From Bad to Worse

Today’s reading is Psalm 36.

Imagine yourself at the fork of two paths where two guides encourage you in opposite directions. You know one of them leads where you ultimately want to go, but the other looks fun. It is more pleasing to the eye. It doesn’t look quite as difficult. “Besides,” the guide for that path tells you, “after you’ve had all your fun on my path, you can always hop over to the other path. Just look at how close together they are.” They do seem pretty close. That sounds like a pretty solid plan.

The problem is the guide is lying. That isn’t how it works. Once you start walking on Transgression’s path, you get farther and farther from God’s path. While it is true you always have the option to repent and make your way to God’s path, the farther down Sin’s path you go, the more settled, the more deceived, the more entrenched you become. It is not that repentance becomes less of an option, it simply becomes less likely.

David shows us the path in sin, reminding us again of the very first psalm. In Psalm 1, we see the general settling and entrenchment of the wicked. They start by walking according to the counsel of the wicked, progress to standing in the way of the sinner, and finally settle down to sit in the seat of the scoffer. In Psalm 36, Transgression begins with flattery. “No one will know. You won’t get caught. It’s not that big of a deal. Just this once.” But it is trouble and deceit that ends by having evil thinking and plotting at all times, even when lying in bed. The wicked, no doubt, always assumes eventually they’ll get back to God’s path. But they end up on an evil path that is increasingly difficult to abandon.

That voice telling you today’s sin doesn’t matter that much is lying. Don’t trust it. Trust God. He knows the way of the righteous. His steadfast love is precious. He delivers.

Tomorrow’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.

Continue reading “From Bad to Worse”

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!

Continue reading “Whom Did They Hate without Cause?”

David Stumbles on the Lord’s Way

Today’s reading is Psalm 34.

Do you ever fear that stumbling and falling while walking the Lord’s way means it’s all over? Do you worry that because you messed up you’ve become lost? The Thirty-fourth Psalm helps. This is going to be a little longer than usual, but I think it will be worth it.

The ancient heading given to this psalm is “Of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away” (ESV). There are a couple of problems. First, we turn back to 1 Samuel 21:10-15 and discover the king’s name was Achish, not Abimelech. This is probably not that big of a deal. From Genesis 20 & 26 (especially 26:1), it appears just as Pharaoh was the title for Egyptian kings and Caesar for Roman emperors, Abimelech was the title for Philistine kings. Thus, Psalm 34 uses the title of the office while 1 Samuel 21 gives the name of the individual.

The second problem is bigger. Why would anyone ever think this psalm had anything to do with that moment? It just doesn’t fit. Why would a psalm that claims “Blessed is the man who takes refuge in [the Lord]” have anything to do with an event in which David took refuge among the Philistines. Why would a psalm that says “Keep your lips from speaking deceit” have anything to do with a moment in which David got out of trouble through deceit?

The resolution to the second struggle may be found by paying a bit more attention to the first one. Why does the title refer to Abimelech instead of Achish? Why prompt an unnecessary question and potential accusation of error that was so easy to avoid? Because whoever placed that title on this psalm was purposefully connecting David’s experience before Achish with two other events. In Genesis 20, Abraham goes before a king of the Philistines called Abimelech. In Genesis 26, Isaac goes before a king of the Philistines called Abimelech. What did both men do? Because of their fears, they deceived Abimelech. Both cases are examples of misplaced fear and weak faith. Abraham and Isaac both should have trusted God and been honest in those instances. Why would the person who titled this psalm draw these connections? Because we are supposed to recognize David’s attempt to take refuge among the Philistines was not wise; it was wrong. Further, David’s deception before Abimelech was not faith and trust; it was doubt and weakness just like Abraham’s and Isaac’s.

You may need to let that sink in for a minute. The ancient title explains this psalm is a meditation on a time when David severely stumbled on his path with the Lord. There is absolutely nothing exemplary about David’s trip to Philistia or his plan for escape.

And yet, this entire psalm is a declaration of deliverance by God in that moment. It is about a man who takes refuge in Yahweh. It is about a man who cries out to the Lord for deliverance. How? When we go back to the event itself, none of that is present (or at least not revealed).

So, what is going on here?

It is possible, as some suggest, that this psalm is giving us more information. The author of Samuel didn’t tell us everything, and now the psalmist is filling us in on the rest of the story. That, however, seems to speak against the whole connection to Abraham, Isaac, and Abimelech.

I think the more likely explanation is also the more comforting. David generally loves and seeks the Lord, walks on the Lord’s path, regards the work of the Lord’s hands, glorifies and honors the Lord. David’s life, in general, is about the Lord’s will and way. However, in this particular event, he stumbles. Whether because of fear, haste, presumption, or plain old knee-jerk thoughtlessness, David strikes out on a course that isn’t of the Lord. It’s not like it’s the only time David did something like that. It’s just too bad he doesn’t have an Abigail on hand to stop him this time. He strikes out on his own, and it goes south quickly. His life is in almost immediate danger.

Here’s the comforting part. How does God react? Rather than leaving David on his own, rather than hanging David out to dry, He delivered David anyway (just like He did Abraham and Isaac). God has a covenant with David, and God always honors it. David messes up on his end, but he doesn’t abandon the covenant. God is never looking to zap people for messing up. In fact, what we learn is there is a big difference between stumbling on the Lord’s way and abandoning the Lord’s way.

Now, before we sign off for today. Notice that this moment in which David messed up royally, but was delivered anyway didn’t lead David to say, “Oh good! I can lie if I want to. I can go take refuge in Philistia if I want to.” It didn’t cause him to say, “My God is gracious, it doesn’t matter whether I actually obey him.” No, the whole event drew him closer to God and prompted him to want to obey God even more faithfully. Finally, it provoked him to tell others about how important it is to take refuge in Yahweh, trusting Him. What a fantastic balance we find in this psalm.

Have you stumbled on the Lord’s path? Don’t abandon it. Pick yourself up, by the grace of the Lord, and keep walking on His path. He will deliver you. That is just the kind of God we serve. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 34.

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 “David Stumbles on the Lord’s Way”

The Lord Knows the Way of the Righteous

Today’s reading is Psalm 1.

The main principle of Psalm 1 is that we don’t get to choose where our path goes, we only get to choose which path we get on. When we choose our path, the choice of our end has been made. And the way of the wicked will perish. Grasp the picture here. The psalmist doesn’t say the wicked will perish, but the way of the wicked will perish. That is, the way the wicked chooses is like a path in the Everglades that promises to lead you safely through, but in the middle leads into the boggy swamp which sucks in every one who tries to pass through. Or you might envision a path in a desert that promises to lead to the oasis, but ends up only giving a mirage that turns out to be death for any who try to pass that way. However, God knows the way of the righteous. That is, the way that the Lord directs is the way of righteousness. It is the way to righteousness. It is the way to salvation. Today, we stand at the head of two paths. Both promise life, but only one delivers. That is God’s way. Which way are you walking? Know this. It will never be easier than today to get on God’s way. If we can help you do so, let us know.

Next week’s reading is Psalm 2.

Continue reading “The Lord Knows the Way of the Righteous”

Delighting in God’s Law

Today’s reading is Psalm 1.

The blessed avoid the counsel of the wicked and instead delight in God’s Law. What?! Delight in Law? Really? Who’s going to do that? Law is restrictive and confining. Law is a real downer. It is always telling me what I can’t do when I want to and what I have to do even if I don’t want to. It’s going to be really hard for me to delight in any Law, even God’s. However, this is a complete misunderstanding of Law. Think about the law of the road. It is true that there are some laws that restrict activities. We are told when we can go, how fast we can go, what direction we should go. Yet, it is all those rules that actually allow us to go safely. Driving is a dangerous prospect as is, but imagine if there were no laws and everyone was just doing whatever they felt like in the given moment. That would be a truly frightening prospect, one that would keep many of us off the road for fear. But the law of the road sets us free to drive in relative safety. Can we delight in that kind of law? Sure. God’s law is very similar. Rather than merely a restrictive code of conduct, think of God’s Law as a map. In fact, Torah, the word translated “Law” here can mean a way or a direction. His Law is telling us the way to find Him. It is telling us where He is, where He hangs out. If I decide to ignore a map, I’m not objectively punished for breaking the map rules. But I never get to my destination which is punishment enough. Not getting to God, being away from Him is most certainly punishment enough. In fact, we call that hell. Just like I can delight in a map that gets me to my family or friends in distant places, I can delight in a Law that leads me to God. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 1.

Continue reading “Delighting in God’s Law”

The Sect Spoken Against Everywhere

Today’s reading is Acts 28.

I half expect the Jews from Jerusalem to have sent a letter about Paul to the Jews of Rome. After all, even after two years of imprisonment in Caesarea, they were still trying to kill Paul. I expect them to try to get the Jews in Rome to finish the job. Perhaps they figured in Rome, Paul couldn’t cause any problems for them. Whatever the case, the Jews of Rome declare they haven’t been given any heads up about Paul, but they do know he is part of a “sect” spoken against everywhere. Today, we often live in fear that we will do something to cause the world to speak against us. But let’s face it, when we are doing everything right, Christ’s church will be spoken against everywhere. Let’s remember: our duty is to save souls, not win popularity contests. And let’s remember: just because we aren’t winning popularity contests, doesn’t mean we won’t save souls. After all, Christ’s church was spoken against everywhere in Paul’s day, but it was growing like crazy. God can do the same today.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 28.

Continue reading “The Sect Spoken Against Everywhere”

According to the Way

Today’s reading is Acts 24.

In Acts 24:5, Tertullus calls the kingdom of Christ the “sect of the Nazarenes.” But Paul makes a correction. It isn’t a sect of anything else. That is, it isn’t a branch or philosophy under the umbrella of any other ideology. It is the Way. I have no doubt, that name is used because Jesus is the Way. One of the very intriguing aspects of Christ’s church whether referring to the universal church or to the localized manifestations of it is the New Testament never names it. Rather, His citizenry is only ever described. Sometimes the head, source, owner of the church is the basis of the description. For instance, the church or churches of God (Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 1:2; et al), “the churches of God in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 2:14), “the church of the living God” (1 Timothy 3:15), “the churches of Christ” (Romans 16:16–the only place this is used), or simply “God’s church” (1 Timothy 3:5). Sometimes the geographical location is part of the description. For instance, “the churches of Judea that are in Christ” (Galatians 1:22) or “the churches of Galatia” (Galatians 1:2). Sometimes the folks who make up the congregation are part of the descriptions. For instance, “the church of the Laodiceans” (Colossians 4:16), “the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” or “the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven” (Hebrews 12:23–Notice “are” is the plural verb; the author is referring to the citizens as the firstborn, not the Christ). Sometimes the description is minimalistic, as if the authors just expected the readers to understand, and the word “church” is simply used (see 1 Timothy 5:16; James 5:14; 3 John 6, 9; et al). It is called the “household of God” (1 Timothy 3:15). It is described as a “flock” by Jesus (John 10:16) and Paul (Acts 20:28) and Peter (1 Peter 5:1-2). Notice none of these is a name. They are all descriptions. The closest the New Testament comes to naming Christ’s church is right here when Paul calls it The Way (see also Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23). And notice, it is not “a” way, it is “The Way.”

Today’s reading is Acts 24.

Continue reading “According to the Way”

Does Jesus Know You?

Today’s reading is Luke 13.

We often ask, “Do you know Jesus?” That is obviously an important question. However, today’s reading asks, “Does Jesus know you?” Jesus explains that a day is coming when the Master will shut the gate. Some will beg at that time, “Lord, open to us.” The Master will proclaim, “I don’t know you.” “Sure you do,” they will say. “We’ve eaten together. You taught outside my house. We’ve talked and visited and fellowshipped.” But the Master will repeat, “I don’t know you. You may have heard me teach, but you didn’t listen.” I’m paraphrasing of course. Obviously, in one sense, Jesus knows everybody. In the sense He is teaching about in today’s reading, He knows only a few. In the sense of actually having a true relationship with Jesus, only few enter His door. This is sad. There are many who would say, “Of course, I know Jesus. I’ve talked and even eaten with Him.” But Jesus says, “That doesn’t mean you know Me.” Knowing Jesus means hearing Jesus and heeding Him. It doesn’t mean simply knowing about Jesus or mimicking some aspects of Jesus. Knowing and being known by Jesus means surrendering to Him in every way. Not many will want to do that. Be one of those who do.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 13.

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Comfort and Caution

Today’s reading is Hebrews 10.

Because Jesus’s one sacrifice for sin actually works, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. Praise the Lord! What comfort. I don’t “go to church” as a sacrifice to get my sins forgiven. I don’t pray, read my Bible, give up some sin, teach people the gospel, or any other activity as a sacrifice to get my sins forgiven. I don’t have to chase forgiveness by my sacrifices. Rather, because Jesus’s sacrifice works, I live in His forgiveness and act based upon it. But, that means there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. What caution. If I decide to ditch the sacrifice of Jesus and live by the pleasures of my eyes and flesh and by my pride of life, pursuing sin impenitently, flippantly, carelessly, rebelliously, there is nothing I can do to make up for that. There is nothing else coming down the pike to take care of that. Jesus’s sacrifice is the one that works, and it is the only one that is coming. God has no plan B. My choices are either to ignore the one sacrifice that works and lose all hope, or take comfort in the one sacrifice that works by surrendering to it and living my life based upon it. Which option will you choose today?

Tomorrow’s reading is Hebrews 11. Continue reading “Comfort and Caution”

My Yoke is Easy; My Way is Hard

Today’s reading is Matthew 7.

Alright! Which is it? I know in just a few chapters I’m going to read Jesus say His yoke is easy (Matthew 11:30). But in today’s reading He says His way is narrow and hard. I’m completely confused. In all honesty, I don’t know what the exact answer that makes these two statements both work at the same time. Further, I don’t even want to give you the answer. I just want to notice something about Jesus. Some of us focus on Matthew 7:13, talking about how narrow and hard Jesus’s way is. Some of us focus on Matthew 11:30, talking about how easy and light Jesus’s burden is. We often fuss and fight with each other, lobbing these passages back and forth like grenades for “our side” to prove Jesus is everything we claim He is. What these passages tell me is Jesus is not easily placed in a box. Jesus cannot be placed in the taskmaster, law administrator, my-way-or-the-highway box so easily. Neither can Jesus be placed in the happy-go-lucky, my-grace-will-cover-you, just-know-I-love-you box so easily.  I imagine if Jesus showed up today, He would have something to say to all of us on every side about how we are missing it and where we need to repent. And I imagine we would all stand side by side for a moment as together we shouted that He should be crucified and His blood be on our hands and the hands of our children because the Jesus who showed up didn’t fit our expectation. Each generation has a tendency to redefine Jesus. Amazingly, He almost always looks exactly like what that generation really wants Him to look like. Why? Because we can find verses that, taken alone, will make Jesus look the way we want. But all such simplified definitions are caricatures which may contain some truth but will ultimately be wrong headed. Rather than trying to define Jesus for a generation, let’s just do what He says. I guarantee you such a path is so narrow and difficult that few will choose it, but such a burden is so easy and light that all could bear it.

Tomorrow’s reading is Matthew 8.

Continue reading “My Yoke is Easy; My Way is Hard”