Bread – Cities

October 18, 2017


Psalm 87

On the holy mount stands the city He founded; the Lord loves the gates of Zion…Among those who know me I mention Rahab (Egypt) …” Ps. 87:1-2,4

The Psalmist here is speaking in his own day about a city he knew, called then Zion; a place today which is likely Jerusalem.

We know from other Scripture that there is also a holy city in the heavens which will be brought to earth in the last days.  (“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, … And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, …”  Rev.21:1-2

But the Psalmist could also be talking  about a type of modern city, a city on a hill which shines forth the glory of the Lord, is inhabited by believers, and is sustained by the power of God.  This city Jesus referred to in Matthew, where He said: “You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden…In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your people in heaven.”  Matt. 5:14,16

There are three “places” we can live in.  We can live in the past and look to Jerusalem.  We can live in the heavens and look to the holy city in heaven, waiting for the end.  Or we live in the present, in the place we are planted, in the city we can call home.

We are here as ambassadors of the kingdom of God.  But we are also here as citizens of our city.

Does our city, comprised of God-fearing citizens, shine forth the light of Christ?

Probably not and so we have two solutions to that.  One solution requires us to use the city-power to tax and spend, pretending to shine a light by government-sponsored and operated “good works.”  By this “solution,” we try to use our political and economic power to create a pseudo-light, a light-lite so to speak.  Because this light is generated by a city comprised of men acting as men, it sputters and dims, sometimes going out completely, and never quite reaching the places of darkness for which it is intended.

The second solution requires us to use God-power to change us and by changing us, transform our relationships, actions, and our entire lives into light sources.  Since we, by living in close proximity together, are the city, our transformed lives and individual lights then give light to the entire city.  Because this light is generated by a city comprised of men acting as saints, it does not fade, it does not die, and it reaches into a dark world.

We do not change a city by edict or rule but by changing ourselves, by becoming lights which, when combined, create a city which shines forth in the darkness, becoming a beacon of hope.

America is a beacon of hope to many.  It is not a beacon of hope because it intended to be a beacon of hope.  It is not a beacon of hope because of governmental programs.  It is not even a beacon of hope because of economic theory.

America is a beacon of hope because each citizen who follows Christ is himself or herself strong light sources.  And we live in cities, and we live in a nation.

If the people are good, the city is good – not so vice versa.

Do we want to live in places of light, hope, charity, love and peace?  Then let’s begin by looking at ourselves in the mirror and asking ourselves, today, whether we will shine with the light of Christ, today.  As we do that, we may one day look back and see that, indeed, we did live in the city on the hill which is the lighthouse of the world.

_______

© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

 

 

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Bread – United

October 13, 2017


Psalm 86

“…You alone are God.  Teach me Your way, O Lord, that I may walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name.”  Ps. 86: 10b-11

Every so often out of the middle of Scripture jumps a word which seems out of place.  In this case, the word is “unite.”  We understand asking God to teach (tell) us His way so that we know the way we should follow (“walk in His truth”).  But why is it necessary to ask God to “unite” our heart in order to “fear Him?”

Everyone is familiar with the phrase “United we stand; divided we fall.”  But who is familiar with the phrase “United we fear; divided we don’t?”

And yet the two phrases are in fact the same.  With God we can stand in the evil day; without Him, we cannot.  With God our house is built on solid rock and can withstand the storm; without God our house is built on shifting sand and will blow down when adversity comes.

And, yet, as we sit and study our heart, our innermost feelings and thoughts, the “heart of the matter,” our core … are we united in our thinking or divided?

I think that if we answer this question honestly, while we may wish we were united and consistent in our thinking, we realize that we are not.  Today we think one way and tomorrow another.  Our principles are not standards we latch hold of, but merely guideposts as we slalom down the ski slope of life.  Our reliance on God is more a theory than a fact.  We trust Him … sort of, mostly.

We have doubts and we call those doubts the effect of rational thought, so that we can have an excuse to avoid being united in our heart.

God tells us to flee sin, but instead we flee commitments.  The reason we flee commitments is that the making of a commitment is an act of being united in heart.  Once a commitment is made, if it is indeed truly made, then doubts about it are the fuel of mischief.

The Psalmist asks God to unite his heart because he knows that God is the only one with power to do it.

Another version of this same request is – “My Father, Who art in heaven … but deliver me from evil.”  What evil – a divided heart.  With a divided heart we cannot adequately fear God, we cannot adequately hear God, we cannot adequately follow God, and we cannot adequately worship Him.    Satan’s weapon of choice (other than lies) is the seed of doubt (which is another version of a lie).

Like so many Psalms, there is a great truth locked into this little verse.  Do we want to walk in God’s truth?  Do we want to hear Him and follow Him?  Do we want to be taught His ways?  Then we must first have a united heart, one wholly devoted to Him.

Who can unite our heart?  There is only one, the only one, for “You alone are God.”  Ps. 86:10.

And so, to fulfill our desire that we follow in His way and His truth, two things must be true and are bookended here.  The first is that we must know that God alone is God and the second is that we must have a united heart around that knowledge.

Unite my heart, O Lord, that I might fear You and know that You are God.  Then I will be ready to be taught and to follow.

United we stand; divided we fall.

_______

© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

Bread – Steadfast

October 11, 2017


Psalm 86

Incline Your ear, O Lord, and answer me; for I am poor and needy…For You, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon You.”  Ps. 86:1,5

We pray to God for help in times of need … why?  Do we believe He pays attention?  Do we believe He cares?  Do we believe that He will in fact intervene to save us in our distress?  Do we believe He is able?  Do we believe that He is God?

We know that we do not bring before God the first fruits of our labor.  We do not spend time with Him.  We do not thoroughly study His Word, although we actually have a Bible on our bookshelf.  We may acknowledge His existence in some kind of reality, but we routinely ignore Him, blithely going about our lives wrapped up in ourselves.

Maybe we pray to Him in times of need as reflex action.  Maybe we do it because, having reached the ends of ropes of our making, we think that there can be no harm and, who knows, there may be some good.

Sounds all pretty cynical, doesn’t it?

I write this way to make a point.  We do not really understand what “steadfast” means because we, ourselves, are driven by the mood of the day, the breakfast we ate, the quality of the relationships we have, our title, our possessions, the need of the moment, the crisis before us, the weather, and 10,000 other things which drive us to and fro, from the heights of victory to the valley of despair, from left to right.  We do not understand what “steadfast” is because we ourselves are naturally built of sticks upon sand, constantly changing our direction based upon the direction of the wind.

And what is our reference point, if not us?

This is the ancient and modern fallacy of thinking.  If we are indeed the reference point, then the concept of steadfast has no meaning because we ourselves are steadfast for maybe a few minutes a day.

To understand steadfastness, we need to have an absolute reference point – and that is God.  We may pray out of need, but we pray to God because we know who He is.  We know Him as Creator and Savior.  We know Him as the only God.  We know Him as full of grace (mercy).  We know Him as One who is steadfast.

If we understand steadfastness at all, it is because we kneel before the One who invented the concept, who is the concept, who demonstrates the concept.

Where in our lives does God show steadfast love?  We are still denied the promotion, the salary increase, the wished for and dreamed about opportunity, the miraculous healing from cancer.  We are not happy clappy, so where is this so-called “steadfast” love?

It is shown quite simply in that we are forgiven our sins (trespasses) against Him, that we are saved from ourselves and in spite of ourselves, for all eternity, in Jesus Christ.

Regardless of whether we are in the valley of our failures or the mountaintops of our successes, God’s steadfast love does not move, it is not shaken, it is not compromised, it does not wane, it does not lose intensity, it does not diminish, it does not go away.  It remains, through thick and thin, darkness and light, worry and elation.

We, too, can be steadfast in our faith, in our love, in our devotion … if we will but stand on the solid rock, the absolute steadfastness of God.  All else is sinking sand.

_______

© 2017 GBF    All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – R

October 6, 2017


Psalm 85

Restore us again, O God of our salvation … Will You not revive us again … Show us Your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us Your salvation.  Let me hear what God the Lord shall speak, for He will speak peace to His people, to His saints; but let them not turn back to folly.  Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him, that glory may dwell in our land.”  Ps. 85:4,6-7, 8-9

This Bread is called “R” because this Psalm reveals so many of the “R” words which matter to us in our Christian walk as individuals, as people, and as a nation.

These “R” words are Remember, Restore, Revive, Reveal, Resist, and Rest.

Remember, because this Psalm requires us to remember who we are as sinners and who God is as creator and savior.

Restore, because without a right relationship with God and to God, we have no connection.  Restoration of our relationship to each other begins with restoration of our relationship to God.  Restoration of our relationship with our surroundings, our earth, begins with restoration of our relationship to God.  Restoration of our rightful places, as righteous rulers of the earth, as heads of our households, as workers in the fields of life, as saints, and as obedient bondservants begins with restoration of a right relationship with God.  And who is in charge of that restoration?  In a sense we are as prodigal sons who must look up from our piggeries and see the home where we belong.  But, more importantly, the person who is in charge of that restoration is the same person who is charge of our salvation – and that is God Himself.  He is the One who must restore, because but for His love, His forgiveness, and His power, we would have no position to do it ourselves.

Revive, because we need a fresh infusion of God’s Holy Spirit on a minute-by-minute basis to avoid falling into Satan’s pits of confusion, despair, and forgetfulness.

Reveal – “Let me hear what God the Lord shall speak.”  God has spoken in his written Word and in Jesus Christ.  Both the fact and the content of that need to be revealed to us by God.  We have a job to show up, to read and study, and to try to understand.  But while we try God works in us to reveal His truth and His love.

Resist, because when we know what is right because we have been restored and revived, and God’s truth has been revealed to us, it is time for Satan to get involved, to drag us back and defeat us.  “Let them not turn back to folly” is a reminder that the choice to return to foolishness is ours to make; to avoid it, we must flee sin, we must resist.

And finally, Rest.  Where does that word in this Psalm come from?  It comes from this – “Surely His salvation is close…that glory may dwell in the land.”  If God’s glory dwelt fully in the United States, what would we be doing today?  If God’s glory is present in its fullness, then we have surrendered fully.  Once we have surrendered fully and acknowledged that He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, we may dwell with Him in safety.  What is that?  Rest.

Given the problems of the day, the difficulties of life, and circumstances of a fallen world, the encroachment of sin, and the sounds and sights of war and destruction, what we all need and want is rest.

Restore me again, o Lord of my salvation.  Revive my spirit.  Teach me Your ways, so that You might be fully revealed to me.  Help me to resist Satan.  And bring me Lord to that place of rest, where you dwell in glory.

What more can we ask for?

_______

© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

Bread – Blessings

October 4, 2017


Psalm 85

Lord, You were favorable to Your land; You restored the fortunes of Jacob.  You forgave the iniquity of Your people; You covered all their sin.  You withdrew all Your wrath; You turned from Your hot anger.”  Ps. 85:1-3

All this is the past tense.  What is the Psalmist doing.  He is remembering the blessings the Lord has bestowed upon His land and His people.  Lest we be inclined to limit this to Israel (since the Psalms were directed at the time to Israel), who can deny that the Lord has been generous to the United States, that He has multiplied the fortunes of its peoples many times over, and that, through His Son Jesus Christ, He has covered the sins of those who have faith in Him and withdrawn His wrath?  Although the Psalmist wrote in his generation to those who read and listened, he also wrote God’s revelation to us today.

There is a commentary on the Psalms I refer to from time to time and which said something today which is not only striking but also why I called this Bread “Blessings.”  The author said “If God gives us good health, a happy and supporting family, a good job, and praise from our employer and friends, we think we are blessed.  If we lack any one of these things, we begin to suppose that God has somehow forgotten us or does not care.  We do not think how blessed we are to have our sins forgiven …”  Boice, James, An Expositional Commentary Psalms 42-106 (Baker Books 1996) (pg. 696).

As a country, we have recently been through times of great hurricanes and the destruction of lives and property which goes with those events, we have been through never-ending bouts of criticism from inside and outside the country, we are living under the threat of nuclear war by rogue insanity, and we have recently been victim to the Las Vegas shootings by an “ordinary” man.  Many of us may be forgetting our blessings and believing that God has somehow forgotten us or does not care.

What this “ordinary” man has shown us, again, is how wide, deep, and long our sin is.  There is an old saying which goes something like, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”  Because of our sin, we all have the capacity for great cruelty and depravity unless we are retained, sustained, and restrained by a greater power.

And this greater power is not the state.  The state may punish evil, but it cannot restrain evil.  In fact, unfortunately, once evil has taken the reins of state power, evil can be amplified by the state as we have seen most recently in North Korea and, not so long ago, in Germany, Italy, Cambodia, and many, many more places.

No, our greatest blessings are not in the soundness of our sleep, the depth of our bank account, the size of our real estate, the sparkle of our jewels, the titles we bear, or the power we exert.  Our greatest blessings are that, in spite of ourselves, God loves us, He cares for us, He sustains us, and, for those who believe in Jesus Christ, He saves us from our sin for all eternity.

The first three verses of our Psalm today cause us to recall our real blessings so that we may walk confidently in the love and power of God into today.

We are blessed.  Let’s act like it.

_______

© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

Bread – Courts

September 29, 2017


Psalm 84

How lovely is Your dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts!  My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord.”  Ps. 84:1-2

As a lawyer, when I think of the word “courts,” places of decision and judgment come to mind.  Some of these courts are plainly furnished and others elegantly, designed to impress with the power of the authority, but in all of them disputes are settled, decisions made, judgments handed down, and sometimes, punishments delivered.

What soul faints for these kinds of courts?

There is another kind of court which I generally associate with houses (palaces), where you have the outer courts, generally made up of open spaces, soaring ceilings, and lots of flowers and shrubbery, and the inner courts.  Again, sort of like courts of law, inner courts can convey the sense of power, authority, and place of decision – but they can also convey hospitality, welcoming, restful spirit.

And then there is another kind of court, the court of the king.  In this court we may have a throne where the king sits and lots of people in attendance, some just curious bystanders and others either supplicants (asking for things) or some form of bureaucrat (administering things).

So, what do the “courts of the Lord” look like?  We certainly have our vision of the heavenly throne room, with all the goings on.  But do we have a vision as well of the seat of judgment or, on a kinder note, the place of welcome, of hospitality?

But we also have concrete examples and those are our places of sanctuary called churches and, as an Anglican, the place at rail where communion is served.

These are places where we are, yes, judged against God’s measuring stick and found wanting, where we are welcomed as wanderers in the wilderness and fed the good food of love, and where we are reminded that, as Christ’s own, we are in fact forgiven and have hope and life, both today and forever.

But do we “faint for the courts of the Lord?”  Are we so driven by our need for truth, love, and the food of wisdom and life that we insist on going into the courts of the Lord on a regular basis?

The intent of this entire Psalm is to tell us that the best place to be is in the courts of the Lord, “For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.”  Ps. 84:10.  But how often do we find ourselves in bed, on the golf course, at work, or eating breakfast reading the paper than finding ourselves in church.

If church (the courts of the Lord) is the best place to be, then why are we anywhere else?

Of course we have things to do and places to be.   But all the time?

If we are tired or lonely or just plain aggravated, maybe we should remember that the best place to be is somewhere else, the best place to be is the sanctuary, the courts of the Lord.  And go there.

_______

© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

Bread – Defense

September 19, 2017


Psalm 83

O God, do not keep silence; do not hold Your peace or be still, O God!  For behold, Your enemies make an uproar; those who hate You have raised their heads….As fire consumes the forest, as the flame sets the mountains ablaze, so may You pursue them …”  Ps. 83: 1-2, 14-15

The English Standard Version’s Study Bible’s (copy. 2008, Crossway Bibles) notes on this Psalm say that it is “a community lament, geared to a situation in which God’s people are threatened by Gentile enemies who aim to destroy them….Christians would use this this psalm … in cases where their persecutors would destroy them and all traces of their faith.”

In many parts of the world, sounds like now.

But then again, when people want to be their own god and follow the ways of the world, they hate God and all those who claim Him, so the circumstances described (“where persecutors would destroy them and all traces of their faith”) actually describes recorded history.

Sometimes this attempted destruction takes the form of weapons, guns, knives and poisons.  Sometimes the attempted destruction is political, driving Christians from positions of power and influence.  Sometimes the attempted destruction is corrosion, bringing into play anti-Christs who preach messages which tickle the ears and destroy the soul.  Sometimes the attempted destruction is intellectual, to place Christianity into the dustbin of history and marginalize faith as being unreasonable, illogical, or just plain stupid.  Sometimes the attempted destruction is merely to try to shut us up by exclusion from debate or, worse, by shouting us down by calling us names.

What defense do we make in this time of destruction?  Maybe the better question is “What effective defense do we make in this time of destruction?”

One idea might be to fortify ourselves with wisdom and knowledge so that we can always make “a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” 1 Pet. 3:15.  However, we know that no-one whose eyes and ears are closed will ever be argued into the kingdom of God.  The fact that we are to make defense to someone who asks shows that God has already intervened to cause that person to ask, and we are merely at that moment to continue a good work already begun by God.

Another idea might be to attack (the best defense being a good offense) by preaching the Word in all places, but although that world might see that as an attack, all we are really doing is what we are told to do – go and make disciples of all nations.  Matt. 28:19.  We are not attacking anyone when we follow our commission; but we certainly are proclaiming.  But even then, although we might obey by planting the seed, God is the one in charge of raising the seed up into good fruit.

Finally, we might defend ourselves by accessing positions of power and being in charge of everything.  But, as history has shown us, every time we do that we fall subject to the corrosion of the world and its corruption.

So, then, how do we defend ourselves?  The Psalmist has the answer.  We let God do it.  We ask God to step in and handle it.

Our problem is that, to us, it sounds like a cop-out, like we are giving up.  But when we do that, we are not giving up, we are giving in … to Him.  And when we do, we are strong; and when we do not, we are weak.

O, when someone attacks me with gun and knife, I can well defend myself with similar weapons.  But when the spirit of the age attacks me with the desire to destroy “all trace of my faith,” then there is only one defense and one defender.  At that time and now, our best defense is this – “O God, do not keep silence …”

_______

© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – gods

September 15, 2017


Psalm 82

God has taken His place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods He holds judgment…”  Ps. 82:1

Every so often in Scripture, God’s Word seems to play into the hands of our modern anti-God thoughts.  In my opinion, this is one of them.

How so?  Well, if you have the modern sense that God is somehow someone like the Chairman of the Board, then the “divine council” could be his board meeting.  Like all board chairman, he would yield a lot of power, but he can always be gotten rid of by the angry shareholders, which would, of course, be us.  And as modern people we often think this way, that we can just depose God from being God whenever we want when we don’t like the amount of profit we are getting from His enterprise.

Another modern sense which could be fed by this Scripture today is the sense that there is really a pantheon of “gods,” and that God is a first among equals, sort of like Zeus.  In this modern view, we can rise to the position of members of the divine council, as demigods, if we can but “channel” our thoughts in the right way.  An older version of this same thinking is in the pantheon of saints, who somehow have a special relationship to God because they are super-good people.

So, who are the “gods” which participate in the “divine council?”

Notice what I have done.  I have read into the concept of “divine council” the concept of participation.  Of having a right to speak.  And, more importantly, having a right to be heard.

But does this Scripture speak of any kind of co-equal participation?  No it does not.

What it says is that “God has taken His place.”  What is His place?  When you are the Creator, the King of King and Lord of Lords, … what is your place?  Is your place at the head of the table when you made the table, own the table, and choose who, if any, sit there as well?  When God takes “His place,” who has any right to be in the same room, much less at the same table?

And what is the nature of a “divine council?”  Is it a place where God appears to deliver to us His Word or where we make our requests known to Him (like, maybe, His throne room)?  Or is it a place where we participate, somehow joining with God in helping Him make His decisions?

And finally, notice that “in the midst of the Gods He holds judgment.”  He doesn’t make decisions based upon input; He judges.  He doesn’t take counsel from the gods; He judges the gods.

And so, when we consider that He is in His rightful place and that He judges “the gods,” doesn’t “the gods” sound a whole lot like us?

And, indeed, from our perspective we often are like gods, aren’t we?

I am fond of pointing out that, in our relationship to God, we can take only one of three places.  The first place is above Him, where we tell Him what to do and we interpret His Word in the ways we want to achieve our ends.  When we subject God to our judgment, we are elevating ourselves above Him and, in that moment, pretending that we are big-G God and He is not.

The second place we can take in our relationship to God is beneath Him.  In that role, we accept our position as servants (slaves) of the Most High, willing to accept that position in exchange for true freedom and unending life in Him.  If we are thoughtful Christians, we like to think that this the place we occupy.  And maybe sometimes we do.

But the third place we can occupy is right next to Him, maybe not as quite as a co-equal, but close.  In that position, we get to “participate” in the decision-making, we get to influence God to follow our desires, we get to “negotiate” with Him.  And, to some degree or another, this place is where most of us find ourselves all the time.  We are not quite God, but we are close and therefore “deserve” being called “gods.”

When we realize that this Psalm may therefore be directed to those of us floating around the third position of relationship with God, it has a strong message to us “gods.”  We may think of ourselves in the divine assembly, but God (a) takes His place and (b) holds judgment of us.

So the truth of this Psalm is simply to remind us that, when we begin to believe we are somehow close to His equal, we are not, and when we believe we are above or beside judgment, we are not.

God is not the Chairman of the Board and He is not Zeus, He is God.  And whether we think we are above Him, beside Him, or beneath Him, He is always in His place and He always judges.  No matter if we are “gods” or not.

_______

© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

Bread – Judging

September 13, 2017


Psalm 82

How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?  Selah”  Ps. 82:2

I have heard it said that, as Christians, we should not “judge” others.  Although this statement is a mistake when it comes to Christians “judging” other Christians (see 1 Cor. 5:12), it is also likely incorrect when applied to everyone because, although maybe we should not judge others before we first judge ourselves, the fact is that we do.  And that is not necessarily bad.

The problem is that the word “judging” has been equated to the word “condemning.”  Judging is not condemning; it is assessing what is being done or said by someone against a standard.  If the standard is a statute, then the judging occurs against the standard of the law.  If the standard is God’s revelation in His Word, then the judging occurs against the standard contained in His Word.

When the standard against which we measure is external to us, we can assess or judge objectively.  Did the objective behavior being judged meet the external standard or did it not?

When the standard against which we measure is internal to us (meaning that it is based on our personal sense of right and wrong, good and evil, etc.), we can only assess or judge subjectively.

The fact that we routinely judge (evaluate, assess) is the reason our insistence upon external standards (God’s Word or the “rule of law”) is so important.  If the standard is “relative to what I think” and the only standard that matters is the one I set internally, all judging will be condemning because, subjectively, “you” will never live up to whatever arbitrary standard I set in my own mind.

This “subjective” judging based on our relativistic “truth” is where we always go wrong.  Why do we judge unjustly?  Because we do not have an external standard (God’s Word) to which we relate.

Where does racism come from?  From our subjective standards that some people are better than others.  What God’s standards have to say about that is that all people were created by God.  That being the case, they are equal.

If we are judging unfairly, the answer is not to stop judging at all.  The answer is to judge according to the right criteria.

What is the right criteria?  The Word of God in Scripture and Jesus Christ.

Judge that.

________

© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

Bread – Idols

September 6, 2017


Psalm 81

O Israel, if you would but listen to me!  There shall be no strange god among you; you shall not bow down to a foreign god.”  Ps. 81:8b-9

What got me thinking about idols this morning was actually not the quoted verse above, but actually the title of the Psalm – “…according to the Gittith of Asaph.”

Now there is nothing about idols in this title; really all it is an instruction about how to read or sing the Psalm, the word “Gittith” likely meaning something musical.  However, the oddness of the phrase got me to thinking about how we are always referring to oracles of modernity as authoritative, as if they somehow had something to say worthwhile.  For example, when Tom Cruise speaks, many people listen because, after all, he is a successful actor.

If we are not very, very careful, when we place undue authority in a person or a document, we are lifting that person or document up as an idol as much as if we had a totem in our house surrounded by candles.  When we place the word of the preacher over the Word of God, we are raising up an idol.  When we place the Declaration of Independence over the Word of God, we are raising up an idol.

And this is what strikes me about our reading today.  One way to read this is to think of two complete thoughts.  The first is a lament “O Israel, if you would but listen to me!”  The second thought is a command “There shall be no strange god among you…”  And we might be inclined to read it this way because the two sentences are separated by an exclamation mark.

But another way to read it is as a continuous thought – “O Israel, if you would but listen to me there shall be no strange god among you…”  If…then.

If we but listen to God, if we read His Scripture, pray to Him, listen to Him and follow Him, if we worship Him … then our likelihood of following idols is greatly diminished.  But, if we are not engaged in God’s Word, are not testing our thoughts against His thoughts and our actions against His desires for us, if we are not listening to Him, then the chances of us chasing after idols is greatly enhanced.

Are we today preoccupied with listening to our oracles of the day, following the trail of fame, fortune, and futility, ever-engaged in the climb up the ladder?  What idols have we hooked onto?  What idols do we worship?

The answer to the idol problem is not in obeying God’s rules but in listening to Him.

What time have we spent today in listening to God?  How does that compare to the idols we are listening to?

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© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

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