Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Matthew 6:26
Try to guess the bird population of earth. It seems like an impossible census because we can’t even count the birds in our own backyard. Yet about ten years ago, two scientists were determined to estimate how many birds are on our planet, and they came up with a colossal number—400 billion. That’s about 60 birds for every person. Think of it! God has created 60 birds just for you, to sing for you, to delight you with their aerodynamic maneuvers, to eat mosquitoes around your house, and to maintain earth’s ecological balance.
In Matthew 6, Jesus suggested we study the birds of the air because every one of them is a token of His care for you. Later in the same Gospel, He said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will…. Do not fear, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29-31).
Every bird is a messenger of God, and their songs are sermons of reassurance.
For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. Civilla D. Martin, hymnist
40 Matthew 6 – Pastor Chuck Smith – C2000 Series
They will eat and lie down and no one will make them afraid. Zephaniah 3:13
When the Ethiopian police found her a week after her abduction, three black-maned lions surrounded her, guarding her as though she were their own. Seven men had kidnapped the twelve-year-old girl, carried her into the woods and beaten her. Miraculously, however, a small pride of lions heard the girl’s cries, came running and chased off the attackers. “[The lions] stood guard until we found her and then they just left her like a gift and went back into the forest,” police Sergeant Wondimu told one reporter.
There are days when violence and evil, like that inflicted on this young girl, overpower us, leaving us without hope and terrified. In ancient times, the people of Judah experienced this. They were overrun by ferocious armies and unable to imagine any possibility of escape. Fear consumed them. However, God always renewed His unrelenting presence with His people: “The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm” (Zephaniah 3:15). Even when our catastrophes result from our own rebellion, God still comes to our rescue. “The Lord your God is with you,” we hear, “the Mighty Warrior who saves” (v. 17).
Whatever troubles overtake us, whatever evils, Jesus—the Lion of Judah—is with us (Revelation 5:5). No matter how alone we feel, our strong Savior is with us. No matter what fears ravage us, our God assures us that He is by our side.
Reflect & Pray
What is your greatest fear right now? How does God’s promise to be with you encourage you?
Mighty Warrior God, I need You. I need a Mighty Warrior to stand with me and overwhelm my fears. I’m choosing to trust You.
Human beings are born with a marvelous gift from God—a conscience. Since its warnings can cause discomfort, you perhaps have never thought of it as a blessing. But the Lord had our benefit and protection in mind when He created this internal witness to our moral conduct. By listening to its promptings, we are guarded from making choices that could hurt us or others.
But can you rely on your conscience to offer guidance about all decisions? God made the conscience to act as an alarm system to warn and protect us from sin. However, many of our choices are not moral issues, so we need an even more reliable source for direction.
That’s why the Lord has provided believers with the Holy Spirit, who accurately leads us in any kind of decision we must make. He not only works through the conscience to make us aware of sin, but He also helps us choose between good and best. As we listen to His voice and heed His warnings, He purifies and sharpens our conscience so that it aligns more precisely with the Word and will of God.
One problem is that the conscience has the capacity to be shaped by our responses. When we repeatedly reject or ignore its promptings, we can damage its dependability, and then sins that should bother us might not even register. But heeding its warnings make it sharper and more sensitive, protecting us even more effectively. Knowing this, let’s ask for the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom and discernment so we will heed the promptings of our conscience.
“Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?” (Matthew 22:17)
In His last week of earthly ministry, Jesus confronted efforts by religious leaders to discredit His teaching. Furthermore, they wanted to catch Him in such a clear violation of public policy that the Roman government would imprison Him and silence the impact He was having on the population of Jerusalem.
Matthew records the question asked by the corrupt scribes and teachers, but Jesus knew it didn’t reflect their real intentions. They flattered Him with platitudes about seeking truth, but they really wanted an excuse to not pay taxes and a way to accuse Jesus of rebellion against Rome.
“But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:18-21).
Both sides of this debate are brought up in churches today. Some would deny the government the right to tax its citizens to support policies that are not moral (abortion) or to pay for unjust wars (Vietnam, etc.). Jesus said that “Caesar” has the right to demand tribute whether or not we agree with its use.
Others insist that since the law is no longer in force under the New Covenant, our giving is not mandated, and the “tithe” amounts to whatever the conscience deems appropriate. Jesus told the Jewish leaders they ought to tithe all they were prospered by but not leave the “weightier” issues alone (Matthew 23:23). On this matter, we are to pay taxes to our Caesar and our tithe to God as commanded. HMM III
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, look-ing unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.
Is Satan giving you a hard time in your life of faith—in the Christian race you are running? Expect it if you are a believing child of God!
Satan hates your God. He hates Jesus Christ. He hates your faith. You should be aware of the devil’s evil intentions. He wants you to lose the victor’s crown in the race you have entered by faith through grace….
When by faith we have entered this lifelong spiritual course, the Holy Spirit whispers, “Do you truly want to be among the victors in this discipline?” When we breathe our “Yes! Yes!” He whispers of ways that will aid us and carry us to certain victory.
The Spirit tells us to throw off everything that would hinder us in the race. He tells us to be aware of the little sins and errors that could divert us from the will of God as we run. But here is the important thing: He tells us to keep our eyes on Jesus, because He alone is our pacesetter and victorious example. JAF075-077
Father, let me see Jesus this morning. Then go with me today and help me to keep my eyes fixed on Him. Amen.
As bond-servants [margin] of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.—Ephesians 6:6 (R. V.).
Lord Jesus, turn us from the noise
Of endless strivings and empty joys,
To find forever Thy one true peace,
Rest from sorrow, from sin release!
Harriet McEwen Kimball.
Can He not enable you to do that will from your heart, in your surroundings? Are you sorely tried by those surround-Are they, in themselves, humiliating to you, or exasperating to you? Are they full of acute heart-pangs, or heavy with a chronic heartache? Not one of these things is forgotten before your Lord. Your slightest pain finds response in His sympathy. But let that thought be but the stepping-stone to this, that for you as for the slave-saint of Ephesus there lies open in that same Lord the blessed secret of a life which shall move amidst these same unwelcome surroundings as a life free, and at leisure, and at peace, full of love and rest, blessed and blessing; a life hid with Christ in God; a life in which everything, from your rising up to your lying down, the smallest cross and the largest, is seen in the light of the holy, the beloved, will of God, and so is met not with a sigh, or a murmur, but “from the soul.”
Hanley C. G. Moule.
And he said, Thus saith the Lord, Make this valley full of ditches. For thus saith the Lord, Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, that ye may drink, both ye, and your cattle, and your beasts.” 2Kings 3:16, 17
Three armies were perishing of thirst, and the Lord interposed. Although He sent neither cloud nor rain, yet He supplied an abundance of water. He is not dependent upon ordinary methods, but can surprise His people with novelties of wisdom and power. Thus are we made to see more of God than ordinary processes could have revealed. Although the Lord may not appear for us in the way we expect, or desire, or suppose, yet He will in some way or other provide for us. It is a great blessing for us to be raised above looking to secondary causes, so that we may gaze into the face of the great First Cause.
Have we this day grace enough to make trenches into which the divine blessing may flow? Alas! we too often fail in the exhibition of true and practical faith. Let us this day be on the outlook for answers to prayer. As the child who went to a meeting to pray for rain took an umbrella with her; so let us truly and practically expect the Lord to bless us. Let us make the valley full of ditches and expect to see them all filled.