ODJ: The Safest Place

August 16, 2018 

READ: Psalm 3:1-8 

But you, O Lord, are a shield around me (v.3).

Weather forecasters predicted a hurricane would tear through the town where my friend and her young daughter lived. Hours before the storm arrived, my friend posted a picture of her toddler asleep on a bed of pillows in the bathtub—the safest place in their house. Brown curls framed her serene face; dark lashes fringed her closed eyelids. Completely at peace despite the plummeting barometer and accelerating wind, she was able to sleep because she felt secure.

During a surge of danger in his life, David wrote about feeling safe as he trusted God for protection. Near the end of his reign as king, David’s son Absalom rebelled and tried to become king. David had fled his fortified city to defend himself in the wilderness. He’d become vulnerable in almost every way possible.

But although naysayers predicted his demise, David encouraged himself with these words: “You, O Lord, are a shield around me” (Psalm 3:3). He saw God as a barrier between himself and his enemies. He believed God would not only preserve his life but give him courage, calling Him “the one who holds my head high” (v.3).

Relying on God produced the inner peace necessary for David to rest physically. Fear didn’t wear him down. Rather than dwelling on his fears, David offered them up to God (vv.1-2). Then he said, “I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me” (v.5).

God watches over us too. Although trusting in Him doesn’t make us immune to problems in life or feeling anxious at times, we can rest in knowing that He’s always present, going before us and following behind us (Psalm 139:5). We can rely on God’s care and find peace in His presence.

—Jennifer Schuldt

365-day plan: Luke 16:1-18

Read Proverbs 3:21-26 and consider how wise living relates to rest. 
Why do you suppose God wants His children to feel safe? How does God’s presence encourage you today? 

ODJ: Our Refuge

August 15, 2018 

READ: Psalm 46:1-11 

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble (v.1).

BibleGateway.com allows online users to read the Scriptures in a variety of translations and languages. Over a twelve-month period ending in November 2016, more than 180 million unique visitors visited the website—resulting in around 1.7 billion page views. As people entered the ‘Gateway’, they searched for verses using keywords. The most popular search terms in order? Love, faith and peace.

In a world marked by pain and desperation, it’s no coincidence we’re seeking these three things. In particular, we find ourselves reaching out to our loving God, seeking to know the deep peace He alone offers.

In ancient Israel, upon entering the gates of the temple, God’s people may have been greeted by the peace-instilling words of Psalm 46. Ringing out from a chorus of soprano voices, these words would have been music to their weary hearts: “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble” (v.1). The people were encouraged to rest in the reality that God was with them. “The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress” (v.7). The words “among us” are from the Hebrew word immanu, a portion of the word Immanuel or “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). They point to Jesus and the peace He would bring (John 14:27).

God is with us. And He is our refuge (Psalm 46:1).Much like ancient Israel, we face natural disasters (vv.2-3), “chaos” and wars (v.6) and personal challenges that threaten our peace. But may we rest in the One who can end wars (v.9) and heal hearts. Though we’ll face pain and strife in this life, we can “be still, and know that [He is] God!” (v.10).

God, our refuge, is over all and He’s also “here among us” (vv.7,11).

—Tom Felten

365-day plan: Luke 15:11-32

Read John 16:33 and note why Jesus says we can find peace in Him despite life’s adversity. 
What’s threatening your peace? How do the realities of God’s power and presence help you find refuge in Him? 

ODJ: A Blessing of Peace

August 14, 2018 

READ: Numbers 6:22-27 

May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favour and give you his peace (vv.24-26).

In our nightly prayers with our children, my husband and I like to end with the words Moses used when he instructed Aaron and his sons to bless God’s people (Numbers 6:24-26). This benediction reminds each family member that God loves it when we ask for His protection, favour, grace and peace.

The blessing has a rich history. Bible scholars believe it was given to Aaron and his descendants because they were the priests who led the Israelites in worship. God wanted the benediction to be used in worship so that His words of blessing would be woven into the lives of His people. In addition, its threefold format has suggested to some believers that it anticipates the Trinity—God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Indeed, many call it the “three-in-one” blessing.

In the first verse of the benediction that the Lord would “bless and protect” the people (v.24), we can see how stating these words could remind them that they were God’s chosen and loved ones. The second verse, that the Lord would “smile on [them] and be gracious to [them]” (v.25), could bring to mind Moses’ experience on the mountaintop. With his face shining, he carried down the book of the law (Exodus 24:13-18, 34:29-30). And the third verse, that the Lord would “show you his favour and give you his peace” (Numbers 6:26), is the climax of the blessing, with the word for peace—shalom—entailing not only an absence of conflict, but encompassing a sense of wholeness and wellbeing.

The Israelite priests said this blessing at the end of a service, a practice that continues today. As we bind these words to our hearts, may we accept them as a gift from our loving Father and live in the light of their truth each day.

—Amy Boucher Pye

365-day plan: Luke 15:1-10

When Jesus appeared to the disciples after He rose again, His opening words were, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). Why do you think these were His first words? 
What words of blessing do you—or could you—incorporate into your daily routine? How might this practice help you in your walk with God? 

ODJ: Our Role in Justice

August 13, 2018 

READ: Ecclesiastes 5:1-20 

Don’t be surprised if you see a poor person being oppressed by the powerful and if justice is being miscarried throughout the land (v.8).

Maybe it’s just me. But it seems like the world is hurtling out of control, and that all sorts of things are coming undone—institutions, lives, families. I wonder, Has it always been this way?

Perhaps every generation has felt as if things were falling apart. I have to think that those in the midst of World War I and World War II imagined that the global conflicts they faced signalled the end of all things.

It’s not just large-scale conflicts that trouble me, however. It’s also the everyday injustices that most harshly affect the poorest among us, those on society’s margins.

“Don’t be surprised if you see a poor person being oppressed by the powerful and if justice is being miscarried throughout the land,” King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 5:8. He goes further, telling us, “Matters of justice get lost in red tape and bureaucracy” while rulers milk the land for profit (vv.8-9).

It’s easy enough to recognise the bureaucracy and red tape, but sometimes it’s harder to see that some political leaders are in it for only themselves. What are we to do when we discover that the poor and marginalised are being oppressed by our leaders and our laws? We could easily become paralysed in our thinking: What can I even do about it? I have no money and I have no power. Or we could deceive ourselves into thinking that ‘liking’ a cause on Facebook is justice in action.

But that’s not enough. Acting humbly, justly, and walking with our God (see Micah 6:8) means we’ll engage in prayer, sacrificial giving, raising public awareness and perhaps even contacting our lawmakers. Through the Holy Spirit’s guidance and power, may we choose to join God’s work of bringing justice.

—Marlena Graves

365-day plan: Luke 14:15-35

Reflect on Proverbs 24:11-12 and on what God is saying to you through this. 
Why is God so concerned about justice? What will you do this week to promote justice in your community and in the world?