Bread – Vain

April 14, 2017


Psalm 60

O, [God] grant us help against the foe, for vain is the salvation of man!”  Ps. 60:11

As we finish this week of Easter, ending today on Good Friday, we stop for a second (maybe more, if we realize the significance of the event) to realize that this event is more than just a holiday for some people.  It is the marking of the destruction of the separation between man and God arising from man’s disobedience of God and the restoration of the hope of victory over death by our reconciliation to God through His perfect sacrifice for our sin, God Himself, Jesus Christ.  Today we are reminded that salvation is only accomplished by the sovereign act of God and not by any art or work of man.  It is “good” because it God’s work.  On Friday, it is the hope of victory over death because the resurrection has not yet occurred.  But we know it has occurred, and therefore our hope of victory which became evident when the curtain between us and God was destroyed on the cross will become certain three days later, on the day we now celebrate as Easter.

But this Psalm was written well before these events and David, the author, asks God for help against his enemies, because he knew that to depend on man for salvation was “vain.”

The Hebrew word translated as “vain” means nothingness, emptiness, anything which disappoints the hope which rests upon it, anything which is not substantial, is not real, or is materially or morally worthless.

The world tells us to put our hope of help against our foes of fear, worry, death, disease, and ignorance into the things which man provides – science, technology, education, economy.  And yet everyone one of us knows that there are instances where science, technology, education, economy and all of the other worldly solutions or philosophies or “isms” have failed us.  They fail us in the present, they do not give life, they do not give us true rest, they do not give us hope, and they do not give us victory over death.  Reliance upon the solutions of the world is vain.  The forms of salvation, the methods of salvation, the process of salvation offered by man (“of man”, of man’s invention or design) will always disappoint any hope which rests upon them.

David asked for God’s help against the foe.  God has delivered that help in Jesus Christ.

Every day we have a choice to make, to follow the hope which does not disappoint, Jesus Christ, or to place our trust in vain things, the things of the world.

Today, are we going to be vain and choose ourselves and the world we have made, or are we going to be obedient and choose Christ and His kingdom?

What say you?

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

 

 

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Bread – Disobey

August 22, 2016


Psalm 32

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven…” Ps. 32:1

The three Breads this week will focus on the three types of sins which David talks about and the three ways in which God deals with those sins for those who turn to Him in repentance and believe in Jesus Christ.  Because of the use of words and Jewish poetic parallelism, these three distinctive forms of sin and God’s work with each type are almost lost in the speed with which David delivers them.  But they are important enough that they need to be broken apart.  This week, therefore, we will not go beyond the first two verses, where it all is.

What is a “transgression.”  I admit that my normal automatic interpretation of this is to think that it means a violation of God’s law.  It does not.  It means a stepping upon God’s person, His authority, His righteousness, His kingship.  It means a rebellion against God and His authority over all.  This transgression first occurred in the garden of Eden, before there was law.  There was one simple command, meant to maintain a proper relationship between God and man.  And that instruction was to not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  And that request by God was ignored by man, Adam and Eve ate, and man’s relationship with God was torn to pieces.

There can be all kinds of disobedience to God, some having to do with His law but most having to do with our relationship with Him.  God asks us to step through a door in faith, perhaps to pray for sick person or engage in a new job, and we resist in doubt and worry.  Is there any law in this?  No.  Is there rank disobedience and unbelief?  Yes,  God asks us to live our lives to bring glory to Him.  Is there any law to this?  No.  When we follow our own paths to act in ways which bring glory to ourselves, is there rank disobedience and unbelief?  Is the failure to trust God and follow Him transgressing His good name, denying His authority and power, and placing Him either beside or beneath us, instead of over us, a transgression?  Yes it is.

And what does God do about these transgressions to His person when we do them and we return to Him, confessing our sins against His Majesty?  David says that the transgressions are forgiven.  The Hebrew word for “forgiven” in this Psalm means to “lift off.”  When we disobey God, we know it.  O we may hide it in a dark closet where we put away our worse memories, or we may bury it in a flurry of busy-ness, or we may discount it by saying that my disobedience was trivial compared to other people’s or compared to some standard of my making, but we know it.  And because we know it, it is a burden which drags us down.  We lose our sense of the Lord’s presence.  Satan finds the hole to discourage us.  We begin to wonder if He cares.  We find excuses to run further and further away.  We either undervalue our disobedience or over inflate it.  All of our disobedience, no matter how silly to us or how serious, is a horror to God.

And yet what does God do with our sin of transgression, of disobedience?  He lifts it from our shoulders and throws it away when we come to the cross of Christ in repentance.

And the amazing thing is that God does it immediately.  David says in verse 5b: “I said ‘ I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.”  Ps. 32:5b

In Jesus parable of the prodigal son, the son is far away from the father, steeped in his transgressions against his father’s will … and he turns toward the father and says “I will go back and say to my father, I have sinned …”  What happens?  The father, while the son is on the way back, starts up the party and is waiting for him.  As soon as he turned and acknowledged that his transgressions needed to be confessed and forgiven, they were forgiven.”

The pressures of life this week will cause us to bend and stoop and will pile up on our backs without slowing down. But these burdens are nothing compared to the burdens we carry around as weighted stones, due entirely to our desire to disobey God, to transgress against Him.  When we sin, we do not just violate a law, we step on God Himself.  These burdens can get so severe that they cause us to look at the ground as we plod away, step by step.  And yet, in the midst of this, if we will but turn toward Him and raise our eyes to hills from whence cometh our help, He is ready to forgive us, to lift the burden from our back for all time, and to place us on solid rock where we may stand free.

How crazy glorious and amazing is this!  And yet there is more to come.

But you can begin right here, right now.  If you have been disobedient to God (and you know you have), turn to Him now in repentance and He will forgive you your trespasses against Him.  You can count on it.

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

 

Bread – Obedience

July 8, 2013


Readings for Monday, July 8, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Sam. 15:1-3,7-23; Acts 9:19b-31; Luke 23:44-56a; Psalms 1,2,3,4,7

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What Christian among us would, if the Lord commanded him or her to give away everything they owned, their house, their cars, their cash, their incentive stock options, their mutual funds, their furniture, their annuities, their cash value in their life insurance, their retirement funds, would immediately and without hesitation do so? I wouldn’t. I would like to say that I would, but I would be likely to hold back something (probably, most) for a “rainy day.” Surely if we received such a command from God, we would (and He would) understand that what He really meant was to give up those things that really cause us to sin, like sugar, coffee, chocolate, and maybe that extra house that we spend all of our time and attention on. And the reason He really meant that was that our witness to the world would be compromised if we could not buy plane tickets to go on mission, had to accept charity from others who needed it more, did not invest our talents wisely (at least deposit them at interest – isn’t that what Jesus said?), and couldn’t show others that the prosperity gospel works.

You are probably smiling now because in my list of rationalizations, I probably hit on at least one you yourself have used to justify some response of quasi-obedience.

Our motives are not bad. In fact, they may well be good because it is true that we are more able to give generously from wealth than from poverty, at least according to our definition of “generously.” But good motives from our perspective do not lead to obedience to God’s commands. And half obedience may be some obedience but it is not the sold-out obedience which Christ asks of His disciples. Our obedience is not of the quality or quantity desired by God. Mine isn’t, and I’ll let you speak for yours.

This is the unmistakable lesson from the prophet Samuel today in our readings. God has told Saul, the king whom God has appointed over Israel, to battle the Amalekites and destroy (devote to God for destruction) every one of them and everything they own, including all of their animals.

And Saul did this, sort of. What he did was to kill everything which was “despised and worthless.” But he kept the good stuff. He kept the king and the “best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fatted calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them.” 1 Sam. 15:8-9. And he did all this so that he and Israel would have the good stuff to sacrifice to God. He did such a good job that he built himself a monument. 1 Sam. 15:12b In his mind, he had completely and totally obeyed God’s command to him, saying to Samuel at the end “Blessed be you to the Lord. I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” 1 Sam. 15:13b When confronted by Samuel, Saul was confused and again repeated what he knew was true, that he had obeyed God – “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord. I have gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me. I have brought Agag the kind of Amalek, and I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction. But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.” 1 Sam. 15:20-21. It was clear to Saul that he had obeyed the Lord’s command as He surely intended it, and that he (Saul) had good intentions and desires. It was clear to Saul that what he had done in response to God’s commands was good and was what the Lord wanted.

But not true. God Himself said to Samuel “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not performed My commandments.” `1 Sam. 15:10-11a In response to Saul’s protest that he had obeyed God, Samuel repeated God’s actual command (not the one Saul heard). In response to Saul’s argument that he had reserved the good things from destruction so that they could be sacrificed to God, Samuel said – “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” 1 Sam. 15:22

God said to do one thing. That thing which God commanded did not sit well with Saul’s modern sensibilities. Saul heard what he wanted to hear. Saul went out and obeyed the parts of the command which he understood should be obeyed and rejected the rest. Saul developed a rationale, which made sense to him and probably to others as well, as to why he had obeyed and why it was better in the end. Samuel reminded Saul that what Saul thought about God’s commands was irrelevant and his arguments so much smoke and mirrors to disguise his disobedience to God and his obedience to the way he thought he should go and his obedience to the way the world thought he should go.

We are no different from Saul. God has made us king over something – our house, our family, ourselves, our job, our money, our food, our education. He has commanded us in great detail about how we should act as king. But what we don’t like or what society tells us we should not like, we do not do. We rationalize why, of course, using our great powers of reason and persuasion, but the only person we persuade is ourselves. God is not persuaded and He is not fooled, and He is not happy.

“Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.”

The next line is not in our readings today, but is important – “For … presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.” 1 Sam. 15:23a. When we change God’s commands to our liking, we presume that we know best. We take our role as king and elevate it to a role as God. And presumption is as bad as every sin there is, because our elevation of ourselves to the place of God, our disobedience, is why we are such poor kings.

Maybe today I can be obedient in one little thing. And then tomorrow, maybe one more little thing. Maybe I can, in the power of the Holy Spirit. But that is the only way. Come Holy Spirit.

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© 2013 GBF

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