Bread – Love

December 8, 2017


Psalm 91

For He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day …” Ps. 91:3-5

A friend of mine who was in the military told me that Psalm 91 was what he and some of his fellow soldiers recited in the midst of danger. And, indeed, the imagery of this Psalm is powerful to demonstrate for us that the Lord is our Protector and our source of the spiritual clothing which we need to stand in the evil day.

So why is this Bread labeled “love?”

As Christians, what do we fear? What is the “terror of the night” or the “arrow that flies by day?”

When the danger is upon us from our enemies, like in war, the “terror of the night” and the “arrow that flies by day” are obvious. The fear is that we will be horribly disfigured or killed.

And in these circumstances, it is easy to apply this Psalm because, for most Christians, the truth is that we may never be on a real battlefield with enemies with real guns and knives. As a result, we can rationalize the “since we have overcome death through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we do not fear death.”

But we as Christians are commanded to go to the battlefield and there love. The place is the battlefield of our work and our homes, our clubs and our churches, our world.

And on that battlefield we fear much, but primarily we fear that we will pour ourselves out in love to our spouse, our children, our bosses and subordinates, our co-workers, our friends and our acquaintances and we will receive back … the terrors of wondering in the night how they will react and the arrow shot at us by the very people we are trying to love by day. We are on the battlefield of life where our love will be met by indifference, by hostility, by blame, by anger, by ….

In our battle in life, the fowler is the person which will keep us from flying as birds with free spirit and the deadly pestilence is the disease of needing other people’s approval or thanks.

When we are in this battle, the only way we succeed in loving in the night of adversity is to recognize, as does our Psalmist, that it is God who delivers us from the bondage of the fowler and sets us free to fly victoriously, it is God who heals us of our sorrow of rejection and provides us the medicinal elixir of His love to recharge our batteries, it is God covers us with His wings and gives us rest, it is God who is faithful, it is God who equips us, and it is God who can overcome our fear, if we but ask and accept His Holy Spirit.

Why are weak Christians? Perhaps it is because we do fear what we do not know and what we do know, because we still want the respect and love of others.

There are many kinds of death. There is the death of life caused by gunshot. There is the death of life caused by the thousand cuts of uncaring friends, forgetful spouses, ungrateful children and parents, petty bosses, and a variety of people and events we can easily blame.

These are snares, these are diseases, these are terrors, these are arrows which pierce our heart and cause us to wallow in defeat. But they are overcome – by God.

While we live under the shelter of the Most High, we overcome and can love without acknowledgment or return. While we wear the armor provided by God, we overcome and can love without acknowledgement or return.

If we do not fly there is no one for the fowler to catch. If we do not enter the dark places, there are no terrors to confront. If we do not stand in the evil day, there is no one to shoot an arrow at.

So why don’t we just retreat? It is because we are called elsewhere; we are called out into the world to do battle. And in doing so God will free us from our chains, give us powerful medicine to ward off Satan’s disease, give us our daily bread, clothe us for the job, calm us in the day of terror, and give us rest. All we have to do is show up and love without condition … and God has and will do the rest.
_______
© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

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Bread – Number

November 27, 2017


Psalm 90

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”  Ps. 90:12

I was in the car the other day with my grandson, who has learned to count to a hundred.  He counted to seventy and then asked me to count to forty as fast as I could.  I had gotten to twenty-one when he yelled out “times up!”  Of course, this was a game and he made up the rules, so I would always run out of time before I achieved the objective.

What are our objectives for today, this week, and the rest of this year (it now being November 27)?  Our time management experts would suggest that we take the time every day to review our mission and our goals and lay out achievable things to do which will help us achieve those objectives, checking them off as we go through our day buffeted by the winds of other people’s agendas.

So is that what God is telling us to do through Moses, the Psalmist, in Psalm 90?  If, by the grace of God, we are able to realize that our days are few and numbered, are we to achieve a heart of wisdom by daily effort?

A reasonable response to this question might well be yes, on the idea that, if we belong to God, we know that our mission is to honor and love Him and, in the process, to then love and honor our neighbor as ourselves.  This requires prayer, study, and work of the heart, mind, and hands.  And some people consider wisdom to be knowing the right thing to do at the right time for the right reasons.

But it is not the only response to the question.  It seems to me that there is a reason the phrase is this – “So teach … that we may get….”  The words are not “tell” and they are not “achieve.”  The words are “teach” and “may get.”  The emphasis seems not to be on us deciding and doing, but upon us listening and receiving.

There is a question sometimes asked which is “If you knew this were your last four hours (1 day, 2 days, 2 weeks, one month) on earth, what would you do?”  People’s answers are rarely that they would review their to do list and go into work.  Instead, most people answer that they would spend time with friends and family, surrounded by those they love and who love him or her.  Most people would spend their last days, if they knew they were their last days, in “being in the moment.”

Yes, we need to plan.  Yes, we need to do.  But, also yes, we need to be in the moment, sensitive to the relationship before us.  Perhaps that relationship in our quiet time is with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Perhaps that relationship on the elevator is the person who needs to know that someone cares.  Perhaps that relationship in our house is with our wife or husband or children.

Start counting and sooner or later a little voice from the backseat will yell out “times up.”  Knowing that, we are prepared to receive a heart of wisdom from God.  Wisdom not for knowing what to do, but for who to be.  Not for knowing what to say, but for knowing how to love.  Not for knowing how to plan for the future, but for knowing how to live in the present.  Not for knowing who we are, but for knowing Whose we are.   Wisdom in time, for all time.

Our days are numbered; the counting has begun.

_______

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

 

 

 

 

Bread – Building

November 8, 2017


Psalm 89

For I said, “Steadfast love will be built up forever.”  Ps. 89:2

The nature of Scripture is that, as you look for one thing, you find another revealed to you by the Holy Spirit.  So it is today.

What I was looking for was the word “forever.”  In Psalm 89, the word “forever” occurs eight times, even trumping the word “faithfulness” (seven times).

And in the process of looking at the use of the word “forever,” I stumbled across the words which preceded it – “will be built up.”

When we think of God’s steadfast love toward us, we think of a constant, stable and unchanging through time.  We don’t think of it being “built up.”

So, in which way is God’s steadfast love toward us “built up?”

There are at least three different ways (and probably many more) we can answer this question.

One way is to say that, although God’s love toward us is constant, stable, unending, forever, He doles it out to us as we can take it or as we can use it.  In this view, God’s love is a giant reservoir of water and God controls the spigot, letting out so much at a time.  I think this view is unsatisfactory because it somehow suggests that God’s steadfast love is not so steadfast, but only comes to us in pieces and in intensity as He wills it.  I think sometimes when we get mad at God because He has not “helped” us in the way we want or need, we think this way – that God controls the amount of love from He we get.  This kind of thinking can also lead us into believing that, because God has appointed His “priests” as His representatives on earth, they (the priest) have their hand on the faucet of God’s love and can either grant or deny us access to it (as received in the sacraments, particularly of communion).

Another way we can answer the question of how God’s steadfast love “will be built up” is to answer it from our perspective.  As we become more mature as Christians, even in our darkest hour we learn how to take more and more of God’s love into us to sustain us.  In this point of view, God’s steadfast love is the reservoir, but we control the valve which lets it into our lives.  As we become less afraid, stronger in the Lord, we become more willing and able to turn the faucet on full blast.  From this point of view, when we are in the valley of despair and we do not sense or believe that God loves us, perhaps it is because we have forgotten to turn on the water of life or, more likely, Satan with his tricks has convinced us to turn the faucet knob the wrong way, closing it off rather than opening it up.

But I actually prefer a third point of view.  That is to look at our life as a building, one which begins with the foundation on solid rock of faith and is built over the years with loving hands into a man or woman able and willing to do good works which bring honor and glory to God.  With a building in mind, the phrase “steadfast love will be built up” suggests that there is no spigot or restriction on God’s love, but that as we are able to hold more of God’s love (because our building is bigger), God’s steadfast love [in us] will be built up into larger and larger quantities.

There are two delightful results from the building concept.  The first are the words “will be.”  As we walk in our Christian faith, it “will be.”  Not “may” be, but “will be.”  The result is certain – God’s steadfast love will be built up [in me].  The second delightful result is that there are now two reservoirs of God’s steadfast love.  The first reservoir we have talked about.  The second is the reservoir of God’s steadfast love which has been built up in us.  It is a reservoir which, because it draws on an unlimited supply, can be shared with others.  We can draw freely from God’s reservoir in us of His steadfast love to give freely to others.

As Christians, we often think of sharing “our” love with others.  That is nice, but our love has a limit – His love is unlimited.   Perhaps we love so poorly and so rarely because we are drawing on the wrong source.

As we are being built today to hold God’s steadfast love, let us help build up others so that they, too, can be filled … forever.

_______

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

 

 

Bread – Glorify

August 21, 2017


Psalm 79

“O God, the nations … have defiled Your holy temple; they have laid Jerusalem in ruins…Pour out Your anger on the nations that do not know You…Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name; …”  Ps. 79:1,6,9

This is a difficult Psalm to write about because the topic is so common. We find ourselves in deep need and we look around for the Lord’s deliverance…and He seems far away.

In this Psalm, Jerusalem has been laid waste.  We can only imagine the scope of the disaster.  There was no political structure because the ruling class had been eliminated.  There was no economy because the land was laid waste and nothing could be produced.  There was no social order because many families had been decimated.  And there was no religion because the temple had been destroyed and worship, so dependent upon the temple, was disrupted.  Think about what you would do if there were no order in the streets, half your family was gone, your money was worthless, your house was burned to the ground, your business shut down, and there was no place to buy bread or meat.  We can try to imagine such affairs, but for most who read this Bread, these realities have never hit us, all at once.

In such times, we appeal to God for help, wondering where He is.  We appeal to God based upon His relationship to us (His chosen), based upon His great compassion and mercy for us, based upon His promises, based upon His character, based upon our “special relationship,” based upon His law, …

But one thing we rarely do is to base our appeal to God on His glory.  “God, You should help us [me] because Your glory will be increased when You do!”

We know that we get something out of it when God shows up – mercy, deliverance, power, hope, opportunity, life, liberty, freedom, love, a new day, etc.  But do we even ask the question or even care what God gets out of it?

Well, if we love Him as we claim and if we worship Him as we claim, then we should care very much about what He wants as well.

We often talk about what God wants in terms of our response.  For example, what we say is that God wants obedience to His law or to His word.  Or maybe what God wants is our attention and gratitude.  Or may what God wants is for us to worship Him.

But the truth is that we can follow all the rules, be obedient to God and His word, and yet is God glorified?

When the emphasis is on the “we,” what are we doing to obey God, I would argue that He is not glorified.  The reason is simple.  Everything that comes from us is tainted by impure motive (what can we get in return).  Everything that comes from God is not so tainted.

God is glorified when we obey Him because of who He is and because of what He does, when we obey Him because He has transformed our heart, when we obey Him out of love for Him and Him only.  Can we do this on our own?  No.  But we can do it through the strength of Him who saves.

So, why, in the midst of this utter destruction, when God appears far away, do we appeal to Him based upon His glory?  “Help us … for the glory of Your name.”

It is because, at the end of the day, we are recognizing that, if God is getting what He wants, His glory, it is not because of anything we do but because of what He does.

What do we do on our own which glorifies God?  Nothing.  What does God do through us which glorifies Him?  Everything He wishes.

So, God, help me to glorify Your name by showing up today to help me do so.  “Help me…for the glory of Your name.”

One of the most powerful prayers we can make and we rarely do it.  Why?  Maybe it is because we don’t care what God wants.  Or maybe we just forget.  But maybe we just don’t know what we recite every Sunday – “Our Father in heaven, hallowed [holy, glorified] be Your name … For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory ….”

God, come into my life, so that You might be glorified.  Amen.

________

© 2017 GBF

Bread – Gloating

June 14, 2017


Psalm 70

Make haste, O God, to deliver me!…Let them turn back because of their shame who say, “Aha, Aha!”  Ps. 70:1,3

“Gloating” is one of those words which is almost painful to say; saying it almost puts your teeth on edge.  It seems to form the mouth into an unnatural shape to utter the word “gloating.”

We may not say the word, but we do it all the time.  When someone has made a mistake and is paying the consequences of failure, aren’t we always ready with the “Didn’t I tell you that ….”  We are gloating in that instance, because we are standing in our superior position of knowledge, expertise, decision-making skill, wisdom, and just plain good sense.  And we are driving home the point just so the other person, who so desperately needs our help, will listen “next time.”

Or maybe we just won something, like a sports game.  We are all puffed up with pride at that very moment, gloating over our obvious superiority to the “also rans.”  Now you may not admit that you do this, because someone will call you “conceited,” so your public persona may be different, but in the silence of your bedroom or study you are saying to yourself…”Yes!”  That is gloating.

Now, in our reading today, the Psalmist David has obviously done something which is causing other people to stand around him and gloat, saying “Aha, Aha!”

And David does two things in response.  First, he calls those people shameful (“Let them turn back because of their shame.”).  Why is their behavior shameful?  I think the reason is captured in God’s command to us in Leviticus 19:18 (“…but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.”).  When we fail, do we gloat over ourselves?  No.  Then why should we gloat over the failings of other people?

But the second thing he does is call upon God’s help.

When we are dealing with the emotional baggage of someone else who is gloating over our failures or our bad choices, do we ask for God’s help in dealing with that person?  Before we respond to the gloater in anger or in retreat, do we listen to the Lord’s advice about loving them and about coming to Him first as the solution rather than last?

We will fail and, when we do, there will be some in the world who delight in our hurt, in our failure, and who say “Aha, look at him!”  The world tells us that there are two solutions to this, either respond in anger by telling them where they can go or respond in retreat, by accepting their criticism and slinking off to feel sorry for ourselves.  God tells us there is a third choice – come to Him.

Go to God for comfort.  Go to God for truth.  Go to God for healing.  Go to God for judgment.

When confronted with the laughter of the world, rather than retreat into ourselves or explode in reaction there is another place of safety, wisdom, and power.  Go to God.

________

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

 

 

Bread – Reflections

May 31, 2017


Psalm 67

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face to shine upon us, that Your way may be known on earth…” Ps. 67:1-2

As I think about God’s face shining on me, the image of Moses coming down the mountain comes to mind.  “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai…[he] did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.”  Ex. 34:29

In that event, the people knew that Moses had been with God because his face reflected it.

Does my face reflect God’s shining upon me?  Does my face reflect His graciousness, His love, His blessings in my life?

When the sun shines upon us, we will reflect either a suntan or a burn, but it will be obvious to everyone that we have been in the presence of the sun.  When the Son shines upon us, what do we reflect?  Do we reflect hope, charity, love, peace, or any other virtue?

One of the things we learned in school was that there were some surfaces which reflect light and others that absorb it.  For example, a plain stone absorbs light.  Polished granite, however,  reflects it.

Evil absorbs.  Good projects and reflects.

Anger absorbs.  Love reflects.

Worry absorbs.  Hope reflects.

Does my face reflect the hope that is in me, or does it merely absorb God’s light in a feeble attempt to recharge my internal batteries?  Am I outward focused (reflecting and projecting) or inward focused (absorbing and retaining)?

Another way of asking the same question is to ask whether it is my problems which I focus on (inward, absorbing) or the problems of my neighbor which I focus on (outward, reflecting)?

If God’s face has truly shined upon us, how can we not show it in our countenance (to use an old-fashioned word)?  How can we not show it in our faces, in our lives?

The truth is that we are very adept at receiving God’s blessings, of having God’s face shine on our lives, and then keeping it for ourselves.

If our skin reflects when we have been in the presence of the sun, then how much more should our face reflect when we have been in the presence of the Creator of the sun?

What blessing will we reflect today … that His way may be known upon the earth?

________

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

 

 

Bread – Mine

May 8, 2017


Psalm 63

O God, You are my God; earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh faints for You, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”  Ps. 63:1

A few years ago I was in the Texas panhandle during the heavy drought.  There was nothing green for miles.  One place I went struck me particularly hard.  It was a bridge over a waterway which was easily a football field wide, which obviously was designed to cross over a flowing large creek or small river.  There was nothing in this creekbed and there had been nothing in it so long that the ground of it was hard and cracked.  Why was the bridge there?  In times of plenty it was the way across a large flowing stream of water.  In time of drought, it looked odd.

In speaking with a rancher there, he was telling me about the extraordinary lengths he was going through to save his cows, digging deeper wells, bringing in water, and, most remarkably, purchasing hay from Indiana because none could grow on his ranch.

I asked him when and if he would decide to give up and sell out.  He basically said never, because the land was his father’s and grandfather’s.  The land was his and he would not abandon it.

There was an old Golden book I read, first as a child and then to my children.  It was about firemen.  One statement in that book has always stayed with me.  There was a fire and the family was rescued by the firemen.  The family’s house was burned to the ground.  And the family was standing outside looking at the burning house, each of them holding something.  One person, a boy, was holding a pillow.  The statement was something to the effect that “Each of them stood there holding the thing that was most valuable to them.”  I always thought it was funny that someone would hold onto a pillow as their most valuable thing to rescue from a fire.

In the middle of the drought, the thing most valuable to the rancher was his land, because it was “his.”  In the fire, the thing most valuable to the boy was his pillow, because it was “his.”

When will we treat our Lord that way?  When will we so possess Him that He is “mine?”  When will we consider Him so valuable that in the drought, we will take Him as ours; in the fire, we will leave with Him as our most valuable possession?

As I think about that question and look around my home office, I see many things which I might grab if my house were burning to the ground.  Among those things are my laptop computer, my files with important financial information, and my boxes of family history.  Would I care enough about God to take His Word, a Bible, with me?

I like to say that God is mine, just like I am sure you do.  But do we see God as “mine?”  Do we consider our relationship  with Him the most valuable relationship we have?  To we consider His Word to be the only fountain of wisdom in our library?  Do we seek Him in the morning, during the day, and at night?  Do we seek Him in the times of plenty and the times of drought?

If our house caught fire, would He be the first thing on our mind or the last?

As this Psalm shows, there is a whole lot of difference between thinking God is mine and acting like He’s mine, and there is a whole lot of difference between acting like God is mine sometimes and acting like He is mine all the time.

Lord, I know You have made me Yours.  Now, Lord, so increase my love of You that I have made You mine.  Amen.

________

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

 

 

Bread – When

March 15, 2017


Psalm 56

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in You.  In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.  What can flesh do to me?”  Ps. 56:3-4

This verse is preceded by David complaining that man steps on him and attacks him all the time.

Which then leads to the “when I am afraid…” verse.

My first reaction to this (and the reason Bread is called “When”) was this — isn’t it true that we never trust God in the good times, but only the desperate?  Men were trampling David and beating him up, and he was OK doing battle with them on his own.  But when the odds became overwhelming to him, when he became afraid, that is when he trusted God.  “When I am afraid …” could mean that I trust God when I am afraid, suggesting that I do not trust Him when I am not afraid.  This led me to an easy conclusion for this Bread, namely that we should trust God all the time.

However, when I started thinking about being afraid, being truly afraid, I asked myself what the typical human reaction is.  That reaction is either “fight or flight,” according to the psychologists.  When we are afraid, our natural reaction, our womanly or manly reaction, is to either run away and escape (flight) or become incredibly angry and somewhat crazy and fight (fight).  When we are afraid of losing an argument, we double down (fight) or admit defeat (flight).  When we are in a hostile zone where people do not like us or may be even trying to hurt us, we try to hurt them first (fight – the best defense is a good offense, right?) or we exit stage left (flight).

But God tells us that there is a third thing we can do.  Rather than exit the difficulty (flight) or put on our boxing gloves (fight), we can trust God.

How can Christians love their enemies when their enemies hate them?  By trusting in God and neither leaving the fight (flight) nor adding flames to it (fight).

How can Christians both speak the truth in love and not back down in the face of opposition, all without increasing hatred and anger?  By trusting in God and neither backing down in the name of tolerance (flight) or engaging in a knockdown, drag out fight over who is right and who is wrong (fight).

How do Christians stand in the evil day?  By trusting in God and neither retiring to their sanctuaries (homes or churches, flight) nor heaping curses upon those who do not believe (fight).

When put in this perspective, the simple statement that David makes when he says “When I am afraid, I put my trust in You” is not so simple after all.

We will be in danger and will be afraid many times today.  We may have to talk to the stranger in the elevator.  We may have to explain to a disbelieving colleague why we are a Christian.  We may be in economic circumstances which cause us to wonder whether we will eat tonight or make the rent tomorrow.  We may have just received a bad diagnosis from a doctor.  We may be in the middle of losing an argument or some other kind of fight which we believe in our heart we must win.

What will we do?  Will we run away from the fight?  Will we jump in the middle of the fight with our weapons of words, fists, or other devices?  Or will we reject man’s solutions of fight or flight and, instead, put on the full armor of God and trust in Him?

When do we trust in Him?  When will we?

________

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

Bread -Uphold

March 1, 2017


Psalm 54

“Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life…” Ps. 54:4

There is a picture fixed in my mind from a commercial which ran long ago.  The picture is of a professional football player (probably someone on the line, because he was a giant) holding in a cradle next to him and brand new baby.  The baby was content, as was the professional football player.  The professional football player did not need the baby to survive, but the baby sure needed the professional football player.

When I think of God upholding my life, that image of the football player and the baby comes to mind.

We like to think of ourselves as the football player, getting ahead in life by crushing the opposition, standing our ground, blocking out the bad from getting through, and ultimately helping our team win the day.  But, really, we are the baby.  We have no food but for that food provided by the Father, we have no life which is not upheld for us by God, we have no strength to fight off our enemies, and we can plan until the cows come home, but it is the Lord who provides.

God commands us to love one another as He has loved us.  Maybe another way of thinking about this is that we are commanded to uphold one another as we ourselves have been and are being upheld by God.

The nature of upholding someone is that we are beneath them, holding them up.  They are on top and we, by choice, are on the bottom.  We no not uphold by pushing down but by lifting up.  We uphold by making ourselves lesser so that the one we are upholding may become greater.

To uphold someone means that our foundation, where we place our feet, must be firm.  We cannot uphold another from a place of weakness, but only from a place of strength.

How is it that the professional football player made himself lesser in order to uphold the baby?  He stopped what he was doing to hold the baby, and he waited on the baby.  The football player sacrificed himself so that the baby would have a safe, peaceful place to live.

So God so much wanted to uphold me that He sent Himself, the Son, into the world to die for me.  He put Himself on the bottom so that I might be lifted up into the throne room of God.

Just as David said so long ago – “The Lord is the upholder of my life.”  And because I stand upon a firm foundation and because I am upheld, I can uphold others.

Who will we uphold today … in our prayers, in our thoughts, in our words, and in our actions?  Look around, we have lots of people to select from.  Including those who live with us.

_________

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

 

Bread – Righteousness

January 18, 2017


Psalm 48

We have thought on Your steadfast love, O God,…Your right hand is filled with righteousness.”  Ps. 48:9,10b

“Righteousness” is one of those words which I always think I know what it means until I start really thinking about it.  What is “righteousness?’

The Hebrew word translated “righteousness” in this passage means “the right thing (whether nationally, morally or legally); equity (in an abstract sense); prosperity (in a figurative sense); straightness (in a physical sense); rectitude (in an ethical sense); … justness, honesty, integrity … liberation.” From The Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible (NASB) (Zodhiates, Ed. 1990).  The IVP Dictionary of the New Testament (Intervarsity 2004) takes 21 pages to give examples, but summarizes the word “righteousness” this way: “In Biblical thought the idea of justice or righteousness generally expresses conformity to God’s will in all areas of life: law, government, covenant loyalty, ethical integrity or gracious actions.  When humans adhere to God’s will as expressed in His law, they are considered just or righteous.  Jesus taught that those who conform their lives to His teachings are also just or righteous.”

Well, I am not sure if these definitions help or hurt me in trying to understand what righteousness is.  However, the other day someone summarized righteousness for me as “right relationships.”  I find this definition nowhere in my materials, but it actually makes a lot of sense to me.  After all, if we lives of justice, of doing right toward others and ourselves and our God, don’t we find ourselves in a “right (correct, beneficial, loving) relationship?”  When we are fair toward others, don’t we find ourselves in right relationships with others?  When we are obedient to God’s law expressed in Scripture, don’t we find ourselves in right relationships with others?

What, then, does it mean for God to have “righteousness” in his “right hand?”  Before we go there, I think it is important to recall that our right hand (for many people) is the hand of power.  It is the hand which holds the sword of vengeance, the hammer of anger, the book of wisdom, the item being offered as a gift or a sacrifice.  We shake right hands because, by doing so, we demonstrate our hand is empty of any weapon which could cause harm.

Because of His steadfast love toward us, God holds in His hand of power the key to right relationships with Him, with each other, and within ourselves.  Thinking of what He holds as merely the law is not sufficient because mere compliance with the law out of avoidance of punishment does not, in itself, create good relationships.  Thinking of what He holds as merely love is not sufficient because mere love which is not bounded by truth does not, in itself, create good relationships.  It is righteousness which creates good relationships – obedience, honor of God’s rules and His ways of living, loving others as He has first loved us.

God wants to have a right relationship with us and, therefore, His right hand holds the mystery to accomplishing that.  His right hand holds righteousness.

And He extends that gift, that gift of righteousness, to us through Jesus Christ, our only Mediator and Advocate before the Father.  Through Jesus we have His righteousness, the righteousness carried in the right hand of God, and with that we can properly order our lives between us and God, between us and others, and within ourselves.

Are your relationships good?  If not, maybe you need a dose of what God holds in His right hand, a dose of righteousness.   For those who worship Jesus, the wisdom to build right relationships is brought to us by the Holy Spirit – Come Holy Spirit!  For those who do not know Jesus, righteousness is available from He who is Himself righteous, the Creator of the world, Savior and King, Jesus Christ.

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

 

 

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