Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament poetic book of the Psalms which is a series of prayers, petition and praise wrapped up and contained within psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. More specifically, today’s passage is found in chapters thirty-seven through forty-two of this Old Testament book. TRUST IN THE LORD, AND DO GOOD; SO SHALT THOU DWELL IN THE LAND, AND VERILY THOU SHALT BE FED! DELIGHT THYSELF ALSO IN THE LORD; AND HE SHALL GIVE THEE THE DESIRES OF THINE HEART! COMMIT THY WAY UNTO THE LORD; TRUST ALSO IN HIM; AND HE SHALL BRING IT TO PASS. AND HE SHALL BRING FORTH THY RIGHTEOUSNESS AS THE LIGHT, AND THY JUDGMENT AS THE NOONDAY! REST IN THE LORD, AND WAIT PATIENTLY FOR HIM! FRET NOT THYSELF BECAUSE OF HIM WHO PROSPERETH IN HIS WAY, BECAUSE OF THE MAN WHO BRINGETH WICKED DEVICES TO PASS! CEASE FROM ANGER, AND FORSAKE WRATH: FRET NOT THYSELF IN ANY WISE TO DO EVIL! THOSE THAT WAIT UPON THE LORD, THEY SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH! THE MEEK SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH; AND SHALL DELIGHT THEMSELVES IN THE ABUNDANCE OF PEACE! A LITTLE THAT A RIGHTEOUS MAN HATH IS BETTER THAN THE RICHES OF MANY WICKED! THE LORD KNOWETH THE DAYS OF THE UPRIGHT: AND THEIR INHERITANCE SHALL BE FOREVER! THEY SHALL NOT BE ASHAMED IN THE EVIL TIME: AND IN THE DAYS OF FAMINE THEY SHALL BE SATISFIED! FOR SUCH AS BE BLESSED OF HIM SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH! THE STEPS OF A GOOD MAN ARE ORDERED BY THE LORD: AND HE DELIGHTETH IN HIS WAY! THOU HE FALL, HE SHALL NOT BE UTTERLY CAST DOWN: FOR THE LORD UPHOLDETH HIM WITH HIS HAND! I HAVE BEEN YOUNG, AND NOW AM OLD; YET I HAVE NOT SEEN THE RIGHTEOUS FORSAKEN, NOR HIS SEED BEGGING BREAD! DEPART FROM EVIL, AND DO GOOD; AND DWELL FOR EVERMORE! THE RIGHTEOUS SHALL INHERIT THE LAND, AND DWELL THEREIN FOR EVER! THE MOUTH OF THE RIGHTEOUS SPEAKETH WISDOM, AND HIS TONGUE TALKETH OF JUDGMENT! THE LAW OF HIS GOD IS IN HIS HEART; NONE OF HIS STEPS SHALL SLIDE! THE LORD WILL NOT LEAVE HIM IN HIS HAND, NOR CONDEMN HIM WHEN HE IS JUDGED! WAIT ON THE LORD, AND KEEP HIS WAY, AND HE SHALL EXALT THEE TO INHERIT THE LAND! MARK THE PERFECT MAN, AND BEHOLD THE UPRIGHT: FOR THE END OF THAT MAN IS PEACE! THE SALVATION OF THE RIGHTEOUS IS OF THE LORD: HE IS THEIR STRENGTH IN THE TIME OF TROUBLE! THE LORD SHALL HELP THEM, AND DELIVER THEM: HE SHALL DELIVER THEM FROM THE WICKED, AND SAVE THEM, BECAUSE THEY TRUST IN HIM!
BUT I, AS A DEAF MAN, HEARD NOT; AND I WAS AS A DUMB MAN THAT OPENETH NOT HIS MOUTH! THUS I WAS AS A MAN THAT HEARETH NOT, AND IN WHOSE MOUTH ARE NO REPROOFS! FOR IN THEE, O LORD, DO I HOPE: THOU WILT HEAR, O LORD MY GOD! FOR I SAID, HEAR ME, LEST OTHERWISE THEY SHOULD REJOICE OVER ME: WHEN MY FOOT SLIPPETH, THEY MAGNIFY THEMSELVES AGAINST ME! FOR I AM READY TO HALT, AND MY SORROW IS CONTINUALLY BEFORE ME! FOR I WILL DECLARE MINE INIQUITY; I WILL BE SORRY FOR MY SIN!
I SAID, I WILL TAKE HEED TO MY WAYS, THAT I SIN NOT WITH. MY TONGUE; I WILL KEEP M Y MOUTH WITH A BRIDLE, WHILE THE WICKED IS BEFORE ME! I WAS DUMB WITH SILENCE, I HELD MY PEACE, EVEN FROM GOOD; AND MY SORROW WAS STIRRED! MY HEART WAS HOT WITHIN ME, WHILE I WAS MUSING THE FIRE BURNED: THEN SPAKE I WITH MY TONGUE! LORD, MAKE ME TO KNOW MINE END, AND THE MEASURE OF MY DAYS, WHAT IT IS; THAT I MAY KNOW HOW FRAIL I AM! BEHOLD, THOU HAST MADE MY DAYS AS AN HANDBREADTH; AND MINE AGE IS AS NOTHING BEFORE THEE: VERILY EVERY MAN AT HIS BEST STATE IS ALTOGETHER VANITY! AND NOW, LORD, WHAT WAIT I FOR? MY HOPE IS IN THEE! DELIVER ME FROM ALL MY TRANSGRESSIONS: MAKE ME NOT THE REPROACH OF THE FOOLISH! I WAS DUMB, I OPENED NOT MY MOUTH; BECAUSE THOU DIDST IT! REMOVE THY STROKE AWAY FROM ME: I AM CONSUMED BY THE BLOW OF THINE HAND! WHEN THOU WITH THE REBUKES DOST CORRECT MAN FOR INIQUITY, THOU MAKEST HIS BEAUTY TO CONSUME AWAY LIKE A MOTH: SURELY EVERY MAN IS VANITY! HEAR MY PRAYER, O LORD, AND GIVE EAR TO MY CRY; HOLD NOT THY PEACE AT MY TEARS: FOR I AM AS A STRANGER WITH THEE, AND A SOJOURNER, AS ALL MY FATHERS WERE! O SPARE ME, THAT I MAY RECOVER STRENGTH, BEFORE I GO HENCE, AND BE NO MORE!
I WAITED PATIENTLY FOR THE LORD; AND HE INCLINED UNTO ME, AND HEARD MY CRY! HE BROUGHT ME UP ALSO OUT OF AN HORRIBLE PIT, OUT OF THE MIRY CLAY, AND SET MY FEET UPON A ROCK, AND ESTABLISHED MY GOINGS! AND HATH PUT A NEW SONG IN MY MOUTH, EVEN PRAISE UNTO OUR GOD! MANY SHAL SEE IT, AND FEAR, AND SHALL TRUST IN THE LORD! BLESSED IS THAT MAN THAT MAKETH THE LORD HIS TRUST, AND RESPECTETH NOT THE PROUD, NOR SUCH AS TURN ASIDE TO LIES! MANY, O LORD MY GOD, ARE THY WONDERFUL WORKS WHICH THOU HAST DONE, AND THY THOUGHTS WHICH ARE TO US-WARD! THEY CANNOT BE RECKONED UP IN ORDER UNTO THEE: IF I WOULD DECLARE AND SPEAK OF THEM, THEY ARE MORE THAN CAN BE NUMBERED! SACRIFICE AND OFFERING THOU DIDST NOT DESIRE; MINE EARS THOU HAST OPENED: BURNT OFFERING AND SIN OFFERING THOU HAST NOT REQUIRED! I DELIGHT TO DO THY WILL, O MY GOD: YEA, THY LAW IS WITHIN MY HEART! I PREACH PREACHED RIGHTEOUSNESS IN THE GREAT CONGREGATION: LO, I HAVE NOT REFRAINED MY LIPS, O LORD THOU KNOWEST! I HAVE NOT HID THY RIGHTEOUSNESS WITHIN MY HEART; I HAVE DELCARED THY FAITHFULNESS AND THY SALVATION: I HAVE NOT CONCEALED THY LOVINGKINDNESS AND THY TRUTH FROM THE GREAT CONGREGATION! FOR INNUMERABLE EVILS HAVE COMPASSED ME ABOUT: MINE INIQUITIES HAVE TAKEN HOLD UPON ME, SO THAT I AM NOT ABLE TO LOOK UP; THEY ARE MORE THAN THE HAIRS OF MINE HEAD: THEREFORE MY HEART FAILETH ME! BE PLEASED, O LORD, TO DELIVER ME: O LORD, MAKE HASTE TO HELP ME!
BLESSED IS HE THAT CONSIDERETH THE POOR: THE LORD WILL ELIVER HIM IN TIME OF TROUBLE. THE LORD WILL DELIVER HIM IN TIME OF TROUBLE. THE LORD WILL PRESERVE HIM, AND KEEP HIM ALIVE; AND HE SHALL BE BLESSED UPON THE EARTH: AND THOU WILT NOT DELIVER HIM UNTO THE WILL OF HIS ENEMIES! I SAID, LORD, BE MERCIFUL UNTO ME: HEAL MY SOUL; FOR I HAVE SINNED AGAINST THEE. MINE ENEMIES SPEAK EVIL OF ME, WHEN SHALL HE DIE, AND HIS NAME PERISH? YEAH, MINE OWN FAMILIAR FRIEND, IN WHOM I TRUSTED, WHICH DID EAT OF MY B READ, HATH LIFTED UP HIS HEEL AGAINST ME!
AS THE HART PANTETH AFTER THE WATER BROOKS, SO PANTETH MY SOUL AFTER THEE, O GOD! MY SOUL THIRSTETH FOR GOD, FOR THE LIVING GOD: WHEN SHALL I COME AND APPEAR BEFORE GOD? MY TARS HAVE BEEN MY MEAT DAY AND NIGHT, WHILE THEY CONTINUALLY SAY UNTO ME, WHERE IS THY GOD? WHEN I REMEMBER THESE THINGS, I POUR OUT MY SOUL IN ME: FOR I HAD GONE WITH THE MULTITUDE, I WENT WITH THEM TO THE HOUSE OF GOD, WITH THE VOICE OF JOY AND PRAISE, WITH A MULTITUDE THAT KEPT HOLY DAY! WHY ART THOU CAST DOWN, O MY SOUL? AND WHY ART THOU DISQUIETED IN ME? HOPE THOU IN GOD: FOR I SHALL YET PRAISE HIM FOR THE HELP OF HIS COUNTENANCE! DEEP CALLETH UNTO DEEP AT THE NOISE OF THY WATERSPOUTS: ALL THY WAVES AND THY BILLOWS ARE GONE OVER ME! YET THE LORD WILL COMMAND HIS LOVINGKINDESS IN THE DAYTIME, AND IN THE NIGHT HIS SONG SHALL BE WITH ME, AND MY PRAYER UNTO THE GOD OF MY LIFE! I WILL SAY UNTO GOD MY ROCK, WHY HAST THOU FORGOTEEN ME? WHY GO I MOURNING BECAUSE OF THE OPPRESSION OF THE ENEMY? WHY ART THOU CAST DOWN, O MY SOUL? AND WHY ART THOU DISQUIETED WITHIN ME? HOPE THOU IN GOD: FOR I SHALL YET PRAISE HIM, WHO IS THE HEALTH OF MY COUNTENANCE, AND MY GOD!
FRET NOT THYSELF! As you begin reading the words which are written and contained within this particular passage of Scripture—especially as you begin reading the words which are written and recorded in the thirty-seventh chapter—you will find yourself being directly and immediately confronted with the instruction to fret not yourself. It’s actually quite interesting to read this particular psalm from David as upon reading it you will notice that it is essentially a comparison and contrast between the righteous and godly and the wicked and the ungodly. The more you read the words which are written and found within this chapter the more you will be brought face to face with the fact that there is this strong disparity and strong dichotomy that exists within the earth between the righteous and the unrighteous, between the godly and the ungodly, between the wicked and the upright. Here within this particular portion of Scripture we are confronted with the tremendous reality of what this dichotomy does in fact look like within our world and upon the earth, as in the opening verse of the psalm we find David instructing his audience not to fret themselves because of evildoers, nor be envious against the workers of iniquity. The words which we find written within this passage of Scripture are actually quite astounding and unique—particularly when you think about them in light of that which is written and a contained within a later chapter found within the book of the Psalms. As you read the words which are found within the book of Psalms you will come to another chapter where one of the psalmists found themselves looking upon what appeared to be the ease and the comfort of the unrighteous, the ungodly and the wicked. There is a specific psalm found within this Old Testament book of Psalms that brings us face to face with the struggle that sometimes confronts the heart and soul of a man or woman of God—particularly and especially when they look upon the wicked and perceive the wicked as being care free and without a single worry in the world. If you turn and direct your attention to the words which were written and recorded by Asaph in the seventy-second chapter of the book of the Psalms you will be brought face to face with the struggle and conflict he found himself in when he considered his own righteousness in light of the wickedness of the ungodly, and the seeming lack of care and concern the wicked have in this life. Consider if you will the words which are written and recorded within this particular psalm beginning with the first and opening verse of the chapter:
“Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart. But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men. Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment. Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more Ethan heart could wish. They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily. They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth. Therefore his people return hither: and the waters of a full cup are wrung out to them. And they say, How doth God know? And is there knowledge in the most High? Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches. Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning. If I say, I will speak thus; Behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children. When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one awaketh; so, O LORD, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image. Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins. So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee. Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee. But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the LORD God, that I may declare all thy works” (Psalm 72:1-28).
Perhaps one of the single greatest questions the righteous might very well find themselves asking in this life is what reward do they have for their righteousness, and what blessedness and blessing do they have for walking in uprightness before and in the sight of the living God. One of the greatest struggles the righteous might very well find themselves facing and experiencing within this life is a conflict and struggle within their heart and soul when they consider and compare their lives versus the lives of the wicked, the lives of the ungodly, and the lives of those who choose not to walk in righteousness and uprightness of heart. Within the thirty-seventh chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms, as well as in the seventy-second chapter of the same Old Testament book we find David and Asaph dealing with the apparent comfort and ease of the wicked. Within both of these psalms we find David and Asaph wrestling with the tremendous level of freedom from care and concern within this life, as they looked upon the wicked and observed that they seem to walk about with a certain arrogance, a certain confidence, a certain pride, and yes, even a certain boasting within their heart and soul. Have you ever found yourself looking at those around you and watched as others seem to have not a care in this life, and seem to be completely and absolutely free from all manner of burden? Have you ever found yourself considering the ungodly and the wicked and even comparing yourself to them? Moreover, have you ever found yourself growing entirely and altogether envious of the wicked when you observe how they seem to be able to live their lives completely and utterly free from pain and sorrow? Of course we know and understand that the LORD makes His sun to shine, and causes His rain to fall upon both wicked and the righteous alike, however, we have found ourselves looking upon the wicked in this life and how completely at ease, at peace, and how care and worry free they seem to be. Would it shock and surprise you to think and consider that what you are looking at, and what you are beholding is nothing more than smoke and mirrors, and is nothing more than a façade and mirage before your eyes? Have you ever thought that what you are observing among the wicked—or rather, what you think you are observing among the wicked—is nothing more than false evidence appearing real? Oh you might very well be looking upon the wicked and ungodly in this world, and they might very well live luxuriously, however, that which you are observing is truthfully nothing more than a false depiction of what true peace does in fact look like.
As you read the words which are written and recorded within the thirty-seventh chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms you will find yourself being confronted with David’s words to not fret yourselves because of evildoers, nor be envious against the workers of iniquity. If you continue reading you will find David goes on to emphatically declare that evildoers and workers of iniquity will soon be cut down like the grass, and will wither as the green herb. The entire thirty-seventh chapter of the book of Psalms is a strong consideration, comparison and contrast between the righteous and the wicked, and that which truly characterizes the two. In fact, in the opening chapter of this book we find the psalmist describing those individuals as being blessed who do not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, those who do not stand in the way of sinners, and those who do not sit in the seat of the scornful. The psalmist would go on to describe this same one who carefully guards the company and conversation they keep as one who delights in the Law of the LORD, and as one who meditates in the law both day and night. The psalmist further expounds and explains that this righteous one will be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, which bring forth fruit in season, and whose leaf shall not wither. Furthermore, the psalmist goes on to describe how whatever this righteous one does shall prosper in this life. Pay close and careful attention to the words which are found immediately after, for this writer would go forth to declare that the ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Moreover, the ungodly shall not and will not stand in the judgment, nor shall sinners stand in the congregation of the righteous. The psalmist concludes this psalm by declaring that the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish. Please don’t miss and lose sight of the words which are written and recorded in the opening chapter of the book of the Psalms, for it brings us face to face with the strong contrast between the righteous and the wicked, and the choices and decisions the righteous make to preserve and protect their righteousness before the LORD Almighty. From and at the very outset of the Old Testament book of the Psalms we find this strong disparity between the righteous and the wicked, and we are brought face to face with the wonderful reality concerning the righteous and how they not only guard the company, the congregation and the conversation they keep, but they also delight and meditate upon the law of the LORD both night and day.
Would it shock and surprise you to think about the fact that one of the greatest temptations we face within this life is that of comparison? Would it surprise you to think about and consider the fact that one of the most dangerous traps we as the people of God can fall into is allowing ourselves to compare what we have and who we are to that of others? There is not a doubt in my mind that one of the greatest temptations that faces us as the people of God is looking upon others—regardless of whether they are righteous or wicked—and comparing ourselves to them. Asaph found himself first considering his own righteousness in the sight of the LORD his God, but then he found himself considering the ungodly and the wicked, and comparing himself to them. In fact, Asaph would even go so far as to say that at one point in time he even envied the ungodly and the wicked because of their apparent life of ease, comfort, peace, rest and security. Oh, there is not a doubt in my mind that comparison is one of the greatest temptations and dangers within our hearts and minds as we allow ourselves to get caught up in looking at who others are and what others have and perhaps grow envious and covetous of that which they have. Have you ever found yourself in this particular place? Have you ever found yourself in the place where you have looked at the lives of others and have considered their lives in direct contrast to the life you have, and as a result have found yourself comparing your life to theirs? In all reality, I would dare say that comparison has always and will always directly lead to covetousness, for the two are intrinsically linked. We cannot separate comparison from covetousness, for the two are inextricably linked and bound to each other. Do you remember the narrative of Simon also called Peter by the sea after Jesus was raised from the dead and appeared unto the disciples? Do you remember the account of his looking at the beloved disciple whom Jesus loved and asking what about him? If you turn and direct your attention to the twenty-first and final chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ written by the apostle John you will not only find yourself coming face to face with Jesus’ confrontation of Peter’s love, commitment and devotion to Him, but also directly on the heels of this confronting Simon Peter’s concern for the apostle John. Consider if you will the following words which are written and recorded in this particular chapter beginning with the fourteenth verse of the chapter:
“This is now the third time that Jesus shewed Himself to His disciples, after that He was risen from the dead. So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because He had said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee, Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when He had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. Then Peter turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also l earned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” (John 21:15-23).
There is something unique and powerful found within this particular narrative, for you will find that when Simon Peter asked Jesus concerning the disciples whom Jesus loved, He heard the Master not only ask him a very pointed question, but also heard the Master give him a very specific command. Three times Jesus asked Simon Peter if he loved him, while the first time He asked him of his love for Him He asked if he loved him more than these. Three times Jesus asked Simon Peter if he loved him, and each time Jesus asked him if he loved him, Simon Peter responded by declaring unto Jesus that He knew he loved him. With each response Simon Peter gave unto Jesus he would be instructed to feed His lambs, and feed his sheep. Simon Peter would then receive a personal revelation—not only of the type of death he would die, but also that his death would indeed give glory unto God. It’s interesting and worth noting that immediately after speaking unto Simon Peter of the type of death he would die, Jesus immediately instructed and commanded him to follow Him. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, for not only was Jesus’ command to follow Him reminiscent of His first command to follow Him, but Jesus’ command was also directly linked to denying himself, taking up his cross, and even dying upon that cross. What’s more, is that Jesus would issue a second command unto Simon Peter to follow him, and this second command was not only a command to follow Him, but to follow Him without comparing himself to others, and without worrying about what others may or may not do in this life. It is absolutely remarkable and astounding to think about and consider that three times Jesus asked Simon Peter if he loved him, and three times He instructed him to feed His sheep, while twice He was instructed and invited to follow Jesus. THERE COMES A SECOND! THERE COMES A SECOND INVITATION TO FOLLOW! THERE COMES A THIRD! THERE COMES A THIRD INVITATION TO FOLLOW THE MASTER! I invite you to consider the words which are written and recorded within the gospel narratives—not only concerning the original and initial invitation of Simon Peter to follow Jesus, but also the direct link between the cross and following Jesus:
“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed Him” (Matthew 4:17-22).
“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will ave his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then shall He reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in His kingdom” (Matthew 16:21-28).
“And when He had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall. Ave it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:34-38).
“Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me” (Mark 10:21).
“The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day. And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will ave his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when He shall come in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels. But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:22-27).
When and as you read the words which are written and recorded within each of these passages you will not only encounter the very first invitation Jesus gave to Simon Peter to follow Him, but you will also find that directly and intrinsically linked to that invitation is a second part of the invitation—one which Jesus didn’t immediately reveal unto His disciples. In the fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find Jesus inviting Simon Peter and his brother Andrew to follow Him, and yet it wouldn’t be until the sixteenth chapter while they were in Caeseara Philippi that He would again invite them to follow Him—and not only follow Him, but also deny themselves and take up their cross. Moreover, Jesus would go on to declare that anyone and whoever did not and was not willing to take up their cross and follow Him was not worthy of Him. This is truly unique and astonishing when you take the time to consider what transpired and what unfolded within Caeseara Philippi, for within this particular region you will find Jesus asking the disciples who men said that He the Son of man was. The disciples proceeded to present Him with the opinions and views of others, and what others were saying concerning and about Him. Once Jesus had heard the opinions of others, Jesus sought to transition beyond opinions of others, to who and what the disciples themselves believed Jesus the Son of man to be. The apostle Peter was the first—perhaps the only one to speak up, and emphatically declared that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. In response to Simon Peter’s response Jesus would go on to declare how flesh and blood did not reveal this unto him, but His Father who was in heaven. Moreover, Jesus would go on to change Simon’s name to Peter, and would speak to him about His church, the futility of the gates of hell, and the keys of the kingdom. Directly following this you will find Jesus beginning to show and reveal unto the disciples that He must needs go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. When Simon Peter heard the words which Jesus spoke He brought Him aside privately and began to rebuke Him for speaking such words—words to which Jesus responded by speaking directly unto Simon, saying, “Get thee behind me Satan: thou art an offense unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” It would be following this encounter between Simon Peter and the Lord that He would then declare unto them that if any many would come after Him, they must deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow him. It’s actually quite remarkable to think about the fact that Jesus would originally invite Simon Peter to follow Him as he and his brother were mending their nets at the Sea of Galilee, then He would go on to explain that following Him would mean and would include denying themselves and taking up their cross.
As you come to the twenty-first and final chapter of the New Testament gospel written by John you will find Jesus—directly on the heels of inviting Peter to feed His sheep—to follow Him. What makes this absolutely captivating is when you think about and consider that this second and third invitation were not only intended to remind Simon Peter of the original invitation to follow Him three and a half years earlier, but it was also intended to remind Simon Peter of the link between following Jesus and coming after Him, denying themselves, and taking up their cross. Here, however, Jesus would take the command beyond merely following Him, for Jesus would declare unto Simon Peter the type of death he would die, which would indeed glorify the living God. This is something that is worth taking a look at, for Jesus’ second and third invitation to follow Simon Peter were also linked to his considering the apostle John whom Jesus loved, and what would become and what would be required of him. In simple terms, that which Jesus spoke unto Simon Peter was to spend his time and devote his days focusing on himself, and following Him closely. What makes the second and third invitation of Jesus to follow Him so intriguing is the fact that He was speaking these words after He had died on the cross, after He had been buried in the earth, after He had been raised from death to life, and before He would ascend unto the right hand of the Father. Pause for a moment and consider the fact that when Jesus invited, instructed and commanded Simon Peter to follow Him, He was inviting Him to do so three and a half years after His original invitation, and just before His ascension. BETWEEN THE INVITATION AND THE ASCENSION! We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this particular truth, for it is true Jesus would initially and originally invite Simon and his brother Andrew to follow Him, however, this was now three and a half years later after Simon had walked on water, after Simon had professed Jesus as the Christ and Son of the living God, after Peter heard the words “Get thee behind me Satan,” and after Simon Peter had denied Jesus three times. What’s more, is that this second and third invitation given to Simon Peter to follow Jesus would be between resurrection and the ascension of Jesus, as Jesus not only sought to remind him of that original invitation, but also sought to remind Him of the tremendous cost that would be associated with following Him. Jesus would once more link the command to follow Him to the cross, with the exception that this time Simon Peter would be taken beyond merely taking up His cross, to actually dying upon the cross.
It is necessary that we pay close attention to these two invitations which were given and spoken unto Simon Peter, for what we find here is Jesus’ command to feed His sheep and to follow Him, and the direct link and connection of both to Simon loving Him—and not only loving Him, but loving Him more than these. How absolutely spectacular and wonderful it is to think about and consider the fact that Jesus would again invite Simon Peter to follow Him, and this time Simon would follow Him after He had been crucified, after He had been buried, and after He had been raised from death to life. What’s more, is that this invitation to follow Jesus would be in the days after His ascension as the apostle Peter would not only walk with, but also follow Jesus the Christ. What must be realized and recognized concerning the invitation to follow Jesus the Christ is that the third invitation and command to follow Jesus carried with it something Simon Peter did not expect—namely, the revelation that he was responsible for his own personal relationship with Jesus the Christ. Jesus’ third and final invitation to Simon Peter to follow Him would come with a command to not concern himself with what the Lord would do, require of, or ask another, nor to consider or compare himself to that disciple. What Jesus was essentially instructing Simon Peter to do was devote his strength, his time, his effort and his energy in following Him, and to walk with Him as closely as possible. Before Jesus ascended unto the right hand of His Father in heaven He would not only instruct Simon Peter to feed His sheep, but also to follow Him—twin realities which each and every disciple who desires to walk with, follow, and come after Christ must recognize and understand. Within this interaction between Simon and the Lord Jesus not only addressed his love for Him, but also His need to follow Him. It is something worth noting and pointing out when reading these words how Jesus’ invitation to Simon Peter to walk with and follow Him would not only remind Him of the original invitation to follow Him, would not only be linked to the cross once more, but would also be directly linked to Simon’s care and attention striving to ensure that he was walking with and following Jesus.
Jesus’ invitation to Simon Peter to follow Him would be an invitation beyond simply walking with and following Him, but would be an invitation to intimacy, an invitation to responsibility, and an invitation to commitment and devotion to Him. What’s more, is that Simon Peter must needs follow Jesus without worrying about what would become of another, nor what was asked and/or required of another. Simon Peter’s invitation to follow Jesus would be wonderfully and powerfully linked to his commitment to walk with Jesus personally, and to follow Him intimately. When Simon asked what would become of the disciple whom Jesus loved, he was immediately instructed by Jesus to not worry about or focus on what would be required and asked of that disciples, nor even what would become of that disciple. Simon Peter had one responsibility, and one responsibility alone—namely, to walk with and follow Jesus. It is this present reality which brings me back to the words which we find within the thirty-seventh chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms, for within this book we find David providing what would essentially be a blueprint of what walking with the LORD would indeed look like and entail. As you read the words which are written and recorded within this Old Testament book you will encounter and come face to face with invitations and instruction given to those who would read the words themselves, as well as promises and blessings that were promised to the righteous—to those who would commit themselves and their way completely and fully unto the LORD. There is within the thirty-seventh chapter of the book of Psalms some truly remarkable and incredible promises and blessings for the righteous who choose to commit their way fully and completely to the LORD their God. There is within this particular chapter a wonderful sense of confidence and trust that can be found within the heart and soul of that man or woman who is not only righteous, but also who trusts fully and completely in the LORD their God, and who truly walks with and before Him. The words which are written and recorded within this particular psalm have long been words which many a saint and many a follower of Jesus have found to be a powerful solace and source of encouragement within their lives as they walk with and before the LORD in righteousness, in character and integrity. Consider if you will the various promises and words which are spoken of within this passage concerning the righteous, and what their lives should indeed and should in fact look like in this life:
“Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed”
“Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart”
“Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass”
“and he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday”
“Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him: Frey not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass:
“Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil”
“But those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth”
“But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace”
“A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked”
“But the LORD upholdeth the righteous”
“The LORD knoweth the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be for ever. They shall not be ashamed in the evil time: and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied”
“But the righteous sheweth mercy, and giveth. For such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth; and they that be cursed of him shall be cut off”
“The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Thou he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand”
“I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging read. He is ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed”
“Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell for evermore. For the LORD loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints”
“The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever”
“the mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment”
“The law of God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide”
“The LORD will not leave him in his hand, nor condemn him when he is judged”
“Wait on the LORD, and keep his way, and He shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it”
“Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace”
“But the salvation of the righteous is of the LORD: He is their strength in the time of trouble”
“And the LORD shall help them, and deliver them: He shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in Him”
As I read the words which are written and recorded in the thirty-seventh chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms I can’t help but encounter and come face to face with the fact that while David begins and opens the psalm with instruction not to fret oneself because of evildoers, he goes on in the third verse to give them to antidote and solution to fretting within one’s soul—namely, “Trust in the LORD.” This reality would be echoed by his son Solomon who in the third chapter of the book of the Proverbs would write the following words: “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones” (Proverbs 3:5-8). Upon reading the words which are written and recorded in the thirty-seventh chapter of the book of the Psalms you will find David speaking directly to the temptation to fret and to make oneself anxious before and in the sight of the LORD, and yet David directs the attention and focus of his attention away from fretting and to trusting fully and completely in the LORD. For David, the opposite of fretting was trusting in the LORD, and for the apostle Paul this would mean being anxious for nothing, but in prayer and supplication for everything. Consider the words which the apostle Paul would write unto the Philippian saints which are found in the fourth chapter of the epistle: “Rejoice in the LORD always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The LORD is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:4-9). I find it absolutely incredible that even in the fifth and final chapter of the first epistle which the apostle Peter wrote unto the saints which were scattered abroad, we find the following words: “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:6-11).
If you read and consider the words which are written and recorded in the thirty-seventh chapter of the book of the Psalms you will find that David instructs and invites his audience to trust in the LORD, and do good, and then promises them that if they do these two things they will dwell in the land, and would be fed. What’s more, is that David would go on to instruct his readers and audience to delight themselves also in the LORD, and He would give them the desires of their heart. David wrote unto his audience inviting them to commit their way unto the LORD, to trust also in Him, and He would bring it to pass. In the seventh verse of this chapter David goes on to invite them to rest in the LORD, and to wait patiently for him, while once more instructing and inviting them to fret not himself because of him who prospers in his way, and/or because of the man who brings wicked devices to pass. TRUST! DELIGHT! COMMIT! REST! WAIT! Do you truly understand the tremendous place of peace this truly is for that individual who is able to do these things—and not only do these things, but also do these things unreservedly and without even thinking twice about them. Would it shock and surprise you to think about and consider the fact that there is a place in God where you can not only trust Him completely and fully, but you can also delight yourself completely and totally. Permit me to ask you a question, and that question is whether or not you are willing to lay down all your cares, lay down all your anxieties, lay down all your burdens, lay down the weight(s) you have carried for far too long in order that you might abide in this place of peace before and in the LORD? Are you willing to trust in the LORD and delight yourself completely and utterly in Him? I fully recognize that David speaks of and declares that those who delight themselves in the LORD will be given the desires of their heart, however, I have long believed that this declaration and promise of David that the LORD would give the desires of one’s heart to be something entirely different than what we expected. More often than not we read a verse like this and our hearts and minds immediately go to the place of the LORD giving us exactly what we want, and giving us exactly what we think and feel we need. Very rarely, however, do we think about this verse in light of the fact that if we delight ourselves in the LORD He will give us, or inspire the desires of our heart. Tell me dear brother, tell me dear sister—are the desires within your heart inspired by the LORD, or are the desires within your own of your own imagination, your own lusts, your own pleasures, and your own thoughts? What would that life look like for that man or that woman whose desires were divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit and by the presence of the living God? What would that prayer life look like if the desires that were spoken and voiced before the throne of God were divinely inspired by the LORD—and even that as a direct result of the individual delighting themselves in the LORD their God?
I have to admit that there is a tremendous challenge that surrounds the invitation David presents to the readers of this particular psalm, for although there is a place in God where we trust Him fully and completely, and although there is a place where we commit our way unto the LORD, rest in Him, and wait patiently for Him—it is oftentimes easier said than done. I know that I myself have not yet found that place of rest and peace in God which comes only a result of truly, completely and fully trusting in Him. What’s more, is that I would dare say that we cannot delight ourselves in the LORD if we do not trust Him. How can you delight yourself in someone you do not trust? What’s more, is how can you commit your way unto the LORD if you do not, and perhaps cannot trust Him? How can you rest in the LORD if you cannot and do not trust Him? How can you wait patiently for someone who you have absolutely no trust in? I am absolutely and completely convinced that trust is at the very heart and foundation of what is found within this passage—not only the foundation of the life which we find in the LORD, but also in how we interact with the LORD. There are a number of blessings and promises found within this passage of Scripture that deal specifically with our trusting in the LORD, and we must recognize and understand that trust is the very foundation upon which everything in this chapter hinges upon. It would be easy to read the words found within this chapter and consider the promises alone, however, the promises themselves are not isolated and independent realities automatically given and provided to those who read these words. The LORD promises that men and women will well in the land and will be bed, however, immediately before David speaks of and promises these words He invites and instructs his audience to trust in the LORD, and to do good. David spoke of the promise of righteousness being brought forth as the light, and he spoke of judgment being brought forth as the noonday, however, immediately before this he invited and instructed his audience to commit their way unto the LORD, and to trust also in Him. With this being said, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that trusting in the LORD is even the very foundation of our waiting patiently for Him, for we cannot wait for, nor can we wait upon someone we do not trust in. What’s more, is that within this very passage David directly linked trusting in the LORD and delighting in the LORD to the desires of our heart, and I am absolutely and completely convinced that trust is the foundation of delight, and delight facilitates and fosters desires within our heart which is inspired by the Holy Spirit, and which is inspired by the living God. The question I must ask is how can you trust a desire within your heart that has not originated from the LORD, and has not originated from a place of delighting in the LORD. How can you trust the desires within your heart if your heart is not and has not been devoted and committed to delighting in the LORD your God?
As I sit here this morning I can’t help but be absolutely captivated with and by the fact that as I read the words which are found within this chapter, I am increasingly convinced that trust is not only at the very heart and core of everything that is contained in the chapter, but trust is the foundation upon which everything else hinges. David writes and invites his audience to delight themselves in the LORD, however, delighting oneself in the LORD is indeed and most certainly a byproduct of trusting in the LORD, for one cannot truly delight themselves in the LORD if, unless and until they first trust in Him. David invites his audience to commit their way unto the LORD, to rest in the LORD, and to wait patiently for Him, however, in order to fully and completely engage ourselves in these realities, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we do so on the basis of trust and trusting in the LORD. One cannot, one must not think, nor even expect that they can commit their way unto the LORD, or to roll their way upon the LORD if they do not fully and completely trust in Him. One cannot rest in the LORD or be silent to the LORD and wait patiently for Him if they cannot trust in the LORD. The underlying question we must ask ourselves when reading the words which are found within this chapter has absolutely nothing to do with the promises and inherit blessedness that is interspersed throughout the verses therein. The underlying question that is found at the very heart and soul of this chapter is fully and completely whether or not we do in fact trust in the LORD, and/or whether or not we even feel as though we can trust in the LORD. Do you trust in the LORD? No, I mean truly trust in the LORD? Do you trust in the LORD with all your heart, and by trusting in the LORD it delivers and frees you from leaning on your own understanding that you might acknowledge Him in all your ways? Do you trust in the LORD fully and completely with your whole heart that you might allow yourself to place yourself squarely and solely in His care and into His hands? We cannot, we must not, we dare not think and believe—even for a moment—that trust is not at the very heart of how we interact with the LORD. What’s more, is that trust and faith are intrinsically and inextricably linked, for even the author of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews wrote that without faith it is impossible to please God, for those who have faith must believe that God is, and that God is a rewarded of those who diligently seek Him. What’s more, is the apostle Paul writes how faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, and that the just shall indeed live by faith.
Upon preparing to bring this writing to a close I must emphatically declare that even though trust and faith are intrinsically linked, it must be understood that they are altogether separate. Would it surprise you to hear that it is possible to have faith in God, and even to believe that God is, and is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, and yet not trust Him? Would it shock and surprise you to hear, and even think about the fact that there are men and women in our churches today who have faith in God, and who believe, and yet they find it difficult to trust Him for various circumstances within their lives? Oh their faith does in fact, and has in fact saved them, and their faith does in fact bring them to the door, however, faith has always and must always lead to and produce trust within our hearts. Faith is the basis of trust, and trust is the basis of rest, of waiting, and of so many other invitations we are given. In the eleventh chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative of the life of Jesus written by the apostle Matthew we hear and understand Jesus’ invitation to come unto Him, and yet I feel absolutely and completely compelled to declare unto you that even this beautiful and magnificent invitation given by Jesus is made possible only on the basis of trust. Consider if you will the words which Jesus spoke unto His audience after He had just prayed before His Father in heaven thanking Him for hiding things from the wise and prudent, and revealing them unto babes. After declaring unto the Father that all things had been delivered unto Him by the Father, and that no man knows the Son, but the Father, and that no man knows the Father, but by the Son, Jesus would go on to speak the invitations e are all incredibly familiar with. While this invitation, and while these words which were spoken by Jesus the Christ are indeed beautiful, wonderful and truly powerful, we must recognize and understand that they are only made possible if and as we are willing to trust in the LORD. We cannot even accept this invitation if we cannot and if we do not trust in the Lord, and the One who spoke the words. Listen to and hear the words which Jesus the Christ spoke unto all those who heard His voice and were present on this particular day:
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your soul. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Within these words Jesus speaks of and declares Himself to be meek and lowly in heart, and earlier on in this gospel—more specifically within the Sermon on the Mount—Jesus emphatically declares that the meek are blessed and will inherit the earth. This reality and concept of the meek inheriting the earth is found within the thirty-seventh chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms, and within this particular chapter, and is found in the very nature and character of Jesus the Christ. It is important that we recognize and understand the direct link and connection within this passage between being meek and trusting in the LORD, for not only are they linked, but they are also directly connected to inheriting the earth. As you read the words which Jesus spoke unto His audience you will find Him inviting unto Himself all those who were heavy laden and who labored, and He would give them rest. Moreover, Jesus would invite them to take His yoke upon them, and to learn of Him, for He is meek and lowly in heart. What’s more, is that Jesus also goes on to declare that they would find rest unto their souls, for His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. We must pay close attention to the words which are written and recorded within this passage, for the words which are found therein bring us face to face with the absolutely remarkable and incredible reality that such an invitation is only made possible because of the character and nature of Jesus the Christ, and our trust in Him. We cannot come unto the Lord—even if we labor and are heavy laden—in order to find rest if we do not trust Him. Faith is always and has always been the key that unlocks the door and lets us in, and it is faith that allows us to please God as we believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. We must, however—not only continue in faith, but also allow that faith to produce trust within our hearts and our souls, for it is only by and through trust that we are able to truly wait patiently for the LORD, delight ourselves in the LORD, commit our way unto the LORD, and rest in the LORD. Perhaps the single greatest question I feel compelled to leave you with at the end of these writings is not merely whether or not you trust in the LORD, but whether or not you can trust in the LORD. Trust is not something that is easy to come by in the natural, and we would be remiss and deceived to thinking that it does not spill over into the spiritual realm. As you read the words which are found within this writing I would strongly encourage you to get alone with God, and to allow yourself to be built up in your most holy faith, but also to allow that faith to bring you into a place where you can truly, fully and completely trust in the LORD. Moreover, it is my earnest prayer that you allow that trust to no longer rely upon yourself, but to commit your way fully and completely unto the LORD and into the hands of the LORD.