Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Be Silent and Listen

 By Alistair Begg

Be Silent and Listen

Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it. But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.

Habakkuk 2:19-20

The world around Habakkuk was in a state of turmoil and appeared to be past the point of recovery. His own heart was deeply unsettled, prompting him to ask God why He was permitting all that was happening (Habakkuk 1:2-3). The prophet longed for something to be done. He longed for answers. He longed for change. And God said to Habakkuk, Remember that I still reign. Remember who I am, and who you are. God was still present “in his holy temple,” sovereignly ruling over all the earth. He had already ordained the means by which His will would be achieved. Recognizing this was a call to humility and silence for Habakkuk. Though he had his questions and complaints, and though he was permitted to raise those with God, most of all he needed to choose to listen to what God said and think about His words.

We see this call to silence throughout Scripture. God says through the psalmist, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). In the New Testament, when Jesus stood before Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration in His heavenly glory and Peter, in his fear, said the first thing that came into his head, this was the divine call the disciples heard: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matthew 17:5, emphasis added).

When times are hard, some of us by character respond as activists: the problem needs to be overcome, and so we throw ourselves into working for a solution. Others of us respond as pessimists: the problem cannot be overcome, so we simply buckle under it or waste time on activities to escape it. In both cases, our response is prompted by an absence of being still before God to listen to and think about His words. We live in a world of constant noise: words, words, words—the babble of the pundits, professors, and politicians. But if we will not listen to God, we will end up relying on an idol that cannot speak (Habakkuk 2:18-19). Idols cannot truly speak about our lives or the circumstances in our world.

When days of difficulty are upon us, Habakkuk reminds us, “Let all the earth keep silence before him.” We do not have all the answers, and neither do the experts. It is not wrong to ask questions or pursue solutions, but it is wrong if this comes at the expense of simply being still and hearing God’s word to listen to God’s voice. Whatever is going on around us, what we most need is to remember that the Lord is in His holy temple, directing history from His throne for the good of His people. That is the foundation upon which we can build a framework for understanding what God is doing in the world around us.

Do you feel as though the nations are raging and the kingdoms tottering? Are the mountains moving and the waves mounting up (Psalm 46:2-3, 6)? Be still, know that God is God, and listen to Him.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Through His Mercy

 By Alistair Begg

Through His Mercy

It depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

Romans 9:16

God is not tied to man-made customs, and He is under no obligation to fit in with our expectations.

Perhaps this is nowhere better seen than in the lives of Esau and Jacob. Esau was the firstborn of Isaac, whose father, Abraham, had been chosen by God to be the bearer of His promises to make Himself a people and bring blessing to His world (Genesis 12:1-3). As the customary heir, Esau typically would have received Isaac’s blessing and inheritance, just as Isaac had inherited these from his father, Abraham.

Instead, God chose Esau’s brother, the younger twin, Jacob, to receive both.

Not only was Jacob younger, but he was also an unpleasant character whose name essentially means “he cheats.” It seems unbelievable that he would be chosen—yet the line of promise was to flow through Jacob, and his descendants became Israel, the people of God.

I sometimes struggle with this concept, wondering why God would select Jacob. It seems unfair! Yet the Bible tells us that although Jacob was an unlikely choice, God determined in advance to fulfill His promises through Jacob instead of Esau: “… though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls” (Romans 9:11). In choosing Jacob, God was fulfilling His purposes from all of eternity. He was also teaching this principle: God does not choose on the basis of merit. None of us deserve to belong to Him.

This is where we sometimes get things turned upside down. We look at Jacob and wonder why he was chosen, when we should really look at God and wonder at His graciousness. He says, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Romans 9:15). And God mercifully calls us, too, though we are undeserving.

When we fully realize our predicament before we became children of God—our rebellion, which is deserving of condemnation, wrath, and death—we can begin to understand the greatness of God’s love and mercy for us. We stop asking why God does not show mercy to some; we start wondering why God does show mercy to any. It becomes a matter of deep gratitude that He has made us His heirs, children of God.

You didn’t do a single thing to earn the King’s favor. You made absolutely no restitution for your rebellion. There is only one basis on which you have been adopted into His family: His mercy, freely given and never deserved. In the words of the hymn writer, “Jesus paid it all.”[1] This truth will keep you humble when days are good, and hopeful when you see your sin; salvation is never about your merit but always and only about His mercy.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

The Heart of the Matter


Just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Hebrews 9:27-28

The ultimate statistic is that one out of one will die. Death is the only certainty of life. As Christians, while we may fear the event, we need not fear the outcome.

We need not fear for this reason: Jesus did not come merely to add to the sum total of our happiness or to offer us a leg up in life or worldly riches, but to save sinners and to rescue us from judgment.

The Bible teaches that God’s judgment and eternal punishment will fall on those whose names are not included in the Book of Life (Revelation 20:11-15). How, then, can we be sure that our names will be found in its pages? There is only one way: by believing in the Lord Jesus. We must look to Christ, who will freely pardon and justify those who come to Him in repentance and faith. And to come to Jesus is about more than mere intellectual assent, necessary though that is. It is not enough to be cerebrally tuned in to Christian doctrine. We must recognize our failure to treat God properly. We have denied and defied Him. We must surrender our lives to His loving authority and rely entirely on what Christ accomplished on the cross that we might find acceptance before God.

The heart of the matter is not whether we believe certain facts about Jesus or the Bible, or whether we’ve cleaned up our lifestyle. The question is, have we ever gotten so spiritually thirsty that we have said, “Lord Jesus Christ, give me Your living water so I may thirst no more”?

But what if Jesus turns us away? What if we’re not supposed to be in the Book of Life? Jesus addressed this fear Himself with a promise, saying, “Whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37).

Do you realize the kindness of God’s invitation to you? Have you heard God’s call to take refuge in Jesus? Do you hear it afresh each day and take refuge in the shadow of His wings (Psalm 57:1)? May we say with the hymn writer:

I came to Jesus as I was, 
Weary and worn and sad; 
I found in Him a resting place, 
And He has made me glad.[1]

For if we have taken refuge in the Son, we can know with certainty that He has borne our sins in His own death, and that when He returns, we will face not a fearful condemnation but a glorious welcome. And then we can hear the truth that “it is appointed for man to die” and find our hearts still at rest.

Monday, November 14, 2022


Overflowing With Thankfulness

Walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

Colossians 2:6-7

If we walk around with a full glass and someone bumps into us unexpectedly, whatever is inside it will come out. The same principle also applies to our character: if we are filled with bitterness, ingratitude, envy, or jealousy, then it won’t take much of a “bump” for what is within us to overflow.

As Paul wrote to the Colossian Christians, he encouraged them instead to be marked by a grateful heart—a key characteristic of the Christian life. The word Paul uses to describe this thankfulness, “abounding,” comes from a fairly common Greek word, perisseuo. In other places in Scripture and in other English translations, its root is translated as “overflowing.” Paul’s meaning is clear: when people “bumped into” these believers, the overspill, he instructed, was to be thankfulness.

When men and women have not been transformed by Christ, ingratitude—along with its resulting bitterness, complaining, anger, and malice—often marks their lives. In Christ, however, believers trade ingratitude for thanksgiving, bitterness for joy, and anger for peace. Having heard of God’s grace in all its truth and having turned to Him in repentance and faith, we have our sins forgiven. We have the Spirit dwelling in us. We have a new family in the church of God. We have eternal life ahead of us. We have access to the heavenly throne room in prayer. In other words, we have much to be grateful for. Thankfulness becomes the song, the overflow, of the Christian.

This kind of gratitude has significant effects. It turns our gaze to God and away from ourselves and our circumstances. It defends us against the devil’s whisper, which incites us to despair and to distrust what God has said. It also protects us from pride, eradicating from our vocabulary phrases like “I deserve more than this” or “I don’t deserve this.” And it allows us to rest in the knowledge that God works out His loving purpose not only in pleasant and encouraging experiences but also in unsettling and painful ones. It is only by grace that we learn to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, emphasis added).

The antidote to thanklessness is found only in union with Christ. Do you see in yourself any lingering ingratitude over what God has chosen not to give you? Bring it to the foot of the cross, seek Christ’s forgiveness, and ask for His help to see all that you have been freely given in His gospel. Set aside a time each day to write down and recount to yourself the blessings from God you have received. Then you will truly overflow with thankfulness.

                                                           By Aliastai Begg