devotions written by Deborah Galyen
Song of Solomon 7-8
“Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death … Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD” (v6). Death is the “natural” end of life, yet as humans we don’t find it natural at all. We want life and love to go on. The author states that love is “the very flame of the Lord,” as permanent as “a seal upon your heart,” because God Himself – everlasting and all-powerful - is Love (1 John 4:16).
Because Christ has conquered death and given us His resurrection life, life and love can continue forever.
2 Corinthians 9
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (v8). Paul’s big view of God provided the foundation for his own generous, self-sacrificial life; he knew that no one can out-give God. All grace, all sufficiency, all things at all times – Paul had no shadow of a doubt that God’s love and power surpassed anything we can imagine. The Corinthians, as they knew God more, would certainly begin to live generously (v7).
God takes our small gifts and does even more. He will “multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest” (v10).
2 Corinthians 8
“Your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness” (v14). Paul wasn’t referring to “fairness” in the sense of identical finances. He was urging the Corinthians to join in the overflowing generosity that naturally comes from having received grace – the gift we didn’t earn – from the Lord (v9). Each person and church will give differently, based on different circumstances (v12), out of love and not obligation (v24).
As part of Christ’s Body, our gifts (whether spiritual, emotional, or financial) flow to each other as a way of giving thanks to the Father, the Source of all.
“For the LORD builds up Zion; he appears in his glory; he regards the prayer of the destitute and does not despise their prayer” (v16-17). The psalmist considered himself “destitute,” no matter what others considered him. He felt like a “lonely sparrow,” a “desert owl of the wilderness”; he felt alone. To the psalmist, life seemed fragile and nearly burnt out: “my days pass away like smoke … my heart is struck down like grass and has withered” (v3-4).
But the psalmist rejoiced that God heard his prayers. As citizens of Zion (v1), God’s kingdom, our fragile lives are also being “built up” into something lasting and beautiful.
2 Corinthians 7:8-16
“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (v10). Paul acknowledged that we often grieve deeply over our mistakes, regretting the past that we cannot change, and we sink into bitterness and spiritual darkness. But Paul’s letters of correction to the Corinthians were motivated by love, truth, and hope; therefore, they produced the good fruit of “repentance that leads to salvation.”
In the end, Paul could say that he had “perfect confidence” in the Corinthian believers. God’s redeeming love had turned grief and frustration into joyful new life.
2 Corinthians 7:1-7
“Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit … Make room in your hearts for us” (v1-2). Paul was referring to specific promises: God declared us His Temple and promised to live among us (-18). Because of this, Paul urged believers to stay away from moral corruption and to seek unity and peace. How can we say that God is among us if we live in constant conflict?
“But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus …” (v6). One reward of living in peace with God and each other is that in all our struggles, we are never alone.
Song of Solomon 6
“I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine” (v3). This wedding poem speaks of desire, friendship, joy, and the security of commitment. The man and woman frequently announce their love in terms of belonging, implying that marriage isn’t only romantic: it creates a new and lasting covenant. Within the security of that commitment, the husband and wife have time to grow in affection and understanding.
Without that fixed covenant, the romance celebrated in the Song of Songs leads to heartbreak. The life-long, secure bond of marriage allows love to flourish.
Song of Solomon 5
“This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of
Love that is only private lacks something. When our relationships are full of light and pleasing to God, we want to publicly declare: “this is my beloved and this is my friend.”
Song of Solomon 3-4
“I will seek him whom my soul loves. I sought him, but found him not” (3:2). As in chapter 5, these verses dramatize the desperate longing the woman has for her beloved, hating to be separated and taking great risks to be with him. The psalmist used similar language in describing his desire for God, “like a deer pants for the water.” While passionate language normally describes human romance, Scripture says that loving deeply, to the point of death, was modeled by God Himself.
“I will rise now and go about the city …” (v2). Half-hearted love is not worth the effort; our Lord showed us the kind of love that risks everything.
Song of Solomon 1-2
“As a lily among brambles, so is my love among the young women. As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men” (2:2-3). This romantic poem celebrates the best aspects of love between a man and woman, and it can be a metaphor for the relationship between God and His people. All humans want to be seen as special, “a lily among brambles”; the poem affirms this desire and describes its fulfillment in marriage.
If our attention-seeking is unrealistic, it can destroy our relationships instead of enhancing them. God alone loves us and accepts us unconditionally, freeing us to give as well as receive affection.
“I will walk with integrity of heart within my house” (v2). The psalmist declared that he would not only talk about God’s “steadfast love and justice” (v1), but he would try to live those values out in his own personal life. He would avoid close friendships with those who gossiped or hurt others (v4-7), and he would not surround himself with entertainment or activities that were “worthless.” His private pursuits would match what he said publicly: steadfast love and justice.
Before any great acts of sacrifice, we are called to demonstrate love and justice where we have the most influence: in our homes and work, among those closest to us.
“Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth …” (v1). This is the advice of a man near the end of his life, when things are slowing down, the world is getting quieter, and he is evaluating his previous choices (v2-6). He used his money and power to experiment with pleasure and pursue knowledge, but in the end, he said confidently, “Fear God and keep His commandments” (v13). We were made by and for God, and living for Him is the highest wisdom.
The Preacher’s realism about death can be uncomfortable, but his message is positive: life is a good and precious gift, not to be wasted.
“He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap” (v4). Though the Preacher of Ecclesiastes collected wise proverbs, he believed that too much life-analysis could paralyze us. He urged people to take their own eventual death seriously, so that they could make best use of today. “In the morning sow your seed … rejoice in your youth” (v6,9). Being thoughtful about life is good, but waiting for “the perfect moment” for something can result in a missed opportunity.
Paul said, “Now is the favorable time” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Today is the day to work, enjoy life, and be grateful for what God has given us.
“If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed” (v10). This was the goal of wisdom literature in the ancient world: to “sharpen the edge” of a person’s thinking, so he or she could thrive. Ecclesiastes 12:13 echoes other Biblical books by saying that fearing God is the foundation of all wisdom; when we live as God’s enemies, our energies, skills, and passions are blunted and end up causing damage.
When we know God as Creator and Savior and ourselves as His redeemed, beloved children, the rest of life has significance, now and for eternity.
November 29: II Corinthians 7:1-7 (11/29/2013)
November 28: Song of Solomon 6 (11/28/2013)
November 27: Song of Solomon 5 (11/27/2013)
November 26: Song of Solomon 3-4 (11/26/2013)
November 25: Song of Solomon 1-2 (11/25/2013)
November 24: Psalm 101 (11/24/2013)
November 23: Ecclesiastes 12 (11/23/2013)
November 22: Ecclesiastes 11 (11/22/2013)
November 21: Ecclesiastes 10 (11/21/2013)
November 20: Ecclesiastes 9 (11/20/2013)
November 19: II Corinthians 6 (11/19/2013)
November 18: II Corinthians 5 (11/18/2013)
November 17: Psalm 100 (11/17/2013)
November 16: Ecclesiastes 8 (11/16/2013)
November 15: Ecclesiastes 6-7 (11/15/2013)
November 14: Ecclesiastes 5 (11/14/2013)
November 13: Ecclesiastes 4 (11/13/2013)
November 12: II Corinthians 4:11-18 (11/12/2013)
November 11: II Corinthians 4:1-10 (11/11/2013)
November 10: Psalm 99 (11/10/2013)