Bread – Speaker

October 5, 2016


Psalm 36

Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes.”  Ps. 36:1

If we are listening in our minds, in our hearts, or in our souls (depending upon your philosophical bent), then who is speaking?  Who is the speaker who talks to us, guides us, and guards us?  Who do we listen to?

What led me to this question today is actually a translation issue with this verse.  In the ESV, which echoes the King James Version of the Bible, the speaker is “transgression.”  The wicked listen to their transgressions; sin speaks to them in ways that they want to hear and need to hear.

But there is a second translation of this verse.  It is contained in the New International Version translation and goes like this – “An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked; there is no fear of God before his eyes.” Here the speaker is an “oracle” which abides in the writer’s heart.  However, this itself is not complete, because the the Hebrew tie-in to “oracle” is “wickedness.” Instead of an oracle of God or an oracle of wisdom, here we have an oracle of wickedness.

Whereas “transgression,” representing an act of disobedience (blind or deliberate, doesn’t matter), relates to a “thing,” the word “oracle” most often relates to a person, an actual speaker for a deity.  People speak with the oracle to obtain wisdom from the deity behind the oracle, or to obtain favors from the deity, or to avoid trouble.   Therefore, the “oracle of wickedness” must relate to the fundamental source of disobedience, of transgression, the spiritual being behind the oracle.  In Christianity, this spiritual being is Satan.

So, is the speaker to the wicked the wicked’s sin (transgression) or is it Satan working through the transgression?

Because of the translation issue, it is possible to conclude that it is both.  However, I think that, to interpret the message properly, to hear the communication, one needs to know who and what the speaker is.  If the speaker sounds like he is speaking the truth but behind him or her is the Prince of Lies, then chances are the apparent truth is not the real truth, but a carefully orchestrated lie.

The second half of the verse though is where the rubber meets the road.  For the wicked, it is clear who the speaker is not – the speaker is not the Lord because “there is no fear of God before his eyes.”  How can one listen to a speaker whose very existence is denied?  It is not that God is not speaking; it is that the wicked is not listening.  The wicked is not listening because “there is no fear [recognition, apprehension, understanding] before his eyes.”

We can let books speak to us, movies speak to us, radio and television speak to us, our next door neighbor speak to us, our own life experiences speak to us.  Those are the apparent speakers, the ones directly in front of us.  Just like in this verse, the thing is before us (our transgression) and that thing speaks to us.  But who is the speaker behind the speaker?

Christianity has an answer to that question.  The speakers behind the speakers are either God or Satan.

When we are confused by the messages we are receiving, perhaps we should ask ourselves who the speaker of those messages is.  God’s speech leads to eternal life; Satan’s speech leads to eternal death.  God’s speech leads to victory in the worse circumstances; Satan’s speech leads to defeat in the best circumstances.

Who is the speaker you are listening to?

_________

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

 

 

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Bread – Wisdom

August 28, 2013


Readings for Wednesday, August 28, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Kings 3:1-15; Acts 27:9-26; Mark 14:1-11; Psalms 12,13,14,119:1-24

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In our reading today from 1 Kings, Solomon is described in three events. The first event is going to Egypt to make a marriage alliance. 1 Kings 3:1. The second event (series of events) is sacrificing to God at multiple “high places.” 1 Kings 3:3. The third event is where Solomon asks God for wisdom, for “an understanding mind to govern Your people, that I may discern between good and evil…,” which God then gives him. 1 Kings 3:9-12.

These events really describe three different “sources” of wisdom which Solomon exercises, and these events are therefore instructive for us regarding how we obtain wisdom and the results of how we obtain it.

The first event describes the wisdom of the person, whether it arises from reason, education, experience, or “out of thin air.” This is a form of worldly wisdom, one which is tied to the exaltation of self over community and God. For whatever reason, Solomon believes that it is a good idea for him to create a marriage relationship with Egypt. Egypt was a powerful country, in terms of economy, culture, and military. One way to obtain peace with such countries was to create family alliances, the primary one being through inter-marriage. From Solomon’s personal perspective, marrying Egyptian royalty is great “common sense” wisdom. However, it is wisdom which opposes God because God has told the Hebrews not to create close ties to Egypt (Deut. 7:16 warns against “returning to Egypt”) and not to intermarry with foreigners, because they will lead the nation (and Solomon) to worship other gods (Deut. 7:4). God’s wisdom, contained in His revelation to man (Scripture) is rejected in favor of Solomon’s personal wisdom about what he should and should not do. Although this first type of wisdom has the appearance of wisdom, it is not.

The second event describes the wisdom of the community, of society, whether it arises from social custom, mores, standards, culture, or whatever. This is a form of wordly wisdom, one which is tied to the self being subject to the community and neither being subject to God. Here, Solomon is worshiping God in the “high places.” These were not necessarily “high” places (on mountains), but were public places set aside for worship, sometimes of whatever “god” the people wanted to worship there. These were not places designated by God for His worship (remember that He was present in the “tent of meeting” and, later, the temple), but were places created by the community. The community wisdom was that these “high places” were appropriate places for worship of God, but here again the law of God (Deuteronomy 12) describes the one place. 1 Kings describes that Solomon worshiped particularly at Gibeon, because that was the “great high place,” but there is no designation by God of Gibeon as that place. Yes, a miracle occurred at that place (see Joshua 10:12), but it was still a place designated by the people for the people, not by God. Again, although the wisdom of the community may have the appearance of wisdom, it is not when it is contrary to God standards.

The third event represents Godly wisdom, given to Solomon because he asked for it. It is the ability to discern right from wrong, good from evil, truth from untruth. It does not come from education or experience, but as a gift of God. In this sense, it is supernatural, because it does not come from us, either alone or in the aggregate as community, but from God. Its beginning is in the fear (awe) of God, recognizing Him as God. Prov. 15:33.

Good, better, best. Self-wisdom is better than none. Community-wisdom may be better than self. But the only true wisdom, true discernment, is a gift of God.

So the question for each of us is, “Where do we get our wisdom from?” Is it from books, observation, what people tell us, or what God tells us?

If you think about it, we get our wisdom from whom we obey. If we obey ourselves, we get wisdom from ourselves. If we obey what people around us want, we get wisdom from them. If we obey God, we get wisdom from God.

So maybe the question for each of us today is “Who do we obey?” And the answer to that question may well lie in the answer to the first – where do we get our wisdom from?

We say we are followers of Christ. Do we really, really get our wisdom from God? If not, are we really followers of Christ?

Tough questions, requiring wisdom to answer. Now, what well of wisdom will we drink from to answer them?

__________________

© 2013 GBF


Readings for Friday, June 11th
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    Eccles. 11:9-12:14; Gal. 5:25-6:10; Matt. 16:21-28
    Psalms 69, 73
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If there is such a thing in the Bible as important versus really important, today’s lesson from Ecclesiastes falls into the category of really important.  It is so important in fact that the writer begins Ecclesiastes 12:13 with a larger than normal Hebrew letter, emphasizing its importance.  The quote is:

"Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man.
For God will bring every deed into judgment …"
  Eccles.12:13-14 (NIV)

Solomon (the presumed writer of Ecclesiastes) has spent this entire book surveying man’s own perspective of his life and ends with the conclusion stated above.  So "all" about man has been "heard," and the conclusion is to fear God and keep His commandments, because ("for") He will bring our deeds into judgment.

If we have a duty (obligation) at work and we don’t do it, we get disciplined in some manner or perhaps do not share fully in the reward (raises, bonuses) which we might otherwise have received.

What is interesting in part in this passage is the NIV’s use of the brackets around "duty."  Normally, this suggests that the word may not be in the actual text, but is implied.  Personally, I like leaving it out, because to recognize that the fear of God and obedience to His commandments is the "whole of man" (it is all of man) takes it out of simple obedience or compliance (which we tend to do at work) and conveys a deeper meaning, that we do not achieve "wholeness" without (a) the fear of God (recognizing God comes first) and (b) from that fear or awe of God and the judgment to come, obedience to His commandments.  Unlike "Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs," (where man climbs the ladder of self-actualization), this truth dictates an acknowledgment that we are not God and a placement of ourselves under His instruction and under His commandments.

Our other readings today also reflect God’s revelation to us that we must put Him and His prescriptions for living (called commandments) above our own ideas about how to live.  Jesus says in Matthew, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it." Matt. 16:24-25.  Wholeness is not achieved through works or simple obedience, but from a wholesale transformation of our life which comes when we realize that Jesus (God the Son) is the head, the boss, the truth, and the life.

Paul says the same thing when he essentially ends Galatians with this statement: "Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation."  Gal. 6:15  Simple obedience is not good enough; it is obedience which comes from being a new creation, standing in proper relationship to God, which is fulfillment of the duty.

Simply offering God obedience to His commandments is not the fear of God, because if we truly have the fear (awe) of God, we would recognize that He is above and beyond us and we would bow down before Him as King.  If we had the fear of God, we would recognize that the judgment promised will occur.  The fear of God comes first, obedience comes from a heart which has the proper relationship to God, and then we are prepared for judgment.

The judgment to come, however, will be different for those who have rejected Jesus’ (God’s) offer of salvation and those who have accepted it.  To continue the work analogy, for those who have rejected Jesus’ offer of salvation, failure to do our duty will result in being fired by our boss and being thrown out of the office into a place where there is gnashing of teeth (Hell).  Those who have accepted Jesus will find that their judgment involves being denied a reward (like a raise or a bonus).

Three questions for today:

When you woke up this morning, did you begin your day fearing God?  If not, why not?

Are you so familiar with God’s Word (His commandments) that you know what your duty is?  Do you care what your duty is?

Knowing that you could die right now, are you ready for His judgment?

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