Bread – It

June 3, 2016


 

Psalm 22

“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint…For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet – I can count all my bones – they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots…All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you, for kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations…they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn that he has done it.”  Ps. 14,16-18,27-28,31

This is actually a fairly simple and straightforward Bread.  Who is “he” and what is “it?”

This is a long quotation from Psalm 22 because it tells of an event in history, one which you should recognize in the telling.  All of these events are significant because they happened at Golgotha and on the way there, but perhaps the phrases “they pierced my hands and feet,” and “they divide my garments…and for my clothing they cast lots” will bring to mind Jesus and the cross and death and resurrection.

These quotations describe a crucifixion in detail, and Jesus’ crucifixion in particular.

So the “he” is obvious, but as you know, I think that all personal pronoun references to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit should be capitalized to raise them up to their proper place above us ordinary persons.  And because the Psalm could arguably relate to anyone (after all, the “me” is lower cased in modern translations of Scripture), the “who is he” question is more easily answered by restating the quotation this way:

“I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint…For dogs encompass Me; a company of evildoers encircles Me; they have pierced My hands and feet – I can count all My bones – they stare and gloat over Me; they divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots…All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You, for kingship belongs to the Lord, and He rules over the nations…they shall come and proclaim His righteousness to a people yet unborn that He has done it.”  Ps. 14,16-18,27-28,31

The other day I had a person ask me where there is, in the Old Testament, a plain statement predicting Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Well, here at least is a plain prediction of Jesus’ death.  And isn’t that made more obvious by elevating Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit by capitalizing references to them?

This is prophesy in its purest form, and less one thinks David is describing something in the present, in his time, then think about this – this is a detailed description of a crucifixion and crucifixion was unknown in the time of David.  David is reciting details about a form of torture that did not exist when it was written.  It is detailed, it is accurate, and the description was fulfilled by Jesus.  And it was written some 1000 years before Christ’s death.

Then what does it mean that “He has done it?”  To understand this, one needs to recognize that Psalm 22 ends with that statement – “He had done it.”  And it begins with this statement – “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  It is the crucifixion of Christ, He has been forsaken by God as He takes on our sins and separation from God is the price of sin, and at the end that relationship is restored because He is is the perfect offering of His blood for our sin.  “He has done it” means simply that Jesus paid the price of sin and the offering of His life for ours was accepted by God the Father.

He has done it means that the bridge between us and God, destroyed by Adam’s sin, has been rebuilt by Jesus’ obedience to the cross.

From the depth of despair (why have You forsaken Me) to the height of victory (He has done it) through the cross (described in the middle of Psalm 22).

That “He has done it” means that we don’t have to.  Jesus did the “good work” of perfect obedience to the Law, of perfectly bearing our sin, of perfectly satisfying the demands of the Father for payment (sacrifice) for sin.

But what we do need to do is recognize who He is and what He has done, turn to Him in repentance, and trust in Him for our salvation.  Easily said, but impossible to do without God.  And, so we pray, “Come Holy Spirit.”

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© 2016 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

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Bread – Debt

November 19, 2012


Readings for Monday, November 19, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Hab. 2:1-4,9-20; James 2:14-26; Luke 16:19-31; Psalm 89

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There is much discussion in political and social circles about the amount of debt being carried by the nations of the world, including the United States. Although everyone “knows” that debt is generally bad, it seems like we are in a stupor about the debt itself.

Well, the prophet Habakkuk is not in a stupor about debt; he knows exactly how bad it is. From our reading today, Habakkuk says: “Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own – for how long? – and loads himself with pledges! Will not your [creditors]* suddenly arise, and those awake who will make you tremble? Then you will be spoil for them. Because you have plundered many nations, all the remnant of the peoples shall plunder you…” Hab. 2:6b-8a.

If your wealth is built on borrowed money, it is fleeting wealth because the creditor will come one day and claim the debt, taking your assets as payment.

There are reasons other than avoiding the negative which we have for having surplus instead of debt. Our reading in James today reminds us that faith without works is dead. Among the works identified is charity toward our brothers and sisters in Christ. James asks, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James 2:15-17

Where are the resources to come from to so bless our brothers and sisters? In our secular, government mind-set, it comes from borrowing from others, either by actually borrowing the money or by taking it from people through taxation. In our Christian walk, we are to do good works from the blessings God has given us, not those blessings He has given to others. As Christians, we clothe and feed our brothers and sisters in Christ, not the wealth of others, but from the riches God has given us.

This week is Thanksgiving. Let us rejoice in the love that God has shown us by exercising our faith in good works; let us rejoice in the love that God has shown us through His people by accepting and taking graciously those gifts of clothing, of food, of housing, of caring, of attention, of love, which His people bestow upon us. But let us do it the right way, from God through the people of God to the people of God, using the resources which God has given us and not the resources which God has given others. In so doing, we honor God. In so doing, we act like the people of God. In so doing, we exercise our faith. In so doing, we love.

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*The ESV actually translates this “debtors,” but this appears to be improper in context. The NASB and NKJ translates this “creditors.” The NIV indicates that it could be either. Since it is your creditors to whom you owe money, it seems that in context the word “creditors” is better translated here.

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© 2012 GBF

Bread – Debts

February 10, 2012


Readings for Monday, February 10, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Gen. 27:46-28:22; Rom. 13:1-14; John 8:33-47; Psalms 88, 91, 92

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If I use the word “debt,” like in the sentence “You owe me a debt,” what is the natural thought by Americans about what is owed? Be honest. The most common response would be “money.” In America, if we owe someone a debt, we typically owe them money. People who come to collect our money are called “debt collectors.”

However, in the Bible there are many forms of debt. There is the debt of kindness. There is the debt of forgiveness. There is the debt of gratitude. There are a variety of debts.

In our reading from Romans today, Paul warns us to keep our ledger of debts clean. In other words, pay our debts promptly. “Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another …” Rom. 13:7-8. In Paul’s mind, we owe each other a debt of love which can never be completely paid because it is ongoing. Not said, but we know to be true, is that we can never completely pay the debt of love because we are selfish; we always hold something back for ourselves.

There is an interesting thing about the concept of “debt,” and that is that we don’t like owing people, so we constantly try to make sure that someone owes us a debt. We pay for lunch, perhaps out of a motivation of love and respect, but often out of a sense of making sure the books are balanced in our favor – he owes us lunch. We think that people owe us a debt of honor and respect and get mad when we don’t get promptly paid. We demand that people forgive us because we set up their debt to us in our mind larger than it probably is. We take on the attitude that, if they are going to want their debt paid, when then they are going to pay their debt to me.

Rather than taking Paul’s attitude of making sure my books of debt are clean about what I owe you, I turn it around and make sure that my books are clean about what you owe me. If we are going to be forced to look at the balance sheet of life from the liabilities (what I owe) perspective, we are going to make sure that we also look at it from the assets side (what I am owed) as well.

In other words, Paul tells us to clean and clear our debt, in other words clean it off our books. Our approach is not to clean but to balance. That is why it is called a “balance sheet” and not a “clean sheet.”

This approach to life with our fellow humans follows us into our approach with God. We know we owe Him a great debt (although we think that it probably not as large as our preacher constantly tells us it is), but maybe we can get Him to owe us something, so that we have some debt owed to us which we can balance on our books and make them look better. Isn’t that what works is about? If I do good works, then God owes me something? If I can do enough good works, then God owes me more than I owe Him? Isn’t that what we turn prayer into? If I pray for something, then God owes me a debt of results? And then, if I don’t get those results, then God owes me double results next time?

This human art of turning a debt I owe you into a debt you owe me is demonstrated today in our reading from Genesis. In Genesis today, we have the story of the dream of Jacob’s ladder. Jacob has been selected by God to receive the first born blessing from Isaac (see Gen. 25:23), has actually received that blessing, and is on his way to his mother’s relatives for safety. God has revealed Himself to Jacob, and further reveals that He will give Jacob the land on which he is resting and that all peoples of the earth would be blessed through Jacob and his offspring. Now, at the minimum one would think that this would create in Jacob a debt of gratitude to God for unmerited and unearned grace. And it probably does to some extent, so Jacob now feels that he must balance the books by creating a debt from God to him. He does it in this way, saying: “If God will be with me and will watch over me … then the Lord will be my God …” Gen. 28:20. A non-literal translation: “God, if you pay me what you owe me, then I’ll pay you what I owe you.” Wait a minute! How is it that God owed Jacob anything? By what art does Jacob create a debt of God to him out of thin air? Well, the human art. And God laughs.

“I am not going to believe God unless he does so-and-so for me.” So what? If you believe God, it is not because He owes you a debt or a benefit, or that He has fulfilled His end of the bargain you created. If you believe God, it is because He has chosen you to believe Him. Jesus says clearly today in today’s readings that “He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” John 8:47.

God does not owe us anything; we owe Him everything. There is no balance sheet with God. There is either a clean sheet or an unclean one.

And the remarkable thing is that there is no way for us to achieve a clean sheet, free of debt, by our own actions, in our own strength. That is what Jesus did for us on the cross with God, to give those who believe in Him a clean sheet with God. Then, clothed with Jesus, we can in this life work on cleaning up our debt sheet with our neighbors.

So, let’s today as followers of Christ, as His disciples, work on having a clean sheet with others, work on paying our debts – giving love, giving honor, giving respect, giving truth, giving forgiveness. We can forget the debt of others to us, the receivables that we carry on our balance sheet, because compared against the asset God has given us – eternity with Him – the receivables are worthless. God has taken care of the assets, He has taken care of the debt to Him, and He has left it to us to take care of our debts to others. Let’s start!

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