Bread – Judgment

July 13, 2016


Psalm 28

“Give to them according to their work and according to the evil of their deeds; give to them according to the work of their hands; render them their due reward.  Because they do not regard the work of the Lord or the work of His hands, He will tear them down and build them up no more.”  Ps. 28:4-5

When I write Bread, I am never sure if I am writing for my immediate audience or someone far distant in place and time.  As a result, I try not to use current events because, although the reference is readily understood today, it is probably not going to be understood tomorrow.

However, one current event repeats itself so often, my mention of it today will likely resonate tomorrow as well.  It is the senseless, evil killing of five policemen in Dallas last week.   I was asked by several people to publish something on this shortly after it occurred, but I confess I could not.  I could not because my anger was so deep, my desire for revenge so strong, my readiness to blame others so immediate, that I realized that nothing I would be willing to say would be the proper thing to say to bring glory to God.  I was ready to judge and in so doing react by giving back double the horror of the moment.

At a much milder level, we are faced with this every day.  Someone does us a wrong, and we react in immediate defense and anger.  Someone says something bad about us, and we immediately attribute bad motives to someone who we now perceive is our enemy.   We are so ready to judge right from wrong, good from bad, and pure from impure.

Now I am not saying that we should not use God’s plumb line to assess right from wrong, truth from untruth, pure from impure, good from bad.  In fact, knowing God’s Word helps us to discern these things which we must understand in order to do right and to resist wrong.  We can speak the truth to evil without condemning evil.

Boy, this last statement is hard.  When we know what is good, should we not condemn the bad?  No.  Instead, we should always be ready to show mercy, having been shown mercy ourselves.

The portion of the Psalm quoted above shows who is charge of judging, who is in charge of condemnation.    Maybe it becomes clearly by understanding that David is praying to the Lord and essentially says this – “[You-the Lord] give to them according to their work and according to the evil of their deeds; [You-the Lord] give to them according to the work of their hands; render them their due reward.” Ps. 28:4

Judgment belongs to Him.

I want to condemn the man who shot those policemen to hell; I do.  But that is not my job.  My job is showing unmerited mercy to those who would do evil, just like I have been shown unmerited mercy by my Savior when I was in the same position, doing evil all the time, opposed to God.

This is tough.  But no one ever said being a Christian was easy, did they?

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© 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?

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

 

Bread – Interpretation

November 6, 2013


Readings for Wednesday, November 6, 2013, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Neh. 13:4-22; Rev. 12:1-12; Matt. 13:53-58; Psalms 72,119:73-96

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There is a real danger we all fall into regarding our reading of Scripture, and that is to read it in English applying common modern understandings of the English. This can get us into real trouble unless we are careful to stop and think about something which is seemingly out of place. I almost fell into that trap today regarding our reading from Revelation: “She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to His throne…” Rev. 12:5. Since this sentence arises in the description of Satan’s fall from heaven and I am mindful of the serpent in Genesis, it struck me that the “male child” was most likely Jesus. I then thought about the “iron rod” and wondered what that was.

Our idea of an “iron rod” suggests an “iron ruler,” someone who rules with an “iron fist.” Using this common modern understanding of “rule…with a rod of iron,” it would appear therefore that Jesus is going to rule the earth as a dictator, a strong man. Yet this seemed wrong to me, so I looked up “rod of iron” or “iron rod” and came across Revelation 2:27, which says in part “Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I Myself have received authority from My Father.” Rev. 2:25-27 Here the iron rod is in the hands of the persevering saints appointed to rule, but the concept appears to be the same. Everyone will be ruling with the “iron rod,” which does not sound very pleasant to me.

But I still felt that something was wrong with my understanding, because although I know that Jesus will rule over all and that the persevering saints will rule as appointed over the nations, my impression from the rest of the Bible is that the rule will not be cruel, but protective. So I felt I should look further.

And I’m glad I did. It turns out that the word “rule” is a derivative of “shepherd” and it means in Greek “to shepherd,” involving all of the actions of the shepherd to guide, guard, lead to pasture, and gather.

When we substitute the word “shepherd” for “rule,” we get the idea of a shepherd with a shepherd’s crook (rod) made of iron.

And here we run into another interpretation problem, not with Scripture but with our images. I have never seen a shepherd’s crook made of iron; they are always made of wood. And what is one characteristic of wood which is different from iron? Wood breaks; iron does not.

Many, many people doubt Jesus’ ability to guide them to clear waters and good pasture, so they “help” Jesus with their own effort. Many, many people doubt their salvation (they lack assurance of salvation); therefore, they help with good works.

I wonder if some of this doubt doesn’t arise from our image of Jesus as a shepherd with a rod which can break (one made out of wood). I wonder as we think about it, if the soft, warm and fuzzy image we get of Jesus as shepherd, an image to which we are attracted, doesn’t lead us into wondering if we don’t need to help Him because, after all, His staff might break.

And now we can see clearly what Jesus’ revelation to us through John in Revelation is all about. Jesus is the good shepherd who will guide, guard, lead, and gather with an unbreakable staff, an iron rod. Not intended to beat us over the head or to force us into submission to His will, but to ensure that, in the evil day, His victory is complete.

I would have missed all this if I had left Scripture to my interpretation. And I would have left with the image of Jesus as good dictator rather than Jesus as good shepherd. And no telling what foolishness would follow from that.

Does our Christian understanding seem foolish to us sometimes? Maybe if it does it is the Holy Spirit whispering in our ear “check it out!” The results will amaze you.

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© 2013 GBF

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