Psalms 38-44

“O Jehovah, do not withhold your mercy from me.
May your loyal love and your truth constantly safeguard me.”
~Psalm 40:11

David, our Biblical poet, felt his ‘errors loom over his head; like a heavy burden, they were too much for him to bear,’ (Ps. 38:4).
For this reason, he ‘walked around sad all day long,’ (Ps. 38:6).
He could say nothing in his own defense (Ps. 38:14).
Still, he relied on Jehovah’s forgiveness, and prayed:

“Turn your harsh gaze away from me so that I may cheer up
Before I pass away and I am gone,” (Ps. 39:13).

Although David felt abandoned by his family and friends, burdened by his own mistakes and the weight of Jehovah’s discipline, he waited on Jehovah.
He knew that with Jehovah’s forgiveness, he could overcome his depression and once again experience the joy of serving Him.
Did his patience pay off?

“You answered me, O Jehovah my God,” (Ps. 38:15).

Jehovah answers our pleas for peace of mind when we seek refuge in the truth of His word and by giving us the strength to carry on (Ps. 138:3; John 17:17).

Psalms 26-33

“This is why every loyal one will pray to you
While you may yet be found.”
~Psalm 32:6

Who does God consider to be a “loyal one”?
The previous verse is referring to someone who confesses their sins to God and whom God pardons (Psalm 32:5).
Since we are all imperfect sinners, to remain close to Him I must first recognize and value the extent of His mercy and kindness toward me.
If I trust in Jehovah, He will ‘surround me with His loyal love’ and, despite my errors, I will be able to rejoice joyfully among the righteous (Psalm 32:10,11).
In effect, it is possible for God to consider us, mere sinners, as being “upright in heart,” so long as we do not try to deceive Him.
And when we recognize the immense value of this, we may even find happiness  (Psalm 32:1,2).

Psalms 19-25

“Though I walk in the valley of deep shadow,
I fear no harm,
For you are with me […]”

~Psalm 23:4

There are periods in life which may be likened to dark valleys.
Perhaps we are depressed or experiencing high levels of anxiety.
In another Psalm, David wrote:

“Turn your face to me and show me favor,
For I am alone and helpless.
The distresses of my heart have multiplied;
Free me from my anguish,” (Ps. 25:16, 17).

How, then, does Jehovah God present himself at my side when I feel alone and anxious?
In the next verse, the writer prays: “Pardon all my sins,” making a connection between the sins and his affliction (Ps. 25:18).

One of the ways Jehovah draws close is by forgiving.
But in order to appreciate His pardon I must have the right motives.

“For the sake of your name,
O Jehovah,
Forgive my error,
though it is great,” (Ps. 25:11).

True repentance involves recognizing that the most important thing at stake is not how I feel, but Jehovah’s name with everything it represents, including mercy.
To have that point of view, I must first cultivate a healthy fear of God and humility to let myself accept His guidance (Ps. 25:12).

At that point, I will no longer fear alone or anxious because God’s “rod and staff” will have reassured me, making the darkness bearable (Ps. 23:4).

Job 38-42

“After Job had prayed for his companions, Jehovah removed Job’s tribulation and restored his prosperity.”
~Job 42:10

Job had to forgive those who had misjudged him before he could receive God’s blessing.
God Himself had been quick to forgive Job for some of the things he had said in error (Job 42:6).
God’s willingness to forgive Job promptly gives testament to how He constantly searches out the good in people instead of concentrating on our negative traits.
“For the eyes of Jehovah are roving about through all the earth to show his strength in behalf of those whose heart is complete toward him,” (2 Chron. 16:9).
When we make a genuine effort to forgive, forget and have a positive attitude, we can then trust God will treat us with that same compassion (Matt. 6:12; Col. 3:13).

1 Kings, chapters 21 & 22

“Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself on my account? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the calamity during his lifetime. […]”
~1 Kings 21:29

The point I’d like to highlight of last week’s reading is the mercy Jehovah extended toward King Ahab of northern Israel, despite Ahab’s evil ways.

“[…] There has never been anyone like Ahab, who was so determined to do what was bad in the eyes of Jehovah, egged on by his wife Jezebel,” (1 Ki. 21:25).

Jehovah is able to see past a person’s sins and give him a chance to change time after time because he sees his full potential.
If someone humbles himself, Jehovah is always ready to make peace with that person.
In Ahab’s case, he did not fully grasp the privilege of being forgiven, for he continued to endanger true prophets’ lives and ended up going to war against God’s will, where he died (1 Ki. 22:26-28, 34, 35).
Truly Jehovah is “good and ready to forgive,” so long as we follow through with repentance by changing our ways of the past (Ps. 86:5).

Joshua, chapters 9-11

“It was Jehovah who allowed their hearts to become stubborn so that they waged war against Israel, in order for him to devote them to destruction without any favorable consideration.”
~Joshua 11:20

Jehovah did not decide the fate of the Canaanites for them.

The previous verse clearly states: There was no city that made peace with the Israelites except the Hivites inhabiting Gibeon. They conquered all the others by war,” (Joshua 11:19).

Despite Jehovah’s instructions ‘not to make a covenant with them,’ the Israelites had unintentionally established a treaty between themselves and the people of Gibeon (Ex. 34:12; Jos. 9:6-15).

Then, when the other cities attacked Gibeon, the Israelites rightly felt a moral obligation to defend them (Jos. 10:6-8).

Gibeon was spared the peril that the rest of the country suffered because, in their own words, they were ‘plainly told that Jehovah […] commanded Moses his servant to give Israel all the land and to annihilate all its inhabitants,’ (Jos. 9:24).

Thus, instead of arrogantly waging war against God himself, they laid themselves at the mercy of Israel and were indefinitely assigned the role of temple servants (Jos. 9:25-27).

The fact that Jehovah did extend considerable mercy toward the people of Gibeon, even allowing them the privilege of performing duties directly related to sacred worship, highlights his willingness to set aside the execution of his own judgment in order to favor those who seek him out sincerely (Ps. 86:15).

It is different, though, in the case of those who ‘allow their hearts to become stubborn.’

We do not need to be Canaanites or God’s sworn enemies to fall into this trap of obstinate arrogance.

Whether or not we witness God’s saving hand does not depend on who we are or where we come from.

It depends on whether or not we individually heed his words to ‘cleanse our hearts and stop being so stubborn,’ (De. 10:16).

Deuteronomy, chapters 4-6

When you are in great distress and all these things have happened to you in later times, then you will return to Jehovah your God and listen to his voice.

~Deuteronomy 4:30

Jehovah knew that eventually the Israelites’ descendants would lose faith in him and be ‘scattered among the peoples,’ (De. 4:27).

There, they would offend him when they fell into the practice of idol worshiping (De. 4:28).

But he would not forsake them.

“If you search for Jehovah your God from there, you will certainly find him, if you inquire for him with all your heart and with all your soul. […] For Jehovah your God is a merciful God. He will not desert you or bring you to ruin or forget the covenant that he swore to your forefathers,” (De. 4:29, 31).

Within the congregation, this may apply to those who either in the past or future commit serious sins against Jehovah and break the pact they made with him upon baptism.

What recourse do they have when later on in life they find themselves alone and in trouble?

God himself extends the following invitation:

“[…] If you return to me and observe my commandments and obey them, though your dispersed people should be at the end of the heavens, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place that I have chosen to have my name reside,” (Ne. 1:9).

The congregation doors are still open “and he will not turn his face away from you if you return to him,” (2 Ch. 30:9).

Numbers, chapters 14-16

And the priest will make atonement for the person who made a mistake by an unintentional sin before Jehovah, so as to make atonement for it, and it will be forgiven him.
~Numbers 15:28

Here we see Jehovah God’s merciful side, for he differentiates between one who sins out of ignorance or incompetence from one who sins as a consequence of pre-meditated evil.

Upon the realization of having committed a sin, Christians do not need to present an animal sacrifice as Israelites did, but Christ did give us instructions as to how to make amends with God.

“When you pray, go into your private room and, after shutting your door, pray to your Father who is in secret . . . ‘Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified . . . and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors,’” (Matt. 6:6-12).

When sinning against someone, Christ instructed his followers to ‘first make your peace with your brother, and then, when you have come back, offer up your gift [to God]’ (Matt. 5:23,24).

If the sin is a serious wrongdoing, the congregation received these instructions:

“Is there anyone [spiritually] sick among you? Let him call the older men of the congregation to him, and let them pray over him, greasing him with oil in the name of Jehovah. And the prayer of faith will make the indisposed one well, and Jehovah will raise him up. Also, if he has committed sins, it will be forgiven him [by God]. Therefore openly confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may get healed,” (Jas. 5:14-16).

The ‘greasing with oil’ figuratively refers to the refreshing Bible-based counsel mature elders give to the spiritually ‘indisposed.’

We should not, then,  fear admitting our sins, for Jehovah promises that he who is “leaving them will be shown mercy,” (Prov. 28:13).

Genesis, chapters 32-35

Genesis 33:4~

E′sau ran to meet him, and he embraced him and kissed him, and they burst into tears.

When Esau last saw Jacob, he had plans to kill him (Gen. 27:41).

20 Years later, as described in the above passage, his heart has been softened.

He has taken on a more spiritual approach to life.

This teaches me that people can change for the better.

It is wrong to give up hope on someone without giving them time to reflect on their own actions and see the negative consequences of their bad decisions.

Usually it’s those closest to us that let us down. A family member or a best friend who was like a sister or brother.

God doesn’t give up on people from one moment to the next. He patiently waits for them to repent (2 Pet. 3:9).

And if we want to truly change, then it is imperative to ‘clothe ourselves in humility,’ as in the case of Esau (Col. 3:12).

Genesis 35:8~

Later Deb′o·rah, Re·bek′ah’s nurse, died and was buried at the foot of Beth′el under an oak. So he named it Al′lon-bac′uth [meaning: tree of weeping].

I had never taken this passage into account.

According to a Bible encyclopedia, Deborah lived for about another 125 years after Rebekah and Isaac married (it-1 p. 600).

She had left everything behind to accompany Rebekah south into a new family and new lifestyle, for Isaac’s household dwelt in tents.

In all this time she became a part of their family and they were moved to heartfelt grief upon her death.

I am touched by the inclusion of this small but telling detail in the Holy Scriptures.

In a book that selectively lists ancestries and important dates to provide historical proof and context, the fact that God included this about Deborah, a humble servant, tells us how much he values the lives of those who render sacred service toward Him (Matt. 10:29-31).

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