumbel website.

Read now
reader

Book

The Bible with Nicky and Pippa Gumbel Commentary is available as a book.

References

Bernard Levin, ‘Clodhoppers on Crusade’, The Times, 27 January 1992.

Joyce Meyer, The Everyday Life Bible, (Faithwords, 2018), p.1384.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

The Bible with Nicky and Pippa Gumbel

  • INTRODUCTION
  • WISDOM BIBLE
  • WISDOM COMMENTARY
  • NEW TESTAMENT BIBLE
  • NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY
  • OLD TESTAMENT BIBLE
  • OLD TESTAMENT COMMENTARY
  • PIPPA ADDS

This website stores data such as cookies to enable necessary site functionality and analytics. Find out more