Bread – Rulers

June 27, 2017


Psalm 72

Give the king Your justice, O God, and Your righteousness to the royal son!  … Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people…May he defend the cause of the poor of the people…May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass…In his day may the righteous flourish…” Ps. 72:1-7

We have all experienced the situation where we know we ought to pray for people in power, our President or, if another country, maybe our king, prime minister, or dictator, but for whatever reason we don’t want to.  Maybe we see him or her as evil.  Maybe we him or her as grossly incompetent.  Maybe we don’t agree with his or her politics.  But we are commanded in all circumstances to be subject to and pray for those in authority.  Rom. 13:1.   To accomplish this command and yet maintain our anger (upset) toward our particular ruler, I am reminded of that famous prayer by Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” when he prayed: “God bless and keep the Tsar far away from us.”

But if we are inclined to really follow the commandment that we honor our rulers and when we are missing words, Psalm 72 is a great prayer to read, because it exalts the ruler, the king.  “May [the king] be like rain that falls on the mown grass.”  What a wonderful image of the true blessings a great ruler can have upon his or her country or dominion, when he or she is subject to God.

But this gives rise to wonder, what ruler is David (or the Psalm-writer, if not him) talking about?

Like so much of Scripture, there is a sense of it being present (the local king at the time) and future (the future King).  Who is the future king?  I think that verses 17 through 19 say it by description: “May His Name endure forever, His fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in Him, and all nations call Him blessed!  Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.  Blessed be His glorious Name forever; may the whole earth be filled with His glory!  Amen and Amen!”

Who is this person?  King Jesus of course.  His is the Name which endures through eternity.  His people are blessed “in” Him.  And one day, one day, when He returns in glory to rule on earth in His millennial kingdom, “all nations” will bow before Him and “call Him blessed.”

When you read Psalm 72, you are asking the earthly king to “be like rain.”  Sometimes that happens, but the truth is that man is fallen, our earthly kings are fallen, and even with the best intentions (which rarely exist), our earthly kings fall short and their “rain” does not bless, but tortures.

There is only one King who does all the things which the Psalmist prays for.  There is only one King who “alone [by Himself, without the help of anyone else] does wondrous things.”

And that is King Jesus.

Come, worship and adore Him!

________

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

 

 

 

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Bread – Reliance

May 8, 2013


Readings for Wednesday, May 8, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: *; James 5:13-18; Luke 12:22-31; Psalm 119:97-120

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Who should we rely on? The first thought that comes to mind is ourselves. This is natural man speaking. One of the great “quotes” from the Bible which people have told me through the years is “God helps those who help themselves.” Of course, this is nowhere to be found in the Bible because the exact opposite is true – God helps those who cannot help themselves and know it. But the way of the world is not the way of the kingdom of God.

So the next thought is to rely upon God. And this is a good response, based upon the fact that, since God created the universe, time, and that ever has been, is, and will be, He can be relied upon; He is a strong foundation. In fact, we have to rely upon God for our salvation and, really, for all the blessings of this life and of life everlasting. Whatever we have is from God, so we radically rely upon Him whether we know it or not, whether we are grateful or not, and whether we worship Him or not.

There is a third option and it is implied in our reading from James today. “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him…” James 5:14

In other words, we can rely in times of need and trouble on other people.

Not just other people, though, but people of wisdom and faith who are God-called elders of the church. These are not just the titular heads of the church (those who hold titles such as bishops, priests, deacons, overseers, apostles, prophets, or elders), but the people whom God has called to discernment and wisdom and, through the Holy Spirit, empowered them to preach, teach, serve, and love. In other words, Christians who are sick can rely upon the elders.

Does this require faith on the part of the asker? No, but it does require the willingness to ask for help and to accept help when it comes. It requires us to recognize that, in our current state, we cannot help ourselves and, for whatever reason, we have little faith at that moment to rely upon God. It requires us to be willing to open ourselves up and to ask.

Why do we not actively use this third source of help? Why do we not rely upon the elders in our time of need?

I think I know the answer to question. It is because we are prideful. We are willing to rely upon ourselves. We are willing to rely upon God because that is a secret transaction between God and us. In other words, we will rely upon God because when He helps us, we can keep it a secret from others that we needed the help. But we are not willing to rely upon those who are God’s agents in the circumstances. We are not willing to reveal our weakness so that God through others can reveal His strength. By relying upon others, we have to tell them our story, we have to admit our weakness, we have to ask for help, and we have to accept that help.

Do you find today that your reliance upon yourself is misplaced or is not working and that your private reliance upon God is awaiting a response? Perhaps all these circumstances call you to a different place, one where you have to call upon the elders of the church for help.

And who are these elders? They are people who have learned not to rely upon themselves. They have learned that they have not earned their salvation or anything else for that matter – that it is all a gift of a sovereign God. They see the world through the lens of Christ. They carry the kingdom of God with them wherever they go, even though they live in the world. They serve and they love, not in their own might but in the power of the Holy Spirit. Some of them bear titles in the church and others are your next door neighbors. Some are old and some are not.

In other words, the elders are people who need help too in their time of sickness. They, however, have learned to call upon other elders for help in such times. They have learned to rely upon the body of Christ as the agents of Christ in the world.

Next time you are sick, spiritually or physically, when the self-medication is not enough, when reading a book is not enough, when private prayers are not enough, when all the communications between you and God are not enough, remember that God has provided another people-group upon which you can rely, His representatives on earth. Rely upon them and let them lift you up. After all, God has made them, God has saved them, God has empowered them, and God uses them for His good purpose. So, why not rely upon them?

____________________

© 2013 GBF

*Omitted reading is from the Apocrypha

Bread – Balance

April 23, 2012


Readings for Monday, April 23, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Exod. 18:13-27; 1 Pet. 5:1-14; Matt. 1:1-17, 3:1-6; Psalms 9, 15, 25

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Every time I read the Bible I pick up something new. Today it is this from Matthew 1:17 – “So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.” 14-14-14 – balance.

[Taking an aside from the main topic today, isn’t this proof that God is in control?]

Exodus today speaks to the characteristics of “able men.” Peter speaks today to the characteristics of “elders.” Neither are descriptions of extremes; both are descriptions of balanced living when the center is God. In Exodus, the description of able men includes those who are wise (see Deut. 1:13), understanding (Deut. 1:13), experienced (Deut. 1:13), trustworthy and will not be bribed (Exod. 18:21), and who fear God (Exod. 18:21). In 1 Peter, the description of elders include those who exercise leadership willingly (1 Pet. 5:2), do not take “shameful gain” (1 Pet. 5:2), and who lead by example and not by dominating (1 Pet. 5:3).

Is there anything in these descriptions which suggests extreme forms of behavior? [from Satan’s (or the world’s) side of the ledger, he might consider the failure to take shameful gain to be extreme behavior, but we are looking at this from the Christian side].

Balance and order are characteristics of God and they are characteristic of the able men of God.

Is your life unbalanced today? Does the busyness overwhelm time for relationship? Does the need to get things done force us to dominate those who depend on us rather than let us take the time to shepherd them? Does our lifestyle require us to continually reap gain, or does it permit us to distribute that gain wisely instead of consuming it?

There are many possible questions cutting across our personal, business, economic, professional, family, and other lives, but they all amount to the same question. Are we living a balanced and orderly life? Are we acting like who we are supposed to be – able men and elders?

Now there may be a tendency here to equate balance with “lukewarmness.” Jesus warns us against being lukewarm, of being neither fish nor fowl. This is why it is important to see where the description of able men begins – “men who fear God.” “Men who fear God” are not lukewarm; they know whose they are and why they are. They know the importance of being centered in the right place, on solid rock. But they are balanced, at least to the extent they don’t try to control it themselves.

When God is first, balance and order follow. Lukewarmness does not follow.

So, like I asked, are we unbalanced today? If so, we need only to ask ourselves who do we fear, God or our spouse, God or our boss, God or our customer, God or ourselves?

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Bread – Enough

June 10, 2011


Readings for Friday, June 10, designated by the Book of Common Prayer: Ezek. 34:17-31; Heb. 8:1-13; Luke 10:38-42; Psalms 102, 107:1-32

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What drives us for more? Is it the need to surround ourselves with things so that we can say “I did this”? Is it to prove to ourselves that we are “blessed”? Is to prove to others that we are someone important, powerful, talented, beautiful, able, good, or lucky? Is it to make sure that we have enough to live on in time of famine? Is it to pass onto the next generation enough stuff that they can be free from bondage to work, from the consequences of their own actions? Or is to use for advancement of the Kingdom, for God’s glory (or is that simply a convenient “covering” for our own purposes)?

Let’s face it, unless our wealth is inherited, we have acquired it because we have some talent, professional skills, or leadership (business) abilities which society appreciates and rewards. In other words, unless our wealth is inherited, we have it because in one way, shape, or form, we are ahead of the pack, we are leaders.

Ezekiel talks about wealth today from the perspective of leaders. He says “Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? Must My flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet? … See, I Myself [God] will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep.” Ezek. 34:18-20

I think most of us today would have to classify ourselves in the “fat sheep” category. The question is, have we become fat from feeding on the good pasture or is our desire for “it is never enough” driven us to consume, to trample, everything else? Have we been content to feast on the portion which God has given to us, or have we reached across the table to feed on someone else’s portion as well?

In today’s lesson from Luke, Jesus has been invited to dinner at Martha’s house and, in that classic exchange between being busy with the world (Martha) and being attentive to Christ (Mary), there may be a deeper question as well. How often have we put on “the dog and pony show” when we have had people over, both to impress them and to make ourselves proud of our ability to be hospitable and to make sure that no one goes away hungry or lacks entertainment or good conversation? Martha was in this boat. Jesus was an important guest and Martha was bound and determined to make a good showing, as any of us would in the same circumstances.

But Jesus asks Martha in between the lines the same question Ezekiel asks – “Is it not enough?”

Perhaps we need to ask this same question more often than we do. When we go to buy that new television set, maybe we should ask the question “when is enough?” When we see poverty and reach out a helping hand, maybe we should ask the question “when is enough?” I suspect that, if we were to ask that question more often, we would not be afraid at the time of judging between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Until then, … .

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