Bread – Intend

February 29, 2016


Psalm 9

“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;

I will recount all of Your wonderful deeds.

I will be glad and exult in You;

I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.”  Ps. 9:1-2

“I will” are perhaps the most abused words in the English language.  “I will pray for you.”  How many of us have said that and then not?  “I will take out the garbage.”  How many of us have said that and then not?  “I will call him/her/it when I get a chance.”  How many of us have said that and then not?

When I read this Psalm, which is described by many as a “praise” Psalm, I asked myself the question of why David didn’t just do it.  Why didn’t he say “I give…,” “I recount….,” “I am glad…,” and “I sing…”?  Why did David say “I will” when he could have just done it?

There are perhaps several potential answers to this question.  One is that David may have been thinking about the future, about a variety of circumstances to occur in the future, and in a sense be committing himself now to praising God in those circumstances then, because he knew himself and knew that, in those future circumstances, he would not be inclined to praise God unless he remembered that he said he would.   And, indeed, that is a good thing – for us to contemplate today what may happen tomorrow and to steel ourselves today for what we will do tomorrow when something bad happens.  For example, if a bad person says to you “Deny Jesus Christ or die by having your head chopped off,”  what will you do then?  Rather than waiting for that to happen and then thinking about it, it might be a good time today to ask of yourself whether, in a crisis, you would deny Jesus.  Just like we plan today for tomorrow in our personal and business lives, maybe we should plan today for tomorrow in our spiritual lives.

Another potential answer is that David meant something by the word “will.”  I used the word “intend” to describe Bread today because, in modern English, there has been a softening of the word “will” to mean “intend.”  Today, when we say we “will” do something, it often means that we “intend” to do it, so it is OK if we don’t.  In David’s time and in our not-so-far distant past, the word “will” though meant something much more like a “firm intent,” a “promise,” a declaration of what we will do “come what may, in all circumstances.”  At a time when a promise means something, then to say “I will” is a form of “bond oath” which will not be broken if at all possible.  Today, we might even say that people of integrity will keep a promise, pay a debt, do what they say they “will” do, no matter what.  But if you only “intend” to do it, then it is OK if you change your mind or just forget.  Therefore, for modern man, it is easier for us to say “I will” when we really mean “I intend” than it is to say “I will” and mean it.  For David, however, the statement “I will” probably meant something like “You can count on me to do it no matter what.”

But neither thinking and planning for the future nor a discussion of the strength of the commitment of “I will” really deals with the question of, if David says “I will,” then why didn’t he also then just do it.  Rather than say, “I will pray for you,” why not just pray for the person?  Rather than say, “I will take out the garbage,” why not just take out the garbage?

This is typically where I begin to wonder if the translation is complete and so I go to more basic sources.  However, in this matter, I hit the wall on my ability to use the Hebrew reference materials I have access to.   Although I was able to find the Hebrew symbols and a simple English letter translation of those symbols, I could not find a translation of the “words” themselves which I could understand.

So, like so many things, we are left to wonder – when David said, “I will,” is the correct interpretation that he will in the future or that he has in the past, is in the present, and will in the future?

And then it hit me, what difference does it make?  God is a God of new beginnings.  If I have not praised Him in the past and am not in the present, then what is keeping me from doing it tomorrow?  Nothing, really … unless I only “intend” to and am using tomorrow as the opportunity to avoid today.  And why would I do that if my “I will” has meaning?  If my “I will” has meaning, then now is the perfect time.  If “I will” is but a wisp of a promise, then tomorrow will never come.

And then I realized the truth – “I will” means now, this minute.

“Will”you praise God now, or only intend to tomorrow?

_________

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

 

 

 

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Bread – Jumble

July 25, 2014


Readings for Friday, July 25, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Joshua 9:22-10:15; Rom. 15:14-24; Matt. 27:1-10; Psalms 40,51,54

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Today’s readings are a collection of events. In Joshua, the Gibeonites have surrendered to Israel, Amorite kings band together to attack Gibeon, Gibeon appeals to Israel for protection, and Israel smashes the Amorite kings in battle led by the Lord. In Romans, Paul discusses his pride in Christ Jesus in doing God’s work among the Gentiles, telling the Romans that he will visit them on his way to Spain. In Matthew, Jesus is delivered to Pilate, Judas tries to give back the money he was paid for his betrayal, and the priests buy the potter’s field with the thirty pieces of silver.

One of the things I try to do in Bread is to integrate the daily readings into some message. But, today, the three readings to me look like a jumble. Each verse is important, of course, but what do the readings have in common?

Isn’t this the picture of the Christian walk so many times? We read Scripture and of a number of jumbled images and instructions, which to us at first glance appear to be incoherent. We ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit and get a mess of different inputs. We ask fellow Christians for counsel and get a variety of responses. We reach into our own minds and resources and come up with a jumbled mess.

So what are we to make of all this jumble? What are we to make of Scripture, answers to prayer, worship, thoughts, and feelings which make no coherent sense?

The answer is really quite simple … wait upon the Lord. Throughout Scripture, God says that He gives wisdom to those who ask. Ask, and then wait for clarity. It will come, perhaps not on our timetable, but it will come.

And today is an object lesson in that. I read our Scripture lessons for today and concluded that there was nothing to tie them together; nothing to write about. I then realized that the jumble of Scripture was in fact an example of the jumble of life, and I have written on that.

But I went to the Lord in frustration, saying that there was nothing in these to write about … and the Lord said, “not so fast.” And then I realized that each Scripture reading today is a picture into each believer’s life as they live into what God has called them to. In Joshua, God has called Israel to take the land He has prepared for them. The story today is but a byway in that path to His purpose, reminding us that there will be opposition, allies, enemies, and battles … but that He will help and His will be done. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, God has called Paul to preach to the Gentiles and to be His ambassador in the world. Sometimes this means that Paul gets to go where he wants to go; other times it means that he gets to go where God wants him to go. Regardless of where he goes and who he sees, there is opportunity for him to fulfill God’s purpose for him, reminding us that we may not get to do what we think is important, but in the midst of our confusion, God’s purpose in our life is being worked out. In Matthew, God the Father has called God the Son to the cross to sacrifice Himself for our sins. While on this journey to fulfill God’s purpose, Jesus is betrayed by a close friend, a disciple of His. This is a picture of us, that as we pursue God’s purpose in our life, we may well be betrayed and hurt by those closest to us.

Whether pitched in battle against those who would defeat us if they could (Joshua), whether engaged with traitors and enemies (Jesus), or whether just sitting in a chair in a room which feels empty (Paul), all three readings today do have a common theme – God is present, God is fighting for us, God is leading us, God’s will in our lives and in the world will be fulfilled. We may be confused as to what to do next, injured in battle, or hurt by the betrayal of friends … but as Christians we have and will overcome.

Funny how, if we let Him, God takes the jumble in our lives and turns it into a clear statement of who He is. We may not see it at the time, but God does. And we will too, if we continue to walk with Him, talk with Him, grow with Him, love Him, and live in Him.

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© 2014 GBF

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