A Threefold Cord

It’s a sleepy Tuesday morning. For life events, baseball updates, and other stuff, visit Life, LIberty, and the Pursuit, which I will update immediately following the devotional.

Today’s Bible Readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
Matthew 3
1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.'” 4 Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
Mat 3:8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Enter John the Baptizer, wearing “a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt,” and living off of a diet of “locusts and wild honey.” Really?? Well, according to Matthew Henry’s commentary, locusts, a flying insect, were very good for food, were allowed as clean by the law, and were light, requiring very little digestion. The point is, John’s lifestyle was very plain, as is fitting a prophet of God. How many “would be prophets” do we see in our day and age driving the nicest cars, wearing the nicest clothes, and living in the nicest homes?

John’s message was simple: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He was, according to Old Testament prophecy, preparing the way of the Lord. Many people were coming out to him to be baptized. But when he saw the religious leaders coming out, he called them out, calling them a “brood of vipers!” I find it interesting that there is no indication of their reaction to this accusation. They probably wrote him off as being crazy.

He describes the baptism that Jesus will bring. Jesus will baptize with fire and with the Holy Spirit. And he will separate the wheat from the chaff, “and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Then something very interesting happens…

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

John knew that his cousin had no need of repentance, and tried to resist baptizing him. In fact, he stressed that HE needed to be baptized by Jesus. But Jesus insisted, stating that it was “fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” I’ll admit I have struggled for years over that little phrase. The Reformation Study Bible says that he needed “to be identified with His people as the bearer of their sins.” We also should keep in mind that, in the act of becoming human, Jesus emptied himself, “made himself nothing” (Philippians 2:7), and took on the form of sinful flesh. Not that he had any sin, but had the appearance of sinful flesh. And, as Matthew Henry points out, Jesus was showing his willingness to comply with all of God’s precepts.

Amos 9
This chapter describes the ultimate destruction of Israel, but then concludes with a picture of Israel’s restoration. In the destruction, there will be no place to hid. Obviously, we cannot hide from God (see Psalm 139). There is no place we can go where he is not. Verses 5-6 are chilling: The Lord GOD of hosts, he who touches the earth and it melts, and all who dwell in it mourn, and all of it rises like the Nile, and sinks again, like the Nile of Egypt; who builds his upper chambers in the heavens and founds his vault upon the earth; who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out upon the surface of the earth– the LORD is his name. And people ask me why we are supposed to “fear” God? Here is a good reason! Yes, God is love, and yes, he loves us with a love everlasting, but he “touches the earth and it melts.” Once again, I defer to Terry Scott Taylor, who wrote in the Daniel Amos song, “Darn Floor, Big Bite,” “You are beautiful. A terrible, terrible sight.” It’s true.

As horrible as the destruction is, the restoration is equally beautiful. 13 “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when the plowman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed; the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. 14 I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit. 15 I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them,” says the LORD your God. Is this a literal prophecy concerning physical Israel, or does it find its ultimate fulfillment in the new heaven and new earth depicted in Revelation? While it is true that Israel once again resides in the “promised land,” it seems that there is much more fighting than vineyard-growing there. I believe the ultimate fulfillment of those verses comes with the second coming of Christ, after which point, all who have believed in him will dwell for eternity in peace and safety.

Ecclesiastes 4
The “preacher” continues to be rather depressing. He begins by speaking of all the oppression he sees “under the sun.” He finds that there is no one to comfort either the oppressed OR the oppressors. He concludes that the dead and unborn are better off than the living. He then observes that all of our work and skill to work comes from an envy of one’s neighbor. I, personally, would not say that “all” of it does, but just look at our society, which, apparently, has not changed much since this day. How much of the “striving after the wind” comes from trying to be just like someone else? I, for one, have wanted a Corvette for decades!! But at some point, I have to face the facts that I am probably never going to own a Corvette. I’m never going to ride a Harley down the open road. (If I grew my beard a little longer and wore leather, I might LOOK like a rider…) There is a great need for contentment in our society.

He goes even further, and observes one who has no relatives at all, yet he continues working and “striving after the wind,” but for who?? He never stops to ask, “For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?” (v. 8 )

But then there is an oasis in the middle of this chapter. Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him–a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (9-12) This short passage has become very popular in weddings, and, indeed, is not a bad description of a good marriage. Especially the mysterious phrase at the end. All of this talk about “two,” then suddenly, “a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Who is that third? We like to think it’s God. In our marriage, we are not just two. We try to keep God at the center of it (although not always successfully), so with him in our marriage, we are, indeed, a threefold cord, and let me tell you something. This particular threefold cord has survived the very fires of HELL!! Had God not been that “third cord,” we surely would have perished.

A prayer from The Valley of Vision


Supreme Ruler of the visible and invisible worlds,

My heart is drawn to you for your amazing grace and condescension.
You have kept my conversion fresh before me,
that season of my first spiritual comfort when I passed through the Red Sea
by a way I did not expect.
I rejoiced then for that unthought of passage,
that delivered me from the fear of the Egyptian when I had almost despaired of life.
I rejoice now as these things are fresh and lively in my mind.
My soul melts when I think of the days of old with me,
when a poor worthless creature without wisdom to direct or strength to help myself
was laid under the happy necessity of living upon you and finding your consolations large.
You are my divine treasury in whom all fullness dwells,
my life, hope, joy, peace, glory, end;
May I be daily more and more conformed to you,
with the meekness and calmness of the Lamb in my soul,
and a feeling sense of the felicity of heaven,
where I long to join angels free from imperfections,
where in me the image of my adored Savior will be completely restored,
so that I may be fit for his enjoyments and employments.
I am not afraid to look the king of terrors in the face,
for I know I shall be drawn, not driven, out of the world.
Until then let me continually glow and burn out for you,
and when the last great change shall come let me awake in your likeness,
leaving behind me an example that will glorify you
while my spirit rejoices in heaven,
and my memory is blessed upon earth,
with those who follow me praising you for my life.

Yes, Father, it would be very nice to have some left behind who would praise you for my life on earth. But that is not my ultimate goal. My ultimate goal is that my life would glorify you, and draw people to simply praise you for who you are, not for who or what I was. That would be the greatest compliment. I do ask, as this pray said, that I would “glow and burn out for you,” in my life. Let me shine for you in this world. You are, indeed, my “life, hope, joy, peace, glory, end.” You are my all in all. I pray that my life would reflect that. I find that I am distracted by too many things.

Let me truly exhibit the repentance that John the Baptist called for. Sure, I “repented” when I received Christ as my Savior. But I must continue to repent daily, for each day, there is some new sin upon me, some thought, some words that should not have been spoken. Some anger that need not have been felt. Let me repent continuously.

I praise you, Father, for Christi. I cannot thank you enough for preserving this marriage for almost 26 years (and many more to come, I trust)! Without you, we could not have made it. Without you, my own parents could not have made it over 50 years! You are that “third cord,” Father, and prove that the “threefold cord” is not easily broken! May we be a witness and testimony to the world.

Help me accept things as they are, Father, and give me contentment in my life, just as it is. Let us not be guilty of “striving after the wind,” which is vanity. Let us live our lives for you, glorifying you in all things.

I pray for this day, Father. I pray that Christi will have a good day, and that their project will continue to go well. Let it be successful, Father. I pray for my work day, as well, as it has potential to be a very busy day today. I pray for Stephanie’s day. She is very excited about her birthday and the beginning of school coming up next month. I pray that she will have a very good school year and finish strong.

I pray for Rachel and Justin as they get ready to move to Denton. May the move go well, Lord. Keep them safe.

Finally, I life up Gina, Diane’s sister to you. I also lift up their mother, Glenda. Give them comfort, Father, the greatest comfort of all. And, if it be your will, we ask for healing. Miracles are always possible, Father, and they have great faith in you, the great Physician.

Whether it is through marriage, or just good fellowship, it is important that we not try to live this journey alone. Two are better than one.

Grace and peace, friends.