Bread – Defense

September 19, 2017


Psalm 83

O God, do not keep silence; do not hold Your peace or be still, O God!  For behold, Your enemies make an uproar; those who hate You have raised their heads….As fire consumes the forest, as the flame sets the mountains ablaze, so may You pursue them …”  Ps. 83: 1-2, 14-15

The English Standard Version’s Study Bible’s (copy. 2008, Crossway Bibles) notes on this Psalm say that it is “a community lament, geared to a situation in which God’s people are threatened by Gentile enemies who aim to destroy them….Christians would use this this psalm … in cases where their persecutors would destroy them and all traces of their faith.”

In many parts of the world, sounds like now.

But then again, when people want to be their own god and follow the ways of the world, they hate God and all those who claim Him, so the circumstances described (“where persecutors would destroy them and all traces of their faith”) actually describes recorded history.

Sometimes this attempted destruction takes the form of weapons, guns, knives and poisons.  Sometimes the attempted destruction is political, driving Christians from positions of power and influence.  Sometimes the attempted destruction is corrosion, bringing into play anti-Christs who preach messages which tickle the ears and destroy the soul.  Sometimes the attempted destruction is intellectual, to place Christianity into the dustbin of history and marginalize faith as being unreasonable, illogical, or just plain stupid.  Sometimes the attempted destruction is merely to try to shut us up by exclusion from debate or, worse, by shouting us down by calling us names.

What defense do we make in this time of destruction?  Maybe the better question is “What effective defense do we make in this time of destruction?”

One idea might be to fortify ourselves with wisdom and knowledge so that we can always make “a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” 1 Pet. 3:15.  However, we know that no-one whose eyes and ears are closed will ever be argued into the kingdom of God.  The fact that we are to make defense to someone who asks shows that God has already intervened to cause that person to ask, and we are merely at that moment to continue a good work already begun by God.

Another idea might be to attack (the best defense being a good offense) by preaching the Word in all places, but although that world might see that as an attack, all we are really doing is what we are told to do – go and make disciples of all nations.  Matt. 28:19.  We are not attacking anyone when we follow our commission; but we certainly are proclaiming.  But even then, although we might obey by planting the seed, God is the one in charge of raising the seed up into good fruit.

Finally, we might defend ourselves by accessing positions of power and being in charge of everything.  But, as history has shown us, every time we do that we fall subject to the corrosion of the world and its corruption.

So, then, how do we defend ourselves?  The Psalmist has the answer.  We let God do it.  We ask God to step in and handle it.

Our problem is that, to us, it sounds like a cop-out, like we are giving up.  But when we do that, we are not giving up, we are giving in … to Him.  And when we do, we are strong; and when we do not, we are weak.

O, when someone attacks me with gun and knife, I can well defend myself with similar weapons.  But when the spirit of the age attacks me with the desire to destroy “all trace of my faith,” then there is only one defense and one defender.  At that time and now, our best defense is this – “O God, do not keep silence …”

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bread – Lament

July 7, 2015


Readings for Tuesday, July 7, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Sam. 15:24-35; Acts 9:32-43; Luke 23:56b-24:11; Psalms 5,6,10,11

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While there is celebration in the streets rejoicing over the triumph of man’s law over God’s, there is lament by many, including me, about how we as a society have come to reject God’s law as triumphant and substituted instead the sand of man’s whims and desires.

Our readings today speak powerfully to this.

From Psalm 11, “Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart, ‘You will not call me to account?’” Ps. 11:13

When man rejects God and His Word, His standards for life, isn’t he like the wicked, believing that there will be no accounting for his sin?

Well, there is an accounting. In our reading today from 1 Samuel, Saul admits to Samuel that “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.” 1 Sam. 15:24. In refusing to following thousands of years of history and the dictates of the Old and New Testaments, our United States Supreme Court feared the people more than God and obeyed the voice of the mob rather than the voice of God. So, Saul did what we have done, and this is what follows – Saul then says to Samuel, “’Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me…’ And Samuel said to Saul, ‘I will not return with you. For you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.” 1 Sam. 15:25-26. Is this what will now happen to us in this country? There is a day of being called to account. Whether that day is today, as it was for Saul, is up to God and we certainly pray that He defers His judgment, but He knows what He will do.

So, returning to the Psalm, we read this lament – “if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? The Lord is in His holy temple…” Ps. 11:3-4

When the foundations are destroyed, what can we do indeed? The Psalmist answers this question by skipping the answer and going straight to the solution – God. Our answer to the question of what do we do when the foundations are destroyed is to remind ourselves that God reigns, not us.

And so what are the righteous to do in the evil day, in the day of destruction of foundation?

Our answer is found in our reading today from Luke – Jesus has been crucified. “The women who had come with Him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how His body was laid….On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.” Lk. 23:55-56 Jesus has been murdered and put in a borrowed tomb. His body has not been properly prepared with funeral spices, so there is action to be taken by the righteous. But wait! No action is taken because it is now the Sabbath and God has commanded His people to rest. Even though there is something to do, God’s people wait because it is God’s command to wait.

And while they wait in obedience to God’s Word and His commandments, God works. When the women returned, the stone had been rolled away because Jesus had been resurrected.

We can and should lament the situation in which we as people of faith find ourselves. But before we take matters into our own hands, we would do well to reflect on the Psalms, on Saul, and on the righteous women. God is in His Holy temple; God is in control. Yielding to passion rather than God’s law and His love results in bad things. Obedience to God’s will in our lives matters, because while we obey, God works His miracles.

The foundations crumble; what are we to do? God. Christ is crucified; what are we to do? God. We are appointed to a position of influence; what are we to do? God.

There is an eternal pattern here. So let’s follow it.

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© 2015 GBF

Bread – God

September 28, 2012


Readings for Friday, September 28, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Esther 8:1-17; Acts 19:21-41; Luke 4:31-37; Psalms 88,91,92

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The three Psalms in our reading today give three different perspectives of God, which together build insight into Him.

Psalm 88 is a lament. This Psalm expresses our valleys in our relationship with God, and gives us insight into ourselves and the wrath of God which we deserve for our sin. Listen to the Psalmist:

O Lord, God of my salvation; I cry out day and night before You…For soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol…I am a man who has no strength…You have put me in the depths of the pit…Your wrath lies heavy upon me…O Lord, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me?…Your wrath has swept over me…” Ps. 88:1,3,4,6,7,14,16

Psalm 91 is a praise. This Psalm expresses our mountaintops in our relationship with God in some of the most powerful words contained in the Psalms, and gives us insight into the times of rest, when we experience in full measure the mercy of God:

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust…under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and a buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday…Because he holds fast to Me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him because he knows My name. When he calls to Me, I will answer him…With long life I will satisfy him and show him My salvation.” Ps. 91:1-6,14-16

Which one is God? The one who doesn’t answer us in our grief (Psalm 88) or the one who shelters us from the storm (Psalm 91)?

There is a subtle danger in this question and it is not obvious. The danger is that we are asking the question from ourselves, out of ourselves, out of our situation. The danger is that in the very way we ask the question we are judging God. And what is worse, we are not only judging God according to our criteria, we are judging Him according to our emotion. In Psalm 88, we are in despair and we want to know immediately why God has not made things right, why He has not made us happy, why He has not responded to our commands, our requests, our desires, our purposes, our hopes, and our dreams. In Psalm 91, we are praising God because we are happy, not because of who He is but because of our emotion at the time; we are happy so God is good.

Don’t these Psalms reflect our perception of God minute by minute in our lives? When we are upset or in the pits, God is remote and hates us. When we are happy and on the mountaintop, God is present and loves us. Our view of God and what He has done for us is driven by our emotion at the time, not on what and who God is but what and who we want Him to be for us. These Psalms are self-centered, which is in part why we understand them so well.

But both Psalms contain a deep and abiding truth about God. Notice how each Psalm is addressed to God. The Psalmist is having a conversation with God? Why? If God is mean and wrathful and hateful and leaves us in our position of misery, why bother to have a conversation with Him, why plead with Him, why ask Him for anything? If God is all-loving and all-giving and supportive of us in every way, why bother to have a conversation with Him, why thank Him, why acknowledge His presence in anything?

The deep and abiding truth about God is stated in the first verse of Psalm 88 – “O Lord, God of my salvation…” Ps. 88:1

He is in charge of our salvation, not us. He saves. Even in the pits of despair, when God appeared silent, the Psalmist in Psalm 88 knew that truth – that if he were going to be saved, it would be God who saved Him, because God is the God of “my” salvation.

Furthermore, God has a personal relationship with us. “O Lord, God of my salvation.” Whether I am in the pits or on the mountaintop, feeling great or feeling poorly, He is the same God, the God who saves. What I feel today is irrelevant; what matters is that my God is the God who saves me.

Then, finally, we reach the last Psalm in today’s reading, Psalm 92. It is the capstone to Psalms 88 (the pits) and Psalm 91 (the mountaintop), because it reminds us bluntly that God is God and we are not Him: “How great are Your works, O Lord! Your thoughts are very deep! The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand this… He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” Ps. 92:5-6, 15

Who is God? He is God of truth and love. He is God of wrath and of mercy. He is God who is righteous in all things, at all times. He is God who is our rock and shelter. He is God whose thoughts and ways are not our thoughts and ways. He is God who cannot be known in His entirety by us, yet knows every hair on our head in our entirety. He is God of eternity and of today.

He cannot be judged by what He does or does not do for us and He cannot be judged by how we feel about Him.

But He is God who saves. So whether we are in the pits today or on the mountaintop, we can know this about God – He is God of my salvation.

That is the cake; that is the whole enchilada. And if you think about it, the fact that He is also shelter for us in the storm – well that is just icing on the cake.

So let’s end this week with a simple prayer – “Thank you God for saving me, a sinner.”

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© 2012 GBF

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