"And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done."
If you didn't know better, you might have thought God's opinion of man is not very good. Reading only the first eight chapters of Genesis sure would give you that idea. In Genesis 3, God threw Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 4, after Cain killed Abel, God told Cain he was cursed. In Genesis 6, the LORD saw the wickedness of man and said the thoughts and intentions of his heart were only evil. So much so, the LORD regretted creating man. Here in Genesis 8:21, God stipulates this is true from man's youth. Romans 3:10-18 sums up Scripture with an even more detailed picture of fallen mankind. Romans 5:6-10 says man is ungodly, a sinner, an enemy of God and powerless to change his condition. God's opinion of man's sin is evident. Does your view of sin align with His? Or does it reflect your culture?
This event is one of my favorites in the Gospels. Jesus' authority and compassion must have been well known for this Roman military officer to seek Jesus' help. Even so, his understanding of Jesus' authority is exceptional. Even though socially the centurion was the one in power, he understands his inferior position to this Jewish teacher. He knew true authority when he saw it. Oh, to have the faith of the centurion. I pray I, too, would know Jesus' word is as sure as His action. May my life reflect His authority.
"Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, 'The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.'"
The Israelites (only 1,754 men) were planning to make the five-month journey from Babylon to Jerusalem with their families, possessions and all the gold and silver Artaxerxes had given them. Ezra, after proclaiming "The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him," was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers to protect them on their trip. After declaring a fast to humble themselves before God, the people prayed for safety. They knew the dangers awaiting them carrying such a large amount of silver and gold, but in faith, knowing God would protect them, they headed for Jerusalem.
Lord, may my trust following Your direction be so complete. May I be as assured of Your instruction as Ezra.
I find this event in Philip's life hugely encouraging. The Ethiopian eunuch was reading the book of Isaiah when Philip approached him. When asked if he understood what he was reading, the eunuch responded: "How can I unless someone explains it to me?"
Thank You, Lord for teachers like Philip, to whom You have gifted the explanation of Your Word. May I rejoice as the Ethiopian when hearing Your word.