Bread – Melting

June 6, 2017


Psalm 68

God shall arise … as wax melts before fire, so the wicked shall perish before God!  But the righteous shall be glad; they shall exult before God; they shall be jubilant with joy!” Ps. 68:1-3

As I read “as wax melts before fire” a couple of images came to mind.  None of them were candles.   Another image was from the movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” where the Nazi soldiers are melted away in the blast which came from the Ark of the Covenant when they dared to breach it.  A third image was of the Wicked Witch of the West, when a bucket of water was poured over on her, and she dies screaming “I’m melting.”

Now these images have one thing in common.   The wicked perish.  In the first, God is clearly the agent.  In the second, you have to realize that God is the author of nature to realize that the water used to douse the wicked witch was itself a gift from God.

We are sinful people.  What will happen to us on that day of judgment, when God arises to judge the earth and us?  Will we melt away as wax melts before the fire in the heat of wrath?

While you meditate on that question, I actually had a third image which came to mind as I read this verse.  That image was the one of a great steel mill where the iron ore was smelted in great furnaces, melted into big buckets, to be poured into objects useful for construction and building.

This third image also involves melting as wax melts before the fire, because the ore was hard until it melted in the great cauldron, only then to be converted.

What happens in this second kind of melting?  We have a reference to that in Psalm 66, where it is said “For Thou hast tried us, O God; Thou hast refined us as silver is refined.” [Ps. 66:10; NASB translation] (the word “refined” means to melt, to purge precious metals by fire).  God, through His cross and the daily dose of the Holy Spirit in our lives, refines us by removing the impurities in our lives and pouring us as living sacrifices into useful objects for His purposes on earth.

So, at the judgment day, when faced with the wrath of God, do we melt “as wax melts before fire?”  The short answer is “no” for the simple reason that Christ is with us and, literally, He is our shield.

So, when God arises, are the righteous glad because the wicked melt in the face of wrath or are we glad because, by the grace of God, we do not melt?

As I write this, it strikes me that this last question is the heart of the gospel, of the good news.  We do not rejoice in others’ suffering, because but for the grace of God go we.   Instead, we celebrate in thanksgiving because we have received and accepted the gift of eternal life from the only One able to give it and empower us to receive it.

The heart of the gospel is this:  God shall arise, the wicked shall melt away, and the righteous shall rejoice.  Who are the righteous? “And he (Abraham) believed the Lord, and He counted it to him as righteousness.” Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:22-25.

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

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Bread – Associates

June 29, 2016


Psalm 26

“I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites.  I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked.”  Ps. 26:4-5

Who do you associate with?

In the background of my mind, there is an echo of something my mother once said – “You are known by the company you keep.”  I’ll bet your parents gave you very similar advice.

Let’s break this down.  Do we sit with liars?  Do we have any truck with people who do not tell the truth?  If you are honest, the answer to that question is probably “yes.”   We work within our employment, and I know that as an attorney I meet many, many people in all walks of life who are truth-tellers and who are liars.  Your workplace probably has a few in the latter category.  In fact, we may be becoming a nation of liars if you consider the fact that the effort never to take responsibility for mistakes is to speak a lie, and the effort to sugarcoat (make politically correct) every event is itself is “misspeak.”  We never call a lie a lie anymore; instead we say that we have “misspoken” or “incorrectly misstated” or “made an error of judgment.”  Yeah, you did, but you also lied.  Because we lie as well from time to time (for various reasons), one might be inclined to think that there is never a way to follow in the Psalmist’s footsteps.  However, “men of falsehood” could very well be considered to be people who have a character of falsehood; that is, they not only lie from time to time, but lying is an art form to them which is integrated into how they think and behave.  Engage each other; beware and avoid men of falsehood.

 

Second, do we consort with hypocrites?  Again, honesty compels me to say that I am a hypocrite and most of the people, but not all, are also hypocrites in one part of their life or another.  Perhaps a better way of asking the same question is to ask, do we consort with people of integrity?  People of integrity do not say one thing and do another.  They do not profess to have a standard for their life and then fail to even try to achieve it (no one achieves it perfectly).  Again, the Psalmist is talking about character, our structure.  Do we strive for integrity or do we fall into chronic hypocrisy; do we consort with people who are aiming for integrity or who are satisfied with being hypocrites?  The first group of people pleases God; the second does not.  Which group are you in; which group are your friends and associates in?

Third, do we sit in the assembly of evildoers?  Quite frankly, I have a hard time with this because I do not sit in any assembly of murderers, thieves, or generally “bad” people, and I don’t know anyone who does.  But … if this were rare, why would the Psalmist include it?  Maybe we are looking at this wrong.  Maybe the question of “evildoers” is not a question of what we consider to be bad, but what God considers to be bad.  When we realize that, but for the grace of God and His salvation through Jesus Christ, we sin and do evil all the time, the assembly of evildoers becomes much bigger much faster.  So, what assembly do we sit in?  Do we sit in the assembly of the legislature or the university, or do we sit in assembly in the study of God’s Word and the worship of God in congregation?  On any given day in any given hour, what assembly will you find us in?  A strategy meeting at work or a prayer session?

Fourth, do we sit with the wicked?  I think this is the culmination of the first three, and so the answer is both “yes” and “no.”

So maybe the question being placed by the Psalmist is not whether we spend our time in poor places, but how much time do we spend there?  How much time is spent with the wicked and how much time with the godly?  Are we in balance or out of balance?

The Psalmist asks this question:  “Are we sold out to the world or to God?”

We are known by the company we keep … which is who?

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Payday

February 19, 2016


Psalm 7

“Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies.  He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made.  His mischief returns upon his own head, and his own skull his violence descends.”  Ps. 7:14-16

Psalm 7 actually begins and ends positively, beginning with “O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge…” and ending with “…and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.”

That being the case and this being Friday, February 19, 2016, why don’t I focus on ending the week on an up note rather than a down note talking about wicked men, evil, mischief, lies, pits, and violence?

Maybe because both are reality, often at the same time, and to appreciate the good we need to also understand the bad.

Ask yourself this question, when you have done something bad, when you have conceived evil, been pregnant with mischief (don’t you love the imagery!), birthed your own lies, dug your own pit and fallen into it, have you ever not been caught?

Before you say “yes,” I want you to think about pits and falling into them.  When you have fallen into a pit, hasn’t it usually been (and probably always been) of your own making?  Oh, you may have had help – assistants, co-conspirators, aiders, abetters, and the like – but when you fall into a pit, haven’t you always had a hand in digging it?

So, how often have you gotten away from the consequences of your evil, your mischief, your lies, your own pits and violence?

I would daresay never for the following reasons: (a) someone has caught you and challenged you with it, (b) you have caught yourself and either have let it cause you to come to repentance or you have let its poison filter throughout your life and relationships until you are miserable (falling into your own pit), or (c) God has caught you.

We answer to others, we answer to ourselves, and we answer to God.  We never answer to nobody.

And in case we miss the real point, when we think we have gotten away with it (whatever “it” is), we may have done so in the short term (because our pit is shallow and really not very obvious, particularly if we don’t look at it).  And we may have gotten away with it in the medium term (because our pit, although deep, can be avoided by giving wide berth to it and walking around it).  But we never get away with it in the long term because of a simple concept called “judgment.”

There will be a payday for our evil, our mischief, our lies, our violence, and our pit-digging.  It may be tonight while we try to go to sleep and what is brought to mind are amends we need to make.  I may be tomorrow morning while we confess our sins before our God who knows them already anyway.  It may be next year while we try to deal with an ulcer, a failed marriage or family relationship, addiction, depression, or other pit we may have fallen into.  It may not be until we die and confront judgment.

But one day there will be a payday.

On that payday, will we receive the wages of sin or the gift of life?

_________

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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