Whom Did They Hate without Cause?

Today’s reading is Psalm 35.

Without cause, they hid a net to trap the psalmist. Without cause, they dug a pit for the psalmist to fall in. Why? Because without cause, they hated the psalmist. But who is it they really hate without cause?

John 15:25 explains they really hate Jesus without cause. Once again, while this psalm is about David, it is ultimately about Jesus.

Did you notice the connection to Psalm 22, a psalm everyone agrees is about Jesus because He quotes it on the cross? In Psalm 22:21-22, the big shift in the psalm happens. The speaker is saved from the mouth of the lion. Then He will praise God in the midst of the congregation. In Psalm 35:17, He asks to be rescued from the lions. In vs. 18, He promises to thank God in the congregation.

Psalm 35 is not a foretelling of the Messiah, of Jesus. However, when Jesus is falsely accused and the enemies put Him on trial, threatening His life, we say, “Hmmmm…that sounds kind of like a guy who would pray, ‘Contend for those who contend with me.'” When we hear about Jesus facing traps, false accusers, malicious witnesses, folks who rejoice at His death, we say, “I think I’ve read about something like this before.” When we hear about people testifying to the things they saw from Jesus, but they are lies, we think about those who cry, “Aha, Aha! Our eyes have seen it!” And, of course, did you read what I shared with your kids yesterday? When we hear specifically about a Jesus whose bones were unbroken, we can’t help but come back to this psalm and the previous to read of one whose bones are unbroken (Psalm 34:20) and those same bones rejoice (Psalm 35:9-10). When we witness Jesus praying three times in Gethsemane, we are reminded of the triple prayer of request for deliverance in Psalm 35.

As with other psalms, the point is not so much reading a foretelling prophecy and seeing its fulfillment in Jesus as if it is proof that Jesus really is the Messiah. Rather, its about recognizing that Jesus did more than fulfill foretelling prophecies. Rather, He reiterated David. He reiterated Israel. He fulfilled the entire Old Testament story, walking in the footsteps of so many of God’s servants, but doing so perfectly and without mistake.

After all, as we say again and again, David can only claim that there was no cause to hate him in a modified sense. For instance, I think Ahithophel had all kind of cause to hate David (see 2 Samuel 11:3; 23:34). But there was absolutely no reason to hate Jesus. Even Pilate knew he was innocent.

The psalm divides the world into two groups: those who deny the righteousness of Jesus and those who delight in the righteousness of Jesus. Let us be those who delight in it. Let us be those who shout for joy and are glad that the Lord delighted in the welfare of Jesus, His Servant, and delivered His soul from the grave.

Next week’s reading is Psalm 36.

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!

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As the Lord Gave Opportunity

Today’s reading is Acts 25.

How amazing is this? Paul gets to share the gospel not only with crowds of Gentiles on his missionary journeys and crowds of Jews in Jerusalem, he gets to speak to governors, kings, military tribunes, and prominent men of the city. These are huge opportunities. It makes me wonder if my prayers for opportunities to share the gospel are too small. What if we got the opportunity to share the gospel with the movers and shakers of our communities? Or with our state and national leaders? Or with some of those social influencers on television, the radio, and the internet? I rarely think about praying for those kinds of opportunities because I view them as impossible. Perhaps today I will spend my prayers asking for big opportunities. After all, these are doors opened not by our earthly social network, but by our spiritual network. The most “connected” being in the universe is surely able to open any door we ask for. After all, nothing will be impossible for God. How about we ask and let Him decide whether or not He’ll open the doors.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 25.

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Permission to Speak

Today’s reading is Acts 21.

I am completely shocked. Put yourself in the shoes of the Roman tribune in Jerusalem. A mob is attacking a man. Your first thought is he must be one of those assassins who have been making so much trouble during feast days around Jerusalem. You’ve decided your going to arrest him and get to the bottom of this. Folks are screaming and hollering. Your soldiers are buffeted by the crowds. And then the man says, “May I say something?” He clearly wants to address the crowd. What are you likely to say? Maybe you are different from me, but I know me. I would say, “No! Get inside!” However, that isn’t what happened at all. The Roman tribune gave Paul permission to speak. He gave him permission to speak not only to the tribune himself, not only to the soldiers surrounding him, but to the entire mob. WOW! I obviously don’t know what it was about the tribune or his background and experience that led him to grant this permission. I do know this. When God is on your side, amazing things happen and amazing opportunities are given. Paul didn’t simply look for opportunities; he made opportunities. And therefore, God granted him opportunities. That is the kind of God we serve. May we make, look for, and seize the opportunities He gives us to speak His gospel message. Then let us give Him the glory. Praise the Lord!

Next week’s reading is Acts 22.

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Tabitha: A Servant Worth Raising

Today’s reading is Acts 9.

Like Aeneas, the story of Tabitha is told to anchor our faith that Peter is still a faithful apostle. He isn’t going rogue. The Lord is with Him. That is why he can not only raise a lame man up from the ground, but a deceased woman up from the dead. However, I just want us to stop and consider how fascinating this is. In Acts 8, Stephen, a deacon and evangelist, is martyred. The disciples mourn him, bury him, and move on. In Acts 12, James, an apostle and evangelist, is executed. The disciples will mourn him, bury him, and move on. Tabitha, a disciple who makes garments for widows dies, and the disciples say, “Stop! We need her back.” And Peter comes in and raises her from the dead. This goes a long way to explain the most important role in the kingdom of Christ: Servant. Not apostle. Not preacher. Not deacon. Not elder. Not Bible class teacher. Servant. Oh, sure, those other roles are important, but only because they are a form of service. Sadly, today there is a whole host of arguing about who gets to stand on the stage as if the people who fill those roles are somehow the most important. It’s just not true. The most important roles can be filled by all Christians. Who will you serve today?

Next week’s reading is Acts 10.

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Greatest in the Kingdom

Today’s reading is Luke 22.

Talk about an upside down kingdom. Who is the greatest in Christ’s kingdom? Is it the one who makes the most money? Is it the one who demonstrates the most power? Is it the one who has the most oratory skill? Is it the one who demonstrates the highest intellectual acumen? No. It is the one who serves the most humbly. It is not the one who sits at the table directing everyone else how to behave while being served. Rather, it is the one who gets up from the table and serves. The greatest in the kingdom is the foot washer, the gutter cleaner, the baby sitter, the hospital visitor, the clothes maker, the food preparer. On the list could go. In Christ’s kingdom, we don’t get promoted to success and greatness, we descend to it. As Jesus descended from heaven not only to become a man but to become a servant who died a criminal’s death in order to exalt us, the greatest in the kingdom descend to greatness through service and sacrifice. May we be more like Jesus today.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 22.

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Who Wins?

Today’s reading is Luke 19.

Which of the servants won? I mean, obviously the servant who wrapped up his mina in a handkerchief lost. But what about between the other two. Which one won? Both are congratulated by the nobleman/king. Both are awarded cities to rule in the nobleman’s new kingdom. Granted, the 10 mina fellow received more cities and even got the 1 mina man’s mina. But the question seems silly because we understand this wasn’t a competition. Both the 10 mina servant and the 5 mina servant won, but neither of them beat the 1 mina man. Neither did one beat the other. In fact, when I recognize that both of them attributed their success to the mina they were given and not to their own investing prowess, I realize even more how little competition there was between them. Were the mina’s competing? Of course not. This is a problem I often have. I compete. I tend to view everything as a competition. If my wife and I are driving separate cars to the same location, it automatically becomes a race, and I think getting there first says something about my personal value and self-worth. It’s really kind of ridiculous. I find it hard to listen to other preachers because in my mind I’m thinking how I could have done it better or how I could never have done as well as they did or how I would have done it differently. Then I’m wondering if the audience likes the preacher they are hearing now better than they like me and my preaching. I recently read this line in a book:

“Relationships that involve competition may give us a fleeting sense of connection. ‘At least we’re all in this together,’ we may think. But in the end it’s hard to count on a friend who is also an opponent.”*

When I grasp that it is the Master’s mina that is doing the heavy lifting, I can drop the competition. It’s not about me. My job is merely to put the Master’s mina to the best use I can. The Master can decide what kind of return to give it and what kind of fruit to let it bear (just to mix metaphors). In the end, whether the Master’s mina produces 10 minas, 5 minas, or only 1 mina for us, we win. The only time we lose is when we think it is a competition about our ability and decide not to use the Master’s mina.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 19.

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The Other Side of Jesus

Today’s reading is Luke 19.

When the wicked servant expresses his fear of the nobleman’s severity, the nobleman doesn’t respond, “Come now. Why do you think that? I am gracious and loving. I would never take what I didn’t deposit and reap what I didn’t sow. Here, try again. This time, let me be of more help.” Instead, the nobleman condemns the wicked slave, removes his mina, gives it to another servant. Then, he goes and slaughters all the people who didn’t want him to be their king. Here is the big question. Whom does the nobleman represent in this story? Have you thought about it? Are you ready to say it? The nobleman is Jesus. Never believe that the gracious love of the Lord and King Jesus Christ means He is someone to be trifled with, taken for granted, or taken advantage of. We cannot dismiss Him, ignore Him, or defy Him and then when He comes in judgment protest, “But I thought you were loving and gracious.” For those who put their faith in Him, He is a gracious and victorious strength for deliverance, rescue, and salvation. For those who refuse to surrender to Him, He is a severe and dominating judge for punishment and condemnation. Jesus is not a two-dimensional character in a poorly developed book. He is a multi-faceted complex being who was God in the flesh. Because of His gracious love, we do not have to live in terror of His severe judgment, but we must not forget it either.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 19.

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Your Mina

Today’s reading is Luke 19.

“Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.” Did you catch that? The servant didn’t say, “Hey Lord; look what I did with your mina.” As far as the servant was concerned, the mina did the work. This explains the fatal flaw of the third servant. The servant’s problem was not that he didn’t believe in himself. The problem was he didn’t believe in the Lord’s mina. He thought the success of the business depended on himself. So, he did nothing. The other two believed the success depended on the Lord’s mina. I know I have a lot to learn from these servants. How about you?

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 19.

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Loyal Stewardship

Today’s reading is Luke 16.

We’ve notice the first two points of Jesus’s three point lesson on stewardship. His first point was about shrewd stewardship. That is, using our material goods as a means to prepare for eternity. His second point was about faithful stewardship. That is, using our material goods the way the one who actually owns them wants them to be used. And now His third point: Loyal Stewardship. Sadly, many stewards forget who they are serving. They spend so much time with the money and material goods, they begin to serve the money and the material goods. This can especially happen when we lose sight of Jesus’s second point about stewardship. If we think financial stewardship means doing everything we can to be “wise” with our money, making more money and saving more money, we can imperceptibly get to the point of letting money be our God. Of course, if we abandon all concept of stewardship and think money is simply the ticket to the fun life, we end up letting money be our God then as well. We cannot, however, have two gods. Sooner or later, they will come face to face with each other and we will have to choose. We will either sacrifice our money for God or we will sacrifice God for our money. Jesus’s third point is make this choice wisely. We can use our money now to prepare relationships for our eternal dwellings, but we won’t be able to take our money with us to pay for eternal dwellings. Only God can save us, deliver us, and usher us into those eternal dwellings. If that means sacrificing our money, so be it.

Today’s reading is Luke 16.

A Word for Our Kids

Hey kids, Jesus said you cannot serve God and money. I wish I had said the following first, but I read it somewhere. However, I thought it might help you. Jesus didn’t give advice. That is, He didn’t say, “You shouldn’t serve God and money.” He doesn’t give instruction. That is, He didn’t say, “Do not serve God and money.” He doesn’t even give a command. That is, He didn’t say “Thou shalt not serve God and money.” He simply stated a fact. “You cannot serve God and money.” You can’t do it. Try as you might, serving God and money won’t happen. You will serve either one or the other. Now, you can be like some and try to prove Jesus wrong. But that won’t work. Eventually, one of the two (or something else) will be god of your life. You will choose one to rule you and for which you will sacrifice everything else. Make sure that one is the one, true God.

Who’s the Greatest?

Today’s reading is Luke 9.

The kingdom of Jesus is upside down. The competition is not for who is the greatest, but who is the least. And Jesus set the bar high. Or maybe I should say low. He is the greatest. He is the King. Not of a country, not of the world, not even of the universe. He is the king of all things in heaven and on earth, of the earthly realm and the heavenly places, of the present age and the age to come. He is the sovereign ruler. However, He stepped off His throne and into the world. He didn’t come as a king or ruler. Rather, he came as the seemingly illegitimate son of a backwoods carpenter of an oppressed people. He grew up in the most backwater of their towns. However, that wasn’t low enough. Though He was beloved by many, He was ultimately arrested as an insurrectionist and died the death of a criminal. He stooped that low to save you and me. Jesus is no leader who says, “Do as I say, not as I do.” He stepped up (or I should say down). He showed the way. He walked the path. We do not impress Him with our greatness. Let’s quit trying to. Rather, let us be impressed by Him, by His way of life, by His stooping service. Let us be so impressed we let Him imprint His manner of living on us. “Make me a servant, just like Your Son,” we sing. Today, let’s live it.

Next week’s reading is Luke 10.

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