Secret Storage

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23

One of the New Year’s resolutions that I have managed to keep is my plan to clean out the two storage rooms in our basement. When we initially moved into our house, whenever the movers didn’t know where to put something, we sent them to the storage rooms. Since then, a similar fate has been assigned to the stuff we continue to accumulate and don’t know what to do with. Cleaning out those rooms seemed like a daunting task, but I have to tell you it’s great to have it done. I go down there a lot now just to revel in the victory!

While I was cleaning, throwing away, sorting, and organizing, I thought about my heart. I thought about the secret places in my life that no one sees. The storage rooms where stuff that should be discarded stacks up. And here is what became clear to me: Who I really am is not determined by the parts of my life that are open to public view. In our house we do a pretty good job of keeping them in good order. The real commentary on what kind of a person I am is the condition of the storage rooms. If they are cluttered with unwanted, bad, and unnecessary things, then it says something about me. It says I am too busy . . . or, too lazy . . . or, undisciplined . . . or, just apathetic. Or, it says that I really don’t mind a lot of junk behind closed doors. It might even say that I like the junk in the storage rooms.

It’s like that in life. Who we really are is a lot about the condition of the secret places of our hearts.

When I was done, my male need for affirmation was out of control, I wanted Martie to come down immediately and see how clean and organized it all was . . . I even told my son that he had to stop by and see! Which made me wonder if the true test of secret places being in good order might just be whether or not you’d like someone to open the door to see how it looks. As the writer in Proverbs says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life”!


  • What would happen if someone opened the storage room of your heart today?  What would they find there that you might not want them to see?
  • Read 139 for a solid reminder that nothing is hidden from God . . . He sees it all! Make verses 23-24 the prayer of your heart today: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
  • Once you have cleared out the unwanted and unnecessary stuff in your heart, revel in it . . . And do what you can to keep it clean!


You shall not go out with haste, . . . for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guardIsaiah 52:12

Security from Yesterday. “. . . God requires an account of what is past” (Ecclesiastes 3:15). At the end of the year we turn with eagerness to all that God has for the future, and yet anxiety is apt to arise when we remember our yesterdays. Our present enjoyment of God’s grace tends to be lessened by the memory of yesterday’s sins and blunders. But God is the God of our yesterdays, and He allows the memory of them to turn the past into a ministry of spiritual growth for our future. God reminds us of the past to protect us from a very shallow security in the present.

Security for Tomorrow. “. . . the Lord will go before you . . . .” This is a gracious revelation— that God will send His forces out where we have failed to do so. He will keep watch so that we will not be tripped up again by the same failures, as would undoubtedly happen if He were not our “rear guard.” And God’s hand reaches back to the past, settling all the claims against our conscience.

Security for Today. “You shall not go out with haste . . . .” As we go forth into the coming year, let it not be in the haste of impetuous, forgetful delight, nor with the quickness of impulsive thoughtlessness. But let us go out with the patient power of knowing that the God of Israel will go before us. Our yesterdays hold broken and irreversible things for us. It is true that we have lost opportunities that will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past rest, but let it rest in the sweet embrace of Christ.

Leave the broken, irreversible past in His hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him.

Names for the Nameless

“These are the names of the sons of Israel who went to Egypt with Jacob, each with his family.”—Exodus 1:1

This Torah portion for this week, Shemot, is from Exodus 1:1—6:1 and Isaiah 27:6–28:13; 29:22–23.

This week’s Torah portion begins Exodus, the second of the five books of Moses. The era of the Patriarchs had come to an end and a new time period was ushered in. We all know what happened next: The Israelites embark on hundreds of years of bitter slavery. It was there, in the crucible of Egypt, that the children of Jacob grew into the nation of Israel.

It’s interesting then that the title for this week’s selection is ‘Shemot,’ which means ‘names.’ A name is very individual. In fact, Jewish tradition teaches that a person’s name hints at their unique essence. Recognizing individual names – as the Torah does in the first verses of this section – is the opposite of recognizing a singular group. We might think that since this portion is all about the collective experience of one nation, a different title would be more appropriate!

Of course, however, the title is entirely appropriate.

Because there is a danger in placing individuals into one group, especially when it comes to collective suffering. When a nation or a group is oppressed, we tend to lump all the victims together. By doing this, we minimize their suffering and mitigate our compassion. When victims are nameless and faceless, they become mere numbers and statistics. However, when someone has a name and an identity, their suffering is felt so much more deeply.

One of the saddest places on earth is the Nazi death camp, Auschwitz, where more than a million innocent people were gassed and burned. But the most disturbing place in the camp is not the gas chambers or the ovens. It’s the room filled with shoes. And the one next to it filled with hair. Another one filled with eyeglasses. And another filled with toys. And yet another filled with suitcases, still marked with individual names.

These rooms are filled with the personal items of the many victims that perished in Auschwitz. These rooms give names and identities to the millions that perished in the Holocaust, and that’s why they are so difficult to witness. When we recognize that each victim was a living, breathing, unique human being, the tragedy of their massacre is felt tenfold. And hopefully this deeper impact inspires more compassion and greater change.

Today, the media makes it easier than ever to hear about tragedies around the world. It’s so easy to become immune to human suffering. But we must remember that every victim has a name and has value beyond what we can understand. Whether lives are claimed in a natural disaster or by terror, we must pause and remember each victim. By doing so, we bring honor to their memory and ensure a more compassionate future.

The Ark Among The Philistines

In those days the Israelites went out to meet the Philistines, and in a hard-fought battle the Israelites were defeated by the Philistines.

When the people returned to the camp, the leaders of Israel said, “Why has Jehovah let us be beaten to-day by the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of our God from Shiloh. He may then go out with us and deliver us from our enemies.”

So the people sent to Shiloh and took from there the ark of Jehovah of hosts. When it came to the camp, all the Israelites shouted so loud that the earth resounded.

The Philistines heard the sound of the shouting and said, “What does this sound of great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” When they knew that the ark of Jehovah had come to the camp, they were afraid, for they said, “Their god has come to their camp. Woe to us! for it has never been so before; but be strong and act like men.” So the Philistines fought, and the Israelites were defeated and each fled to his tent.

The same day a Benjamite from the ranks ran to Shiloh with his clothes torn and with earth on his head. As he came, Eli was sitting on his seat by the gate watching the road, for his heart was trembling for the ark of God.

When the man came and told the people of the city, they all cried out. Eli heard the sound of crying and said, “What is this uproar?” So the man came quickly and told Eli, “I am the man who came from the battle, for I fled from the ranks.” Eli said, “How did it go, my son?” The messenger answered, “Israel fled from the Philistines, and many people were killed, and your two sons are dead, and the ark of God has been captured.” When he spoke of the ark of God, Eli fell off his seat backward beside the gate, and his neck was broken, for he was old and heavy, and he died.

The Philistines took the ark of God and brought it to the temple of Dagon in Ashdod and set it up by the side of Dagon. When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day and came to the temple of Dagon, there was Dagon on the ground flat on his face before the ark of Jehovah. Then they raised up Dagon and set him in his place again. But when they rose early on the following morning, there was Dagon on the ground flat on his face before the ark of Jehovah. The head of Dagon and both his hands were broken off on the door sill, and only his body was left.

Jehovah severely punished the people of Ashdod, for he punished them with boils. When the men of Ashdod saw this, they said, “The ark of the god of Israel shall not stay with us, for he is severely punishing us and Dagon our god.” So they sent for all the rulers of the Philistines and asked, “What shall we do with the ark of the god of Israel?” They answered, “Let it be carried around to Gath.”

So they carried the ark of the God of Israel around to Gath. Then Jehovah punished the men of that city, both young and old, with boils. Therefore they sent the ark of the God of Israel to Ekron; but when it came to Ekron, the Ekronites cried out, “They have brought around the ark of the god of Israel to kill us and our people!” They sent, therefore, and gathered all the rulers of the Philistines and said, “Send the ark of the god of Israel back to its own place, so that it will not kill us and our people!”

Then the Philistines called the priests and diviners and asked, “What shall we do with the ark of Jehovah? Tell us with what we shall send it to its place.” They said, “If you send back the ark of the god of Israel, you must not send it away empty, but must return to him an offering to repay him for all that you have done to the ark. Then you shall be healed, and you shall know why he has continued to punish you.” They said, “What offering shall we send back in order to repay him?”

They said, “Five golden boils and five golden mice, the same number as the rulers of the Philistines; for one plague was upon you as well as upon your rulers. Now therefore prepare a new cart and two milch cows that have never worn a yoke, and fasten the cows to the cart, but leave their calves behind them at home. Then take the ark of Jehovah and place it upon the cart and put in a box at its side the golden objects which you are sending to them as an offering to repay him. Then send it away. If it goes on the way to its own border, to Bethshemesh, then it is Jehovah who has done us this great harm; but if not, then we shall know that it is not he who has punished us; it was only an accident.”

The men did so, and the cows took a straight course along the Bethshemesh road. They went along the highway, lowing as they went, and did not turn aside to the right nor to the left. The rulers of the Philistines also went after them as far as Bethshemesh.

The inhabitants of Bethshemesh were harvesting their wheat in the valley, and when they looked up and saw the ark, they rejoiced at the sight. When the ark came into the field of Joshua, the Bethshemeshite, it stood still there. And a great stone was there; so they split up the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt-offering to Jehovah. When the five rulers of the Philistines saw it, they returned to Ekron the same day.

“All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away; but the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” 1 Peter 1:24, 25

All flesh, and everything that springs from the flesh, and is connected with the flesh, is as grass, which, for a time, looks green and flourishing, but touched with the mower’s scythe, or scorched by the midday sun, soon withers and fades away. Such is all flesh, without exception, from the highest to the lowest. As in nature, some grass grows thicker and longer than other, and makes, for a while, a brighter show, yet the scythe makes no distinction between the light crop and the heavy, so the scythe of death mows down with equal sweep the rich and the poor, and lays in one common grave all the children of men. You have seen sometimes in the early spring the grass in flower, and you have noticed those little yellowish “anthers,” as they are termed, which tremble at every breeze. This is “the flower of grass;” and though so inconspicuous as almost to escape observation, yet as much its flower as the tulip or the rose is the flower of the plant which bears each. Now, as the grass withereth, so the flower thereof falleth away. It never had, at its best state, much permanency or strength of endurance, for it hung as by a thread, and it required but a little gust of wind to blow it away, and make it as though it never had been. Such is all the pride of the flesh, and all the glory of man.

But is there nothing that endures amidst all that thus withers and falls away? Yes, the word of the Lord. “And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” Now, the same gospel which was preached by the Apostles is preached unto us in the word of truth which we have in our hands; and if we have received that gospel into a believing heart, we have received for ourselves that word of the Lord which endureth for ever. And thus, though all our own flesh is as grass, and all in which we might naturally glory is but as the flower of grass, and though this grass must wither in death, and the flower thereof shall fall away, when the place which now knoweth us shall know us no more, yet we have an enduring substance in the gospel of the grace of God, and, so far as we have received that gospel, and known it to be the power of God unto salvation, when our earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.