But you, O Lord, are a shield around me,
    my glory, and the one who lifts up my head.

I cry aloud to the Lord,
    and he answers me from his holy hill.  Psalms 3:3-4.

I literally just finished filing out my annual self-evaluation.  I don’t think I am alone in this experience.  This month working men and women all over the world will be tallying up their accomplishments to inform their superiors of their activity and hopefully persuade those superiors to retain, and even reward, them in the year ahead.

My current employer utilizes a supremely comprehensive document that has been known to try the patience of more than a few of the saints.  The fun part about the process is that it gives me a chance to look back over the year and to be reminded about cool things that happened and to be grateful for the Lord’s work in my life.

Besides the tedium of the process itself, the negative thing about completing this particular self-evaluation is that it feels like a shameless exercise in self-aggrandizement.  One doesn’t want to fail to accurately report one’s activities but by the end of the form I rather fail to recognize the uber-achiever it portrays.

My friends, if this whole self-evaluation experience gets you down, look to the Lord for rest.  If it feels like your own evaluation is unflattering, remember that the Lord is your shield from external foes and the lifter of your head from internal shame.  I have certainly had those periods where I needed both.

But if your evaluation, like my university’s, leads you to wonder why you have not been memorialized on Mt. Rushmore, remember that our glory comes from God alone.  We do nothing of eternal value apart from Him.  And that is a very happy state of affairs.  Our employers will require us to impress them again next year, but the Lord’s glory that rests upon is eternal.

And he [God] said to humankind,
“Truly, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom;
    and to depart from evil is understanding.”  Job 28:28

If you grew up in an evangelical church you probably heard a lot about, “the fear of the Lord”.  Some of the messages you heard were about the power, judgment, and anger of a righteous God in the face of your sinful life.  The idea was to make you afraid.  It certainly worked on me.  Funny, I didn’t feel super wise.

Then there were the messages about what kind of “fear” we were supposed to have of the Lord.  I remember words like “respect”, and “reverence” occurring a lot.  I think the idea was to make God seem a little more approachable than the angry, just God who demanded our fear.

But this text from Job is not really about the character of God, is it?  If one wanted to build a doctrine of God one would not start with this verse.  This verse is about us and how we can become wiser people.  The answer is in the verse.

Almost the entire book of Job is written in this form of ancient poetry where the first line states a proposition and the second line restates it.  The second line is the equivalent of the first.  Do you want to know whether you fear the Lord as God intended for you?  The answer is not in whether you shudder in church or never set your coffee cup on top of your Bible.  You fear the Lord if you depart from evil.

If you have sin you are holding onto in your life for safekeeping, you’re not fearing the Lord.  Preferring sin is concrete evidence of a lack of wisdom.  Wise people get rid of it as quickly and as thoroughly as possible.

Set that as standard operating procedure in your life.  When you identify thoughts or actions in your life that are beneath God’s standards, immediately repent of those.  That, my friends, is fear of the Lord.  It is also the path to a life of great wisdom.

For when a few years have come,
    I shall go the way from which I shall not return.  Job 16:22

It is extremely common to get so caught up in the day to day pressures of life that you lose track of time passing.  It seems like every day is a whirlwind of pulling yourself out of bed, getting yourself and the family out the door.  Working like a dog all day and then falling into the bed at night so you can do it again.  In the same way, the weeks turn into a blur punctuated by Monday morning lows and Friday evening highs.  The years aren’t much better – bills, birthdays, vacations, and holidays.

And then it is gone.  A year has passed.  You have been here before.  Some of us have been here many, many times.  We can recount Christmas celebrations from decades ago.  We mark time not by years and months but by births and tragedies.  (“What year did you have that surgery again, Sweetheart?”)

But in our text for today, Job reminds us – time only goes one direction.  The back cover of your book is not moving and every chapter brings you closer.  So many of us get lost in the story the end hits us by surprise.  Perhaps we are afraid to look ahead.

It doesn’t have to be that way!  Every day we can dedicate the day’s steps forward.  We can be thankful for everything the Lord provides, week by week.  Every year we can celebrate our progress in sanctification and maturity.  Our destination is intended to be beautiful, if we prepare for it.

Put time on your side, my friends.  Mark your progress as you grow in humility and in love for the Lord and his creatures.  Be thankful for our journey and doubly thankful for our destination, the eternal presence of the Lord.

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.  And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.  Matthew 2:10-11.

The idea of adoration is a little foreign to our post-modern mindset.  Your online dictionary will provide synonyms like “veneration” and “worship”, not super helpful.  Try thinking of it in terms of respect, combined with devotion and affection.

But in the terms of the 17th century hymn, “Oh Come All Ye Faithful”, originally written in Latin, it means something more.  There is a transcendental quality to our respect, devotion and affection for Christ.  The relationship is unique, because He is unique; unique among men and unique among other so-called gods in His willingness to become man.

The magi in our text for today had travelled long and hard to reach the God born as man.  Some experts speculate they traveled 400 miles on foot, taking over a month, in harsh conditions and guided only by a star.  This would be the journey of a lifetime, two years in the planning.  They had prepared for it with great study, undertaken significant expense, and put their lives at risk.  They put their reputations at risk, too.  If they traveled all the way to Israel to find nothing like what they predicted had happened they would forever be the “not-so-wise men”.

This moment captured in Matthew 2 of their finally meeting Christ is the culmination of years of working, investing, enduring and hoping.  Imagine their joy!  They had found the One.  All their planning and work had paid off with the greatest possible dividend.  They had found the Christ, with nothing but a star to follow and some ancient prophecies to guide them.

We, too, can find Him.  For some, the journey is short, more like the shepherds of Luke 2.  They may be raised by Christian parents with a church family to bring them along.  For some the journey takes decades, with a lot of time spent wandering in the wilderness.  But for all of us this will be the only God we will ever meet and the only God we will ever need.  Today of all days, let’s adore our Savior in the fullest sense.  Come, let’s adore Him.

If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored,
    if you remove unrighteousness from your tents,
if you treat gold like dust,
    and gold of Ophir like the stones of the torrent-bed,
and if the Almighty
 is your gold
    and your precious silver,
then you will delight yourself in the Almighty,

    and lift up your face to God.  Job 22:23-26

I am privileged to work in an organization where the President and his senior leadership gather to pray on Monday mornings.  Recently I was there also (as a representative of “not senior leadership”).  The colleague who led the devotional that morning taught from Psalm 23:1. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” She focused on the overriding temptation we all face as human beings to “want”.  Avarice is as part of the human condition as breathing in and out.

She acknowledged that what the 17th century Oxford and Cambridge dons meant when they translated the verse to say, “I shall not want” was not what she meant.  She brought the lesson God revealed to her as she meditated on the English translation of the verse, contextualized into her post-modern world.

But I wondered then and now if there was something more to her connection.  We all want things.  It is the nature of human beings to seek growth, change, and transcendence.  The Lord made us to work and subdue the earth.  Don’t be surprised if you find yourself wanting things, especially things you don’t have.  Even David, who penned the 23rd Psalm, wanted things.  In Psalm 63:1 he describes his desire for God as being like thirsting, “in a dry and weary land”.

But if the problem is not in the wanting, what is it?  The difference between avarice and righteousness is in what we want.  And here our text for today can help.  Eliphaz the Temanite teaches us that when we treat the usual stuff of avarice as dust, and view the Lord as the real gold and silver, we will receive what we really value.  We will delight in the Almighty and lift up our faces to him.

It turns out, when you want the right things, your godly desires will be fully satisfied.  In this consumerist world, give all that material glitter the disdain it deserves.  Want the Lord as your shepherd.  Value Him more than all the gold and silver in the world.  And never be in want.