Promises about God’s Presence
These promises focus on how the presence of God is the key to every blessing and benefit of the spiritual life. His presence fills every human need, ending in eternal intimacy with Him. As you journey through these Scripture passages and meditations, fill your mind with the promises of Immanuel, “God with us.”
God’s Generous Love for People
King David weeps over the death of his disobedient son. Absalom has rebelled against David, but the king’s father heart still grieves his loss—so much that David wishes he had died instead of Absalom. What a picture of the Father’s longing for us! Despite our waywardness, He loves us intensely. He died for us that we might live (Ephesians 2:1–7).
1 Kings 10:9: Eternal Love
Solomon reigns as king because of God’s covenant with David, but also because of the Lord’s steadfast love for Israel. Solomon serves as God’s servant to guide and protect the Lord’s beloved people. “For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations” (Psalm 100:5). This same love still endures through our generations. For this we can “give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting” (Psalm 107:1).1
Psalm 36:7: Priceless Love
Who can assign a price to love? Some people try to do this by purchasing extravagant gifts for their beloved, but we instinctively realize that love can’t really be bought or sold. As a matter of heart and soul, the depth and worth of a person’s love for another can never be financially assessed.
We can’t buy God’s love, either. The Lord says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you out with kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3). God paid the ultimate price by sending His only Son to die for our sins (John 3:16), but even that great cost doesn’t define the whole of our Maker’s love for us. That love is unfathomable, incomparable, and eternal—and it’s absolutely free.
Proverbs 21:3: Doing Right
What pleases God? “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,” He states through the prophet in Hosea 6:6 (NIV), a Scripture quoted repeatedly by Jesus. To whom do we show mercy? Jesus points out that emulating the heart of our loving God involves loving others (Matthew 22:37–39). Why? Because God loves people, all of whom matter deeply to Him. He promises to love them but often uses us to carry out that pledge. Our interactions with others matter deeply to God. When we show mercy, we please Him, and as a direct result we grow personally and spiritually.
Isaiah 49:15–16: God Never Forgets
What a beautiful image, both of God’s dedication to Israel and of the price Jesus has paid for us. When the Israelites complain that God overlooks them (Isaiah 49:14), the Lord promises through an unforgettable image of deep love and commitment that He will never forget them. And Jesus, with His nail-pierced hands, is the ultimate fulfillment of God’s sacrificial love.
Isaiah 54:7: Coming Home
Israel’s rebellion triggers God’s temporary abandonment of His people. But abandonment—a lonely and hopeless condition—is never the Lord’s choice, and He longs for reconciliation with His people. Likewise, our rebellion separates us from God, but He longs to restore our broken relationship with Himself. Because of His deep love for us, He draws us to Himself, bringing us back to the place where we belong—at home with Him.
Amos 2:10: Loving Obedience
Israel owes God a tremendous debt. He has delivered His people from the Egyptians and led them safely into the Promised Land, yet they refuse to consistently love and honor Him. And God has done even more for us, having redeemed us through the sacrifice of His only Son. When we recognize the debt Jesus paid on our behalf, we begin to obey from a debt of gratitude—not out of duty, but in an overwhelming response of love.
Zephaniah 3:19: Compassion for the Weak
Zephaniah prophesies about the day of the Lord, speaking both about the time period in which he lives and the eventual end of time. Even though the prophet pronounces harsh judgment against the disobedient, he speaks words of mercy and righteous compassion for the weak. We can model God’s compassion for the less fortunate and receive His approval, both today and at the end of time.
Malachi 1:2: Enduring Love
God’s steadfast love never ceases. In fact, in a real sense it had no beginning: He has loved His children from before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). The word love in this verse connotes a strong emotional attachment and desire to possess or to be in the presence of the loved object. God longs for us to be in His presence, just as He desires that we submit to Him as His children. He states that He is a jealous God because of His great and perfect love for us. And we have resounding confirmation of that great love in the fact that Jesus laid down His very life for our salvation. God’s love indeed endures forever.
Luke 13:34: Under His Wings
Jesus is overwhelmed with compassion for Jerusalem’s current inhabitants, even though He knows that they will reject Him, just as their ancestors have ousted the prophets (1 Kings 19:10; 2 Chronicles 24:19). Using the simile of an attentive mother hen, Jesus expresses His faithful love to a rebellious people. He longs to gather them under His wings, where they will be protected, warm, and secure.
If we open ourselves to God, we can accept the refuge and security our nurturing heavenly Father wants to offer. “He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may take refuge . . .” (Psalm 91:4).
Luke 22:50–51: Consistent Character
Even though He is about to be jailed, Jesus still cares for those around Him. He is not resisting arrest, barking out His innocence, or demanding legal counsel. He simply and unobtrusively reveals the consistency of His character by restoring His opponent’s severed ear. Mindful of this needless violence in the face of the horror to come (Luke 22:53), He heals instead of retaliating.
How do we tend to respond when we have been misunderstood or wrongfully accused? Jesus models a lifestyle of dealing calmly with those who revile us. We too can learn to be compassionate in the midst of chaos.
God’s Power over All Things
The Bible cautions us to seek the Lord instead of His signs and wonders (Luke 11:29–30), so that we have the right focus in our Christian walk. But sometimes God uses obvious miracles to increase faith, like the signs Aaron performs before the people so they will believe.
Jesus uses miracles to stir belief in His listeners, and so do the disciples after Him. And still today God works through miraculous events (evidence of the power of prayer, healing that baffles the medical profession, and the like) so that doubt morphs into faith. He’s still a miracle-working God, and He has told us to ask for anything according to His will (John 15:14–16). So ask God for a miracle that will fill others with faith!
Exodus 7:16: Desert Worship
The desert looks dry and defeating, but God leads His people there to worship Him. We may not think of withered vegetation and dry riverbeds as a sanctuary for worship, but in the spiritual realm they present possibilities for praise. Why? Because the Lord turns “a wilderness into a pool of water, and a dry land into springs of water” (Psalm 107:35). Though a spiritual desert surrounds us, God replenishes us from within, pouring out His Spirit to water our souls. What a reason for worship! What a possibility for praise!
Joshua 6:21: Claim the City
After God’s miraculous work in destroying Jericho’s walls, the people obey and honor the Lord by devoting the city to Him. In the chaos of war they still recognize that God is in charge of the battle, that victory belongs to Him.
As we seek to win the world for Christ, we are to humbly remember that He is our source for spiritual strength. We can claim our own city for the Lord and depend on His Spirit to prevail. “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of armies” (Zechariah 4:6).
Joshua 10:13: Time Stands Still
For the Creator of the universe, stopping the sun for a day was simple. Do we still believe in God’s power to do the seemingly impossible? Do we expect His surprises today? Sometimes we sell ourselves short by expecting God to accomplish only what looks plausible to us. But He is the Author of both the natural and the supernatural. He can break His laws of nature when doing so serves His purposes.
Perhaps stopping the sun was a once-for-all-time event. Even so, it exhibits the miraculous things God is willing to do. For what things do we need to trust in His miraculous power today?
2 Samuel 3:39: According to His Deeds
David grieves another death, even though Abner’s motives were questionable. The king honors those whom God places in authority and asks the Lord to avenge the evildoers in this case. Even though David’s military adviser mistrusted Abner, David sets aside Joab’s dismay and declares that “a leader and a great man has fallen in Israel this day” (2 Samuel 3:38).
The Lord controls positions of royalty and authority (Romans 13:1–2). Even when others disdain those in leadership positions, do we still give them the respect due their position? This may be difficult, but we honor God when we honor His appointed ones.
1 Kings 18:24: Fired Up
The Lord answers Elijah’s prayer, consuming the altar with fire, and the bystanders declare that “the Lord, He is God!” (1 Kings 18:39). Scripture depicts God as a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). When He enters our lives, He incinerates our sin so that what is left is a heart that is devoted to Him. God wants us to belong wholly and irrevocably to Him.
1 Chronicles 11:9: True Power
David exhibits and enjoys various types of power: national leadership, command over military forces, spiritual influence, strength of personal character, and influence in international relations. His mighty men remain “faithful to him in his kingdom” (1 Chronicles 11:10). Yet David acknowledges that his strength emanates from the Almighty God, the One who reigns above all earthly kings and powers (Psalm 21:5; 66:7). True power resides in God’s hands, but He delegates it to those who trust, honor, and obey Him.
2 Chronicles 5:14: Overcome by Glory
God’s glory overwhelms the temple, so much so that the priests can’t perform their duties. The Lord is so powerful that His full presence kills people (Exodus 33:20), but even when He reveals Himself only partially, we are unable to contain the shock of His glory. Still, God wants to reveal Himself to us. Are we willing to be consumed and purified by Him?
2 Chronicles 29:36: Fast Work
Hezekiah and the people rejoice in God’s handiwork, but also in the fact that He accomplishes that work so quickly. Sometimes it seems as though we wait “forever” for God to move, but when He does act, we may need to hold on to our seats. God can move quickly, making up for what we might consider lost time.
Actually, God works when we feel stymied, following His own agenda and adjusting the course of both people and events. He works on our behalf, but the timing belongs to Him. After all, He is God and we are His people. Whether His actions seem fast or slow, He’s still in control, and His timing is perfect.
Job 9:32: Not Like Me
Job recognizes his limited influence in the world compared with that of the infinite Creator. He’s only a tiny speck on the earth compared to the omnipresent Ruler of the universe. Who is Job to tell God what to do? Can “what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘He has no understanding’?” (Isaiah 29:16). Of course not. But remarkably God is willing to condescend to us, listen to our woes, comfort us, and move us toward a resolution. How wonderful that God isn’t limited like we are! He’s immeasurably bigger and better, but still He stoops to offer us the full range of resources available only in Himself.
Job 37:22: Awesome Majesty
Awesome is an overworked word these days, and we have lost the magnitude of its original meaning. When God comes and “around [Him] is awesome majesty,” He thunders down with a terrible magnificence. We can’t begin to fathom the Lord’s true power, and without His protection we would perish from its intensity. Amazingly, this burning splendor can envelop the soul through the Holy Spirit. His majesty dwells in us.
Psalm 77:14: Miracle Worker
With circumstances seemingly spinning out of control, the psalmist recalls the time when God whipped up a storm, divided the Red Sea, and led the Israelites to safety. Despite the roar of the elements and the threat of the rearing walls of water, all of the Lord’s people—young and old, strong and disabled—escaped without harm. This ancient story, passed down through the generations, cheers Asaph as he waits for a miracle.
What miracles has God performed in our own times? Think back on them, detail by detail, and draw comfort. God performs miracles in every generation as an everlasting testament to His greatness.
Psalm 107:16: God’s Breakthroughs
The psalmist refers to an “indestructible” structure to emphasize the Lord’s power to break down barriers. If God desires to enter, no manufactured fortress can keep Him out. More often for us, though, God needs to break through the barricades we have built around our hearts. We wall Him out with a mound of sin, fear, unbelief, busyness, and indifference. But God is a mighty warrior (Jeremiah 20:11), and His Spirit penetrates the toughest exteriors. Unlike Satan’s minions who destroy and devour, the Lord’s breakthroughs capture the heart with love. Thank God for His power and persistence!
Proverbs 29:25: Trusting and Basking
When we focus on God, and not on what others may think of us or what harm they might do to our reputation, we experience a sense of safety and security. When we trust and know God, we bask in love—because God is love. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). When our spirits are full to the brim with God’s love, fear has no room to lurk.
Isaiah 24:3: In His Hands
After the prophecies against the various nations, God utters this sweeping indictment against the whole world. God’s power is great, and when people disregard His laws, destruction inevitably descends. As the song attests, “He’s got the whole world in His hands.” In His perfect timing, God’s hands both destroy and protect.
Isaiah 35:5–6: Don’t Worry
Centuries after Isaiah pens these words, John the Baptist, suffering in prison, sends his disciples to Jesus to ask whether Jesus is truly the long-promised Messiah. In response, Jesus alludes to this passage: “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: people who were blind receive sight, people who limped walk, people with leprosy are cleansed and people who were deaf hear, dead people are raised up, and people who are poor have the gospel preached to them” (Luke 7:22). In other words, “I’m the One, John. I’m the Messiah.”
Just as Jesus reassures John’s disciples of His presence and power, so He invites us to invest our trust and hope in Him. He will never fail us, and we need never doubt His power.
Isaiah 46:5–10: Only God Can
God sets up a comparison between His power and that of an idol made of gold. Idols cannot move, cannot speak, “cannot save [us] from [our] distress.” God, on the other hand, thinks and plans and carries out His purposes with flawless accuracy.
Although we do not worship idols of gold, our priorities often reflect our true allegiances. Money, power, status, and material things can easily become our real “gods.” But none of these can save us from troubles or influence our eternity. Only God holds that power.
Jeremiah 10:10: The True God
This chapter comprises a song of worship that compares the power of the living God to the helplessness of lifeless metal and wooden idols. Yet the people continue to turn away from God to worship these false gods, whom Jeremiah compares to “a scarecrow in a cucumber field” (Jeremiah 10:5).
What “idols” do we envision as having more power than God? The Lord will reveal their utter uselessness and help us to dethrone them. All we need to do is ask Him.
Jeremiah 16:21: A Hard Lesson
Earlier in the chapter God promises to send His people into exile because “each one of you is following walking the stubbornness of his own evil heart, without listening to Me” (Jeremiah 16:12). The people treat God casually, no longer worshiping or fearing Him. Therefore, God will display His power—not to show off or to frighten everyone, but to teach His people. Even in anger God yearns for reconciliation. He desires not to destroy, but to instruct and restore us.
Lamentations 5:19: Eternal God
Human beings possess only a finite understanding of time. We measure time in predictable increments of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, and centuries. By contrast, God is never bound by such artificial time constraints. He exists eternally and rules over everything, including our finite comprehension of time.
Recognizing God’s endless reign can both humble and comfort us. Comparing His infinite nature to our transitory existence, we can only respond with humility. Trusting in His eternal control and power, we find comfort. We belong to the God who transcends time and endures, unchangeable, forever.
Ezekiel 18:4: Owner of Everything
The word every is an inclusive term. By stating that all souls belong to God, the Lord clearly points out our place in relationship to Him. He is the Master, and we are the servants (2 Timothy 2:21); He is the Potter, and we are the clay (Isaiah 64:8). He bought us with the blood of His Son (Acts 20:28). But whether or not we accept salvation, our soul still belongs to Him because He created everything and everyone. And in the end, each individual will account to the Maker for his or her life.
Ezekiel 37:3: Coming Alive
Some people may feel too hard-hearted to revive themselves spiritually (a futile endeavor at best). But if God can breathe life into a desert of dry bones, He can do anything. God demonstrates to Ezekiel that nothing exists outside the Father’s ability to restore and save. Is there any sin too heinous for God to forgive? Or any heart so stony that he cannot soften it? Thankfully, we can rest in the assurance that our God is both able and willing to accomplish anything.
Hosea 1:7: The Origin of Power
Time and again the Lord saves ancient Israel in battle. When God does deliver the nation from calamity, He points out clearly that it is not earthly might or power that accounts for their victory. We may trust in chariots or horses, in our financial portfolio or our intellect, but the reality is that only God possesses the power to rescue us from disaster (Psalm 20:7).
Joel 2:21: How Great Thou Art
When the people repent, they remember God’s goodness, and this recollection prompts praises from their lips. This action serves as an example for us. When we find ourselves in trouble, we are not to offer artificial praise in an effort to bribe the Lord to answer our pleas, but we are instead to approach Him with earnest adoration, acknowledging the great things He has already done for us. Surely God has power infinitely beyond our need and is both ready and willing to extricate us, whatever our present circumstances. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is too difficult for God (Matthew 19:26).
Habakkuk 2:14: God’s Glory
Sometimes we recognize what is good and pure only by comparison to what is not. Although God’s glory is amazing in and of itself, it appears all the more brilliant when contrasted to the darkness of our present day. Even that which we deem as good on earth cannot stand up against the glory of God. His light is too bright to leave unexposed even the smallest shadow.
Matthew 22:32: Your God
Jesus’ reference here to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob implies by its present tense that Jesus regards these men as being alive in eternity. God the Father has authority over all times and kingdoms, leaders and people, life and death. Just as He is the Lord of ancient days, so He is our God, too. He is the God of yesterday, today, and forever.
Isaiah 7:14: The Only Solution
In a chapter that describes political machinations and their obvious inadequacies for solving the human problem, God unveils the permanent solution. He promises the Messiah, whose name, Immanuel, means “God with us.” The Lord knows that people are incapable of solving humanity’s sin problem, and in His limitless love He formulates the only viable solution.
Isaiah 9:2: Messianic Hope
Thus opens a lyrical section of messianic prophecy that lightens the hearts of Isaiah’s listeners. Isaiah 9 begins with a key word in the NIV translation, “Nevertheless.” In other words, for eight chapters God has poured out wrath and justice, but in spite of that—nevertheless—there is hope. Jesus, the Messiah, ushers in hope—hope that sinners lost in darkness can find light, hope that past wrongs can be made right, hope that oppression and exile and war will end, and hope that joy and safety and peace will endure. This is the hope offered to us by the child, the Son, the Messiah.
Jeremiah 23:5: The Coming King
King Zedekiah and other political rulers are failing to lead and guide God’s people. Instead, as bad shepherds they are destroying and scattering the nation. In that context messianic prophecies like this one cultivate an impassioned longing for a Shepherd who will gather the people and lead them wisely. We, too, yearn for a wise King and the good news that He lives and will come to earth again. God has in fact already fulfilled our desire!
Matthew 20:28: Supreme Servant
What if Jesus were a demanding bureaucrat? What if He were to bark out oppressive orders? Who would willingly (without a paycheck or threat of punishment) follow a leader like that?
On the contrary, Jesus models servant leadership. He approaches needy people with humility and love. He walks among the common folk—attending their weddings, reclining at their tables, healing their sick, and prodding them gently toward a greater wisdom. Ultimately, the Son of Man serves us all. He sacrifices His very life so that we can live forever.
Matthew 28:6: He Has Risen
Jesus’ victory over death distinguishes the Christian faith from all other religions and spiritual aspirations. Buddha and Mohammed are still dead, but Jesus Christ rose from the grave and lives forever. Eyewitnesses attest to this fact—and so do “heart witnesses.”
Although we did not see Jesus in bodily form after His resurrection, the witness of the Holy Spirit within us further authenticates that our Savior is indeed alive and active (Romans 5:5). So does the witness of the Spirit around us (Acts 17:28). Only Jesus lives both within and about those who believe in Him. He has risen indeed!
Luke 2:52: Favored Son
Although Jesus is God in the flesh, He does not live a superhuman childhood. In appearance He resembles the other barefooted children in his village, happily engaged in noisy and imaginative play. He apprentices as a carpenter and gets slivers in His hands. He expresses a range of emotions and learns social graces. This Son of God and son of woman is “tempted in all things” (Hebrews 4:15), just like the other boys.
Though pressed with everyday tasks and troubles, however, Jesus finds favor with God and others. So can we, if we will walk alongside Him.
Luke 24:33–39: I Am with You
Jesus’ resurrected body is unlike the restored bodies of Lazarus (John 11) or Jairus’s daughter (Mark 5:21–43). In His transformed state, Jesus appears and disappears at will. Many of His followers fail to recognize Him, and some think He is a ghost.
Like these early believers, we may not recognize Jesus as He appears in the midst of our everyday circumstances. But He is there, and He longs to reassure us of His presence and peace (Matthew 28:20; John 14:27).
John 2:3–10: Change for the Best
Jesus is by no means a social recluse; He enjoys people and parties. For the scene of His first miracle on earth, He chooses a wedding banquet. By turning simple water into superior wine, Jesus demonstrates that He is the God of miracles—and the God of everyday details.
He is also the God of change, who can transform our barren circumstances into overflowing streams of gladness. Just as the new wine emanates a robust quality, so our Lord desires to empower our lives with His fullness and strength.
1 Corinthians 6:19–20: A Priceless Purchase
In New Testament times many Corinthians worshiped Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and participated in the promiscuity that such worship demanded. Paul wants his readers to be aware that their bodies belong to Christ, who purchased them with His priceless shed blood. It follows that a body belonging to the Lord should be kept pure and holy.
Each person is a unique and special creation of God. Since we are followers of Christ, the Holy Spirit dwells in our bodies. God treasures our bodies, and we are to worship and honor Him with our whole, integrated selves. We are not our own; all that we are belongs to Him.
God Seeks after Me
It’s easy to think of prison as a God-forsaken pit. But in this hemmed-in place, God ministers to Joseph. In addition, He grants the captive favor in the eyes of his captors. Joseph can rest assured of God’s watchful care, even in this hostile environment.
Though we may sometimes feel hemmed in or cast away from fruitful living, in this dim place God wants to reveal Himself to us. He never leaves or forsakes us (Joshua 1:5), and He can turn our mourning into dancing (Psalm 30:11) and our poverty into prosperity. Look for Him in the darkness. He’s there.
Exodus 9:12: Hard, Hopeless Heart
God offers Pharaoh repeated opportunities to comply with His command, but the Egyptian ruler consistently refuses to obey. Through the first five plagues, Pharaoh alone is responsible for the hardening of his heart. In this sixth plague, God confirms the condition of Pharaoh’s heart, which has solidified with each step of his disobedience.
When we repeatedly resist God, our hearts can also harden against Him and His work in our lives. At some point the Spirit stops convicting us and we’re left to reap the consequences of our rebellion. Take a lesson from this hard-hearted ruler. Don’t make it a personal goal to find out how longsuffering God can be.
Ruth 1:16: Faithful Follower
Ruth’s poetic statement of loyalty to Naomi appears in many wedding ceremonies. It’s a model of love, constancy, and faithfulness for marriage and other intimate relationships. It also portrays God’s commitment to us. As the lover of our souls, He promises never to leave or forsake us (Isaiah 42:16; Hebrews 13:5). In turn, He wants to hear us say, “We have left everything and followed you!” (Matthew 19:27).
Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:26). God promises His faithfulness to us and delights in faithful followers.
1 Samuel 6:20: Who Can Stand?
The people of Beth Shemesh quickly conclude that people can’t face God without being consumed by His holiness. They grasp the Bible’s message: Sinful humanity cannot exist in God’s presence without a mediator, a redeemer.
For those who trust in Him, Jesus Christ is that Redeemer. As believers we stand in God’s presence because through the blood of His Son He abolishes our sin and pronounces us worthy. The worst of sinners who repent can stand freely in His grace.
1 Samuel 13:14: Looking for Heart
Given the number of people in the world, it would seem that, when God needs a spiritual leader, there’d be plenty of candidates. But Samuel states that the Lord searches for someone to fill the position. “The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of mankind to see if there are any who understand, who seek God” (Psalm 14:2). God wants a relationship with someone who lives righteously and desires to obey Him. That’s the fundamental “heart requirement” for anyone He appoints as a spiritual leader. God seeks a person who seeks Him.
Job 33:14: God Speaks
Elihu reminds Job that God speaks in many ways and that we cannot predict how He will communicate with us. So when we think the Lord is ignoring us, it might be that we are failing to recognize His voice. Elihu says that God speaks through dreams and visions (Job 33:15), into our ears (v. 16), and through the chastening of illness (v. 19).
In what other ways has God spoken to you? What “new ways” of communication might you be overlooking?
Isaiah 40:11: The Good Shepherd
A shepherd tends his or her flock firmly but gently, seeking out lost sheep and caring for them. This image, evoked often by Jesus to describe His relationship with us, accompanies two verses about God’s power as if to remind us that His might is tempered by His love and compassion. It also reminds us of God’s promise of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
Jeremiah 24:7: A Heart for God
We often assume that we initiate our own search for God, but actually He woos us. Our desire for God, our longing to know Him, is planted in our souls by the Lord Himself. The Creator promises to give His people a hunger for Him, and then He fulfills that need: “They will be My people, and I will be their God.” God pursues us more than we seek Him because He desires intimacy with His people.
Ezekiel 34:11: The Seeking Shepherd
In the Middle East the sheep’s need for food, water, and protection shapes a shepherd’s life. It is crucial for the shepherd to keep close watch over these obtuse and defenseless animals to prevent harm from predators. If sheep stray from the flock, the shepherd is responsible for recovering them. In a similar fashion God seeks out His straying children, pursuing them when they insist on going their own way. While the ultimate choice to follow Him is ours, God wants to make sure He stays close enough that we can hear and distinguish His voice calling us.
Zechariah 12:4: Careful Watch
Sometimes we wish that God would pay attention to someone else for a while. It feels as though He is too close, too observant, and we feel convicted and challenged to grow in areas we would rather not address. The implication of the word watchful is to be observant, to regard with attention, and to examine with a special purpose.
God’s purpose in watching us has to do with His protection, love, and concern. He is never out to squash us just because we are having too much fun. Rather, He is our loving Father who wants to keep us secure in His tender, loving care.
1 Thessalonians 1:4: God’s Chosen
Paul’s greeting to these Gentile believers includes the confident reminder that they’re chosen by God. God has chosen each of us, too. One mystery of God’s sovereignty pivots on how we’re chosen but still afforded the freedom to reject this election. We’re selected, yet not forced, into God’s love. He pursues persistently but gently. Who wouldn’t want to be loved like that?
God’s Invitations to Me
God sets apart His people from the nations around them. They are to be holy and priestly, honoring and speaking directly to God. They live both with privilege and responsibility, because in exchange for God’s blessing, He expects their full devotion and obedience.
We belong to God’s priestly kingdom, too. Through Jesus Christ we can approach God individually and confidently because the Savior declares us holy. What a wonderful responsibility we have!
Exodus 35:30–33: Called to Create
Our work-oriented society, with its emphasis on planned performance and measurable results, generally places a low priority on the arts. Many people don’t grasp the value of creativity and artistic skills. But God does. The original Creator fashions a spectacular world and insists that His earthly dwelling be built and decorated by master artisans. He expects them to create with excellence.
Creative people speak of art for art’s sake, and that’s acceptable in God’s sight. The Lord creates with pleasure and abandon, and so can we. But believers revel in an additional, reassuring principle: We’re called to create for God’s sake.
Deuteronomy 2:7: All We Need
During the Israelites’ wilderness journey God supplied everything they needed. For forty years they never went hungry, nor did their clothes or shoes wear out (Deuteronomy 29:5). Moses wants God’s people to remember this as they enter Canaan. They’re not to forget that the Lord has been their Provider.
Sometimes when we pass from lean or difficult times into abundant living we tend to lessen our dependency on God. We revert to relying on ourselves for what we need, spiritually and physically. This eventually catches up with us, though, as it did for Solomon, the Teacher, in the book of Ecclesiastes (2:1–23). The Lord allows us to get so full of ourselves that we recognize we’re empty without Him. If at this point we will reach up, He will once again fill us with Himself because He is all we need (Ecclesiastes 2:24–26).
2 Samuel 6:21: Celebrate!
Even though David’s wife Michal feels embarrassed by his public dancing, the king rebukes her criticism. He is not dancing for himself or his adoring subjects. David dances before the Lord and consequently is not concerned with what anyone else thinks. He celebrates God’s goodness to all.
Job 29:2: Looking Back
“What used to be” often seems preferable to today’s circumstances. Many times we idealize the past, forgetting its misfortunes and complaining about what bothers us now. In Job’s case the past definitely was better: He had enjoyed good health, a sterling reputation, a thriving family, and a prosperous lifestyle. Yet looking back and bemoaning the present doesn’t solve our problems. We belong to God the Healer, and we can hope for the future, anticipating His restoration.
It’s not that we are to “stuff” our pain, but as we grieve over the past and wade through the present, we can pray: “You who have shown me many troubles and distresses will revive me again, and will bring me up again from the depths of the earth” (Psalm 71:20). With God we don’t get stuck in the past. We glance behind us but then turn our faces forward.
Ecclesiastes 11:6: Sowing in the Morning
Farmers understand the benefits of rising early to work the fields, while the breeze feels cool and their minds are alert. Working with the rhythm of the sun establishes the best pattern for sowing and gathering provisions. For all of us the admonition to “sow your seed in the morning” can represent the wisdom of starting a venture early or at the opportune time.
In our spiritual lives we benefit greatly from making fellowship with God our first priority of the day. David says, “In the morning, Lord, You will hear my voice; in the morning I will present my prayer to You and be on the watch” (Psalm 5:3). Whatever our moment of rising, we can remember to “seek first [God’s] kingdom . . . and all these things will be provided to [us]” (Matthew 6:33). Reminding ourselves of God’s principles—early and often—ensures both our spiritual and physical sustenance.
Isaiah 33:15–16: Joyous Walking
God invites us to live in the joy of obedience. The full text of this verse elaborates on what it means to “walk righteously.” If we honor God with what we say, what we do, and how we treat others, He will walk with us and lead us to the heights—a safe place within His presence.
Jeremiah 7:23: God with Us
God reminds His people of what He had once told their forefathers who had escaped slavery in Egypt. What a promise, that God will be with us! Yet we often reject this invitation to obedience. Like the Israelites who “walked in their own advice and in the stubbornness of their evil hearts” (Jeremiah 7:24), we prefer to live as staunch individualists rather than as God’s malleable people. What misguided inclinations keep you from responding wholeheartedly to God’s invitation today?
Jeremiah 38:20: An Invitation to Trust
God issues a hard command to King Zedekiah: “Surrender to the Babylonians and I will spare your life.” Babylon, a feared enemy, is actually a tool in God’s hand to soften the hearts of His people. God’s basic message to the king and His people may be summarized as follows: “Obey me and trust me, rather than leaning on your own understanding.” God still invites us to obey and trust Him and guarantees His presence and security when we do.
Ezekiel 35:12: Ready to Listen
God continually watches us and always hears when we speak to Him. He “hears” our thoughts; our prayers; our words, whether voiced or unvoiced; our dreams and aspirations; our frustrations and disappointments; our curses and blessings. Nothing escapes His acute auditory sense. Regardless of how alone or invisible we may feel, God hovers nearby, ever ready to listen and respond.
Matthew 4:19: Gone Fishing
While walking alongside the Sea of Galilee, a lake in the Jordan valley, Jesus observes two brothers who are out fishing and proceeds to make them an offer they cannot refuse. Jesus’ invitation to teach Simon Peter and Andrew to fish for souls extends to us, too. If we are willing, God can use us to lead others to eternal life.
We do not need a seminary degree, an articulate vocabulary, or eloquent speaking skills to share the gospel. Just as Jesus promised to mentor these rugged fishermen, so He will demonstrate to us how to attract others to Him. His example and teachings are all the “fishing lessons” we need—so long as we will commit to following Him.
Matthew 5:8: Blessed Purity
Being “pure in heart” means keeping ourselves free from the contagion of sin based on our willingness to claim that Jesus Christ has saved us “by the washing of regeneration” (Titus 3:5). Jesus promises that those with pure hearts will, without the obstruction of sin, see God.
Mark 6:31: Getting Away
We may imagine that Jesus, as the Son of God, runs on limitless energy and regards relaxation as needless. But the same God who rests after six days of creation (Genesis 2:2) now in human form arranges a retreat for Himself and His disciples.
If Jesus needs respite, then don’t we? God’s mission for us requires a balance between work and rest, including some extended periods of time devoted to renewal. When we are tempted to neglect our need to take time off, we do well to remember that even God pauses to relax. Just as He calls us to meaningful work, so He also invites us to rest with Him.
Luke 7:16: Personal Helper
After Jesus raises the widow’s son from the dead, the mourners exclaim that God has sent Jesus to help His people. They consider Jesus a prophet in the pattern of the Old Testament prophets Elijah and Elisha, who also raised children from the dead (1 Kings 17:17–24; 2 Kings 4:18–37).
This same Jesus who has defeated death once and for all time through His resurrection still offers us help today. “So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:6).
God’s Love for Me
Though the history of these twin brothers has been rocky, their relationship achieves a measure of reconciliation with this rendezvous. Jacob is so relieved that his brother is gracious to him that he compares meeting Esau with seeing God’s face.
Have you experienced this kind of grace from one you have wronged? Have you been gracious to one who has wronged you? If we allow the Spirit to direct and heal our relationships, we or the ones we treasure will resemble God’s compassionate face, voice, and hands to us. We must express His love to one another.
Deuteronomy 31:8: Not Forsaken
If we disappoint friends or family, they may hold our mistakes against us for long periods of time or, in the worst case, may give up on us entirely. But no matter what we do, God never leaves or forsakes us. He forgives and forgets our sins (Isaiah 43:25). He draws near when we draw near to Him (James 4:8). In fact, “The Lord is the one who is going ahead of [us]. He will be with [us].”
Deuteronomy 33:27: Everlasting Arms
The Lord’s everlasting arms are ever extended. We are never out of his reach. When we fall, His arms catch, cradle, and revive us. He is our eternal refuge, the One to whom we can run anytime, anywhere.
2 Samuel 22:20: The Lord’s Delight
As a parent revels in a child’s first steps and explorative capers, so God delights in us. The Father rescues us when we approach trouble or when we stumble and fall. We may display poor judgment, but God still comes to our aid, not because we have done the right thing, but because He loves us immensely. When we waver, we can allow ourselves to fall back into the Lord’s delight.
Psalm 18:35: He Stoops to Conquer
Stooping can be an undignified pose, but the great God condescends and bends down to earth to meet face-to-face with lowly humans. When the Lord stoops, He brings His greatness with Him, handing it to those who will accept His presence. With this grand gesture He conquers hearts that will love and follow Him always. In turn, we rejoice in His greatness. “For His mercy toward us is great, and the truth of the Lord is everlasting. Praise the Lord” (Psalm 117:2).
Psalm 27:10: Accepted by God
In the early 1900s upper-class citizens would send one another calling cards, hoping in advance to be received for a neighborly visit. For the sender to be rejected would have constituted social disgrace. But we don’t send ahead our intention or credentials to meet with God. Nor do we doubt His reception of us. Even though family, friends, or society might reject us, our Lord always welcomes His children with open and loving arms.
Psalm 52:8: Flourishing Forever
Olive trees serve an important role in the Israelite economy. Even today olives are a luscious staple in the Middle Eastern diet. The Bible mentions the olive tree over sixty times, often with favorable descriptions and metaphors.
In the midst of danger David proclaims that he flourishes like an olive tree in God’s house. He is growing in and confident of God’s love and protection. When we are secure in the Lord’s love, we thrive regardless of our external circumstances.
Psalm 136:26: Enduring Love
This recurring theme is a concept in our memories if it finds its way into our consciousness again and again. Based on the repetitions in this psalm, we may assume that the writer wants to imprint our brains with the truth that God loves us eternally. Although this reiteration might seem monotonous now, reading this rhythmic psalm can be a valuable exercise. When we’re tempted to give up on ourselves, the Holy Spirit can bring to mind this timeless truth about God’s love. If the Lord’s faithful love endures forever, then that love must extend eternally to each of us as individuals. Perhaps we, too, can endure, bolstered by this sure knowledge.
Psalm 149:4: God’s Delight
God doesn’t simply take care of His people. Nor does He merely love them, although these gifts in themselves would be more than enough for us. The truth is that our Lord delights in us. Delights. Like a proud father who dotes on his precious child, when we enter God’s presence, He laughs with joy. Like the enraptured bridegroom who glimpses his bride before the wedding, God’s heart simply bursts with love. Like a lifelong friend, God extends His arms to embrace us.
“The Lord favors those who fear Him, those who wait for His faithfulness” (Psalm 147:11). How will we respond in return?
Isaiah 16:5: No Comparison
The promised Messiah cannot even be compared to earthly kings. His throne will be established not by military might nor by political positioning, but with compassion. God loves His people so much that He promises a way of salvation that depends on faithfulness, justice, and righteousness.
Isaiah 25:8: Divine Comfort
This promise does not contradict God’s previous actions but rather illuminates His motivation. Like a loving parent who disciplines his children, God’s judgment upon Israel and the nations seeks to correct their misbehavior. He longs to wipe away our tears and restore us when we come to recognize the benefit of His correction. In this tender parental image, we fall into the depth and intensity of God’s love for us.
Ezekiel 1:2–3: Rainbow of Hope
Historically, God’s glory accompanies His presence in the temple. Now, for the first time in centuries, God’s glory appears outside of Jerusalem to His exiled people in Babylon. His presence there carries a message of hope. Although the people remain in exile, the message is clear that if they forsake their wickedness, they can embrace hope based upon the presence of God, even far away from their homeland.
Regardless of our own circumstances, no matter how “exiled” and alone we may feel, we have the same hope, and indeed certainty, of God’s presence.
Daniel 9:4: Covenant Keeper
God keeps His covenant of love. Even though we run from Him in disobedience, He waits patiently for our repentance as an opportunity for Him to heap His love upon us. The disappointments we experience with other people breaking their promises is never a valid foundation for comparison with God. God’s love is perfect, unchangeable, and eternal. We have His solemn promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5; Romans 8:38–39).
Zechariah 9:16: The Crown Jewels
God has impeccable taste. Take a good look at the sparkling sea, the blue sky accented by cumulous clouds, the rugged mountains, a field of delicate wildflowers responding in a unison ripple to a breath of breeze. In Matthew 6:28 Jesus reminds us to look at the lilies and marvel at their elegance. If He has infused nature with such loveliness, how much more beautiful will He make His own children? We may be self-effacing about our looks, personalities, and talents, but God sees us as His beautiful jewels. Taking heed of passages like this can help us as we learn to view ourselves through God’s eyes. He knows us best and loves us most.
God’s Response to Me
God blesses Esau and Jacob so outrageously, there’s not enough room in the land to hold all their possessions. However, this abundance doesn’t signal out-of-control materialism. Instead, it’s an outgrowth of their relationship with God. A materialist pursues possessions for the sake of gaining more. A blessed person focuses on God and leaves the question of possessions up to Him. When we delight ourselves in the Lord, He delights in blessing us (Psalm 37:4).
Leviticus 1:17: Pleasing Aroma
The book of Leviticus contains instructions for various types of offerings. To our modern sensibilities they may seem time-consuming and confusing, but God doesn’t create ordinances capriciously. These acts of repentance symbolically break down the sin barrier between the holy and humanity, the pure and profane, so God’s people can stay in relationship with Him. When God smells these burning sacrifices, they are a sweet aroma to Him; they mean He and His children can draw near to one another.
The Lord will draw near to us if we approach Him according to His stated provision. Today we access Him through the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ.
Leviticus 22:31–33: He Is Lord
God repeatedly asserts His supremacy by claiming, “I am the Lord.” He is God, the preeminent Being and Ruler over all people and things. His supreme authority deserves our respect, worship, and obedience. When we honor God with acts of submission and thanksgiving, we claim Him as our Lord. The Lord responds to our reverence by revealing Himself to us and blessing us with His presence.
Leviticus 27:26: First Things First
In the Old Testament the firstborn of livestock or the first fruit of crops belongs to the Lord. In the New Testament God wants our “first,” too. He asks us to seek His kingdom first; then we will receive the things we need (Matthew 6:33). In all things, He wants first place—in our hearts, actions, relationships, and belongings. When we place Him first, we will find that even though He freely gives us all things (Romans 8:32), all these things pale in comparison to knowing Him.
Deuteronomy 15:1: No More Debt
Although we don’t practice this seven-year principle today, God’s grace still cancels debt in our lives: spiritual, relational, and, at times, even financial. When we confess our sin, He eradicates the debt we owe because of our transgression. He forgives everything, no matter what we’ve done. He can help to erase the painful debt that resides in broken relationships and to mend them. And His Word is also filled with assistance in right living to help us out of financial debt, teaching us how to practice His financial principles—giving Him our firstfruits and living responsibly so He can prosper the rest. In all aspects of our lives, when we rely on and cooperate with Him, God cancels debt.
Deuteronomy 26:19: Set Above
Whom does God place “above all the nations”? Those who love and obey Him wholeheartedly. When we seek God as our goal, and not as a way to gain recognition, He then lifts us up in His time (1 Peter 5:6). Yet the greatest honor centers on knowing God and being known by Him. All other honors pale compared to the praise due His name.
1 Chronicles 6:31: Music Men
Music plays an important role in the tabernacle. So much so that King David assigns men to devote themselves solely to making music in the Lord’s house. David values music. As a young shepherd he plays the harp and later soothes King Saul with strains from this hauntingly melodic instrument (1 Samuel 16:18, 23). David also understands the importance of song in the spiritual realm, and he writes many psalms addressed to his director of music.
Music gives glory to God (Psalm 149:3), ministers to our souls (Psalm 103:1), and helps us wage war in the spiritual realm (1 Samuel 16:23). When we are weary, afraid, uncertain, or disobedient, we can sing to the Lord “in the shadow of [His] wings” because He is our help (Psalm 63:7).When we celebrate God’s goodness to us, we can praise and thank Him with music (Psalm 95:2), and we minister to the Lord and His people with songs of praise (Psalm 135:2). We even affirm our commitment to God in this way (Psalm 57:7). So go ahead: “Sing for joy to God our strength; shout joyfully to the God of Jacob!” (Psalm 81:1).
2 Chronicles 1:12: Surprise Benefits
Solomon pleases God when he asks for the character traits of wisdom and knowledge rather than seeking wealth and honor. The Lord grants his request, but also showers the king with incomparable riches. God always examines the condition of our hearts—whether we obey and serve Him with devotion and humility. But when we follow the Lord wholeheartedly, He might throw in unexpected benefits. Our Lord never rests in His spiritual quest for our whole hearts, or in His practical ability to surprise us with great gifts (see Matthew 6:33; James 1:17).
2 Chronicles 15:7: Inner Strength
During the period of Israel’s apostasy marauders roam the land, and physical strength is a prerequisite for traveling from one nation to another. But as Azariah recalls these times, he encourages Judah to develop another kind of strength: the inner resolve to persevere, to reach a goal, and to attain its rewards. The prophet declares that, if Judah perseveres, the people will find God and their work will be rewarded—the work of tearing down false idols and of rebuilding a relationship with the Lord. When we seek God, He rewards us with Himself (Jeremiah 29:13).
2 Chronicles 27:6: Power Walk
To “walk steadfastly” means to be resolute and immovable in our belief or determination. Jotham doesn’t sway from his allegiance to God, and as he grows closer to the Lord, his personal and spiritual power increases.
The closer we draw to the Spirit, the more we walk in His power. Even when we don’t realize it, we exude strength when we walk in obedience. In an ever-increasing upward spiral, steadfastness increases power, and power enables steadfastness.
Nehemiah 13:31: Man of Favor
It hardly seems necessary for Nehemiah to pray for God’s favor. He lives righteously and works to restore God’s people to a right relationship with their Maker. Psalm 84:11 asserts that “the Lord gives grace and glory; He withholds no good thing from those who walk with integrity.” But Nehemiah still asks for God’s favor because it is the deep desire of his heart. This pleases God, and Nehemiah’s life serves as an example of righteousness for the generations. When we seek to please God, there is no limit to how He can favor us.
Psalm 62:1: Soul Rest
A soul at rest lives free from guilt and anxiety. The mind, will, and emotions remain at peace, undisturbed by their surroundings. How do we gain this clean conscience, this tranquil inner life? Only in God. He desires that we find soul rest through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28–29).
Psalm 79:4: Objects of Reproach
The Israelites are desperate, finding themselves the objects of reproach and derision from their unbelieving neighbors. The writer paints a bloody picture of God’s people suffering because of their waywardness. Pagans, living better than they do, scoff at their predicament. Yet despite their own guilt the Jews ask God to rescue them.
We might consider this audacious. But there is nothing like agony to help us remember who God is and what He can do—and humbling ourselves and running to Him is precisely how He wants us to respond. Unlike humans, God doesn’t retort, “I told you so,” when we cry to Him for rescue. Instead, He replies, “Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; and do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; but you will forget the shame of your youth, and no longer remember the disgrace of your widowhood” (Isaiah 54:4).
Psalm 116:12: No Repayment
We visit the doctor, stock up on groceries, and take the car to a mechanic, fully expecting to pay for services rendered or goods received. Although at times we may bargain or barter, we ordinarily accept the stated price. But God requires and exacts no payment for His services. Nothing would be sufficient anyway to repay Him for forgiveness, salvation, and a home waiting in eternity, not to mention His faithful love, guidance, provision, and protection.
Yet the psalmist attests that he will repay the Lord by calling upon Him (Psalm 116:13). In effect, he is repaying God by acknowledging his ongoing need for Him. And this is what the Lord desires, that we depend on Him and worship Him. A heart fully devoted to God, relying on and praising Him for everything, is the only payment we can afford. Thankfully, it is the only form of payment God will accept (Psalm 96:8).
Proverbs 28:25: Trust and Prosper
Trust leaves no room for greed. Although the fundamental ingredient of avarice is selfishness, it can be tempting to let fear push us into greediness. We then allow ourselves to doubt that God will take care of us, grasping too tightly to our possessions and resources. But God assures us, “I’ll take care of you. I’ll make sure you have more than enough.” That promise pertains not only to physical needs but applies as well to the necessary wisdom to learn a realistic definition of “enough.”
The hard part is letting go. But when we do, the rewards multiply. God promises in Malachi 3:10, “Put Me to the test now in this . . . if I do not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.” If we relinquish control of our resources to God, we will be amazed to find how blessed we can be.
Isaiah 41:17: Living Waters
In this wonderful chapter overflowing with God’s pledge of help to Israel, He acknowledges the plight of the poor. As they cry out, God promises to answer them, to quench their thirst with rivers and springs and pools. God cares about the poor and needy people of this world. As followers of Christ, we have the opportunity to be part of the solution to God’s concern.
Jeremiah 30:11: No Giving Up
By worshiping idols, listening to false prophets, and generally ignoring the Lord’s appeals to them, God’s people bring their punishment upon themselves. Indeed, they deserve to be abandoned or destroyed by God, but He chooses instead to lovingly correct them. Ironically, the promise of discipline with justice demonstrates God’s mercy. Even when we expect it least, God displays His mercy and grace.
Hosea 2:15: Sing with Abandon
Have you ever watched children sing? Ingenuous and uninhibited, they exude innocence from the depths of their earnest souls. Children sing loudly and clearly, celebrating without reservation and caring nothing about the reaction of other people. This attitude delights our Father God. He is pleased when we as “sophisticated” adults respond to Him with the innocence of a child, caring nothing for the opinion of others but raising our voices in song purely and simply for His pleasure.
Hosea 12:6: Return to Me
The psalmist asks rhetorically, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” Then he answers his own question: “If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there” (Psalm 139:7–8). We may try to run and hide from God, but He is with us continually. So returning to our Lord is never a long or arduous journey. When we simply acknowledge His presence, we are already home.
Mark 9:24: Overcoming Unbelief
This anxious father wrestles with a dilemma: He believes but at the same time doubts. Still, the Lord honors the man’s honesty. Despite the father’s wavering faith, Jesus delivers the son from demonic possession.
In times of turmoil our faith may falter, too. We might believe for one moment but struggle with doubt the next. With overwhelming feelings of guilt and despair, we may ask ourselves how we can expect anything from God when we doubt His very presence and provision. But God knows the heart. Just as He perceived the father’s desire to overcome his unbelief, so also He sees ours. And He responds to our cry to “help my unbelief” with acts of lavish and unmerited grace.
Mark 14:6: A Beautiful Act
Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha, pours a flask of expensive perfume on Jesus’ head (John 12:2–3). This perfume could have been sold for more than a year’s wages, so some in the crowd reproach Mary for her seemingly excessive gesture. But Jesus commends her, demonstrating that He considers the outpouring an act of extravagant worship.
We are never being wasteful when we worship and honor the Lord with our words or actions. While some may scoff at our faith or ridicule our commitment to service, God sees it all. To Him, our sincere worship, however it is expressed, is a thing of beauty.
Luke 17:14: Faith First
Jesus sends the ten lepers to a priest for inspection before they are healed, which goes against Jewish health laws (see Leviticus 14). All ten respond in faith and find themselves miraculously cleansed on their way to the priest. Centuries earlier Hebrew priests had modeled this same kind of expectant faith as they stepped into the Jordan River before God had heaped up the water to allow the Israelites safe passage to Jericho (Joshua 3:13–16).
Sometimes God wants us to act before He does. We are asked to move forward, and then He manifests a miracle. Can you think of a time when this has happened to you or to someone you know?
John 4:14: Thirst Quencher
Jesus defies several cultural taboos when He purposely journeys through Samaria and intentionally makes conversation with a woman—an immoral Samaritan woman at that! Traditionally, women collect water at public wells in the mornings and evenings. But this woman with a shameful reputation arrives at noon, probably to avoid meeting other people.
Jesus is not put off by her reprehensible past or scarred social standing. As the Fountain of Life (Psalm 36:9) and Spring of Living Water (Jeremiah 17:13), the Lord slakes this woman’s spiritual thirst with the same soul-soothing water He offers us. When our “soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:2), He promises to hand us a refreshing glass of Living Water!
John 9:25: Clear Vision
The word blind is mentioned a total of seventy-five times throughout the Bible. In many cases God rebukes people for their spiritual blindness (Isaiah 44:9; 56:10; Matthew 23:24–26). But in this verse the once-blind man ecstatically declares his physical and spiritual healing through Jesus.
Our Lord is indeed the Master ophthalmologist. When we believe, He plucks us from sin’s darkness and ushers us into His marvelous light. God promises to “lead the blind by a way they have not known” and “turn darkness into light before” us (Isaiah 42:16).
John 11:35: He Weeps with Us
Although it’s the shortest verse in the English Bible, John 11:35 conveys a powerful message in just two words. Jesus has feelings; He sheds tears with no inhibition about expressing His sorrow. He mourns with His friends over Lazarus’s death.
Jesus cares enough to weep with us, too. He who records our every tear (Psalm 56:8) understands and feels our sadness and frustrations.
2 Corinthians 3:17: Forever Free
God not only releases us from sin, but His Spirit also frees us in other ways. We are liberated to live under grace instead of law, to worship Him without restriction, to follow His voice instead of the conflicting calls of the world around us, to choose within His moral guidelines rather than blindly adhering to a set of rules.
Unfortunately, we do not always fully grasp the power and magnitude of the freedom we possess. We voluntarily return to rules and obligations because they feel safe and familiar. But instead of chaining ourselves to human regulations, God intends that we fly unfettered and forever free. What holds you back from soaring on the wings of His grace?
Galatians 2:6: Looks Don’t Matter
In the Old Testament God informed the prophet Samuel, “God does not see as man sees, since man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). We often think only of physical appearance when we hear verses like this. But we should remember that the term can also include a person’s education, accomplishments, social standing, and any of the other attributes by which we are inclined to critique one another. Thankfully, God does not expect or value our “keeping up appearances.” He judges what is in our hearts.
Ephesians 3:12: Confident Approach
Before Jesus’ death a thick curtain prevented everyone but the high priest from entering the temple’s most holy place. But after the crucifixion God Himself tore that veil from top to bottom, rendering Himself eternally approachable by anyone at any time (Matthew 27:50–51). He beckons us to draw near with confidence.
God’s Desire to Know Me
Jacob wrestles with God and won’t quit until the Lord blesses him. By this we learn that God honors an honest struggle with Him. It marks the person who desires to genuinely know Him and to live authentically. It strengthens our faith and transforms us into overcomers (Genesis 32:28).
Many well-known Christians have wrestled through “a dark night of the soul,” the end result of which has been the deepening of their faith. Thus, the prayer to “bless me” doesn’t always emerge from selfishness; rather, it attaches itself to worshiping and obeying God. It is the natural desire of one who wholeheartedly walks with Him.
Exodus 25:8: The Abiding God
Living in close proximity to Yahweh, the Israelites can’t help but be affected by His glorious presence. Do we recognize this same privilege in our lives? Actually, we’re privy to a double blessing because God dwells among us, but also within us through the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).
Exodus 34:35: Radiant Results
After spending time with God, Moses veils his face because the Israelites can’t manage the radiance. They’re afraid. Yet at the same time, the people probably feel curiously attracted to their leader, wanting to know about his mountaintop meeting. Why does his face glow? What is God like? What has He said?
When we bask in God’s presence, His light can shine on those around us. Our intimacy with God can provoke spiritual interest in others. Then the radiance of God glowing through us can draw people to Him through the questions they ask us.
Leviticus 20:26: Only His
A confidential memo might be labeled, “For your eyes only.” This means the sender wants person-to-person communication and feedback. God wants to communicate with us in a similarly intimate fashion, but He asks for more than just our eyes. He wants every part of us—physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, intellectual—to be devoted to Him. In turn, He gives all of Himself, and His resources, to us. What a delight to be called only His.
Deuteronomy 5:29: Heartfelt Inclinations
To fear God is to stand in awe of Him, and such reverence leads to spiritual obedience. God deeply desires that we keep His commands, for when we do, it will go well with us and our children. This progression of reverence, obedience, and abundance comes about through hearts that are inclined to fear God.
We think of an inclination as a natural bent—we either have it or we don’t—so we might believe some people feel more drawn to God than others. But the truth is, we’re all sinners, set on going our own way. We develop an inclination toward God by seeking and spending time with Him, by choosing to let go of sin and to do what’s right. As we pursue God, the Holy Spirit assists us to develop a heart that is longingly inclined toward Him.
Job 7:11: Crying Out
Job cries out to God, spilling his anguish and bitterness in front of his friends. He doesn’t gloss over his situation with denials and platitudes. He is honest and vocal. Throughout the Bible people complain to God and allow others to see their pain (for example, Sarah, Hannah, David, Jeremiah). The Lord hears, answers, and blesses them. So why do we disguise our feelings, feigning contentment when we really need to pour out our emotions? As with any relationship, friendship with God deepens when we frankly wrestle through difficulties together. Better than any human, God can handle our candor when we are in crisis.
Psalm 46:1: The Ever-Present Help
When we are in trouble we don’t need a fax, a phone, or an e-mail account to contact God. And when we do reach Him, He doesn’t put us on hold or assign us to a waiting list. Our Lord is always and immediately available, an ever-present help. He is as near as our next thought, attentive to the first call from our hearts before the sound reaches our lips. He promises that “before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will listen” (Isaiah 65:24).
Psalm 73:23: Staying Close
The psalmist asserts that, while others may distance themselves from God, he would rather stay close to his God. Why? The reasons may be countless, but they almost certainly include the ability to receive God’s protection, communicate with Him, know His heart, learn righteousness, defeat sin, find comfort, ask for healing, claim grace and forgiveness, and bask in unconditional love. What other reasons might we have for staying near to the heart of God? Make a list and thank Him for His closeness. Then draw close to Him.
Psalm 145:19: Dare to Desire
If God fulfills our needs, do we dare ask Him for our desires? The Bible says yes. Psalm 37:4 invites us: “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 103:5 adds that God satisfies our desires with good things. And Psalm 145:16 says of God, “You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.”
Do we love and honor God? Then what holds us back from asking Him for our heart’s desires? With God we can dare to desire and believe.
Isaiah 43:1: Named as His
When we are named by our parents or take the name of our spouse in marriage, a significant transaction takes place. We are marked as “belonging” to that person or persons. In a similar way, God redeems us, pays the price for us, and names us as His own. Our redemption and identity as God’s children reflect an amazing blessing: The God of the universe desires intimacy with us.
Ezekiel 9:3: Relationship Test
The word glory means “weightiness” or “heaviness.” This weightiness either feels rich and honorable or severe and burdensome. God’s glory still affects us today in these ways. If we are in a right relationship with Him we find His company a rich and satisfying experience. If we are rebelling, however, His hovering presence feels foreboding and inescapable. Our response to God’s presence is a reliable test that can help us to evaluate and, if necessary, alter the condition of our hearts.
Ezekiel 36:26: Weakness Is Strength
In the Old Testament the word flesh is synonymous with weakness. God’s wants our hearts to be “weak” (soft or malleable) toward Him. Then we are open to receive anything He offers us. In 2 Corinthians 12:10 Paul points out the irony that when we are weak toward God, He is strong in us. The heart of flesh loves God; it hears and absorbs and obeys His words.
Micah 1:3: True Intimacy
“The Lord is coming” is an Old Testament expression that refers to God’s intervention in history.
Rather than creating the world and setting it into independent motion, God stays involved in every aspect of the universe, including our daily lives. He goes so far as to keep a running count of the number of hairs on each of our heads (Matthew 10:30). Despite what popular thinking might purport, God does not observe us dispassionately from behind the barrier of a one-way glass. His interactions with His people are always up close and personal.
1 Corinthians 11:27: A Look in the Mirror
While we are not to be self-centered, the Bible calls for the kind of introspection and reflection that fosters holiness. Psalm 4:4 cautions us: “Tremble, and do not sin; meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still.”
Sin lodges a barrier between God and ourselves. Sometimes a long look in the mirror, under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, is exactly what is necessary to increase our level of intimacy with God. Then and only then can we approach the Lord’s Supper with confidence.
Philippians 3:7–8: Profitable Losses
In the kingdom of God, earthly profits become losses and heavenly debits turn into assets. Paul considers everything he has achieved prior to his salvation a loss. His previously coveted reputation as a zealous Pharisee (see Philippians 3:4–6) pales in comparison to the joy of knowing the resurrected Christ. The Greek word the apostle chooses for “knowledge” indicates a personal, experiential, and progressive understanding, a knowing that grows more intimate as the relationship develops. Christ offers such knowledge to us, and when we walk closely with Him, the world and its enticements begin to recede. We begin to hunger more for Jesus and less for everything else.
 These quotations use the 1995 NASB rather than the 2020 NASB. The word “lovingkindness” is translated as “mercy” in the later version.