For a number of years now, I’ve used the Robert Murray M’Cheyne reading plan for my devotional Bible reading. This reading plan guides you to read through the Old Testament once a year and the New Testament and Psalms twice a year. One of the greatest benefits I have discovered through this reading plan is seeing the themes of Scripture in different places.

Scripture is repetitive. God reminds us over and over again of his glory and greatness. He reminds us over and over again of our helplessness and need. He reminds us over and over again of his redemptive work. He rescued Israel from slavery in the Old Testament and rescues us from sin in the New Testament. Noticing the interconnectedness of Scripture’s themes is one of the best reasons to read chapters of the Bible from different books regularly.

The other week I was reading Exodus 14 and 2 Corinthians 2. In both places God declares victory and describes his triumph over enemies.

19 Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, 20 coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night.

30 Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 
31 Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.

Exodus 14:19-20; 30-31

The context here is after God’s judgment on Egypt and Pharaoh through the ten plagues. Pharaoh finally sent Israel away. Moses led the people out of Egypt and toward the wilderness. In front of them was the Red Sea. Behind them were the Egyptian armies who had second thoughts about losing their slave labor. God led them as a pillar of fire and cloud. God protected them. God delivered them by dividing the Red Sea’s waters so Israel could walk over on dry land. God rescued his people and led them out of slavery in a triumphal procession of victory.

In his second letter to the church at Corinth, Paul picks up on a similar theme. God leads his people to victory through Christ.

14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.

2 Corinthians 2:14-17

In both places God made his works of redemption public. In the Exodus, God revealed his glory to the Egyptians and displayed his works to the nations of Canaan. Rahab and the inhabitants of Jericho heard of the deeds of God’s rescue of Israel (Joshua 2:9-11). In 2 Corinthians, Paul describes our salvation as a triumphal procession and uses the vivid imagery of a fragrance. To those who are being saved, the fragrance of redemption smells of life. But to those who are perishing, it is the fragrance of death. God rescues us and leads us out of sin in a triumphal procession of victory through Christ.

There are three important truths to be gleaned from the theme of redemption as a triumphal procession.

First, God is the One who triumphs. In the Exodus and for the Corinthians, the work of redemption is God’s work. God initiated judgment on Egypt. God sent Moses to lead the people. God caused miracles so Israel would be freed from slavery. In in the New Testament, God initiated our salvation by sending his Son, Jesus Christ. Christ paid for our sins on the cross. Christ rescued us from slavery to sin. And Christ leads us in triumph.

Second, we are the ones who receive the benefit of redemption. God did not ask Israel to participate in her redemption. It was God’s works, miracles, and interventions that rescued Israel. Israel’s response was to receive rescue. It was after their rescue that God gave them the Law (Exodus 20. See specifically verses 1 and 2 where God declared his redemption prior to giving them the commandments). The New Testament is no different. Christ leads us in a procession of triumph. It is his work that saves. Our response is to follow him in victory. Certainly, the OT Law was intended to distinguish Israel from the other nations, and God’s expectations of righteousness are intended to distinguish us from sinners. But these are not works for our redemption. Rather, these are works from our redemption.

Third, God’s work of redemption in us is intended to be public. In both of these texts, God’s work of rescue was intended to be public and known. God doesn’t rescue us merely for our individual benefit. The glory of his saving work is on display in his people. Egypt and the nations of Canaan knew there was something special about Israel’s God. And people around us should know there is something special about the God who has rescued us. Christ is leading us in triumphal procession to be a fragrant aroma of his saving work to the world around us.

Take a moment today and rejoice in God’s saving work. Thank him for taking the initiative to rescue you from sin. Praise him that you have the privilege of redemption. Pray that God will make his work of redemption known to others. Tell someone today what God has done to save you. Let your rescue be public.

You don’t have to fear sharing this good news of rescue and salvation. You don’t have to be afraid of public witness and praise. You are in a triumphal procession led by Jesus Christ. As his people, we are victorious through Christ’s strength and saving work!

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

This Monday (2/1/2021) begins a four part series of blogposts about being anchored in relationship with God. I recently finished reading through the book of Acts. In Acts 27, Paul and his companions were shipwrecked. During one particular night of a storm they faced, they let down the anchors because they knew they were near shore.

And fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let down four anchors from the stern and prayed for day to come.

Acts 27:29

I don’t know about you, but there have been times in my life that I’ve prayed for daylight. There have been times that I’ve prayed just to make it through the storm. There have been times that I’ve prayed to get by to the next day.

It is instructive that the sailors let the anchors out when they wanted to slow the drift of the ship in the storm. That’s what an anchor is for. In some cases an anchor keeps a ship in place in a body of water. In other cases (like the one above) an anchor isn’t strong enough to keep a ship in place, but it is strong enough to slow the ship down in a storm.

As I considered this story God reminded me that in the storms and trials of life, I needed to be anchored. I need to be anchored in my relationship to God.

Now, ultimately it matters far more that God has a hold on us than it matters that we have a hold on God. God is the One keeping us (1 Peter 1:4-5), God is the One saving us (Eph. 2:8-9), God is the One giving us rest (Matt. 11:28-30, and God is the One caring for us (1 Peter 5:7).

But with that said, we are responsible for seeking God, for trusting God, and for depending on God. We cannot expect to experience God’s strength, peace, and hope if we neglect the spiritual disciplines that God has provided for us to know him.

In these four blogposts I’m going to reflect on one spiritual anchor each week that keeps us in right fellowship with the Father. Today’s post reminds us to be anchored in God’s Word.

There is nothing more important for your spiritual life than spending time in God’s Word. God’s Word is vitally important as an anchor for our souls.

We need the anchor of God’s Word because when we read God’s Word, we are privileged to experience God’s own thoughts.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-10

With his Word, God spoke creation into existence. With his Word, God spoke life into man. With his Word, God became flesh (Jesus is the Logos, Word of God).

When we read, hear, study, memorize, and meditate on God’s Word we are thinking God’s thoughts. That very act serves as an anchor for our souls to the One True God who alone is Lord and King. It is God speaking to us that leads us to worship and know him.

God must speak to us before we have any liberty to speak to him. He must disclose to us who he is before we can offer him what we are in acceptable worship. The worship of God is always a response to the Word of God. Scripture wonderfully directs and enriches our worship.

John Stott, The Contemporary Christian, 174.
We need the anchor of God’s thoughts because his Word is guaranteed to last.

The grass withers, the flower fades,
    but the word of our God will stand forever.

Isaiah 40:8

Peter quotes this passage in his first epistle. Peter was reflecting on believers who are facing trials to grow and be strengthened in the Word of God.

There are many things in this world to distract us, disrupt us, or defeat us. But remember this. All those trials, difficulties, challenges, and circumstances have a shelf life. One day they will not be. For that matter, one day your job will not be, your cell phone will not be, the internet will not be, etc.

But the Word of the Lord will last forever.

When we read, hear, study, memorize, and meditate on God’s Word we are thinking thoughts that will stand forever. Being anchored in the Word of God is being anchored to something that is guaranteed to be around for eternity.

According to research, there is nothing better for your spiritual maturity than God’s Word.

Our study of churchgoers included the measurement of more than sixty factors characteristic of biblical spiritual development… Our statistician applied sophisticated procedures to our data to produce a rank-ordered list of correlations. The number one factor, or characteristic, most correlated to the highest maturity scores is the practice of “reading the Bible.” I almost had to laugh when I saw this. Sometimes we complicate things. The simple discipline of reading the Bible has a major impact on Christians.

Brad Waggoner, The Shape of Faith to Come, 68.

So if you want to find an anchor for your soul that will stabilize you anytime (but especially in trying times), read the Word of God.

Here are some recommendations for being anchored in the Word of God:

  • Read the Bible daily. If you aren’t reading the Bible regularly, start today. Read a chapter a day. Or pick a Bible reading plan. I use the M’Cheyne Bible reading plan on my ESV Bible app.
  • Study the Bible regularly. Take some time at least once a week to dive deeper into God’s Word. Maybe take the passage of Scripture your pastor preached and read it over again. Think on it. Look up the passage in a commentary, and study the Bible.
  • Memorize the Bible consistently. We have challenged our church to memorize at least one verse of Scripture each month. For January 2021, our verse is Psalm 90:12. For February 2021, our verse is 1 Peter 2:24. You can see both verses below. I challenge you right now. Memorize them.
  • Pray the Bible intentionally. One of the most spiritually helpful books I’ve read is Don Whitney’s Praying the Bible. I would commend it to you. But you don’t have to read it to pray the Bible. As you read Scripture, use the stories, commands, convictions, insights, and lessons that you read to guide how you pray for those on your prayer list. We’ll spend more time on the subject of prayer in a couple of weeks.

Here are two verses I challenge you to memorize. If you do, you will be glad you did because you are memorizing words and truths that will never, ever, not even in a million years, go away.

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:12

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 

1 Peter 2:24

Photo by Simon Abrams on Unsplash