“I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies …. The Lord liveth and blessed be my rock: and let the God of my salvation be exalted” (Ps. 18:3, 46). If you sang those verses as you read them, you are truly a blessed person. Though we will never know the tune (or cadence) to which David set Psalm 18, modern men have set some of this psalm to music that allows us to sing it.
Psalm 18 was David’s cry of thanksgiving after being delivered from Saul. It has the unique position of being a psalm quoted almost entirely in II Samuel 22 also. When reading First Samuel, we know David was chased by Saul for a while when it was clear that he was to be king instead of Jonathan (I Sam. 18:10-26:25). When David killed Goliath, the women sang, “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (I Sam. 18:7). After this event, and seeing how the people responded to David, Saul became jealous and was determined to kill him. Thankfully, this did not happen. At the same time, David was faced with opportunities to kill Saul, but refused to kill the “Lord’s anointed.” As a result, God caused an end to the hostilities when Saul was made aware that his life could have been taken by David, but it wasn’t (I Sam. 26:21).
An interesting fact about this Psalm is that some suggest the original word used was not “Saul” but “Sheol” (grave) that was used in that first paragraph. This was referred to in Psalm 18:5, also. If it was actually David praising God for delivering him from the grave, it must certainly include praise for his deliverance from Saul because Saul wanted to kill him! Either way, (whether Saul or Sheol) David’s praise and gratitude to God are just as real, as vibrant, and this attitude needs to be seen today!
I find it fascinating that the praise David gives God in verse 2 is repeated throughout the psalm. David speaks of God as …
Rock (v. 2, 31, 46) – not a mere pebble, but a large rock where thousands might stand and even build their homes! Think of Matthew 16:18. This rock will stand!
Fortress (v. 2) – In other words, He’s a fortified refuge for God’s people! They have a place to go when they need protection and comfort.
Deliverer (v. 2, 17, 19, 40, 43, 48, 50) – He delivers us from the danger and sin in this world if we let Him.
Strength (v. 2, 17b, 29, 32, 34, 39) – Since we are weak, He provides strength!
Buckler/Shield (v. 2, 30, 35) – He has the shield to help us when Satan attacks. In Ephesians, Paul wants all Christians to carry the “shield of faith” to “quench the fiery darts (arrows) of the wicked” (Eph. 6:16).
Horn (v. 2, 33-34) – just as an animal’s horn is used for protection, so God is that “horn of salvation,” protecting us from spiritual dangers, like Satan, while we are on earth.
High Tower (v. 2) – though the term “tower” is not used, the reference to God being “on high” or above us is seen in verses 13-14, and 16.
David learned about God from experience. Have we learned to trust in God as David did? If not, why not? He loves and cares for us and we need to turn to Him for everything in this life!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Mark 2:3-12 records the miracle of the lame man “borne of four” and lowered through the roof to be healed by Jesus. I’m very impressed with this miracle and impressed with the lesson behind it (v. 9-10). However, have you ever considered why the men lowered their friend through the roof? They had to do this because they couldn’t get their friend through the front door (v. 2, 4)! Prior to them bringing their friend to meet Jesus and be healed, Jesus had entered the house in Capernaum, and when He taught the people, they filled the house, so there was no more room in the house for anyone else (v. 1-2).
As I thought about the full house, it brought to mind two lessons:
- What Jesus brought to the people. Jesus didn’t come to Capernaum with bags of gold. He didn’t offer people freedom from enemies or some scheme for getting rich quick. He came to Galilee, “preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God” (Mk. 1:14). I’m impressed with the book of Mark and how it emphasizes the word of Christ. Twenty-two times in sixteen chapters, we read about Christ’s work in spreading God’s truth. Some of the words used to describe Christ’s work include: “Taught” (9x); “preached” (2x); “preach” (1x); “teach” (4x); “teaching” (2x); and “doctrine” (4x). Jesus brought the people the truth (Jn. 17:17)! He made a point of telling as many people as possible about the “gospel of the kingdom.” May we learn a lesson from Christ in this. What’s on our lips? Do we take the time to tell someone about the Lord? If not, why not? Only through Christ will any man have salvation (Jn. 14:6; Acts 4:12)!
- What interest do we show in Christ’s teaching? I’m also impressed when I read passages like Mark 2:1-2 because I see a generation of people who took a genuine interest in the truth taught. I hear about similar responses in foreign countries like the Philippines, Colombia, China, and other places today, and for this, I am thankful. Yet, being a citizen of America, I wonder about those of us in the USA! What interest are we showing in God’s word? As Christians, is God’s word still our “first love”? Are we hungering and thirsting for the truth (Matt. 5:6)? If not, why not? Only the doctrine of Christ will bring salvation (Rom. 1:16; Mk. 16:15)! Only the doctrine of Christ tells us from whence we’ve come, why we’re here, and where we’re going when this life is over! There’s no other sustenance for the soul (I Pet. 2:2; Heb. 5:12-14). Is there any wonder folks in the first century flooded the house where Jesus was? They wanted nourishment! Do we appreciate God’s spiritual nourishment?
Having considered the above carefully, there is only one thing left to do: apply what we have learned! You see, these two elements go together like a hand in a glove. First, what are we teaching people? Do we know God’s word well enough to tell it to others? It’s high time we woke from our sleep and got busy learning the word so we can tell the truth to others (Heb. 5:12-14)! I am convinced there are people in the good ol’ “U.S. of A.” that want to hear the truth. Their problem is that they don’t know where to look! Too many groups calling themselves “churches” and claiming to love the Lord and His word talk about everything else but what is most important! Unfortunately, even some of my brethren are more concerned about social events, or whether or not the community thinks well of them, rather than focusing on the one thing that will save!
Have we ever thought about the fact that if we got focused again on the most important thing - the truth - we would attract people now as Christ did then! The gospel has the same power it has always had. Could it be, though, that we have lost faith in it?
Let’s remember what Christ brought the people and the people’s interest. These things are inseparable! Paul encouraged the same thing when he taught Timothy to “preach the word” (II Tim 4:2)! Are we willing to follow in the Lord’s footsteps? I’m convinced we haven’t worn out the Lord’s way yet! Let’s go back to that and see the blessings that come when we do things the Lord’s way!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
The last part of Ecclesiastes 9:4 says that “a living dog is better than a dead lion.” What I find interesting is that in the days of Solomon, dogs were not “man’s best friend.” They were not considered pets but nuisances. Lions, on the other hand, were exalted and symbols of royalty. In those days, if one had the option, a regal-looking lion would be much preferred over some mutt dog. Yet, Solomon observed a living dog is still better than a dead lion.
What does such a statement mean? It is similar to our saying, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Put simply, it means that there are times when we are better off getting what is available, what is possible, instead of the things only wished for. We could say it this way: Take advantage of the opportunities you have instead of waiting for things that might never come!
I believe some folks are guilty of hoping for that “dead lion” when they think they will wait for a “convenient” time to be saved. Felix maintained this attitude (Acts 24:25), and though seeing Paul for over two years (v. 27), he never found a “convenient” time! Are we like this? Some wish to wait on their obedience to the Lord until they “know more” or until they have accomplished some goal. I know of people who said they needed more Bible knowledge before they could be saved. To these people, I asked, “You know the Lord’s plan of salvation and you know that you are in sin and need to be saved. At this point, what else do you need to know?” A living dog is better than a dead lion, friends!
Some will not tell others the truth about salvation and Jesus because they are afraid they do not know enough. They are concerned that some question might be asked of them that they cannot answer. Many are fearful of any type of “confrontation.” I think there is a large percentage of Christians who don’t wish to talk to people who are not like them -- whether racially, the same economic status, etc. What ultimately happens is that no teaching gets done, and a generation is lost in a Devil’s Hell. To these people, I say: “A living dog is better than a dead lion”! We are wasting our opportunities looking for the “perfect” opportunity, the “perfect” person, etc. Listen, those are not coming in that form. We need to understand that the “perfect” is only “perfect” in hindsight. Our opportunities to teach someone about the Lord doesn’t come wrapped in a pretty bow! They come to us at the bank and the grocery store. They come to us when we are dirty and sweaty from working, and with our children at night when we are tired. Opportunities to teach about Christ come to us looking like a flawed and failed person who is in sin and needs Christ. This person has sinned and has emotional or other types of “baggage” and regrets. It is these people who need to cast their care on Christ (I Pet. 5:7) but can’t do it until they are introduced to Him. What are we doing to help these people? Where is the love for our neighbor (Matt. 22:39)? Are we so busy waiting for “dead lions” that we are missing the “living dogs?”
Take a moment for true self-examination (II Cor. 13:5). What opportunities and who are we overlooking in our vain pursuits? The dead lion offers nothing for you. Stop wasting time on the impossible and accept and work with what is real and true! The blessings are sometimes right under our noses. We need to get them out of the clouds and down where we can focus on what is instead of what is not.
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
At the end of Ecclesiastes 7, we read, “Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.” These words are a sober reminder that what God had in mind for man and what man has become are two very different things!
When God began His work on earth, He made man ”upright.” This is not in reference to his bodily structure, but instead a reference to his soul. God created man free from the bondage of sin. It is by “one man sin entered the world” (Rom. 5:12; Gen. 3:1-6). God did not make man a sinner, yet, “all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12, 3:23)!
Solomon shows us that it is man who “sought out many inventions.” Instead of “inventions,” other Bible versions use terms like “schemes,” “devices,” “perversions,” and the like. One version that I think states this thought in plainer language says: “I did learn one thing: We were completely honest when God created us, but now we have twisted minds” (CEV).
Man left to himself, does not tend to get better, but tends to get worse (Jer. 10:23b)! On our own, we tend to follow after temptation, and this results in sin, heartache, sorrow, and ultimately death (Jas. 1:14-15). Yet, we keep following this path, thinking that things will somehow get better if we keep going. Sadly, just the opposite is true. Our sin leads to death and not life! Anyone who follows this path will meet destruction and be lost in Hell (Matt. 7:13-14).
Friend, are you awake (Rom. 13:11)? Are you listening? Living life as you please and answerable to no one but yourself will result in separation from God rather than growing closer to Him. God made man upright/honest, and if we wish to stay on that course, then we need to be faithful to Him! We need to “draw nigh to God,” and He will draw nigh/near to us (Jas. 4:8). As Barnabas taught, we need to “cleave unto the Lord” with “purpose of heart” and not let go (Acts 11:23)!
God made man upright, and He gave us a way to stay upright (Jn. 17:17; I Pet. 4:11; Col. 3:17)! Will we listen and obey so that we can go to Heaven one day? Or, will we turn to our own inventions and be lost in Hell? The choice, as it has always been, is up to us. Don’t allow another day to pass where you are following your own schemes. Instead, make today the day you repent and turn back to the Lord’s way (Acts 2:38)! You will be blessed beyond measure when you walk in the way that is upright (Eph. 1:3)!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Do we have a problem with listening to too much? Sometimes we hear things said about us that are really none of our business. Why do we listen, and why do we take these words to heart? Solomon teaches us a hard lesson in Ecclesiastes 7:21, but it’s a lesson that will help us immensely if learned.
The Holy Spirit inspired the following: “Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee.” What a lesson! In a time when we want to hear all, and when social media allows us to hear it, let’s go back and listen to Solomon. He reminds us that this isn’t always a good idea! “Take no heed” means essentially, don’t take it seriously. I’ve had to tell people (and tell myself), “consider the source!” This is the essence of Ecclesiastes 7:21.
Don’t listen, nor take to heart everything that falls out of someone’s mouth (or keyboard). An enemy doesn’t have your best interests in mind, anyway. Someone may ask, “What if it’s a friend saying harmful things?” As someone once told me, “Hateful statements are sometimes made by kind people.” We don’t always know what a person’s disposition is when they say things. You may be the nearest person to criticize when a friend is angry! Someone has said, “He was in the line of fire.” Listen, dear one -- “take no heed”!
As I thought about Ecclesiastes 7:21, I also thought about the other side of this “coin.” You see, it’s true that harmful statements can be made in a moment, and yes, there are times when a person does damage with his sharp tongue (Jas. 3:2, 5-6, 8; Ecc. 5:6; Prov. 26:18-19). Yet, have we ever thought about the fact that perhaps some of the damage could’ve been lessened if we’d not taken it the way we did? Maybe there would’ve been no lasting damage done if, after we have heard someone say something, that we remembered the words, “For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others” (Ecc. 7:22)!
In other words, before we get too offended at what someone has said about us, remember that we probably did the same thing already! Did you mean it, or was your mouth in gear while your brain was in neutral? Were you angry, and this person was just the easiest “target”? Maybe that’s what happened to our friend, too. Think the best about people instead of thinking the worst (I Cor. 13:7). See how your life is bettered for it!
I know it is a hard pill to swallow in a society that prefers “information overload,” but sometimes, the best advice is: “Don’t listen!” You’ll be happier when you don’t have your nose in other people’s business. Furthermore, the one who said something hateful will have some time to calm down, reflect, and repent before things get worse. Isn’t this the way we live Matthew 7:12 and 22:39?
- Jarrod M. Jacobs