Bread – Conditions

September 28, 2016


Psalm 35

Let destruction come upon him [my or our enemy] when he does not know it! And let the net that he hid [for me] ensnare him; let him fall into it – to his destruction!  Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord, exulting in His salvation.”  Ps. 35:8-10

In these three verses, it sounds a whole lot like David is conditioning his rejoicing in the Lord to the Lord doing something for him, namely destroying his enemy or setting up things so that his enemy falls into a trap of his enemy’s own making.

How often do we fall into this same temptation, making our love of the Lord or our response to Him somehow conditional on what He does for us in response to our prayers or our asking?  We ask for and we get not, and we have downcast faces wondering why the Lord is ignoring us.  We send up our order for a tasty meal (as if God is a cosmic cook) and then get no answer – do we praise Him then?  Probably not.

We connect the “if” and the “then.”  If God fills me with good things, then I will rejoice.  If God blesses me, then I will act like I’m blessed.

One of the things I love about the Psalms is that David is me.  Sometimes he is king; sometimes he is not.  Sometimes he behaves; sometimes he doesn’t.  Sometimes he does not like the Lord very much; other times he loves Him without reservation.  So the “if … then” nature of this Psalm does not surprise me.  David is human, and so are we.  David is angry at his enemies and wants the Lord to take them out.  To help the Lord make His decision, David essentially says that then David will be a great mouthpiece for the Lord … “Then my soul…”

But we know that that is not David’s true heart because we have read other Psalms where, in spite of receiving no answer or “no” for an answer, David comes around and praises the Lord anyway, because David knows in his core, in his soul, that all true power comes from the Lord, all true hope comes from the Lord, all life comes from Him.  David knows these things and, for the most part, acts them out, but he is human and, every so often (like in this Psalm 35), he puts conditions on the relationship – I will love You if You kill my enemies.  I will praise You if You destroy the people who oppress me.

The reason Bread is called “Conditions” today is that there are three types of conditions being talked about.  The first are conditions we try to build into our relationship with God, the “if You do this, then I will do that” kinds of conditions.  God is sovereign, He is king, and He quite frankly probably doesn’t care what our conditions are.  He saved us by His sovereign choice and He will act toward us in accordance with His sovereignty and character, and how we behave toward Him is how we behave.

The second set of conditions are those which are created by our environment, sometimes self-imposed and sometimes imposed by others, by the forces of nature, or by our true enemy.  For example, we might live in the condition of poverty or we might live in the condition of worry or hatred or anger.  What this Psalm may be saying as well is that our ability to praise God is released when we are not burdened by the conditions of this life, by our own fears or phobias, or by the approval of others.  When we are depressed (a condition), we may find it very very hard to lift our head toward the heavens and find hope.  So, although it sounds like David is saying, if You wipe out my enemies, I will praise You, it may be that what he is really saying is “If You wipe out my enemies, I can (I am released to) praise You.”  Although these sound alike, they are totally different with respect to our attitude toward prayer and God.  If I say to God “I will not praise You until …,” I am the one setting the rules and I have exalted myself as king over God.  If I say to God, “I cannot praise You until …,” that is no more than a recognition of our poor condition, our condition of sin and being needful of a savior.

So, what is the third type or set of conditions?  They are conditions imposed by God on our relationship with Him?  What are those conditions?  We want to answer this question in all kinds of complicated ways.  We come up with rules and works conditions, we come up with love conditions, we come up with self-awareness and other psychological conditions, we come up with faith conditions … we come up with all kinds of things we must do or say or think in order to have a relationship with Him.  And, yes, the Bible is full of things to do with regard to the relationship – you must recognize your sinfulness, turn toward God and repent; you must confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior; you must be baptized; you must pray….  And, yet, the answer to the question of what conditions are imposed by God on our relationship with Him is that there is one, that He chose us unto eternal life.  God’s choice establishes the relationship; the quality of the relationship is built on the other principles.

We can choose to accept God’s sovereignty in all things, including our belief in Him, and there are no conditions on where we can go in our relationship with Him, with each other, and with the world.  Or we can choose to deny God’s sovereignty, in which case everything is conditional on how we or He or the world behaves.

God puts no conditions on His love for us, so why should we put conditions on our love for Him?

_________

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bread – Dominion

February 26, 2016


Psalm 8

“..You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.  You have given him dominion over the works of Your hands; and You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea…”  Ps. 8:5-8

The word “dominion” is also translated “rule” in the NASB translation of the Bible.

So, Psalm 8 reflects what happens in Genesis, when man was given rule over everything on earth.  When man was cast out of the Garden of Eden for disobedience, this charge, this appointment, was not revoked.  Instead, what was added to man’s life was the necessity to work and what was subtracted from his life was his total integration with God.

Instead of ruling over a perfect world, when man disobeyed God and followed the serpent, he was set over as ruler of an imperfect world.

Perhaps that is why man feels like he, and he alone, is in charge of making the world perfect again.  Part of the desire of man for the environment is to protect as a steward what God has given us, to be a good king over the bounty of God’s creation.  But another part of the desire of man for the environment is to exercise the iron fist of control, to be “in charge,” to “fix” the world, to “repair” what he broke.

The desire to fix what you broke is a common desire, but the effort makes us begin to believe that we are “masters of our lives,” kings over our destiny, ruler of the earth, exercising power and dominion in all phases of our lives. To be the king, we think we must act like the king and wage war against the enemies of the kingdom – poverty, ignorance, bullying, racial profiling, individualism to the extent of harming the community, etc.  [Does this begin to sound familiar?]

In a sense, this is a partial explanation for man’s current fascination with “global warming” or “climate change.”  Rather than face the reality that the earth is broken from our own sin and that God’s creation will operate in the way He has ordained, man’s understanding of his own dominion over the earth and all that is in it extends to the climate.  If it is broken, it must be man who broke it and, as king, then it is up to us to fix it.

Another aspect of dominion, in addition to believing that we as king can solve all problems, is that we get to dress like a king and live in places like kings live.  And so, in our pride as ruler of the universe, we build greater and greater monuments to ourselves, we collect more and more wealth, we surround ourselves with the riches of things, and we wear pretty and expensive clothing and jewelry, with a little perfume (cologne) thrown in for good measure.  We look good, we smell good … so, doggone it, we must be good.  Right?

Well, yes we have been tasked with exercising dominion over the earth (note, not the universe).

But does that put us on first?  No.

“You have made him [us] a little lower than the heavenly beings.”  So, the “heavenly beings” are higher than us.  And who are they?

One problem with translations is that, unless we reach under them, we can be quickly misled.  When I first read this, I assumed that “heavenly beings” meant angels.  This fits nicely into my predisposition to create hierarchies in heaven and on earth and so I am happy with my conclusion.  However, when I read the NASB version, it reads “…Thou hast made him a little lower than God..”  Ps. 8:5 (NASB).  And it turns out that the underlying Hebrew word is “Elohim,” which reflects the Genesis “…let us…”  In other words, there are two possible meanings, one being angels and the other meaning God Himself, likely in the form of the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

But, whatever, it is clear that we are not boss.  At best, we are regents, we are appointed agents of God, to rule in accordance with God’s principles and according to His instructions.

What are God’s instructions to us as His regents on earth?  How are we to exercise dominion?

Some might say that the way we exercise dominion is through rules and regulations, much like in the Old Testament.  Others would say that we exercise dominion through the exercise of love and servant leadership, much like in the New Testament.  And indeed, Jesus tells His disciples that His followers are not to “lord” it over others.

So should we exercise dominion by the sword (the Law) or by the candy Valentine’s heart (Love)?

I think the answer to this, when we think about it, is “Yes.”  Exercising the law tempered by love and love strengthened by law results in  a balanced kingship, a way to be obedient the command “Love God first and love your neighbor as yourself.”

And it brings honor to God to raise up the entirety of Scripture, both the Old and New Testaments.  And it brings success to us, because now we have a plan to follow.

A heavenly plan, designed by God and not by man, over which we are in charge of implementing the earthly part.

We are kings but subjects, rulers but servants, leaders but disciples, helping others while seeking help from God.

Can you imagine what it would be like to exercise dominion without God’s plan, strength, power, and grace?  I can’t … and yet I do it every day.  Do you want to imagine what mess we would really be in if we were really the “top dog?”  Well look around, the evidence surrounds us.

God gave us dominion over the earth and, doggone it, we will exercise that dominion.  The only question is how – with God or without Him.  I think “with God” is the better choice.  What say you?

_________

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

 

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