The psalmist writes of a glorious secret to enjoying a fulfilled, joyful life: “Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! They walk, O Lord, in the light of Your countenance” (Psalm 89:15). The Hebrew meaning of this verse suggests, “Those who have a revelation of the joyful sound will wake up every day with peace, strength and happiness. Their life will be filled with the joy of the morning sun.”
In short, the psalmist is telling us, “There is a certain, joyful sound that is of such powerful significance that it is the very foundation of victorious living. If you know and understand this sound, you will be changed from glory to glory.”
“All who know the meaning of the joyful sound become self-assured, fearless. They walk through life with an every-increasing sense of security. They are able to overcome, even when being sifted by Satan. Their hearts are steadfast and at rest — because the Holy Spirit has revealed to them the meaning behind the joyful sound!”
So what is this joyful sound? It is the sound of Jubilee! It would take too long to explain the history of the Jewish Festival of Jubilee but it is found in Leviticus 25 and is an exciting, liberating study about God’s promises, provision and blessing.
The prophet Isaiah declares that Jesus Christ is our Jubilee. He writes, “[The Lord] has sent Me to … proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Isaiah 61:1-2).
Isaiah is using the language of Jubilee here: “Let the trumpets blast, announcing the joyous year of liberty our Savior has given us.” This was the joyful sound — proclaiming to all mankind: “I have made provision for you — to walk out of prison, be restored to your family and have everything you need for a fulfilled life. You are free to live without fear of any enemy. Enter now into my joy!”
Jesus told the Christians at the church of Ephesus — a church founded on the godly teaching of the apostle Paul — that they had “lost their first love” (see Revelation 2:4).
When Jesus uses the words “first love” here, he is not speaking of the immature love we experience when we are first saved. Rather, he is talking about exclusive love. He is saying, “I once occupied first place in your heart but now you have allowed other things to take my place.”
It is significant to note that of all the sins Jesus points out in the seven New Testament churches in Asia, the first sin he names is the one that grieves him most: a loss of affection for him.
The Christians at Ephesus had received exceptional teaching from Paul; in fact, as I read through Paul’s letters to the Ephesians, I am amazed at the gospel these people heard and lived. They walked closely with the Lord and Paul compliments them at length in Ephesians 1:1-5.
These Christians had been “made alive together with Christ … and raised up together, and made to sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (see Ephesians 2:5-6). What a description of a blessed, holy people! It is evident that the Ephesians were not just a bunch of novices or lukewarm saints. Jesus was examining the hearts of a people who were well-grounded in the truth of the gospel. Yet he pointed out that something was deeply wrong: “Somehow in all your labors, you have allowed your first love to wither.”
I believe this warning to the Ephesians is intended for every Christian living in these last days. Simply put, the Lord is telling us, “It is not enough for you to be a caring, giving, diligent servant who upholds moral standards. If in the process your affection for me does not increase, then you have lost your first love.”
I encourage you to examine your heart today and go back to your first love. Ask God for grace and strength to begin again to guard your affection for Christ.
“Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth …asked to receive alms … But Peter said, I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk … and immediately [the man’s] feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up, he stood and began to walk” (Acts 3:1-2, 6-8).
Peter and John had just been filled with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, and they were seeing more miracles than ever before.
One day as they went up to the temple to pray, they encountered a lame man at the gate called Beautiful. They had seen the man many times before but this time when he asked for alms, they said, “Look at us.” The man thought they were going to give him money but instead they commanded him to rise up and walk — in the name of Jesus. When the man jumped up and began to walk, all who saw it were filled with amazement and began to praise God.
What a glorious time ensued as the people witnessed the majesty of God at work. They were in awe and gathered together to discuss what they had just seen. The Bible says that the man who was healed “clung to Peter and John” (see 3:11). His heart was gripped and he was saying, “I will not let go of this wonderful presence of God.”
Every believer should cry out, “Lord, show me your glory. I embrace your wondrous work, God. I am not satisfied with small portions — I want the fullness of your glory in my life and I will cling to the Word. Father, I want all of you.” The Father loves the heart that seeks him — and when he works a mighty work in you, cling to him with all your heart!
How do we respond to the outcasts of our society? What does our culture do with the poor, the addicts, the alcoholics, the gang members, the gay, the AIDS patients, the sinners? More important, what does the Body of Christ do with them? Do we see them as people in need of help, lost and searching for a way out of their despair and bondage? Or do we pretend they don’t exist? Do we keep them out of sight, somewhere far from our eyes, so we don’t have to deal with them?
We have forgotten what Jesus has done for us. We have forgotten that without his saving grace we would be just as lost and hopeless and blind as they are. If you took away our nice clothes and fancy cars, our houses and jewelry and jobs, our health and strength and faith, we, too, would be unwanted. Without Jesus, we are nothing! And without compassion, we have no place in God’s kingdom and no right to call ourselves sons and daughters of the King.
Time and again in Scripture we see Jesus going out of his way to touch the life of just one person. Even in the midst of large crowds he often focused on the needs of a poor beggar, a prostitute, a tax collector, a fisherman, a lame or blind man. He didn’t see crowds; he saw people, needy souls looking for help.
Imagine the impact we could have on our world if every minister, pastor, evangelist, and believer today saw people that way. If only we could put away our need to draw attention to ourselves and focus instead on the needs before us, the faces of loneliness, the eyes of pain and confusion that sit on every corner of the globe.
“Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind” (Luke 14:21).
Nicky Cruz, internationally known evangelist and prolific author, turned to Jesus Christ from a life of violence and crime after meeting David Wilkerson in New York City in 1958. The story of his dramatic conversion was told first in The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson and then later in his own best-selling book Run, Baby, Run.
Asaph, the psalmist who wrote Psalm 73, was a very close friend of King David. A pure-hearted man who believed in the goodness of God, he began his discourse in this psalm by saying, “Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are pure in heart” (73:1). In other words, “God has been good to me by giving me a clean heart.” Yet in the very next verse, this dear man confesses, “I almost slipped! I almost fell into sin.” Why does Asaph declare this?
We know from this psalm that Asaph was facing great troubles (see 73:14), and he struggled with comparisons. He says in verse 3: “For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Looking around him, he saw wicked people enjoying great wealth, which may have made him feel the pain of his own poverty more acutely. For whatever reason, this dear man cried out, “Lord, it doesn’t make sense to me!”
Then he said to himself, “Look at all these sinners. They don’t pray. They neglect God’s Word and disobey him, yet they are not plagued as other men are” (see 73:5). What Asaph really meant was, “The wicked are not plagued as I am. They do only evil — yet they prosper. While I am weak with sorrow, their strength only increases” (see verse 4).
So what was the sin that Asaph almost fell into? It was believing that his sufferings were unfair punishment from God — that God was neglectful and unjust. This is a trap that any of us can fall into and we must be very careful!
When a trial comes, when you are grieving, you need to guard your heart against slipping. Asaph did this by going into the sanctuary of God (see 73:17). He meditated on the Lord and kept telling himself, “I’m not going to let the devil make me fall. I’m going to talk it out with the Lord.”
Asaph almost slipped — but he held on and ended the psalm on this note of victory: “I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all Your works” (73:28).