Day 306

Fix Your Thoughts

Wisdom Psalm 119:137-143
New Testament Hebrews 3:1-13
Old Testament Joel 2:12-13

Introduction

When the British people are asked who the greatest Briton of all time was, Sir Winston Churchill usually tops the poll. If you were to ask an American who the greatest American was, they might reply George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. If you asked a Jew at the start of the first century AD who the greatest Jew was, without a doubt they would have said ‘Moses’. Moses was the supreme figure of their history. He had rescued them from slavery and given them the Law.

The writer of Hebrews describes to Jewish Christians how Jesus is greater than Moses. His argument is that, in spite of the greatness of Moses, Jesus is in a completely different league. Jesus is the ‘centrepiece of everything we believe’ (Hebrews 3:1, MSG); ‘he has been found worthy of honour greater than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honour than the house itself’ (v.3). ‘Moses was faithful as a servant’ (v.5); ‘Christ is faithful as a Son over God’s house’ (v.6).

The themes for today’s passages are trouble and distress, testing times, and trials and tribulations. However, you can see in these same scriptures that the secret to dealing with these is to ‘fix your thoughts on Jesus’ (v.1).

Wisdom

Psalm 119:137-143

137 You are righteous, Lord,
  and your laws are right.

138 The statutes you have laid down are righteous;
  they are fully trustworthy.

140 Your promises have been thoroughly tested,
  and your servant loves them.

143 Trouble and distress have come upon me,
  but your commands give me delight.

Commentary

Trouble and distress

At any given point in our life there is usually some area that causes us trouble and distress. It may be something you yourself are going through, or a family member, or a close friend, or something to do with your work or ministry.

I remember hearing the American pastor, Rick Warren, say how he used to think that life was a series of battles, followed by times of blessing. Now, he thinks of life as being on two tracks – one track is blessing, the other is battle. They run concurrently.

The psalmist certainly went through times of battle: ‘Trouble and distress have come upon me’ (v.143a).

How do we respond? The psalmist’s answer is to keep trusting in the Lord. He keeps on believing that God’s words are ‘fully trustworthy (v.138): ‘your servant loves them… your commands are my delight’ (vv.140,143).

He fixes his thoughts upon the Lord: ‘Righteous are you, O Lord’ (v.137a). The great revelation of the New Testament is that ‘Jesus is the Lord’ (Romans 10:9). He is the one on whom you are to fix your thoughts.

Prayer

Lord, thank you that in times of trouble and distress I can fix my thoughts on you and trust in your promises.

New Testament

Hebrews 3:1-13

3 Therefore... fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. 2 He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. 3 Jesus has been found worthy of greater honour than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honour than the house itself. 4 For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. 5 “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,” bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. 6 But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.

Warning Against Unbelief

7 So, as the Holy Spirit says:

  “Today, if you hear his voice,
   8 do not harden your hearts
  as you did in the rebellion,
   during the time of testing in the wilderness,
  9 where your ancestors tested and tried me,
   though for forty years they saw what I did.

12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

Commentary

Times of testing

A faith that has not been tested cannot be trusted. Sooner or later all of us go through times of testing. In these times, the challenge is to stay faithful to God – not to harden our hearts but to keep them soft and tender towards God – to keep on trusting in spite of all the difficulties and challenges to our faith.

During these times of testing, every time you feel like doing the wrong thing but choose to do right, you grow in spiritual maturity, wisdom, character and faithfulness.

‘Moses was faithful’ (v.2). But Jesus, of course, is our supreme example of faithfulness. He went through years of training and times of powerful temptation. Yet he was ‘faithful in everything God gave him to do’ (v.2, MSG).

This letter was written to a group of people who were going through a time of testing and persecution. It was written to encourage them to hold on to their ‘courage’ and ‘hope’ (v.6), inspired by Jesus: ‘Fix your thoughts on Jesus’ (v.1).

In this passage, the writer quotes Psalm 95:7–11 (Hebrews 3:7–11). Interestingly, he does not write, ‘as the Holy Spirit said’ but, ‘as the Holy Spirit says’ (v.7). He clearly believes that the Holy Spirit continues to speak through the Scriptures in a contemporary way to the readers. As you read the Bible, expect the Holy Spirit to speak to you today.

In spite of the great high moment of deliverance from Egypt, the people of God had fallen away in a time of testing in the desert (v.17). This is a warning for us: ‘See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily… so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness’ (vv.12–13).

One of the remedies to unbelief that the writer highlights here is community. He tells them to ‘encourage one another daily’ (v.13). This is why it is so important to be part of Christian community, spending time with other Christians, encouraging one another and building up your faith.

‘Sin’s deceitfulness’ is an interesting expression. Sin is deceptive. If it were not, we would not sin. Sin is usually accompanied with a deceptive label: ‘This isn’t really sin, and it won’t do you any harm anyway.’ But, when we enter in to sin, bad patterns form, our conscience is seared and our hearts become hardened.

At the heart of sin is unbelief. Ever since the Garden of Eden, the deceitfulness of sin has caused us to doubt God’s goodness, his love for us and his word – ‘Did God really say?’ (Genesis 3:1), ‘You will not surely die’ (3:4). You always swallow a lie about God before you swallow forbidden fruit. For us today, it is still the same. If we really believed God’s love for us, his goodness and his word, then we would not fall for sin’s deceitfulness.

Because the people of God kept on complaining, they never entered God’s rest – which was the one thing they wanted. They did not trust God to provide. They were ‘unbelieving’ (Hebrews 3:12). They were not able to enter God’s rest ‘because of their unbelief’ (v.19). When we do not trust God, we lose the peace of God. Find peace by fixing your thoughts on Jesus, trusting him and listening to him as he continues to speak to you through the Scriptures.

Prayer

Lord, help me today to fix my thoughts on Jesus. Help me not to live in fear and unbelief but in trust and peace.

Old Testament

Joel 2:12-13

  12 “Even now,” declares the Lord,
   “return to me with all your heart...

  13 Rend your heart
   and not your garments.
  Return to the Lord your God,
   for he is gracious and compassionate,
  slow to anger and abounding in love...

Commentary

When disaster strikes

‘When disaster strikes, understanding of God is at risk’, writes Eugene Peterson. There are times when we face unexpected illness or death of someone we love, national catastrophe, social disruption, personal loss, economic uncertainty, pandemics or the devastation of natural disasters. Peterson continues: ‘It is the task of the prophet to stand up at such moments of catastrophe and clarify who God is and how he acts.’

The prophet Joel describes a time when disaster struck – the great devastation caused by a plague of locusts. This may have been a real event or a vision. There was a plague of locusts that hit Jerusalem in 915 BC. The devastation they caused was extraordinary.

The army of locusts is (without insecticide) unswerving, unstoppable and invincible. It ruins the vineyards, strips the orchards and, as a result, all the crops fail. The livestock then has nothing to eat. The locusts are like a tornado that moves through the land.

‘What a day! Doomsday! God’s Judgment Day has come’ (1:15, MSG). This image of the locusts is picked up in the book of Revelation and used as a description of the tribulations of the final judgment (Revelation 9:7–11).

Jesus himself used the language from Joel 2, ‘The sun and moon are darkened, and the stars no longer shine’ (Joel 2:10; see also Matthew 24:29), in his description of the coming judgment.

What should our response to all this be? None of us like half-hearted apologies – nor does God. He seeks for genuine repentance:

‘It’s not too late –
  God’s personal message! –
“Come back to me and really mean it!
  Come fasting and weeping, sorry for your sins!”
Change your life, not just your clothes.
  Come back to God, your God.
And here’s why: God is kind and merciful.
  He takes a deep breath, puts up with a lot,
This most patient god, extravagant in love’ (Joel 2:12–13, MSG).

In the midst of these prophecies of judgment, there is hope. When you turn to God and seek his forgiveness, you no longer have to fear this final judgment. Joel uses the image of a trumpet being blown to herald this day of judgment (v.1).

In the New Testament though, Paul uses this same image to describe how Jesus has conquered death, and made forgiveness and salvation possible – ‘In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable and we will all be changed… Death has been swallowed up in victory… Thanks be to God! He gives the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Corinthians 15:52–57).

Prayer

Father, thank you that you are gracious and compassionate, kind and merciful. Help me, as I await with confidence the day of his return, to fix my thoughts on Jesus.

Pippa adds

Hebrews 3:1 says, ‘… fix your thoughts on Jesus…’

Fixing my thoughts is often like herding cats. My mind tends to be all over the place. Keeping my thoughts ‘fixed’ requires consciously putting aside the ‘to do’ list and then trying to tune in to that ‘still small voice’ of God.

Thought for the Day

Every time you feel like doing the wrong thing but choose to do right, you grow in spiritual maturity, wisdom, character and faithfulness.

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References

Eugene Peterson, The Message, 'Introduction to Joel', (NavPress, 1993), p.1225.

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

  • HOST'S INTRO
  • INTRODUCTION
  • WISDOM BIBLE
  • WISDOM COMMENTARY
  • NEW TESTAMENT BIBLE
  • NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY
  • OLD TESTAMENT BIBLE
  • OLD TESTAMENT COMMENTARY
  • PIPPA ADDS
  • HOST'S OUTRO

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