Bread – Rulers

June 27, 2017


Psalm 72

Give the king Your justice, O God, and Your righteousness to the royal son!  … Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people…May he defend the cause of the poor of the people…May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass…In his day may the righteous flourish…” Ps. 72:1-7

We have all experienced the situation where we know we ought to pray for people in power, our President or, if another country, maybe our king, prime minister, or dictator, but for whatever reason we don’t want to.  Maybe we see him or her as evil.  Maybe we him or her as grossly incompetent.  Maybe we don’t agree with his or her politics.  But we are commanded in all circumstances to be subject to and pray for those in authority.  Rom. 13:1.   To accomplish this command and yet maintain our anger (upset) toward our particular ruler, I am reminded of that famous prayer by Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” when he prayed: “God bless and keep the Tsar far away from us.”

But if we are inclined to really follow the commandment that we honor our rulers and when we are missing words, Psalm 72 is a great prayer to read, because it exalts the ruler, the king.  “May [the king] be like rain that falls on the mown grass.”  What a wonderful image of the true blessings a great ruler can have upon his or her country or dominion, when he or she is subject to God.

But this gives rise to wonder, what ruler is David (or the Psalm-writer, if not him) talking about?

Like so much of Scripture, there is a sense of it being present (the local king at the time) and future (the future King).  Who is the future king?  I think that verses 17 through 19 say it by description: “May His Name endure forever, His fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in Him, and all nations call Him blessed!  Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.  Blessed be His glorious Name forever; may the whole earth be filled with His glory!  Amen and Amen!”

Who is this person?  King Jesus of course.  His is the Name which endures through eternity.  His people are blessed “in” Him.  And one day, one day, when He returns in glory to rule on earth in His millennial kingdom, “all nations” will bow before Him and “call Him blessed.”

When you read Psalm 72, you are asking the earthly king to “be like rain.”  Sometimes that happens, but the truth is that man is fallen, our earthly kings are fallen, and even with the best intentions (which rarely exist), our earthly kings fall short and their “rain” does not bless, but tortures.

There is only one King who does all the things which the Psalmist prays for.  There is only one King who “alone [by Himself, without the help of anyone else] does wondrous things.”

And that is King Jesus.

Come, worship and adore Him!

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© 2017 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.

 

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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