A large pane of glass intended for a window had fallen and shattered into thousands of splinters. One moment it was a thing of usefulness, and the next it was being swept up and dumped as useless. Human lives become shattered by sin just as easily and quickly; but we must never underestimate the Lord's ability to renew those lives. Christians sometimes have a tendency to regard their failing fellows as hopeless, but it is not so with the Lord.A most encouraging illustration is given by Isaiah for us as well as for Israel in the earthly days of Messiah. "A bruised reed He will not break, and the smoking flax He will not quench" (Isaiah 42:1-3). Many who fit into these two categories would have met the Lord Jesus in Palestine, but He did not consign them to the scrap heap. He was in their midst as Jehovah Ropheka, the Lord who restores. David rejoiced in this when he wrote in his shepherd psalm, "He restores my soul" (Psalm 23:3).The word "bruised" indicates a fragile reed, one which cracks into pieces. Isn't this what happened to Peter in his denial of the Lord Jesus? And it may be so with us too. "I just fell to pieces" is an oft-quoted confession. We thank God that Peter was restored to strengthen his brethren; and the same has been true with us so that we can be used to restore others. When did I last pray for, or seek out, my brother or sister who had been overtaken in a sin? (See Galatians 6:1). Incidentally, the reed was often made into a pen for writing, or a flute for music. When it became worn or cracked it was thrown away and replaced by another. No attempt was made to restore it. But God's ways are not man's ways, and the divine Restorer is able to make a failing Christian a useful, happy instrument again. Onesimus and John Mark are two who were restored and learned to "burn again" for Him and the testimony.
In many Western countries heart attacks are still considered by doctors to be the number one killer of people. Without our knowing, our hearts can be diseased, failing, or otherwise unsound. On the other hand, symptoms can indicate heart weakness, and a variety of medical tests will quickly reveal the extent of the problem. Advice or treatment is then outlined for the patient's benefit. Heart examination, therefore, can prove to be a good thing from a physical, and likewise a spiritual, standpoint.The longest psalm in the Bible is the one hundred and nineteenth, and it consists of a wonderful variety of prayers by a sensitive, godly man. One of his requests is for a sound heart. "Let my heart be sound in Thy statutes", he cries (v.80, Authorized Version). He was asking for a heart that was clean, full of integrity, truth, sincerity, and entire: a spiritually-healthy heart indeed, and is in contrast to the "fat as grease" heart of the proud (v.70). From a spiritual viewpoint this psalmist would instruct us that to maintain a healthy heart we should avoid pride, mischief, and unbelief.Our hearts are the seat of our affections, the very centre of things. The Hebrew word for heart is "leb", meaning the centre of everything. Our hearts must have spiritual protection; that is why the breastplate is mentioned as part of the whole armour of God (Ephesians 6). The helmet of salvation is to protect the mind; the breastplate of righteousness is for the heart. In Israel an ephod of gold, blue, purple, scarlet and fine twined linen was made for the high priest. Made from the same five materials, which might speak of Christ in His divine glory, His heavenly character, His majesty, His humiliation, and His pure life, was the breastplate.
A Pentecostal blessing - it was given by God on the first Lord's day of this age of grace. We do not here refer to the gift of tongues or to baptism in the Holy Spirit which occurred on that day, but to the divine plan outlined by Peter under the guidance of the newly-given Holy Spirit. It is a blessing which all Christians should accept without question; it is a plan for all Christians to adopt.The Lord Jesus was raised from the dead on the first day of the week. Fifty days later the Holy Spirit was to descend from heaven, and this He did on a Lord's day, the day of Pentecost. This was the day a multitude heard a restored, divinely energized Peter proclaim the message to which over 3,000 souls responded. Drawing on Old Testament quotations from Joel and David, he appealed with ringing tones, to "Men of Judea, and all who dwell in Jerusalem" (Acts 2:14) to recognize the momentous truth that God's approved Man, Jesus of Nazareth, had conquered death and the grave, and was now glorified in heaven (Acts 2:23,24,34). Then came the great challenge. "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ" (v.36).What a culmination to a power-filled message! What an example to preachers of the word today! There are no limitations or restrictions to this message.Peter proclaims clearly and unequivocally that Jesus is Saviour, Lord and King. The Man of the Cross (Jesus), is also the King of the Throne (Christ), and Master Supreme (Lord). There was no partial acceptance on the part of those who heard. They did not claim the forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus, and then go on their way to follow their own plan. But these redeemed hearts felt the full impact of the Spirit's message through Peter, and they received it with its full consequences that Jesus was to become their Lord: "They then that received his word were baptized" (Acts 2:41). About 3,000 people did this.
What do the next twelve months hold for us as Christians? What are we purposing to do for Him? More quiet times with our Bibles? More use of our talents in His work? More opportunities for testifying? More time for prayer? Prayer to the Christian is one of the essentials for spiritual survival.Elijah was a man of like nature with us, and he prayed fervently. "And he prayed again" (James 5:17,18). What cries, what pleadings, came from the lips of the holy prophet at mount Carmel, as he besought God to send showers of rain! Picture the scene of the waiting prophet, the watching servant, and the Mighty God etching in His sky the distant cloud as small as a man's hand. This was His token of prayer answered; the showers of blessing followed (1 Kings 18:42-46). "And he prayed".Prosperity has deprived us of equalling the simple living quarters of Elisha. But we are not deprived of the privilege of doing what Elisha did; making them a place of prayer. This is where he brought the boy; and closing the door he prayed to the Lord. He gave his whole being to this challenging situation by stretching himself out upon the lad until their mouths, eyes, and hands met. God answered by restoring the boy to life (2 Kings 4:10). Every family needs its prayer room; a place where we can close the door, give ourselves wholly to the situation of concern, and speak to God about it in the confidence of faith, despite our sorrow of heart. Prayer will demand a price from us. Did the disciples realize this when they asked the Lord, "Teach us to pray, even as John also taught his disciples" (Luke 11:1)? John's disciples fasted often (Luke 5:33). Fasting is self-denial, and they deprived themselves physically in order to learn to pray, and so benefit spiritually.
There was no widow's pension in the days of Elijah. Nevertheless, the widow of Zarephath received a generous guarantee from God because she made the prophet a meal from her tiny store of food. God undertook to provide her with daily food during famine and drought. The God of heaven, who is Jehovah Jireh, the Lord who provides, has not changed since the days of Elijah, and His promises are just as valid now as they were then. Many of God's people can testify to this.It is from the Lord Jesus that we learn that there were many widows in Israel during the famine of Elijah's day; but it was to the widow of Zarephath that the prophet was sent (Luke 4:26). Human reasoning would count this strange. No husband, a dependent son; where could she obtain food during such a dearth? Elijah had nothing; the widow had little more. Both trusted in Jehovah Jireh. Elijah's request to the widow appears insignificant. A little water, a morsel of bread. But during a famine and drought this would present problems to a faithless, self-protecting person. The widow had a handful of meal, a little oil, a few sticks of wood. Elijah asked her to make his first, and bring it to him, then to get hers and her son's. This was the challenge to faith. But with it always comes the promise. Note the message that Elijah delivered from the LORD, the God of Israel, "The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the LORD sends rain..." (1 Kings 17:14).The Master tells us that the heaven was shut up for three and a half years (Luke 4:25). James tells us that Elijah prayed fervently that it might not rain for three and a half years (5:17). Yet the guarantee was given that the barrel of meal and the cruse of oil would not fail until the day the Lord sent rain on the earth. We can only marvel at the faith of Elijah, and the faith of the widow; but we can draw strength for our day from the same God who is so unfailing in His provision. Paul transmits to us his implicit faith with these words, "And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19). Do you believe this? 'I believe, help my unbelief" (Mark 9:23).
What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you - guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.
2 Timothy 1:13-14