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Friday, March 9, 2018

And I love that old cross
where the dearest and best
for a world of lost sinners was slain!

"Firmly Embedded Truths"

Two personal notes today:
1) Today's message is longer than usual!
2) We will be traveling next week and do not expect to post messages daily.

Message summary:
We need God's Word driven into our lives like firmly embedded nails. Keep this in mind as you live for Jesus today! "Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His promise" (Hebrews 10:23).

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"The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails--given by one Shepherd" (Ecclesiastes 12:11). Ecclesiastes 12:11 in all English translations

Toy hammer with pegs
One of the earliest tools I suppose many of us used was the hammer. Perhaps we played with one of these hammer and peg sets as shown to the left although I really can't remember. As we got a little older we honed our hammering skills by driving nails into old pieces of lumber.

There are teachings in the Bible that require a bit of historical research to understand even though they were likely more easily understood at the time they were written. Today's verse is an example concerning the words of the wise. We believe Solomon is referring to God's Word as he writes of "the words of the wise" and "their collected sayings"  -  "given by one Shepherd". There are three illustrative metaphors used in this text to describe the words of the wise:

1) The words of the wise are "like goads." I suppose many of our readers would not know what a goad is, since it's not a part of our daily vocabulary! The goad is a traditional farming implement, used to spur or guide livestock, usually oxen, which are pulling a plow or a cart. Today farmers still use a livestock prod which has a similar function. I joined my neighbor once as he was preparing to load finished hogs in a truck on the way to market and saw the workers using a prod to goad them along into the truck.

The goad is a long stick with a pointed end. Perhaps its most peculiar use involved Shamgar who killed 600 Philistines with an ox goad (Judges 3:31). I still recall an Old Testament professor explaining this verse and pointing out an ox goad is a "stick with a prick on the end." An obscure verse rarely considered indicates their value in the economy of the day.

By way of a spiritual analogy the goad is similar to the conviction of the Holy Spirit revealing truths that function like "goads" (pointed sticks) prodding us on to live in the right way. Consider Acts 2:37 describing the response of the crowd at Pentecost to Peter's message; "When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?'"

Later the word actually is used at Saul's testimony of his conversion, "I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads'" (Acts 26:14). When God uses His Holy Spirit to convict us of sin, or as a means of directing us, it may initially be a very painful or uncomfortable stirring within our hearts!

Photo of firmly embedded nails2) The words of the wise are "like firmly embedded nails." What a powerful word picture for those who have tried to remove a nail firmly embedded in a piece of wood. Just like embedded nails, may the principles of God's Word be firmly embedded in our minds and hearts.

Nails in their crudest form date back to 3,000 BC, some 2,000 years before Solomon lived. Our spiritual application is in regard to having the truths of God's Word firmly embedded in our hearts.

The photo to the left brings back some memories. Those rusty nails were driven many years ago into some gnarly hardwood, perhaps a fence post, such as would have been on my Uncle Gentry's farm near Harwood Missouri when I was a child.  I would imagine the nails were bent at the time they were initially nailed and now after many years they show the rust as they've weathered moisture and age. At this point these nails are very firmly embedded in the wood.

We have a role in allowing God's Word to be firmly embedded in our hearts. We read, study, listen to godly teaching, memorize and hide God's Word deep in our hearts. The Word in time becomes firmly embedded like the nails in the photograph. When Satan's siftings are experienced we might be put through the grinder of fear or doubt, but in Christ we remain steadfast, firm, and immovable!

Good Shepherd
3) The words of the wise are "given by one Shepherd" It seems to me that the "words of the wise" and "collected sayings" ultimately refer to the Word of God. Due to the divine inspiration of Scripture these wise words and collected sayings are indeed given by one Shepherd, although various human agents were involved.

Ecclesiastes ends with this powerful truth that completes the thought: "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil" (Ecclesiastes 12:13,14). 

We need God's Word driven into our lives like firmly embedded nails. Keep this in mind as you live for Jesus today!
"Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His promise" (Hebrews 10:23).

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Father, we recognize the spiritual, emotional, and physical strength that comes from relying on truths and principles established in Your Word.  Impress them deep into our hearts like  embedded nails so that we hold firmly to them. Otherwise we get lax and are led astray from the paths You've laid out for us. Much like the oxen we need the goading or prodding of Your Holy Spirit to keep our hearts in check and our will submitted to Your leading as our Shepherd. Keep us faithful we pray. In Jesus' name.  Amen.

A personal illustration of a word from the wise: I very specifically recall the time I was being examined for my ordination nearly 40 years ago. Only 24 years old at the time, I was sitting at a massive conference table with the elders who had served in ministry for many years. After interviews, written tests (4-5 hours), essays, background checks, references and so forth this was the final step in my approval for ordination. These tried and proven elders (we use the term Presbyter) asked various questions concerning my call to ministry, Bible knowledge, doctrinal understanding and so forth. It was very stressful and wearying.

As the meeting came to a close I recall one of the presbyters, Edward Menaldino, a very distinguished Italian minister who pastored a large church on Philadelphia's south side. He slowly rose from the table, paused, and made direct eye contact with me. He then solemnly and slowly quoted this Scripture portion from memory with the Spirit's anointing.
"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." Given his age and the time probably the KJV.

Perhaps that's why this passage has stood out over the years as it has been a source of encouragement through our many years of Christian service. Only God would know that the church we were planting at the time would have many ups and downs and difficulties would abound. Of course in various ways that has been the case wherever or however I have served the Lord. I would need the Spirit's prompting to never shrink back, but "always give myself fully to the work of the Lord knowing that my labor in the Lord is not in vain."

That's a word for you as well, dear friend. As I type this Thursday evening on March 8 I have some special people in mind. No matter what God has called you to do, give yourself fully to it, and know that your work is not in vain. He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. You may not see the fruit of that victory at the present, but trust God that He will reveal it to you in due time. (See Galatians 6:7-10)

Literal & spiritual meaning of the nail illustration:  I consider just looking at today's photo of the old rusty nails how hard it would be to remove them! I would probably need to drive a flat-bladed screw driver in and bend them out enough to get a claw hammer in. Then I would probably need to strike the claw hammer on the handle with another hammer and hope the nail head doesn't break off below the surface. I might have to hit the nail back and forth to loosen it.  I would then hope to hear a distinctive creaking sound as the whole nail
is slowly removed. This is gratifying in the literal sense of this illustration, but distressing when I think of the spiritual analogy.  It would describe a person who, when sifted by Satan's strategic weapons, forgot or forsook the bedrock spiritual foundation from which he or she was firmly planted.

Ester's birthday cheesecake 3/8/18Today is Ester's birthday! Here's a memory from about 27 years ago. Ester came to us from Guatemala in 1989 at three months of age with a severe heart condition and immediately required several surgeries, intensive medical care and months of hospitalization. In 1991 we made our first visit to Guatemala and stayed with a prosperous family in Guatemala City who generously hosted us during our four day visit. Ester was 18 months old at the time and stayed with a family in our church back in Northern Pennsylvania while we were away. It gave us an opportunity to explore her birthplace and pursue our future adoption with the officials there. During a conversation with our host, an MIT educated leader in the country who knew of Ester's health matters, discouraged us from adopting due to her health problems and also because of her ethnicity (Mayan Indian descent which was looked down upon by his ethnic background). I still recall his words, "You don't want to adopt her. We can get you a child that has a perfect heart." I suppose he meant well and perhaps made his suggestion in our interest, but it did reflect a devaluing of life, both her ethnicity and fragile health.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"In Heaven's Eyes"  Video  Demo version

"He Took the Nails"  Video  Browders

"Beautiful Terrible Cross"  Video  Selah

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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