CHIEF AMONG TEN THOUSAND

My beloved is. . . the chief among ten thousand” (Song of Solomon 5:10).

Throughout the centuries Christians have applied this charming title to Jesus. It is one of the most fitting portraits of our Savior. Applying the husband/wife motif, the Song of Solomon extols Christ as the bridegroom of the church. As such, He is the “chief among ten thousand” and the one “altogether lovely” (Song of Solomon 5:10, 16). The biblical metaphor “chief among ten thousand” denotes preeminence. In their jubilant eulogy to David, the women sang, “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7). As a literary device, the phrase “ten thousand” was used in Bible times to denote the superlative.

In all the universe, Christ is indeed the chief among ten thousand. He is the incomparable One. He is the incomparable advocate. As the shepherd, He is incomparable. As the great physician, He is without equal. As the teacher come from God, He is inimitable. In His character, Christ is incomparably good and incomparably holy. He is the One altogether lovely. In character, status, and function He transcends all others.

In a flight of inspired eloquence, the apostle Paul describes our “altogether lovely” Savior as one who is “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come” (Ephesians 1:21, NIV).

Here is how we may become imbued with the beauty of Jesus: “By having a knowledge of Christ –His words, His habits, and His lessons of instruction– we borrow the virtues of the character we have so closely studied, and become imbued with the spirit we have so much admired. Jesus becomes to us ‘the chief among ten thousand,’ the One altogether lovely.”–Our High Calling, p. 58.

My Prayer: Lord, may Jesus be to me the chief among ten thousand. Amen.

Life in Christ

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Reading: Luke 6:17-26

Reflection: Luke’s Gospel does not spiritualize the Beatitudes quite like Matthew’s does. Matthew’s version is longer and can be seen as less directly subversive toward the power-structures of Jesus’ day. In Luke, Jesus does not mince his words. The Beatitudes are short, direct, and challenging – including both blessings on the poor, the hungry and the weeping, and woes on the wealthy, the prosperous, and the laughing. 

The point of the Beatitudes is not to give us categories by which to judge or celebrate others. Nor are they meant to be a set of rules for us to follow. They are a window into God’s values and priorities. In Jesus’ day those who were poor, hungry, and weeping were considered to be cursed by God, and those who were wealthy, prosperous, and laughing were considered to be blessed. Jesus turns that value system upside down and shows that God is on the side of those who suffer. It’s not that God is against the wealthy per se. But in God’s eyes, there is a responsibility on the wealthy to care for the poor.

We can choose to follow society’s values, placing greater value on those with higher net worth and greater outward “happiness”, or we can follow God’s values, placing a proper value on the poor, the humble, and the grieving. This is not about some people being better than others. It is about recognizing that when we priorities caring for ‘the least’ our whole world becomes kinder, and we all enjoy greater security, equality, and peace. What do these values mean for you today? How can you embrace God’s values more intentionally?

Practice for Today: Nothing reveals our values more than what we do with our money, and how we view those who have lots of money. When we give preference to the rich, and when we use our money purely for our own benefit, we reveal that we embrace society’s values. When we treat all people with equal dignity and respect, and when we are generous with our resources, we embrace God’s values. Today, find opportunities to be generous, and to treat all people with dignity and respect.

Prayer for Today: Teach me to embrace your values and treat all people as your children, O God.

Communion with Christ

Morning Prayer

Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The Lord has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Psalm 98:1-3, NIV

Lord our God, we thank you from our hearts, from the bottom of our hearts, that you consider us worthy to work with you so that redemption may come to the world in Jesus Christ. Already today many are rejoicing in their Redeemer. They are full of hope and comfort because the end is approaching – that evening when your glory shall be revealed, when the whole world and all nations shall glorify you, O great God and Father in heaven. Come into our time, we pray. Help us, Lord our God. Day and night we look to you in the hope of beholding the time of your glory, in the hope of receiving the peace that is beyond all understanding and of finding redemption, the great redemption from heaven, through you, the God over all flesh. Amen.

One with Christ

A Passion to Know More

Philippians 3:3-11

Most Christians know the essential facts about their Savior’s life, but too few know Him relationally. Some believers are so busy with activities and pursuits that they rarely think of Jesus until a desperate situation arises.

Yet those who know the Lord intimately have a continually deepening relationship with Him. He’s their top priority, and every possession, accomplishment, or pursuit is worthless compared to knowing Him. Verses 8–10 of today’s passage reveal the results of making Christ our foremost desire:

Increasing hunger: “that I may gain Christ.” Even though Paul had an amazing relationship with Jesus, his passion was so great that he wanted to know the Lord more deeply.

Changed life: “the righteousness which comes from God.” The more we know Christ, the more we’ll mature spiritually and display His righteousness.

Greater capability: “the power of His resurrection.” The Spirit’s power flows through those closely connected to Jesus.

New perspective: “the fellowship of His sufferings.” When we understand Christ, we recognize the benefits He works in us through our times of difficulty.

Victorious living: “being conformed to His death.” Christians who know Jesus well count themselves dead to the sins that once dominated their lives.

Is your life characterized by a deep, abiding passion for Christ, or is your relationship with Him shallow and mechanical? Believers must not let worldly pleasures, opportunities, and responsibilities rob them of the treasure of knowing Jesus. It’s time to count all that as loss and pursue Christ.

Life in the Body of Christ

THE BEAUTIFUL AND GLORIOUS BRANCH

In that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors.  (Isaiah 4:2, NIV).

Continuing the metaphor of the branch, Isaiah portrays the Messiah as a beautiful and glorious branch. In the eschatological context of spiritual Israel, Christ is that beautiful and glorious Branch that will ultimately bring glory to God’s people. As the beautiful and glorious Branch, Jesus will cause the new earth to bloom and flourish with peace, prosperity, and righteousness. This expectation will be fully realized at His second coming.

After the long and ugly reign of sin, degradation, and death, God has promised to make “all things new” (Revelation 21:5, NKJV). The world marred by sin is to be purified and restored. Through the beautiful and glorious Branch, God will restore our planet and the redeemed to Edenic bliss and boundless prosperity. The beautiful and glorious Branch has promised a new world of indescribable beauty and splendor (see Revelation 21-22). It will be a land where righteousness, peace, and love will reign forever–a place where Christ will be king forever, and all the inhabitants will be healthy, happy, and holy forever. No tongue or pen can describe the beauty and perfection of a world custom made by God for His people. Best of all, “in that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious” (Isaiah 4:2, NIV).

This is the moment for which all the redeemed have longed and waited. “Christ is revealed as the Redeemer and Deliverer of His people. Now indeed are the remnant ‘men wondered at,’ as the tears and humiliation of their pilgrimage give place to joy and honor in the presence of God and the Lamb.”–Prophets and Kings, p. 592.

My Prayer: Lord, when the beautiful and glorious Branch makes all things new, help me to be part of that new world. Amen.

Life in Christ

Night and Day Under the Hide of Me

Reading: Psalm 1

Reflection: The opening of the book of Psalms is an invitation to reject any so-called wisdom or way of being that does not align with God’s goodness. The reason is simple: following what the Psalm calls wickedness leads to destruction, a deeply broken life, and a deeply broken world. On the other hand, when we embrace God’s law, the wisdom and way of being that God seeks for us, the consequence is very different.

We experience life, restoration, and fruitfulness.  While this Psalm seems to make the choice all too easy, there are other Psalms of lament in which things are clearly not as easy as they seem here. Good people do suffer. Sometimes, living God’s way of grace and love does not lead us into deeper connections and a more peaceful life. Sometimes, we can embrace beauty, truth and goodness, and still find ourselves in conflict with others, in relationships that are breaking down, and in deep trauma or suffering.

This is why it is unwise to read any part of Scripture without considering the whole testimony of the Bible. Nevertheless, it does seem that, even when we experience great pain and grief in our lives, choosing beauty, truth, and goodness do seem to bring greater comfort, a greater chance for healing, and protection from bad reactions that just increase the pain.

Ultimately, we need to choose for ourselves what kind of life we want. Suffering will come to us all, but there is definitely a resurrection, and a resilience that God offers us if we are willing to trust that God’s ways truly are the most life-giving way to live.

Practice for Today: Psalm 1 speaks of meditating on God’s law day and night. While we may not be able to give this much time to reflection on Scripture, there is definitely value in regular Bible reading, especially when we read prayerfully and meditatively, opening ourselves to the voice of the Spirit to guide us as we read. Practice this prayerful Bible reading today.

Prayer for Today: I thank you, God, for your guidelines for the best human life, and I meditate on them today

Communion with Christ

Morning Prayer

We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. 1 Corinthians 2:12, NIV

Dear Father in heaven, open the door for us, we pray. Grant that we may come to you in spirit. Grant that in you we may find peace and courage for our whole lives. Lead us always by your Spirit. Help us to find your will on earth and grant us access to your heavenly powers, for alone we can do nothing. Strengthen our faith so that we can always serve you. Bless your Word in us. May our hearts be opened, for we are your children, O Lord our God, through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

One with Christ