Distress

Today’s post is the beginning of a new series, Psalm Saturdays, by guest blogger Robert Chamberlain. You can read more about Robert after the article below.

Psalm 120:1-7

1 In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me.
2 Deliver me, O LORD, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue.
3 What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you, you deceitful tongue?
4 A warrior’s sharp arrows, with glowing coals of the broom tree!
5 Woe to me, that I sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar!
6 Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace.
7 I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!

A friend was moaning to me about his nightmare flatmate. When he visited my home church, the pastor preached from this Psalm. This really struck my friend as providential, seeing how relevant it seemed.

If we’re distressed by nightmare neighbours, this is the Psalm to come to. It tells us where to go: to take our troubles to the Lord in prayer. If we’re upset, we should pray, and God will answer us.

This is a Psalm of ascent. This means that the Israelites would sing it on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. And we as Christians can appreciate it on pilgrimage to the heavenly new Jerusalem.

I’m reminded of one of my favourite TV shows, called “Race Across The World”, where contestants have to race across the world without flying for the price of the air fare. To raise funds, they can work along the way. One team worked one place in the expectation that they’d get a boat ride across the river, but were given more work than they’d bargained for.

When people exploit us, it’s understandable to long for their comeuppance. And when we cry to God for deliverance, that’s what God reminds us of, that our oppressors will eventually get their just deserts. In the light of Jesus’ words to love our enemies, perhaps we should be warning them of their fate if they don’t repent of persecuting us!

Jesus blessed the peacemakers. But sometimes we’re unable to make peace, because our enemies are dead set on conflict. Solomon said that when someone’s way is pleasing to God, they make even their enemies to be at peace with them. But that is only a general truth, not a universal one.

“Please help us Lord as we journey to heaven, to be peacemakers and to find solace in You in the midst of our distress. In Jesus’ name, amen.”


About the author: Robert is a child of God, the husband of Joy, and the father of Grace. He’s from “God’s own county” of Yorkshire in the United Kingdom. Writing in earnest began for Robert when a friend prophetically told him that he should write. Although he isn’t currently publishing himself on WordPress, you can read the archives at www.roberlain.wordpress.com and a few other blogs linked from there. You can also find his up-to-date notes on the YouVersion Bible App. Also, The Believer’s Post is a WhatsApp platform for Christian bloggers which you can request him to join.

Email Robert at bobjc88 @ gmail.com if you want to get in touch.

It Is Better To Be Humble

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Reading the Word

Proverbs 12:9 (ESV)
9 Better to be lowly and have a servant than to play the great m
an and lack bread.

Understanding and Applying the Word

This proverb is all about humilty. So many like to boast and have others think about how great they are. However, it is much better to be humble, even if you have something to boast about, than to pretend you are something you are not. One may be wealthy and powerful and have servants while no one even knows it. Another may boast of his greatness while not even having food to eat. Humility is better than boasting.

Why is it that we feel the need to have others think we are “something”? It is always best to be humble, just as our Savior, who was God incarnate, but came to the world as a servant of mankind.

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An Excellent Wife

Reading the Word

Proverbs 12:4 (ESV)
4 An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.

Understanding and Applying the Word

This passage focuses on the benefit of a good wife to her husband, but we could easily reverse this and apply the same truth to the benefit of a good husband. Marriage is a covenant commitment and should not be entered into without serious thought. Your spouse’s actions and reputation will impact not only them, but also you. A good spouse is a wonderful thing, the best thing, to have in life. However, a bad spouse can bring great pain and misery that lasts a lifetime.

As a pastor, I have seen both extremes of marriage. I have seen couples who have been together in excess of 70 years and have thrived because of each other. I have also seen couples whose marriages have ended in divorce or that are struggling. Divorce and struggling marriages are all too common and weigh down all involved. What some will not tell you is divorce does not often completely undo the ties to the other person. We must celebrate the wonderful gift of marriage and the joy it can bring, but we must also guard against rushing into it. Find the person who is committed to Christ and helps you grow in your commitment to the same.

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Honor or Riches

Reading the Word

Proverbs 11:16–17 (ESV)
16 A gracious woman gets honor, and violent men get riches.
17 A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.

Understanding and Applying the Word

At first glance these verses may seem strange. It may seem verse 16 contradicts verse 17. This is the beauty of proverbs. They make us stop and think. We have to consider carefully each word if we are going to understand their message.

In the first verse, we are told that being gracious brings honor while violence brings riches. It may seem that both the gracious and the violent are receiving good things until we read the next verse. In verse 17, we are told that being kind is beneficial, but being cruel will come back to hurt you. How do we make sense of this?

Honor is far better than riches. The gracious person receives honor, which is the respect and love of others, whereas the violent gain only material wealth. They do not receive honor. The one who is kind helps himself because others will like him and help him if need arises. The cruel man hurts himself because no one will come to his aid. He will be on his own. It is far better to live our lives in grace than in pursuit of riches because honor is far more valuable than material wealth.

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Willing to Learn

Reading the Word

Proverbs 9:7–9 (ESV)
7 Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury.
8 Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.

Understanding the Word

A person who wants to grow in wisdom and understanding must be willing to receive correction and instruction from others. This is a difficult thing for many. Instead of seeing a chance to learn and grow, correction is often seen as offensive and threatening. Have you ever felt angry when someone showed you that you were wrong? Maybe the other person was abrasive or rude, but it may be that you are like many others. You do not like to be corrected.

The wise person understands what it takes to grow in wisdom. It takes having a learner’s spirit. It takes wanting to learn and not eliminating sources of instruction. Even those who are not very tactful in how they give instruction often have much to teach us. We need to learn to find the truth and use it to continue to grow.

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Seven Things the Lord Hates

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Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but I do include a suggested Scripture reading. Be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along every day. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

Proverbs 6:16–19 (ESV)

16 There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him:
17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil,
19 a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.

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Always Planning Evil

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I am unable to include devotional thoughts today, but this passage is an interesting one to ponder. It tells us that the wicked person’s words and actions are untrustworthy. The worthless person is always plotting and scheming and cannot be trusted. Be sure that God knows their every thought and action and they will be held accountable.

Reading the Word

Proverbs 6:12–15 (ESV)

12 A worthless person, a wicked man, goes about with crooked speech,
13 winks with his eyes, signals with his feet, points with his finger,
14 with perverted heart devises evil, continually sowing discord;
15 therefore calamity will come upon him suddenly; in a moment he will be broken beyond healing.

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Consider the Ant, O Sluggard!

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Reading the Word

Proverbs 6:6–11 (ESV)

6 Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.
7 Without having any chief, officer, or ruler,
8 she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.
9 How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?
10 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest,
11 and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.

Understanding the Word

Today’s verses address the issue of laziness. We are told that we should observe the way the ant works. Even without leadership, the ant prepares for the year ahead. We must always be in preparation for what the future holds.

The sluggard, or the lazy person, is not like the ant. Instead of looking ahead and preparing, the lazy person is always a step or more behind. Priority is given to leisure rather than to work and preparation. Suddenly, without warning, the lazy person finds himself in poverty because he has fallen so far behind in the necessary work.

Life is about finding the proper balance of work and leisure. There is a time for both. We must work to provide for the present and future. And we must take time from work to appreciate all that God has given us. Both work and leisure can become idols and ruin lives. Let us strive to find the right balance.

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Made for Wisdom

thoughtful young bearded ethnic man with globe sitting at table in modern room

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Reading the Word

Proverbs 3:19–20 (ESV)

19 The LORD by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens;
20 by his knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew.

Understanding and Applying the Word

It was by wisdom that God established all of creation. The idea of these verses is that a person who rejects wisdom and understanding rejects what the Lord has built into the world. To do so goes against the way things were designed to be and will result in hardship and struggle. This message is developed more fully in Proverbs 8:22-31.

Growth in wisdom is part of the created order. God has created us to seek understanding because it helps us thrive in life, but more importantly, because it leads us to Him, the beginning of wisdom.

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The Father’s Discipline

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Reading the Word

Proverbs 3:11–12 (ESV)

11 My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof,
12 for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The Book of Proverbs is about growing in wisdom. One of the primary ways we do that is through failure and discipline. We have the choice to learn from such correction or become hardened and unteachable.

In today’s reading, we see that the Lord is compared to a father who disciplines his children. As the father uses such correction out of love and wanting what is best for his children, so also the Lord. We should not think that God’s discipline is for our pain and misery. It is from love. It is for our benefit in order that we might learn and grow in wisdom. Praise our Father who loves us enough to correct us when we go astray.

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