For the past few months I’ve been reading through the Bible along with Mark Dever’s one volume commentaries on the Old and New Testaments. He devotes one chapter to each of the 66 books of the Bible, and adds an overview of the Bible, the Old Testament, and the New Testament. Each chapter was originally given as a message to Capitol Hill Baptist Church, where Mark serves as senior pastor.
Rather than read straight through Scripture, which I’ve done other times, I’ve divided the Bible up into three equal sections of 22 books each. I started in Genesis, then read Isaiah, then Romans. Then I went back to Exodus, and continued to read the next book in each section. Mark’s book has been a wonderful tool thus far for helping me to grasp the message of each book of the Bible. It helps that Mark’s writing is clear, personal, thoroughly biblical, and Gospel-centered.
This morning I finished reading Numbers. Mark writes:
So this is the message of Numbers. God prepares the people, but the people rebel against him. Still, God graciously perseveres with his sinful people (The Message of the Old Testament, p. 146).
I reflected on how applicable that description is to my own life. God has prepared good works in advance for me to do and has saved me for heaven. Each day He is working to supply me with all I need for life and godliness through knowing Him and His abundant grace. However, in the midst of mercy, I rebel against His kindness. I rely on my own wisdom, follow my own selfish desires, and allow the idols of the this world to distract me from what is truly important. However, God perseveres with me. He shows me the inadequacy of my self-reliance, the deception of my heart, and the utter emptiness of all the world values.
In the midst of my journey, I can be tempted to be discouraged, at times even despairing. Will I ever change? Will I ever get it right? Will I ever stop depending on my own resources? Will I ever trust God rather than myself in the midst of challenges?
As Israel journeyed through the wilderness, they had similar struggles. But God kept pointing them to His commitment to bring them to the promised land. His concern was that they think more of who He was making them, than who they were before. Mark Dever comments:
We have been made into forward-looking children of the Promise, defined more by where we are going than by where we are coming from. Our words may still bear the accents of sin, but our eyes are filed with the hope of heaven. (p. 146)
I find that immensely encouraging. No matter how many times I fail to trust God, obey God, or take refuge in God, He is committed to making me like His Son. He is preparing me for heaven, and his plans will not fail. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ answer a resounding “YES” to every one of my discouraged “NO’s”. I gain strength as I put my trust in His promises and turn from dwelling on my past failures.
This perspective reminds me of a line from The Valley of Vision:
May I feel I am a stranger and a pilgrim on earth, declaring plainly that I seek a country,
My title to it becoming daily more clear,
My meetness for it more perfect,
My foretastes of it more abundant.
(“The Savior,” from The Valley of Vision)
If you have turned from your sins and trusted in the atoning sacrifice of the Savior, I pray your eyes today and every day will be fixed on your future dwelling place, eternally secured by the Righteous One, Jesus Christ.