When the Wicked Look Like the Blessed

Today’s reading is Psalm 37.

David says:

I have seen a wicked, ruthless man,
spreading himself like a green laurel tree.

Wait! What? That’s not right. Wicked people are chaff driven by the wind. They are not green trees, spreading out and growing. Just reread Psalm 1.

Yet, David has seen wicked trees. They look a lot like the fruitful trees of the blessed. They have their eye on the blessed, the righteous. They are doing what they can to afflict the righteous, to cut them off, to put them to death. All the while parading about like blessed trees. However, they are diseased.

David’s wise lesson on this? Don’t fret. They may look like a tree for a short time. But give it some time; the wicked tree will disappear. That is, though it appears to be a solid, stable tree, it will demonstrate that it is actually no more substantial than the chaff the wind blows away.

In fact, we Christians might remember Jesus’s own teaching here. You will know the tree by its fruit. And the tree that doesn’t produce healthy fruit gets cut down and thrown into the fire (see Matthew 7: 17-20).

When you see the wicked looking like the blessed, don’t get bent out of shape. Just wait on the Lord. He’ll set things to rights in His time. And those who are His will be the ones truly blessed.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 37.

PODCAST!!!

Click here to take about 15 minutes to listen to the Text Talk conversation between Andrew Roberts and Edwin Crozier sparked by this post.

Discuss the following questions with your family.

  1. What are your initial reactions to the psalm and the written devo above?
  2. Have you ever seen a time when wicked people looked like they were blessed?
  3. How does Satan use these seemingly blessed wicked people as a threat to God’s people?
  4. How does Jesus’s teaching in Matthew 7:17-20 help you respond when you see wicked people who appear blessed?
  5. What do you think we should pray for and about in light of this psalm and our discussion today?

Impenitence and Imprecation

Today’s reading is Psalm 35.

We call them imprecatory psalms. They give us no end of consternation. To imprecate someone is to invoke a curse on them. Thus, imprecatory psalms are psalms that call for people to be cursed by God. Jesus tells us to love our enemies, to pray for them, to bless them. Rather than wanting them to be judged and condemned, we should want them to repent and be justified. Yet, David calls down the curses of God on his enemies. What is that about?

While there are quite a few statements that are imprecatory in the Psalms, there are only a handful of psalms that get so deep into this that the psalm is called imprecatory. Psalm 35 is pretty universally accepted as being one of those psalms.

David asks God to take a spear and javelin (some translations say battle-axe) against his pursuers. He wants them to be driven away like chaff. He wants their way to become dark and slippery. He wants destruction to come on them. He wants them to fall into their own pits. Let’s be honest. That’s pretty intense.

While some take Psalm 35 as the first of the imprecatory psalms. Others attribute that honor to Psalm 7. Obviously, these psalms didn’t come labeled with our modern labels. Whether Psalm 7 is the first imprecatory psalm or not, there is a statement in that psalm we need to remember with all of the imprecatory psalms and statements we read.

If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts.

Psalm 7:12-13

It is interesting to note that Psalm 7 goes on to say of the wicked, “He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made. His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends.” This sounds a great deal like the imprecations of Psalm 35:7-8.

There are many things we can say about imprecations in the psalms, but at the top of the list needs to be this. Very early in the Psalms, the template for curses and imprecations is established. These curses are for those who refuse to repent. Underlying every imprecation is the understanding that just as we were forgiven when we repented, if others repent, they will be forgiven. Undergirding every imprecation is the understanding that the one praying the imprecation would rather see repentance in others, just as God allowed it in us.

However, if someone continues impenitently in rebellion against God and in their attacks on God’s people, then cursing is what will come. While our first line of prayer for people is for their salvation and well-being, as David’s was in Psalm 35:13-14, we recognize it is right to pray for God to bring justice for God’s people and bring judgment on the impenitent enemies of God’s people (see Paul in 2 Timothy 4:14; 1 Corinthians 16:22; Galatians 1:8-9; Revelation 6:10).

And, of course, it is always proper to notice that these imprecations are not saints meting out their personal revenge on others. In each case, these writers are leaving room for the judgment of God. They are bringing these prayers to God for Him to answer in the way He sees as best.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 35.

PODCAST!!!

Click here to take about 15 minutes to listen to the Text Talk conversation between Andrew Roberts and Edwin Crozier sparked by this post!

Continue reading “Impenitence and Imprecation”

Who are the Wicked?

Today’s reading is Psalm 28.

Back in Psalm 24, when David was explaining the qualifications for those who can actually climb God’s Holy Hill, he said they had to have clean hands and a pure heart. Now, in Psalm 28, when he is scared he might get dragged off with the wicked, he brings us back to their deceitful hearts and defiled hands. As we consider who these people might be, we can imagine all kinds of terrible, awful, vile, violent, immoral things these people who deserve the titles “wicked” and “workers of evil” have done. And there is certainly a whole gambit of possibilities. Interestingly enough, it might include a list of sins that David committed. You know, adultery and murder. Look again through the psalm, however, and see if you can spot what actually makes someone wicked. Do you see it in vs. 5? “Because they do not regard the works of the Lord or the work of his hands, he will tear them down and build them up no more.” In fact, do you notice how there is a shift in personal reference for the Lord in this verse? In vss. 1-4, David is referring to the Lord in second person (you, your). In vs. 5, it switches to third person (He, His). David is drawing attention to this verse to highlight that it is not merely prayer, but instruction. It is wisdom from the Lord. And what actually marks the wicked as wicked? Not regarding the Lord. Not regarding the work of the Lord’s hands. This may cause all kinds of activities we think of as evil. Or it may just cause someone to eat a fruit from a forbidden tree. It may just cause someone to offer a different fire on the alter. It may just cause someone to reach out and touch the Ark of the Covenant. It may just cause someone to start worshiping a bronze serpent that God commissioned to be made. It may even cause someone to put more faith in the Jerusalem Temple than in Jesus Christ. The fact is people won’t be dragged away in judgment because their sins were worse than everyone else’s. Folks will be dragged away in judgment because they had more regard for the works of their own hands than the works of God’s hands. God’s view of wicked is different from ours. That’s why David, an adulterer and murderer, doesn’t get dragged off with the wicked. He had regard for God and God’s work as demonstrated by his humble repentance. That’s why Saul got dragged away, he ultimately didn’t as demonstrated by consulting the medium on his final day. And that will be the ultimate distinction between those in Christ’s kingdom and those cast into the outer darkness. Whose work are you regarding?

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 28.

PODCAST!!!

Click here to take about 15 minutes and listen to the Text Talk conversation between Andrew Roberts and Edwin Crozier sparked by this post!

Continue reading “Who are the Wicked?”

J-E-S-U-S is not the Name of Jesus

Today’s reading is Acts 19.

Paul baptized in the name of Jesus. He preached in the name of Jesus. He cast out demons in the name of Jesus. So Sceva’s seven sons decided to ride on his coattails. They confronted a man possessed by an evil spirit saying things like, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” But the evil spirit didn’t listen. Instead, he attacked them, whipped them, and sent them packing. “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” And we learn a significantly important point. The name of Jesus isn’t merely the word “Jesus.” Just pronouncing the collection of letters J-E-S-U-S does not mean we are acting in the name of Jesus. Acting in Jesus’s name means actually acting based upon the authority and power that He offers. You can’t just tack His name onto something and suddenly spiritualize or Christianize it, or even make it right. Cycling for Jesus. Karate for Jesus. Cooking for Jesus. Just adding the word doesn’t actually make it for Jesus. It really has to be what Jesus has asked for or authorized. Only then are we really doing something for Jesus.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 19.

Continue reading “J-E-S-U-S is not the Name of Jesus”

Replace the Spirits

Today’s reading is Luke 11.

While we are certainly supposed to put our sins to death, being a disciple is not about stopping behaviors. It is actually about replacing behaviors. If all we do is cast out the evil spirit, we can do our dead level best to sweep up the house and keep it in order, but that spirit will simply bring seven more. Nature abhors a vacuum. So does our very being. If all we strive to do is get rid of bad stuff in our lives, we will only ever find the bad stuff taking over. It’s like trying to make yourself not think about pink hippopotamuses. Jesus doesn’t verbalize the actual instruction when He offers the warning. But can there be any doubt what the instruction is? When the evil spirit is cast out, it needs to be replaced by the Holy Spirit. I can try with all my might to keep out the evil spirit, but if I don’t invite God in, allowing Him to take up residence, rearranging the furniture as He sees fit, controlling the remote, calling the shots, and filling the space with His presence, then all my attempts at control are nothing more than vacuuming the carpet as the tornado targets my house. Don’t evict the spirits, replace them. That is discipleship.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 11.

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Reviled

Today’s reading is Luke 6.

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven for so their fathers did to the prophets.”

Please note, Jesus doesn’t say someone is blessed merely because they have been excluded or hated or spurned. We are blessed when the reason we are hated, excluded, or spurned as evil is our support of Jesus Christ and His will. This passage does not teach the modern concept of cultural inclusivity. In fact, what it does teach about goes right along with the fact that the one thing our modern culture is not willing to include is faithfulness to Jesus. We will be excluded. We will be hated. We will be spurned as evil. Don’t be surprised when it happens. And definitely, don’t abandon Jesus because it happens. If you are standing with Jesus, count yourself blessed when people hate you for it. And always stand with Jesus.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 6.

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When Did That Get in There?

Today’s reading is Matthew 12.

I’m not going to share something with you from today’s reading so much as from my own experience with today’s reading. How many times have I read Matthew? I can’t even count. For the first time that I can remember, I noticed a statement. At the end of Matthew 12:43-45, when Jesus spoke about the vanquished unclean spirit coming back with seven friends to take over and making the latter state worse than the first, He actually ends the paragraph by saying, “So also will it be with this evil generation.” I have read right through that before and never even noticed that phrase. I don’t quite know what to make of it. Is He simply saying things are going to be bad in the judgment for “this evil generation” (see the previous paragraph)? Is He saying that “this evil generation” initially responds but ultimately will be in a bad state? After all, quite a few start to follow Him but end up shouting “Crucify Him” in the end. Is He saying that He is here to clean up this evil generation and initially it will seem to work, but they will ultimately end up worse off because of their rejection? Or is He saying that just like that whole demon-possessed situation leaves a person worse off in the end, the evil generation will be worse off because before Jesus came they had less of an excuse but after He is done, they will have no excuse? I’m not exactly sure what this phrase is saying. I’m going to have to spend some serious time digging into this. But this is another one of those reminders. We think we have read and we know, but there is always more. We often think certain topics and texts are beneath us because we’ve figured them out so they aren’t really for us any more. But that just isn’t so. With every topic and text we are missing so much. We need to keep reading. Keep studying. Keep teaching. Then go back and do it all over again.

Tomorrow’s reading is Matthew 13.

Continue reading “When Did That Get in There?”

Blessing, Harmony, Peace, and Honor

Today’s reading is Romans 12.

I imagine you are reading this on the same device you access social media. When you move from this post to Facebook (or you may be reading it there), Twitter, Instagram, or whatever other platform you socialize virtually on, please remember today’s reading. Bless those who persecute and curse you. Don’t curse them in return. You don’t have to agree with everyone, but at least communicate with harmony. Don’t repay evil for evil, give good instead. Honor others and do what is honorable. Be at peace as much as it depends on you. Sure, there are plenty of people who are going to do bad, evil things. Don’t respond in kind. Overcome evil with good. One of the true life-changing differences the gospel makes is not how we treat the people most like us and whom we most like. It is in how we treat people who don’t like us, are not like us, and whom we don’t like all that much. And what better place to start that gospel life change than right now while you are online? After all, Jesus didn’t die for a bunch of people who were nice to Him.

Tomorrow’s reading is Romans 13.

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Imitate Good

Today’s reading is 3 John 1.

I get it. Some passages in the Bible are really complex. You’ve read them again and again and you still wonder exactly what they mean. But have you ever read anything in the Bible and you just said, “Well, duh. That is so simple; why didn’t I think of that?” How about this one: “Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good.” Well, duh. That is so simple; why didn’t I think of that? Sure, there are lots of complex theological principles to discover and learn, so we need to keep reading our Bibles. But lets start with this very practical, simple bit of advice. Don’t imitate people who are doing bad things, imitate people who are doing good. Start by imitating Jesus. Let’s see how that works today.

Tomorrow’s reading is Revelation 1.

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