Counting Our Blessings
As we approach the Thanksgiving Season which the Puritans set aside in gratitude to God for His goodness to them, we, too, should count our many blessings, “name them one by one,” to “see what God hath done.” No, we cannot name them all. We cannot even comprehend them all, for His infinite love and care are beyond human comprehension, but we are beneficially humbled and vastly strengthened whenever we pause to meditate on what He has done.
The Word of God
One of the countless blessings for which I am deeply grateful is the Word of God. It is an inexhaustible source of inspiration, comfort, and guidance. For almost fifty years I have studied it daily, either in the original languages or in translations — frequently in both, prayerfully seeking the truth; and scarcely a day goes by that God does not give me some new light hitherto unrevealed to me. The inexhaustibleness of His Word is not frustrating, but inspiring, for as I delve into the riches of His Word, I know that no matter how much of the riches I discover, an inexhaustible store yet remains.
What God Says of His Word
I like to read over and over what God has revealed in His Word about His Word. In Proverbs 30:5, 6, I find:
Every word of God is tried:
He is a shield unto them that take refuge in him.
6 Add thou not unto his words,
Lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.”
What a great shield and assuring refuge He is! How timely is the warning not to add unto His Word. All too often people try to help the Lord, as the saying is, by giving a perhaps convenient, but incorrect, interpretation of His Word. This distortion of truth is deplorable and fraught with danger. All too often, also, people add to His Word through ignorance of the laws of interpretation. For this reason I have endeavored throughout the years to expound these laws and publish in almost every issue of the Biblical Research Monthly the Golden Rule of Interpretation.
In Isaiah 40:8, I find the comforting assurance: “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth; but the word of our God shall stand forever.” When I think on this verse, I recall the admonition of Peter:
I Peter 1:22-25:
Seeing ye have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth unto unfeigned love of the brethren, love one another from the heart fervently: 23 having been begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God, which liveth and abideth. 24 For, All flesh is as grass, And all the glory thereof as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower falleth: 25 But the word of the Lord abideth for ever. And this is the word of good tidings which was preached unto you.
I Peter 2:1-6:
Putting away therefore all wickedness, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, 2 as newborn babes, long for the spiritual milk which is without guile, that ye may grow thereby unto salvation; 3 if ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious: 4 unto whom coming, a living stone, rejected indeed of men, but with God elect, precious, 5 ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Because it is contained in scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: And he that believeth on him shall not be put to shame.”
In the midst of increasing world unrest, I can remain unmoved, knowing that the Word of God will stand forever; it “liveth and abideth.” I know also that I shall not be put to shame, for I believe on Him.
Peter’s mention of the “spiritual milk” reminds me of the admonition in the Epistle to the Hebrews, a warning to those who become spiritually dull of hearing:
Of whom we have many things to say, and hard of interpretation, seeing ye are become dull of hearing. 12 For when by reason of the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need again that some one teach you the rudiments of the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of solid food. 13 For every one that partaketh of milk is without experience of the word of righteousness; for he is a babe. 14 But solid food is for fullgrown men, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:11-14)
God expects us to grow in grace and to feed upon the meat of His Word, not continue to nourish on only the milk, which is for spiritual infants.
In Ephesians 6:11-18, I find an armor which will safeguard me against all Satanic attacks:
Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Wherefore take up the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 withal taking up the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 18 with all prayer and supplication praying at all seasons in the Spirit, and watching thereunto in all perseverance and supplication for all the saints …”
Satan has a thoroughly organized government which is in opposition to all that is good, true, and noble. He has his united hosts assembled against everyone who endeavors to do the will of God. But I need only put on the complete armor of God to withstand the wiles of Satan. My armor, however, must be complete; the least break in it makes me vulnerable. The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, is my weapon whereby I can, through God’s grace, fend off the Satanic attacker. Satan is a personal, mighty, cunning being, ever on the alert to ensnare man; but God, not Satan, is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. Clothed in the armor of God and ever alert, through His grace, I need not fear. Overconfidence in one-self is common and leads to defeat; over-confidence in God is impossible. He extends infinitely beyond all confidence.
As Paul was grateful that the Thessalonians had accepted his message as the word of God, not of man, I am grateful that I have accepted the messages of the inspired writers of the Scriptures as what they truly are — the Word of God.
And for this cause we also thank God without ceasing, that, when ye received from us the word of the message, even the word of God, ye accepted it not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God, which also worketh in you that believe.” (I Thessalonians 2:13)
I thank God without ceasing that I have been saved, for I have been washed in the blood of the Lamb, and that now the Word of God “worketh” in me. It is a dynamic force within me, radiating spiritual energy. It is also “living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of the soul and spirit, or both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews4:12).
Writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul declares: Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, of the seed of David, according to my gospel: 9 wherein I suffer hardship unto bonds, as a malefactor; but the word of God is not bound.” (II Timothy 2:8,9)
I rejoice and give thanks that, although those who give forth the gospel often “suffer hardship unto bonds,” the Word of God cannot be bound. I need only to think what a powerful witness Paul was even when in chains, to realize that nothing can shackle God’s Word.
At the same time I realize the responsibility that a teacher and a preacher has in regard to God’s Word:
But speak thou the things which befit the sound doctrine: 2 that aged men be temperate, grave, sober-minded, sound in faith, in love, in patience: 3 that aged women likewise be reverent in demeanor, not slanderers nor enslaved to much wine, teachers of that which is good; 4 that they may train the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be sober-minded, chaste, workers at home, kind, being in subjection to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed: 6 the younger men likewise exhort to be sober-minded: 7 in all things showing thyself an example of good works; in thy doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, 8 sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of us.” (Titus 2:1-8)
Likewise I am reminded in II Timothy 2:15: “Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth.”
I like to ponder over Psalm 119, wherein the inspired psalmist meditates upon the Law of God, petitions for and receives spiritual insight, and relates the victories that are his through his reliance upon God’s Law.
How to Live Righteously
The Scriptures are filled with precepts of righteous living, and I am grateful for each one. I like especially Proverbs 3:1,2, which I call God’s recipe for a fruitful life. I think it is an excellent meditation for the Thanksgiving Season, for we should be even more grateful for the spiritual harvest that God gives us when we obey Him than we are for the harvest whereby we nourish our physical bodies.
My son, forget not my law;
But let thy heart keep my commandments:
2 For length of days, and years of life,
And peace, will they add to thee.” (Proverbs 3:1,2)
The first part of this recipe tells us how we may actually add years to our lives. It is true that our days were numbered even before time began:
Thine eyes did see mine unformed substance;
And in thy book they were all written,
Even the days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there were none of them.” (Psalm 139:16)
God knows all things, including the number of our days, but the promise in Proverbs 3:1,2 holds good. The Scriptures do not contradict each other. By keeping the commandments of God, we can add years to our lives, but He knows beforehand who keep His commandments and who will not. We should rejoice that we can thus add years to our lives, because, the longer we live, the more opportunity we have to serve Him on earth.
Next in the recipe we read:
Let not kindness and truth forsake thee:
Bind them about thy neck;
Write them upon the tablet of thy heart:
4 So shalt thou find favor and good understanding
In the sight of God and man.” (Proverbs 3:3,4)
These two verses of the Scriptures remind me of the words of Sir Walter Scott:
Oh, what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practice to deceive.”
When we forsake truth, we walk in the paths of falsehood and deceit. This passage of the Scriptures also reminds me of Beth Day’s little poem “Three Gates of Gold”:
If you are tempted to reveal
A tale to you someone has told
About another, make it pass,
Before you speak, three gates of gold:
These narrow gates. First, ‘Is it true?’
Then, ‘Is it needful?’ In your mind
Give truthful answer. And the next
Is last and narrowest, ‘Is it kind?’
And if to reach your lips at last
It passes through these gateways three,
Then you may tell the tale, nor fear
What the result of speech may be.”
The next portion of the recipe is often misapplied:
Trust in Jehovah with all thy heart,
And lean not upon thine own understanding:
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him,
And he will direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5,6)
These verses should not be taken out of their context. Too often persons believe that they constitute all that one needs to do in order to be guided by God. To attain the fruitful life we must include all the ingredients of the recipe — keep the commandments, be kind and true, trust in and acknowledge God. We are also instructed:
Be not wise in thine own eyes;
Fear [worship] Jehovah, and depart from evil:
8 It will be health to thy navel,
And marrow to thy bones.” (Proverbs 3:7,8)
In the following two verses we learn how we can have a plentiful harvest for which to give thanks:
Honor Jehovah with thy substance,
And with the first-fruits of all thine increase:
10 So shall thy barns be filled with plenty,
And thy vats shall overflow with new wine.” (Proverbs 3:9,10)
All that we have came from and belongs to God. We should be faithful stewards of His blessings.
Lastly we read in the recipe for a fruitful life:
My son, despise not the chastening of Jehovah;
Neither be weary of his reproof:
12 For whom Jehovah loveth he reproveth;
Even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.” (Proverbs 3:11,12)
One of the most important lessons for us to learn is the necessity of God’s chastening us. We are walking and working under the eye of the Almighty every moment of our lives (see Psalm 139). He knows all about us. Those of us who have come under the atoning blood of Christ are dealt with in love and mercy. And thus we are chastised, in order that we may live righteously. Those of us who reject His love, mercy, and grace, and stubbornly reject the atonement that God provided are dealt with accordingly — upon the basis of strict justice and righteousness. I thank God that I have come under the atoning blood, that God cares enough for me to chasten me, and that He does so in love and mercy.
May this recipe for a fruitful life be your guide.