My friend’s husband was in the last stages of dementia. In his first introduction to the nurse who was assigned to care for him, he reached out for her arm and stopped her. He said he wanted to introduce her to his best friend—one who loved him deeply.
Since no one else was in the hall, the nurse thought he was delusional. But as it turned out he was speaking of Jesus. She was deeply touched but had to hurry on to care for another patient. When she returned, the darkness had closed in again and the man was no longer lucid.
Even though this man had descended into the darkness of dementia, he knew that the Lord was his best Friend. God dwells in the fathomless depth that is our soul. He can pierce the darkest mind and assure us of His tender, loving care. Indeed, the darkness shall not hide us from Him (Ps. 139:12).
We do not know what the future holds for us or those we love. We too may descend into the darkness of mental illness, Alzheimer’s, or dementia as we age. But even there the Lord’s hand will lead us and His right hand will hold us tight (v.10). We cannot get away from His love and personal care.
God knows each winding way I take, And every sorrow, pain, and ache; And me He never will forsake— He knows and loves His own. —Bosch
Jesus loves me. This I know.
Today’s passage, a standard text on the doctrine of God’s omnipresence—God is everywhere all the time—is also one of deep comfort. These verses offer assurance that no matter where we go, even if we are trying to run from God (see v.7), we cannot separate ourselves from Him. This is the same idea that Paul elaborates on in his letter to the church in Rome: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39). These verses not only point out that nothing can separate us from His presence, they also beautifully state that nothing can keep us from God’s love.
Even before I could afford a self-cleaning oven, I managed to keep my oven clean. Guests even commented on it when we had them over for a meal. “Wow, your oven is so clean. It looks like new.” I accepted the praise even though I knew I didn’t deserve it. The reason my oven was clean had nothing to do with my meticulous scrubbing; it was clean because I so seldom used it.
How often, I wonder, am I guilty of accepting undeserved admiration for my “clean” life? It’s easy to give the impression of being virtuous; simply do nothing difficult, controversial, or upsetting to people. But Jesus said we are to love people who don’t agree with us, who don’t share our values, who don’t even like us. Love requires that we get involved in the messy situations of people’s lives. Jesus was frequently in trouble with religious leaders who were more concerned about keeping their own reputations clean than they were about the spiritual condition of those they were supposed to care for. They considered Jesus and His disciples unclean for mingling with sinners when they were simply trying to rescue people from their destructive way of life (Luke 5:30-31).
True disciples of Jesus are willing to risk their own reputations to help others out of the mire of sin.
Dear Lord, give me a heart of compassion for those who are lost in sin. Help me not to be concerned about what others think of me but only that Your holy name will be honored.
Christ sends us out to bring others in.
The role of tax collector in first-century Israel was quite different from what we would think today. Ancient Rome operated on the back of the taxes drained from conquered lands like Israel. This was overseen by the local governor (or procurator), but it was actually accomplished by local citizens like Levi (also known as Matthew), who worked for Rome. These tax collectors, however, were not viewed as simple agents or bureaucrats. They were known to charge higher taxes than were due and to pocket the excess. They were despised as collaborators who had aligned themselves with the hated occupying force. The taxes they collected were a continuing symbol of the oppression the Jews felt as a conquered people, and the tax collectors were considered participants in that oppression.
On July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia in response to the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie. Within 90 days, other European countries had taken sides to honor their military alliances and pursue their own ambitions. A single event escalated into World War I, one of the most destructive military conflicts of modern time.
The tragedy of war is staggering, yet our relationships and families can begin to fracture with only a few hateful words. James wrote, “See how great a forest a little fire kindles!” (James 3:5). A key to avoiding verbal conflict is found in Proverbs: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (15:1).
A small comment can start a large fight. When we, by God’s grace, choose not to retaliate with our words, we honor Jesus our Savior. When He was abused and insulted, He fulfilled the prophetic words of Isaiah, “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth” (Isa. 53:7).
Proverbs urges us to speak the truth and seek peace through our words. “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, . . . and a word spoken in due season, how good it is!” (15:4,23).
A careless word may kindle strife, A cruel word may wreck a life; A timely word may lessen stress, A loving word may heal and bless. —Anon.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
A major theme in Proverbs concerns the use of our tongues (10:19-21; 12:18, 13:3; 17:27-28; 18:6-8; 25:11; 26:18-22). Proverbs 15 warns of the consequences of using wrong words and the benefits of using right words. A wise person is carefully restrained and judicious when speaking (vv.2,7,28).