I Will Pay You Back!

Joel 3:4 “Now what have you against me, O 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.”

What an amazing verse Joel 3:4 is, isn’t it? God warned the nations who had oppressed His people, “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!” God cannot be threatened – not any part of Him nor His will. His truth marches on no matter what a nation decides to do. When God arises, His enemies scatter! Who is God besides our God, who is the Rock besides our Rock? He is a fortress and our tower of deliverance! The circumstances around us may change today or tomorrow, but our identity as sons and daughters of God does not change with the circumstances. The glory of God in us cannot be robbed from us. When Jesus was hanging on the cross, the circumstances looked bad, it looked like Satan had him and the Son of God looked threatened and there appeared to be nothing glorious about Him, but His circumstances did not change His identity, though hanging on the cross, Jesus was still the glorious King and Lord of heaven and earth! We saw how that ended, Jesus defeated the grave, rose again, ascended into heaven and He will come again to judge the living and the dead! So as God’s people, we only need to believe and follow, trust and obey, and be faithful to the end, living godly lives as a fragrant offering to the Lord amidst ungodliness. If you have read your Bible, you’ll know that we WIN in the end!


The Paradox of the Fleece

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Judges 6; Psalm 106:32-48

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Judges 6:39
Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me, but let me speak just once more: Let me test, I pray, just once more with the fleece; let it now be dry only on the fleece, but on all the ground let there be dew.”

Different commentators have a different take on what Gideon did. Like Rev Timothy said in his sermon yesterday, most scholars agree that Gideon shouldn’t have tested God. I am not so sure. For one, the text does not comment on whether Gideon did right or wrong. But we do know that God granted his request, twice. Secondly, I feel that many scholars have injected their own biases into the interpretation. At best, the text is neutral on the issue. If I am allowed to share my own view, I think Gideon was being very human – like Abraham, Jacob, and Moses before him. Being human, he needed two more assurances from God (the first being the fire on the rock) before he was ready to go into battle.

Do I put out a fleece before I act upon something that God has called me to. Well, no. I don’t see the need to. But would I judge someone who does that, because their faith is weak? Again, no. Paradoxically, it actually takes some faith to put out a fleece. Faith to believe that God hears our prayers. Faith that there is in fact a God who will wet the fleece. Now the only problem is, what if the test fails and the fleece remains dry? Does that mean that God will not be with us? Or is it God’s turn to test us now?

Lord, teach me to hear Your still small Voice. Help me to recognize You so well, that I wouldn’t need to lay down any fleece – but simply obey.

For what do we obey?

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Joshua 22:21-23:16; Proverbs 14:30-31

READ (Verses chosen for meditation)
Joshua 23:6-8 “Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left, that you may not mix with these nations remaining among you or make mention of the names of their gods or swear by them or serve them or bow down to them, but you shall cling to the LORD your God just as you have done to this day.”

Joshua 23 is one of the two farewell speeches made by Joshua to the people of Israel. Joshua was “old and well advanced” in years but his conviction remained strong from the time God gave him the exhortation to “be strong” (Joshua 1). From the time he took over Moses’ leadership to the time when he was about to pass on to glory; it was at least a span of 30-40 years where he did nothing but to answer the Lord’s call for him to be strong and possess the Promised Land.

Why was he so consistently obedient to the Lord’s call for him to be strong and cling on to Him?

As Joshua mentioned in 23:3, it was the Lord who “fought for you”. In other words, Joshua understood clearly that it was the Lord’s strength and grace that gave him all the successes he had through his lifetime of conquering and possessing the lands in Canaan. He understood that if the Lord promised to do something (as He did in Joshua 1), He will definitely do it. Hence, Joshua chose to fulfil God’s call for him by faith in obedience. The obedience to be strong and courageous; the obedience to cling on to God and not cling on to idolatry. The obedience to do as God wills. Joshua chose to obey because he understood God’s power and grace for his life and for the lives of his people.

Do I understand the Lord’s power and grace for my life so that I obey and keep His Word? Or is my obedience based on what I think God is doing in my life? If I think that God is not doing much in my life, will my obedience wax and wane?

I came to understand that our God is no man’s negotiator. He dictate the terms, not us.

If not for His grace found in Jesus Christ, we don’t even have anything to obey with in the first place. Instead, the right attitude for the Christian should be: God has already done something big. He has already promised what is coming. He is after all the Alpha and the Omega. So we obey because in faith, we believe that He will do what He has set out to do. There is simply no other way.

Our obedience is an outflow of God’s grace in our lives; and not the chip we use to bargain for a better life. Hence, we obey because we come to understand that He first love us and not simply because we have experienced blessings. We obey because He had promised and called through His Word; and not because we need to “experience” Him first.

Lord our God, help us to reflect deeper on why we obey and keep Your Word. Is it because we want something out of you for our own sake? Or is it because we understood Your love for us and that is why we follow?

Iron Pillar – Internal Strength

Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land.” Jeremiah 1: 18

What exactly do we expect God to do when we are faced with challenges? As faithful Christians, we would normally desire a miraculous rescue from all the troubles with the help of God. Though we cannot deny God’s ability to perform miracles, God’s promise to Jeremiah to make him an iron pillar, points to another way of God helping his people, to deal with life’s problems.

Jeremiah is called to do a difficult and thankless job. He was asked to proclaim about the oncoming destruction of Jerusalem because of the sins of the people. Jeremiah’s situation becomes more complicated and embarrassing later, because other prophets were busy prophesying a message completely opposite to his by saying, “You will not see the sword or suffer famine. Indeed, I will give you lasting peace in this place” (14:13). This makes him appear like a traitor who is neither interested in the welfare of the nation nor his contemporaries. This also puts him at odds with the officials, who begin to think that Jeremiah is trying to create confusion among the people by stirring them up against the king!

But God had foretold Jeremiah at the time of his calling that he would be standing “against the whole land–against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land” (1:18). Jeremiah was not called to minister with a false hope of success or getting an easy path to traverse, but with the reality of standing up to the opposition to fulfil God’s will in his life. In this mission, apart from the familiar promise that “I am with you and will rescue you” (1:8, 19), God also promises to make Jeremiah “an iron pillar” (v.18).

The iron pillar represents internal strength. God helps Jeremiah in developing this inner strength when he was fulfilling his mission, which was both emotionally draining and physically threatening. Jeremiah needed to be emotionally strong and physically fit. In his mission he had very few friends and he had to face physical threats as well. Jeremiah needed to be like an iron pillar – strong and unaffected by the external threats – in the midst of his tumultuous career as a Prophet of Doom.

There is a fourth century Iron pillar in Delhi, India, which is around 7-meter-high and 6000 kg heavy. An 18thcentury ruler had ordered its destruction. A canon was fired at close range but it failed to do any damage to the pillar, except for causing a mere dent. Unfortunately, its ricochet destroyed the walls of a nearby mosque. So further attempts to destroy it were called off. This is one real life example of how an iron pillar represented internal strength in times of external threat.

In Jeremiah’s career, he stood strong in midst of severe opposition when his own life was under threat. But eventually he fulfilled the will of God in his ministry. This was mainly because of the inner strength God had granted him. When we are faced with challenges in our lives, God strengthens us. We might look for a miraculous rescue, but God is wanting to strengthen each of us like an iron pillar to wither the storm. Sometimes the challenges we face helps us to understand the God-given strength in us, which we would have never known before. So in times of struggle, apart from praying for a miracle, look deep inside for God’s strength, so that you too can overcome life’s challenges through it. Ask God to make you into an iron pillar so that you will be equipped to face the challenges in your path.

Ancient Wisdom, Modern Dilemmas

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Joshua 19-20; Proverbs 14:28-29

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Joshua 20:9
These were the cities appointed for all the children of Israel and for the stranger who dwelt among them, that whoever killed a person accidentally might flee there, and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood until he stood before the congregation.

The Bible provides for accidents, and mistakes. God looks at our intentions. He knows when we mean it, and when we don’t. This ancient rule shows how practical God’s commands were. Provisions were made where accidental murderers could flee to, until a proper trial was conducted. The avenger of blood here probably refers to a close relative of the murdered victim, who was obliged to mete out justice on behalf of the clan. Yes, there must be justice. But mercy prevails.

In recent days the 377A debate has ignited again. One reason given for scrapping the law is that it is ancient and therefore outdated. The question is, are all things ancient outdated? C.S. Lewis refers to those who think like this as committing “chronological snobbery”. No one would say that the ancients were wrong about the problem with stealing, murder, or disobeying parents. Yet some today argue for the repealing of the sodomy law because our forefathers were wrong about love and sex. So, is homosexuality a perversion today as it was during Sodom and Gomorrah? Well, yes. But should we consider all practicing gays and lesbians today as criminals of the State? Then how about those who commit adultery and abortion? Surely, these too have practiced perversion, as far as God’s design is concerned.

Lord, grant us wisdom for our times. In our zeal for justice and purity, may we not lose sight of mercy and the power of grace.

Love in My Workplace

by-this-all-men-will-know-that-you-are-my-disciples-if-youWhen people in the same office don’t get along, the company or organization suffers, sometimes without even realizing something has gone terribly wrong. As Selwyn Hughes said, “Ultimate reality is not propositional but relational.” In our pursuit of what is best and what is right, we must not sacrifice people or relationships. Jesus said, “The world WILL KNOW you are My disciples if you love one another the way I have loved you.” And the love we have for one another must stem from our deep understanding and experience of God’s divine love – which is unconditional and sacrificial yet righteous and pure. One of the best images of that kind of love is the scene in which Jesus lovingly accepted and forgave the woman caught in adultery, and after that, He said to her, “Go and sin no more”, because Jesus knew the heart of the Father and He knew that those who are sexually immoral (amongst other defiant ungodly people who deliberately continue in sin) will not inherit the kingdom of Christ and of God. When people in the same office get along and love one another, that company or organization will accomplish significance in the eyes of God because love, authentic love, is able to do just that. (Jn.13:34-35; Jn.8:10-11; Eph.5:3-7; Heb.10:26-27)

Seeking counsel

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Joshua 9:3-10:43; Psalm 104:24-35

READ (Verses chosen for meditation)
Joshua 9:14 “So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the LORD.”

The inhabitants of Gibeon were afraid of the military successes of Israel especially of what they have done with Jericho and Ai. So they decided to deceive Israel by pretending to come from afar seeking peace. Joshua and the leaders fell for their deception because they did not “ask counsel from the LORD”. When it was discovered that the people seeking peace were actually their neighbours who feared destruction; the Israelites “murmured against the leaders” (ref v.18). The conflict between the people and their leaders was resolved when Joshua insisted that they should stick to their covenant made with the Gibeonites since it was made in the Name of the LORD (ref v.19). Nonetheless, it was an episode which could have permanently disrupted Joshua’ campaign to conquer the whole of Canaan.

For all of Joshua’s successes, this episode was recorded as an epic failure on his part. I believe this was the author’s deliberate attempt to give to us the real history of what had happened; and not to sugarcoat. This is also one of the major reasons why I have faith in the Bible. It is as authentic as it should be.

We are not told why the Lord spared Joshua from such an epic failure. It could be because he and the leaders recognised their failure in the midst of the congregation (v.16-20), gave reverence to the Lord’s Name and did what was necessary to right the wrong.

In any case, this episode is a strong reminder to me. If my daily living is dependent on the grace of God; then all the more I will need to consult Him on the important matters of life, family and ministry. I confess that there are times when I just rely upon my own wisdom and knowledge. It was much “easier” that way. However, as a consequence, the results were not as ideal as I need them to be. Seeking the Lord’s counsel is important for it is not just a matter of wanting ideal results; but walking the talk that we trust in His wisdom and grace. It is after all, the living out of our faith and whatever knowledge we have of the Word.

Lord, help me to live out Your Word by spending time to seek Your counsel; not just on issues which are challenging, but as and when You like me to. Amen.